Online Encyclopedia

PLEIADES

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 835 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PLEIADES, in Greek mythology, the seven daughters of Atlas and Plelone, and sisters of the Hyades. Owing to their grief at the death of their sisters or at the sufferings of their father, they were changed into stars. In another account, the Pleiades and their mother met the hunter Orion in Boeotia, and the sight of them inflamed his passion. For five years he pursued them through the woods, until Zeus translated them all—Plelone and her daughters, Orion, and his dog—to the sky. The Pleiades rose in the middle of May and set at the end of October, and their connexion with spring and autumn explains the legend. As bringers of the fertilizing rains of spring, which have their origin in the west, they are the daughters of Atlas; as the forerunners of the storms of autumn, they are represented as being driven onward by Orion .in pursuit. The word is probably connected with 1rXEiwv, either in the sense of " many in number," since the stars formed a close group, resembling a bunch of grapes (hence sometimes called 06rpvs), or as " more in number " than their sisters. Others derive the name from srXEiv (to sail), because navigation began at the time of their rising. They are probably alluded to in Homer (Odyssey, xii. 62) as the doves (reAeiabes) who brought ambrosia from the west to Zeus. One of these doves was always lost during the passage of the Planctae . (wandering rocks), referring to the fact that one of the seven Pleiades was always invisible. This was Merope, who hid her light from shame at having had intercourse with a mortal, Sisyphus. All the Pleiades became the ancestresses of divine or heroic families. They were called Vergiliae (probably connected with ver, spring) by the Romans. See Hesiod, Works and Days, 383; Apollodorus iii. 10; Diod. Sic. iii. 6o; Theocritus xiii. 25; Hyginus, Astronom. ii. 21; Ovid, Fasti, iv. 169; V. 599.
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