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Pleiades

Part 1 - Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome

Leiden Arathea Named after the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, the Pleiades are arguably the star formation with the most recorded star lore.

The star cluster is a prominent sight in winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

There are a number of variations to the saga.


Ancient Mesopotamia

Three Stars Each catalogue and the MUL.APIN tables, list the Pleiades as MULMUL, literally meaning "Star Star," which can mean star cluster.

The Pleiades head the list of stars along the ecliptic, reflecting the fact that they were close to the point of vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC.

Source: Wikipedia

Jim A. Cornwell suggests that the Seven Annunaki, could be related to the Pleiades (or to the Big Dipper). In the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Annunaki waited at the gates of hell to judge the newly-arrived souls.

Source: Sumerian Information of the Annunaki

Four copper-alloy Anunnaki
Kingdom of Lagash, ca. 2130 BC
The British Museum, London
Source: ancient.eu


Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology the Pleiades were the seven daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione.

The seven sisters are Maia, Electra, Taygete, Alcyone, Celaeno, Asterope and Merope.

There is a wealth of myths about the seven sisters. Many of them can be found using the Wikipedia links at their names above. The Pleiades are mentioned in Hesiod's Works and Days and in Homer's Odyssey and Iliad.

Many of the tales told in Greek mythology are about prominent Gods trying to engage in affairs with the seven sisters. In total, these adventures resulted in thirteen children, among them famous Gods like Hermes who was the only son of Maia, the oldest of the sisters, fathered by Zeus. Also involved with the Pleiades were the Olympians Poseidon and Ares and the Titan Prometheus.

Aside from the affairs with the Gods, some of the Sisters were married to mortals. Electra was the wife of the Italian King Corythus. She is sometime referred to as the lost Pleiad, disappearing in grief after the destruction of Troy.

Merope, the youngest of the sisters was married to Sisyphus. She was said to become mortal and faded away.

There are two versions of how the sisters became stars. Both are linked to the end of the Titanomachy, the ten-years ware betwenn Olympiand and Titans. After his defeat, the Titan Atlas was forced to carry the heavens on his shoulders.

In one version, all seven sisters committed suicide because they were so saddened by the fate of their father, Atlas. In turn Zeus, the ruler of the Olympians, immortalized the sisters by placing them in the sky.

In another version, after Atlas was forced to carry the heavens, the great hunter Orion began to pursue all of the Pleiades, and Zeus transformed them first into doves, and then into stars to comfort their father. The constellation of Orion is said to still pursue them across the night sky.

Source: Wikipedia

The Pleiades in a painting by Elihu Vedder, 1885
Source: Wikipedia

Pleiades in the Leiden Arathea, 816 AD
Source: Wikimedia

The Pleiades
: Dorling Kindersley


Ancient Rome

In Roman mythology, Maia, the oldest of the seven sisters, was celebrated as the Goddess of Spring, representing growth, renewal and fertility. The month of May (Maius in Latin) is believed to have been named after her.

Source: Wikipedia

Mercury and Maia inside a silver cup
late 2nd century AD
Souce: Wikipedia

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