The Peacock

Pavo Constellation

The Brighter Stars of Pavo

The Story

A Modern Constellation

Pavo was created by the Dutch navigators Pieter Dirkszoon Keyser and Frederick de Houtman, who charted the southern skies in 1595 - 1597.

This constellation lies too far south to have figured in classical mythology. It would have been below the horizon for European observers, and most of the constellation would have been below the horizon even for observers on the African shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Peacock

Even though the constellation does not appear in classical mythology, the animal does, that the constellation represents for us.

Chasing the Young Io

The story of the Peacock is associated with one of the many love affairs carried out by the Greek God Zeus. The Peacock is associated with Zeus' lust for Io, the beautiful daughter of Inachus of Argus. Unfortunately for Io, Zeus had a wife, the goddess Hera, a very jealous goddess, who found it difficult to tolerate Zeus' many affairs.

The Lady is a Cow

The jealousy of Hera caused Io to be turned into a white heifer. In some versions of the story, it was Hera who transformed Io in order to punish both the woman and Hera's unfaithful husband Zeus. In another version of the story, it was Zeus who transformed Io into a heifer to protect her from the wrath of Hera.

Argus of the Hundred Eyes

But however the transformation occurred, Hera wanted to make sure that Zeus would not have access to the woman, now in the form of a heifer. Hera appointed the herdsman Argus to watch over the animal. Argus was known as the All-Seeing, because he had one hundred eyes distributed over his body. Only a couple of the eyes ever closed at one time, and no matter wherever Argus stood he was always able to keep the heifer in view.

Hermes Plays a Lullaby

Zeus sent his son Hermes to release Io from her captivity. Hermes disguised himself as a shepherd boy and befriended Argus. The shepherd boy talked and talked and played soothing music on the pipes, until finally Argus' many eyes began to close, one by one.

Off With His Head!

When Argus was finally asleep Hermes cut off the herdsman's head and released the heifer.

The Peacock Acquires the Eyes

What is the connection with the peacock? The magnificent iridescent tail feathers of the peacock are decorated with circular patterns like eyes. That is due to Hera. So when Argus was slain, the goddess reclaimed his hundred eyes and set them as ornaments into the tail of her favorite bird.  

Copyright © 1998 - 2010 by Arnold V. Lesikar,
Professor Emeritus
Dept. of Physics, Astronomy, and Engineering Science,
St. Cloud State University,St. Cloud, MN 56301-4498

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