The Archer

Sagittarius Constellation

The Brighter Stars of Sagittarius

The Story

The Centaur Bowman

Sagittarius is a centaur. The Archer is half-man, half-horse. The Archer represents the upper body of a man growing out of the body of a horse. The man's body replaces the neck and head of the horse.

An Ancient Constellation

The constellation is very old. Cuneiform inscriptions, according to Allen, associate the figure with the mesopotamian Archer God, Nergal (or Nerigal) who was the God of War.

Really Archers on Horseback?

The figure of the centaur may be a residue of the terror inspired by the sight of the first armed horsemen. People who had not yet domesticated the horse and did not imagine riding on the back of a beast, may have had difficulty separating the animal from its rider. So the warriors sweeping down on them firing arrows may have been seen as a strange kind of half-human creature, combining upper body of a warrior with the four legs of an animal. It has been reported that the natives of Hispanola and Mexico had exactly this impression when they first saw the mounted Spanish soldiers invading the Americas.

The Archer

The Centaur Crotus

Stories of the Centaur Chiron are more properly associated with the constellation of Centaurus. Sagittarius is associated with Crotus, the son of the god Pan and the nymph Eupheme. Eupheme raised her son with the nine Muses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne.

The Nine Muses

The Muses were the goddesses of the arts and sciences. The Muse Urania presided over astronomy and astrology. Clio presided over history, Terpsichore over dancing, and Calliope, Eurterpe, and Erato over various forms of poetry, Melpomene over tragedy, Thalia over comedy, and Polyhymnia over song, rhetoric, and geometry.

Crotus Joins the Stars

Crotus was both skilled at the hunt and sensitive to the arts. According to one story, Crotus begged Zeus to transport him into the stars upon his death. Another story has Crotus being memorialized because of the entreaties Muses who begged Zeus to honor the archer.

For more on Pan, see Capricornus.  


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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