The Bull

Taurus Constellation

The Brighter Stars of Taurus

The Story

The Bull and Zeus

The Bull is connected with the story of one of the many loves of Zeus, the chief god in the Greek pantheon, whom the Romans called Jupiter. The Bull may represent Io, the daughter of the Inachus of Argus who was changed into a white heifer, as the result of Zeus' passion for her. See the mythology of the constellation Pavo for Io's story.

The Abduction of Europa

However, it is hard to confuse a heifer with a bull. More likely Taurus represents Zeus, who took the form of a bull to abduct Europa, the beautiful daughter of King Agenor of Phoenicia, as she was bathing with her girl friends on the beach at Tyre.

Swimming Off to Crete

The Bull charmed the girl to the point that she even dared to sit upon its back, after the Bull lay down on the ground at her feet. Springing up, the Bull ran off into the surf and carried the girl off to Crete. There Zeus revealed himself and seduced the maiden. The son that resulted from their union became King Minos of Crete, who also figures in the story of Ariadne and the Minotaur.

A Gift of a Dog

Among the presents offered to Europa by Zeus as he courted her was a large dog, that became the constellation of Canis Major.

The Bull

The Hyades

Taurus is a very large and bright constellation, and there is mythology associated with parts of the constellation as well. The V-shaped group of stars that forms the nose of the bull is known as the Hyades. According to myth, the Hyades had been the daughters of the Titan Atlas by the oceanid Aethra. Their older brother was named Hyas. Hyas was a bold and skilled hunter, but he was killed by a lioness. His sisters loved him greatly and were inconsolable upon his death. Having mercy on their grief, the gods placed them among the stars.

The Nurses of Dionysius

The Hyades have also been identified with the nymphs who nursed the God of Wine, Dionysius as a baby in their cave on Mount Nysa.

The Pleiades

The star cluster in the shoulder joint of the Bull is known as the Pleiades. In mythology the Pleiades are the half-sisters of the Hyades. Their father is Atlas, but their mother is the oceanid Pleione.

The Seven Sisters

The Pleiades are known as The Seven Sisters, although only six stars are visible to the naked eye. Alcyone is identified with the brightest star in the cluster. The remaining six sixters are Asterope, Celaeno, Electra, Maia, Merope, and Taygete.

Seducing the Sisters

Maia was seduced by Zeus and became the mother of Hermes, the Messenger God. Zeus also had relations with Electra and Taygete. From these unions came Dardanus, the founder of the city of Troy and Lacedaemon, the founder of the city of Sparta.

Alcyone and Celaeno were seduced by Poseidon the Sea God, while the War God Ares forced himself on Asterope.

Merope and Sisyphus

Of the seven Pleiades only Merope took a mortal lover. This was the sly Sisyphus who outwitted even Death. As punishment for his presumption Sisyphus was condemned eternally to roll a heavy stone up hill only to have it roll down again.

The Missing Sister

Of the Seven Sisters, only six stars are visible in the sky. Some say that the missing sister is Merope, because she is the only one of the seven to take a mortal lover. Others say that the missing sister is Electra, who was so overcome with grief at the destruction of the city of Troy by Agamemnon's Greek army that she ran off weeping and left her sisters forever.  

Copyright © 1998 - 2012 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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