Ursa Minor

The Little Dipper or The Little Bear

Ursa Minor Constellation

The Brighter Stars of Ursa Minor

The Story

The Birth of Zeus

The Small Bear has to do with the birth of Zeus.

Zeus was an immortal god, but he was born, nevertheless. His mother was Rhea, whom the Romans knew as Ops or Cybele. His father was Cronus, who was Saturn to the Romans. Cronus was the youngest of the elder gods known as the Titans. Because of a prophecy that one of his children would dethrone him, Cronus disposed of his children as they were born. He swallowed them! Cronus had already disposed of several children this way by the time that Zeus was born.

Fooling the Old Man

Rhea fooled Cronus by wrapping a stone in the swaddling clothes of the baby Zeus. So Cronus swallowed the stone, thinking that he had disposed of the baby. Rhea had Zeus smuggled to the island of Crete, where the nymphs Adrasteia and Ida looked after him in the cave known as Dicte. The cave was protected by the Cretan warriors known as Curetes, who stood outside the cave making a racket to prevent the cries of the baby from being heard by Cronus.

Barfing Up the Kids

The baby Zeus remained in the cave for a year. Eventually he overthrew Cronus and forced him to regurgitate the children that he had swallowed. These children became the leaders of the younger gods, who in a ten year war overturned the rule of the Titans to take command of the cosmos.

The Nurses May Be the Bears

The Lesser Bear is identified in classical mythology with the nymph Ida. Some say that the Greater Bear is sometimes identified as Adrasteia. It is not explained how the nymphs got changed into bears.

Callisto, The Greater Bear

The Greater Bear, Ursa Major, is more often identified as Callisto, one of the nymphs who formed the retinue of Artemis (Diana to the Romans). Callisto is one of the many conquests of Zeus.  

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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