Explore the etymology and symbolism of the constellations


the Water Pourer

Urania's Mirror, 1825

In Greek mythology Aquarius is represented by Ganymedes (Ganymede), the beautiful Phrygian boy who was carried off by an eagle to Mount Olympus to become the cup-bearer of Zeus (Roman Jupiter, or Jove). Ganymedes was kidnapped from Mount Ida in Phrygia while tending a flock of sheep. Zeus saw him and fell in love with him, either sending an Eagle (Aquila) or assuming his own eagle nature to transport Ganymede to Mount Olympus [1]. In compensation, Zeus gave some fine horses to Ganymedes' father, King Laomedon of Troy. As the cup-bearer of the gods Ganymedes was shown pouring nectar from a jug. In Roman times Ganymedes was an appellation sometimes given to handsome slaves who officiated as cupbearers [2].

Read what the writers of mythology have said about Ganymedes on the Theoi Project website.

Latin Aquarius is a loan translation of Udrokoos, 'the water-pourer', the old Greek name of this constellation [Klein], derived from Latin aqua, water, from the Indo-European root *akw-a, meaning: water (flowing), Latin aqua `water, water pipe' [3]. Derivatives: ait (a small island), island (aqua is the source of the i in island, thing on the water), aquarium, aquatic, aqui-, ewer, aquamarine, aqueduct, sewer, sewage (Latin ex-aquaria = "out of the water." literally ex-ewer, ex-aquaria), from Latin aqua, water. The last syllable of Orkney, Jersey, Guernsey, etc. means "island". [Pokorny akwa- 23. Watkins]

Ganymede and the Eagle in a 3rd-century Roman mosaic, Nea Paphos, Cyprus. [1]

Eagles (Aquila) are also used to represent the rise towards Heaven. "I will raise you up on eagles wings" (Psalm 91:1-16). The eagle acted like a talent scout for Zeus, picking out Ganymedes who was considered "the most beautiful of the mortals". The eagle or Zeus in eagle form captured Ganymedes in his talons.

Ganymede or Ganymedes, is from Latin Ganymedes, from Greek ganumai, 'I rejoice'. (The suffix -meda of his name is from Indo-European *med- 'To take appropriate measures' or 'meditate on', and is contained in the names; Medusa, Diomedes and Andromeda). According to Klein the prefix gany- in Ganymedes' name "is related to gaud, ornament, from Middle English gaude, probably from Old French gaudir, 'to make merry, rejoice', from Vulgar Latin *gaudire, corresponding to Latin gaudere, 'to rejoice', Latin gaudium ‘joy’, and is cognate with Greek gaio, 'I rejoice, exult', Greek getheo, 'I rejoice', 'exulting, superb'. Compare joy, rejoice. Compare also Gaura (the genus of bee blossom plants), the first element in ganoid, Ganymede, and the second element in Origanum" [Klein]. These words come from the Indo-European root *gáu- 'To rejoice; also to have religious fear or awe'. Derivatives: gaud, gaudy, joy, enjoy, rejoice (from Latin gaudere, to rejoice), ganoid (bony fishes, such as the sturgeon and the gar, that have armorlike scales consisting of bony plates covered with layers of dentine and enamel, from Greek ganusthai, to rejoice, Greek ganos ‘brightness’), oregano ('rejoice in the mountains'). [Pokorny gau- 353. Watkins] The word gay, from Old French gai, of uncertain origin; "possibly from Latin gaudium ‘joy’" [3].

In Olympus, Zeus granted Ganymede eternal youth and immortality and the office of cupbearer to the gods. "All the gods on Mount Olympus were filled with joy to see the youth, except for Hera, Zeus' consort, who regarded Ganymede as a rival for her husband's affection" [4]. As a young prepubescent boy Ganymede would naturally be a joyful, fun-loving presence.

The word catamite, a boy used in pederasty, is from Latin Catamitus, from Etruscan Catamite, and is a corrupt collateral form of Ganymedes, Greek Ganumedes.

The sign Aquarius in astrology is said to govern the legs from below the knees to the ankles (also the circulation of the blood). Eros was Ganymedes' conqueror at the game of astragals. "The Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes presents a vignette (in Book III) of an immature Ganymede losing to Eros at knucklebones (astragals), a child's game [5]." Astragals were those of a sheep, which were thrown up and caught in various manners. The astragalus is a bone in the ankle, or hock.

The element gan- or ganu-, of Ganumede's (Ganymede) name might be related to gam-, the transition of n to m is common in linguistics. The sun was in the sign of Aquarius in the month January-February which the Greeks called Gamelion. Ganymedes was also umpire in a game, astragals, he was also 'gammoned' or cheated by Eros [6]. Old French gambe, means 'leg,' Italian gamba, 'leg,' gam2 is a slang word for a person's leg. These words come from the Indo-European root *kamp- 'To bend.' Derivatives: gam2 (a person's leg), gambado1 (a low leap of a horse), gambado2 (a rider's legging), gambit, gambol (playful skipping or frolicking about), gambrel (joint above horse's leg), gammon (a slang word for to delude or cheat one), jamb (of a door), scampi (a shrimp dish), from Greek kampulos, bent. [Pokorny kam-p- 525.] game, and gamble, are believed to be related, scamp, 'a rogue or rascal or mischievous youngster', is also likely to be related. Klein thought the Yiddish word ganef, 'a thief', could be related to gambit, 'a manoeuvre, stratagem, or ploy.'

Ganymede was nabbed, kidnapped (from kid, 'child', and nap, dialect form of nab, 'to seize, catch, steal'), from Mount Ida in Phrygia, to be cupbearer or servant to the gods. A knave is a boy, a servant, a rascal, related to Old English cnapa, 'boy, youth, servant', Old Norse knapi, 'servant boy', German knape,  'a young squire', knave is also the jack in playing cards, knavery is trickery or mischief.

Cecrops was a name by which some of the old astronomical writers called Aquarius [Urania, 1754, John Hill]. Cecrops was a well loved king and founder of Athens. "Cecrops from the cicada nourished by the dew, whose eggs were hatched by the showers" [Allen, below]. Cecrops from Greek Kekrops. The name Keropos is probably metathesized from Greek *kerkops and literally means 'face with a tail', from Greek kerkos, 'tail', and ops, opos, 'eye, face'.

There is a genus of monkeys, the Cercopithecus, they are also called guenons and inhabit wooded regions of Africa, having long hind limbs and tail and long hair surrounding the face.

From Wikipedia "In Greek mythology, the Cercopes (Greek kerkos 'tail' + ops, 'face') [in the Notes: "Compare Cecrops"] were mischievous forest creatures who lived in Thermopylae or on Euboea but roamed the world and might turn up anywhere mischief was afoot. They were two brothers, but their names are given variously ... usually known as sons of Theia and Oceanus, thus ancient spirits. They were proverbial as liars, cheats, and accomplished knaves." Theia warned her troublesome sons to avoid Blackbottom (Melampyges). While acting as Omphale's slave Hercules once caught the pair trying to steal his armor, he tied them hanging upside-down on a pole, which he was carrying over his shoulder. From this angle, they could see this person was the one their mother warned them about - Blackbottom. They laughed and joked about Heracles' hairy sun-tanned bottom. Far from being offended, Heracles laughed with them and released them. Their knavery so infuriated Zeus that he turned them into the moneys that they were and can be found to this day in the long-tailed Cercopithecus

In astrology Aquarius is said to rule the legs from below the knees to the ankles [4] which can also be, or include, the shanks. Allen (Star Names below) says about the constellation;

"the queer title Skinker has puzzled more than one commentator, is found in the rare book of 1703, Meteorologiae: 'Jupiter in the Skinker opposed by Saturn in the Lion did raise mighty South-west winds'. But the passage affords its own explanation; for we know our sign to be the opposite of Leo, while the dictionaries tell us that this archaic or provincial word signifies a Tapster, or Pourer-out of liquor, which Aquarius and Ganymede have notably been in all ages of astronomy".

Skinker is related to skink, an archaic word meaning 'to serve', Old English scencan, and Old High German skenken, 'to give to drink', also related to the word 'shank', and Manilius (Astronomica) says "the pouring Waterman has the lordship of the shanks"; "crurum fundentis Aquari arbitrium est" (Latin cruris is translated into English shank - the part of the human leg between the knee and the ankle). Klein (Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary) says "Compare scazon, skate (for gliding over ice, skate properly means 'lengthened leg'), skink, the second element in nuncheon". Skink lizards are of the family Scincidae. The expression 'to ride Shank's Mare' meant using one's own legs as a means of transportation.

A genesis for the Ganymede myth as a whole has been offered in a Hellene reading of one of the numerous Akkadian seals depicting the hero-king Etana riding heavenwards on an eagle [4]. Etana "the shepherd, who ascended to heaven and consolidated all the foreign countries" [5]. King of Kish “he who stabilized all the lands” [6].

"The idea of Ganymedes being the cupbearer of Zeus (urniger) subsequently gave rise to his identification with the divinity who was believed to preside over the sources of the Nile [Hapi], and of his being placed by astronomers among the stars under the name of Aquarius". http://www.theoi.com/Ouranios/Ganymedes.html

The Egyptian god Hapi, the god of the Nile, was shown carrying a tray of food or pouring water from urns or two large jugs, and is often identified with Aquarius. It was in the Nile that Antinous, who is compared with Ganymedes drowned:

Hevelius, Firmamentum, 1690

Hevelius, left, depicts the head of Aquarius (Ganymedes) encroaching onto the heads of the two horses; Pegasus and Equuleus. To compensate the father of Ganymedes, King Laomedon of Troy, for abducting his son Zeus gave him two "immortal steeds"; Cyllarus [Equuleus is thought to be Cyllarus] and Harpagus [might be Pegasus]. Pausanias says that the horses "were given to Tros in exchange for him" [9].

Allen (Star Names) says "Al Biruni said that at one time in India Aquarius was Khumba, or Kumbaba, which recalls the Elamite divinity of that name, the Kombe, or Storm God".

Old Indian or Sanskrit kumbhah, kumbha, means a 'waterpot'. Klein relates this word to hump, cognate with Sanskrit kumba-s thick end of a bone, from Indo-European base *qumb- (*kemb-), 'to bend, curve', whence also Old Indian kumbhah, 'pot, jar', Greek khumbe, 'the hollow of a vessel, cup, boat'. There is a common belief that the camel's hump is a type of water storage tank when in fact it contains fatty tissue. Hump comes from the Indo-European root *kemb- (also *qumb-), 'To bend, turn, change, exchange'. Derivatives: hump (from Dutch homp, hump), Cambridge (from Welsh cam, crooked), cambium, change (from Latin cambire 'barter'), exchange, interchange, (these words from Latin cambiare, to exchange), canteen, canton (a small territorial division of a country), decant (from Latin cantus, iron tire, rim, from Celtic suffixed form *kamb-to-). [Pokorny (s)kamb- 918, kan-tho- 526. Watkins]

In astrology Aquarius is ruled by the planet Uranus and Uranus brings change.

The astrological influences of the constellation given by Manilius:

"The youthful Waterman, who from upturned pot pours forth his stream, likewise bestows skills which have affinity with himself: how to divine springs under the ground and conduct them above, to transform the flow of water so as to spray the very stars, to mock the sea with man-made shores at the bidding of luxury, to construct different types of artificial lakes and rivers," and to support aloft for domestic use streams that come from afar. Beneath this sign there dwell a thousand crafts regulated by water. Why, water will even set in motion the face of heaven and the starry habitations, and will cause the skies to move in a novel rotation. Never will the sons of Aquarius grow tired of the works which come in the wake of water and follow springs. They who issue from this sign are a gentle sort and a lovable breed, and no meanness of heart is theirs; they are prone to suffer losses; and of riches they have neither need nor surfeit. Even thus doth the urn's stream flow" [Astronomica, Manilius, 1st century AD, book 4, p.243.]

On page 126 of Astronomica Manilius refers to Aquarius as aequoreum iuvenem [Latinized to Aequoreus Juvenis] - "youth with his waters". The word aequoreus is sometimes used to refer to "the surface of the the sea", aequor "to calm smooth sea".

On page 118/9 Manilius has "Iovis adverse Iunonis Aquarius astrum est agnoscitque"  —  "Opposite Jupiter [Leo], Juno has the sign of Aquarius".

© Anne Wright 2008.

Fixed stars in Aquarius
Star 1900 2000 R A Decl 2000 Lat Mag Sp
Albali epsilon (ε) 10AQU20 11AQU43 20h 47m 40.6s −09° 29′ 45″ +08 05 09 3.83 A1
Sadalsuud beta  (β) 22AQU00 23AQU24 21h 31m 33.5s −05° 34′ 16″ +08 37 07 3.07 G0
Ancha theta (θ) 01PIS52 03PIS16 22h 16m 50s −07° 47′ 0″ +02 42 37 4.30 G6
Sadalmelik alpha (α) 02PIS22 03PIS46 22h 05m 47s −00° 19′ 11″ +11 43 09 3.19 G1
Sadalbachia gamma (γ) 05PIS19 06PIS43 22h 21m 39.4s −01° 23′ 14″ +08 14 16 3.97 AO
tau1 (τ1) 06PIS37 08PIS00 22h 47m 42.8s −14° 03′ 23″ -05 55 03 4.70 A0
pi2 (π2) 07PIS13 08PIS36 22h 49m 35.5s -13° 35' 33" +10 28 30 4.64 B1
Skat delta (δ) 07PIS29 08PIS52 22h 54m 39s −15° 49′ 15″ -08 11 22 3.51 A2
zeta 2 (ζ2) 07PIS32 08PIS55 22h 28m 50s −00° 01′ 12″ +08 50 55 4.59 F1
Situla kappa (κ) 08PIS01 09PIS25 22h 37m 45.4s −04° 13′ 41″ +04 06 49 5.33 K1
88 Aqr 08PIS38 10PIS01 23h 09m 26.8s −21° 10′ 21″ -14 29 19 3.80 K1
eta (η) 09PIS01 10PIS24 22h 35m 21.4s −00° 07′ 3″ +08 09 02 4.13 B8
lambda (λ) 10PIS12 11PIS35 22h 52m 36.8s −07° 34′ 47″ -00 23 08 3.84 M2
98 Aqr 12PIS05 13PIS28 23h 22m 58.2s −20° 06′ 2″ -14 47 05 4.20 K0
99 Aqr 12PIS32 13PIS55 23h 26m 02.8s −20° 38′ 31″ -15 34 22 4.52 K5
phi (φ) 15PIS45 17PIS08 23h 14m 19.4s −06° 2′ 56″ -01 02 56 4.40 M2
103 Aqr 17PIS14 18PIS37 23h 41m 34.5s −18° 01′ 38″ -14 30 47 4.95 G1
106 Aqr 17PIS35 18PIS58 23h 44m 12.1s −18° 16′ 37″ -15 10 14 5.26 B8
107 Aqr 17PIS49 19PIS12 23h 46m 00.9s −18° 40′ 41″ -15 42 48 5.45 A5
Hevelius, Firmamentum, 1690

from Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, 1889, Richard H. Allen

The sun his locks beneath Aquarius tempers,

And now the nights draw near to half the day,

What time the hoarfrost copies on the ground

The outward semblance other sister white,

But little lasts the temper of her pen.

------ Longfellow's translation of Dante's Inferno.

Aquarius, The Waterman, il Aquario in Italy, le Verseau in France, der Wassermann in Germany, has universally borne this or kindred titles; Ideler assigning as a reason the fact that the sun passed through it during the rainy season. In connection with this the proximity of other analogous stellar forms is worthy of note: Capricornus, Cetus, Delphinus, Eridanus, Hydra, Pisces, and Piscis Australis, all the watery shapes in the early heavens, with Argo and Crater, are in this neighborhood; some of whose stars Aratos said "are called the Water"; indeed in Euphratean astronomy this region of the sky was 'the Sea', and thought to be under the control of Aquarius.

The constellation immemorially has been represented, even on very early Babylonian stones, as a man, or boy, pouring water from a bucket or urn, with an appropriate towel in the left hand, the human figure sometimes being omitted; while the Arabians, who knew of the latter but did not dare to show it, depicted a mule carrying two water-barrels; and again simply a water-bucket. This last was Ulug Beg's idea of it, his original word being rendered by Hyde Situla, the Roman Well-bucket; but Al Biruni had it in his astrological charts as Amphora, a Two-handled Winejar, {Page 46} that he may have adopted from Ausonius the poet of our 4th century. Even Vercingetorix, Caesar's foe in Gaul, 52 B.C., is said to have put the similar figure on his stateres with the title Diota, a Two-eared Jar.

On a Roman zodiac it was a Peacock, the symbol of Juno, the Greek Hera (another constellation Pavo is the peacock), in whose month Gamelion — January-February — the sun was in the sign; and at times it has been shown as a Goose, another bird sacred to that goddess.

New Testament Christians of the 16th and 17th centuries likened it appropriately enough to John the Baptist, and to Judas Thaddaeus the Apostle, although some went back to Naaman in the waters of Jordan, and even to Moses taken out of the water.

Its nomenclature has been extensive but consistent. In Greek literature it was Udrokhoos, the epic Udrochoeus, or Waterpourer, transliterated by Catullus as Hydrochous, and by Germanicus as Hydrochoos; although the latter also called it Aquitenens and Fundens latices, saying that it personified Deucalion of the Greek Deluge, 1500 B.C. Ausonius had Urnam qui tenet; Manilius, Aequoreus Juvenis, or simply Juvenis, and Ganymedes, the beautiful Phrygian boy, son of Tros and cup-bearer of Jove, of whom Statius wrote in his Thebais:

Then from the chase Jove's towering eagle (Aquila) bears,

On golden wings, the Phrygian to the stars.

This title also appeared with Cicero, Hyginus, and Vergil; and with Ovid, in the Fasti, as Ganymede Juvenis, Puer Idaeus, and Iliacus, from his birthplace, and Juvenis gerens aquam; while in a larger sense it was said to represent the creator Jove, the pourer forth of water upon the earth.

We find it, too, as Aristaeus, their Elijah, who brought rain to the inhabitants of Ceos, and Cecrops, from the cicada nourished by the dew, whose eggs were hatched by the showers; while Appian, the historian of our 2nd century, called it Hydridurus, which reappeared in the 1515 Almagest as Idrudurus and Hauritor aquae. The great Grecian lyric poet Pindar asserted that it symbolized the genius of the fountains of the Nile, the life-giving waters of the earth. Horace added to its modern title Tyrannus aquae, writing of it as "saddening the inverted year," which James Thomson, 1700-1748, followed in the Winter of his Seasons:

fierce Aquarius stains the inverted year;

and Vergil, calling it frigidus, similarly said that when coincident with the sun it closed the year with moisture:

{Page 47} In Babylonia it was associated with the 11th month Shabatu, the Curse of Rain, January-February; and the Epic of Creation has an account of the Deluge in its 11th book, corresponding to this the 11th constellation; each of its other books numerically coinciding with the other zodiacal signs. In that country its Urn seems to have been known as Gu, a Water-jar overflowing, the Akkadian Ku-ur-ku, the Seat of the Flowing Waters; and it also was Ramman or Rammanu, the God of the Storm, the still earlier Imma, shown pouring water from a vase, the god, however, frequently being omitted. Some assert that Lord of Canals is the signification of the Akkadian word for Aquarius, given to it 15,000 years ago (!), when the sun entered it and the Nile flood was at its height. And while this statement carries the beginnings of astronomy very much farther back than has generally been supposed, or will now be acknowledged, yet for many years we have seen Egyptian and Euphratean history continuously extended into the hitherto dim past; and this theory would easily solve the much discussed question of the origin of the zodiac figures if we are to regard either of those countries as their source, and the seasons and agricultural operations as giving them names.

Aben Ezra called it the Egyptians' Monius, from their muau, or Mo, Water; Kircher said that it was their Upeutherian, Brachium beneficum, the Place of Good Fortune; which Brown, however, limits to its stars, alpha, gamma, zeta, and eta as a Coptic lunar station; and our Serviss writes that "the ancient Egyptians imagined that the setting of Aquarius caused the rising of the Nile, as he sank his huge urn in the river to fill it."

With the Arabians it was Al Dalw, the Well-bucket; and Kazwini's Al Sakib al Ma’, the Water-pourer; from the first of which came the Edeleu of Bayer, and the Eldelis of Chilmead. The Persians knew it as Dol or Dul; the Hebrews, as Deli (Riccioli's Delle); the Syrians, as Daulo, like the Latin Dolium; and the Turks, as Kugha, — all meaning a Water-bucket. In the Persian Bundehesh it is Vahik.

In China, with Capricornus, Pisces, and a part of Sagittarius, it constituted the early Serpent, or Turtle, Tien Yuen; and later was known as Hiuen Ying, the Dark Warrior and Hero, or Darkly Flourishing One, the Hiuen Wu, or Hiuen Heaou, of the Han dynasty, which Dupuis gave as Hiven Mao. It was a symbol of the emperor Tchoun Hin, in whose reign was a great deluge; but after the Jesuits came in it became Paou Ping, the Precious Vase. It contained three of the sieu, and headed the list of zodiac signs as the Rat, which in the far East was the ideograph for "water," and still so remains in the almanacs of Central Asia, Cochin China, and Japan.

Some of the minor stars of Aquarius, — iota, lambda, sigma, and theta, — with others of {Page 48} Capricornus and Pisces, formed the asterism Luy Peih Chin, the Camp with Entrenched Walls.

On the Ganges, as in China, it began the circle of the zodiacal signs; and Al Biruni said that at one time in India it was Khumba, or Kumbaba, which recalls the Elamite divinity of that name, the Kombe, or Storm God, of Hesychios. This, too, was the Tamil title for it; La Lande writing it Coumbum. Varaha Mihira, under the influence of Greek astronomy, called it Hridroga and Udruvaga, in which we can see Udrokhoos.

With the Magi and Druids it represented the whole science of astronomy. The Anglo-Saxons called it se Waeter-gyt, the Water-pourer; while not long after them John of Trevisa, the English translator, in 1398 thus quaintly recalled the classical form:

The Sygne Aquarius is the butlere of the goddes and yevyth them a water-potte.

English books immediately succeeding had Aquary, Aquarye, and, still later, the queer title Skinker [related to Old English scencan, 'to give to drink', Old Saxon skenkian, Old Frisian skenka, Old High German skenken, 'to give to drink']. This last, which has puzzled more than one commentator, is found in the rare book of 1703, Meteorologiae by Mr. Cock, Philomathemat: "Jupiter in the Skinker opposed by Saturn in the Lion did raise mighty South-west winds." But the passage affords its own explanation that ought not to have been delayed till now; for we know our sign to be the opposite of Leo, while the dictionaries tell us that this archaic or provincial word signifies a Tapster, or Pourer-out of liquor, which Aquarius and Ganymede have notably been in all ages of astronomy.

Although early authors varied in their ascription of the twelve zodiacal constellations to the twelve tribes of Israel, yet they generally were in accord in assigning this to Reuben, "unstable as water." But the fountainheads of all this Jewish banner story, Jacob's death-bed address to his sons in Egypt, and Moses' dying song on Mount Nebo, are not clear enough to justify much positiveness as to the proper assignment of any of the tribal symbols, if indeed the Israelites had any at all. The little that we have on the subject is from Josephus and the Chaldee Paraphrase.

Dante, in the 19th canto of II Purgatorio, wrote that here geomancers their Fortuna Major See in the Orient before the dawn Rise by a path that long remains not dim; which Longfellow explains in his notes on the passage: Geomancy is divination by points in the ground, or pebbles arranged in certain figures, which have peculiar names. Among these is the figure called the Fortuna Major, which {Page 49} is thus drawn, (see explanation here) and, by an effort of the imagination, can also be formed out of some of the last stars ** in Aquarius and some of the first in Pisces.

In astrology it was the Airy Trigon, Gemini and Libra being included, and a sign of no small note, since there was no disputing that its stars possessed influence, virtue, and efficacy, whereby they altered the air and seasons "in a wonderful, strange, and secret manner"; and an illuminated manuscript almanac of 1386, perhaps the earliest in our language that has been printed, says of the sign:

"It is gode to byg castellis, and to wed, and lat blode."

With Capricorn it was the House of Saturn, governing the legs and ankles; and when on the horizon with the sun the weather was always rainy. When Saturn was here, he had man completely in his clutches — caput et collum; while Jupiter, when here, had humeros, pectus et pedes.

As Junonis astrum it was a diurnal sign, Juno and Jove being its guardians, and bore rule over Cilicia and Tyre; later, over Arabia, Tatary, Denmark, Russia, Lower Sweden, Westphalia, Bremen, and Hamburg.

Proctor's Myths and Marvels of Astronomy has a list of the astrological colors of the zodiac signs attributing to Aquarius an aqueous blue; while Lucius Ampelius, of our 2d century, assigning in his Liber Memorialis the care of the various winds to the various signs, entrusts to this the guardianship of Eurus and Notus, which blew from the east, or southeast, and from the south.

The astronomers' symbol for the sign, s showing undulating lines of waves, is said to have been the hieroglyph for Water, the title of Aquarius in the Nile country, where a measuring-rod may have been associated with it; indeed Burritt drew such in the hand of the figure as Norma Nilotica, a suggestion of the ancient Nilometer.

Brown, in the 47th volume of Archaeologia, has these interesting remarks on the symbols of the signs: Respecting these Mr. C. W. King observes:

"Although the planets are often expressed by their emblems, yet neither they nor the signs are ever to be seen represented on antique works by those symbols so familiar to the eye in our almanacs. Wherever such occur upon a stone it may be pronounced without any hesitation a production of the cinque-cento, or the following century. ... As for the source of these hieroglyphics, I have never been able to trace it. They are to be found exactly as we see them in very old medieval MSS."; and Mr. King is inclined, in default of any other origin, "to suspect they were devised by Arab sages" — an opinion which I do not follow. The subject is certainly shrouded in great obscurity; and even Professor Sayce recently informed me that he had been unable to trace the history of the zodiacal symbols up to their first appearance in Western literature.

{Page 50} While Miss Clerke writes that they are found in manuscripts of about the 10th century, but in carvings not until the 15th or 16th. Their origin is unknown; but some, if not all, of them have antique associations.

Hargrave's Rosicrucians has an illustration of an object showing an Egyptian cross and disk with our present symbols of Leo and Virgo, or Scorpius, purporting to be from the breast of a mummy in the museum of the London University. If this statement be correct, a much earlier origin can be claimed for these symbols than has hitherto been supposed.

From his researches into the archaic astronomical symbolism on classic coins, monuments, etc., Thompson concludes that the great bas-relief of the Asiatic Cybele, now in the Hermitage Museum at Saint Petersburg, was designed to represent the ancient tropics of Aquarius and Leo; and that Aquarius, Aquila, — or more probably the other Vultur, our Lyra, — Leo, and Taurus appear in the familiar imagery of Ezekiel i, 10, and x, 14, and of The Revelation iv, 7.

Aquarius is not conspicuous, being chiefly marked by the stars gamma, zeta, eta, and pi, — the Urn, the familiar Y, — called by the Greeks Kalpe, Kalpis, Kalpeis, (water jar) and Situla, or Urna, by the Latins, Pliny making a distinct constellation of the latter, and by the line of fainter stars, lambda, phi, chi, psi, omega, and others indicating the water running down into the mouth of the Southern Fish, or, as it is occasionally drawn, uniting with the river Eridanus. Spence, commenting on this figure on the Farnese globe and its description by Manilius, Ad juvenem, aeternas fundentem Piscibus undas, and Fundentis semper Aquarii, wrote: Ganymedes, the cup-bearer of Jupiter. He holds the cup or little urn in his hand, inclined downwards; and is always pouring out of it: as indeed he ought to be, to be able from so small a source to form that river, which you see running from his feet, and making so large a tour over all this part of the globe.

Manilius ended his lines on Aquarius with Sic profluit urna, which Spence translated "And so the urn flows on"; adding: 

"which seems to have been a proverbial expression among the ancients, taken from the ceaseless flowing of this urn; and which might be not inapplicable now, when certain ladies are telling a story; or certain lawyers are pleading."

Geminos, in his Isagoge or Eisogoge, about 77 B.C., made a separate constellation of this stream as Chusis Udatos, the Pouring Forth of Water; but Aratos also had called it this as well as the Water, although in the latter he included, beta Ceti and the star Fomalhaut. Cicero gave it as Aqua; and the {Page 51} scholiast on Germanicus, as Effusio aquae; while Effusor and Furoraquae were common titles. The modern Burritt has Fluvius Aquarii and Cascade.

The stars marking the ribs of the figure in this constellation are, in some maps, mingled with iota and others in Capricorn.

Although of astronomical importance chiefly from its zodiacal position and from its richness in doubles, clusters, and nebulae, it also is interesting from the fact that one of its three stars, psi, was occulted by the planet Mars on the 1st of October, 1672. This occultation was predicted by Flamsteed, and, on his suggestion, observed and verified in France and by Richer at Cayenne; and the several independently accordant results are considered reliable, although made more than two centuries ago. These have enabled our modern astronomers, especially Leverrier, accurately to ascertain the mean motion of Mars, and materially aid them in calculating the mass of the earth and our distance from the sun.

Aquarius lies between Capricornus and Pisces, the sun entering it on the 14th of February, and leaving it on the 14th of March.

La Lande, citing Firmicus and the Egyptian sphere of Petosiris,1 wrote in V Astronomic:

Aquarius se leve, aver un autre constellation qu'il nomme Aquarius Minor avec la Faulx, Ie Loup, Ie Lievre & I'Autel;

but elsewhere I find no allusion to this Lesser Waterman, and the statement is incorrect as to the other constellations; indeed the Faulx is entirely unknown to us moderns.

[Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, Richard H. Allen, 1889.]

Star Lore of All Ages by William Tyler Olcott, gives another account of the history of the constellation here.