Stories from the Stars: Greek Myths of the Zodiac

Overview

Here, magnificently illustrated, are the thrilling adventures of Greek mythology that explain the signs of the zodiac and the constellations that decorate the nighttime sky.

Do you know what sign you were born under, and do you know the story behind the sign? In ancient Greece, the signs of the zodiac were identified with twelve groups of stars, which we can still see in the night sky today at different times during the year. They were also associated with one of four ...

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Overview

Here, magnificently illustrated, are the thrilling adventures of Greek mythology that explain the signs of the zodiac and the constellations that decorate the nighttime sky.

Do you know what sign you were born under, and do you know the story behind the sign? In ancient Greece, the signs of the zodiac were identified with twelve groups of stars, which we can still see in the night sky today at different times during the year. They were also associated with one of four elements-Earth, Air, Fire and Water-and behind each of them lies a story.

Starting with Aries (the ram) in spring and following the year round through summer, fall, and winter to Pisces (the fishes), the stories of the zodiac's twelve signs explain how each particular group of stars found its way into the heavens. Like many of the myths of ancient Greece, they are full of drama and excitement, with fearsome monsters, brave heroes, and gods and goddesses who use their power to both help human beings and obstruct them. On these pages, you will set sail with Jason and the Argonauts to find the Golden Fleece; watch Herakles struggle with the Nemean Lion; weep with the nature goddess Demeter when her daughter Persephone is kidnapped by Hades, King of the Underworld; and see how the messenger god Hermes joins sides with Cadmus to outwit the terrible monster Typhon. You can also learn about the myths associated with the planets, read about the qualities that are associated with each of the signs, and decide whether or not you recognize yourself in the descriptions.

The Abbeville Anthology series for children features adventurous and enlightening stories rooted in the traditions of many world cultures. Each exploresa different theme, and opens up new worlds of wonder. Other books in this captivating series include Mother and Daughter Tales and Stories from the Sea. Meant to be read aloud to youngsters or read independently by older children, these collections will find a permanent place on your family's bookshelf!

Other Details: Full-color illustrations on every page 80 pages 8 1/2 x 8 1/2" Published 1998

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780896601055
  • Publisher: Abbeville Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Series: Abbeville Anthologies Series
  • Pages: 80
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.81 (w) x 10.67 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Read an Excerpt

About the Stars of the Zodiac

Have you ever stood outside on a clear night and looked up at the stars? It is a wonderful experience. At first, those twinkling pinpoints of light in the night sky all look the same, but if you keep looking, you will see that some of them make patterns.

Many years ago, ancient astronomers divided the stars into groups and drew imaginary pictures around them. They believed that the movement of the sun, moon, and stars across the sky affected life on earth. The sun and the moon marked out the time spans that became months, and twelve particular patterns of stars, or constellations, appeared regularly each year. These twelve constellations make up the zodiac.

Viewed from earth, the sun appeared to spend about a month passing through each constellation, so the twelve zodiacal constellations came to be known as sun signs. The planets, too, appeared to move at varying rates through the backdrop of the constellations.

In ancient Greece, where the word "zodiac" itself comes from, each constellation was described and remembered through a myth. In this book you will read these myths and learn about the qualities that are associated with each sign.

The Planets

The gods and goddesses of ancient Greece were associated with the planets, which we know today by their Roman names. Eight planets are listed here, though not all of them were known to the ancient Greeks; Uranus was discovered in 1781 and Pluto in 1930.

Mercury, the fastest-moving planet, was named after the Greek god Hermes, messenger of the gods. He wore winged sandals and a broad-brimmed hat, which was also winged to help speed him on his errands. Hermes was well known for his quick witand his clever ways of getting out of mischief.

Venus, the bright, brilliant-white planet, was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. She was born out of the sea foam, and had the very same beauty and delicacy. Her chariot, drawn by doves or swans, was decorated with fruit and flowers. Aphrodite possessed a magic girdle which had the power to make all men fall in love with her.

Mars, the red planet, was named after the Greek god Ares. He was the quarrelsome god of war, feared for his violence and cruelty. He was seven hundred feet tall, with a shock of red hair, and was always looking for trouble. Only when he was with the lovely Aphrodite did his temper improve.

Jupiter is the largest planet of the solar system, named after the Greek god Zeus—the great father of all. Zeus was all-powerful, obeyed by gods and mortals alike. He had a good sense of humor, but everyone feared him when he grew angry. He always carried a handful of thunderbolts to throw around in case anyone vexed him. Thunder and lightning on earth was a sure sign that Zeus was not happy.

Saturn, the second-largest planet, was named after Zeus's father, the Earth god Cronus. Cronus is sometimes shown carrying a sickle, which he used in his battle to overthrow his tyrannical father, Ouranus.

Uranus, the green-blue planet, was named after Cronus's father. His name meant "sky" and he was married to Gaia, or Mother Earth.

Neptune, the bright blue planet, was named after Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Poseidon lived in a shell palace beneath the waves, adorned with corals and sea flowers. Carrying his three-pronged trident, he rode in a chariot drawn by dolphins and sea horses. Poseidon had a hot temper and when he flew into a rage he would stir up the waves with his magic trident.

Pluto is the planet named after the Greek god Hades, the gloomy lord of the dead, whose kingdom was known as the Underworld. His throne was made of ebony and his chariot was drawn by coal-black horses. He had a special helmet that made him invisible when he wore it, so that he could move among people without them seeing him. Hades was very wealthy indeed, yet his kingdom was dark and cheerless.

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Table of Contents

Jason and the Golden Fleece (Aries)

Theseus and the Minotaur (Taurus)

Castor and Pollux (Gemini)

Herakles and the Hydra (Cancer)

Herakles and the Nemean Lion (Leo)

Demeter and Persephone (Virgo)

The Golden Scales of Dike (Libra)

Orion and the Scorpion (Scorpio)

Chiron the Centaur (Sagittarius)

The Birth of Zeus (Capricorn)

Ganymede the Cup Bearer (Aquarius)

Aphrodite and the Fish (Pisces)

Author Biography: Juliet Sharman Burke has been interested in mythology, legend, and fairy tales for many years. The author of The Complete Book of Tarot and The Mythic Tarot (with Liz Greene), she also practices as a psychotherapist. Juliet Sharman Burke lives with her family in west London.

Jackie Morris trained as an illustrator at Bath Academy of Art. Her recent children's books include Out of the Ark (1995) and The Snow Whale (1996). She lives and works in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

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