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Ancient Greek Mythology: Orion the Hunter

In Greek myths dealing with hunting to one of the most infamous constellations in the sky, Orion was a huntsman whom Zeus placed among the stars. This article explores details about Orion, as well as why he ended up as a well-known member of the sky.

According to ancient sources, there is more than one tale involving Orion. His birth and death has been the subject of many different versions. The most significant events that have happened to Orion include his birth, a visit to Chios where he met Merope, being blinded by Oenopion (Merope’s father), gaining back his sight at Lemnos, hunting with Artemis on Crete, his death, and his transfer into the heavens. Depending on what ancient myth you encounter, some of these events are mentioned, while only one is the center of a tale.

Orion first makes an appearance in Greek literature as a respected hunter in the Odyssey , the epic written by Homer. From Hellenistic to Roman storytellers, the life of Orion unfolds in many different directions, even when it comes to important details, such as his death. For the ancient Greeks, Orion served various roles in the culture. His story was one that told of great adventures of a hunter and referred to the personification of a constellation named after him. He was viewed as a hero and was particularly special to the Boeotia region.

Orion the Constellation

Orion is one of the most well known of constellations , found on the celestial equator. The constellation can be seen throughout all the world and is very useful for helping people locate others stars in the sky. Because of Orion’s eye-catching appearance, it is one of the most recognizable in the night sky.

The Belt of Orion is a pattern of stars not considered an official constellation, but is associated with Orion. It consists of three bright stars in a row. Called Zeta Orionis, the star Alnitak is a hot blue supergiant is a triple star that serves as the easternmost star in Orion’s Belt. As the westernmost of the three stars that make up Orion’s Belt, the star Mintaka is also called Delta Orionis. Because of its position, it is the faintest of the three stars.

Around the belt, four bright stars also exist, which are identified as the outline of the hunter’s body. Three other stars that descend from the ‘belt’, including the Orion Nebula, are called the sword of the hunter.

Artists often show a relation of surrounding constellation to Orion. Sometimes, he is depicted as standing next to the river Eridanus with two of his hunting dogs , named Canis Major and Canis Major. He is shown fighting Taurus the bull. Other scenes show him hunting Lepus the hare.

To learn more about the legends associated with Orion the hunter, read the article titled, “Legends of Orion the Hunter,” which mentions a handful of literary references.