Orion is the most splendid of constellations, befitting a character who was in legend the tallest and most handsome of men. His right arm and left foot are marked by the brilliant stars Betelgeuse and Rigel, with a distinctive line of three stars forming his belt. ‘No other constellation more accurately represents the figure of a man’, says Germanicus Caesar.
Manilius calls it ‘golden Orion’ and ‘the mightiest of constellations’, and exaggerates its brilliance by saying that, when Orion rises, ‘night feigns the brightness of day and folds its dusky wings’. Manilius describes Orion as ‘stretching his arms over a vast expanse of sky and rising to the stars with no less huge a stride’. In fact, Orion is not an exceptionally large constellation, ranking only 26th in size (smaller, for instance, than Perseus according to the modern constellation boundaries), but the brilliance of its stars gives it the illusion of being much larger.
Orion is also one of the most ancient constellations, being among the few star groups known to the earliest Greek writers such as Homer and Hesiod. Even in the space age, Orion remains one of the few star patterns that non-astronomers can recognize.
The distinctive pattern of Orion has been recognized in numerous cultures around the world, and many myths have been associated with it. It has also been used as a symbol in the modern world.
Orion’s Belt, called Drie Konings (Three Kings) or The Belt of Orion, is an asterism within the constellation. It consists of the three bright stars Zeta (Alnitak), Epsilon (Alnilam), and Delta (Mintaka).
The legendary archer and forefather of the Armenian people, Haik slew the Titan Bel. He was identified with the Sun-god Orion. The stars of Orion were associated with Osiris, the sun-god of rebirth and afterlife, by the ancient Egyptians.
The Babylonian star catalogues of the Late Bronze Age name Orion MULSIPA.ZI.AN.NA, “The Heavenly Shepherd” or “True Shepherd of Anu” – Anu being the chief god of the heavenly realms.
The Babylonian constellation was sacred to Papshukal and Ninshubur, both minor gods fulfilling the role of ‘messenger to the gods’. Papshukal was closely associated with the figure of a walking bird on Babylonian boundary stones, and on the star map the figure of the Rooster was located below and behind the figure of the True Shepherd—both constellations represent the herald of the gods, in his bird and human forms respectively.
In the sky, Orion is depicted facing the snorting charge of neighbouring Taurus the Bull, yet the myth of Orion makes no reference to such a combat. However, the constellation can be traced back to the Sumerians, who saw in it their great hero Gilgamesh fighting the Gugalanna (lit. “The Great Bull of Heaven” < Sumerian gu “bull”, gal “great”, an “heaven”, -a “of”). The Sumerian name for Orion was URU AN-NA, meaning light of heaven. ARA in Armenian means sun. Taurus was GUD AN-NA, bull of heaven.
In Mesopotamian mythology Gugalanna was a Sumerian deity as well as a constellation known today as Taurus, one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. Gugalanna was the first husband of the Goddess Ereshkigal, the Goddess of the Realm of the Dead, a gloomy place devoid of light, who was dispatched by Inanna to punish Gilgamesh for his sins.
Gugalanna was sent by the gods to take retribution upon Gilgamesh for rejecting the sexual advances of the goddess Inanna. Gugalanna, whose feet made the earth shake, was slain and dismembered by Gilgamesh and Enkidu. Inanna, from the heights of the city walls looked down, and Enkidu took the haunches of the bull shaking them at the goddess, threatening he would do the same to her if he could catch her too. For this impiety, Enkidu later dies. It was to share the sorrow with her sister that Inanna later descends to the Underworld.
Taurus was the constellation of the Northern Hemisphere Spring Equinox from about 3,200 BCE. It marked the start of the agricultural year with the New Year Akitu festival (from á-ki-ti-še-gur10-ku5, = sowing of the barley), an important date in Mespotamian religion. The “death” of Gugalanna, represents the obscuring disappearance of this constellation as a result of the light of the sun, with whom Gilgamesh was identified.
In the time in which this myth was composed, the New Year Festival, or Akitu, at the Spring Equinox, due to the Precession of the Equinoxes did not occur in Aries, but in Taurus. At this time of the year, Taurus would have disappeared as it was obscured by the sun.
Gilgamesh was the Sumerian equivalent of Heracles. One of the labours of Heracles was to catch the Cretan bull, which would fit the Orion–Taurus conflict in the sky. Ptolemy described him with club and lion’s pelt, both familiar attributes of Heracles, and he is shown this way on old star maps.
The tauroctony scene is the cult relief (i.e. the central icon) of the Mithraic Mysteries. It depicts Mithras killing a bull, hence the name ‘tauroctony’, given to the scene in modern times possibly after the Greek ταυροκτόνος (tauroktonos) “slaughtering bulls”, which derives from ταῦρος (tauros) “bull” + κτόνος (ktonos) “murder”, from κτείνω (kteinō), “I kill, slay”.
Tammuz, “faithful or true son”, was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation, also worshiped in the later Mesopotamian states of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia.
In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar. The Levantine Adonis (“lord”), who was drawn into the Greek pantheon, was considered by Joseph Campbell among others to be another counterpart of Tammuz, son and consort.
The Aramaic name “Tammuz” seems to have been derived from the Akkadian form Tammuzi, based on early Sumerian Damu-zid. The later standard Sumerian form, Dumu-zid, in turn became Dumuzi in Akkadian. Tamuzi also is Dumuzid or Dumuzi.
Beginning with the summer solstice came a time of mourning in the Ancient Near East, as in the Aegean: the Babylonians marked the decline in daylight hours and the onset of killing summer heat and drought with a six-day “funeral” for the god. Recent discoveries reconfirm him as an annual life-death-rebirth deity: tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld himself, in order to secure Inanna’s release, though the recovered final line reveals that he is to revive for six months of each year (see below).
In cult practice, the dead Tammuz was widely mourned in the Ancient Near East. Locations associated in antiquity with the site of his death include both Harran and Byblos, among others.
According to some scholars, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over a cave that was originally a shrine to Adonis-Tammuz.
The Greek Adōnis was a borrowing from the Semitic word adon, “lord”, which is related to Adonai, one of the names used to refer to the God in the Hebrew Bible and still used in Judaism to the present day. Syrian Adonis is Gauas or Aos, to Egyptian Osiris, to the Semitic Tammuz and Baal Hadad, to the Etruscan Atunis and the Phrygian Attis, all of whom are deities of rebirth and vegetation.
Adonis, in Greek mythology, is the god of beauty and desire, and is a central figure in various mystery religions. His religion belonged to women: the dying of Adonis was fully developed in the circle of young girls around the poet Sappho from the island of Lesbos, about 600 BC, as revealed in a fragment of Sappho’s surviving poetry.
Adonis is one of the most complex figures in classical times. He has had multiple roles, and there has been much scholarship over the centuries concerning his meaning and purpose in Greek religious beliefs. He is an annually-renewed, ever-youthful vegetation god, a life-death-rebirth deity whose nature is tied to the calendar. His name is often applied in modern times to handsome youths, of whom he is the archetype. Adonis is often referred to as the mortal god of Beauty.
The Church Father Jerome, who died in Bethlehem in 420, reports in addition that the holy cave was at one point consecrated by the heathen to the worship of Adonis, and a pleasant sacred grove planted before it, to wipe out the memory of Jesus. Modern mythologists, however, reverse the supposition, insisting that the cult of Adonis-Tammuz originated the shrine and that it was the Christians who took it over, substituting the worship of their own God.
Adonis was certainly based in large part on Tammuz. His name is Semitic, a variation on the word “adon” meaning “lord”. Yet there is no trace of a Semitic deity directly connected with Adonis, and no trace in Semitic languages of any specific mythemes connected with his Greek myth; both Greek and Near Eastern scholars have questioned the connection (Burkert, p 177 note 6 bibliography). The connection in practice is with Adonis’ Mesopotamian counterpart, Tammuz:
“Women sit by the gate weeping for Tammuz, or they offer incense to Baal on roof-tops and plant pleasant plants. These are the very features of the Adonis legend: which is celebrated on flat roof-tops on which sherds sown with quickly germinating green salading are placed, Adonis gardens… the climax is loud lamentation for the dead god.” – Burkert, p. 177.
When the legend of Adonis was incorporated into Greek culture is debated. Walter Burkert questions whether Adonis had not from the very beginning come to Greece with Aphrodite. “In Greece” Burkert concludes, “the special function of the Adonis legend is as an opportunity for the unbridled expression of emotion in the strictly circumscribed life of women, in contrast to the rigid order of polis and family with the official women’s festivals in honour of Demeter.”
In comparative mythology, the related motifs of a dying god and of a dying-and-rising god (also known as a death-rebirth-deity) have appeared in diverse cultures. In the more commonly accepted motif of a dying god, the deity goes away and does not return. The less than widely accepted motif of a dying-and-rising god refers to a deity which returns, is resurrected or is reborn, in either a literal or symbolic sense.
Beginning in the 19th century, a number of gods who would fit these motifs were proposed. Male examples include the ancient Near Eastern, Greek, and Norse deities Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Tammuz, Ra the Sun god with its fusion with Osiris/Orion, Jesus, and Dionysus. Female examples include Inanna/Ishtar, Persephone, and Bari.
Ara the Beautiful (also Ara the Handsome or Ara the Fair; Armenian: Արա Գեղեցիկ Ara Geghetsik) is a legendary Armenian hero. He is notable in Armenian literature for the popular legend in which he was so handsome that the Assyrian queen Semiramis waged war against Armenia just to get him.
Is an Armenian mythological name, the name of God of spring, flora, harvest; later – God of war, strength. Some scientists find analogy between Arm god Ara and Greek Ares ( as dying and rising from the dead gods).