As city dwellers, it's not easy to look up to the skies and grasp that above the roofs of our houses there's a starry mantle above our heads. But for tens of thousands of years, men have been fascinated by the beauty and mystery of the universe around us, searching the skies for fixed points to guide them and signs of the divine. In all ancient cultures - of the Babylonians and the Egyptians, for example - astrologers mapped the sky to decipher its messages. However, it was the Greeks who gave us the constellations we know today. Seeking to return home, Ulysses took his bearings from the Ursa Major, Orion and the Pleiades. Gradually, Greek astronomers defined the zodiac, charted the constettations and gave them the names we still use today. Theirs was a mythical sky. Each constellation held a story, and the heavens were populated by a plethora of mythical characters. But where, for example, did the Ursa get her name? And what about Aries or Taurus? The Myths in the Stars leads us through the maze of ancient tales that still today define the skyes above us.
Giulio Guidorizzi taught Greek Literature at the University of Milan and Turin.
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