"So after the poet had represented the cup of Nestor as studded with stars, he then proceeds on to the most brilliant of the fixed stars, by contemplating which men form their conjectures of what is to happen to them in their lives. I mean the Pleiades. For when he says δύο δὲ πελειάδες were placed in gold around each handle, he does not mean the birds called πελειάδες, that is to say, turtle-doves; and those who think that he does use πελειάδες here as synonymous with περιστεραὶ are wrong. For Aristotle says expressly that the πελειὰς is one bird, and the περιστερὰ another. But the poet calls that constellation πελειάδες which at present w call πλειάδες; by the rising of which men regulate their swing and their reaping, and the beginning of their raising their crops, and their collection of them; as Hesiod says:— [p. 782]
When the seven daughters of the Libyan kingAnd Aratus says—
Rise in the heavens, then begin to mow;
And when they hide their heads, then plough the ground.
Their size is small, their light but moderate,And accordingly it is with great appropriateness that the poet has represented the Pleiades, who indicate the time of the generation and approach to perfection of the fruits of the earth, as forming parts of the ornaments of the cup of that wise prince Nestor. For this vessel was intended to contain any kind of food, whether solid or liquid; on which account he also says that the turtle-doves bring ambrosia to Jupiter:—
Yet are they famous over all the world;
At early dawn and late at eve they roll,
Jove regulating all their tranquil motions;
He has ordain'd them to give signs to men,
When winter, and when summer too begins,—
What is the time for ploughing, what for sowing.
No bird of air, nor dove of trembling wing,For we must not think here that it is really the birds called turtle-doves which bring ambrosia to Jupiter, which is the opinion of many; for that were inconsistent with the majesty of Jupiter; but the daughters of Atlas, turned into the constellation of Pleiades or doves. For it is natural enough that they who indicate the appropriate seasons to the human race should also bring ambrosia to Jupiter, on which account also he distinguishes between them and other birds, saying—
That bears ambrosia to th' ethereal king,
But shuns these rocks.
No bird of air, nor dove of trembling wing;and that he considers the Pleiades as the most famous of all fixed stars is plain, from his having placed them in the first rank when giving a list of other constellations:—
There earth, there heaven, there ocean he design'd,—[p. 783] "But people in general have been deceived by fancying the πελειάδες here spoken of to be birds, first of all from the poetical form of the word, because of the insertion of the letter ε; and secondly, because they have taken the word τρήρωνες, 'trembling,' as an epithet only of doves; since, owing to its weakness, that is a very cautious bird; and when he calls it τρήρων, this word is derived from τρέω, and τρέω is the same as εὐλαβέομαι, to be cautious. But still there is a good deal of reason in attributing the same characteristic also to the Pleiades: for the fable is, that they are always fleeing from Orion, since their mother Pleione is constantly pursued by Orion.
Th' unwearied sun, the moon completely round,—
The starry lights, that heaven's high convex crown'd,—
The Pleiads, Hyads, with the Northern Team,
And great Orion's more refulgent beam;
To which, around the axle of the sky,
The Bear, revolving, points his golden eye;
Still shines exalted on th' ethereal plain,
Nor bathes his blazing forehead in the main,—
The Bear, whom trusting rustics call the Wain.