Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Ἔσπερε, πάντα φέρων, ὄσα φαίνολις ἔσκέδας' αὔως,
φέρεις οἶν, φέρες αἶγα, φέρεις ἄπυ ματέρι παῖδα.

Hesperus, you bring back again
What the dawn light scatters,
Bringing the sheep: bringing the kid:
Bringing the little child back to its mother.

- Sappho of Lesbos (Fragment 95)

The Hesperides were daughters of Atlas, an enormous giant, who, as the ancients believed, stood upon the western confines of the earth, and supported the heavens on his shoulders. Their mother was Hesperis, a personification of the "region of the West," where the sun continued to shine after he had set on Greece, and where, as travellers told, was an abundance of choice delicious fruits, which could only have been produced by a special divine influence. The Gardens of the Hesperides with the golden apples were believed to exist in some island in the ocean, or, as it was sometimes thought, in the islands on the north or west coast of Africa. They were far-famed in antiquity; for it was there that springs of nectar flowed by the couch of Zeus, and there that the earth displayed the rarest blessings of the gods; it was another Eden. As knowledge increased with regard to western lands, it became necessary to move this paradise farther and farther out into the Western Ocean. [Alexander Murray, "Manual of Mythology," 1888

*Hesperus (Greek Hesperos) is the personification of the "evening star", the planet Venus in the evening. His name is sometimes conflated with the names for his brother, the personification of the planet as the "morning star" Eosphorus (Greek Ἐωσφόρος, "bearer of dawn") or Phosphorus (Ancient Greek: Φωσφόρος, "bearer of light", often translated as "Lucifer" in Latin), since they are all personifications of the same planet Venus. "Heosphoros" in the Greek LXX Septuagint and "Lucifer" in Jerome's Latin Vulgate were used to translate the Hebrew "Helel" (Venus as the brilliant, bright or shining one), "son of Shahar (Dawn)" in the Hebrew version of Isaiah 14:12.

When named thus by the ancient Greeks, it was thought that Eosphorus (Venus in the morning) and Hesperos (Venus in the evening) were two different celestial objects. The Greeks later accepted the Babylonian view that the two were the same, and the Babylonian identification of the planets with the Great Gods, and dedicated the "wandering star" (planet) to Aphrodite (Roman Venus), as the equivalent of Ishtar.

Eosphorus/Hesperus was said to be the father of Ceyx and Daedalion. In some sources, he is also said to be the father of the Hesperides...

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