As a follower of Artemis, Callisto, whom Hesiod said was the daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, took a vow to remain a virgin, as did all the nymphs of Artemis. But to have her, Zeus disguised himself, Ovid says,
as Artemis/Diana herself, in order to lure her into his embrace and rape her. Callisto was then turned into a bear, as Hesiod had told it:
...but afterwards, when she was already with child, was seen bathing and so discovered. Upon this,
the goddess was enraged and changed her into a beast. Thus she became a bear and gave birth to a son called Arcas.
Either Artemis "slew Kallisto with a shot of her silver bow," perhaps urged by the wrath of Hera, or, later, Arcas, the eponym of Arcadia, nearly killed his bear-mother, when she had wandered into the forbidden precinct of Zeus. In every case, Zeus placed them both in the sky as the constellations Ursa Major, called Arktos, the "Bear", by Greeks, and Ursa Minor.
According to Ovid, it was Jove (the Roman Zeus) who took the form of Diana so that he might evade his wife Juno’s detection, forcing himself upon Callisto while she was separated from Diana and the other nymphs. Her pregnant condition was discovered some months later while bathing with Diana and her fellow nymphs. Upon this,
Diana was enraged and expelled Callisto from the group, and subsequently she gave birth to Arcas. Juno then took the opportunity to avenge her wounded pride and transformed the nymph into a bear. Sixteen
years later Callisto, still a bear, encountered her son Arcas hunting in the forest. Just before Arcas killed his own mother
with his javelin, Jove averted the tragedy by placing mother and son amongst the stars as Ursa Major and Minor, respectively. Juno, enraged that her attempt at revenge had been frustrated, appealed to Ocean that the two might never meet his waters, thus providing a poetic explanation as their circumpolar positions.
Origin of the myth
The name Kalliste, "most beautiful", may be recognized as an epithet of the goddess herself,
though none of the inscriptions at Athens that record priests of Artemis Kalliste, date before the third century BCE. Artemis Kalliste was worshipped in Athens in a shrine which lay outside the Dipylon gate, by the side of the road to
the Academy. W. S. Ferguson suggested that Artemis Soteira and Artemis Kalliste were joined in a common cult administered by a single priest. The bearlike
character of Artemis herself was a feature of the Brauronia.
The myth in Catasterismi may be derived from the fact that a set of constellations appear close together in the sky, in and near the Zodiac sign of Libra, namely Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Boötes, and Virgo.
The constellation Boötes, was explicitly identified in the Hesiodic Astronomia as Arcas, the "Bear-warden" (Arktophylax):
he is Arkas the son of Kallisto and Zeus, and he lived in the country about Lykaion. After Zeus had
seduced Kallisto, Lykaon, pretending not to know of the matter, entertained Zeus, as Hesiod says, and set before him on the
table the babe [Arkas] which he had cut up."
Callisto and Zeus as Artemis. The presence of Zeus' eagle shows that things are not as they look
Callisto consorted with Zeus and gave birth to Arcas 1, the eponym of the Arcadians. She was punished
for being Zeus' lover, and was turned into a bear, but gained immortality by being among the stars.
In the train of Artemis
This daughter of impious Lycaon 2 lived in Arcadia, and used to hunt in the company of Artemis to whom she had sworn to remain a maid; for a main feature of this goddess is never to yield
Zeus disguised Zeus, however, assuming the shape of Artemis, or as some say the shape of Apollo, seduced Callisto and, not wishing to be detected by jealous Hera, transformed the girl into a bear.
The wife's revenge
But as jealousy has innumerable resources, Hera, having learned what had happened, asked Artemis to shoot the bear, which the latter did. There are those, however, who affirm that Artemis shot the beast after Hera had turned the girl into a bear because Callisto failed to fulfil her promise concerning
"For I will take away your beauty, wherewith you do delight yourself
and him who is my husband." (Hera to Callisto. Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.472).
The virgin goddess punishes Callisto
Others have said that Artemis was not satisfied with merely expelling Callisto from her train:
"Begone! and pollute not our sacred pool." (Artemis
to Callisto. Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.472).
but also changed her into a bear, after noticing, when Callisto was refreshing
her body in a stream, that the girl's womb had grown heavier. For she asked the girl as to the reason for her swollen form,
and when Callisto, whom Zeus seduced assuming Artemis' shape, answered that it was the goddess' fault, she, angry at the girl's reply, changed
her into a bear, and in this animal form she later bore her son Arcas 1.
Fate of mother and child
In any case, because of this intrigue Callisto died, but Zeus, in order to save her and her child from an angry mob, transformed her into the constellation
Great Bear (Ursa Major), thus allowing her to gain immortality, and gave their child Arcas 1 to Hermes' mother, the Pleiad Maia, for upbringing.
Yet those who like
to compare details and how they agree with each other say, for example, that the constellation is not Callisto herself, but
that it was put in the sky to honour her, for, they argue, the Arcadians themselves were able to point at her grave.
Artemis (left) discovers Callisto's pregnancy
Constellation does not bathe
It is also told that the constellation of the Great Bear never sets because
Tethys forbade her to dip herself in the ocean, and that this is so because Oceanus's wife Tethys hated Callisto's intrusion; for Tethys was Hera's nurse, and Callisto a concubine in Hera's bed.
Her child holds her company in the sky
Arcas 1, the son of Zeus and Callisto who some said was the child that impious Lycaon 2 served Zeus at a banquet, became king, and the district of Arcadia, formerly called Pelasgia, is called after him. After his death, he was turned into the
constellation Bear-Watcher (Bootes) that guards the Great Bear, but others have said that Bootes is someone else (Icarius 2,
father of Erigone 2, the man who was killed by drunkards).
CALLISTO SEE LINK
URSA MAJOR OR THE BIG DIPPER
In Tolkien's Middle-earth mythos, it is called the Sickle of the Valar, the sign of Hope signifying doom for Evil, while in T.A. Barron's Great Tree of Avalon series, it is called the Wizard's Staff, symbolizing Merlin's staff.
In the manga series Fist of the North Star (Hokuto no Ken), the Hokuto in the original Japanese title refers not to the North Star in the official English title, but to the Big Dipper instead (Hokuto literally means Northern
Dipper). The main character, Kenshiro, bears seven scars on his chests that forms the same shape as the Big Dipper. The Big Dipper itself or
Hokuto Shichisei is a recurring symbolism in the series.
URSA MAJOR OR THE BIG DIPPER
Merlin is best known as the wizard featured in Arthurian legend. The standard depiction of the character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, and is based on an amalgamation of previous historical and legendary figures. Geoffrey combined existing stories of
Myrddin Wyllt (Merlinus Caledonensis), a northern madman with no connection to King Arthur, with tales of Aurelius Ambrosius to form the composite figure he called Merlin Ambrosius.
Geoffrey's rendering of the character was immediately popular; later writers expanded the account to
produce a fuller image of the wizard. Merlin's traditional biography casts him as born of mortal woman, sired by incubus, the non-human wellspring from whom he inherits his supernatural powers and abilities. Merlin matures to an ascendant sagehood and engineers the birth of Arthur through magic and intrigue. Later, Merlin
serves as the king's advisor until he is bewitched and imprisoned by Vivian, not by Lady of the Lake.
Merlin Ambrosius, or Myrddin Emrys
Geoffrey's account of Merlin Ambrosius' early life in the Historia Regum Britanniae is based
on the story of Ambrosius in the Historia Brittonum. He adds his own embellishments to the tale, which he sets in Carmarthen (Welsh: Caerfyrddin). While Nennius' Ambrosius eventually reveals himself to be the son of a Roman consul, Geoffrey's Merlin is begotten on a king's daughter by an incubus. The story of Vortigern's tower is
essentially the same; the underground dragons, one white and one red, represent the Saxons and the British, and their final
battle is a portent of things to come.
At this point Geoffrey inserts a long section of Merlin's prophecies, taken from his earlier Prophetiae
Merlini. He tells only two further tales of the character; in the first, Merlin creates Stonehenge as a burial place for Aurelius Ambrosius. In the second, Merlin's magic enables Uther Pendragon to enter into Tintagel in disguise and father his son Arthur on his enemy's wife, Igraine. These episodes appear in many later adaptations of Geoffrey's account.
Later adaptations of the legend
Several decades later the poet Robert de Boron retold this material in his poem Merlin. Only a few lines of the poem have survived, but a prose
retelling became popular and was later incorporated into two other romances. In Robert's account Merlin is begotten by a devil
on a virgin as an intended Antichrist. This plot is thwarted when the expectant mother informs her confessor Blaise of her predicament; they
immediately baptize the boy at birth, thus freeing him from the power of Satan. The demonic legacy invests Merlin with a preternatural
knowledge of the past and present, which is supplemented by God, who gives the boy a prophetic knowledge of the future.
Robert de Boron lays great emphasis on Merlin's power to shapeshift, on his joking personality and on his connection to the Holy Grail. This text introduces Merlin's master Blaise, who is pictured as writing down Merlin's deeds, explaining
how they came to be known and preserved. Robert was inspired by Wace's Roman de Brut, an Anglo-Norman adaptation of Geoffrey's Historia. Robert's poem was rewritten in prose in the 12th century as
the Estoire de Merlin, also called the Vulgate or Prose Merlin. It was originally attached to a cycle of prose
versions of Robert's poems, which tells the story of the Holy Grail; brought from the
Middle East to Britain by followers of Joseph of Arimathea, and eventually recovered by Arthur's knight Percival. The Prose Merlin was detached from that shorter cycle to serve as a sort of prequel to the vast
Lancelot-Grail, also known as the Vulgate Cycle. The authors of that work expanded it with the Vulgate Suite du Merlin
(Vulgate Merlin Continuation), which described King Arthur's early adventures. The Prose Merlin was also used as a
prequel to the later Post-Vulgate Cycle, the authors of which added their own continuation, the Huth Merlin or Post-Vulgate Suite du
Merlin. These works were adapted and translated into several other languages; the Post-Vulgate Suite was the inspiration
for the early parts of Sir Thomas Malory's English language Le Morte d'Arthur.
Many later medieval works also deal with the Merlin legend. For example, The Prophecies of Merlin
contains long prophecies of Merlin (mostly concerned with 13th century Italian politics), some by his ghost after his death.
The prophecies are interspersed with episodes relating Merlin's deeds and with various Arthurian adventures in which Merlin
does not appear at all. The earliest English verse romance concerning Merlin is Arthour and Merlin, which drew from
chronicles and the French Lancelot-Grail.
As the Arthurian mythos was retold and embellished, Merlin's prophetic aspects were sometimes de-emphasized
in favor of portraying Merlin as a wizard and elder advisor to Arthur. On the other hand in Lancelot-Grail it is said that Merlin was never baptized and never did any good in his life, only evil. Medieval Arthurian
tales abound in inconsistencies. In the Lancelot-Grail and later accounts Merlin's eventual downfall
came from his lusting after a woman named Nimue (or Ninive, in some versions of the legend), one of the maidens
serving the Lady of the Lake, who coaxed his magical secrets from him before turning her new powers against her master and trapping
him in an enchanted prison (variously described as a cave, a large rock, an invisible tower, etc.) This is unfortunate for
Arthur, who has lost his greatest counselor.
MERLIN OR KING ARTHUR = CAMELOT
King Arthur is a legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against the Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and his historical existence is debated and disputed by modern historians. The sparse historical background of Arthur is gleaned from various histories, including those of Gildas, Nennius, and the Annales Cambriae. Arthur's name also occurs in early poetic sources such as Y Gododdin.
The legendary Arthur developed as a figure of international interest largely through the popularity
of Geoffrey of Monmouth's 12th-century Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain). Welsh and Breton tales and poems relating the story of Arthur date earlier than Geoffrey; these are usually termed "pre-Galfridian"
texts (from the Latin form of Geoffrey, Galfridus). In these works, Arthur appears either as a great warrior defending Britain
from human and supernatural enemies, or as a magical figure of folklore, sometimes associated with the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn.
Geoffrey's Historia, completed in 1138, is fanciful and imaginative, though how much he invented
and how much was adapted from other sources is unknown. Geoffrey depicted Arthur as a king of Britain who defeated the Saxons
and established an empire over the British Isles, Iceland, Norway, and Gaul. Many incidents that are now an integral part of the Arthurian story occur in Geoffrey's Historia,
including those involving Arthur's father Uther Pendragon, adviser Merlin, the sword Excalibur, his birth at Tintagel, and death at Avalon. Arthurian texts written after Geoffrey often utilise his narrative and characters. The 12th-century
French writer Chrétien de Troyes, who added Lancelot and the Holy Grail to the story, began the genre of Arthurian romance that became a significant strand of medieval literature. In these French stories, the narrative focus often shifts from King Arthur himself to other characters,
such as various Knights of the Round Table. Arthurian literature thrived during the Middle Ages but waned in the centuries that followed until it
experienced a major resurgence in the 19th century. In the 21st century, the legend lives on, both in literature and in adaptations
for theatre, film, television, comics, and other media.
The origin of the Welsh name Arthur remains a matter of debate. Some suggest it is derived from the Latin family name Artorius, of obscure and contested etymology. Others propose a derivation from Welsh arth (earlier art), meaning "bear", suggesting
art-ur, "bear-man", (earlier *Arto-uiros) is the original form, although there are difficulties
with this theory. It may be relevant to this debate that Arthur's name appears as Arthur, or Arturus, in early Latin Arthurian
texts, never as Artorius. However, this may not say anything about the origin of the name Arthur, as Artorius
would regularly become Art(h)ur when borrowed into Welsh; all it would mean, as John Koch has pointed out, is that the surviving Latin references to a historical
Arthur (if he was called Artorius and really existed) must date from after the 6th century. An alternative theory links the name Arthur to Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation Boötes, near Ursa Major or the Great Bear. Classical Latin Arcturus would also have become Art(h)ur when borrowed into Welsh,
and its brightness and position in the sky led people to regard it as the "guardian of the bear" and the "leader" of the other
stars in Boötes. The exact significance of such etymologies is unclear. It is often assumed that an Artorius derivation would mean that
the legends of Arthur had a genuine historical core, but recent studies suggest that this assumption may not be well founded. By contrast, a derivation of Arthur from Arcturus might be taken to indicate a non-historical origin for Arthur, but
Toby Griffen has suggested it was an alternative name for a historical Arthur designed to appeal to Latin-speakers.
Tennyson and the revival
In the early 19th century, medievalism, Romanticism, and the Gothic Revival reawakened interest in the Arthur and the medieval romances. A new code of ethics for 19th-century gentlemen
was shaped around the chivalric ideals that the 'Arthur of romance' embodied. This renewed interest first made itself felt in 1816, when
Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur was reprinted for the first time since 1634. Initially the medieval Arthurian legends were of particular interest to poets, inspiring, for example, William Wordsworth to write "The Egyptian Maid" (1835), an allegory of the Holy Grail. Pre-eminent among these was Alfred Lord Tennyson, whose first Arthurian poem, "The Lady of Shalott", was published in 1832. Although Arthur himself played a minor role in some of these works, following in the medieval romance tradition, Tennyson's
Arthurian work reached its peak of popularity with Idylls of the King, which reworked the entire narrative of Arthur's life for the Victorian era. First published in 1859, it sold 10,000 copies within the first week. In the Idylls, Arthur became a symbol of ideal manhood whose attempt to establish a perfect kingdom on earth
fails, finally, through human weakness. Tennyson's works prompted an large number of imitators, generated considerable public interest in the legend of Arthur
and the character himself, and brought Malory’s tales to a wider audience. Indeed, the first modernization of Malory's great compilation of Arthur's tales was published shortly after Idylls
appeared, in 1862, and there were six further editions and five competitors before the century ended.
This interest in the 'Arthur of romance' and his associated stories continued through the 19th century
and into the 20th, and influenced poets such as William Morris and Pre-Raphaelite artists including Edward Burne-Jones. Even the humorous tale of Tom Thumb, which was the primary manifestation of Arthur's legend in the 18th century, was rewritten after the
publication of Idylls. While Tom maintained his small stature and remained a figure of comic relief, his story now
included more elements from the medieval Arthurian romances and Arthur is treated more seriously and historically in these
new versions. The revived Arthurian romance also proved influential in the United States, with such books as Sidney Lanier's The
Boy's King Arthur (1880) reaching wide audiences and providing inspiration for Mark Twain's satiric A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). The revival of interest in Arthur and the Arthurian tales did not, however, continue unabated. By the end of the 19th
century, it was confined mainly to Pre-Raphaelite imitators. Furthermore, the romance tradition could not avoid being affected by the First World War, which damaged the reputation of chivalry and thus interest in its medieval manifestations and Arthur
as chivalric role model. The romance tradition did, however, remain sufficiently powerful to persuade Thomas Hardy, Laurence Binyon and John Masefield to compose Arthurian plays, and T. S. Eliot alludes to the Arthur myth in his poem The Waste Land, which mentions the Fisher King.
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