THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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ARIES (“The Ram”), in astronomy, the first sign of the zodiac (q.v.), denoted by the sign ♈, in imitation of a ram’s head. The name is probably to be associated with the fact that when the sun is in this part of the heavens (in spring) sheep bring forth their young; this finds a parallel in Aquarius, when there is much rain. It is also a constellation, mentioned by Eudoxus (4th century B.C.) and Aratus (3rd century B.C.); Ptolemy catalogued eighteen stars, Tycho Brahe twenty-one, and Hevelius twenty-seven. According to a Greek myth, Nephele, mother of Phrixus and Helle, gave her son a ram with a golden fleece. To avoid the evil designs of Hera, their stepmother, Phrixus and Helle fled on the back of the ram, and reaching the sea, attempted to cross. Helle fell from the ram and was drowned (hence the Hellespont); Phrixus, having arrived in Colchis and been kindly received by the king, Aeetes, sacrificed the ram to Zeus, to whom he also dedicated the fleece, which was afterwards carried away by Jason. Zeus placed the ram in the heavens as the constellation.
Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

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