Mythology of the constellation Auriga
AURIGA, The Charioteer, has long been shown as a shepherd, cradling either a goat
or goat and kids, as he rides through the heavens in his chariot.
One variation suggests that the goat in question is Amaltheia,
famous for suckling the infant Zeus. (In fact, Capella,
one of the brightest stars in this constellation,
was previously called Amaltheia.) Another suggestion is that the
constellation represents Erichthoneus, the lame son of
Hephaestus and Mother Earth. Erichthoneus invented the four
horse chariot so that he could get around more easily.
This was noted and admired by Zeus, who placed man and chariot in the heavens.
Another interpretation is that Auriga represents
Myrtilus, the unfortunate charioteer of King Oenomaus.
This king was jealous of anyone who came to seek his
daughter's hand in marriage. Being noted for his love
of horses (his daughter was named Hippodameia "horse tamer"),
the king announced that all suitors would have to take part in a
chariot race against him and, should they lose, pay with
their lives. Since his horses came from the god Ares,
none could beat them, and all the suitors were killed.
The gods decided to intervene when Pelops, son of Hermes
entered the fray. He was given a gold chariot, with
winged golden horses to pull it, by Poseidon.
As a further precaution , and with the consent of
Hippodameia who had fallen in love with this latest
suitor, Pelops arranged that Myrtilus should tamper
with the wheels of King Oenomaus' chariot.
This he did, the king was dragged to his death, and
Pelops was left to claim his prize. However, Myrtilus
had only agreed to weaken the king's chariot on the condition
that he was granted certain privileges, and when he demanded
to spend the bridal night with Hippodameia, both she and Pelops
strongly resisted and Myrtilus was killed.