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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.

 

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