The Aries Constellation
Do you ever find yourself looking up into the stars? As kids, we’re taught about the magic of wishing upon a star. As we get older, we learn the secrets of astrology and astronomy. Long before telescopes came to be, astrology relied on the naked eye.
Ancient Greece gave us the basis of what we now know as astrology – with constellations named after their deities. The story around the Aries constellation dates back almost two thousand years as one of the zodiac constellations.
Aries was one of the 48 constellations discovered by Ptolemy, the 2nd century astronomer who found the 12 zodiac signs.It was documented in his ‘Almagest’, considered one of the most influential texts of all time.
The name ‘Aries’ is Latin for ram, which is why its old constellation symbol reflects the ram’s horns.If you look up into the sky and see stars that reflect the shape of a ram’s horn, you’ve found Aries.
We’re sharing the myth behind the Aries constellation to give you a newfound appreciation for the magic behind these stars. Aries is special as the first of the zodiac constellations and for its deep connection to Greek mythology.
The story around the Aries constellation
Aries is one of the oldest constellations. Although it is largely thought to originate from Ptolemy in the 2nd-century, there are references to the constellation during the Babylonian era that predates 539 BC. During this time, Aries was represented by a farmworker before changing to the ram.
The so-called “Agrarian Worker” reflected the position of Aries in the agricultural calendar. The switch from the farmworker to the ram is hard to pin-point due to a lack of historical imagery for the Aries constellation.
The prominence of Aries as a constellation occurred during the Babylonian era when they placed the Hamal star close to the vernal equinox. This change meant that Aries became home of the equinox, where the Sun crosses the celestial equator of north to south.
In the 7th century BC, the Aries constellation was used to signify the start of Spring, making it one of the most important. We now think of the spring season starting under Pisces, but Aries remains one of the most prominent constellations.
Meet the Aries constellation
While we think of stars as signing bright in the heavens, Aries is one of the dimmest constellations. It has four bright stars – Hamal, Sheratan, Mesarthim, and 41 Arietis.
Within the Aries constellation, you’ll see only a few objects amongst the stars, including galaxies. The Daytime Arietids and Epsilon Arietids are two meteor showers that come from the Aries constellation. The first occurs from the 22nd of May to 2nd July and is one of the strongest. If you’re lucky, you may be able to see this meteor shower if you’re awake before the morning dawn.
Amongst the stars that make up the Aries constellation, the Alpha and Beta stars – known as Hamal and Sheratan– have historically been used for navigation.
The Aries constellation is the 39th largest constellation with 441 square degrees of area. It is surrounded by the constellations of Pisces, Taurus, Perseus, Cetus, and Triangulum. Aries is one of the 12 zodiac constellations that correspond with birthdays, giving us all our so-called star signs.
The stars of the Aries constellation
There are a total of six named stars within the Aries constellation – Botein, Bharani, Hamal, Mesarthim, LiliiBorea, and Sheratan – which have been approved by the International Astronomical Union. These stars each play their only role within the Aries constellation and have their own significance.
Hamal is the Alpha Arietis, considered the 48th brightest star in the sky and is twice the size of the sun over 66 light-years away.It is Aries’ brightest star and its name means “head of the ram” in Arabic, referring to the mythological link to the story of Phrixus.
Sheratan is the Beta Arietis and a main-sequence star that is believed to be a G class star. The name ‘Sheratan’ means “the two signs” and reflects how it once marked the vernal equinox alongside the Mesarthim star.
Mesarthim is the triple star system within Aries and was once the nearest visible star for those fortunate enough to see the constellation.The star’s brightness varies throughout the time that Aries is visible.
Botein is the Delta Arietis. This orange giant star sits almost 170 light-years from us with a diameter that is 13 times greater than the Sun. The name ‘Botein’ is Arabic for “belly” and reflects where this star sits within the constellation.
Bharani is the constellation’s 41 Arietis and takes its name from the second lunar mansion from Hindu astrology.
The final named star is Arietis, the Epsilon Arietis. This binary star is almost 300 light-years away and is made up of two dwarf stars.
Aries Constellation as a Zodiac sign
Ever wondered where the Aries zodiac sign comes from? The Aries zodiac is directly linked to the Aries constellation. The Aries constellation appears in the sky from March 21st to April 19th, making it the zodiac sign for those born between these dates.
It was the first of the constellations that would form the zodiac signs that we still follow today. The ram reflects the confidence, strength, and courageousness of those born under the Aries’ stars.
Throughout history, the Aries constellation has largely been portrayed as a ram that sits with its head pointing to Taurus. As an astrological sign, Aries is considered to represent the humours that make up the human body.
Within astrology, Aries is the first of the zodiac signs that are represented by the element of fire. Leo and Sagittarius are the other zodiacs with the fire element. If you’re born under the Aries zodiac, you’ll likely have a fiery personality as it’s considered the most active of the zodiacs.
As an Aries, you’ll be a natural-born leader who leads with their head, walking headfirst into whatever life throws your way.
The Greek myths behind the Aries constellation
In the 2nd century, Ptolemy named most of his 48 constellations after Greek deities and myths. These ancient Greek myths have become as famous as the constellations themselves and often relate to the appearance of the stars themselves.
Aries is a golden ram in Greek mythology that saved Phrixus, the son of King Athamas, from death. The golden ram rescued Phrixus under the orders of the Greek deity Hermes.
In the myth, Phrixus and twin sister Helle are the children of King Athamas and Nephele, a Greek deity and cloud nymph. Ino, the twins’ stepmother, hated them and created a wicked plan to get rid of them. She ruined the crops and created a story that an oracle had said the twins would have to be sacrificed to restore the nation’s crops.
The golden ram was sent by their mother with the help of Hermes to save the twins. During their journey, Helle fell from the ram and into the sea. Hellespont was named in his honor. Phrixus was brought to safety in Colchis where King Aeetes offered him shelter. In recognition of his rescue, Phrixus offered the ram up to Zeus, King of the Gods. He gave King Aeetes the ram’s golden hair.
After the ram was sacrificed to Zeus, its skin was placed in the temple and became the Golden Fleece in the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. In the myth, the golden fleece is considered a symbol of kingship and authority.
Other myths connected to the Aries constellation
Within ancient Egyptian astronomy, the Aries constellation is connected to Amon-Ra, the god that represents creativity and fertility. Amon-Ra is represented as a man with a ram’s head. When the Aries constellation is in the sky, priests considered it an ‘Indicator of the Reborn Sun’ and would carry statues of Amon-Ra to their temples. Overtime this practice would become adopted by Persian astronomers.
The Aries constellation not only reflects the zodiac sign but an ancient Greek myth that helps to tell the story of the stars.The next time you see the Aries constellation, try and spot the named stars. Throughout history, the appearance of this constellation has been thought to mark a period of new energy.
We hope this article gives you a newfound appreciation of the Aries constellation and a special meaning to your Aries constellation jewellery.
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Check out other articles from our blog for more astronomy and star facts.