Leo
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LEO

Leo is one of the oldest constellations in the sky. Archaeological evidence suggests that Mesopotamians had a constellation similar to Leo as early as 4000 BC. The Persians knew the constellation as Shir or Ser, Babylonians called it UR.GU.LA (“the great lion”), Syrians knew it as Aryo, and the Turks as Artan.

Babylonians knew the star Regulus as “the star that stands at the Lion’s breast,” or the King Star. Both the constellation and its brightest star were well-known in most ancient cultures.

The Greeks associated Leo with the Nemean lion, the beast killed by Heracles during the first of his twelve labours. Both Eratosthenes and Hyginus wrote that the lion was placed among the constellations because it was the king of beasts.

The lion lived in a cave in Nemea, a town located to the south-west of Corinth. It was killing the local inhabitants and could not be killed because its skin could not be pierced by any weapons.

Heracles could not kill the lion with arrows, so he trapped the lion in its cave, grappled with the beast and eventually choked it to death. He used the lion’s claws to cut off its pelt, and then wore the pelt as a cloak, complete with the lion’s head. The cloak both protected Heracles and made him appear even more fearsome.
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Leo is one of the oldest constellations in the sky. Archaeological evidence suggests that Mesopotamians had a constellation similar to Leo as early as 4000 BC. The Persians knew the constellation as Shir or Ser, Babylonians called it UR.GU.LA (“the great lion”), Syrians knew it as Aryo, and the Turks as Artan.

Babylonians knew the star Regulus as “the star that stands at the Lion’s breast,” or the King Star. Both the constellation and its brightest star were well-known in most ancient cultures.

The Greeks associated Leo with the Nemean lion, the beast killed by Heracles during the first of his twelve labours. Both Eratosthenes and Hyginus wrote that the lion was placed among the constellations because it was the king of beasts.

The lion lived in a cave in Nemea, a town located to the south-west of Corinth. It was killing the local inhabitants and could not be killed because its skin could not be pierced by any weapons.

Heracles could not kill the lion with arrows, so he trapped the lion in its cave, grappled with the beast and eventually choked it to death. He used the lion’s claws to cut off its pelt, and then wore the pelt as a cloak, complete with the lion’s head. The cloak both protected Heracles and made him appear even more fearsome.
There are two strong contenders as to which mythical lion is represented by the constellation Leo. The first is the Nemean lion which Hercules had to kill as the first of his 12 Labors. This fearsome beast terrorized the land, killing all who ventured near it. Not only was it more fierce, larger and stronger than other lions, but it also had the added advantage of possessing a skin, which was impervious to metal, stone and wood. Since Hercules could not kill the lion with any weapon, he wrestled it with his bare hands, and finally managed to strangle the animal. Seeing at once the unique protective qualities of the pelt, he removed it with one of the lion’s own claws, and thereafter wore it as a cloak. Leo was placed in the sky as a reminder of Hercules’ heroism and bravery.

The second contender is the lion featured in the poet Ovid’s tale of Pyramus and Thisbe. Both sets of parents of this young couple considered them too young to marry and stopped them seeing each other. However, the pair made arrangements to meet secretly by a mulberry tree with white berries. When Thisbe arrived at the appointed place, a lion sprang out from some bushes and she ran away in fright. Unfortunately, her veil fluttered to the ground as she ran and the lion, bloody from its latest kill, pounced on it. A short time later Pyramus arrived, saw his beloved’s bloody veil and believed that she had been killed. Totally distraught, and unable to face life without her, he threw himself on his sword. As he lay dying, Thisbe returned, took his sword and killed herself. The blood of the tragic pair coloured the berries of the mulberry tree red, and so they remain to this day. Some suggest that Zeus placed Thisbe’s veil in the heavens as Coma Berenices.
THE LEON NEMEIOS (Nemean Lion) was a large lion whose hide was impervious to weapons,. It plagued the district of Nemea in the Argolis. King Eurystheus commanded Herakles (Heracles) to destroy the beast as the first of his twelve Labours. The hero cornered the lion in its cave and seizing it by the neck wrestled it to death. He then skinned its hide to make a lion-skin cape, one of his most distinctive attributes. Hera afterwards placed the lion amongst the stars as the constellation Leo.
In Greek mythology, Leo is the Nemean Lion, which terrorized the citizens and had a hide that could not punctured by iron, bronze or stone. Killing the lion was one of Hercules' 12 labors, which he had to perform as penance for killing his family. Having broken all of his weapons fighting the man-eating lion, Hercules finally strangled it to death and placed it in the heavens as one of his conquests.
Leo was one of the earliest recognized constellations, with archaeological evidence that the Mesopotamians had a similar constellation as early as 4000 BCE.[9] The Persians called Leo Ser or Shir; the Turks, Artan; the Syrians, Aryo; the Jews, Arye; the Indians, Simha, all meaning "lion".


Greek stamp depicting a mosaical image of the encounter between Hercules and Leo,the Nemean Lion.
Some mythologists believe that in Sumeria, Leo represented the monster Humbaba, who was killed by Gilgamesh.[10]

In Babylonian astronomy, the constellation was called UR.GU.LA, the "Great Lion"; the bright star Regulus was known as "the star that stands at the Lion's breast." Regulus also had distinctly regal associations, as it was known as the King Star.[11]

In Greek mythology, Leo was identified as the Nemean Lion which was killed by Heracles (Hercules to the Romans) during the first of his twelve labours.[9][7] The Nemean Lion would take women as hostages to its lair in a cave, luring warriors from nearby towns to save the damsel in distress, to their misfortune.[12] The Lion was impervious to any weaponry; thus, the warriors' clubs, swords, and spears were rendered useless against it. Realizing that he must defeat the Lion with his bare hands, Hercules slipped into the Lion's cave and engaged it at close quarters.[12] When the Lion pounced, Hercules caught it in midair, one hand grasping the Lion's forelegs and the other its hind legs, and bent it backwards, breaking its back and freeing the trapped maidens.[12] Zeus commemorated this labor by placing the Lion in the sky.[12]

The Roman poet Ovid called it Herculeus Leo and Violentus Leo. Bacchi Sidus (star of Bacchus) was another of its titles, the god Bacchus always being identified with this animal. However, Manilius called it Jovis et Junonis Sidus (Star of Jupiter and Juno).
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