For stargazers, its hard to imagine anything more romantic than the night sky with its distant twinkling lights, and, indeed, many throughout history have looked to the starlit sky for guidance on matters of the heart.
Astrologers claim that the celestial world holds the key to success in love, and this belief had found its way into our language, with idioms such as “a love that’s written in the stars,” and “star-crossed lovers.”
Whether you believe in that or not, the night sky is filled with love stories. There is rich mythology behind nearly all of the original 44 constellations named by the ancient Greeks, and many of those ageless tales involve intrigues of the heart.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, now seems like the perfect time to look at one such love story that is, quite literally, written in the stars, the story of Perseus and Andromeda.
This story involves several constellations in the night sky: Perseus, Andromeda, Pegasus, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Cetus.
Perseus was among the most celebrated heroes in Greek mythology. The child of the god Zeus and a mortal woman named Danaë, Perseus lived a life of adventure. Among the most famous of his exploits was killing the snake-haired monster, Medusa, whose gaze turned anyone it fell upon to stone. His bride, Andromeda, was a princess, the daughter of the King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia.
The lovers met when the gods chained Andromeda to a rock to be devoured by Cetus, a sea monster, as a punishment to Cassiopeia, who was so vain and boastful about her immense beauty that she claimed to be even more beautiful than the Nereids, the daughters of the sea-god Poseidon.
Perseus, who was flying home on his winged horse, Pegasus, with the head of Medusa in a magical bag, came upon the girl as she was about to be devoured. He struck a deal with Cepheus and Cassiopeia that if he saved Andromeda from the monster, he would win the right to marry her.
Unfortunately, after Perseus slew the monster, he learned that Andromeda’s hand had already been promised to another man. Soon, the two were locked in battle for the right to marry the princess. Perseus, outnumbered, finally bested his opponent by pulling out the head of Medusa and turning him to stone, and he and Andromeda lived happily ever after. When they finally died at a ripe old age, the gods placed them, as well as the monster, the winged horse, and Andromeda’s parents, in the sky as a lesson for the ages.