|Libra the Scales (or more descriptively
the Weighing Scales, sometimes the Balance) only appeared in Roman times.
The Scales were held by the Roman goddess of Justice, Astreae (Virgo)
who lies directly to the west of Libra. She would use the Scales
to weigh the souls of men on their way to the Underworld, to detemine whether
they would have eternal pleasure or pain. There is some evidence,
though, that the Scales came into being a thousand years earlier, when
it appeared on the eastern morning horizon at the Aumtumnal Equinox, representing
the equal "weight" of night and day at this time of year.
Before then the stars of Libra were known
to the Greeks as the Claws of the Scorpion. That is why alpha
and beta (b)
Librae have the wonderful names of Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali,
meaning the southern claw and the northern claw respectively. Gamma
Librae has the name of Zubenelkrab, which means simply "The Scorpion's
An excerpt from Johan van
Keulen's Boeck zee-kaardt, 1709.
Libra was once known as
the Claws of the Scorpion.
This article is ©2002
Stargazers Astronomy Shop