There are two different versions of the Orion myth, depending on the identity of his parents. The first of these identifies the sea-god Neptune as Orion's father and the the great huntress Queen Euryale of the Amazons as his mother. Orion inherited her talent, and became the greatest hunter in the world. Unfortunately for him, with his immense strength came an immense ego, and he boasted that he could best any animal on earth. In response to his vanity, a single small scorpion stung him and killed him.
Another version of the Orion myth states that he had no mother but was a gift to a pious peasant from Jupiter, Neptune, and Mercury. "Orion supposedly was able to walk on water and had greater strength and stature than any other mortal. A skilled blacksmith, he fabricated a subterranean palace for Vulcan. He also walled in the coasts of Sicily against the encroaching sea and built a temple to the gods there" (Magee, 48). Orion fell in love with Merope, daughter of Oenopion and princess of Chios. Her father the king, however, would not consent to give Orion his daughter's hand in marriage--even after the hunter rid their island of wild beasts. In anger,
Orion attempted to gain possession of the maiden by violence. Her father, incensed at this conduct, having made Orion drunk, deprived him of his sight and cast him out on the seashore. The blinded hero followed the sound of a Cyclops' hammer till he reached Lemnos, and came to the forge of Vulcan, who, taking pity on him, gave him Kedalion, one of his men, to be his guide to the abode of the sun. Placing Kedalion on his shoulders, Orion proceeded to the east, and there meeting the sun-god, was restored to sight by his beam.
After this he dwelt as a hunter with Diana, with whom he was a favourite, and it is even said she was about to marry him. Her brother [Apollo] was highly displeased and chid her [she was, after all, a virgin huntress], but to no purpose. One day, observing Orion wading through the ocean with his head just above the water, Apollo pointed it out to his sister and maintained that she could not hit that black thing on the sea. The archer-goddess discharged a shaft with fatal aim. The waves rolled the body of Orion to the land, and bewailing her fatal error with many tears, Diana placed him among the stars (Bulfinch's Mythology, 191-192).
It is also stated in some versions that Apollo, worried for Diana's chastity, sent a scorpion to kill Orion.
Orion is one of the most well-known constellations, visible in the southern sky during northern hemisphere winters. He is generally shown as a hunter attacking a bull with an upraised club, and is easily recognizable by his bright belt of three stars. In addition, his shoulder is marked by the red supergiant Betelgeuse (literally "armpit of the central one" in Arabic), and his left leg is marked by the blue-white supergiant Rigel. According to the versions of the myth which have him killed by Scorpius, the two were placed on the opposite sides of the sky from each other so that they are never visible at the same time.
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These pages are the work of Cathy Bell
cmbell (at) comfychair (dot) org
originally for the Princeton University course CLA 212.