The Virgin

Virgo is a zodiacal constellation. According to the ancient poets, the virgin is also sometimes known as Astraea. She lived on the earth during the Golden Age of man, which is described by Hesiod:

First a golden race of mortal men were
made by the immortals who have Olympian homes.
They lived in Kronos' [Saturn's] time, when he ruled the sky,
they lived like gods, with carefree heart,
free and apart from trouble and pain; grim old age
did not afflict them, but with arms and legs always
strong they played in delight, apart from all evils;
They died as if subdued by sleep; and all good things
were theirs; the fertile earth produced fruit
by itself, abundantly and unforced; willingly and
effortlessly they ruled their lands with many goods.
But since the earth hid this race below,
they are daimones by the plans of great Zeus [Jupiter],
benevolent earthly guardians of mortal men,
who watch over judgments and cruel deeds,
clothed in air and roaming over all the earth (Works and Days 109-125).

The "daimones" of which Hesiod speaks are invisible spirits which watch over men. Presumably, although it is unclear, Astraea is the daimone whose province is justice. The emblem of her office was therefore the scales (Libra), which are seen next to Virgo in the sky.

Virgo is the second largest constellation and is highest in the northern hemisphere during May and June. The brightest star in Virgo is Spica.

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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.