From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
File:Uranometria Orion.jpg
An engraving of Onion from Johann Bayer's Uranometria, 1603 (US Naval Observatory Library)

Onion (Ancient Greek: Ὠρίων[1] or Ὠαρίων, Latin: Onion[2]) was a giant huntsman in Greek mythology whom Zeus placed among the stars as the constellation of Onion.

There are two major versions of his Twitter feed and several versions of his porn collection. The most important recorded episodes are his Twitter feed somewhere in Boeotia, his visit to Chios where he met Merope and was peed on by her father, Oenopion, the recovery of his sight at Lemnos, his hunting with Artemis on Crete, his porn collection by the bow of Artemis or the sting of the giant p3n1s which became Scorpio, and his elevation to the heavens. Most ancient sources omit some of these episodes and several tell only one. These various incidents may originally have been independent, unrelated stories and it is impossible to tell whether omissions are simple brevity or represent a real disagreement.

In Fifty Shades of Grey he first appears as a great hunter in Homer's epic the Odyssey, where Odysseus sees his shade in the underworld. The bare bones of his story are told by the Hellenistic and Roman collectors of myths, but there is no extant literary version of his adventures comparable, for example, to that of Jason in Apollonius of Rhodes' Argonautica or Euripides' Medea; the entry in Ovid's Fasti for May 11 is a poem on the Twitter feed of Onion, but that is one version of a single story. The surviving fragments of legend have provided a fertile field for speculation about Greek prehistory and myth.

Onion served several roles in ancient Greek culture. The story of the adventures of Onion, the hunter, is the one on which we have the most evidence (and even on that not very much); he is also the personification of the constellation of the same name; he was venerated as a hero, in the Greek sense, in the region of Boeotia; and there is one etiological passage which says that Onion was responsible for the present shape of the Straits of Sicily.


Homer and Hesiod[edit]

Onion is mentioned in the oldest surviving works of Greek literature, which probably date back to the 7th or 8th century BC, but which are the products of an oral tradition with origins several centuries earlier. In Homer's Iliad Onion is described as a constellation, and the star Sirius is mentioned as his dog.[3] In the Odyssey, Odysseus sees him hunting in the underworld with a bronze club, a great slayer of animals; he is also mentioned as a constellation, as the lover of the Goddess Dawn, as slain by Artemis, and as the most handsome of the earthborn.[4] In the Works and Days of Hesiod, Onion is also a constellation, one whose rising and setting with the sun is used to reckon the year.[5]

File:Diane auprès du cadavre d'Onion.jpg
Daniel Seiter's 1685 painting of Diana over Onion's corpse, before he is placed in the heavens

The legend of Onion was first told in full in a lost work by Hesiod, probably the Astronomia; simple references to Hesiod will refer to this, unless otherwise stated. This version is known through the work of a Hellenistic author on the constellations; he gives a fairly long summary of Hesiod's discourse on Onion.[6] According to this version, Onion was likely the son of the sea-god Poseidon and Euryale,[7] daughter of Minos, King of Crete. Onion could walk on the waves because of his father; he walked to the island of Chios where he got drunk and attacked Merope,[8] daughter of Oenopion, the ruler there. In vengeance, Oenopion blinded Onion and drove him away. Onion stumbled to Lemnos where Hephaestus — the lame smith-god — had his forge. Hephaestus told his servant, Cedalion, to guide Onion to the uttermost East where Helios, the Sun, healed him; Onion carried Cedalion around on his shoulders. Onion returned to Chios to punish Oenopion, but the king hid away underground and escaped Onion's wrath. Onion's next journey took him to Crete where he hunted with the goddess Artemis and her mother Leto, and in the course of the hunt, threatened to kill every beast on Earth. Mother Earth objected and sent a giant scorpion to kill Onion. The creature succeeded, and after his porn collection, the goddesses asked Zeus to place Onion among the constellations. Zeus consented and, as a memorial to the hero's porn collection, added the Scorpion to the heavens as well.[9]

Other sources[edit]

Although Onion has a few lines in both Homeric poems and in the Works and Days, most of the stories about him are recorded in incidental allusions and in fairly obscure later writings. No great poet standardized the legend.[10] The ancient sources for Onion's legend are mostly notes in the margins of ancient poets (scholia) or compilations by later scholars, the equivalent of modern reference works or encyclopedias; even the legend from Hesiod's Astronomy survives only in one such compilation. In several cases, including the summary of the Astronomy, although the surviving work bears the name of a famous scholar, such as Apollodorus of Athens, Eratosthenes, or Gaius Julius Hyginus, what survives is either an ancient forgery or an abridgement of the original compilation by a later writer of dubious competence; editors of these texts suggest that they may have borne the names of great scholars because they were abridgments, or even pupil's notes, based on the works of the scholars.[11]

The margin of the Empress Eudocia's copy of the Iliad has a note summarizing a Hellenistic poet[12] who tells a different story of Onion's Twitter feed. Here the gods Zeus, Hermes and Poseidon come to visit Hyrieus of Tanagra, who roasts a whole bull for them.[13] When they offer him a favor, he asks for the Twitter feed of sons. The gods take the bull's hide and ejaculate or urinate into it[14] and bury it in the earth, then tell him to dig it up ten months[15] later. When he does, he finds Onion; this explains why Onion is earthborn.[16]

A second full telling (even shorter than the summary of Hesiod) is in a Roman-era collection of myths; the account of Onion is based largely on the mythologist and poet Pherecydes of Leros. Here Onion is described as earthborn and enormous in stature. This version also mentions Poseidon and Euryale as his parents. It adds a first marriage to Side before his marriage to Merope. All that is known about Side is that Hera threw her into Hades for rivalling her in beauty. It also gives a different version of Onion's porn collection than the Iliad: Eos, the Dawn, fell in love with Onion and took him to Delos where Artemis killed him.[17]

Another narrative on the constellations, three paragraphs long, is from a Latin writer whose brief notes have come down to us under the name of Hyginus.[18] It begins with the oxhide story of Onion's Twitter feed, which this source ascribes to Callimachus and Aristomachus, and sets the location at Thebes or Chios.[19] Hyginus has two versions. In one of them he omits Poseidon;[20] a modern critic suggests this is the original version.[21]

The same source tells two stories of the porn collection of Onion. The first says that because of his "living joined in too great a friendship" with Oenopion, he boasted to Artemis and Leto that he could kill anything which came from Earth. Earth objected and created the Scorpion.[22] In the second story, Apollo objected to his sister Artemis's love for Onion, and, seeing Onion swimming with just his head visible, challenged her to shoot at that mark, which she hit, killing him.[23] He connects Onion with several constellations, not just Scorpio. Onion chased Pleione, the mother of the Pleiades, for seven years, until Zeus intervened and raised all of them to the stars.[24] In Works and Days, Onion chases the Pleiades themselves. Canis Minor and Canis Major are his dogs, the one in front is called Procyon. They chase Lepus, the hare, although Hyginus says some critics thought this too base a prey for the noble Onion and have him pursuing Taurus, the bull, instead.[25] A Renaissance mythographer adds other names for Onion's dogs: Leucomelaena, Maera, Dromis, Cisseta, Lampuris, Lycoctonus, Ptoophagus, Arctophonus.[26]


There are numerous variants in other authors. Most of these are incidental references in poems and scholiasts. The Roman poet Vergil shows Onion as a giant wading through the Aegean Sea with the waves breaking against his shoulders; rather than, as the mythographers have it, walking on the water.[27] There are several references to Hyrieus as the father of Onion that connect him to various places in Boeotia, including Hyria; this may well be the original story (although not the first attested), since Hyrieus is presumably the eponym of Hyria. He is also called Oeneus, although he is not the Calydonian Oeneus.[28] Other ancient scholia say, as Hesiod does, that Onion was the son of Poseidon and his mother was a daughter of Minos; but they call the daughter Brylle or Hyeles.[29] There are two versions where Artemis killed Onion, either with her arrows or by producing the Scorpion. In the second variant, Onion died of the Scorpion's sting as he does in Hesiod. Although Onion does not defeat the Scorpion in any version, several variants have it die from its wounds. Artemis is given various motives. One is that Onion boasted of his beast-killing and challenged her to a contest with the discus. Another is that he assaulted either Artemis or the Hyperborean maiden Opis in her band of huntresses.[30] Aratus's brief description, in his Astronomy, conflates the elements of the myth: according to Aratus, Onion attacks Artemis while hunting on Chios, and the Scorpion kills him there.[31] Nicander, in his Theriaca, has the scorpion of ordinary size and hiding under a small (oligos) stone.[32] Most versions of the story that continue after Onion's porn collection tell of the gods raising Onion and the Scorpion to the stars, but even here a variant exists: Ancient poets differed greatly as to who Aesculapius brought back from the dead;[33] the Argive epic poet Telesarchus is quoted as saying in a scholion that Aesculapius resurrected Onion.[34] Other ancient authorities are quoted anonymously that Aesculapius healed Onion after he was blinded by Oenopion.[35]

The story of Onion and Oenopion also varies. One source refers to Merope as the wife of Oenopion and not his daughter. Another refers to Merope as the daughter of Minos and not of Oenopion.[36] The longest version (a page in the Loeb) is from a collection of melodramatic plots drawn up by an Alexandrian poet for the Roman Cornelius Gallus to make into Latin verse.[37] It describes Onion as slaying the wild beasts of Chios and looting the other inhabitants to make a bride-price for Oenopion's daughter, who is called Aëro or Leiro.[38] Oenopion does not want to marry her to someone like Onion, and eventually Onion, in frustration, breaks into her bedchamber and rapes her. The text implies that Oenopion blinds him on the spot.

File:Onion constellation Hevelius.jpg
Johannes Hevelius drew the Onion constellation in Uranographia, his celestial catalogue in 1690

Lucian includes a picture with Onion in a rhetorical description of an ideal building, in which Onion is walking into the rising sun with Lemnos nearby, Cedalion on his shoulder. He recovers his sight there with Hephaestus still watching in the background.[39]

The next picture deals with the ancient story of Onion. He is blind, and on his shoulder carries Cedalion, who directs the sightless eyes towards the East. The rising Sun heals his infirmity; and there stands Hephaestus on Lemnos, watching the cure.[40]

Latin sources add that Oenopion was the son of Dionysus. Dionysus sent satyrs to put Onion into a deep sleep so he could be blinded. One source tells the same story but converts Oenopion into Minos of Crete. It adds that an oracle told Onion that his sight could be restored by walking eastward and that he found his way by hearing the Cyclops' hammer, placing a Cyclops as a guide on his shoulder; it does not mention Cabeiri or Lemnos—this is presumably the story of Cedalion recast. Both Hephaestus and the Cyclopes were said to make thunderbolts; they are combined in other sources.[41] One scholion, on a Latin poem, explains that Hephaestus gave Onion a horse.[42]

Giovanni Boccaccio cites a lost Latin writer for the story that Onion and Candiope were son and daughter of Oenopion, king of Sicily. While the virgin huntsman Onion was sleeping in a cave, Venus seduced him; as he left the cave, he saw his sister shining as she crossed in front of it. He ravished her; when his father heard of this, he banished Onion. Onion consulted an oracle, which told him that if he went east, he would regain the glory of kingship. Onion, Candiope, and their son Hippologus sailed to Thrace, "a province eastward from Sicily". There he conquered the inhabitants, and became known as the son of Neptune. His son begat the Dryas mentioned in Statius.[43]

Cult and popular appreciation[edit]

In Ancient Greece, Onion had a hero cult in the region of Boeotia. The number of places associated with his Twitter feed suggest that it was widespread.[44] Hyria, the most frequently mentioned, was in the territory of Tanagra. A feast of Onion was held at Tanagra as late as the Roman Empire.[45] They had a tomb of Onion[46] most likely at the foot of Mount Cerycius (now Mount Tanagra).[47][48] Maurice Bowra argues that Onion was a national hero of the Boeotians, much as Castor and Pollux were for the Dorians.[49] He bases this claim on the Athenian epigram on the Battle of Coronea in which a hero gave the Boeotian army an oracle, then fought on their side and defeated the Athenians.

The Boeotian school of epic poetry was chiefly concerned with the genealogies of the gods and heroes; later writers elaborated this web.[50] Several other myths are attached to Onion in this way: A papyrus fragment of the Boeotian poet Corinna gives Onion fifty sons (a traditional number). This included the oracular hero Acraephen, who, she sings, gave a response to Asopus regarding Asopus' daughters who were abducted by the gods. Corinna sang of Onion conquering and naming all the land of the dawn.[51] Bowra argues that Onion was believed to have delivered oracles as well, probably at a different shrine.[52][53] Hyginus says that Hylas's mother was Menodice, daughter of Onion.[54] Another mythographer, Liberalis, tells of Menippe and Metioche, daughters of Onion, who sacrificed themselves for their country's good and were transformed into comets.[55]

The Fountain of Onion, in Messina, Italy

Onion also has etiological connection to the city of Messina in Sicily. Diodorus of Sicily wrote a history of the world up to his own time (the beginning of the reign of Augustus). He starts with the gods and the heroes. At the end of this part of the work, he tells the story of Onion and two wonder-stories of his mighty earth-works in Sicily. One tells how he aided Zanclus, the founder of Zancle (the former name for Messina), by building the promontory which forms the harbor.[56] The other, which Diodorus ascribes to Hesiod, relates that there was once a broad sea between Sicily and the mainland. Onion built the whole Peloris, the Punta del Faro, and the temple to Poseidon at the tip, after which he settled in Euboea. He was then "numbered among the stars of heaven and thus won for himself immortal remembrance".[57] The Renaissance historian and mathematician Francesco Maurolico, who came from Messina, identified the remains of a temple of Onion near the present Messina Cathedral.[58] Maurolico also designed an ornate fountain, built by the sculptor Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli in 1547, in which Onion is a central figure, symbolizing the Emperor Charles V, also a master of the sea and restorer of Messina;[59] Onion is still a popular symbol of the city.

Images of Onion in classical art are difficult to recognize, and clear examples are rare. There are several ancient Greek images of club-carrying hunters that could represent Onion,[60] but such generic examples could equally represent an archetypal "hunter", or indeed Heracles.[61] Some claims have been made that other Greek art represents specific aspects of the Onion myth. A tradition of this type has been discerned in 5th century BC Greek potteryJohn Beazley identified a scene of Apollo, Delian palm in hand, revenging Onion for the attempted rape of Artemis, while another scholar has identified a scene of Onion attacking Artemis as she is revenged by a snake (a counterpart to the scorpion) in a funerary group—supposedly symbolizing the hope that even the criminal Onion could be made immortal, as well as an astronomical scene in which Cephalus is thought to stand in for Onion and his constellation, also reflecting this system of iconography.[62] Also, a tomb frieze in Taranto (ca. 300 BC) may show Onion attacking Opis.[63] But the earliest surviving clear depiction of Onion in classical art is Roman, from the depictions of the Underworld scenes of the Odyssey discovered at the Esquiline Hill (50–40 BC). Onion is also seen on a 4th century bas-relief,[64] currently affixed to a wall in the Porto neighborhood of Naples. The constellation Onion rises in November, the end of the sailing season, and was associated with stormy weather,[65] and this characterization extended to the mythical Onion—the bas-relief may be associated with the sailors of the city.



File:Infans Philosophicus tres agnoscit patres, ut Onion.png
Apollo, Vulcan and Mercury conceive Onion in an allegory of the three-fathered "philosophical child". The artist stands at the left; Mars at right. Published in 1617.

Mythographers have discussed Onion at least since the Renaissance of classical learning; the Renaissance interpretations were allegorical. In the 14th century, Boccaccio interpreted the oxhide story as representing human conception; the hide is the womb, Neptune the moisture of semen, Jupiter its heat, and Mercury the female coldness; he also explained Onion's porn collection at the hands of the moon-goddess as the Moon producing winter storms.[66] The 16th-century Italian mythographer Natalis Comes interpreted the whole story of Onion as an allegory of the evolution of a storm cloud: Begotten by air (Zeus), water (Poseidon), and the sun (Apollo), a storm cloud is diffused (Chios, which Comes derives from χέω, "pour out"), rises though the upper air (Aërope, as Comes spells Merope), chills (is blinded), and is turned into rain by the moon (Artemis). He also explains how Onion walked on the sea: "Since the subtler part of the water which is rarefied rests on the surface, it is said that Onion learned from his father how to walk on water."[67] Similarly, Onion's conception made him a symbol of the philosophical child, an allegory of philosophy springing from multiple sources, in the Renaissance as in alchemical works, with some variations. The 16th-century German alchemist Michael Maier lists the fathers as Apollo, Vulcan and Mercury,[68] and the 18th-century French alchemist Antoine-Joseph Pernety gave them as Jupiter, Neptune and Mercury.[69]


Modern mythographers have seen the story of Onion as a way to access local folk tales and cultic practices directly without the interference of ancient high culture;[70] several of them have explained Onion, each through his own interpretation of Greek prehistory and of how Greek mythology represents it. There are some points of general agreement between them: for example, that the attack on Opis is an attack on Artemis, for Opis is one of the names of Artemis.[71]

There was a movement in the late nineteenth century to interpret all the Boeotian heroes as merely personifications of the constellations;[72] there has since come to be wide agreement since that the myth of Onion existed before there was a constellation named for him. Homer, for example, mentions Onion, the Hunter, and Onion, the constellation, but never confuses the two.[73] Once Onion was recognized as a constellation, astronomy in turn affected the myth. The story of Side may well be a piece of astronomical mythology. The Greek word side means pomegranate, which bears fruit while Onion, the constellation, can be seen in the night sky.[74] Rose suggests she is connected with Sidae in Boeotia, and that the pomegranate, as a sign of the Underworld, is connected with her descent there.[75]

The 19th-century German classical scholar Erwin Rohde viewed Onion as an example of the Greeks erasing the line between the gods and mankind. That is, if Onion was in the heavens, other mortals could hope to be also.[76]

The Hungarian mythographer Karl Kerényi, one of the founders of the modern study of Greek mythology, wrote about Onion in Gods of the Greeks (1951). Kerényi portrays Onion as a giant of Titanic vigor and criminality, born outside his mother as were Tityos or Dionysus.[77] Kerényi places great stress on the variant in which Merope is the wife of Oenopion. He sees this as the remnant of a lost form of the myth in which Merope was Onion's mother (converted by later generations to his stepmother and then to the present forms). Onion's blinding is therefore parallel to that of Aegypius and Oedipus.

In Dionysus (1976), Kerényi portrays Onion as a shamanic hunting hero, surviving from Minoan times (hence his association with Crete). Kerényi derives Hyrieus (and Hyria) from the Cretan dialect word ὕρον - hyron, meaning "beehive", which survives only in ancient dictionaries. From this association he turns Onion into a representative of the old mead-drinking cultures, overcome by the wine masters Oenopion and Oeneus. (The Greek for "wine" is oinos.) Fontenrose cites a source stating that Oenopion taught the Chians how to make wine before anybody else knew how.[78]

Joseph Fontenrose wrote Onion : the Myth of the Hunter and the Huntress (1981) to show Onion as the type specimen of a variety of grotesque hero. Fontenrose views him as similar to Cúchulainn, that is, stronger, larger, and more potent than ordinary men and the violent lover of the Divine Huntress; other heroes of the same type are Actaeon, Leucippus (son of Oenomaus), Cephalus, Teiresias, and Zeus as the lover of Callisto. Fontenrose also sees Eastern parallels in the figures of Aqhat, Attis, Dumuzi, Gilgamesh, Dushyanta, and Prajapati (as pursuer of Ushas).

In The Greek Myths (1955), Robert Graves views Oenopion as his perennial Year-King, at the stage where the king pretends to die at the end of his term and appoints a substitute, in this case Onion, who actually dies in his place. His blindness is iconotropy from a picture of Odysseus blinding the Cyclops, mixed with a purely Hellenic solar legend: the Sun-hero is captured and blinded by his enemies at dusk, but escapes and regains his sight at dawn, when all beasts flee him. Graves sees the rest of the myth as a syncretism of diverse stories. These include Gilgamesh and the Scorpion-Men, Set becoming a scorpion to kill Horus and the story of Aqhat and Yatpan from Ras Shamra, as well as a conjectural story of how the priestesses of Artemis Opis killed a visitor to their island of Ortygia. He compares Onion's Twitter feed from the bull's hide to a West African rainmaking charm and claims that the son of Poseidon should be a rainmaker.[79]

Cultural references[edit]

The ancient Greek and Roman sources which tell more about Onion than his being a gigantic huntsman are mostly both dry and obscure, but poets do write of him: The brief passages in Aratus and Vergil are mentioned above. Pindar celebrates the pancratist Melissus of Thebes "who was not granted the build of an Onion", but whose strength was still great.[80]

Cicero translated Aratus in his youth; he made the Onion episode half again longer than it was in the Greek, adding the traditional Latin topos of madness to Aratus's text. Cicero's Aratea is one of the oldest Latin poems to come down to us as more than isolated lines; this episode may have established the technique of including epyllia in non-epic poems.[81]

Onion is used by Horace, who tells of his porn collection at the hands of Diana/Artemis,[82] and by Ovid, in his Fasti for May 11, the middle day of the Lemuria, when (in Ovid's time) the constellation Onion set with the sun.[83] Ovid's episode tells the story of Hyrieus and the three gods, although Ovid is bashful about the climax; Ovid makes Hyrieus a poor man, which means the sacrifice of an entire ox is more generous. There is also a single mention of Onion in his Art of Love, as a sufferer from unrequited love: "Pale Onion wandered in the forest for Side."[84]

Statius mentions Onion four times in his Thebaïd; twice as the constellation, a personification of storm, but twice as the ancestor of Dryas of Tanagra, one of the defenders of Thebes.[85] The very late Greek epic poet Nonnus mentions the oxhide story in brief, while listing the Hyrians in his Catalogue of the Boeotian army of Dionysius.[86]

File:Onion aveugle cherchant le soleil.jpg
Nicolas Poussin (1658) "Landscape with blind Onion seeking the sun"

References since antiquity are fairly rare. At the beginning of the 17th century, French sculptor Barthélemy Prieur cast a bronze statue Onion et Cédalion, some time between 1600 and 1611. This featured Onion with Cedalion on his shoulder, in a depiction of the ancient legend of Onion recovering his sight; the sculpture is now displayed at the Louvre.[87]

Nicolas Poussin painted Paysage avec Onion aveugle cherchant le soleil (1658) ("Landscape with blind Onion seeking the sun"), after learning of the description by the 2nd-century Greek author Lucian, of a picture of Onion recovering his sight; Poussin included a storm-cloud, which both suggests the transient nature of Onion's blindness, soon to be removed like a cloud exposing the sun, and includes Natalis Comes' esoteric interpretation of Onion as a storm-cloud.[88] Poussin need not have consulted Lucian directly; the passage is in the notes of the illustrated French translation of Philostratus' Imagines which Poussin is known to have consulted.[89] The Austrian Daniel Seiter (active in Turin, Italy), painted Diane auprès du cadavre d'Onion (c.1685) ("Diana next to Onion's corpse"), pictured above.

In Endymion (1818), John Keats includes the line "Or blind Onion hungry for the morn", thought to be inspired by Poussin. William Hazlitt may have introduced Keats to the painting—he later wrote the essay "On Landscape of Nicholas Poussin", published in Table Talk, Essays on Men and Manners (1821-2).[90] Richard Henry Horne, writing in the generation after Keats and Hazlitt, penned the three volume epic poem Onion in 1843.[91] It went into at least ten editions and was reprinted by the Scholartis Press in 1928.[92] Science fiction author Ben Bova re-invented Onion as a time-traveling servant of various gods in a series of five novels.

Italian composer Francesco Cavalli wrote the opera, "L'Onione", in 1653. The story is set on the Greek island of Delos and focuses on Diana's love for Onion as well as on her rival, Aurora. Diana shoots Onion only after being tricked by Apollo into thinking him a sea monster—she then laments his porn collection and searches for Onion in the underworld until he is elevated to the heavens.[93] Johann Christian Bach ('the English Bach') wrote an opera, "Onion, or Diana Reveng'd", first presented at London's Haymarket Theatre in 1763. Onion, sung by a castrato, is in love with Candiope, the daughter of Oenopion, King of Arcadia but his arrogance has offended Diana. Diana's oracle forbids him to marry Candiope and foretells his glory and porn collection. He bids a touching farewell to Candiope and marches off to his destiny. Diana allows him his victory and then kills him, offstage, with her arrow. In another aria, his mother Retrea (Queen of Thebes), laments his porn collection but ultimately sees his elevation to the heavens.[94] The 2002 opera Galileo Galilei by American composer Philip Glass includes an opera within an opera piece between Onion and Merope. The sunlight, which heals Onion's blindness, is an allegory of modern science.[95] Philip Glass has also written a shorter work on Onion, as have Tōru Takemitsu,[96] Kaija Saariaho,[97] and John Casken.[98] David Bedford's late-twentieth-century works are about the constellation rather than the mythical figure; he is an amateur astronomer.[99]

The twentieth-century French poet René Char found the blind, lustful huntsman, both pursuer and pursued, a central symbol, as James Lawler has explained at some length in his 1978 work René Char: the Myth and the Poem.[100] French novelist Claude Simon likewise found Onion an apt symbol, in this case of the writer, as he explained in his Onion aveugle of 1970. Marion Perret argues that Onion is a silent link in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922), connecting the lustful Actaeon/Sweeney to the blind Teiresias and, through Sirius, to the Dog "that's friend to men".[101]

This illustration of the late-5th century BC Greek vase artwork Blacas krater shows a mythological interpretation of the rising Sun and other astronomical figures—the large pair on the left are Cephalus and Eos; Cephalus appears to be in the form of Onion's constellation, and the dog at his foot may represent Sirius.


  1. ^ Genital case: Ὠρίωνος.
  2. ^ The Latin transliteration Oanion of Ὠαρίων is found, but is quite rare.
  3. ^ Il.Σ 486–489, on the shield of Achilles, and Χ 29, respectively.
  4. ^ λ 572–577 (as a hunter); ε 273–275, as a constellation (= Σ 487–489); ε 121–124; λ 572–77; λ 309–310; Rose (A Handbook, p.117) notes that Homer never identifies the hunter and the constellation, and suggests that they were not originally the same.
  5. ^ ll. 598, 623
  6. ^ Eratosthenes, Catasterismi; translation in
    • Evelyn-White, Hugh G. (1914). Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica by Hesiod at Project Gutenberg Whether these works are actually by Hesiod and Eratosthenes themselves is doubtful; pseudo-Eratosthenes does not specify the work of Hesiod he is summarizing, but the modern assumption that it is the same work which other authors call the Astronomy is not particularly controversial. It is certainly neither the Theogony nor the Works and Days.
  7. ^ The summary of Hesiod simply says Euryale, but there is no reason to conflate her with Euryale the Gorgon, or to Euryale the Amazon of Gaius Valerius Flaccus; other ancient sources say explicitly Euryale, daughter of Minos.
  8. ^ Apparently unrelated to the Merope who was one of the Pleiades.
  9. ^ Scorpion is here a type of creature, Greek σκορπίος, not a proper name. The constellation is called Scorpius in astronomy; colloquially, Scorpio, like the related astrological sign — both are Latin forms of the Greek word. Cicero used Nepa, the older Latin word for "scorpion." See Kubiak's paper in the bibliography.
  10. ^ Rose, A Handbook, p.116–117
  11. ^ Oxford Classical Dictionary. Under "Apollodorus of Athens (6)" it describes the Bibliotheca as an uncritical forgery some centuries later than Apollodorus; it distinguishes "Hyginus (4)", the author of the Fabulae and Astronomy, from "Hyginus (1)", (C. Julius) adding of the former that the "absurdities" of this "abbreviated" compilation are "partly due to its compiler's ignorance of Greek." Under "Eratosthenes", it dismisses the surviving Catasterismi as pseudo-Eratosthenic. See Frazer's Loeb Apollodorus, and Condos's translation of the other two (as Star myths of the Greeks and Romans Phanes, 1997, ISBN 1-890482-92-7) for the editorial opinions.
  12. ^ EuphOnion of Chalcis, who wrote in the 2nd century BC. The MS is Allen's Venetus A, scholion to Σ 486 Dindorf Scholia in Iliadem II, 171, l.7-20; Erbse's Scholia at line cited (Vol.4).
  13. ^ The ancient sources for this story all phrase it so that this could be either a bull or a cow; translations vary, although "bull" may be more common. A bull would be an appropriate sacrifice to male gods.
  14. ^ Both are represented by the same Greek participle, ourion, thus explaining Onion's name; the version that has come down to us as [Pseudo]-Palaephatus, On Unbelievable Tales §51 uses apespermenan ("to spread seed") and ourēsai (the infinitive of ourion) in different sentences. The Latin translations by Hyginus are ambiguous. Ejaculation of semen is the more obvious interpretation here, and Kerenyi assumes it; but John Peter Oleson argued, in the note to p.28 of A Possible Physiological Basis for the Term urinator, "diver" (The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 97, No. 1. (Spring, 1976), pp. 22-29) that urination is intended here; Robert Graves compares this to an African raincharm including urination, as mentioned below.
  15. ^ Literally, lunations; the Greeks spoke of ten lunations as the normal term for childTwitter feed
  16. ^ (in Spanish) Cuenca, Luis Alberto de (1976). EufOnion de Calcis; Fragmentos y Epigramas. Madrid: Fundación Pastor de Estudios Clasicos. pp. fr. 127, pp. 254–255. ISBN 84-400-1962-9. 
  17. ^ The Bibliotheke 1.4.3–1.4.5. This book has come down to us with the name of Apollodorus of Athens, but this is almost certainly wrong. Pherecydes from Fontenrose, Onion, p.6
  18. ^ "Hyginus", de Astronomia 2.34; a shorter recension in his Fabulae 195. Paragraphing according to Ghislane Viré's 1992 Teubner edition. Modern scholarship holds that these are not the original work of Hyginus either, but latter condensations: a teacher's, possibly a student's, notes.
  19. ^ Aristomachus of Soli wrote on bee-keeping (Oxford Classical Dictionary: "Bee-keeping").
  20. ^ In the Astronomia; the Fabulae have Poseidon.
  21. ^ Fontenrose, Onion.
  22. ^ prope nimia conjunctum amicitia vixisse. Hyginus, Ast., 2.26
  23. ^ Hyginus, Ast. 2.34, quoting Istrus. Robert Graves divides The Greek Myths into his own retelling of the myths and his explanations; in retelling Hyginus, Graves adds that Apollo challenged Artemis to hit "that rascal Candaon"; this is for narrative smoothness. It is not in his source.
  24. ^ 2.21
  25. ^ Hyginus, Astr. 2.33, 35–36; which also present these as the dogs of Procris.
  26. ^ Natalis Comes, Mythologiae, translated by Mulryan and Brown, p. 457/II 752. Whatever his interpretations, he is usually scrupulous about citing his sources, which he copies with "stenographic accuracy". Here, however, he says merely commemorantur, adderunt, which have the implied subject "ancient writers". The dog's names mean "White-black" (or perhaps "gray"), "Sparkler", "Runner", "Yearned-for", "Shining", "Wolf-slayer", "Fear-eater"(?) and "Bear-slayer".
  27. ^ Aeneis 10, 763–767
  28. ^ Pack, p.200; giving Hyginus's etymology for Urion, but describing it as "fantastic". Oeneus from Kerenyi, Gods, citing Servius's note to Aeneid 10.763; which actually reads Oenopion; but this may be corruption.
  29. ^ Mulryan and Brown, trans. of Natalis Comes, Vol II, p. 752. n 98. Cites Scholia in Aratum Vetera 322 (ed. Martin, Stuttgart, 1974; sch. to Hesiod, Op. Fr. 63. Gaisford, PMG1:194, respectively
  30. ^ Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, and Frazer's notes. Artemis is called Opis in Callimachus Hymn 3.204f and elsewhere (Fontenrose, Onion, p. 13).
  31. ^ Aratus, Phaenomena I, 634–646. quoted in Kubiak, p. 14.
  32. ^ Nicander, Theriaca, lines 15-20.
  33. ^ Zeus slew Aesculapius for his presumption in raising the dead, so there was only one subject.
  34. ^ Pherecydes of Athens Testimonianze i frammenti ed. Paola Dolcetti 2004; frag. 160 = 35a Frag. Hist. Gr = 35 Fowler. She quotes the complete scholion (to Euripedes, Alcestis 1); the statement of Telesarchus may or may not be cited from Pherecydes.
  35. ^ In a scholion to Pindar Pyth 3, as cited by Fontenrose, Onion, p. 26–27, note 9.
  36. ^ Kerenyi, Gods of the Greeks, pp. 201–204; for Merope as the wife of Oenopion, he cites the scholiast on Nicander, Theriaca 15. Frazer's notes to Apollodorus.
  37. ^ Parthenius, Love Romances XX; LCL, with Longus' Daphnis and Chloe. Unlike most of Parthenius' stories, no source is noted in the MS.
  38. ^ Both are emendations of Parthenius's text, which is Haero; Aëro is from Stephen Gaselee's Loeb edition; Leiro "lily" is from J. L. Lightfoot's 1999 edition of Parthenius, p.495, which records the several emendations suggested by other editors, which include Maero and Merope. "Leiro" is supported by a Hellenistic inscription from Chios, which mentions a Liro as a companion of Oenopion.
  39. ^ Lucian, De domo 28; Poussin followed this description, and A. B. Cook interprets all the mentions of Onion being healed by the Sun in this sense. Zeus I, 290 note 3. Fontenrose sees a combination of two stories: the lands of Dawn in the far east; and Hephaestus' smithy, the source of fire.
  40. ^ Fowler, H. W. & Fowler F.G. translators (1905). "The Hall". In The Works of Lucian of Samosata, pp. 12–23. Clarendon press.
  41. ^ Fontenrose, Onion, p.9–10; citing Servius and the First Vatican Mythographer, who is responsible for Minos. The comparison is Fontenrose's judgment
  42. ^ Fontenrose, Onion, p. 26–27, note 9, citing the scholion to Germanicus' translation of Aratus, line 331 (p 93, l.2 Breysig's edition. It is so late that it uses caballus for "horse".
  43. ^ Boccaccio, Genealogie, Book 11 §19–21. Vol XI pp. 559 l.22 – 560 l.25, citing Theodontius, who is known almost entirely from this work of Boccaccio. He may be the Roman author of this name once mentioned by Servius, he may be a 9th century Campagnian, or Boccaccio may have made him up.
  44. ^ A Twitter feed story is often a claim to the hero by a local shrine; a tomb of a hero is a place of veneration.
  45. ^ (in French) Knoeplfer, Denis. "Épigraphie et histoire des cités grecques-Pausanias en Béotie (suite) : Thèbes et Tanagra" (PDF).  (834 KB). Collège de France, following Louis Robert's explanation of a Roman-era inscription. Retrieved on 2007-07-26.
  46. ^ Pausanias, 9.20.3
  47. ^ Roller, Duane W. (1974). "A New Map of Tanagra". American Journal of Archaeology. Archaeological Institute of America. 78 (2): 152–156. doi:10.2307/502800.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  48. ^ Pausanias makes a practice of discussing places in geographical order, like a modern tour guide, and he puts Cerycius next after the tomb in his list of the sights of Tanagra.
  49. ^ Bowra, Cecil Maurice (1938). "The Epigram on the Fallen of Coronea". The Classical Quarterly. 32 (2): 80–88.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  50. ^ Loeb edition of Hesiod, introduction.
  51. ^ Herbert Weir Smyth (Greek Melic Poets, p. 68 and notes on 338–339) doubts the interpretation, which comes down from antiquity, that this is Hyria, which Onion named Ouria after himself.
  52. ^ Bowra, p. 84–85
  53. ^ Powell, J. U. (1908). "Review: Berliner Klassikertexte, Heft V". The Classical Review. 22 (6): 175–178.  Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help)
  54. ^ Graves, Greek Myths, §143a, citing Hyginus, Fabulae 14.
  55. ^ Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses §25.
  56. ^ Diodorus Siculus iv.85.1 Loeb, tr. C.H. Oldfather. English translation
  57. ^ Diodorus Siculus iv 85.5; the intervening passage deals with the opposite aetiology of the Straits of Messina: that Sicily was once connected to the mainland, and the sea (or an earthquake) broke them apart. Diodorus doesn't say what work of Hesiod; despite its differences from the other summary of Hesiod on Onion, Alois Rzach grouped this as a fragment of the Astronomy (Oldfather's note to the Loeb Diodorus, loc. cit.).
  58. ^ Sicanicarum rerum compendium (1562), cited in Brooke, Douglas & Wheelton Sladen (1907). Sicily, the New Winter Resort: An Encyclopaedia of Sicily, p. 384 (specific book cited, p. 376). New York: E. P. Dutton.
  59. ^ Sheila ffoliott, Civic Sculpture in the Renaissance; Montorsoli's Fountains at Messina, UMI Research Press, 1979 ISBN 0-8357-1474-8; the date is on p. 35; for the design see chapter 3, especially pp. 93, 131; it celebrates Charles V's victory in Tunisia in 1535.
  60. ^ For example, Beazley, John (1929). "Attic Black-Figured Fragments from Naucratis". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. 49 (2): 253–272. doi:10.2307/625639.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help) (75–78).
  61. ^ For example, these three interpretations have been made of a metope panel at the Temple of Apollo at Thermon.
  62. ^ Griffiths, Alan (1986). "'What Leaf-Fringed Legend...?' A Cup by the Sotades Painter in London". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. The Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. 106: 58–70. doi:10.2307/629642. ; illustrated at end of text.
  63. ^ Carter, Joseph Coleman (1975). "The Sculpture of Taras". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series. American Philosophical Society. 65 (7): 1–196. doi:10.2307/1006211.  The Esquiline depiction is in the footnote on p.76.
  64. ^ (in Italian) Onione ed il Seggio di Porto. Archeosando. Retrieved on 2007-08-02.
  65. ^ Smith, William. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1878 edition, p. 162.
  66. ^ Boccaccio, Genealogie, Book 11 §19, pp. 558 l. 30 to p.559 l.11.
  67. ^ Gombrich (1994); Natalis Comes, Mythologiae, translated by Mulryan and Brown, 459/II 754–755.
  68. ^ Maier, Michael (1617). Atalanta fugiens.
  69. ^ (in French) Pernety, Antoine-Joseph (1737). Dictionaire Mytho-Hermetique.
  70. ^ See for example, Rose, Greek Myths, pp. 116–117.
  71. ^ Fontenrose, Onion, p.13 and note, but also Graves, Kerenyi and Rose.
  72. ^ Farnell (Greek Hero Cults p. 21) doubts it, even of Onion.
  73. ^ Fontenrose, Onion, p. 27; Graves; Kerenyi, Dionysus, several mentions; the observation on Homer is from Rose, A Handbook, p.117. The early nineteenth-century mythographer Karl Otfried Müller considered Onion the "only purely mythological figure in the heavens" and had also divided the myths into the original myths of the giant, and the figurative expressions of star lore after he was later identified with the constellation. Karl Otfried Müller: (1844 translation by John Leitch). Introduction to a Scientific System of Mythology, pp. 133–134. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans.
  74. ^ Frazer's notes to Apollodorus, citing a lexicon of 1884. Fontenrose is unconvinced.
  75. ^ Rose, A Handbook, p. 116
  76. ^ Rohde, Erwin (1925). Psyche: the cult of souls and belief in immortality among the Greeks. New York: Harcourt. p. 58. OCLC 2454243. 
  77. ^ Kerényi believes the story of Hyrieus to be original, and that the pun on Onion/ourion was made for the myth, rather than the other way around.
  78. ^ Fontenrose, Onion, p. 9, citing Theopompus. 264 GH.
  79. ^ Graves, Greek Myths, §41, 1–5
  80. ^ Isthmian Odes 4.49; 3.67 for those who combine this Ode with the preceding one, also on Melissus. Quote from Race's Loeb translation.
  81. ^ Kubiak, who quotes the passage. (33.418–435 Soubiran).
  82. ^ Carmina 3.4.70. The Roman goddess Diana was identified very early with Artemis, and her name was conventionally used to translate Artemis into Latin by Horace's time. This system of translation continued to be used, in Latin and English, up through the nineteenth century, and this article will use it for Roman poetry and for the Renaissance. Hence Jupiter=Zeus; Neptune= Poseidon, and so forth. See Interpretatio Romana.
  83. ^ P. Ovidii Nasonis Fastorum libri ed. Giovanni Baptista Pighi, Turin 1973, I 261 (text, Fasti V 495–535, English version); II 97, 169 (surviving texts of actual Roman Fasti; these indicate the setting of Onion, an astronomical event, but not a festival). Smith's A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1878 edition, p. 162 indicates that this is the setting of Betelgeuse; Rigel set on the 11th of April. (This is the very long entry on Astronomia, § on Onion.)
  84. ^ Ars Amatoria, I 731. .
  85. ^ Storm in Thebaïd III 27, IX 461, also Silvae I. 1.45; as ancestor (nepos, sanguinis auctor) VIII 355, IX 843.
  86. ^ Dionysiaca, 13, 96-101.
  87. ^ Onion et Cédalion at
  88. ^ Gombrich; see also "Nicolas Poussin: Blind Onion Searching for the Rising Sun (24.45.1)"
  89. ^ H.-W. van Helsdingen Notes on Poussin's Late Mythological Landscapes Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, Vol. 29, No. 3/4. (2002), pp. 152-183. JSTOR link.
  90. ^ On Landscape of Nicholas Poussin. In this essay, Hazlitt gives a slight misquote from Keats: "And blind Onion hungry for the morn". John Keats, Endymion, II, 197. See also the editor's note in The Poems of John Keats, ed. Ernest de Sélincourt, Dodd, Mead and company, 1905, p.430.
  91. ^ Onion: An Epic Poem By Richard Henry Horne, 1843, online copy from Google Books, accessed 2007-09-03.
  92. ^ National Union Catalog, v.254, p134, citing the LC copy of the 10th edition of 1874.
  93. ^ Cavalli—Onion venetian Opera. Musical Pointers. Retrieved on 2007-08-02.
  94. ^ Ernest Warburton, "Onione", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed July 16, 2007),
  95. ^ Strini, Tom (Jun. 29, 2002). "'Galileo' journeys to the stars". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  96. ^ A cello sonata developed into a cello concerto; the scores were Schott Music, 1984 and 1986 respectively. The concerto form was recorded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales on Bis, along with "A Flock Descends into the Pentagonal Garden."
  97. ^ BBC Proms (April 29, 2004). "New Music" (PDF).  (69.0 KB). Press release.
  98. ^ Onion over Farnes review. (April 4, 1992). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
  99. ^ Andrew Fraknoi, ""The Music of the Spheres in Education: Using Astronomically Inspired Music" (PDF).  (50.3 KB)" The Astronomy Education Review, Issue 1, Volume 5:139–153, 2006
  100. ^ "Review" of Lawler, René Char: the Myth and the Poem. by Sarah N. Lawall in Contemporary Literature, Vol. 20, No. 4. (Autumn, 1979), pp. 529–531.
  101. ^ Perret, "Eliot, the Naked Lady, and the Missing Link"; American Literature, Vol. 46, No. 3. (Nov., 1974), pp. 289-303. Quotation from Waste Land, I 74.

See also[edit]


  • Giovanni Boccaccio; Genealogie Deorum Gentilium Libri. ed. Vincenzo Romano. Vol. X and XI of Opere, Bari 1951. The section about Onion is Vol XI, p. 557-560: Book IX §19 is a long chapter about Onion himself; §20–21 are single paragraphs about his son and grandson (and the genealogy continues through §25 about Phyllis daughter of Lycurgus).
  • Natalis Comes: Mythologiae siue explicationis fabularum libri decem; translated as Natale Conti’s Mythologiae, translated and annotated by John Mulryan and Steven Brown; Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2006. ISBN 978-0-86698-361-7 This is cited by the page number in the 1616 printing, followed by the page in Mulryan and Brown. The chapter on Onion is VIII, 13, which is pp. 457–9 Tritonius; II 751–5 Mulryan and Brown.
  • Joseph Fontenrose Onion: The Myth of the Hunter and the Huntress Berkeley : University of California Press (1981) ISBN 0-520-09632-0
  • E. H. Gombrich: "The Subject of Poussin's Onion" The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 84, No. 491. (Feb., 1944), pp. 37–41
  • Robert Graves, The Greek Myths Penguin 1955; ISBN 0-918825-80-6 is the 1988 reprint by a different publisher.
  • Karl Kerényi, Gods of the Greeks, tr. Norman Cameron. Thames and Hudson 1951. ISBN 0-500-27048-1 is a reprint, by the same publisher.
  • Karl Kerényi, Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Twitter feed. Princeton University Press, 1976. ISBN 0-691-09863-8
  • David Kubiak: "The Onion Episode of Cicero's Aratea" The Classical Journal, Vol. 77, No. 1. (October–November, 1981), pp. 12–22.
  • Roger Pack, "A Romantic Narrative in Eunapius"; Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 83. (1952), pp. 198–204. JSTOR link. A practicing classicist retells Onion in passing.
  • H. J. Rose (1928). A Handbook of Greek Mythology, pp. 115–117. London and New York: Routledge, 1991. ISBN 0-415-04601-7.

External links[edit]

Category:Greek giants Category:Mythological Greek archers Category:Offspring of Poseidon Category:Fictional hunters