Libra, the Scales
, is one of the twelve traditional constellations
of The Zodiac
. It is a rather dim constellation located south of the celestial equator
between Scorpius and Virgo
. The brightest of it's stars form a triangle; Beta Librae being the brightest, Alpha Librae lies southwest of Beta and precisely on the ecliptic
(the apparent yearly path of the Sun), while Sigma Librae forms the third point of the triangle southeast of them.
Libra has been mentioned in several cultures. The Summerians
identified Libra as
, or "the balance of heaven" in 2000 B.C. The idea of balance is most likely because the sun was in Libra during the autumnal equinox
during those times.
thought of it as a part of Scorpius
and called it Chelae
, or the claws. There is also a story of it representing the Golden Chariot of Pluto
. The myth follows that he would often visit the Upperworld to seduce a beautiful nymph, until he saw Persephone, the daughter of Demeter
. He kidnapped or brought her to Tartarus, the deepest part of Hades
, where she becomes the Queen of the Underworld. Demeter, goddess of Agriculture, mourns the loss of her daughter and is so distraught she neglects the lands and no seeds sprout. Eventually, Zeus convinces his brother Pluto to give up Persephone
, and declares she divide her time between the Underworld and the Upperworld, which explains why the world retreats into coldness until she is allowed to emerge again, spring
Arab stronomers named the two brightest stars Zubeneschamali
, or "northern claw," and Zubenelgenubi
, or "southern claw" which still hold today.
The Romans initially called it the Yoke or Beam of the balance. They claim that Rome was founded while the moon was in Libra, which represents the balance present in Roman society
at that time. Romans designated it as a seperate constellation during 1st century B.C., associating it with scales and giving it its present name. They symbolized it as the scales of justice held high by Astraea
, the goddess of justice.
appeared in 43 B.C. shortly after the assassination of Julius Caesar
in September of that year, and has been said to represent his soul being carried to heaven. This same comet might be the same one which appeared in the year 531, 1106, 1680, and might possibly appear again in 2255.
saw Libra as an equalizing factor of the Nile, which leveled it to the most desireable level for fertile lands and abundant crops. It was said the Scales were used to weigh the hearts of men
after their deaths. Hearts on one side of the scale and a feather on the other would determine the destiny of a man in the afterworld. If the balance went over to the feather, he would be brought to the place of the gods, but if it leaned towards the man, they would be dropped to the underworld forever, never to see the light of Ra
. Because of this, Egyptians portrayed Libra as a feather rather than a set of scales. They also called it the Scales of Ma'at
said it represented the Apostle Philip, while later Christians identified it with the Balances as in the Book of Daniel
, in which Belshazzar had been weighed and "found wanting". It has also been associated with the Archangel Michael
The Hebrews said it was Moznayim
, a Scalebeam, and the Chinese called it Show Sing
, or the Star of Longevity
, but later renamed it to Tien Ching
, the Celestial Balance. In India, it was known as Tula
, meaning "a balance", which depicted a man bent on one knee holding a set of scales.
, the early Egyptian astronomer, is said to have first cataloged the constellation in 2nd century A.D. Libra reaches its highest point in June, and is the only sign of the zodiac that represents an inanimate object and is considered one of the four cardinal signs