the dog of Icarus



and when the dog of Icarus

Original French:  & que le chien de Icarus

Modern French:  & que le chien de Icarus


Icarus’ Dog

Even to Phoebus did the Cretan bring gifts most welcome, and to Bacchus was Icarus a host more pleasing than all besides, as stars in the clear sky witness, Erigone and the Hound, lest a distant age deny the tale.

[note re Icarus: Icarius (Icarus), an Athenian, and his daughter Erigone entertained Dionysus when he visited Attica. In return Dionysus presented him with a skin of wine. The shepherds whom Icarius regaled with the liquor, thinking that they were poisoned, killed him. His corpse was discovered by his dog Maera, who led Erigone to the spot. She hanged herself there, and the three were transformed by Dionysus into constellations.]

Tibullus, Albius (ca. 55 BC-19 BC), Elegies. J. P. Postgate, . Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1913. 3.7.8, p. 307. Loeb Classical Library

Lesser Dog-star

Nam caniculae exortu accendi solis vapores quis ignorat, cuius sideris effectus amplissimi in terra sentiuntur? fervent maria exoriente eo, fluctuant in cellis vina, moventur stagna. orygem appellat Aegyptus feram quam in exortu eius contra stare et contueri tradit ac velut adorare cum sternuerit. canes quidem toto eo spatio maxime in rabiem agi non est dubium.

For who is not aware that the heat of the sun increases at the rising of the Lesser Dog-star, whose effects are felt on earth very widely? At its rise the seas are rough, wine in the cellars ripples in waves, pools of water are stirred. There is a wild animal in Egypt called the gazelle that according to the natives stands facing this dog-star at its rise, and gazing at it as if in worship, after first giving a sneeze. It is indeed beyond doubt that dogs throughout the whole of that period are specially liable to rabies.

Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD), The Natural History. Volume 1: Books 1 – 2. Harris Rackham (1868–1944), translator. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1938. 02.40. Loeb Classical Library

chien de Icarus

La canicule. Il semble que Rabelais fasse ici allusion non seulement à la chaleur qu’il fait au temps où l’on cueille le chanvre, mais à la persècution que François Ier exerca, presque dès l’époque de la naissance de Henri II, contre les hérétiques, qui furent obligés, pour s’y soustraire, de pratiquer le culte de l’Évangile dans des souterrains, comme les premiers chrétiens qu’ils prenoient pour modèles.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres de Rabelais (Edition Variorum). Tome Cinquième. Charles Esmangart (1736–1793), editor. Paris: Chez Dalibon, 1823. p. 277. Google Books

Icarus’ Dog

Icarus, son of Oebalus, king of Sparta, and father of Erigone and Penelope. He was placed in the heavens as the constellation Boötes, Erigone as Virgo, and their dog Maera as Canis Major (Sirius). Tibull. iv. i. 10.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III. William Francis Smith (1842–1919), translator. London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893. Internet Archive

Le chien d’Icare

Le chien d’Icare est la constellation dite Icarius Canis ou Canis major. Cf. Tibulle, IV, i, 10.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Oeuvres. Édition critique. Tome Cinquieme: Tiers Livre. Abel Lefranc (1863-1952), editor. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion, 1931. p. 363. Internet Archive

le chien de Icarus

L’étoile d’Icare est la canis stella ou la canicule, étoile toujours associée par les Anciens à l’idée d’une chaleur insupportable (cf. Textor, Epitheta).

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique. Michael Andrew Screech (1926-2018), editor. Paris-Genève: Librarie Droz, 1964.

chien de Icarus

Constellation du Chien, ou Canicule.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Œuvres complètes. Mireille Huchon, editor. Paris: Gallimard, 1994. p. 506, n. 24.

le chien de Icarus

Le «chien de Icarus» est la constellation dite Icarius canis, ou canicule. Icarius ayant été tué, son chien conduisit près du cadavre Erigone, qui à cette vue se pendit (un cas à ajouter à la liste précédente des pendus); le chien fut mis au rang des constellations. Sur l’importance de la date de naissance de Pantagruel, voir les travaux de Claude Gaignebet.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Le Tiers Livre. Edition critique. Jean Céard, editor. Librarie Général Français, 1995. p. 460.

dog day

dog day, after post-classical Latin caniculares dies dog days, itself after Hellenistic Greek κυνάδες ἡμέραι.

The hottest part of the summer, associated in ancient times with the heliacal rising of the Dog Star in the Mediterranean area, and formerly considered to be the most unhealthy period of the year and a time of ill omen.The dog days have been variously reckoned, as depending on either the Greater Dog Star (Sirius) or the Lesser Dog Star (Procyon), and on either the heliacal rising or the cosmical rising (which occurs at an earlier date). The timing of these risings depends on latitude, and they do not occur at all in most of southern hemisphere; in addition, owing to the precession of the equinox they now take place later in the year. As a result very different dates have been assigned for the dog days, their beginning ranging from 3 July to 15 August, and their duration varying from 30 to 61 days. In the Calendar of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer they run from 7 July to 5 September. In current calendars they are often said to begin on 3 July and end on 11 August (i.e. the 40 days preceding the cosmical rising of Sirius at the latitude of Greenwich).

The name arose from the pernicious qualities of the season being attributed to the ‘influence’ of the Dog Star; but it has long been popularly associated with the belief that at this season dogs are most liable to go mad.

1538 T. Elyot Dict., Canicula… a sterre, wherof canicular or dogge days be named Dies caniculares.
1564 P. Moore Hope of Health f. lviijv, There be sometimes of the yeare wherein purgations ought not to bee ministred, as in Somer, specially the Dogge daies.

In early use: an evil time; a period in which malignant influences prevail. Now (in weakened sense): a period of inactivity or decline.

1555 J. Philpot Let. in R. Eden Exam. & Writings J. Philpot (1842) (modernized text) 283 Neither that any giddy head in these dog-days might take an ensample by you to dissent from Christ’s true church.
1595 G. Chapman Ouids Banquet of Sence sig. E3v, In these dog-dayes how this contagion smoothers The purest bloods.
1629 N. Carpenter Achitophel i. 10 What then shall wee now expect in these dogge-dayes of the worlds declining age?

The Story of the Dog Transported to the Constellations

228. This is the story of the dog placed among the constellations. Jove made this dog a protector of Europa. The dog came to Crete because Europa was fond of hunting and because no wild beast could outrun it. After her death, the dog went to Cephalus, whose wife was Procris. Cephalus took the dog with him to Thebes, where, it was said, there was a fox that could elude all dogs. And so, when the dog and the fox had reached the same spot, Jupiter did not know what to do, as Histrius says, and he changed both into stone. Some have said that this dog was Orion’s. Since Orion was fond of hunting, the dog was placed with him among the constellations. But others have said that he was Icarus’ dog.

Vatican Mythographers (pre-1400), Mythographi Vaticani. Ronald E. Pepin, translator. Fordham University Press, 2008. p. 97.


Not to be confused with Icarus, whose wings failed in flight.
In Greek mythology, there were two people named Icarius
1 Icarius of Sparta
2 Icarius of Athens

Icarius of Sparta

One Icarius was the son of either Perieres and Gorgophone or of Oebalus and Bateia, brother of Hippocoon and Tyndareus and, through Periboea, father of Penelope, Perileos, Thoas, Damasippus, Imeusimus, Aletes and Iphthime.[1] According to other traditions, he was the father of Penelope, Alyzeus and Leucadius by Polycaste.[2] His other possible wives were Dorodoche (daughter of Ortilochus) and Asterodia (daughter of Eurypylus);[3] the latter was said to have born him five sons – Amasichus, Phalereus, Thoon, Pheremmelias, Perilaos – and a daughter Laodice[4] or Laodamia.[5] He was a Spartan king and a champion runner who would not allow anyone to marry his daughter unless he beat him in a race. Odysseus succeeded and married Penelope.[6] After they got married, Icarius tried to persuade Odysseus to remain in Sparta. He did leave with Penelope, but Icarius followed them, imploring his daughter to stay. Odysseus told her she must choose whether to be with her father or with her husband. Penelope did not answer, but modestly covered her face with a veil. Icarius correctly understood that this was a sign of her will to leave with Odysseus, let them go and erected a statue of Aidos (Modesty) on the spot.[7] Icarius was apparently still alive at the time of the events of the Odyssey.

Icarius of Athens

Icarius transporting wine in a 3rd-century mosaic from Paphos
The other Icarius was from Athens. He was cordial towards Dionysus, who gave his shepherds wine. They became intoxicated and killed Icarius, thinking he had poisoned them. His daughter, Erigone, and her dog, Maera, found his body. Erigone hung herself over her father’s grave.[8][9] Dionysus was angry and punished Athens with a plague, inflicting insanity on all the unmarried women, who all hung themselves like Erigone did. The plague did not cease until the Athenians introduced honorific rites for Icarius and Erigone. Icarius was placed in the stars as the constellation Boötes.[10][11] There is a mosaic in Paphos, Cyprus, from a Roman villa from the mid 2nd century a.d. which is called “Dionysus House”. The mosaic First wine drinkers describes Dionysus giving the gift of vine and wine to Icarius as a reward for Icarius’ generous hospitality.[12] It was probably this Icarius whom Clement of Alexandria[13] referred to as husband of Phanothea, a woman who was believed to have invented the hexameter.[14]
Bibliotheca 3. 10. 3-6
Strabo, Geography, 10. 2. 24
Scholia on Homer, Odyssey 15. 16
Scholia on Homer, Odyssey, 1. 275 & 277
Scholia on Homer, Odyssey, 4. 797
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 12. 2
Pausanias, Description of Greece 3. 20. 10-11
Bibliotheca 3. 14. 7
Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 47. 34
Hyginus, Fabulae, 130
Hyginus, Poetical Astronomy, 2. 4
Kondoleon, C. Domestic and Divine: Roman Mosaics in the House of Dionysos. Cornell University Press, 1995, p. 177.
Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, 1. 16
^ William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, v. 2, page 558


Erigone (daughter of Icarius)
Not to be confused with Erigone (daughter of Aegisthus).
In Greek mythology, Erigone was the daughter of Icarius of Athens. Icarius was cordial towards Dionysus, who gave his shepherds wine. They became intoxicated and killed Icarius, thinking he had poisoned them. His daughter, Erigone, and her dog, Maera, found his body. Erigone hanged herself over her father’s grave. Dionysus was angry and punished Athens by making all of the city’s maidens commit suicide in the same way. Erigone was placed in the stars as the constellation Virgo.
According to Ovid, Dionysus “deceived Erigone with false grapes”,[3] that is, assumed the shape of a grape cluster to approach and seduce her.\References
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 14. 7
Hyginus, Fabulae, 130
Ovid, Metamorphoses, 6. 125: Erigonen falsa decepit uva


Erigone (daughter of Aegisthus)
In Greek mythology, Erigone was the daughter of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, rulers of Mycenae. Some accounts said by her half-brother, Orestes, Erigone was the mother of Penthilus. She would have been slain by Orestes along with her brother Aletes if not for the intervention of Artemis, who rescued her and made her a priestess in Attica.[1] In some stories, she hangs herself after the child is born, though this may be a confusion with Erigone, daughter of Icarius. Also, after Hermione died, she is said to have married Orestes and gave birth to Penthilus. Or it is said she sued Orestes for murder of her parents.
Hyginus, Fabulae 122



Posted 10 February 2013. Modified 13 April 2020.

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