The Constellation  
Columba
 
 
Mythology and History
 
    Phineus had given good advice to the Argonauts.  As the Argo approached the rocks they happened to be far apart, but seeing the ship coming nearer they started to move closer to each other.  When they came near to the entrance the Argonauts released a white dove.  They had been told that if any living thing passed alive through the Symplegades, the rocks would never move again.  The white dove, aided by Athene, shot between the two rocks with such speed that they crashed against each other without killing the bird -- only depriving it of a few feathers.  As the cliffs slid backwards, the Argo ran full sail between the murderous rocks.  The rocks instantly started to move inwards again, but Orpheus began to play his lyre and slowed their movement with his soothing music while the Argo sailed safely through the Symplegades.  The rocks discovered too late that they had been under the spell of Orpheus and crashed against each other for the last time.  They have stood still ever since and are now known as the Dardanells and the Bosporus, the narrows guarding the ends of the passage between the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea.  The heroic dove came back to the ship.  Athene later put her in the stars as the constellation Columba.
bullet The Dove.
bullet Columba first appeared in 1679, invented by the French astronomer Augustin Royer.  Before then, its stars belonged to Canis Major.
bullet The constellation shows the bird with flapping wings.  The dove in question may be the one that the Argonauts sent ahead, to help them pass the narrow strait at the mouth of the Black Sea.  Or it may refer to the dove in the story of Noah and the Ark.  Sometimes the constellation is called Columba Noae.
bullet The ship Argo headed to the high seas and set course toward the huge cliffs called the Symplegades.  The Symplegades had a habit of moving violently against each other, crushing everything in between, even fish and birds.  Whenever the Symplegades saw a ship that had to pass between them, they waited until the vessel was in the middle and then came rushing together, breaking up the ship and killing everybody on board.  Afterwards they would recede and leave a wide and seemingly safe passage for the next victim.
 
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