||Mythology and History
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Columba first appeared in 1679, invented by the French astronomer
Augustin Royer. Before then, its stars belonged to Canis Major.|
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.|
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.|
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.