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05-31-2009, 01:28 AM, (This post was last modified: 05-31-2009, 01:31 AM by ---.)
In Greek mythology, Phorbas (Greek: Φόρβας) or Phorbaceus, native to Thessaloniki, was the son of Lapithes and Orsinome, and a brother of Periphas. When the people of the island of Rhodes fell victim to a plague of masses of serpents (may have been dragons or simply snakes), an oracle directed them to call on a man named Phorbas. Phorbas cleansed the island of the snakes and in gratitude the Rhodians venerated him as a hero. For his achievement he won a place among the stars as the constellation Serpentarius or Ophiuchus.

Ophiuchus (pronounced /ˌɒfiːˈjuːkəs/ Óphiúchus, genitive Ophiuchi /ˌɒfiːˈjuːkaɪ/; Greek Ὀφιοῦχος) is a large constellation located around the celestial equator. Its name is Greek for 'snake-holder', and it is commonly represented as a man grasping the snake that is represented by the constellation Serpens. Ophiuchus was one of the 48 constellations listed by the 1st century astronomer Ptolemy, and it remains one of the 88 modern constellations. It was formerly referred to as Serpentarius (/ˌsɝːpənˈtɛəriəs/), a Latin word meaning the same as its current name.

Ophiuchus is a zodiacal constellation (meaning that the Sun passes through it during the course of the year), but unlike the other twelve, it does not lend its name to an astrological sign. As of 2008, the Sun passes through Ophiuchus between November 30 and December 17

It is located between Aquila, Serpens and Hercules, northwest of the center of the Milky Way. The southern part lies between Scorpius to the west and Sagittarius to the east. It is best visible in the northern summer and located opposite Orion in the sky. Ophiuchus is depicted as a man grasping a serpent; the interposition of his body divides the snake constellation Serpens into two parts, Serpens Caput and Serpens Cauda, which are nonetheless counted as one constellation.

There exist a number of theories as to whom the figure represents.

The most recent interpretation is that the figure represents the healer Asclepius, who learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one serpent bringing another healing herbs. To prevent the entire human race from becoming immortal under Asclepius' care, Zeus killed him with a bolt of lightning
, but later placed his image in the heavens to honor his good works. It has also been noted that the constellation Ophiuchus is in close proximity in the sky to that of Sagittarius, which has at times been believed to represent Chiron (the mentor of Asclepius and many other Greek demigods), though Chiron was originally associated with the constellation Centaurus.

Another possibility is that the figure represents the Trojan priest Laocoön, who was killed by a pair of sea serpents sent by the gods after he warned the Trojans not to accept the Trojan Horse. This event was also memorialized by the sculptors Agesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus in the famous marble sculpture Laocoön and his Sons, which stands in the Vatican Museums.

A third possibility is Apollo wrestling with the Python to take control of the oracle at Delphi.

A fourth is the story of Phorbas, a Thessalonikan who rescued the people of the island of Rhodes from a plague of serpents and was granted a place in the sky in honor of this deed.

Ophiuchus (pronounced off-ee-YOO-cuss) represents a man with a snake coiled around his waist. He holds the head of the snake in his left hand and its tail in his right hand. The snake is represented by the constellation Serpens.


Ophiuchus holds a huge snake, Serpens, in both hands as shown in the Atlas Coelestis of John Flamsteed. Serpens is unique in being divided into two halves.

The Greeks identified him as Asclepius, the god of medicine. Asclepius was the son of Apollo and Coronis (although some say that his mother was Arsinoë). The story goes that Coronis two-timed Apollo by sleeping with a mortal, Ischys, while she was pregnant by Apollo. A crow brought Apollo the unwelcome news, but instead of the expected reward the crow, which until then had been snow-white, was cursed by Apollo and turned black.

In a rage of jealousy, Apollo shot Coronis with an arrow. Rather than see his child perish with her, Apollo snatched the unborn baby from its mother’s womb as the flames of the funeral pyre engulfed her, and took the infant to Chiron, the wise centaur (represented in the sky by the constellation Centaurus).

Chiron raised Asclepius as his own son, teaching him the arts of healing and hunting. Asclepius became so skilled in medicine that not only could he save lives, he could also raise the dead. On one occasion in Crete, Glaucus, the young son of King Minos, fell into jar of honey and drowned while at play. As Asclepius contemplated the body of Glaucus, a snake slithered towards it. He killed the snake with his staff; then another snake came along with a herb in its mouth and placed it on the body of the dead snake, which magically returned to life. Asclepius took the same herb and laid it on the body of Glaucus, who too was magically resurrected. (Robert Graves suggests that the herb was mistletoe, which the ancients thought had great regenerative properties, but perhaps it was actually willow bark, the source of salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin.) Because of this incident, says Hyginus, Ophiuchus is shown in the sky holding a snake, which became the symbol of healing from the fact that snakes shed their skin every year and are thus seemingly reborn.

Others, though, say that Asclepius received from the goddess Athene the blood of Medusa the Gorgon. The blood that flowed from the veins on her left side was a poison, but the blood from the right side could raise the dead.

Someone else supposedly resurrected by Asclepius was Hippolytus, son of Theseus, who died when he was thrown from his chariot (some identify him with the constellation Auriga, the Charioteer). Reaching for his healing herbs, Asclepius touched the youth’s chest three times, uttering healing words, and Hippolytus raised his head.

Hades, god of the Underworld, began to realize that the flow of dead souls into his domain would soon dry up if this technique became widely known. He complained to his brother god Zeus who struck down Asclepius with a thunderbolt. Apollo was outraged at this harsh treatment of his son and retaliated by killing the three Cyclopes who forged Zeus’ thunderbolts. To mollify Apollo, Zeus made Asclepius immortal (in the circumstances he could hardly bring him back to life again) and set him among the stars as the constellation Ophiuchus.

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