Explore the etymology and symbolism of the constellations


the River

Hevelius, Firmamentum, 1690

The Eridanos was a purely mythical river of the north which was later variously identified with the Istros (Danube) of Hungary and the river Padus or Po of northern Italy [1]. The constellation Eridanus traditionally represents the river into which Phaeton fell when slain by Jupiter for having set the world on fire by misguiding the chariot of his father Phoebus.

The story of Phaeton's fall into the Eridanus can be read on Wikipedia and at Theoi Greek Mythology.

Read what writers of myth have said about Eridanus here.

The geological Eridanos

Allen in Star Names writes (see below): "Other authors identified our Eridanus with the fabled stream flowing into the ocean from north-western Europe  — a stream that always has been a matter of discussion and speculation (indeed, Strabo called it 'the nowhere existing')". Eridanus or Eridanos, is a name given by geologists to a river which flowed where the Baltic Sea is now. In the Pleistocene era, the current Baltic Sea was the river basin of a river, currently named as Eridanos. It began in Lapland, and then flowed through the area of the modern-day Gulf of Bothnia and Baltic Sea to western Europe, where it had an immense delta which spanned almost the entire current North Sea. It was comparable in size to the current-day Amazon River. The Eridanos disappeared during the first Ice age of 700,000 years ago, which completely covered its valley. When the ice caps retreated the ancient river valley had been scoured out into a deep hollow which became the Baltic Sea. Remnants of the Eridanos are found all through northern Europe, from the Netherlands at its western end to sediments in northern Lapponia (Lapland). [Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eridanus_%28geology%29]

Herodotus (5th century BC) writes in Book 3 of his Histories:

"...for I cannot accept the story of a river called by non-Greek peoples the Eridanus, which flows into the northern sea, where amber is supposed to come from.......Yet it cannot be disputed that tin and amber do come to us from what one might call the ends of the earth... [tin from Britain, amber from the Baltic sea]. In any case it does seem to be true that the countries which lie on the circumference of the inhabited world produce the things which we believe to be most rare and beautiful." [http://www.britam.org/now/now305.html]

Myth tells us that amber originated from the tears shed by the Heliades (maybe Cetus) that flowed into the river Eridanus. The tertiary forests of the Baltic sea area contains 90% of the world's amber which is the best amber in the world. This is one certain identification we can make for Eridanus.

The river Eridanus is named after the river-god who was the son of Oceanus and Tethys. He is generally considered as a river of the West. He is featured in Heracles' journey to the Garden of Hesperides (11th labor) and he also played a part in the voyage of the Argonauts (Argo Navis). He was said to have guided the Argo to the land of the Celts and into the Adriatic. [Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Pierre Grimal, p.141].

The Po, Padus

Eridanus has been identified with a large number of rivers and this could be so because Eridanus might have been a generic term for a river. One of the most common identifications however is with the Po (Latin: Padus, Italian: Po, ancient 'Eridanus') in Italy, and the Greeks made this identification even though they had an Eridanos of their own in Attica, Southern Greece. Strabo a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher, who died ca. AD 24) says:

"I must disregard most of the mythical or false stories [about the River Eridanos, modern-day Po or Padus, in Italy], as, for example, the stories of Phaethon, and of the Heliades that were changed into poplar-trees near the Eridanos (the Eridanos that exists nowhere on earth, although it is spoken of as near the Pados), and of the Elektrides (Amber) Islands that lie off the Pados." - Strabo, Geography 5.1.9 [1] [The Kvarner islands in the Adriatic are identified with the Elektrides]


According to Isidore the name Eridanus seems to have been an appellation for Phaeton, whose body fell into the Eridanus:

“The Padus (i.e. the Po), a river in Italy flowing from the Alpine heights, arises from three sources. The name of one of these sources is Padus, which, having spread out like a lake, sends the river from its lap. The river Padus is named from this. The Greeks also give it the cognomen Eridanus, from Eridanus the son of the Sun, whom people call Phaeton. After being struck by lightning he fell into this river and died. It is fed by melting snows at the rising of the Dog Star [Sirius, in Canis Major, representing the hot dog days of summer which causes ice and snow to melt on mountains and flow into rivers], and with the addition of thirty other streams it empties into the Adriatic Sea near Ravenna.” [The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, 7th century AD, p.282.]

The name Phaeton comes from the Indo-European root *bhá-1 'To shine'. Derivatives: beacon, beckon, buoy, buoyant, berry (< 'bright-colored fruit'; from Old English berie, berige), bandoleer (from Spanish banda, sash), banderilla, banderole (flag on masthead), banner, banneret¹, banneret² (from Latin bandere from Late Latin bandum, banner, standard, 'identifying sign,' also 'company united under a particular banner'), phos-, phot, photo-, photons (electromagnetic waves. "An angle of light coming from above to the earth is a Photon which science calls a messenger particle. An Angel of Light coming down from above is considered spiritually as a messenger of God" [2]), phosphorus (because it glows in the dark, our bones are mainly calcium phosphate), photograph, Phaëthon (Phaeton or Phaethon from Greek phaeithein, to shine, burn), fantasy, fantastic, fancy, pant (frogs pant), -phane, phantasm, phantom, phase (Latin phases also ‘moon phases’, from Greek from phainein ‘to show’,‘appearance’), pheno-, phenomenon, diaphanous, emphasis, emphatic, epiphany (the manifestation of a divine being, sudden realization: the coming of the Magi to the infant Jesus), hierophant (an ancient Greek priest who interpreted sacred mysteries, especially the priest of the Eleusinian mysteries; also the Pope), phanerogam (a plant that produces seeds, berries), Phanerozoic (570 million years ago to the present period during which the Earth has been inhabited by multicellular organisms that leave fossil traces in the rocks), phantasmagoria, phosphene (a sensation of light as when the eyeballs are pressed through closed lids), sycophant (Greek sykos, fig, + phantes, one who points out), theophany (the appearance of a god in a visible form to a human being), tiffany (a transparent gauze of material from Greek phainein, 'to bring to light'). [Pokorny 1. bha- 104. Watkins]

 Eridanus as a generic river

Eridanus is the constellation of the River, and probably represents a generic river. "Etymologically, the term river denotes the 'banks' of a river, rather than the water that flows between them. Its distant ancestor is Latin ripa 'bank'" [Ayto], 'that which is cut out by the river'. The word river comes from the Indo-European root *rei-1 'To scratch, tear, cut', from the extended form *reip-. Derivatives: rive (from Old Norse rifa, to tear), riven (torn apart), rift (from Middle English rift, rift, from a Scandinavian akin to Danish rift, breach, from Germanic *rifti), rife, (from Old English ryfe abundant), riparian ('of a river bank'), rivage (shore), river (French riviere, 'river', 'land lying along a river; river', from Late Latin riparia, 'land lying along a riverbank', feminine of riparius, 'of a riverbank', from ripa, 'riverbank'), arrive ('to reach the shore'), rivet (from Latin ripa, bank < 'that which is cut out by a river'). [Pokorny 1 rei- 857. Watkins]

Riparia is a genus of passerine birds in the swallow family. They nest in tunnels on sand of riverbanks. The songbird or 'sand martin' is Riparia riparia.

Some etymologists see the word river as a cognate of Greek eripne, ereipia, ereipein: "Latin riparius, from ripa ... cognate with Greek ereipein plunge down, from Indo-European *reip-/rip-" [Chambers Dictionary of Etymology]. Miriam-Webster's Dictionary says of the word river; "perhaps akin to Greek ereipein to tear down". Greek ereipein comes from the Indo-European root *rep- 'To snatch'. Derivatives: rapacious, rape¹ (the sex crime), rapid, rapids (an extremely fast-moving part of a river, caused by a steep descent in the riverbed), rapture (from the Latin 'rapiemur'), rapine (forcible seizure of another's property), rapt (deeply moved or delighted; enraptured, 'taken and carried up to heaven, carried away by force, carried away in spirit'), ravage (devastate), raven² (to consume greedily; devour, to seek or seize as prey or plunder), ravin (voracity; rapaciousness, the act or practice of preying), ravine (a deep narrow valley or gorge in the earth's surface worn by running water), ravish, erepsin (an enzyme in intestinal and pancreatic juices that functions in the breakdown of polypeptides into amino acids), subreption (a calculated misrepresentation of the truth through concealment of the facts), surreptitious (secret or sneaky methods, from Latin rapere, to seize), raptor (a bird of prey), ravenous. [Pokorny rep- 865. Watkins] Klein says harpy is probably related to rapid. Psalterium Georgii, George's harp: was a modern constellation formed in 1781 out of stars taken from Eridanus, and is located between Eridanus and Cetus. Psalterium Georgii, is no longer considered an official constellation and its stars have been returned to Eridanus.

The Latin word for river is flumen

“A river (fluvius) is an unceasing flow of water, named from perpetually flowing (fluere). Strictly speaking, flumen is the water itself, while fluvius is the channel of the water. The word flumen is earlier than fluvius, that is, water comes before its flow” [The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, 7th century AD, p.280.]

The Latin word for river is flumen and titles for Eridanus were Flumen, Fluvius, from the Indo-European root *bhleu- 'To swell, well up, overflow'. Derivatives: bloat, fluctuate, fluent, fluid, flume, fluor, fluoro-, flush2, fluvial, flux, affluent (notion of 'a plentiful flow'), confluent, effluent, effluvium, efflux, fluoride, fluviomarine, influence, influenza, influx, mellifluous, reflux, solifluction, superfluous, (these words from Latin fluere, to flow, and -fluus, flowing), phlyctena (a small blister or vesicle caused by a mild burn, from Greek phlein, phlzein, to boil over). Possibly Greek phloos, phloios, tree bark (< 'swelling with growth'); phloem (the food-conducting tissue of vascular plants). [Pokorny bhleu- 158. Watkins]

The eri- in Eridanus might be related to Greek eri, 'early'

"The river may have been named Eridanos (Early Burnt) after the story of Phaethon, the boy who attempted to drive the chariot of the sun, and fell flaming into the waters of this mythical river" [3].

Herodotus, (5th century BC). The Histories (ed. A. D. Godley) book 3, chapter 115, section 2:

"The very name Eridanus betrays itself as not a foreign but a Greek name, invented by some poet; nor for all my diligence have I been able to learn from one who has seen it that there is a sea beyond Europe".

If from Greek origin as Herodotus speculated, the word Eridanus could be analysed as 'early river', or 'earlier a river', as was the Eridanus where the Baltic Sea is now. The eri- of Eridanus would be related to Greek eri, and cognate with the English word 'early'.

The -danus of Eridanus is cognate with the Proto-Indo-European word for 'river'; *danu- 'River'.

The element dan- is included in a number of European river names: Don (river in Scotland), Danube (ancient Greek Istros, from Latin Danuvius, German Donau), Don (river in Russia) from Russian Don, Dnieper, Dniester ('nearer river, river in front') [Pokorny da- 175. Watkins] The Proto-Indo-European *danu probably meant "fluvial water, running water" [4]

Klein sees a relationship with the words Danube and Danae (daughter of Acrisius and mother of Perseus): "Danaus a king of Argos, who commanded his fifty daughters, the Danaides [see story], to murder their husbands on the wedding night; 'the Danaans', i.e. 'descendants or subjects of Danaus', which probably derives from Hebrew-Phoenician Danish and literally means 'one who judges'; the Danaans are identical with the men of Tanaus, king of the Scythians, who allegedly came to Argos in the 15th century B.C. and became blended with the Greeks. Kretschmer also assumes that there is a relationship between Tanaus and the river names Tanais (now called the Don) and Latin Danubius (whence French and English Danube), and Danu-, name of an Indo-Iranian people". The Danes live near the Baltic sea which was the river basin of the river, currently named Eridanos.

The word Dane comes from the Indo-European root *dan- 'Low ground'. Derivatives: den, from Old English denn, 'valley', 'lair of a wild beast' and probably cognate with Old Indian dhanuh, 'sandbank' [Klein]. Possibly from Old English dene; the Danes, and Old Norse Danr, Dane, Danish, Denmark. [Pokorny 2 dhen- 249. Watkins]. Klein puts Daniel (from Hebrew 'God is my judge'; -el, god) here, also thenar (the fleshy mass on the palm of the hand at the base of the thumb).

A number of tribes are believed to be related to this root: The Tuatha De Danann ('People of the goddess Danu') are the Irish race of gods founded by the goddess Danu. Danaoi was the name of the Greeks (or a tribe of Greeks) during the Trojan war. The tribe of Dan from Israel.

Quotes on Eridanus from mythology

Typhon to Zeus:

I will drag down from heaven the fiery Eridanos whose course is among the stars, and bring him back to a new home in the Celtic land: he shall be water again, and the sky shall be bare of the river of fire." [Nonnus, Dionysiaca 23.380 (7)]

Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.319 (8):

But Phaethon [after being struck by Zeus from the chariot of the Sun], flames ravaging his glowing hair, is hurled headlong, leaving a long trail in the air, as sometimes a star does in the clear sky, appearing to fall although it does not fall. Far from his own country, in a distant part of the world, the river god Eridanus takes him from the air, and bathes his smoke-blackened face. There the Italian nymphs consign his body, still smoking from that triple-forked flame, to the earth, and they also carve a verse in the rock:


Phaethon falls into the river Eridanus where, according to Apollonius Rhodius (3rd century BC), the Argonauts could smell the stench of his smouldering corpse when they came upon it in their travels:

"And far on sped Argo under sail, and entered deep into the stream of Eridanus; where once, smitten on the breast by the blazing bolt, Phaethon half-consumed fell from the chariot of Helios into the opening of that deep lake; and even now it belcheth up heavy steam clouds from the smouldering wound. And no bird spreading its light wings can cross that water; but in mid-course it plunges into the flame, fluttering. And all around the maidens, the daughters of Helios, enclosed in tall poplars, wretchedly wail a piteous plaint; and from their eyes they shed on the ground bright drops of amber. These are dried by the sun upon the sand; but whenever the waters of the dark lake flow over the strand before the blast of the wailing wind, then they roll on in a mass into Eridanus with swelling tide. But the Celts have attached this story to them, that these are the tears of Leto's son, Apollo, that are borne along by the eddies, the countless tears that he shed aforetime when he came to the sacred race of the Hyperboreans and left shining heaven at the chiding of his father, being in wrath concerning his son [Asclepius, see Ophiuchus] whom divine Coronis bare in bright Lacereia at the mouth of Amyrus. And such is the story told among these men. But no desire for food or drink seized the heroes nor were their thoughts turned to joy. But they were sorely afflicted all day, heavy and faint at heart, with the noisome stench, hard to endure, which the streams of Eridanus sent forth from Phaethon still burning; and at night they heard the piercing lament of the daughters of Helios, wailing with shrill voice; and, as they lamented, their tears were borne on the water like drops of oil." [Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 11, 592-626]

His river receives the body of Phaethon after the destruction of the sun chariot.

"[Description of an ancient Greek painting:] Golden are the tears of the Heliades. The story is that they are shed for Phaethon; for in his passion for driving this son of Helios (the Sun) ventured to mount his father’s chariot, but because he did not keep a firm rein he came to grief and fell into the Eridanos ... Now the youth is [depicted] thrown from the chariot and is falling headlong - for his hair is on fire and his breast smouldering with the heat; his fall will end in the river Eridanos and will furnish this stream with a mythical tale ... As for the women on the bank, not yet completely transformed into trees, men say that the Heliades on account of their brother’s mishap changed their nature and became trees, and that they shed tears [golden-amber] ...The river [Eridanos] also laments, emerging from his eddying stream, and offers his bosom to receive Phaethon - for the attitude is of one ready to receive – and soon he will harvest the tears of the Heliades; for the breezes and the chills which it exhales will turn into stone the tear-drops of the poplar trees, and it will catch them as they fall and conduct them through its bright waters to the barbarians by Okeanos."  [Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1.11 (9)]

[7] "Old illuminated manuscripts added a venerable river-god lying on the surface of the stream, with urn, aquatic plants, and rows of stars; for all of which the Hyginus of 1488 substitutes the figure of a nude woman, with stars lining the lower bank. [Allen, Star Names].

"Nymphs believed to be daughters of Zeus and Themis lived in a cave on the river Eridanus" [Apollod. ii. 5. § 11; Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. iv. 1396; Hesych. s. v. Themistiades http://www.theoi.com/Titan/TitanisThemis.html ]

© Anne Wright 2008.

Fixed stars in Eridanus
Star 1900 2000 R A Decl 1950 Lat Mag Sp
phi 29PIS36 0ARI59 033 40 51 -51 44 35 -58 59 07 3.78 B8
kappa 06ARI33 07ARI56 036 17 16 -47 55 39 -57 00 49 4.44 B5
iota 17ARI23 18ARI46 039 40 24 -40 04 07 -51 42 57 4.06 G7
Acamar theta 21ARI52 23ARI16 044 05 29 -40 30 15 -53 44 38 3.42 A2
e 25ARI45 27ARI08 049 28 59 -43 15 36 -58 06 14 4.30 G7
tau (1) 00TAU43 02TAU06 040 41 31 -18 46 59 -32 45 07 4.61 F5
Angetenar tau (2) 01TAU14 02TAU38 042 11 33 -21 12 33 -35 31 23 4.81 K0
tau (11) 03TAU09 04TAU32 045 02 48 -23 49 10 -33 54 37 4.16 A0
y 03TAU32 04TAU55 053 49 29 -40 26 16 -57 05 22 4.58 K0
Azha eta 07TAU21 08TAU45 043 29 45 -09 05 46 -24 32 53 4.05 K2
h 07TAU32 08TAU55 055 14 42 -37 28 13 -54 50 33 4.64 K5
tau (16) 08TAU43 10TAU06 049 19 22 -21 56 20 -38 30 41 3.95 M3
f 09TAU10 10TAU33 056 41 16 -37 46 20 -55 33 59 4.86 B8
g 10TAU22 11TAU45 056 53 44 -36 21 02 -54 18 50 4.24 G5
Zibal zeta 12TAU26 13TAU50 048 21 02 -09 00 15 -25 55 38 4.90 A3
sigma 12TAU36 13TAU59 057 56 09 -34 52 45 -53 14 58 5.12 B5
tau 12TAU49 14TAU12 052 53 41 -21 47 58 -39 26 40 4.32 B8
tau 6 15TAU59 17TAU22 056 10 26 -23 23 46 -41 53 11 4.33 F3
epsilon 16TAU48 18TAU11 052 38 36 -09 37 35 -27 43 30 3.81 K2
tau 8 17TAU29 18TAU52 057 53 43 -24 45 33 -43 39 09 4.76 B5
Rana delta 19TAU28 20TAU52 055 12 47 -09 55 53 -28 41 32 3.72 K0
pi 19TAU35 20TAU58 055 56 39 -12 15 26 -31 07 28 4.64 M2
tau 9 19TAU35 20TAU58 059 26 52 -24 09 25 -43 28 44 4.69 A0
upsilon 4 21TAU07 22TAU30 064 00 01 -33 55 09 -53 58 12 3.59 B9
Zaurak gamma 22TAU28 23TAU52 058 55 26 -13 38 58 -33 12 22 3.19 M0
43 Eridanus 23TAU06 24TAU29 065 32 21 -34 07 55 -54 32 38 4.06 M1
Beid omicron 1 28TAU02 29TAU26 062 21 21 -06 58 00 -27 27 38 4.14 F1
upsilon (50 28TAU07 29TAU30 067 53 12 -29 52 00 -50 56 37 4.59 G6
Theemin upsilon (52) 28TAU29 29TAU53 068 24 05 -30 39 49 -51 49 23 3.88 K0
Keid omicron2 (40) 28TAU52 00ARI11 063 14 33 -07 43 46 -28 23 17 4.48 K0
Sceptrum 53 03GEM51 05GEM15 068 58 20 -14 24 02 -36 00 25 3.98 K4
nu 05GEM26 06GEM49 068 27 17 -03 27 11 -25 07 46 4.12 B2
mu 07GEM57 09GEM20 070 45 00 -03 20 41 -25 22 26 4.18 B5
omega (61) 09GEM40 11GEM03 072 36 33 -05 32 05 -27 48 05 4.45 A4
Cursa beta 13GEM53 15GEM17 076 20 51 -05 08 58 -27 52 02 2.92 A3
Achernar alpha 13PIS53 15PIS19 023 57 48 -57 29 25 -59 22 32 0.46 B9
chi 24PIS50 26PIS13 028 30 12 -51 51 26 -57 00 53 3.73 G4

Johann Bode's Uranographia, 1801

from Star Names, 1889, Richard H. Allen

. . . amnis, quod de coelo exoritur sub solio Jovis.

  —  Plautus' Trinummus.

the starry Stream.

For this a remnant of Eridanos,

That stream of tears, 'neath the gods' feet is borne.

  —   Brown's Aratos.

Eridanus, the River the French Eridan, the Italian Eridano, and the German Fluss Eridanus, is divided into the Northern and the Southern Stream; the former winding from the star Rigel of Orion to the paws of Cetus; the latter extending thence southwards, southeast, and finally southwest below the horizon of New York City, 2° beyond the lucida Achernar, near the junction of Phoenix, Tucana, Hydrus, and Horologium. Excepting Achernar, however, it has no star larger than a 3rd-magnitude, although it is the longest constellation in the sky, and Gould catalogues in it 293 naked-eye components.

Although the ancients popularly regarded it as of indefinite extent, in classical astronomy the further termination was at the star theta (Acamar) in 40° 47' of south declination; but modern astronomers have carried it to about 60°.

With the Greeks it usually was delta Potamos, the River (or bed of a river), adopted by the Latins as Amnis, Flumen, Fluvius, and specially as Padus and Eridanus; this last, as Eridanos, having appeared for it with Aratos and Eratosthenes. Geographically the word is first found in Hesiod's Theogonia for the Phasis [This is the modern Rion, or Rioni, the Fasch of the Turks; this last title being a general appellation in early Oriental geography for all rivers, perhaps from tile Sanskrit Phas, Water, or Was, still seen in the German Wasser] in Asia, celebrated in classic history and mythology,

That rises deep and stately rowls along into the Euxine Sea near the spot where the Argonauts secured the golden fleece.

Other authors identified our Eridanus with the fabled stream flowing into the ocean from northwestern Europe, — a stream that always has been a matter of discussion and speculation (indeed, Strabo called it "the nowhere existing"), — or with Homer's Ocean Stream flowing around the earth, whence the early titles for these stars, Oceanus and the River of Ocean. They also have been associated with the famous little brook under the Acropolis; with the Ligurian Bodencus — the Padus of ancient, and the Po {Page 216} of modern Italy, — famous in all classical times as the largest of that country's rivers, Vergil's Rex fluviorum; with the Ebro of Spain; with the Granicus of Alexander the Great; with the Rhenus and the Rhodanus, — our Rhine and Rhone; and with the modern Radaune, flowing into the Vistula at Danzig.

Some of these originals of our River, especially the Padus, were seats of the early amber trade, thus recalling the story of the Heliades, whose tears, shed at the death of their brother Phaethon, turned into amber as they fell into "that stream of tears" on which that unfortunate was hurled by Jove after his disastrous attempt to drive the chariot of the sun. This was a favorite theme with poets, from Ovid, in the Metamorphoses, to Dean Milman, in Samor, and the foundation of the story that the river was transferred to the sky to console Apollo for the loss of his son.

But none of these comparatively northern streams suit the stellar position of our Eridanus, for it is a southern constellation, and it would seem that its earthly counterpart ought to be found in a corresponding quarter. In harmony with this, we know that Eratosthenes and the scholiasts on Germanicus and Hyginus said that it represented the Nile, the only noteworthy river that flows from the south to the north, as this is said to do when rising above the horizon. Thus it was Nilus in the Alfonsine Tables, the edition of 1521 saying, Stellatio fluvii id est Eridanus sive Gyon sire Nilus; Gyon1 coming from the statement in Genesis ii, 13:

the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Cush;

this latter being misunderstood for the Nile country instead of the Asiatic Kush that was unquestionably intended by the sacred writer. La Lande cited Mulda, equivalent to another title for the stellar Eridanus, — Melas, Black, — and so again connected with Egypt, whose native name, Khem, has this same meaning, well describing the color of the fertile deposit that the Nile waters leave on the land. This became the Latin Melo, an early name for the Nile, as it also was for the constellation.

This allusion to the Nile recalls the ancient wide-spread belief that it and the Euphrates were but different portions of the same stream; and Brown, in his monograph The Eridanus, argues that we should identify the Euphrates with the sky figure. He finds his reasons in the fact that both are frequently alluded to, from very early days to the classical age, as The River, {Page 217} the Euphrates originally being Pura or Purat, the Water, as the Nile was, and even now is, loma or lauma, the Sea; that they resemble each other as long and winding streams with two great branches; that each is connected with a Paradise —  Eden and Heaven; that the adjoining constellations seem to be Euphratean in origin; and that each is in some way associated with the Nile, and each with the overthrow of the sun-god.

There is much in the Euphratean records alluding to a stellar stream that may be our Eridanus, — possibly the Milky Way, another sky river; yet it is to the former that the passage translated by Fox Talbot possibly refers:

Like the stars of heaven he shall shine; like the River of Night he shall flow;

and its title has been derived from the Akkadian Aria-dan, the Strong River (-dan means river). George Smith thinks that the heavenly Eridanus may have been the Euphratean Erib-me-gali.

Its hither termination at the star Rigel gave it the title River of Orion, used by Hipparchos, Proclus, and others; and Landseer wrote: the stars now constellated as Erydanus were originally known in different countries by the names of Nile, Nereus, and Ocean, or Neptune.

Riccioli cited for it Vardi, and a Moorish title, according to Bayer, was Guad, the 1720 edition of the Uranometria has Guagi, — all these from the "Arabic wadi, and reminding us of the Wadi al Kabir, the Great River, the Spaniards' Guadalquivir; but the common designation among the Arabians was Al Nahr, the River, transcribed Nar and Nahar, — Chilmead's Alvahar; this Semitic word, occasionally written Nahal, also having been adduced as a derivation of the word Nile.

Assemani quoted Al Kaff Algeria from the Borgian globe for stars in the bend of the stream; but Ideler claimed these for AI KaffalJidhmah of Cetus.

Caesius thought our Eridanus the sky representative of the Jordan, or of the Red Sea, which the Israelites passed over as on dry land.

Old illuminated manuscripts added a venerable river-god lying on the surface of the stream, with urn, aquatic plants, and rows of stars; for all of which the Hyginus of 1488 substitutes the figure of a nude woman, with stars lining the lower bank. Bayer's illustration is quite artistic, with reeds and sedge on the margins. The monster Cetus often is depicted with his fore paws, or flippers, in the River.

[Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning, Richard H. Allen, 1889.]