Course overview

Ever looked up at the night sky, or the signs of the zodiac, and wondered how the constellations got their names? Why anyone would think those random dots were “obviously” a picture of some strange creature? Or what the stories are behind them? This one-session course picks out some of them that are appropriate to the time of year, and shows why they were important, what their myths are, and how the stories fit together. Today, 23rd April, is St George’s Day, and so we will look at the various myths behind Draco, the Dragon. That includes how the continent of Europe got its name, the founding of Thebes, how Hercules tricked Atlas, and the great war between the Olympians and the Giants. The poor dragon gets killed every time (though not by George).

Course description

This single-session course will explore the myths that lie behind some of our constellations. We will look primarily at the Greek mythology versions of these stories, including all the multiple versions, but also at the ones they are based on (Sumerian, quite often) and those from other parts of the world where they’re good stories. The Roman versions of Greek names will also be given where they’re more familiar.

While we will take a quick look at how to find those constellations in the sky, and what the “random dots” look like, this is primarily about mythology, not astronomy.

The constellation of Draco the Dragon doesn’t actually have anything to do with St George, but it has many other possible stories behind it. Not all of them even identify it as a dragon, though most do. There’s one featuring Athena/Minerva fighting it. There’s another about the great hero Cadmus, founder of Thebes, and how he got his army by fighting it. And there’s quite a long story where it fits into Hercules tricking Atlas.

Why are there multiple stories? To understand that, we need to go back to the Sumerians, and what they thought about Draco (and why he was much more important to them than to us now). And, just to round things off, we’ll take a look at the Arab description of the constellation, which doesn’t involve dragons at all.

What financial support is available?

We don't want anything to stand in your way when it comes to bringing Adult learning within reach so if you need anything to support you to achieve your goals then speak to one of our education experts during your enrolment journey. Most of our courses are government funded but if you don't qualify or need alternative financial help to access them then let us know.

What other support is available?

All of our digital content, teaching and learning activities and assessments are designed to be accessible so if you need any additional support you can discuss this with the education experts during your enrolment journey and we will do all we can to make sure you have optimal access.

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