Planet Earth
International Astronomical Union WGSN

IAU: Capricornus

Profile / Characteristics

English translationLatin declination and pronunciationsSize/ °²# stars
the Sea GoatCapricornus – CAP-rih-CORN-us
Capricorni – CAP-rih-CORN-eye

Ancient Globes

Farnese Globe

Kugel Globe

Mainz Globe

broken (shoulder of Atlas)

a goat-fish (Babylonian demon)

a goat-fish (Babylonian demon)

Ancient Lore & Meaning


[290?] Grievous then is the crashing swoop of the South winds when the Sun joins Aegoceros, and then is the frost from heaven hard on the benumbed sailor. Not but that throughout the year’s length the sea ever grows dark beneath the keels, and, like to diving seagulls, we often sit, spying out the deep from our ship with faces turned to the shore; but ever farther back the shores are swept by the waves and only a thin plank staves off Death. [683] His head, hand and waist set at the rising of Aegoceros [Capricorn]; from waist to foot he sets at the rising of the Archer. Nor do Perseus and the end of the stern of jeweled Argo remain on high, but Perseus sets all save his knee and right foot and Argo is gone save her curved stern. She sinks wholly at the rising of Aegoceros, when Procyon sets too, and there rise the Bird and the Eagle and the gems of the winged Arrow and the sacred Altar, that is established in the South. [700] Yet many a coil of the Hydra remains, but Night engulfs her wholly with the Centaur, when the Fishes [Pisces] rise; with the Fishes the Fish which is placed beneath azure Aegoceros rises – not completely but par awaits another sign of the Zodiac.

English translation by Douglas Kidd (1997).
Aratus: Phaenomena, Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries, Series Number 34

Online available: translation by Mair (1921) 


French translation by:
Jordi Pàmias i Massana and Arnaud Zucker (2013). Ératosthènes de Cyrène – Catastérismes, Les Belles Lettres, Paris

English version in:
Robin Hard (2015): Eratosthenes and Hyginus Constellation Myths with Aratus’s Phaenomena, Oxford World’s Classics

Early Modern Interpretation


As one of their first tasks in the 1920s, the newly founded International Astronomical Union (IAU) established constellation standards. The Belgian astronomer Eugène Delporte was assigned to the task to define borders of constellations parallel to lines of declination and right ascension. They were accepted by the General Assembly in 1928. The standardized names and abbreviations had already been accepted in 1922 and 1925.  

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