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Renaissance panel ceiling by Baldassare Peruzzi entitled The Rape of Ganymede (c 1509-14) Villa Farnesina, Rome, Italy

Renaissance panel ceiling by Baldassare Peruzzi entitled “The Rape of Ganymede.” ( c. 1509-14). Villa Farnesina, Rome, Italy.

In the Greek tradition, the aquarius constellation became represented as simply a single vase from which a stream poured down to Piscis Austrinus. The name in the Hindu zodiac is likewise kumbha “water-pitcher”, showing that the zodiac reached India via Greek intermediaries.

In Greek mythology, Aquarius is sometimes associated with Deucalion, the son of Prometheus who built a ship with his wife Pyrrha to survive an imminent flood. They sailed for nine days before washing ashore on Mount Parnassus.

Aquarius is also sometimes identified with beautiful Ganymede, a youth in Greek mythology and the son of Trojan king Tros, who was taken to Mount Olympus by Zeus to act as cup-carrier to the gods. Neighboring Aquila represents the eagle, under Zeus’ command, that snatched the young boy; some versions of the myth indicate that the eagle was in fact Zeus transformed.

An alternative version of the tale recounts Ganymede’s kidnapping by the goddess of the dawn, Eos, motivated by her affection for young men; Zeus then stole him from Eos and employed him as cup-bearer. Yet another figure associated with the water bearer is Cecrops I, a king of Athens who sacrificed water instead of wine to the gods.