Today I spent a few good hours trying to trace the source of St. Basil’s detailed description of Orion, the constellation mentioned in Is. 13:10 (Septuagint).

The source is of course Ptolemy’s Almagest (Syntaxis mathematica).

I found Ptolemy’s book, read the description of “Orion” but a lot of things did not quite fit the description supplied by Basil.

Then it dawned on me that what Basil calls “Orion” is actually Boötes (the constellation of the Ploughman).

It now made sense. And yet something kept puzzling me.

St. Basil’s text goes like this:

Καὶ τοῦ ᾿Αρκτούρου δὲ μέμνηται ἡ Γραφὴ, ὃν μεταξὺ τῶν μερῶν τοῦ ᾿Ωρίωνος ὁρῶμεν κείμενον ἀστέρα, ὑπόκιῤῥον.

The Scripture mentions also Arcturus, a star which we see positioned between the parts of Orion, of reddish colour.

I scratched my head a long time trying to figure out what was meant by “between the parts”. I wished St. Basil’s description had been more precise.

And then I looked more closely at Ptolemy’s text and realized where the problem was.

῾Ο ὑπ’ αὐτὸν ἀμόρφωτος. ὁ μεταξὺ τῶν μηρῶν ὁ καλούμενος ᾿Αρκτοῦρος ὑπόκιρρος.

Under it (i.e. Boötes), formless. The star called Arcturus, of reddish colour, between the thighs of Bootes.

Either St. Basil or a scribe wrote μερῶν (parts) instead of μηρῶν (thighs).

A linguistic breakthrough of astronomic proportions. 🙂