Poetica Astronomica: Lycaon and Callisto


Latin Text

IV. ARCTOPHYLAX. De hoc fertur ut sit Arcas nomine, Callistus et Iovis filius, quem dicitur Lycaon, cum Iuppiter ad eum in hospitium venisset, cum alia carne concisum pro epulis apposuisse. Studebat enim scire, si deus esset, qui suum hospitium desideraret; quo facto non minore poena est affectus. Nam statim Iuppiter, mensa proiecta, domum eius fulmine incendit; ipsum autem in lupi figuram convertit. At pueri membra collecta et composita in unum dedit cuidam Aetolorum alendum. Qui adulescens factus in silvis cum venaretur, inscius vidit matrem in ursae speciem conversam; quam interficere cogitans persecutus est in Iovis Lycaei templum, quo ei qui accessisset, mors poena erat Arcadum lege. Itaque cum utrumque necesse esset interfici, Iuppiter eorum misertus, ereptos inter sidera collocavit, ut ante diximus. Hic autem e facto sequens Ursam perspicitur, et Arctum servans Arctophylax est appellatus.


He is said to be Arcas, the son of Jove and Callisto, whom Lycaon served at a banquet, cut up with other meat, when Jupiter came to him as a guest. For Lycaon wanted to know whether the one who had asked for his hospitality was a god or not. For this deed he was punished by no slight punishment, for Jupiter, quickly overturning the table, burned the house with a thunderbolt, and turned Lycaon himself into a wolf. But the scattered limbs of the boy he put together, and gave him to a certain Aetolian to care for. When, grown to manhood, he was hunting in the woods, he saw his mother changed to bear form, and did not recognize her. Intent on killing her, he chased her into the temple of Jove Lycaeus, where the penalty for entering is death, according to Arcadian law. And so, since both would have to die, Jupiter, out of pity, snatched them up and put them among the stars, as I have said before. As a result, Arcas is seen following the Bear, and since he guards Arctos, he is called Arctophylax.