Taurus is a zodiacal constellation. According to myth, Taurus represents the bull-form taken on by Jupiter when he became enamored of Europa, princess of Phoenicia:
Majesty and love go ill together, nor can they long share one abode. Abandoning the dignity of his sceptre, the father and ruler of the gods, whose hand wields the flaming three-forked bolt, whose nod shakes the universe, adopted the guise of a bull; and mingling with the other bullocks, joined in their lowing and ambled in the tender grass, a fair sight to see. His hide was white as untrodden snow, snow not yet melted by the rainy South wind. The muscles stood out on his neck, and deep folds of skin hung along his flanks. His horns were small, it is true, but so beautifully made that you would swear they were the work of an artist, more polished and shining than any jewel. There was no menace in the set of his head or in his eyes; he looked completely placid.(Metamorphoses II 847-858).
The princess Europa was impressed by the beauty and gentleness of the bull, and the two played together on the beach. Eventually, Europa climbed onto the bull's back, and he swam out to sea with her. He took her to Crete and revealed his true self.
The constellation Taurus consists of only the head and shoulders of the snowy white bull. The representation in the stars seems to show a raging bull, however, always about to plunge into Orion, which doesn't seem to reflect the gentle, seductive bull in Ovid's telling of the story.
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These pages are the work of Cathy Bell
cmbell (at) comfychair (dot) org
originally for the Princeton University course CLA 212.