Merope: A Greek Pleiad Nymph
Merope plays a special role in the history of the Greek gods and goddesses. The ancient Greeks considered her a “nymph”. Nymphs usually resembled beautiful maidens in appearance. They served as minor goddesses associated with natural forces: rivers, trees, lakes, mountains, and other important landmarks. Nymphs served as nannies caring for the Greek god of the vineyards, Dionysius (also called “Bacchus” by the Romans), during his infancy.
Merope: A Star Nymph
The Titan named Atlas became attracted to an ocean nymph named Pleione. He fathered her seven nymph daughters. All of these nymphs eventually became associated with stars in the bright Pleiades star system. The ancient Greeks could look at the night sky and see many stars shining brightly overhead. However, Merope’s star remains the faintest one in the Pleiades constellation. Her star shines less brightly because she married a human being.
How Merope Became a Star
Many different legends describe how Merope and her sisters became star nymphs. One version claims they frequently accompanied the goddess Artemis, the twin sister of the god Apollo, during her hunting excursions into the woods. A hunter named Orion fell in love with the seven sisters and began tracking them. Concerned for their safety, Artemis asked her father, Zeus, to protect the sisters. Zeus transformed them into stars. He later turned Orion into a star system, too.
Merope before she became a star fell in love with a human named Sisyphus. Some sources claim the couple dwelt together on the island Chios in the Aegean Sea. They eventually had a number of children, including Thersander, Glaukos, Almus, and Ornytion. (Some residents of the ancient Greek cities of Corinth considered her one of the ancestors of their ruling dynasty.)
Merope’s husband Sisyphus during his lifetime served as the King of the City of Corinth. He did not conduct himself in an honorable way. Instead, he engaged in schemes to expand his own personal glory instead of honoring the gods. When he died he entered Hades. The ruler of Hades sentenced him to an eternity of pushing a heavy bolder up a steep hill; as it neared the top, the heavy rock would always roll back down to the bottom and Sisyphus would have to repeat his hard assignment from the beginning. He would never accomplish his goal!
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