The Tragic Fate of Orion
Most people know the name Orion from the constellation in the winter night sky in the north hemisphere. It is perhaps the easiest constellation to recognize with the three stars in a diagonal pattern signifying Orion’s belt and the four bright stars around it forming the square, representing his body . Also, most people are aware that the constellation comes from Greek mythology but few know who Orion was and what his story is outside the fact that he was a hunter.
There are various versions concerning the myth of Orion but all agree that he was a giant born in Boeotia, was both handsome and strong, an excellent marksman who was able to kill any beast with only one lone arrow. In one version, it happened that Orion was on the island of Chios and was given hospitality by the king of Chios, Oenopion. The king also happened to have a beautiful daughter, Merope, and Orion fell in love with her and requested her hand in marriage. Oenopion replied that he would agree to the marriage only if Orion could prove his ability as a marksman by killing the wild beasts that were causing great grief to the people of Chios. Orion went to work immediately and in a matter of days managed to wipe out all the wildlife in Chios! He certainly couldn’t have made many friends with any ecologists or animal lovers who may have existed then. Orion kept his end of the bargain but the king reneged on his and said the wedding was off.
Afterwards, as the story goes, Orion got very drunk and kidnapped Merope. This did not sit very well with the king and sought revenge in a very underhanded way. He contacted Orion and told him he wanted to patch things up and subsequently invited him to a feast. During the feast the king fed Orion large quantities of wine until he passed out and while unconscious the king blinded Orion with a knife. Orion, however, was able to regain his sight by looking into rays of light coming from the setting sun.
In other version of the story concerning Orion’s visit to Chios, Orion was not as gentlemanly as he was in the previous one. He apparently didn’t kidnap Merope but raped her after the king refused Orion’s request to marry her and that was the reason the king blinded him.
Another myth concerning Orion was his relationship with the goddess Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. As well as being able to walk as easily on the sea as well as on land Orion was remarkably handsome and as a result any woman who looked upon him wanted to marry him. This is what happened to Artemis when she saw the gorgeous blonde giant striding across the Aegean and immediately fell in love him and desired to have him as her husband. This was in fact the first time she had ever fallen in love with any man.
The god Apollo, Artemis’s brother, was not very pleased when he found out that his sister wanted to do this because he considered it debasing for a goddess to marry someone lower than herself. He found a scheme to be rid of the presumptuous giant and challenged his sister to an archery contest in which she was asked to hit a small object in the distant horizon. Artemis strung her bow, took careful aim and let the arrow fly, successfully hitting the target. Unfortunately for the goddess, the target she hit was Orion’s head.
In another version concerning Orion’s death, Orion was hunting with Artemis on the island of Crete and threatened to kill every wild beast on earth. Mother Earth didn’t take kindly to this and sent a huge scorpion to sting Orion, which it did, and killed him.