In ancient Greece, the stars where an important part of myths and all of the star signs and their depictions have their origins in ancient Greece. The constellations, as described in Greek mythology, were mostly god-favoured heroes and beasts who received a place amongst the stars as a memorial of their deeds. They were regarded as semi-divine spirits; living, conscious entities which strode across the heavens.
The Greeks imagined the heavens as a great, solid dome, which, some say, was forged of bronze, and upon which the heavenly constellations were fixed. The Titan Atlas, who stood either beneath the axis of heaven in the far north or at heaven’s western rim in by the Atlas mountains in North Africa, was said to spin the dome around upon his shoulders, causing the stars to rise and set.
Part of the dome always lay beneath the horizon. Bellow the horizon the constellations were believed to ‘live’ deep beneath the earth in the pit of Tartaros, (the deep abyss that is used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as the prison for the Titans.)or else within the lands of the dead. Various myths describe the birth and death of the semi-immortal constellations, such as the Gemini twins, who were said to divide their time equally between Heaven and Hades.
Callisto was a daughter of the King Lycaon and a hunting companion of the goddess Artemis. There were several contradictory versions of her story but ancient writers all agreed on some of details: that she was seduced by the god Zeus, transformed into a bear, bore a son named Arcas, and was hunted down like a beast and placed amongst the stars as the constellation Ursa Major.
Bootes was the demi-god inventor of the wagon and the plough. He was set amongst the stars by his mother, the goddess Demeter, as the constellations Bootes and the Wain (Ursa Major). Bootes means “Ploughman” from the Greek word boôtês.
The Hesperian Dragon was a hundred-headed serpent named Ladon tasked with guarding the golden apples of the Hesperides. The creature was slain by Herakles when he was sent to recover the golden apples as one of his twelve labours. It was afterwards placed amongst the stars by the gods as the Constellation Draco encircling the north pole.
The two pictures of Draco and Hercules are from Uranias Mirror, a set of 32 star charts, that were sold for astronomical self-instruction in 1834.
Heracles was commanded by the Delphic Oracle to perform twelve labours for King Eurystheus of Mycenae. The 12 labours have often been depicted in Ancient Greek pottery: