Head of Leda by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).
Click on image for full size
For the ancient Greeks, the constellation Cygnus
, which means "swan", was related to
the myth of Zeus
(called Jupiter by Romans) and the goddess Nemesis. In order to escape from Zeus, Nemesis
changed herself into many different animals. When she changed into a
goose, Zeus immediately transformed himself into a wonderful swan and won the love of Nemesis.
The goddess became pregnant, delivered an egg and then abandoned it.
Fortunately, a shepherd found the egg and gave it to Leda, the wife of Tyndareus, the king
of Sparta. From that egg came Helen of Troy. Helen was so beautiful that Leda claimed her
as her own child. The constellation Cygnus was formed to celebrate the lovely swan.
According to a variant of the myth, Zeus transformed himself into a swan to court Leda, the queen of Sparta.
and from that relationship, Leda had two children: Polydeuces and Helen.
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