The Mythology Behind The Sagittarius Constellation Explained

People born under the Zodiac sign of Sagittarius, from November 22 to December 21, are said to be magnetic, passionate, adventurous, and intense, according to Allure — perfect traits, in fact, to describe the archer figure that represents them.

The constellation of Sagittarius (which literally means "archer" in Latin, per Britannica) is said to be a centaur or satyr holding a bow and arrow, according to Gods and Monsters. The archer is usually identified as the centaur Chiron, though sometimes held to be a similar figure known as Crotus, a satyr. These figures come from Greco-Roman mythology, but it's thought that the ancient Babylonians were the first to identify Sagittarius as an archer, in 11th century B.C.

Greek mythology held that both satyrs and centaurs were mostly huge, boorish jerks, but Crotus and Chiron were the exceptions: intelligent, kind, sensitive, and sympathetic to humans. But why were they immortalized in the stars?

Two legs or four?

Most sources identify Sagittarius as Chiron, the son of the Titan Cronus, according to Globe at Night. Chiron the centaur was brilliant and kind — a teacher to figures like Jason and Achilles, and a friend to the hero Heracles (via Greek Mythology).

One day, when Heracles was hunting, he accidentally shot Chiron in the knee with a poison arrow. Chiron was immortal, so he could not die. Even though Chiron was skilled in medicine, he also could not heal himself, putting him in great pain. In order to be put out of his misery, Chiron offered to be killed in place of Prometheus, who was being punished by the other gods for giving humans fire. In honor of Chiron's sacrifice, Zeus created the constellation Sagittarius in his likeness.

This is the most popular version of the Sagittarius story. Yet, it isn't the correct one, according to Gods and Monsters, which holds that the constellation Zeus created in Chiron's honor was actually Centaurus, a constellation that borders Libra (via Sea and Sky). Instead, Sagittarius is thought to represent Crotus, a satyr who invented the archer's bow.

If you look closely, you can tell whether a depiction of Sagittarius is of Chiron or Crotus. Centaurs have four legs, and are half-man, half-horse; satyrs have two legs and are half-man, half-goat.