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    Re: Should I question Pliny?
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Sep 6, 16:48 -0700

    Yes, it's the seven stars of the big dipper...
    "These seven stars (septentriones, from the phrase septem triones, meaning 
    "seven plough oxen"[1]) are the origin of the Latin word septentriones 
    meaning "north" and now found as the adjective septentrional (northern) in 
    English, French, Italian, and Spanish." 
    -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Dipper
    (or check the OED, e.g.)
    So their word for north came originally from their name for the "big dipper" 
    rather than the other way around, in much the same way that "arctic" comes 
    from the Greek word for bear (either Ursa Major or Ursa Minor, that is). But 
    here's the catch: being unable to see the "septentrion" could have meant 
    either the north generally or the constellation, and supposedly the word was 
    used in both fashions in Pliny's day. So we can maybe ignore that 
    reference... There's no such luck with the claim that they could not see the 
    Pleiades or any of the other supposed astronomical curiosities. 
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