Taurus is a large and prominent constellation in the northern hemisphere's winter sky. It is one of the oldest constellations, dating back to at least the Early Bronze Age when it marked the location of the Sun during the spring equinox. It's located in the northern hemisphere's winter sky, between Aries to the west and Gemini to the east; to the north lie Perseus and Auriga, to the southeast Orion, to the south Eridanos, and to the southwest Cetus. This constellation forms part of the zodiac, and hence is intersected by the ecliptic. This circle across the celestial sphere forms the apparent path of the Sun as the Earth completes its annual orbit. As the orbital plane of the Moon and the planets lie near the ecliptic, they can usually be found in the constellation Taurus during some part of each year.


In Hellenic mythology, Taurus was identified with Zeus, who assumed the form of a magnificent white bull to abduct Europa, a legendary Phoenician princess. In illustrations of Hellenic mythology, only the front portion of this constellation are depicted; this was sometimes explained as Taurus being partly submerged as he carried Europa out to sea. From Apollodorus' 'Library':

"...But some say that Europa was a daughter not of Agenor but of Phoenix. Zeus loved her, and turning himself into a tame bull, he mounted her on his back and conveyed her through the sea to Crete. There Zeus bedded with her, and she bore Minos, Sarpedon, and Rhadamanthys; but according to Homer, Sarpedon was a son of Zeus by Laodamia, daughter of Bellerophon. On the disappearance of Europa her father Agenor sent out his sons in search of her, telling them not to return until they had found Europa. With them her mother, Telephassa, and Thasus, son of Poseidon, or according to Pherecydes, of Cilix, went forth in search of her. But when, after diligent search, they could not find Europa, they gave up the thought of returning home, and took up their abode in divers places..." [3.1.1]

A second Hellenic myth portrays Taurus as Io, a mistress of Zeus. To hide his lover from his wife Hera, Zeus changed Io into the form of a heifer. From Hyginus' 'Fabulae':

"Jupiter [Zeus] loved and embraced Io, and changed her to heifer form so that Juno [Hera] would not recognize her. When Juno found out, she sent Argus, who had gleaming eyes all around to guard her. Mercury, at Jove’s command, killed him. But Juno sent a fearful shape to plague her, and out of terror of it she was driven wildly and compelled to cast herself into the sea, which is called Ionian. Thence she swam to Scythia, and the Bosporus is named from that; thence she went to Egypt where she bore Epaphus. When Jove realized that for his sake she had borne such suffering, he restored her to her own form, and made her a goddess of the Egyptians, called Isis." [145]

Greek mythographer Acusilaus marks the bull Taurus as the same that formed the myth of the Cretan Bull, one of The Twelve Labours of Hēraklēs.

There are two more myths linked to this constellation, one that relates to the Hyades, and one to the Pleiades. The Hyades were daughters of Atlas (by either Pleione or Aethra, one of the Oceanides) and sisters of Hyas in most tellings, although one version gives their parents as Hyas and Boeotia. The Hyades are sisters to the Pleiades and the Hesperides. They are a sisterhood of nymphs that bring rain. These five nymphs whose stars outline the face of the bull Taurus. They were nurses of the god Dionysus who were awarded for their service with a place amongst the stars of heaven. Their rising heralded the onset of the rainy season in Greece. Some say they were teary nymphs placed in the heavens following the death of their brother Hyas, who was killed by a lion. Presumably this Hyas and the lion were represented by the constellations Aquarius and Leo. According to Hyginus in his 'Astronomica':
"It faces towards the East, and the stars which outline the face are called Hyades. These, Pherecydes the Athenian says, are the nurses of Liber [Dionysos], seven in number, who earlier were nymphae called Dodonidae. Their names are as follows: Ambrosia, Eudora, Pedile, Coronis, Polyxo, Phyto, and Thyone. They are said to have been put to flight by Lycurgus and all except Ambrosia took refuge with Theits, as Asclepiades says. But according to Pherecydes, they brought Liber to Thebes and delivered him to Ino, and for this reason Jove expressed his thanks to them by putting them among the constellations." [II.21]

The seven nymphs whose stars form the 'tail' of the bull Taurus are called the Pleiades. The sisters were placed amongst the stars by the Zeus, after the lustful giant Orion had pursued them across the earth for seven years. Orion was also set in heaven, but doomed to continue a futile chase for all eternity. Again from Hyginus:

"The Pleiades were so named, according to Musaeaus, because fifteen daughters were born to Atlas and Aethra, daughter of Ocean. Five of them are called Hyades, he shows, because their brother was Hyas, a youth dearly beloved by his sisters. When he was killed in a lion hunt, the five we have mentioned, given over to continual lamentation, are said to have perished. Because they grieved exceedingly at his death, they are called Hyades. The remaining ten brooded over the death of their sisters, and brought death on themselves; because so may experienced the same grief, they were called Pleiades. Alexander says they were called Hyades because they were daughters of Hyas and Boeotia, Pleiades, because born of Pleio, daughter of Ocean, and Atlas.
The Pleiades are called seven in number, but only six can be seen. This reason has been advanced, that of the seven, six mated with immortals (three with Jove, two with Neptune, and one with Mars); the seventh was said to have been the wife of Sisyphus. From Electra and Jove, Dardanus was born; from Maia and Jove, Mercury; from Taygete and Jove, Ladedaemon; from Alcyone and Neptune, Hyrieus; from Celaeno and Neptune, Lycus and Nycteus. Mars by Sterope begat Oenomaus, but others call her the wife of Oenomaus. Merope, wed to Sisyphus, bore Glaucus, who, as many say, was the father of Bellerophon. On account of her other sisters she was placed among the constellations, but because she married a mortal, her star is dim. Others say Electra does not appear because the Pleiades are thought to lead the circling dance for the stars, but after Troy was captured and her descendants through Dardanus overthrown, moved by grief she left them and took her place in the circle called Arctic. From this she appears, in grief for such a long time, with her hair unbound, that, because of this, she is called a comet.
But ancient astronomers placed these Pleiades, daughters of Pleione and Atlas, as we have said, apart from the Bull. When Pleione once was travelling through Boeotia with her daughters, Orion, who was accompanying her, tried to attack her. She escaped, but Orion sought her for seven years and couldn’t find her. Jove, pitying the girls, appointed a way to the stars, and later, by some astronomers, they were called the Bull’s tail. And so up to this time Orion seems to be following them as they flee towards the west. Our writers call these stars Vergiliae, because they rise after spring. They have still greater honour than the others, too, because their rising is a sign of summer, their setting of winter - a thing is not true of the other constellations." [II.21]
The constellation Taurus is visible at latitudes between +90° and −65°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of January.