Ancient Astronomy: The Mad Greek Myth of the Milky Way

According to, ‘moo-juice’ is a valid synonym for milk, a term soon to enter my local pub’s lexicon. I was trying to find something snappy for the title of this blog, on one of the best ancient myths I’ve ever heard. ‘Mad’ will do.

Our next Ancient World in London video homes in on ancient astronomy, featuring famed astronomer Paul Murdin. Paul gave a special HKlecture on his book Secrets of the Universe last month, catching up with me afterwards for a chat on camera. And while the 25,000-year-old Ishango Bone might just be my favourite-ever ancient artefact, a certain Graeco-Roman myth Paul mentioned is up there with the best, like the tale of Horus and Seth we discovered at the Petrie Museum.

How we and our galaxy came to be is one of the simplest and earliest questions. Today we’ve got the Big Bang, but over two thousand years ago the world’s first democracy had a more colourful way of seeing creation.

It’s a common problem: you’re a god, your son was born to a mortal and you need him made immortal

It’s a common problem: you’re a god, your son was born to a mortal and you need him made immortal. This was the issue facing Jupiter, god of the sky and thunder, and his son Hercules. What could Jupiter do? The only thing he could do, clearly, and have his son suckle on the breast of his wife Juno. While she was asleep. An uphill task but Jupiter managed it, having Hera become the world’s most unwitting wet nurse.

Yet Jupiter’s plan took a celestial twist when some of Hera’s breast milk spurted out into the sky, creating the Milky Way: there must have been some pressure on that breast. A great story, right? The irony is that for all we know about the outer limits of the galaxy today it might as well be true. There’s much more to the video than moo-juice, though: check it out to find out some of Stonehenge’s deepest secrets.