Auriga is one of the 88 modern constellations; it was among the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy. Located north of the celestial equator, its name is the Latin word for “the charioteer”, associating it with various mythological beings, including Erichthonius and Myrtilus. Auriga is most prominent during winter evenings in the northern Hemisphere, along with the five other constellations that have stars in the Winter Hexagon asterism.
In Chinese mythology, Auriga's stars were incorporated into several constellations, including the celestial emperors' chariots, made up of the modern constellation's brightest stars. Auriga is home to the radiant for the Aurigids, Zeta Aurigids, Delta Aurigids, and the hypothesized Iota Aurigids.
The first record of Auriga's stars was in Mesopotamia as a constellation called GAM, representing a scimitar or crook.
In Greek mythology, Auriga is often identified as the mythological Greek hero Erichthonius of Athens, the chthonic son of Hephaestus who was raised by the goddess Athena. Erichthonius was generally credited to be the inventor of the quadriga, the four-horse chariot, which he used in the battle against the usurper Amphictyon, the event that made Erichthonius the king of Athens. His chariot was created in the image of the Sun's chariot, the reason Zeus placed him in the heavens.The Athenian hero then dedicated himself to Athena and, soon after, Zeus raised him into the night sky in honor of his ingenuity and heroic deeds.
Auriga, however, is sometimes described as Myrtilus, who was Hermes's son and the charioteer of Oenomaus. The association of Auriga and Myrtilus is supported by depictions of the constellation, which rarely show a chariot. Myrtilus's chariot was destroyed in a race intended for suitors to win the heart of Oenomaus's daughter Hippodamia. Myrtilus earned his position in the sky when Hippodamia's successful suitor, Pelops, killed him, despite his complicity in helping Pelops win her hand. After his death, Myrtilus's father Hermes placed him in the sky. Yet another mythological association of Auriga is Theseus's son Hippolytus. He was ejected from Athens after he refused the romantic advances of his stepmother Phaedra, who committed suicide as a result. He was killed when his chariot was wrecked, but revived by Asclepius. Regardless of Auriga's specific representation, it is likely that the constellation was created by the ancient Greeks to commemorate the importance of the chariot in their society.
Traditionally, illustrations of Auriga represent it as a chariot and its driver. The charioteer holds a goat over his left shoulder and has two kids under his left arm; he holds the reins to the chariot in his right hand.