In Greek mythology, Asterion ("starry", "ruler of the stars") denotes two sacred kings of Crete. The first Asterion (Template:Lang-el) or Asterius (Greek: Ἀστέριος),[1] son of Neleus and Chloris by the Greeks called "king" of Crete, was the consort of Europa and stepfather of her sons by Zeus,[2] who had to assume the form of the Cretan bull of the sun to accomplish his role. The sons were Minos, the just king in Crete who judged the Underworld; Rhadamanthus, presiding over the Garden of the Hesperides or in the Underworld; and Sarpedon, likewise a judge in the Afterlife. He was the son of Tectamus. When he died, Asterion gave his kingdom to Minos, who promptly "banished" his brothers after quarrelling with them.

According to Karl Kerenyi[3] and other scholars, the second Asterion, the star at the center of the labyrinth on Cretan coins, was in fact the Minotaur, as the compiler of Bibliotheca (III.1.4) asserts:

Pasiphaë gave birth to Asterius, who was called the Minotaur. He had the face of a bull, but the rest of him was human; and Minos, in compliance with certain oracles, shut him up and guarded him in the Labyrinth.
"Minotaur" is simply a name of Hellene coining to describe his Cretan iconic bull-man image: see Minotaur. Coins minted at Cnossus from the fifth century showed the kneeling bull or the head of a goddess crowned with a wreath of grain[4] and on the reverse — the "underside" — a scheme of four meander patterns joined at the centre windmill fashion, sometimes with sickle moons or with a star-rosette at the center: "it is a small view of the nocturnal world on the face of the coin that lay downward in the printing process, and is, as it were, oriented downward".[5]

A Greek myth[6] introduced Asterion as one of three river gods who judged between Poseidon and Hera, who should rule Argos. The River Asterion in Argos[7] is mentioned in the Dionysiaca (47.493) of Nonnus, who couples the reference with a rite in which young men dedicate locks of their hair.

As long as it is recalled that the myth of Asterion, who appears in no anecdotal Hellenic context, is Minoan, it will be perceived that the figure of Zeus is an interloper, and that rather than the "stepfather" role to which he has been displaced, Asterion is originally the father of the Underworld progeny.

There is a short tale written by Jorge Luis Borges ("The House of Asterion") telling the story of Theseus and Ariadne from the point-of-view of Asterius.

Asterion in the herbal of Dioscurides, is Silene linifolia.[8] Of this herb, found near the Heraion of the Argolid, Pausanias noted "On its banks grows a plant, which also is called asterion. They offer the plant itself to Hera, and from its leaves weave her garlands."[9]


  1. Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca III.1.2-4, and Diodorus Siculus, IV.60.3, give Asterius; Pausanias, Description of Greece II.31.1, gives Asterion.
  2. Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca III.1.2; Asterius "having died childless" III.1.3; scholiast on Iliad XII.292.
  3. Kerenyi (1951), p. 111; Kerenyi (1976), p. 105.
  4. Compare Carme.
  5. Kerenyi (1976), p. 105.
  6. Mentioned by Pausanias, 2.15.4. (on-line English text).
  7. Theoi Project: Asterion, river-god of Argos
  8. Charles Singer, "The Herbal in Antiquity and Its Transmission to Later Ages", The Journal of Hellenic Studies 47.1 (1927):1-52), illus. p. 16, fig. 12, naturalistic drawing of the first or second century CE, redrawn for the Vienna Dioscurides made for Julia Anicia.
  9. Pausanias, 2.17.2.


cs:Asterios de:Asterios es:Asterión eo:Asteriono ko:아스테리온 it:Asterio lt:Asterionas nl:Asterion pl:Asterion (syn Tektamosa) pt:Astério ru:Астерион fi:Asterion uk:Астеріон

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