Asterion (king of Crete)

In Greek mythology, Asterion (/əˈstɪriən/; Ancient Greek: Ἀστερίων, gen.: Ἀστερίωνος, literally "starry") or Asterius (/əˈstɪriəs/; Ἀστέριος) denotes two sacred kings of Crete.

Asterion IEdit

The first Asterion, the son of Tectamus (son of Dorus) and an unnamed daughter of Cretheus. His father sailed to Crete with some Aeolians and Pelasgians and became the ruler of the island. Asterius inherited the throne from his father and he was the king of Crete at the time when Europa was abducted by Zeus and brought to his kingdom. He married Europa and became the stepfather of her sons by Zeus,[1] who assumed the form of the Cretan bull to accomplish his role. Asterion brought up his stepsons: Minos, the just king in Crete who judged the Underworld; Rhadamanthus, presiding over the Blessed Island or in the Underworld; and Sarpedon, king in Lycia. When he died childless, Asterion gave his kingdom to Minos, who promptly "banished" his brothers after quarreling with them. Crete, daughter of Asterion, was a possible wife of Minos.[2][3][4]

Asterion IIEdit

According to Karl Kerenyi[5] 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[6] (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 Hellenic coining to describe his Cretan symbolism, since "Minotaur" is a portmanteau of Minos and taûros, the Greek word for bull. Coins minted at Cnossus from the fifth century showed the kneeling bull or the head of a goddess crowned with a wreath of grain[7] 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".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca III.1.2; Asterius "having died childless" III.1.3; scholiast on Iliad XII.292.
  2. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, Book 3.1.2–4
  3. ^ Diodorus Siculus, IV.60.3, give Asterius; Pausanias, Description of Greece II.31.1, gives Asterion
  4. ^ Nonnus. Dionysiaca, Book 1.354, 2.695
  5. ^ Kerenyi (1951), p. 111; Kerenyi (1976), p. 105.
  6. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, Book 3.1.4
  7. ^ Compare Carme.