Asteria (Titaness)

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Asteria is seated on a rock beside a tree with a lyre and wreath of laurel at her side. These are perhaps her attributes as the personification of the island of Delos and nurse of the god Apollo.

In Greek mythology, Asteria or Asterie (/əˈstɪəriə/; Ancient Greek: Ἀστερία, lit. 'of the stars, starry one') was a daughter of the Titans Coeus (Polus) and Phoebe and the sister of Leto.[1][2][3] According to Hesiod, by the Titan Perses she had a daughter Hecate, goddess of witchcraft.[4][5][6] Other authors made Asteria the mother of the fourth Heracles[7][8] and Hecate[9] by Zeus.


Asteria and Phoebe on the Pergamon Altar.

Asteria was an inhabitant of Olympus, and like her sister Leto was beloved by Zeus. In order to escape the amorous advances of the god, who in the form of an eagle pursued her,[10] she transformed herself into a quail (ortux) and flung herself into the Aegean Sea. It was there that Asteria metamorphosed into the island Asteria (the island which had fallen from heaven like a star) or the "quail island" Ortygia.[11][12] This then became identified with the island of Delos, which was the only piece on earth to give refuge to the fugitive Leto when, pregnant with Zeus's children, she was pursued by vengeful Hera.[13] According to Hyginus, Leto was borne by the north wind Boreas at the command of Zeus to the floating island, at the time when Python was pursuing her, and there clinging to an olive, she gave birth to Apollo and Artemis.[14] On the island of Delos Asteria married Perses and gave birth to their child Hecate.[15]

Asteria pursued by Zeus in the form of an eagle by Marco Liberi

A different version was added by the poet Nonnus who recounted that, after Asteria was pursued by Zeus but turned herself into a quail and leaped into the sea, Poseidon instead took up the chase. In the madness of his passion, he hunted the chaste goddess to and fro in the sea, riding restless before the changing wind and thus she transformed herself into the desert island of Delos with the help of her nephew Apollo who rooted her in the waves immovable.[16]

In the rare account where Asteria was the mother of Heracles by Zeus, the Phoenicians sacrifice quails to the hero because when he went into Libya and was killed by Typhon, Iolaus brought a quail to him, and having put it close to him, he smelt it and came to life again.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hesiod. Theogony, 404ff
  2. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, Book 1.2.2
  3. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae, Preface
  4. ^ Hesiod. Theogony, 409–11.
  5. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, Book 1.2.4
  6. ^ Servius. ad Aeneid, 3.73.
  7. ^ Cicero. De Natura Deorum, 3.16
  8. ^ a b Athenaeus. Deipnosophists, 9.392
  9. ^ according to Musaeus as cited Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.467
  10. ^ Ovid. Metamorphoses, Book 6.108
  11. ^ John Tzetzes.
  12. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca, Book 1.4.1
  13. ^ Callimachus. Hymns in Delos, 37
  14. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae, 53
  15. ^ Roman, Luke; Roman, Monica (2010). Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology. Infobase Publishing. p. 88. ISBN 9781438126395.
  16. ^ Nonnus. Dionysiaca, Book 2.125 ff, 33.336 ff & 42.410 ff