Who was the Greek God of the Sky?
According to Greek mythology, Astraeus was the Greek god of the stars and dusk, an astrological deity, born to Crius and Eurybia, and known as a second-generation Titan. Astraeus would come to symbolise nightfall and thus, would serve as a conduit for Eos and Helios as the day cycle came to its end. He was the father of the Stars and the four seasonal Winds, and he also had a daughter named Astraea, who was the goddess of the constellation Virgo.
Throughout this series of Greek mythology, we’ve spoken in-depth about how belief in the gods was instrumental for the ancient Greeks. Without the gods, one could not explain how the stars filled the sky, how the sun rose from the east, how the rain fell from the sky, nor even how time itself passed by.
The gods in that sense were more than just deities to be worshipped in exchange for salvation, but instead beings who were responsible for the perseverance of both the world and the universe.
We’ve seen evidence of this in the Titan goddess Eos, who was responsible for the dawn and in a sense, responsible for the opening of a new day. Incidentally, the ancient Greeks were big on the concept of cause and effect, so naturally, if there was a deity who opened the day with the dawn, there would be a corresponding deity who closed the day with dusk. This of course brings us to the Titan of today’s episode, Astraeus, God of the Stars and Dusk.
Astraeus in Greek Mythology
Mostly known as a second-generation Titan having been born to Crius and Eurybia, Astraeus would come to symbolise nightfall and thus, would serve as a conduit for Eos and Helios as the day cycle came to its end.
You might say that as the God of Dusk, Astraeus then handed over to both Selene, the goddess of the moon and Nyx, the goddess of night, those who were certainly far more prominent than him as far as both mythology and popularity went.
This makes sense given that dusk is merely a short period between sunset and night-time, and so whilst Astraeus was established in the pantheon, his role may have been frequently overlooked given the limited duration of his presence. As you might imagine, his existence within the mythology is minute and besides his role as the dusk, Astraeus was most known for his relationships and family tree.
Family Tree of Astraeus
As one might imagine, Astraeus was married to Eos, the goddess of Dawn, those who were the corresponding deities and those who preceded the more popular Helios and Nyx in the day and night cycle.
Together with Eos, they produced the Anemoi, those who were several wind deities including Zephyros (the west wind), Boreas (the north wind), Notus (the south wind) and Eurus (the east wind.)
Through these children, Astraeus was also considered to be something of a wind deity himself, though beyond his children, his connection to the winds of the earth appears to be minimal, if not for his occasional conflation with the divine king Aeolus, he was thought of as a keeper of winds and or storm winds.
Hesiod meanwhile does speak of Astraeus being the father of the winds in the Theogony, where he tells us…
“And Eos (the Dawn) bore to Astraeus, of the Stars the strong-hearted Anemoi (Winds), brightening Zephyrus, (West Wind), and Boreas (North Wind), headlong in his course, and Notus, (South Wind),–a goddess mating in love with a god. And after these Eos bore the star Heosphorus (Dawn-bringer), and the gleaming Astra (Stars) with which heaven is crowned.”
You’ll notice here that he also speaks of Astraeus and Eos producing the star Heosphorus, he who was the ‘morning star’ as well as the gleaming Astra—beings who would come to represent certain planets.
With this, Astraeus can also be an astrological deity, or perhaps more accurately, ‘the father of stars and planets.’
These children that he fathered with Eos were Stilbon, who represented Mercury, Hesperors, who represented Venus, Pyroeis, who represented Mars, Phaethon, who represented Jupiter and Phainon, who represented Saturn.
Furthermore, it’s also understood that with Eos, he fathered the virgin goddess of justice, purity and innocence Astraea. Astraea would go on to become the constellation of Virgo and with this, we can also gather why Astraeus would come to be associated as not just an astrological deity, but a deity who also symbolised the stars.
Meaning of the Name, Astraeus
Interestingly, his name was thought to have meant ‘Starry One’ indicating that his importance once extended beyond the mortal plain and that he may have operated in ways that the ancient Greeks could not completely understand.
Hesiod refers to Astraeus as the ‘Starry One’ in the Theogony, confirming his parentage as well as painting the deity as being notably different from his more battle-hardened brothers Pallas and Perses. He tells us…
‘And Eurybia, bright goddess, was joined in love to Crius and bore great Astraeus, the Starry-One and Pallas (the Warrior) and Perses (the Destroyer).’
Was Astraeus one of the Gigantes?
Yet, going by Roman mythography Pseudo-Hyginus, we are told that Astraeus was one of the Gigantes—those who were the giants who were spawned by Gaia from Tartarus, to wage war on the Olympians. He tells us,
“From Gaia and Tartarus were born: the Gigantes (Giants) Enceladus, Coeus, Elentes, Mophius, Astraeus, Pelorus, Pallas, Emphytus, Rhoecus, Ienios, Agrius, alemone, Ephialtes, Eurytus, effracordon, Theomises, Theodamas, Otus, Typhon, Polybotes, meephriarus, abesus, Colophonus, Iapetus.”
You’ll notice that from the list, Coeus, Iapetus and several other beings that other writers identify as Titans are instead repackaged here as giants. As Astraeus appears on the list, we get a new idea that his role was not to do with the bringing of dusk, nor the producer of the stars or winds, but instead to destroy the Olympians at the request of his mother Gaia.
Whilst there are no texts that specify Astraeus’ role in this matter, nor does Pseudo-Hyginus further elaborate, we do know that the giants failed in their mission and so with this, we can gather that Astraeus was ill-fated, given that that the giants were either destroyed or imprisoned by Zeus or slain at the hand of Heracles, who Zeus had summoned for the Gigantomachy.
As far as the more standard mythology goes, we can only assume that as a male Titan, Astraeus went the same way as his fellow brothers.
Astraeus After the Titanomachy
We know that during the Titanomachy, the Titans were not successful in their war with the Olympians and everyone who had sided with Cronus, the Titan leader, was either destroyed or imprisoned in the void known as Tartarus, courtesy of Zeus.
Whether or not Astraeus was destroyed by Zeus or imprisoned deep within the earth’s core is hard to say, but knowing Zeus, it was only the female Titans who were granted amnesty.
With the exception of Prometheus and Epimetheus, it would appear that many of the other Titans, including Astraeus, were snubbed not just from their roles within the universe, but from the pantheon itself.
In some variations, we understand that Zeus does show mercy and eventually frees the Titans from their imprisonment, but there is nothing more said of them, least of all Astraeus.
Art Sources: Johan Bass, Mary-Francesca.