ASTRAIA (or Astraea) was the virgin-goddess of justice. During the Golden Age she dwelt upon the earth with mankind, but was driven away by the lawlessness of the later Bronze Age. Zeus then placed her amongst the stars as the constellation Virgo.
She was closely identified with Dike, the goddess of justice, and with Nemesis, the goddess of rightful indignation.
|[1.1] ASTRAIOS (Aratus Phaenomena 96)
[1.2] ASTRAIOS & EOS (Hyginus Astronomica 2.25)
[2.1] ZEUS & THEMIS (Astraia as Dike) (Hyginus Astronomica 2.25)
ASTRAEA (Astraia), a daughter of Zeus and Themis, or according to others, of Astraeus by Eos. During the golden age, this star-bright maiden lived on earth and among men, whom she blessed ; but when that age had passed away, Astraea, who tarried longest among men, withdrew, and was placed among the stars. (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 25 ; Eratost. Catast. 9; Ov. Met. i. 149.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
Hesiod, Works and Days 172 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
[N.B. In the following passage Nemesis withdraws from earth in response to the growing corruption of mankind. In Aratus and Ovid it is Astraia.]
"Would that I were not among the men of the fifth age [i.e. of the five ages of man], but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labour and sorrow by day . . . [And they will deteriorate over time so that :] Strength will be right and reverence will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt
the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon
them. Zelos (Envy), foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all. And Nemesis (Just Retribution) and Aidos (Respect), shrouding their bright forms in pale mantles, shall go from the wide-wayed earth back to Olympos, forsaking the whole race of mortal men, and all that will be left by them to mankind will be wretched pain. And there shall be no defence against evil."
Aratus, Phaenomena 96 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek astronomical poem C3rd B.C.) :
"The [Constellation] Maiden (Parthenon), who in her hands bears the gleaming Ear of Corn. Whether she be daughter of Astraios, who, men say, was of old the father of the Astron (Stars), or child of other sire, untroubled be her course! But another tale is current among me, how of old she dwelt on earth and met men face to face, nor ever disdained in olden times the tribes of men and women, but mingling with them took her seat, immortal though she was. Her men called Dike (Justice); but she assembling the elders, it might be in the market-place or in the wide-wayed streets, uttered her voice, ever urging on them judgements kinder to the people. Not yet in that age had men knowledge of hateful strife, or carping contention, or din of battle, but a simple life they lived. Far from them was the cruel sea and not yet from afar did ships bring their livelihood, but the oxen and the plough and Dike herself, queen of the peoples, giver of things just, abundantly supplied their every need. Even so long as the earth still nurtured the Golden Race, she had her dwelling on earth. But with the Silver Race only a little and no longer with utter readiness did she mingle, for that she yearned for the ways of the men of old. Yet in that Silver Age was she still upon the earth; but from the echoing hills at eventide she came along, nor spake to any man in gentle words. But when she had filled the great heights with gathering crowds, then would she with threats rebuke their evil ways, and declare that never more at their prayer would she reveal her face to man. ‘Behold what manner of race the fathers of the Golden Age left behind them! Far meaner than themselves! But ye will breed a viler progeny! Verily wars and cruel bloodshed shall be unto men and grievous woe shall be laid upon them.’ Even so she spake and sought the hills and left the people all gazing towards her still. But when they, too, were dead, and when, more ruinous than they which went before, the Race of Bronze was born, who were the first to forge the sword of the highwayman, and the first to eat of the flesh of the ploughing-ox, then verily did Dike loathe that race of men and fly heavenward and took up that abode, where even now in the night time the Maiden is seen of men."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 25 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Constellation] Virgo. Hesiod calls her the daughter of Jove [Zeus] and Themis. Aratus says that she is thought to be daughter of Astraeus and Aurora [Eos], who lived at the time of the Golden Age of men and was their leader. On account of her carefulness and fairness she was called Justice, and at that time no foreign nations were attacked in war, nor did anyone sail over the seas, but they were wont to live thier lives caring for their fields. But those born after their death began to be less observant of duty and more greedy, so that Justitia (Justice) associated more rarely with men. Finally the disease became so extreme that it was said the Brazen Race was born; then she could not endure more, and flew away to the stars."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 1. 148 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Last [of the Ages of Men] came the Race of Iron (Proles Ferro). In that hard age of baser vein all evil straight broke out, and honour fled and truth and loyalty, replaced by fraud, deceit and treachery and violence and wicked greed for gain . . . Honour and love lay vanquished, Astraea, virgin divine, the last of the immortals, fled away."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 2. 356 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"[The setting of the Pleiades in November marked the beginning of the stormy season :] At no other season of the year does fiercer fear sway men’s hearts; for then does Astraea urge her plea, then does she implore Jove’s [Zeus’] anger against the nations, and leaving the earth importunes Saturnus’ star with her complaints. Then follows the darkling Eurus (East Wind), and with his brethren thunders upon the Aegean main, and all the sea strains shoreward."
Statius, Silvae 1. 4. 2 (trans. Mozley) (Roman poetry C1st A.D.) :
"Kindly Astraea hath regard for pious folk, and comes back reconciled with Jove [Zeus]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 212 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Virgin Astraia, nurse of the whole universe, cherisher of the Golden Age, received Beroe [i.e. the goddess of the city of Beruit, which was famous for its law-courts] from her mother [Aphrodite] into the embrace of her arms, laughing, still a babe, and fed her with wise breast as she babbled words of law. With her virgin milk, she let streams of statutes gush into the baby’s lips, and dropt into the girl’s mouth the sweet produce of the Attic bee; she pressed the bee’s riddled travail of many cells, and mixed the voiceful comb in a sapient cup. If the girl thirsting asked for a drink, she gave the speaking Pythian water kept for Apollon, or the stream of Ilissos, which is inspired by the Attic Mousa when the Pierian breezes of Phoibos beat on the bank. She took the golden Cornstalk [i.e. the star Spica which Virgo holds in her hand] from the stars, and entwined it in a cluster to put round the girl’s neck like a necklace."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 41. 263 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"[Aphrodite addresses her daughter Harmonia :] `[Zeus] promised . . . that he would commit the precepts of Justice (Dike) to one of the cities allotted to me. I wish to learn whether the gift is reserved for land of Kypros or Paphos or Korinthos or Sparta . . . or the noblemen’s country of my own daughter Beroe. Have a care then for Justice (Dike), and grant harmony to the world, you who are Harmonia, the saviour of life! For I was sent here in haste by the Virgin of the Stars [Astraia] herself, the nurse of law-abiding men; and what is more, law-loving Hermes has passed on this honour to me, that I alone be enforcing the laws of marriage may preserve the men whom I have sown.'"
Image T32.1 (below) : A figure labelled Astrape, "lightning bolt," stands beside the throne of Zeus. She is perhaps the same as Dike-Astraia, for she is represented with the accoutrements of a star-goddess--wings, bright aureole and flaming torch. The star-god Eosphoros was depicted with the same in Apulian art. The goddess of justice also appropriately bears the thunderbolts of Zeus with which he destroys the wrongdoer. From the Perseus Digital Library, www.perseus.tufts.edu (accessed Sep 2000) : "To the left of the palace [of Zeus] stands a winged female figure wearing a short, semicircle-patterned chiton with a shoulder cord that leaves her breasts bare, as well as scroll and white dot-decorated foot coverings. Her name, Astrape, is inscribed above her head, and she has a diadem, earrings, a double-stranded necklace, and double-coil bracelets on each wrist. In her right hand she is holding a flaming torch; in her left she carries a yellow thunderbolt tinged with purple. A white, yellow, and purple nimbus appears over her head. A lily-like flower grows on the groundline in front of her."
- Hesiod, Works & Days - Greek Epic C8th-7th B.C.
- Aratus, Phaenomena - Greek Astronomy C3rd B.C.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.