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An 1886 base-relief figure of Astraea in the Old Supreme Court Chamber at the Vermont State House.

In Greek mythology, Astræa or Astrea (Ancient Greek: Ἀστραῖα;[1] English translation: "star-maiden") was a daughter of Zeus and Themis or of Eos and Astraeus. She and her mother were both personifications of justice, though Astræa was also associated with innocence and purity.

Astræa, the celestial virgin, was the last of the immortals to live with humans during the sagacious third stage Bronze Age in the old Greek religion's deteriorating Ages of Man, starting from the utopian Golden Age through the defect Silver Age. Fleeing from the new wickedness of humanity, she ascended to heaven to become the constellation Virgo;[2] the scales of justice she carried became the nearby constellation Libra, reflected in her symbolic association with Justitia in Latin culture.

Astræa's hoped-for return (that is, the return of the utopian Golden Age of which she was the ambassador) was referred to in a phrase from Virgil's Eclogue IV: "Iam redit et virgo, redeunt Saturnia Regna" (The Virgin and the Days of Old return).

During the European Renaissance, Astræa became associated with the general spirit of renewal of culture occurring at that time, particularly in England, where she became poetically identified in literature[3] with the figure & role of Queen Elizabeth I as the virgin Queen reigning over a new Golden Age. In Spain she was often identified with the rule of Philip IV. A spectacle play by the Count of Villamediana and thirteen dramas by Calderon de la Barca introduce a character named Astræa to the foreground of political and astrological concerns.[4]

In literature

In the Tarot, the Card Justice, a figure of Justitia, may also be considered to be related to the figure of Astræa on historical iconographic grounds.

Shakespeare refers to Astræa in Titus Andronicus, and also in Henry VI, part 1. In his most famous play, La vida es sueño, Calderon de la Barca has a character named Rosaura (an anagram for "dawns") take on the name of Astræa at Court. This may be a laudatory political allusion to the dawn of a new Golden Age under Philip IV/Segismundo.

"Astræa" is the title of a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Zeno.org
  2. ^ Hyginus' Astronomica: "Virgin", translated to English by Mary Grant
  3. ^ cf. Frances Yates, Astræa : The Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Century
  4. ^ cf. Frederick A. de Armas, The Return of Astræa: An Astral-Imperial Myth in Calderon

See also

Wikisource-logo.svg "Astraea". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.  

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