Aterius or Asterion is the real name of the Minotaur in Greek mythology, the son of Queen Pasaphae who King Minos locked in a labyrinth at the palace of Knossos. Asteri also means star in Greek; ancient Cretan coins sometimes display a star in the centre that probably represents the Minotaur. ‘Minotaur’ is a term for the creature which translates as ‘bull of Minos.’ This is another of the many links within this story to the mythology of Daedalus.
The story of the Minotaur begins with King Minos’ ascent to the throne of Crete, when he prayed for the god Poseidon to send him a sign of approval in the form of a beautiful white bull. King Minos should have sacrificed the bull to the gods, but instead kept it for himself. This angered the gods, and Aphrodite punished Minos by making his wife, Queen Pasiphae, fall in love with a bull. Here Daedalus enters the tale, as he helped to construct a wooden cow for Pasiphae to hide inside, allowing her to copulate with the bull. Their union produced a monstrous son who had the body of a man but the head of a bull. The boy soon proved to be ferocious, and needed to eat human flesh for nourishment. Minos consulted an oracle, which advised him to lock the creature up. Minos had Daedalus build a giant labyrinth at the palace of Knossos and housed the Minotaur inside. Every nine years Minos demanded a grisly tribute from Athens of seven young men and seven maiden girls to feed to the Minotaur. One year the Greek hero Theseus was sent as part of the tribute. Minos’ daughter Ariadne fell in love with Theseus and helped him to navigate the labyrinth by giving him a ball of string. Theseus unwound the string as he travelled through the maze. He killed the Minotaur, then found his way out by following the thread.
The reader is not told exactly what the mysterious ‘Asterion’ in this story is, but from its name it can be inferred that it will be monstrous and dangerous. This is emphasised by Perdita referring to Asterion as ‘evil.’ As this book seems to focus on the story of Daedalus, perhaps the sequel will deal with the story of Theseus, and the consequences of Daedalus’ creations.