Corona Borealis

The Northern Crown

Corona Borealis Constellation

The Brighter Stars of Corona Borealis

The Story

Ariadne's Crown

The Northern Crown belonged to Ariadne of Crete, the daughter of King Minos.

Tribute for the Minotaur

Crete was well known in mythology as the site of the great Labyrinth in which lived the monstrous Minotaur, which was half-human and half-bull.. The Minotaur was slain by the Athenian hero Theseus, the son of King Ageus, who gave his name to the Agean Sea. The Athenians had been defeated by the Cretans in battle and were forced to pay tribute. The periodic tribute were Athenian youths, both young men and women, who were locked in the Labyrinth to provide fodder for the Minotaur.

Theseus Takes a Hand

Theseus decided to end the tribute and arranged that he should sail to Crete with the young men and women to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. Ariadne caught a glimpse of him and fell in love. She met with Theseus and promised to help him, if he would agree that she would sail off with him after he defeated the Minotaur. After extracting his promise, she gave him a ball of twine, which he could unwind behind himself as he walked into the Labyrinth underneath the Cretan Palace. The trail of string would show him the way out of the maze formed by the twists and turns of the Labyrinth. The Southern Crown

Ariadne Abandoned

Theseus found the Minotaur and slew it. Then Ariadne, Theseus, and the Athenian young people stole a Cretan ship and sailed off to Athens. They stopped at the island of Naxos, where Theseus abandoned Ariadne. There are many different accounts as to why he left her there. Some say that she was seen by the Wine God Dionysius, who fell in love with her on the spot and sent Theseus off.

A Gift for Ariadne

In any case, The Northern Crown belongs to Ariadne. Some say that it was given to her as a wedding present by Aphrodite. Others say that the crown was given to Theseus by the sea nymph Thetis and that Theseus used the light of its sparkling gems to find his way through the Labyrinth. Theseus then probably then gave the crown to Ariadne.

Dionysius Tosses the Crown

The god Dionysius married Ariadne there in Naxos. Dionysius was so overcome by joy as he married his love that he tossed the crown high into the sky. As the crown rose above the earth, the jewels in it turned into stars, and the crown became one of the constellations.  

Copyright © 1998 - 2010 by Arnold V. Lesikar,
Professor Emeritus
Dept. of Physics, Astronomy, and Engineering Science,
St. Cloud State University,St. Cloud, MN 56301-4498

Feedback to: editor AT