Atargatis /əˈtɑːrɡətɪs/ or Ataratheh (/əˈtærəθə/; Aramaic: 'Atar'atheh or Tar'atheh) was the chief goddess of northern Syria in Classical antiquity. Ctesias also used the name Derketo (Ancient Greek: Δερκετὼ) for her, and the Romans called her Dea Syria, or in one word Deasura. Primarily she was a goddess of fertility, but, as the baalat ("mistress") of her city and people, she was also responsible for their protection and well-being. Her chief sanctuary was at Hierapolis, modern Manbij, northeast of Aleppo, Syria. She is sometimes described as a mermaid-goddess, due to identification of her with a fish-bodied goddess at Ascalon. However, there is no evidence that Atargatis was worshipped at Ascalon, and all iconographic evidence shows her as anthropomorphic.
Michael Rostovtzeff called her "the great mistress of the North Syrian lands". Her consort is usually Hadad. As Ataratheh, doves and fish were considered sacred to her: doves as an emblem of the Love-Goddess, and fish as symbolic of the fertility and life of the waters.
According to a third-century Syriac source, "In Syria and in Urhâi [Edessa] the men used to castrate themselves in honor of Taratha. But when King Abgar became a believer, he commanded that anyone who emasculated himself should have a hand cut off. And from that day to the present no one in Urhâi emasculates himself anymore."
|Near Eastern Religions|
The name Atargatis derives from the Aramaic form ʿAtarʿatheh, which comes in several variants. At Hierapolis Bambyce (modern day Manbij) on coins of about the 4th century BCE, the legend ʿtrʿth appears, for ʿAtarʿate, and ʿtrʿth mnbgyb in a Nabataean inscription; at Kafr Yassif near Akko an altar is inscribed "to Adado and Atargatis, the gods who listen to prayer"; and the full name ʿtrʿth appears on a bilingual inscription found in Palmyra.
The name ʿAtarʿatheh is widely held to derive from a compound of the Aramaic form ʿAttar, which is a cognate of ʿAțtart minus its feminine suffix -t, plus ʿAttah or ʿAtā, a cognate of ʿAnat. Alternatively, the second half may be a Palmyrene divine name ʿAthe (i.e. tempus opportunum), which occurs as part of many compounds. It has also been proposed that the element -gatis may relate to the Greek gados "fish". (For example, the Greek name for "sea monster" or "whale" is the cognate term ketos). So Atar-Gatis may simply mean "the fish-goddess Atar".
As a consequence of the first half of the name, Atargatis has frequently, though wrongly, been identified as ‘Ashtart. The two deities were probably of common origin and have many features in common, but their cults are historically distinct. There is reference in 2 Maccabees 12.26 and 1 Maccabees 5:43 to an Atargateion or Atergateion, a temple of Atargatis, at Carnion in Gilead, but the home of the goddess was unquestionably not Israel or Canaan, but Syria itself; at Hierapolis Bambyce she had a temple in her name. At Palmyra she appears on the coinage with a lion, or her presence is signalled with a lion and the crescent moon; an inscription mentions her. In the temples of Atargatis at Palmyra and at Dura-Europos she appeared repeatedly with her consort, Hadad, and in the richly syncretic religious culture at Dura-Europos, was worshipped as Artemis Azzanathkona. Two well preserved temples in Niha, Lebanon are dedicated to her and to Hadad. In the 1930s, numerous Nabatean bas-relief busts of Atargatis were identified by Nelson Glueck at Khirbet et-Tannûr, Jordan, in temple ruins of the early first century CE; there the lightly veiled goddess's lips and eyes had once been painted red, and a pair of fish confronted one another above her head. Her wavy hair, suggesting water to Glueck, was parted in the middle. At Petra the goddess from the north was syncretised with a North Arabian goddess from the south al-Uzzah, worshipped in the one temple. At Dura-Europus among the attributes of Atargatis are the spindle and the sceptre or fish-spear.
At her temples at Ascalon, Hierapolis Bambyce, and Edessa, there were fish ponds containing fish only her priests might touch. Glueck noted in 1936 that "to this day there is a sacred fish-pond swarming with untouchable fish at Qubbet el-Baeddwī, a dervish monastery three kilometres east of Tripolis, Lebanon."
From Syria her worship extended to Greece and to the furthest West. Lucian and Apuleius give descriptions of the beggar-priests who went round the great cities with an image of the goddess on an ass and collected money. The wide extension of the cult is attributable largely to Syrian merchants; thus we find traces of it in the great seaport towns; at Delos especially numerous inscriptions have been found bearing witness to her importance. Again we find the cult in Sicily, introduced, no doubt, by slaves and mercenary troops, who carried it even to the farthest northern limits of the Roman Empire. The leader of the rebel slaves in the First Servile War, a Syrian named Eunus, claimed to receive visions of Atargatis, whom he identified with the Demeter of Enna.
In many cases Atargatis, ‘Ashtart, and other goddesses who once had independent cults and mythologies became fused to such an extent as to be indistinguishable. This fusion is exemplified by the Carnion temple, which is probably identical with the famous temple of ‘Ashtart at Ashtaroth-Karnaim. Atargatis generally appears as the wife of Hadad. They are the protecting deities of the community. Atargatis, wearing a mural crown, is the ancestor the royal house, the founder of social and religious life, the goddess of generation and fertility (hence the prevalence of phallic emblems), and the inventor of useful appliances. Not unnaturally she is identified with the Greek Aphrodite. By the conjunction of these many functions, despite originating as a sea deity analogous to Amphitrite, she becomes ultimately a great nature-goddess, analogous to Cybele and Rhea: In one aspect she typifies the protection of water in producing life; in another, the universal of other-earth; in a third (influenced, no doubt, by Chaldean astrology), the power of Destiny. She was also identified with Hera by Lucian in his De Dea Syria.
The legends are numerous and of an astrological character. A rationale for the Syrian dove-worship and abstinence from fish is seen in the story in Athenaeus 8.37, where Atargatis is naively explained to mean "without Gatis", the name of a queen who is said to have forbidden the eating of fish. Thus Diodorus Siculus (2.4.2), quoting Ctesias, tells how Derceto fell in love with a youth and became by him the mother of a child and how in shame Derceto flung herself into a lake near Ascalon and her body was changed into the form of a fish though her head remained human. Derceto's child grew up to become Semiramis, the Assyrian queen. In another story, told by Hyginus, an egg fell from the sky into the Euphrates, was rolled onto land by fish, doves settled on it and hatched it, and Venus, known as the Syrian goddess, came forth.
The author of Catasterismi explained the constellation of Piscis Austrinus as the parent of the two fish making up the constellation of Pisces; according to that account, it was placed in the heavens in memory of Derceto's fall into the lake at Hierapolis Bambyce near the Euphrates in Syria, from which she was saved by a large fish — which again is intended to explain the Syrian abstinence from fish.
Ovid in his Metamorphoses (5.331) relates that Venus took the form of a fish to hide from Typhon. In his Fasti (2.459-.474) Ovid instead relates how Dione, by whom Ovid intends Venus/Aphrodite, fleeing from Typhon with her child Cupid/Eros came to the river Euphrates in Syria. Hearing the wind suddenly rise and fearing that it was Typhon, the goddess begged aid from the river nymphs and leapt into the river with her son. Two fish bore them up and were rewarded by being transformed into the constellation Pisces — and for that reason the Syrians will eat no fish.
A recent analysis of the cult of Atargatis is an essay by Per Bilde, in which Atargatis appears in the context of other Hellenized Great Goddesses of the East.
During the Roman era, eunuch priests worshipped Atargatis. Similar to the Galli priests of Cybele. At the shrine in Hieropolis founded by Semiramis, eunuch priests served the image of a fish-tailed woman. Rituals to the goddess were accompanied by flute playing and rattle shaking. In one rite, young males castrated themselves to become cross-dressing priests at the temple and thereafter performed tasks usually done by women. The obligatory lake or pond lay nearby, full of sacred fish which no one was allowed to eat; nor could anyone eat Atargatis's sacred doves. The priests were described by Apuleius as mendicants that traveled around with an image of the goddess dressed in a silken robe on the back of a donkey. When they arrived at village squares or a receptive estate they would perform an ecstatic rite, designed to attract a crowd and elicit their contributions. The priests were described as effeminate, wearing heavy makeup, turbans on their heads, and dressed in saffron colored robes of silk and linen; some in white tunics painted with purple stripes. They shouted and danced wildly to the music of flutes, whirling around with necks bent so that their long hair flew out; and in an ecstatic frenzy they would bite their own flesh and cut their arms with knives until they bled.
According to a story retold by Lucian, the Assyrian queen Stratonice saw in a vision that she must build a temple at Hieropolis to the goddess and so the king sent her there with a young man named Combabus to execute the task. Knowing the queen's reputation Combabus castrated himself and left his genitals, sealed in a box. When the queen fell in love with Combabus and tried to seduce him, he revealed his mutilation, but this didn't dissuade her from desiring his constant companionship. When Stratonice and Combabus returned home, she accused him of trying to seduce her, and Combabus was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. Combabus called for the sealed box to prove his innocence, where upon the king relented and rewarded Combabus for his loyalty. The temple was completed and a statue of Combabus was placed in it. This is said to be the origin of the practice of castration by the priests in the temple.
Another story ascribed to Combabus mentions that a certain foreign woman who had joined a sacred assembly, beholding a human form of extreme beauty and dressed in man's attire, became violently enamoured of him: after discovering that he was a eunuch, she committed suicide. Combabus accordingly in despair at his incapacity for love, donned woman's attire, so that no woman in future might be deceived in the same way.
A'ra is a tutelary god worshipped in pre-Islamic Arabia, particularly northern Arabia.Aglibol
Aglibôl was a lunar deity in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. His name means "Calf of Bel" ("Calf of the Lord").
Aglibôl is depicted with a lunar halo decorating his head and sometimes his shoulders, and one of his attributes is the sickle moon.
Aglibôl is linked with the sun god Yarḥibôl in a famous trinity. He is also associated with the Syrian versions of Astarte "Venus" and with Arṣu "Evening Star".
Aglibôl's cult continued into Hellenic times and was later extended to Rome.Astarte
Astarte (Greek: Ἀστάρτη, Astártē) is the Hellenized form of the Middle Eastern goddess Astoreth (Northwest Semitic), a form of Ishtar (East Semitic), worshipped from the Bronze Age through classical antiquity. The name is particularly associated with her worship in the ancient Levant among the Canaanites and Phoenicians. She was also celebrated in Egypt following the importation of Levantine cults there. The name Astarte is sometimes also applied to her cults in Mesopotamian cultures like Assyria and Babylonia.Atargatis (band)
Atargatis is a German heavy metal band, formed in Regensburg in 1997.Ba‘alat Gebal
Ba‘alat Gebal, 'Lady of Byblos', was the goddess of the city of Byblos, Phoenicia in ancient times. She was sometimes known to the Greeks as Baaltis or Atargatis.Ba‘alat Gebal was generally identified with the pan-Semitic goddess ‘Ashtart (Astarte) and, like ‘Ashtart, equated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite. However, Sanchuniathon presents Ba‘alat Gebal as a sister of ‘Ashtart and Asherah, and calls Ba‘alat Gebal by the name Dione, meaning that he identified her either with Asherah or with the mother of Greek Aphrodite, the Titan goddess Dione. According to Sanchuniathon, Baaltis/Dione, like Asherah and ‘Ashtart, was a sister and wife of 'El. He states that she bore daughters to El and that it was El who gave the city of Byblos to her.
Ba‘alat Gebal was distinguished in iconography from ‘Ashtart or other aspects of ‘Ashtart or similar goddesses by two, tall, upright feathers in her headdress.
The temple of Ba‘alat Gebal in Byblos was built around 2700 BC. Dedications from Egyptians begin appearing from the second to the 6th Egyptian dynasties. Two of these inscriptions equate Ba‘alat Gebal with the Egyptian goddess Hathor. Frank Moore Cross writes that at Sinai Ba‘alat seems to have referred to Hathor and possibly to Qudšu (see Qetesh), who is Asherah.Eunus
Eunus (died 132 BC) was a Roman slave from Apamea in Syria who became the leader of the slave uprising in the First Servile War (135 BC–132 BC) in the Roman province of Sicily. Eunus rose to prominence in the movement through his reputation as a prophet and wonder-worker. He claimed to receive visions and communications from the goddess Atargatis, a prominent goddess in his homeland; he identified her with the Sicilian Demeter. Some of his prophecies was that the rebel slaves would successfully capture the city of Enna and that he would be a king some day.Heliopolitan Triad
The cult of the Heliopolitan Triad was Canaanite in essence but the Romans adopted it when they conquered the city of Heliopolis (modern Baalbeck) in the Beqaa Valley of Lebanon. The Canaanite god Baʿal (Hadad) was equated with Jupiter Heliopolitanus, Astarte or Atargatis with Venus Heliopolitana and Adon, the god of spring, with Mercury. The Romans built magnificent temples for the Heliopolitan Triad in Heliopolis. Votives dedicated to the cult were also found in the village of Bechouat in Lebanon.Hellenistic religion
Hellenistic religion is any of the various systems of beliefs and practices of the people who lived under the influence of ancient Greek culture during the Hellenistic period and the Roman Empire (c. 300 BCE to 300 CE). There was much continuity in Hellenistic religion: the Greek gods continued to be worshipped, and the same rites were practiced as before.
Change came from the addition of new religions from other countries, including the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis, and the Syrian gods Atargatis and Hadad, which provided a new outlet for people seeking fulfillment in both the present life and the afterlife. The worship of Hellenistic rulers was also a feature of this period, most notably in Egypt, where the Ptolemies adapted earlier Egyptian practice and Greek hero cults and established themselves as Pharaohs within the new syncretic Ptolemaic cult of Alexander the Great. Elsewhere, rulers might receive divine status without the full status of a god.
Magic was practiced widely, and this too, was a continuation from earlier times. Throughout the Hellenistic world, people would consult oracles, and use charms and figurines to deter misfortune or to cast spells. Also developed in this era was the complex system of astrology, which sought to determine a person's character and future in the movements of the sun, moon, and planets. The systems of Hellenistic philosophy, such as Stoicism and Epicureanism, offered an alternative to traditional religion, even if their impact was largely limited to the educated elite.Khirbet et-Tannur
Khirbet et-Tannur (Arabic: خربة التنور) is an ancient Nabataean temple situated on top of Jebel Tannur, in today's Jordan. Based on the cults statues iconography, whether the temple was dedicated to the fertility goddess Atargatis and Zeus-Hadad, or perhaps other gods of their own in that form is not yet certain. The only inscription which mentioned a deity was in reference to the Edomite god Qos, who was the equivalent of the Arab god Quzah, the god of the sky.Manbij
Manbij (Arabic: منبج, Kurdish: Minbic) is a city in the northeast of Aleppo Governorate in northern Syria, 30 kilometers west of the Euphrates. In the 2004 census by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Manbij had a population of nearly 100,000. The population of Manbij is largely Arab, with Kurdish, Circassian and Chechen minorities. Many of its residents practice Naqshbandi Sufism.Mermaid
In folklore, a mermaid is an aquatic creature with the head and upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The first stories appeared in ancient Assyria, in which the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover. Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks, and drownings. In other folk traditions (or sometimes within the same tradition), they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or falling in love with humans.
The male equivalent of the mermaid is the merman, also a familiar figure in folklore and heraldry. Although traditions about and sightings of mermen are less common than those of mermaids, they are generally assumed to co-exist with their female counterparts.
Some of the attributes of mermaids may have been influenced by the Sirens of Greek mythology. Historical accounts of mermaids, such as those reported by Christopher Columbus during his exploration of the Caribbean, may have been inspired by manatees and similar aquatic mammals. While there is no evidence that mermaids exist outside folklore, reports of mermaid sightings continue to the present day, including 21st century examples from Israel and Zimbabwe.
Mermaids have been a popular subject of art and literature in recent centuries, such as in Hans Christian Andersen's well-known fairy tale "The Little Mermaid" (1836). They have subsequently been depicted in operas, paintings, books, films and comics.Niha, Zahlé
This is about Niha in the Zahlé district, in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, and not to be confused with Niha Chouf, Niha (Batroun) and Niha (Tyre)
For other uses, see NihaNiha (Arabic: نيحا [ˈniħa]) is a village in the Bekaa Valley about 8 km (5.0 mi) North of Zahlé. It is famous for its Roman archeological ruins, and in particular two lower Roman temples that date back to the 1st century AD.Nova (Atargatis album)
Nova is the second full-length album released by the German band Atargatis through Massacre Records on the November 2007.Paidia atargatis
Paidia atargatis is a moth of the family Erebidae. It was described by Lewandowski and Tober in 2009. It is found in Jordan.Qalaat Faqra
Qalaat Faqra is an archaeological site in Kfardebian, Lebanon, with Roman and Byzantine ruins. Located on the slopes of Mount Sannine at an altitude of 1500 m, it is one of the most important sites of the UNESCO-listed Nahr al-Kalb valley.
Ruins include a temple to Zeus Beelgalasos, a sanctuary of Atargatis dedicated to Agrippa II and his sister Berenice, two altars, and a tower with a 16 metre square base built in 44 A.D.Salman (myth)
A god worshiped in pre-Islamic southern Arabia.Shalim
Shalim (Shalem, Salem, and Salim) is a god in the Canaanite religion pantheon, mentioned in inscriptions found in Ugarit (Ras Shamra) in Syria. William F. Albright identified Shalim as the god of dusk, and Shahar as god of the dawn. In the Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Shalim is also identified as the deity representing Venus or the "Evening Star", and Shahar, the "Morning Star". His name derives from the triconsonantal Semitic root S-L-M. The city of Jerusalem was named after him, and the biblical King Solomon may also have been.Stephanie Luzie
Stephanie Luzie Meier (born April 6, 1974) is a German gothic and symphonic metal singer. She used to sing in the bands Atargatis and Darkwell. Meier focused on her work in Bavarian public administration, quitting all her band projects because she did not have enough time left over for music anymore.Wasteland (Atargatis album)
Wasteland is the first full-length album released by the German band Atargatis through Massacre Records on the 24 March 2006.