Perhaps her cult continued in the countryside, since the destruction of Carthage did not mean that Punic civilization was totally annihilated. The Punic language was spoken in North Africa for many more centuries, and so it is possible that her cult also continued. Juno shared many features with Tanit.
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She was originally also a goddess of menstruation through association with the moon. Most of her functions involved presiding over the experiences of women: as Juno Interduca she led the bride to her new home, as Cinxia she assisted in the loosening of her girdle, as Opigenia she assisted in childbirth, as Lucina she caused the child to see the light, and so forth. The inscription was in Punic and Greek. See Livy, op. Polybious claims that he saw this tablet: see Histories 3. Obviously, Hannibal assumed Juno to be the Italian equivalent of the Carthaginian Queen of Heaven in whose temple as a nine-year-old boy he may have taken a solemn vow to be an enemy of Rome.
Livy, op. According to Polybius, Histories 3. See E. Similarly, the Romans viewed the temple of Tanit in Carthage as that of Juno. Pliny: Historia Naturalis 6. Rackham, ed. Virgil, Aeneid 1. Here was her armor, here her chariot. See also Ovid, Fasti 6.
Frazer, ed. This might give us an indication why the settlement established under Gaius Gracchus was called Iunoia: Carthage was from the beginning a city of the Queen of Heaven and if in B. Moore, ed. Press, , vol. We have already seen that Hannibal visited this temple and this visit was also remembered by Cicero, who wrote that Hannibal wanted to carry off a golden column from the temple of Juno at Lacinium, but the goddess appeared to him in a vision and warned him not to do it.
Hannibal obeyed the goddess and made the image of a calf from the gold he had purloined from the column he bored into it to see whether it was solid gold and placed it on the top. De Divinatione 1. Falconer, ed. Like all temples, this one housed the image of the goddess, which, again in accordance with the custom of the ancients, was dressed in a robe.
The robe was beautiful and admired by all; but more about that later. It was then that the temple of Juno Caelestis became a large and famous complex and that her worship spread over a large part of the Roman Empire. Who was this Juno Caelestis, and what did she represent? The syncretism which had already begun in the original city progressed steadily in the Roman colony. First, identification of Juno with other goddesses was easy, and of this we have many examples. John Dryden, rev. Arthur H.
Clough, New York: Modern Library, n. Iunonia is also mentioned by Iulius Solinus fl. Another edition by Theodor Mommsen, C. The best book on the subject is still A. Audollent, Carthage Romain, supra, n.
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He collected much of the epigraphical evidence for the cult of Caelestis, as well as the ancient Greco-Roman and Christian references. Also very useful is F. See also Howard H. I beseech you, by whatever name, in whatever aspect, in whatever ceremonies you deign to be invoked, have mercy on me Tertullian mentions her once along with Cybele, at another time with Astarte, and again with Atargatis. See also R. ANF 5. See also Valerius Maximus, Factorum et dictorum memorabilium libri novem, ed. Kempf, Lipsiae: Teubner, , 1. In the story of Amor and Psyche we read that Psyche came to a beautiful temple of Juno in the valley, in the middle of a sacred grove.
You may be residing in one of your ancient temples on Samos Or you may be visiting your happy city of Carthage on its high hill, where you are adored as a virgin travelling across Heaven in a lion-drawn chariot. Or you may be watching over the famous walls of Argos You see, Goddess, I am very, very tired, and very, very frightened and I know that you are always ready to help Caelestis, in the mind of the pagans, became a goddess of primordial creative powers.
Nothing remains of it. This time the destruction came not from a conquering enemy but from the recently established Christian church. Tertullian referred to that statue when he criticized pagan idols; 22 so did Augustine, who saw the image in the sanctuary. For exactly this, the air, is what they have consecrated under the name of Juno or Venus the virgin-if virginity ever suited the fancy of Venus! Animated by some sort of reverential feelings, they actually have made this element into a woman.
This translation is from Charles A. Forbes, ed. After the assassination of Elagabalus, the statue was returned to its original home. The temple of Caelestis was a place of oracles. We are told that when he was proconsul in Africa, the emperor Pertinax A. Whittaker, ed. The name used by the Libyans for the goddess is Urania, by the Phoenicians Astroarche; they would also have it that she is the moon goddess.
A marriage between the sun and the moon, Antoninus declared, was very appropriate, and he sent for the statue together with all the gold from her temple. He also issued orders that a very large sum of money should be contributed, supposedly as a dowry. According to Domaszewski, Elagabalus built two temples for Caelestis, one on the Capitoline this he concludes from the Scriptores Historiae Augustae Vita Heliogabali 1.
Cyprian, the aristocratic bishop of Carthage A. Tertullian A. At least that was the charge raised against him by Christians who rejected such fasts and considered them improper innovations. See S. No such ill fame is attached to the shrine of Caelestis. The rest of the story is informative about the mentality of some Christians, which may not have been very different from that of their pagan neighbors.
When later the child was given the Eucharist infant communion! See also Jerome, Epistola He bitterly attacked other Christians for criticizing this practice and in the process gave us information about Caelestis: Whence it is that even they who court their idols by dressing them, and by adorning them in their sanctuary, 54 and by saluting them at each particular hour, are said to do them service. But, more than that, the heathens recognize every form of humiliation xaneivo pp6vr ai ;. When the heaven is rigid and they year arid, barefooted processions are enjoined by public proclamation; the magistrates lay aside their purple, reverse the fasces, utter prayer, offer a victim.
In spite of the rapid progress of Christianity, the popularity of Caelestis remained. Her temple is mentioned as the most popular public place by the Cathaginian bishop Cyprian A. He was born in North Africa at Thagaste, 39 taught at one time in Carthage, and knew the cult from firsthand experience.
As a young man he participated in the services in her temple; he listened to the choir and watched the priests. At one time he attended a ferculum , i. In retrospect he judged the words spoken there lewd and the whole performance offensive. Not only women but men, too, came to these services. Augustine says they came 38 Histories Rolfe, ed. Berecyntus is a mountain in Phyrgia sacred to Cybele; from this came the expression Berecynthia mater , i. For natural reverence for parents is a bond which the most abandoned cannot ignore.
And the crowds that were gathered from all quarters by curiosity, offended modesty must, I should suppose, have scattered in the confusion of shame. If these are sacred rites, what is sacrilege? If this is purification, what is pollution? See also De civ. But how does he know that? Could they have been unstable Christians? Augustine did not say, but he was intrigued enough by the popularity of Caelestis to return to the topic again. Once more he described this pagan ceremony, or perhaps another which he had attended. The rites were so obscene that many prudent women turned away from what was going on because they were not able to watch acts so licentious.
Even in the privacy of their homes, Augustine says, people could do such things only in secret. Augustine did not close his eyes to what he saw, but carefully watched and observed everything; only in retrospect did he condemn in righteous indignation what he saw. There we saw no shame-faced mimes, no actress overburdened with modesty; all that the obscene rite demanded was fully complied with.
We were plainly shown what was pleasing to the virgin deity, and the matron who witnessed the spectacle returned home from the temple a wise woman. Some indeed, of the more prudent women turned their faces from the immodest movements of the players, and learned the art of wickedness by a furtive regard. For they were restrained, by the modest demeanor due to men, from looking boldly at the immodest gestures; but much more they were restrained from condemning with chaste heart the sacred rites of her whom they adored.
What could be more indelicate than the detailed description of the condition of Mary's hymen in the Christian treatise called the Protoevangelium of James? VI, p. Kempf, ed. Sicca or Sicca Veneria in what is today Tunisia was the center of the cult of Venus. Modern name of the town is le Kef. Action was taken against two such temples by the emperor Constantine, as reported by Eusebius Vita Constantini 3.
This is what he says; 3. See LCL f A. II, pp. Herodot Hist. Very instructive is the analysis of the Herodotus passage in Urs Winter, op. This did not prevent Firmicus Maternus ca. What kind of divinity was it, Firmicus asks, which delighted in such unnatural human bodies? Reject this great and calamitous error, and abandon at last the inclination of the heathen heart.
Do not take your body which God created and condemn it by the wicked law of the devil. While time still permits, go to the rescue of your disastrous situation. The worship of Caelestis continued and the temple in Carthage served its purpose. Filastrius died ca. Forcible Christianization now went at full speed, and soon Christians demanded total destruction 48 Chap. The repulsive behavior of the eunuch priests is described in the eighth chapter of Apuleius, Metamorphoses. Bury, ed. In a general council was held in Carthage under the chairmanship of Bishop Aurelius, and the assembled fathers called upon the emperors to destroy pagan sanctuaries, images and relics of the gods, even the parks and gardens in which the sanctuaries and shrines stood.
Aurelius episcopus ecclesiae Carthaginis, supra comprehensis in nostro concilio statutis subscripsi. Similiter septuaginta duo episcopi suscripserunt. Whether this wanton destruction had to do with the pagans' demand that the church be returned to them, we do not know. If, as Christians claimed, the pagan deities did not exist, why bother to destroy their idols and temples? No answer was ever given. But the power of Caelestis was broken. The kingdoms of idols, the kingdoms of daemons are broken How great was the power of Caelestis which was in Carthage!
Where is now the kingdom of Caelestis? Constantinople was the proof because it was founded by a Christian emperor, lost its false gods, 52 Johannes Dominicus Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collection vol. Hefele, Conciliengeschichte , Freiburg: Herder, , vol. Enarratio in psalmumQ4i. It had been closed for a long time, fenced in and obscured by wild thorny thickets, when the Christian people wanted to appropriate it for the service of the true religion.
But the pagan people cried out that there were dragons and serpents to protect the temple. Upon reading this the people were amazed that the foreseeing God had accomplished this deed, which the prophetic spirit had inspired, by his own sure command. And when a 55 Sermon Gerld, Also, CSEL 7. Menston, Yorkshire: Scholar Press, Victor wrote around Even the voice of Caelestis, destroyed now by the Vandals, was left without memory. Salvian, a Christian clergyman A. It would have been better, he says, if these Christians had not come at all, because then they would be guilty only of negligence, but this way they were guilty of sacrilege.
Isis Unlike Caelestis, Isis has been written about so often in recent years that a short summary of her cult will here suffice. The book is sometimes ascribed to Prosper of Tiro ; on the controversy, see B. Altaner and R. Stuiber, Patrologie, 7th ed. Also Rene Braun, Quodvultdeus. The book was written around A. Press, ; G. It is important to note that this development took place in two distinct periods: that of ancient Egypt and the other of Hellenistic Egypt, when it became the cult that was known to Romans and Christians.
According to ancient Egyptian mythology, Isis came into being at the third level of creation. The wife of Osiris, she was a celestial divinity. As wife of Osiris and mother of the sun-god, Horus, she was deeply connected with the origin of life. In the myth of Osiris, best known to us from the account of Plutarch, 60 it is Isis who resurrects her dead husband, saves her child Horus, and even protects Seth, the murderer of Osiris.
Thus viewed as one in possession of powerful magic, the mother of god who could bestow immortality, Isis grew in importance. Osiris became Dionysus, and Horus, Apollo. However, at this time a new Isis cult developed and quickly spread into Greece and Italy. In the fourth century B. From there the cult spread northward into other Italian cities, including Pompeii, where excavations yielded evidence that the cult flourished there by the first century A. Isis had a stormy history there, sometimes tolerated, sometimes forbidden, depending on the mood of the Senate and later, the emperors.
It was only Caligula A. Nock, Conversion , Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, ; J. Gwynn Griffiths, Apuleius of Madauros. The Isis Book. As a result of this systematic persecution, Isis, too, slowly disappeared in a process similar to that of Caelestis. Two great festivals, the Isia and the Navigium Jsidis , belonged to the cult of Isis. The first, a dramatic presentation of the story of Osiris, was celebrated in Rome at the beginning of November. After Osiris was brutally murdered by Seth and his body was cut into pieces, Isis wandered through the land, weeping and looking for the corpse of her husband.
All this was reenacted during the festival. People wept and beat their breasts over the death of Osiris; with loud jubilation they rejoiced when the body was found and Osiris was resurrected. But readers who are familiar with Good Friday and Easter celebrations will understand that for Isiac initiates these were deeply meaningful rites; they dealt with the mysteries of death and resurrection and evoked in the participants a sense of eternal life.
The Navigium Isidis 7tA. The celebration marked the beginning of the new season of seafaring and it was a festive and joyful gather- 63 Herodotus, 2. For references from classical Latin authors, see Heyob, op. Apuleius Metamorphoses Soon after sunrise the streets were already full of people. People came dressed in the habits of various professions: one came as a warrior, another as a hunter, another as a gladiator, yet another as a fisherman, and so forth. Women, dressed in white and wearing garlands on their heads, spread herbs along her way; others held mirrors in their hands turned toward the goddess; yet others had ivory combs in their hands, indicating that they were trained to adorn the hair of the goddess.
The initiates followed, all in glistening white linen dresses. The women had their hair anointed but the heads of the men were shaven. In their hands they held brass timbrels which gave out a shrill sound. And finally came the high priest, holding in his hand a timbrel and a garland of roses.
The procession went to the sea coast where the high priest dedicated and launched a beautifully decorated ship that the breeze soon blew far away out of sight. After this the people assembled in the temple, where the holy objects were properly disposed of and prayers were said.
Gaselee, ed. Prior to that, he had to go through various rites of purification, and on the great appointed day and in the presence of a multitude of priests the laity and the uninitiated were dismissed , he was given a new linen robe and taken to the most sacred, secret place of the temple. This is the mystery which he cannot divulge, he says, but to satisfy the curiosity of the reader he indicates so much I approached near into hell, even to the gate of Proserpine, and after that I was ravished throughout all the elements, I returned to my proper place: about midnight I saw the sun brightly shine, I saw likewise the gods celestial and the gods internal, before whom I presented myself and worshipped them.
Vested in fine linen decorated with symbolic flowers and images of animals, he stood on a pulpit before the image of the goddess. This was repeated on the third day. Then Lucius went to Rome where, in the temple of Isis on the Campus Martius, he was initiated as a priest of Osiris and, with his head shaven, continued to serve as a priest. The mysteries of Isis had sanctuaries in which the important ceremonies of the cult took place. This probably represented the underworld, where Lucius, too, underwent his initiation.
Press, Brill, , p. The services included the singing of hymns and music with several instruments. The nature of the mysteries demanded that some parts of the services were open only to initiates, while in others everybody could participate. People attracted to the Isiac mysteries were thus divided into three groups: priests, initiates, and laymen. The priesthood had a number of grades and functions.
The pastophors were responsible for carrying the statue, while the neocorus took care of the temple. There were also scribes , astrologs, who observed the hours, and cantors who performed the ritual chanting. The initiates were called by the goddess personally, usually in a dream. As is told of Lucius in the Metamorphoses , they went through a series of ceremonies which included fasting, ritual cleansing and baths. These initiatory rites led eventually to a lower order of the priesthood — in the case of Lucius, to admission into the rank of the pastophor.
Laymen, if they so desired, could join a cult association, of which there were many. Those who were seriously interested could become members of a unit that was under the direction of a priest. From here they could go into a higher level of organization where they were given certain tasks in the cult. A special feature in the mysteries of Isis was the participation of women. Although most of the principal priests appear to have been men, women priests became increasingly common from the first century A. Women 68 Heyob, loc. The Metamorphoses Chap.
This theme later developed into Isis lactans , i. Women thus saw Isis as the divine protectress who on a celestial level already experienced everything that a woman can experience in her life cycle; 72 to all her devotees she was the divine image of the female sex, protectress of all female functions. Many religions know ablutions and sprinklings as means of spiritual purification, but in the cult of Isis water seems to have played a more important role.
An indication of that is hinted at in the story of Lucius, whose first thought after the initial appearance of the goddess was to sprinkle himself with seawater. Then, before his initiation, he had to take an ordinary bath after which he was sprinkled by the priest in the sanctuary. This aspect of the Isiac mystery was researched and analyzed by Robert A. Wild, who 69 Op. But see also Nile-water was especially valued by her devotees and in many sanctuaries containers for such water were present.
In the Metamorphoses In his commentary, Griffiths quotes other Egyptian references; see p. The opportunity for vicious rumors, especially when incubation was practiced by women, was ever present, and sometimes illicit activities may have taken place. Best known is the story reported by Josephus, 80 according to which a Roman knight, by bribing the priests, was able to have an illicit relation with a lady in the temple of Isis.
The fraud was discovered and exemplary punishments were meted out to all guilty parties. Many other veiled and not so veiled references can be found in Roman literature about the supposed tendency of Isis to encourage sexual misconduct. Heyob made a valiant attempt to prove these charges false and to exonerate Isis.
Ancient history is full of such incidents, perhaps because they were so easy to make and many people liked them and did not ask for substantiation. The Romans made such 78 "Regina Caeli If occasional wrongs took place within the religion of Isis, that was not its outstanding characteristic.
In fact, the opposite appears to be true. The similarities between the cult of Isis and certain Christian practices have been pointed out many times. Christian iconography also has been compared to that of Isis, especially the representations of the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus, which indeed resemble closely those of Isis nursing her son. When one looks at the illustrations of Isis reprinted by Tran Tam Tinh in Isis Lactans it is easy to understand why so many scholars consider Isis to be the prototype of Mary.
Most recently, R. In the West the first representations of Mary nursing her son date from the twelfth century. And even though, as Witt points out, the cult of Isis was known in Asia Minor, the major female divinity, whose influence overshadowed everything else there, was not Isis but Cybele, the Great Mother. This is not to underestimate the influence of Isis upon the later praxis pietatis directed toward Mary. But this was also the case at places where a goddess other than Isis was venerated.
We find these in the cult of Isis. This was a cosmic religion which 82 Op. In the mysteries of Isis this totality was represented by the primordial waters. Over and above the chaotic divisions and separations in the world, Isis pointed to an essential order in the universe and offered a way to attain it.
Of course, other mysteries did the same, and we now turn to review another of these, the rites of the Syrian Goddess. The Syrian Goddess At the time when Juno Caelestis was worshipped in Carthage and the cult of Isis was spread over the Mediterranean world, another goddess reigned supreme in Hierapolis.
Nevertheless, this is what Lucian says. Much good material is available on De Dea Syria. The following represents only a selection directly used by me. Text and translation in the LCL, A. Harmon, ed. Attridge and Robert A. Oden, eds. Hinrichs, pp. Prinzipat, Brill, , pp. The modern name of the place is Mambij, which comes from the ancient Mabbug.
Pliny, Natural History 5. Lucian refers to another sanctuary which he did not visit Ch. Women who, in connection with these rites, refuse to shave their heads must offer themselves for sale for one day Ch. Osiris is believed to be buried in Byblos, and each year a head comes miraculously from Egypt to Byblos Ch.
Another miracle in Byblos is that each year the river Adonis changes its color to red, which some people connected with the story of the killing of Adonis; others explained the change in color by saying simply that the winds blew red dust into the water Ch. In Ch. He then proceeds to describe the temple in Hierapolis. That temple, larger than any mentioned so far, housed many gifts of gold and silver.
Its statues of the gods were believed to move, perspire, and give oracles Ch. Many stories were told about the age of this temple Ch. In remembrance of this event, priests and laymen alike go twice each year to the sea to fetch water which they pour out in the temple and, thus, down into the chasm. Lucian saw this chasm under the temple; it was quite small. This rite recalls the memory of the disaster and divine favor Ch.
Yet others said that the temple was founded for the mother of Hera, Derketo. In Phoenicia Lucian had seen an image of Derketo which was half woman and half fish; in Hierapolis he had seen one which was all woman. The people there regarded fish as sacred Ch. As proof Rackham, ed. Jones, ed. Strabo is wrong in including Edessa in the list; it was about fifteen miles northeast of Hierapolis on the other side of the Euphrates. See also Oden, op. Similarly, Horig, op. The Galli 87 in the temple castrated themselves in imitation of Attis Ch. The tradition that Dionysus founded the temple is supported by the presence in the gateway of two large phalli dedicated by Dionysus himself.
A bronze statue of a small man with a large penis reminded Lucian of the Greek custom of honoring Dionysus by putting up phalli on the top of which sat small wooden men with large genitals Ch. The next two chapters relate the story of Stratonice, 88 whose stepson fell in love with her Chs. Her husband sent her there with a young man named Combabus, who, before he left, castrated himself and left his genitals in a box with the king so that later he could not be accused of seducing the queen Chs.
They built the temple in Hierapolis; nonetheless, Stratonice fell in love with Combabus and tried to seduce him, but he resisted and told her what he had done. Stratonice ceased her efforts at seduction, but she still loved the young man. This sort of love still exists in Hierapolis, Lucian asserts: the Galli lust for the women and the women for the Galli Chs. When Stratonice and Combabus returned home, she accused him of trying to seduce her, and Combabus was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. Combabus then asked for the box he had left with the king and showed his severed genitals contained therein, whereupon the king relented and rewarded Combabus for his loyalty Chs.
The temple was completed and a statue of Combabus was placed in it. That is the temple which Lucian saw and which, according to some, is the origin of the practice of castration in the temple Ch. In the entranceway stood the phalli, which were very tall. Twice a year a man climbed to the top 89 and stayed there for seven days, according to some, in memory of the flood when people fled to high elevations and to the tops of the trees; according to others, this was done in honor of Dionysus.
People came and deposited money in a container, spoke their names, and the man on the top spoke a prayer for them. More about this problem in our chapter on Cybele. She rebuilt the temple around B. He also describes how the man climbed on the top with the help of ropes and wooden steps big enough for the toes. It certainly would stand to reason since these anchorites were also from Syria and some form of influence cannot be rejected. At this point, Lucian gives a description of the temple, which could well have been similar to that of Caelestis since most temples of antiquity were built on the same basic plan.
This temple faced the rising sun. It stood on a large platform, and a stone ramp led up to it. The doors and the roof were made of gold; inside a pleasant fragrance filled the air, lingering on the visitors' clothing long after they had left Ch. Inside the temple there was a small chamber which only selected priests might enter: in it were statues of Hera supported by lions, and of Zeus sitting on bulls Ch.
Lucian had no problem with the image of Zeus; it looked in every respect like Zeus. For Helios and Selene there were no statues Ch. Apollo gave oracles of his own accord; behind his statue were those of Atlas, Hermes, and Eileithyia Chs.
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Wild animals grazed in the courtyard; they were sacred and tame Ch. There were many priests vested in white robes, but the high priest was vested in purple and wore a golden tiara. Other temple servants included flute players, pipers, Galli, and women Chs. Sacrifices were performed twice daily Ch. Sacred fish were raised in a lake nearby. The lake was very deep, and in the middle stood an altar to which people swam in order to bring garlands Chs. One of the greatest ceremonies involved bringing water from the sea, and here Lucian mentions again the rite he described in Chapter 13 Ch.
Another great and while the differences between Simeon and the men in Hierapolis are obvious, there are some common elements such as the number of visitors, requests for intercession, lack of sleep, and so forth. Picard, The girdle of the goddess had exclusive features, just like that of Caelestis and Isis. On the importance of robes, see below. Worshippers chopped down live trees, stood them up in the courtyard, and on them hung live animals along with artifacts of gold and silver.
At a given moment everything was burned up. Next Lucian describes ceremonies during which men became Galli, along with customs relating to these eunuchs Chs. Sacrificial animals included all kinds except pigs Ch. The treatise ends with a description of customs pertaining to pilgrims and pilgrimages Chs. The picture given us by Lucian is characteristic of the worship not only of Astarte-Ishtar, but also of Aphrodite, Cybele, Ashera, Isis, and Caelestis. Lucian mentions the tradition that the cult originated with Deucalion, who built the temple when the flood had receded.
The temple was built over this chasm, and twice 92 Oden, Studies, p. Also, she was protector of young children and was know to bring and relieve disease in women. In literature and art she was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrow. Artemis was a virgin and drew the attention and interest of many gods and men. However, it was only her hunting companion, Orion, that won her heart. Consequently, virgin goddesses do not always necessarily abstain from sexuality; they may be virgins in the sense of being unmarried, or even in the sense of not being confined through marriage to a male god.
The complex nature of the virgin goddesses is further explicated by the fact that the unmarried girl or woman poses a threat to patriarchal social order because her sexuality is not under the control of man. They carry the connotation of being wild or untamed. This wildness can manifest itself in at least three forms: as a connection to wild places and wild animals not tamed or under control of the city; as passion for the ritual shedding of blood, which draws hunters and warriors away from the city and the family; and as untamed sexuality, by which men are seduced and can be endangered.
A second issue that is important for the rise of Greek virgin goddesses has to do with intellectual currents towards more transcendental conceptualizations of the divine. This move took place in a number of ancient civilizations which are known as the cultures of the Axial Age, according to a theory by the German existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers — The gender-specific implications of this theory have not yet been analyzed, but it can be said that in the majority of the civilizations of Jaspers's Axial Age the transcendental is ascribed to male godheads, whilst female deities were linked to nature and the material world.
The emergence of the idea of transcendence and the transcendental in the intellectual history of humankind thus supported the polarization of the genders, that is, the belief in fundamental differences in female versus male nature. One way of mediating between the two became the construction of virginity as a "male femaleness," and thus with a kind of physical femaleness that was not acted out and lived as such. Greek goddesses in general, and the Greek virgin goddesses in particular, combine protective and transgressive qualities in their relation to the cultural standards of the poleis.
This results from the ability to overcome boundaries, which in Classical Greek culture was ascribed to women and goddesses alike. Virginity could underline as well as constrain this trait. It allowed for a kind of freedom, independence, and power that was usually refused to females, but it also ensured that married women, who represented by definition the kind of femininity that was demanded by their society, remained securely cut off from these privileges.
Goddesses, however, unlike ordinary women, could make exceptions here. It is helpful to consider in more detail the expression of virginity by, or the impact of the virginity concept on, some mythological figures. Strangely, the Greek goddess Kore, whose very name translates as "maiden," has so far attracted comparatively little attention by propagators of the threefold goddess. Kore was closely related to death, which corresponds with general Greek ideas about human parthenoi. Their state of being was regarded as very similar to being condemned to death. In rites that should prepare them for marriage, girls from aristocratic families underwent rites connected with the cults of either Artemis or Athena, initiating them to the theme of sexuality by exposing them to a death-like experience.
In Kore's myth this is symbolized by her abduction by Hades, the god of the underworld. The sixth century bce saw a very rich production of Kore statues, mainly, apparently, for a grave cult. On the Athenian Parthenon there were six Korai, who probably functioned as grave-servants for Erechteus, the legendary first king of Athens. Greek goddesses virgin in the sense of sexual abstinence by an adult woman were Hestia, Artemis, and Athena. Hestia, the personification of the hearth and the sacrificial fire, transcends the boundary between humankind and the goddesses and gods.
She had a major role in female rites of passage such as marriage and childbirth. Because the mythology as well as the iconography of the goddess Hestia are poorly developed, further implications of her virginity are not traceable. Artemis was the goddess of wild places, flocks, and the hunt; she was named Potnia Theron "lady of the wild animals" in the Iliad , and "slayer of wild beasts" in the Homeric hymns. She had particularly close ties to deer, as indicated by the legend that pregnant does swam to her island in order to give birth, and to bears. Bears play a significant role in the rites and roles of a cult dedicated to Artemis Brauronia, which were performed by young girls.
The stages of the ritual are not clear, but it included libations and spinning and weaving, and it was finalized with a goat sacrifice. In Artemis's mythology, even human — and particularly maiden — sacrifices are significant. According to a study by Ken Dowden , such plots can be interpreted as literary encodings of girls' initiation rites performed in the service of this goddess. Near the temple of Artemis Brauroneia there was a shrine for Iphigeneia, the daughter of Agamemnon and Klytaimnestra, who on her way to her wedding with Achilleus was almost sacrificed to Artemis.
A deer was then slaughtered instead of the girl, and Iphigeneia was whisked away by the goddess herself in order to serve her on the Tauris Peninsular. Artemis was there venerated under the name Parthenos , or as Iphigeneia, which confirms the closeness of the two figures. Artemis was a virgin herself and shunned men except for her brother Apollo, and she insisted ruthlessly on the chastity of her mythical attendents, the nymphs.
Yet, the goddess as well as the nymphs were intimately familiar with sexuality, the female cycle, and childbirth. The sexual appeal of nymphs is apparent in, for example, the story of Odysseus and Kalypso, in which Artemis was explicitely invoked as Elei-theia and Locheia, goddess of childbirth. She was one of the most powerful patronesses of life and death and all passages between them. The Greek Artemis is clearly the heiress of the Mistress of the Animals, but her wildness was acceptable in a patriarchal culture only if it was understood that she was not like other women. Thus she was superficially bereft of her female sexuality, and although she always remained the goddess of women and female affairs, she was often portrayed as a masculinized huntress, clad in a short tunic, slaying wild animals with arrows from her quiver.
However, the image of the Ephesian Artemis, which stressed her nurturing qualities by depicting her as a mature female with many breasts, proves that the Homeric shape of the goddess was not authoritative. Worshiped in her temple, the Parthenon, Athena Parthenos was a very different expression of a virgin goddess than Artemis, for she was very much identified with the city and its distinct, male-defined culture.
Athena was said to have been born from the head of her father Zeus, and in the Eumenides of Aeschylus she was said to have declared that she sided with her father against her mother in all things except marriage, which she shunned. She was born fully armed as a warrior and was usually depicted wearing a helmet and holding a spear and shield. Her title polias indicated that the city was her home; her titles promachos and nike named her victorious against its enemies. She avoided the company of women but nurtured such heroes as Odysseus, Theseus, Herakles, Perseus, and Erichthonius.
Her virginity meant that she could consort with men as an equal and engage in the masculine pursuit of war. However, she also figured in important initiation rites for girls, the Arrhephoria , the theme of which seems to have been an encounter with overpowering and frightening aspects of male sexuality.
Moreover, she was patroness not only of the masculine art of warfare but also of the arts and crafts associated with women, including pottery, weaving, and healing. One of the rituals performed in her honor involved the weaving and presentation of a new robe peplos for her ancient wooden statue; girls and women played important roles in these rites.
If the designation virgin goddess is interpreted in the sense of a refusal to be submissive to a male partner, two other Olympians deserve mention here, although both are sexual and, according to Olympian mythology, sexually active. Hera, known as wife of Zeus and as mother of Hebe, Eleitheia, Ares, and Hephaistos, was also known as an independent goddess. Before Zeus entered Greece, Hera was the indigenous goddess of the island of Samos, which was once called Parthenia, and of Argos; even at Olympus, her temple is older than that of Zeus.
Her union with Zeus as presented in the Iliad was a sacred marriage that brought fertility to the earth. However, another legend reports that every year she renewed her virginity at a sacred spring called Canathus in Nauplia. Aphrodite, too, although fully and joyously sexual, can be viewed as virginal in the sense of self-determined. Her sexuality is unbridled, untamed, and her own.
She is married to Hephaistos, according to Olympian mythology, but she is neither submissive nor faithful to him. Although she is a mother, her child Eros "love, desire" is but a reflection of her sexuality. Aphrodite is related to the Lady of the Animals, as indicated in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite , where she is portrayed as followed by wolves, lions, bears, and leopards, in whom she awakens the spark of desire, and she is also connected to the Near Eastern goddesses of sexuality and of warfare such as Anat, Ishtar, and Astarte.