By Elisabeth Benard, Beverly Moon

Goddesses frequently are categorized as one-dimensional forces of nature or fertility. In analyzing a couple of goddesses whose basic function is sovereignty, this quantity unearths the wealthy variety of goddess traditions. Drawn from numerous cultural and ancient settings, the goddesses defined right here comprise Inanna of historical Sumer, Oshun of Nigeria, and Cihuacoatl of pre-historical the USA.

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The literary evidence, beginning with Homer, Hesiod, and the Homeric Hymns, as well as the visual evidence of religious art throughout this period of over a thousand years present Aphrodite as ancestor of kings. In her oldest known myth, her descendants ruled in Asia Minor, while the later development of this myth brings her son Aeneas and his family to Italy to found the Roman civilization. This ancient tradition was revitalized by the rulers of the Roman empire, above all, Julius Caesar. Believing that their divine right to rule rested on an ancestral bond to the Queen of Heaven—known to the Romans both as Aphrodite and as Venus—they continued to build on this foundation of sacred kingship.

In ancient times, uenerari was restricted to religious contexts and referred to an attitude of hospitality by means of which humans sought to attract the benevolence of the gods. The noun expressed this quality as an abstraction: graciousness or charm. Eventually the term was personified as a goddess: Venus. She was worshipped outside Rome as a protector of gardens, a goddess who ruled over the month of April. When the two goddesses were identified, the Romans simply gave the name and attributes of the Italian Venus to the complex figure of Aphrodite.

In Pergamum, an ancient Greek kingdom covering most of Asia Minor, queens were supposed to stay out of politics, and yet Teos, the wife of Attalos I, was honored as Aphrodite. In Smyrna, a city of Asia Minor, Stratonike, the daughter of Demetrios Polioketes (who was celebrated in Athens as the son of Aphrodite and Poseidon) served as wife and queen of Seleukos I, and later his son Antiochos I. After her death in 254 BCE, she was worshiped as Aphrodite Stratonikis. Coins depict her as Aphrodite Nikephoros (Bearer of Victory), standing erect and wearing a crown.

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