Amalthea (mythology)

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In Greek mythology, Amalthea or Amaltheia (Greek: Ἀμάλθεια) is the most-frequently mentioned foster-mother of Zeus. Her name in Greek ("tender goddess") is clearly an epithet, signifying the presence of an earlier nurturing goddess,[1] whom the Hellenes, whose myths we know, knew to be located in Crete, where Minoans may have called her a version of "Dikte".[2] Amalthea is sometimes represented as the goat who suckled the infant-god in a cave in Cretan Mount Aigaion ("Goat Mountain"),[3] sometimes as a goat-tending nymph[4] of uncertain parentage (the daughter of Oceanus, Haemonius, Olenos,[5] or - according to Lactantius — Melisseus[6]), who brought him up on the milk of her goat.[7] Having multiple and uncertain mythological parents, indicates wide worship of a deity in many cultures having varying local traditions. Amalthea becomes blurred with Adamanthea at times.

In the tradition represented by Hesiod's Theogony, Cronus swallowed all of his children immediately after birth. The mother goddess Rhea, Zeus' mother, deceived her brother consort Cronus by giving him a stone wrapped to look like a baby instead of Zeus. Since she instead gave the infant Zeus to Adamanthea to nurse in a cave on a mountain in Crete, it is clear that Adamanthea is a doublet of Amalthea. In many literary references, the Greek tradition relates that in order that Cronus should not hear the wailing of the infant, Amalthea gathered about the cave the Kuretes or the Korybantes to dance, shout, and clash their spears against their shields.[8]

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Horn of Amalthea

The presence of Amalthea is signalled by the cornucopia overflowing with fruits and grain. The goat Amalthea's horn, according to the Alexandrian poet Callimachus (Hymn to Zeus) was the original of the much earlier drinking vessel called a rhyton, an inverted horn-shape in its most basic form, with an outlet hole in the pointed base—the very horn from which the child Zeus drank.

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