Menrva

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Menrva (also spelled Menerva, Menfra, Merva and Mera) was an Etruscan goddess of war, art, wisdom and health. She contributed much of her character to Roman Minerva.

Though she was seen by Hellenized Etruscans as their counterpart to Greek Athena,[1] Menrva has some unique traits that makes it clear that she was not an import from Greece. Etruscan artists under the influence of Greek culture liked to portray Menrva with Gorgoneion, helmet, spear and shield, and on a mirrorback as born from the head of her father, Tinia.[2] She is also commonly seen as the protector of Hercle (Heracles) and Pherse (Perseus). [3] On a bronze mirror found at Praeneste, she attends Perseus, who consults two Graeae,[4] or, on another, holds high the head of Medusa, while she and seated Perseus and Hermes all gaze safely at its reflection in a pool at their feet.[5] These images are more likely to reflect literary sources than any cult practice; however, with Esplace (Asclepius), who bandages Prometheus' chest, she attends a scene of Prometheus unbound on a bronze mirror from Bolsena, ca. 300 BCE.[6] She is often depicted in more essentially Etruscan style as a lightning thrower; Martianus mentions her as one of nine Etruscan lightning gods. Unlike Athena, Menrva seems to have been associated with weather phenomena.[7]

Her name is indigenous to Italy and might even be of Etruscan origin, stemming from an Italic moon goddess *Meneswā 'She who measures', the Etruscans adopted the inherited Old Latin name, *Menerwā, thereby calling her Menrva. This has been disputed, however.[8] Carl Becker noted[9] that her name appears to contain the PIE root *men-, which he notes was linked in Greek primarily to memory words (cf. Greek "mnestis"/μνῆστις 'memory, remembrance, recollection'), but which more generally referred to 'mind' in most Indo-European languages.

She was often depicted in the judgement of Paris, called Elcsntre (Alexander, his alternative name in Greek) in Etruscan, one of the most popular Greek myths in Etruria.

Menrva was part of a holy triad with Tinia and Uni, later reflected in the Roman Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.

References


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