Amalthea


In Greek mythology, Amalthea or Amaltheia is the most-frequently mentioned foster-mother of Zeus. Her name in Greek means tender goddess, which is clearly an epithet, signifying the presence of an earlier nurturing goddess, whom the Hellenes, whose myths we know, knew to be located in Crete, where Minoans may have called her a version of ‘Dikte’.

The Childhood of Zeus with Amalthea

Amalthea is sometimes represented as the goat who suckled the infant-god in a cave in Cretan Mount Aigaion – ‘Goat Mountain’ – sometimes as a goat-tending nymph of uncertain parentage – the daughter of Oceanus, Haemonius, Olenos – according to Lactantius — Melisseus, who brought him up on the milk of her goat.

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.

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