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Goddess Atargatis 1000 Bc
Photograph - Digital Art
The first known mermaid stories appeared in Assyria c. 1000 BC.
The goddess Atargatis, mother of Assyrian queen Semiramis, loved a mortal (a shepherd) and unintentionally killed him.
Ashamed, she jumped into a lake and took the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty.
Thereafter, she took the form of a mermaid human above the waist, fish below.
Although the earliest representations of Atargatis showed her as a fish with a human head and arm, similar to the Babylonian god Ea.
The Greeks recognized Atargatis under the name Derketo. Sometime before 546 BC, Milesian philosopher Anaximander postulated that mankind had sprung from an aquatic animal species.
He thought that humans, who begin life with prolonged infancy, could not have survived otherwise.
A mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish.
Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Africa and Asia.
The first stories appeared in ancient Assyria, in which the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover.
Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings.
In other folk traditions (or sometimes within the same tradition), they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or falling in love with humans.
Mermaids are associated with the mythological Greek sirens as well as with sirenia, a biological order comprising dugongs and manatees.
Some of the historical sightings by sailors may have been misunderstood encounters with these aquatic mammals.
Christopher Columbus reported seeing mermaids while exploring the Caribbean, and sightings have been reported in the 20th and 21st centuries in Canada, Israel and Zimbabwe.
The U.S. National Ocean Service stated in 2012 that no evidence of mermaids has ever been found, but some sailors still believe...
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December 1st, 2013
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