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Sent: Tuesday, January 01, 2002 7:41 AM
Hi Andrew, just a quick question for you. I have always loved the symbol of a cornucopia, it was featured in the Social pages of my home town newspaper [in Australia] linked to a charity of that same name. Can you give me some more historical info ? Regards O


Dear O
The cornucopia (horn of plenty). The concept derives ultimately from the island of Crete, where Zeus was born, according to many storytellers. According to Hesiod, because of the unfortunate tendency of Cronos to devour his children, when Zeus was born, his mother Rhea had him hidden away in a cave (on Mount Ida or Mount Dicte), giving the old man a stone to chew on. The infant Zeus was weaned on goat's milk, fed to him by a friendly nanny goat called Amalthea. In gratitude, Zeus broke off one of the horns of the goat, and said that its possessor would always have plenty of everything. The earlier myths have Amalthea as the goat (who actually did the suckling); later storytellers rationalise Amalthea into a nymph (who provided the goat) or the daughter of the king of Crete - one story (Zenobius) has Zeus making her into a constellation as a thankyou. Demeter/Ceres is often portrayed with a ram's horn spilling out fruit and flowers (symbolising her role as mother earth) - according to Diodorus, this was the same horn that Zeus broke off from the goat which suckled him. The goat's skin became the "aegis" which covered Zeus' shield - a word still used to mean "protection". Zeus had his revenge on his father, of course (who was quite right in eating his children) - he castrated him, buried him, and became King of gods and men himself. Correctly the term was "cornu copiae", but the one-word form cornucopia seems to have been eventually adopted. In Greek it was known as keras Amaltheias - the horn of Amalthea
Best wishes