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Mr. Reynolds' English Classes

Southgate Anderson High School

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The Greeks did not have "mermaids" as we picture them today, but did believe in water goddesses called nymphs. Their father was Nereus, a sea god commonly referred to as "the old man of the sea." According to most myths, he had 50 daughters.

The popular concept of the mermaid comes from Assyrian mythology. Atargatis was an Assyrian goddess who fell in love with a shepherd, but accidentally killed him. Upon his death, she flings herself into the ocean, attempting to become a fish. Her beauty was so great that the transformation was only partial, her upper half remaining human.

The story of Atargatis spread as far as the Romans and Greeks. The Greek myth of Aphrodite's birth involves her rising from the sea at birth. Considering she was also the goddess of beauty, it is not hard to see how and why the Greeks eventually combined the character of Atargatis with Aphrodite (sometimes called Derketo).

More links on mermaids in mythology are listed below.

Atargatis, the first Mermaid

Site updated on March 19, 2018