|University of Otago
|Classics; Mythology; Moon; Hekate; Artemis; Thoth; Near East; Egypt; lunar; Deities; Khons; Ancient Astrology
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This study discusses the various perceptions of the Moon in pre-Hellenistic Egypt, the Bronze Age Near East, and Archaic and Classical Greece. It covers diverse aspects of these cultures including mythology, cult practice, and iconography as well as astronomy and astrology. Its purpose is to investigate whether a common theme can be identified between the lunar ideologies of these cultures. This comparative aspect is approached in consideration of numerous theories and principles concerning the study of cultural exchange. The Near East and Egypt are dealt with independently, and in each culture it is found that the Moon is frequently related to potentially dangerous and liminal activities such as passage into the underworld, birth and events of cosmic disorder. In both cultures, lunar deities play an ambiguous role, as guides and protectors as well as embodiments of the potential danger associated with crossing boundaries. In Greece, there is a conspicuous lack of lunar mythology during the periods of interest; therefore, by comparison with the lunar ideologies of Egypt and the Near East, the possibility is addressed that the goddesses Artemis and Hekate were associated with the Moon earlier than is usually thought. It is found that while Artemis was not significantly associated with the Moon until the fifth century BC, Hekate’s constant similarity to the lunar deities of Egypt and the Near East allows the hypothesis that she was on some level associated with the Moon during the Archaic period. In light of the lunar aspects of Hekate and the lunar gods of Egypt and the Near East, it seems very likely that a common lunar theme existed between these cultures, as the result of cultural exchange and independent observation of the Moon’s visible properties.