Mythical Creatures: Medieval Mermaids

Just History Posts

Mermaids are creatures that appear time and again throughout history and across cultures. Typically a mermaid is portrayed as having the top half of a woman, and the bottom half of a fish, though this sometimes varies slightly. The first known stories of mermaids come from Assyria around 1000BC; the goddess Atargatis, who was the mother of the Assyrian Queen Semiramis, loved a mortal and accidentally killed him. Ashamed and distraught, Atargatis jumped into a lake and took the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty. She then took the form of a mermaid – human above the waist, fish below. After the death of Alexander the Great’s sister, Thessalonike, a popular Greek legend emerged that she had turned into a mermaid. According to the legend, she would ask the sailors on any ship she would encounter only one question: “Is King Alexander alive?”…

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