Visit the places of worship of the main god of Philistines and Phoenicians Dagon and Syrian goddess Derketo (Derceto) - Atargatis (Ataratah, Ataratha) became one of the most stirring impressions of my journey across the Middle East. They represented something like a mermaid - a head, arms and a lower half of a body were human, and below a waist there was a fish tailing.
Derketo, Derceto, Atargatis - the most ancient Syrian goddess
Derketo or Derceto was honoured in Northern Syria in the capacity of a goddesses of fruitful moisture, the Moon and fishery, partly at Canaanites and Phoenicians, but especially at Philistines where she was considered as a female form of Dagon and, like him, was imaged with bottom of a body of a fish and, according to "Metamorphoses" of Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C. - nearby 18 A.D.), with scales instead of skin. Strabon (64 or 63 BC - after 21 AD) wrote in "Geography" that "her real name was Afara though Ctesias (the physician of the persian tsar Ahasuerus II, V century BC) named her Derketo". He indicated that "Atargatis (in Aramaic Ataratah), is Syrian goddess whom honours in Bambik (Edessa) in Mesopotamia".
"Phoenicians worshipping to goddess Derketo were the first, from whom the world had learnt about Atargatis. Anybody from ancient Phoenicians didn't decide to put to sea without the permission of Derketo; the right to fisheries redeemed for considerable money at the sovereign priest. On ancient Phoenician coins the images of Derketo was saved - she was a true mermaid. Roman historian Lukian wrote that she was a semiwoman with a fish tailing instead of legs..." (http://www.secretplanet.ru)
Semiramis of Babylonian - Derketo daughter, a woman-werewolf
Ovid told that Derketo had insulted Aphrodite and she (Aphrodite) had endeared (inspired with love) her to a mortal. She had given a birth to Semiramis, then had thrown herself with shame in a lake and became a fish. Ctesias and the Grecian writer Lucian (about 120-180 A.D.) in the tract "About the Syrian goddess" ("About the Goddess of Syria") also wrote about her as about the mother of Semiramis; the last reported about her image in appearence of a fish in a majestic temple in Hierapolis city (modern Membidzh in Syria):
"This sanctuary was founded by Semiramis of Babylonian from which there were many facilities in Asia. She had built it in honour of her mother Derketo (Derceto). I saw the image of this Derketo - the strange show, the top represents a female body whereas lower part, from hips till legs, is made in the form of a fish tailing … Inhabitants of Hierapolis consider fishes sacred and never touch them ".
Lukian had compared Derketo with Mother of gods - Phrygian goddess Kibela.
Semiramis or Shamiram, Shammuramat - in Akkadian and Old Armenian mythologies the legendary queen of Assyria, the wife of the legendary tsar Ninus, slayed him by cunning and taken possession of authority. The historical pre-image of Semiramis is Assyrian queen Shammuramat (812-803 BC), known actually only by that she ruled alone, that was extremely unusual occurrence in the countries of Ancient East. In the image of Shamiram-Semiramis the attributes of some goddesses interweaved (entwined), in particular - of Mesopotamic goddess of love Ishtar (Istar). To the name Semiramis Hanging Gardens of Semiramis, one of the Seven miracles of the world, traditionally associate (http://ru.wikipedia.org).
According to "Geography" of Strabon, foundation of Babylon and construction of pyramids is assigned to Semiramis too. She had a gift of werewolfness and could transformed to a pigeon.
Center of worship of Derketo - Atargatis
One of the five largest Philistinian cities Ascalon (nowadays Ashkelon, Israel) was the important centre of worship of Derketo, according to Lucian.
Images of Derketo-Atargatis and others amphibian-like goddesses, reached our time
On some Syrian coins which have reached our time it is possible to see the images of Derketo-Atargatis - half a woman, half a fish. They very much resemble images of the Olympic goddess of hunting, fertility, female chasity, the patroness of all alive on the Earth, later on the goddess of the Moon Artemis or of Roman Diana Ephesus, two perfect statues of which were saved in the Capitolian museum in Rome and the Archaeological museum in Ephes in Turkey. Under the testimony of the Ancient Greek writer and traveller of II century Pausaniy the image of Artemis was stored in the temple in Phigalia - a woman from above to a waist, and a fish below.
Destiny of the temples of Dagon and Dereketo or what does remain from the cult of semipeople-semifishes nowadays
Unfortunately, there remains nothing now from the temples of Dagon and Derketo - Atargatis in Ashdod and Ashkelon where I have the luck to be. I couldn't also visit to Gaza.
In the Museum in Ashdod there is only poor mention about Dagon on the museum stand. In the same museum some little earthen Philistine statuettes are exibited and reconstruction of appearance of these mysterious people, about whom it is basically known from the Biblical, Egyptian and Assyrian written sources, is carried out. The saved ruins in the southern part of Ashdod and in the National park in Ashkelon belong to buildings of more late time (VI-XI centuries in Ashdod and I century BC - VI century AD in Ashkelon). And Ashdod and Ashkelon themselves are the young modern cities built in a recent time (after 1955).
Nevertheless, I will try, so much is possible, to transmit spirit of the atmosphere of that far time when ancient Philistines worshipped to fish-like gods who had once learnt people to the civilization bases, and the survival (existence) of mankind directly depended on them, and then, at the instigation of J. Milton and G.F. Lavkraft (and long before them - zealous fighters for cleanness of Christian belief) they were transformed to dark demons, fiends and have been attributed to servants of Satan or even compared with Him. And, absolutely unfairly.
How quickly people forgot about their benefactors!
Read also my other works about people-amphibians "People-amphibians of Nivatakavachs from Indian legends", "People-amphibians of Annedots from Sumerian-Akkadian legends - teachers who survived floods", "Nivatakavachs and Annedots - the same variety of demons. When people-amphibians lived?", "Sea people in Grecian and Syrian mythology", "Sea semipeople-semisnakes (semidragons) in Grecian, Egyptian and Chinese mythology", "Cult of semipeople-semifishes in Russian North, Kirghizia, Peru and at other people", "Snakemen - amphibians - space aggressors, destroyers of the world and the teachers of people" and other
© A.V. Koltypin, 2010
I, A. Koltypin the author and translator of this work give permission to use this for any purpose except prohibited by applicable law, on condition that my authorship and hyperlink to the site http://earthbeforeflood.com is given.