Gods and Goddesses of the Earth

Table of Content

            Since time immemorial there has existed a connection between man and his environment, ancient civilizations reflected the conditions of its environment including their way of life, culture, arts and religion. Man may have different beliefs and practices but one thing remains, across cultures, a supreme being exists and has power over the land, the heavens and the fate and destiny of men. These supreme beings were referred to as gods and goddesses of the earth. They were fickle, consumed by hate and anger, but capable of love and generosity. This paper attempts to discuss the gods and goddesses of the earth in the ancient civilizations of Catal Huyuk, Sumer/Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome and how these beings reflected the environmental state of the society.

            A literature search on Catal Huyuk revealed that the settlement found in the south of Anatolia, overlooking the wheat fields of Konya had worshipped a goddess of the earth (www.wikpedia.com). The goddess of the earth symbolized the cycle of life – birth, life and death. The people of Catal Huyuk lived on farming; their life was a succession of planting, cultivating and harvesting. Moreover, the harvesting phase was associated with the death of the field but bode wellness to the community, for it was found that the people of the settlement were not afraid of death and looked on it as vital to being born again, without the harvested grains, there would be no seeds to start a new field. The parallelism of the settlement’s way of life and their dependency on their environment and their belief in the goddess of the earth is therefore striking.

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            Mesopotamia is said to the cradle of the earliest civilizations and that subsequent cultures were influenced by the culture and arts of the various civilizations in the area. Among the most noted civilization in Mesopotamia was Sumer. It is surrounded by the desert and naturally is dry and almost barren. However, despite this conditions Sumer flourished and attained cultural greatness. Summerians were the first to use irrigation to water their fields and ensured a good harvest (www.wikipedia.com). Like many other early civilizations, they depended on the earth for their existence. Thus, they worshipped Enlil, the “father of the gods” and the “king of all lands”. As such, the people of Sumer looked to Enlil as their father who would provide for their needs and bring them to prosperity and to punish them for any misgivings. Among the attributes of Enlil, he was also said to have invented agricultural tools and since the Sumers were the first to use irrigation, it is not wrong to suppose that this knowledge could have come from Enlil.

Egypt owes its greatness and magnificence to the Nile River. The Nile was like an oasis in the dessert but in Egypt’s case it was its heart as it is found in the center of the land. Every year, the Nile flooded Egypt and brought with it black, fertile mud called silt that was an organic fertilizer (www.historyforkids.org). Thus making the fields ideal for farming and with the water from the Nile almost always gave a plentiful harvest. The Egyptians believed in Geb (Seb) as the god of the earth, he is depicted as a man with green or black skin and his sacred animal was the goose. It can be seen that Geb was an image of the Nile – the giver of life. In this scenario, it is evident how the natural environment influenced Egypt’s veneration of Geb. Egypt had attained its splendor and cultural greatness because they had a thriving source of income, which gave them opportunity to pursue the arts, thus without the Nile and therefore Geb, Egypt would have died out.

One of the greatest civilizations of all time is those of the Greeks. Until now, we are familiar with Greek mythology, because so much of it reflected the desires and aspirations of man to control its environment. But as always, man has been the child of nature, and the Greeks were no different. The geographical location of Greece makes it a difficult place to live in; it is rocky, steep and is in the middle of a volcanic zone (www.historyforkids.org). It is said that in Greece, small earthquakes were a normal occurrence and the ancient Greeks interpreted it as a sign from the gods in Mount Olympus. Even with its hostile environment, they were known to farm wheat, barley and other grains successfully. In this context, the Greeks worshipped Demeter, an earth goddess. De means earth and meter is mother. She is the offspring of earth and time, which actually depicts the conditions in which grains grow.

            Rome was perhaps the most powerful of the ancient civilizations, it wielded such power to destroy and build cities and kingdoms. It seemed that the gods conspired to make the natural environment in Rome favorable for trade and cultural development. The climate is just right; it is a commercial center and thus did not depend on farming as the source of livelihood. The Romans believed in Ceres the goddess of agriculture, and the love of a mother for her child. Ceres is much akin to the Greek goddess Demeter. For the Romans, Ceres symbolized the affluent culture and fertile environment of Rome.

            The discussion of the different civilizations and their gods and goddesses of the earth raises a number of issues. First is that the earth gods and goddess in the civilizations of Catal Huyuk, Sumer and Egypt wielded greater power than those of Greece and Rome. Second is that for Sumer and Egypt, the earth god was male while the rest was female. The third is that the earth

goddesses of Greece and Rome came from gods and goddesses of creation instead of being creation in itself like the earth goddess of Catal Huyuk. Thinking about this issues lead us to the conclusion that different forms of earth gods and goddesses do exist, this is because each civilization has its own culture. However, geographical location and the environment do influence the culture of each.


Ancient Egypt (2005). Kidipede – History for Kids. Retrieved on February 16, 2006 from


Ancient Greece (2005) History for Kids. Retrieved on February 20, 2006 from


Ancient Rome (2005) History for Kids. Retrieved on February 20, 2006 from


Çatalhöyük (2006). www.wikipedia.com Retrieved February 20, 2006 from


Catal Huyuk Earth Goddess

Enlil – Sumer and Mesopotamia

Geb – Egypt

Demeter – Greece

Ceres – Rome

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