Amalthea (tender) In Greek mythology, a goat nymph or goat who suckled the newborn Zeus. According to one account, Amalthea was the daughter of the Cretan king Melisseus, and she brought up the infant Zeus on the milk of a goat, while her sister Melissa (a bee) offered him honey. The horn of the goat was given to her by Zeus, with the promise that she would always find in it whatever she wished. From Amalthea the cornucopia passed to the river god Achelous, who was happy to exchange for it his own horn, which Heracles had broken off. The cornucopia is a common attribute of Dionysus, Plutus, and other deities associated with the earth. In a variant myth, Amalthea was later transformed into the star Capella. Amalthea was the patron of shepherds and frequently appears in 18th-century grottoes, such as the Queen’s Dairy at Versailles. She appears as a goat in an early work of the Italian sculptor Bernini and in two paintings by the French painter Poussin. Milton’s Paradise Regained (book 2.355) refers to her horn, and Keats’s Endymion (II.448) refers to her role as nurse to Zeus.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow-Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante