The Divine Earth

The principal Indo-European name for the earth is represented by forms in many languages. The story of its development is complicated and cannot be explained here in detail.30 The original form is reconstructed as *dheghom-/ dhghm-, with a 'holodynamic' accentual pattern by which the accented [e] moves between root, suffix, and ending in different case-forms, with vowel

26 For toraj Zevs cf. also Il. 7. 411, Soph. Tr. 399, Ar. Ach. 911, Eur. IT 1077, Pl. Phaed. 62a.

27 See W. Braune-K. Helm, Althochdeutsches Lesebuch (13th edn., Tübingen 1958), 154 (not later editions). On Irmingot as the possible equivalent of the Indo-Iranian Aryaman cf. above, p. 143.

28 Gylf. 9, 17; prose introduction to Grimnismal; Il. 13. 3-6. Cf. Grimm (1883-8), 135-7.

29 Grimnismal 48. 3, HelgakviSa Hundingsbana A 38. 4; Gylf. 9, cf. 20; Virg. Aen. 1. 254, 11. 725.

30 The best exposition is that of J. Schindler, Die Sprache 13 (1967), 191-205, cf. 23 (1977), 31, whom most modern scholars follow; cf. Ernout-Meillet (1959), s.v. humus. A divergent view recently in C. Rico, IF 109 (2004), 61-111.

loss ('zero grade') in unaccented syllables: nominative *dheghdm, locative dhghem, genitive dhghmes. Forms with the full grade of the root (*dhegh-) are found only in Anatolian, as in Hittite d^gan (written te-e-kan). In MIE, it seems, only forms with the zero grade of the root were continued, with the awkward initial cluster [dhgh] generally suffering metathesis and/or simplification:

1. Without metathesis: (a) unsimplified, Tocharian A tkam; (b) simplified, Tocharian B kem, Avestan za (locative zemi, genitive zamo), Greek yaia (< *gm-ya),31 xa/ai 'on the earth', Phrygian zem-elo- 'earthling, human', Old Church Slavonic zemlya (< proto-Slavonic *zem-ya), Old Prussian same, semme, Lithuanian zemo, Latin hum-us, Albanian dhe.32

2. With metathesis: (a) unsimplified, Vedic ksam-, Greek x6«>v, Pisidian(?) rSav, Gaulish (Devo)xdon-ion; (b) simplified, Old Irish du (genitive don).

In the MIE languages the word is regularly feminine. In Hittite it is neuter, but this is explained by its assimilation to the class of neuter n-stems.33 Originally we may assume that it belonged to the animate gender and was capable of being treated as an active being, a divinity. Historically the goddess Earth is well attested. Sometimes she is named with a direct reflex of *Dheghom, sometimes this is extended by means of a personalizing suffix, and sometimes it is replaced by a different appellation.

In Hittite the neuter d^gan is personalized as Daganzipas. The added element comes from a proto-Hattic suffix sepa or sipa, denoting genius.34 In the Rigveda ksam- is normally used only for the physical earth, while the goddess is colled Prthivl or Prthvi, the Broad One. But the dvandva compound dy^vaks^ma 'heaven and earth' is sometimes used in passages where the pair are personified (1. 121. 11, 140. 13; 3. 8. 8; 8. 18. 16; 10. 36. 1).

In Greece the goddess Earth is usually Gaia or Ge, but she can also be referred to as X6wv (Aesch. Eum. 6, fr. 44. 1; [Aesch.] Prom. 205; Eur. Hel. 40). The suffixed form X6ov-in was used by Pherecydes of Syros to denote the primal goddess who later became Ge, and by a poet writing under the name of Musaeus (2 B 11 Diels-Kranz) for the oracular goddess at Delphi, otherwise identified as Ge. The fertility goddess Damia who had a cult in parts of the Peloponnese, Aegina, and Thera possibly represents another form of the name, taken from a substrate language, with a similar suffix,

31 L. Hertzenberg in Mayrhofer et al. (1974), 96, who supposes the Greeks to have taken this over from a substrate or adstrate language, the inherited Greek form being x6wv.

32 From *gha-, according to E. Hamp, Minos 9 (1968), 199.

33 Schindler (as n. 30), 195. Luwian tiyammi- and Hieroglyphic Luwian takami- are animate.

34 J. Tischler in W. Meid-H. Olberg-H. Schmeja, Sprachwieeenechaft in Innsbruck (Innsbruck 1982), 223, 230 n. 10.

* (g)dom-ya or the like.35 The Earth-goddess is also recognizable under the name of Plataia, the eponymous nymph of Plataiai in Boeotia and a consort of Zeus (Paus. 9. 3. 1), for this is again the Broad One, like the Indic Prthivl.

A better known consort of Zeus in Greek myth is Semele, mother of Dionysus. This seems to be a Thracian name of the Earth-goddess, from *ghem-ela.36 The Thracian pronunciation was probably Zemela.

At Rome there was an ancient goddess Tellus who had a place in certain agrarian rituals. Her name is unexplained, but she was always understood to be the Earth. From the second century bce on we meet references to Terra Mater, who is not distinguished from Tellus, though this does not seem to be a traditional name.37

In the Norse tradition Earth (Ior5, also called Fiorgyn or Hlo5 yn) is named as the wife of Odin and mother of Thor, but is not otherwise a figure to be reckoned with.

The Lithuanian Earth-goddess is Zemyna, celebrated as the bringer of flowers, and a recipient of prayers and sacrifices.38 As with the Thracian Zemela, we recognize the old Indo-European name for the earth, extended by means of a suffix.

Among the Slavs the Earth appears as a deity in various popular usages and superstitions, especially under the title of mat' syra Zemlya, 'Mother Moist Earth'. This is a formulaic phrase in the Russian byliny, and sura zemya 'the moist earth' also in Bulgarian folk songs.39 Oaths were sworn by Earth, and she was called to witness in land disputes.40 This prompts us to wonder whether Solon, when he put the goddess Earth to similar use (fr. 36. 3-5), was doing something more than indulging in a rhetorical conceit.

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