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Pagan Cults of Pre-Christian Georgia (Ainina-Danina, Zaden ) Mariam Gvelesiani


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Pagan Cults of Pre-Christian Georgia (Ainina-Danina, Zaden )

Mariam Gvelesiani
My fourth-month research work carried out in the University of Chicago through Carnegie Research Fellowship Program appeared far more fruitful than I might ever imagine. During this time, a great number of the subject-related studies and visual materials have been explored laying a foundation for not only study of the problem in question but for arising a whole range of topics for future research.

I have to express my deepest thanks to the Carnegie Foundation and NCEEER for giving me the wonderful opportunity for research under fabulous conditions. I am very grateful for kind and most generous assistance I was receiving from Ms. Dana Ponte, Ms. Shoshana Billik and Mr. Alexei Kharlamov all through this period of time.

My special thanks are due to my mentor Prof. Bruce Lincoln who has given his kind assistance to me as supervisor and with whom I had a privilege of discussing the matters treated in my study. Prof. Lincoln carefully read some of my articles and I benefited from his remarks greatly, as sharing with me his ideas, he pointed out errors and deficiencies1 which undoubtedly will be taken into consideration in my proposed monograph devoted to the pagan pantheon of pre-Christian Georgia.
The subject I have chosen for my research may appear ambitious. For not only is the area vast,2 but large traits of it are still unexplored and any kind of interpretation has not yet been found. But even the early premature attempt to solve a problem may contribute something to the ultimate satisfying solution.

In my research project I was mentioning that the proposed research is a continuation of my thesis devoted to study of the cult of Armazi, the supreme divinity of the kingdom of Kartli3 (located in the eastern Georgia and referred to Caucasian Iberia by the Greeks and Romans) personification of which is expected to be a clue to formulation of religious orientation of pre-Christian Georgia. His cult was established by the king Pharnavaz,4 the founder of the kingdom of K’artl’i in the early third century BC, by setting up the idol of Armazi on his name, the evidence speaking of deification of the king, the founder also of a royal dynasty of Pharnavaziani. Although the question raised in the thesis about the connection of Armazi with the Iranian Ahura Mazda has been widely shared and accepted by specialists, his definition doesn’t give a full picture of religious beliefs practiced in pre-Christian Georgia unless other divinities – Ainina/Danina(Danana) and Zaden are studied

According to the Moktsevai Kartlisai (Conversion of Kartli), which is the earliest (9th-10th century) surviving medieval Georgian historical compendium, independent from the Georgian Chronicles Kartlis C’xovreba, the cults of these divinities had been introduced into Kartli by the successors of Pharnavaz: Saurmag (Ainina), Mi(h)rvan (Danina) and Pharnajom (Zaden), while “Life of Kings,”5 composed no later than fifth-sixth century and incorporated into Kartlis C’xovreba6 [Life (i.e. History) of Kartli written by Leonti Mroveli in the eleventh century], and the Armenian adaptation of chronicles written in Georgian before the thirteenth century, associate Saurmag with two idols, Ainina and Danana. The Georgian and Classical evidence suggests that Phamavaz and his successors cultivated close relations with the Hellenistic Seleucid kingdom in Syria and at times recognized its suzerainty. Indeed, Alexander's conquest of Achaemenid Iran made it possible for several regions along the periphery of the Iranian Commonwealth to declare their autonomy.

K’C’ identifies Saurmag7 (r.234-159BC) as the son of Pharnavaz. Having quashed a revolt of eris’tavis (literally, “head of the people”, synonym of “duke”), Saurmag “...pardoned [some], but he humbled the descendants of Kartlos and made the aznauris (nobles) preeminent. He thus created a new class of men directly dependent upon the Crown. He resided in Mc’xet’a, the city of Kartli and increased all the fortifications of Mc’xet’a and Kartli “....and he made the two idols Ainina and Danana and set them up on the road to Mc'xet'a. And he began to build up Armazi (Acropolis – M.G.).” Moreover, Saurmag, like his father, was “subject to the king of Asurastan” [i.e., the Seleucids], and he married the daughter of the Iranian governor of Bardavi. Having two daughters and no son, he adopted Mirvan, a descendant of Nimrod and member of the “Nebrot'iani” Iranian royal dynasty. Mirvan married one of Saurmag’s daughters, while the other daughter was supposedly wed to the son of the ruler of Egrisi (ancient Colchis, located in western Georgia).

Mirvan’s son Pharnajom8 (r. 109-90 BC), the fourth in the Pharnavaziani line king of Kartli, is reported to have added another idol, that of the god Zaden, to the Kartlian (Iberian) pagan pantheon, and to have built a fortress by the same name to house it. His policy of importing foreign (Persian) religion is said to have caused a general uprising: the king is supposed to have become “fire-worshipper” and consequently to have installed Zoroastrian priests in the royal city of M’cxet’a at a place called moguta, literally, “of the magi.”9 The chronicle goes on to describe a great battle between Pharnajom and his nobles in which the king is defeated and killed, and the crown given to his son-in-law, Arshak/Artaxias, son of the king of Armenia, the rebels’ ally. Another account is given in the “Life of Ioane Zedazneli” describing worship of pagan deities as a ritual performed for the “nastiest demons” on Mount Zedazeni, taken as toponym of Zeda Zadeni, i.e., “Upper Zaden”, nearby Mtskheta, where stood the idol of Armazi.

It has been suggested by scholars that the pre-Christian texts of M’K' are dependent upon (the earlier) LKings, this being most evident from the former’s corruption of royal names which seem to have been more accurately preserved in the latter. Whether or not ancient and late antique Georgians ever worshipped such idols is a matter of scholarly debate. While the question is of great scholarly interest, it is the imagery of LKings that is of more importance for this study: the kings, by virtue of their social status, were deemed responsible for building idols.

As it may be seen, M’K’ differs Ainina from Danana as to ascribing their installation to Saurmag and Pharnajom respectively, whereas K’C’ like as its Armenian adaptation associate both of them with the former king.

While apart from the names of the two idols Ainina and Danana/Danina we have no other textual evidence to validate their interpretation, we know something a little bit more about Zaden, a report on which is preserved in the ninth-tenth century narrative Life of St. Nino containing a reference to the functional aspect of this divinity. Being coupled with the supreme “God of Gods” Armazi, he is described by the first Christian King Mirian (the 4th century) thus: “The great Gods, who command the world, who make the sun rise, who provide rain, who make the bounty of the world increase” (by M’K “the great Gods, who give fruits”).


Georgian literary tradition is far from offering exhaustive answers to religious beliefs as well as specific characteristics of deities,10 it only gives few hints indicating the way we should follow in our inquiries. The Georgian Christian writers, like those in Armenia, are sole native sources on the pre-Christian cult. A paucity of written accounts of Ainina (Danina/Danana) and Zaden has perhaps discouraged scholars from attempting their study, like as from trying to connect them with archaeological evidence. Until recent times, very little is known also about the cults and in common, religious systems of pre-historic Georgia, since the archaeological researches, interpretations of this or that cult have been based upon single-disciplinary, namely, ethnographic studies comprising itself only Georgian evidence without entering other fields as well as civilizations outside Georgia, arising thereby a whole range of arguable hypotheses and unwarranted assumptions.
Having familiarized with my preliminary investigation of the problem, Prof. Lincoln mentioned in his remarks how problematic it must be to have so little information about one’s deepest prehistory, and how great is the temptation to work from shreds of evidence (sometimes no more than a name) by way of comparisons to reach a fuller interpretation and where linguistic correspondences give me strong support (as in the case of Georgian Armazi, Armenian Aramazd, Old Persian Auramazdā, as he mentions and supports such a connection), what kind of difficulties I may face when such evidence is lacking (or simply weaker). In an attempt to remove the deities in question from their relative isolation and obscurity that I try to connect them with data from elsewhere that are better known (Iran, Mesopotamia, Armenia) I might prefer, as Prof. Lincoln suggests, to posit other sorts of relation, including diffusion, syncretism and parallelism of deities and their cults.

I fully agree with Prof. Lincoln’s view and the way I’m trying to follow in this research perhaps is the same. But what encouraged me to enter into such a dangerous field, is the familiarization with special literature and artifacts to which I have had access in the University of Chicago and various museums in the US that enabled me to examine the problem in a new light, within the framework of surrounding Georgia civilizations. This article contains a contribution to recent discussions in scholarly literature and expositions of ideas circulating there. There are some proposals and ideas of my own in the study which are put forward for discussion.

It is to be noted that one critical circumstance affecting an analysis of differing cultural influences is the fact that we are very unevenly informed about the cults in question as they were practiced in Georgia (and this is common with other ones worshipped outside), and what exactly their rituals entailed. Yet this process is traceable only through the archaeological record; the figurative monuments, which have come down to us in great numbers, make possible to approach the difficult task of reconstructing someway the deities in question and thereby fill the gaps of our knowledge about the pre-Christian religion of Georgia. My preliminary attempts at synthesis will await further additions and corrections. There are many ways in which the pieces of evidence can be linked together and continuity in the Georgian religion can be established in a variety of ways. I do not pretend to have been able to find the only possible ways but try to re-examine the ways in which the divinities have been discussed and maybe this will lead me to consequent conclusions.
While examining the cult of the supreme god Armazi, the main determinant of the religious (Zoroastrian) orientation of the kingdom of Kartli, my attention was drawn to the evidence given in the LNino, which is pointer to the path I think we must follow in order to come closer to personification of Ainina/Danana-Danina, of whom, as noted above, nothing is known except their names.

In this writing St Nino is referred to as the “daughter of Armazi”: appealing to the saint to heal the sick Persian magus Khuara. King Mirian addresses her thus: “….through God’s mighty power you’re skilled in healing, you’re the daughter of Armazi”.

As a final result of the examination and definition of the supreme divinity, the origin of Armazi from the Iranian Ahura Mazda has been proved through a comparative study of Aramazd, the supreme divinity of pre-Christian Armenia, which became a bridging link between Armazi and Ahura Mazda. The functional as well as other aspects of these gods coincide with those of Armazi, to say nothing of the phonetic closeness of the names Armazi, Aramazd and Ahura Mazda (Md. Persian Ohrmizd). It is notable that in the “History of Armenia” by Movses Xorenaci, the Georgians‘ god is referred to as Aramazd while St Nino is referred to as Nunē. The reference to Nunē instead of Nino shouldn‘t be taken as an attempt of “Armenization” of the Georgian religious realm as suggested by some scholars, but as proof that for Xorenaci the Armenian Aramazd and Georgian Armazi are identical gods as both of them are connected with Ahura Mazda. Thus, the reference to “Armazi” as “Aramazd” is obviously the Armenian transcription of Ahura Mazda (Hormuzd, Ohrmazd), just as he calls St Nino “Nunē,” which is an alternative form of the Sumero-Assyrian Nana, Nanaia, Hebrew Nanea (Maccabees II, 1, 13, 15), and Armenian Nanē.

The same Nanē is mentioned in he History of Armenia by Agathangelos, who announces that: “… in T’cil St. Gregory obliterated the temple of Nanē, daughter of Aramazd” [(Agath. 786), 73, p.59].

It thus becomes evident that there is obvious connection between Nino-Armazi and Nanē-Aramazd. It has been suggested that Nanē (Nana, Nanaia) was worshipped in Armenia and, close to Georgia other civilizations venerated her as the Great Mother Goddess. The reference to Nanē as “daughter of Aramazd,” like that to Nino as “daughter of Armazi,” need not be taken literally but figuratively. It may be compared, as suggested by J. Russell, to the Yasht 17.16, dedicated to the yazata Aši, where the goddess is referred to as the daughter of Ahura Mazda (73, p. 241).11 As Aši represents fortune, prosperity and fecundity, thereby finding parallels with the cult of the Great Mother Nana (Nanē), the goddess venerated across the Near and Middle Eastern (Sogd) regions.

The names containing the root Nin, Nan are attested in Early Christian Georgian writings, apart from St Nino and the first Christian King Mirian‘s wife Nana, in the two goddesses Ainina and Danina/Danana, the evidence which has raised a question in Georgian scholarship about derivation of the names of deities in question.

A century ago Bishop Kyrion (Kyrion Sadzaglishvili) studied the etymology of the name Nino and equated it with Ur-Nina, whom he refers to as the goddess of the Georgian pagan pantheon. He suggests that she is of Chaldaean origin, just as were the ancestors of the Georgians who worshipped the goddesses Ur-Nina and Ur-Bau.12 K. Sadzaglishvili interprets the prefix Ur as “slave”13 but recognizes Nina and Bau as the personal names of the goddesses (16, p.312).

L. Melikset-Bekoff suggests that the name Danina (resp. Danana) is close to that of the Armenian goddess Anahit. He traces the name Nano in the refrains of Georgian songs (Harni-Arnano, Arnia-Arnano), and recognizes it as the transliteration of Nina, the name with the most ancient origin. The root “Nan” is contained, as pointed out by Melikset-Bekoff, in the words denoting “mother” (Nina, Nino, Nana, Nano, Nena, Neno, Nani, Nane, Ana) in Georgian as well as in the Armenian and Tatar languages,14 and Georgian lullaby songs words Iav-Nana, Nanina are likely to have the same connotations (53, pp. 17-18).

N. Marr interprets Ainina and Danina as the two alternative names of one and the same goddess worshipped as Anahita by Iranians and Nana by non-Iranians. He suggests “Ainina” to be a “corrupted form of “Anahida” and possibly enough, its last syllable ”da” was attached to “Na-na” (“Da-na-na”)” erroneously by the manuscript copyist. In support of his argument, N. Marr refers to the study of Fr. Windischmann15 devoted to the Persian Anahita which provides, as he mentions such a wide range, of variations of this name that it seems plausible to suggest Ainina as the “Georgian but obviously a distorted form” of the Persian goddess. As to the name of the other goddess Nana, it finds parallel, as suggested by N. Marr, in that of the Queen Nana, the wife of the first Christian King of Georgia, the evidence to be explained by the fact that the royal names quite often are associated with the same of Georgian gods (50, p. 9).

Following the same line of thinking, M. Tsereteli admits the possibility of the establishment of the cult of Anahit through Ainina and Danina, although differentiating them hypothetically (“Ainina and Nina,”16 the latter being the same Nana”), suggests that “… in this case we‘re seemingly dealing with the two names of one and the same goddess known as Ishtar in Sumer and worshipped under varied names: Ninni, Ininna, Inanna, Nana, among which the names Nana and Nina had been widespread throughout Asia Minor and Georgia.” (78, pp. 100-101).

Apart from phonetic approach referred to the names of deities in question there has never been any further investigation in Georgia. As seen above, the etymology of the name Nino equated with Ai-nin-a is supposed to have traced its origin back to the sphere of Sumerian, Asia Minor, Iranian and Armenian goddesses, although this initial clue for the phonetic interpretation needs a further line of research based upon additional evidence. The juxtaposition of the above-noted concepts makes clear the connection of Nin-o both with the Iranian Anāhitā and the Sumerian Inanna, which is in full accord with the derivation of the Armenian Nanē (resp. Nino) from Inanna. Semitic peoples such as the Akkadians and Babylonians called the Sumerian Inanna Ishtar or Astarte, the deity representing the oldest strain in Mesopotamian paganism. In the light of this evidence, the problem of the interrelationship between Inanna-Ishtar and Great Goddess Nana widely attested in pre-historic Georgian religious beliefs and suggested by scholars to be the solar goddess comes to fore.

Therefore let us begin survey of the problem from the earliest times for tracing the ways of transmission and adaptation in which these deities (or deity) share common ground in order to strengthen threads of solely linguistic conjectures. The way the investigation is conducted is accounted for by correlation of the two goddesses Anāhitā (Phl. Anāhîd, Arm. Anahid) and Nana (or Nanai, Arm. Nanē), who share so many aspects, in neighboring Armenia and elsewhere, that it seems fitting to consider them together (73, p.235). Furthermore, the connection between the main, supreme deities of Georgian and Armenian pre-Christian pantheon determining the religious climate in favor of Zoroastrianism in the two neighboring countries, tends me to seek parallels in the same way.

Georgia, like as Armenia, particularly before the conversion in the fourth century to Christianity, was steeped in Iranian religion and culture; most of both Georgian and Armenian royalty had the ties of kinship with the Iranians or belonged to branches of Iranian noble families and bore Iranian names. Like the Iranians, the Georgians and Armenians of ancient times preserved the memory of heroes and great events in the form of epic poetry which was orally transmitted by minstrels,17 Pth. gōsān, Georg. mgosani (a synonym of “poet”), Arm. Gusan (29, p. 181)

On the whole, it mustn’t be unexpected that Georgia and Armenia, being historically, geographically and politically within a common orbit, were of similar religious orientation, which at a certain stage of historical development are believed to have been directed by their neighboring country of the Great Iran.

In his Zoroastrianism in Armenia, James Russell has shown the deep penetration of Zoroastrianism in Armenia. Although it has not yet been subject to systematic research analysis in Georgia and elsewhere, medieval Georgian texts and archaeological evidence indicate to the existence of this religion both in the two kingdoms of Kartvelians (Georgians) – Kartli and Colchis,18 and we should not forget that localized forms of Iranian culture were embraced by the tribes of northern Caucasia, the Kuban, and the Bosphorus, although both in Georgia and Armenia the practice of Zoroastrianism predominated, though this was diluted by other cults; and other religions were also practiced.

In the light of these considerations, a question arises: shouldn’t a striking correspondence between the references made to the Armenian goddess Nanē (Agathangelos) as “daughter of Aramazd” and to St Nino as “daughter to Armazi” (anonymous Georgian writer) respectively, be the grounds for assertion about Nanē and Nino that we are dealing, in fact, with two correlate or one and same female deities and that at least, the Christian Saint’s name had been associated with her pagan forerunner in the Georgian religious belief? If so, it is the Armenian goddess Nanē which is expected to become a clue to interpretation of the Georgian goddess Nana, whose name, like that of her Armenian counterpart, as remarked above, comes to denote “mother” in both Georgian and Armenian languages. Most likely for this reason, as we shall see, the two deities shared many of the attributes of the Great Mother goddess.

Nevertheless, a caveat must be noted in the following discussion of these goddesses: although the name of a deity such as Nana or Anāhitā appears over a wide geographical area, it cannot be concluded necessarily that cultic practices are the same everywhere, since most often in the traditional popular religions of antiquity, the power and expression of a deity are bound to the group and the place.19
But before I go farther, I would draw the reader's attention to the problem of attribution of the cult of Great Mother Nana on Georgian evidence and compare the ways of her interpretation with those of the mother goddesses worshipped elsewhere in order to establish possible links between them. These are brought under review in this inquiry in an attempt to connect Nana with the divinity in question.

The information on the Great Mother Goddess Nana has been corroborated by ethnographic studies conducted in the mid-20th century by V. Bardavelidze, who advanced the conception of a triad of gods consisting of the supreme male god (Moon), Mze-Kali (Sun-Woman) and Kviria (Morning Star). Specialists assumed the identification of the second-in-rank goddess Mze-Kali (Kal-Babbar, Nana) with Great Mother Goddess Nana without any attempt at re-examination of reliability of the noted theory and it became firmly established in scholarly circulation until now. However, it raises a question of which goddess is meant under this name: is the Great Mother Goddess Nana, personified as such in connection of archaeological finds having solar semantics (circular hearths, a bullock-cart wheel, discoid-shaped items, pierced cobble-stones etc.), identical to the goddess known by the same name in ancient civilizations since the Paleolithic age, or is she of Georgian, local origin? Furthermore, it is tempting to equate Nana with Nena, Nana meaning “mother” in western Georgian dialects, although as mentioned above, this evidence was not unfamiliar to other countries too.

As studied by specialists, the names of the Asia Minor Great Mother Goddess Kubaba (identical with Cybele) such as Nana are considered to be lallwÖrter meaning “mother” (73, p. 235). Because of this very fact the question raised above might seem unreasonable at first glance; moreover, if we take into account that the worship of the Great Mother of nature, the goddess of fertility was common to various geographic regions in prehistoric times, the evidence that has found visual expression in the “Paleolithic Venuses” presenting themselves, together with other figurines of the Mother Goddess, as the earliest patterns both of religious beliefs and plastic art. Thereby, generally the Great Mother‘s cult seems unlikely to have been distinguished by sharply expressed characteristics peculiar to each region.

It is noteworthy that the anthropomorphic so-called “naturalistic” clay figurines of a woman, dated back to the Chalcolithic Age (the 5th millennium BC) and recognized as the Great Mother Goddess having protective power over nature, were unearthed at Khramis Didi Gora (Fig. 1), the evidence placing Georgia together with Mesopotamia (Karim Shahir, Jarmo, Hassuna, Tel-Halaf, Arpachia), Iran (Tepe-Sarab), Asia Minor (Tulin-Tepe, Norshun-Tepe) and Armenia (Shengavit, Mokhranblur) within a geographic area wherein the most ancient layers of her cult worship have been attested through the archaeological records. Such a connection has been widened by a new evidence that I have come across in the study of E. Herzfeld Iran in the Ancient East featuring the clay figurines of female idols with cone shaped heads (p. 16. fig.9) finding closest parallels with those from Khramis Didi Gora (Fig.2), and bearing thereby witness to cultural-religious interaction between these countries.20

Thus, the universal rather than national character of the Great Mother‘s worship seems hard to doubt, unless we survey the studies in Georgian scholarship sharing the concept of the solar character of the Great Mother Nana, differentiating her completely, as the examination of the problem has shown, from the goddess known by the same name in the aforementioned countries. The connection of the Great Mother Nana with the archaeological objects taken as her solar attributes or symbols, hasn‘t been attested elsewhere, since the studies devoted to this goddess worshipped outside Georgia contain no evidence linking them together. However, this fact in no way lessens the indisputable value of V. Bardavelidze‘s works, although it should not be arguable that the Christian rituals and liturgical chants in which the scholar rightly traces the elements of paganism infiltrated into Christian worship, cannot nonetheless be a reliable clue to both reconstruction of pagan pantheon and personification of a concrete deity.

As a consequence, the difficulties attending the interpretation of archaeological materials viewed as cultic objects, are due, in general, to the premises and assumptions elaborated through single-disciplinary studies which misleads scholars, in case with the Great Mother Nana, to connect her with solar-semantic items whereas her association with the sun-goddess appears to be rather questionable. From the methodological point of view, it would be more reasonable to treat any kind of data containable within a single disciplinary framework (ethnographic in our case) as a supporting argument rather than key determinant for interpretation of the deities. Moreover, that examination of such a wide-ranging, complex and multi-faceted divinity as the Great Mother of nature, the goddess of maternal universality needs a cross-disciplinary approach to the problem as well as comparative analysis of cultural-religious evidence from Georgia and from the outer world.21

In her early study “From History of the Most Ancient Belief of the Georgians” V. Bardavelidze traces the origin of worship of the Christian St Barbara attested in the religious rituals practiced by the Svans (a North Georgian tribe) in that of the pagan astral cult of the sun-goddess Barbale, recognizing her as the goddess associated with the Sumerian sun divinity Babar, so that we find there no notice of her connection with the Great Mother Nana. In the following work “Drevneishie religioznyie verovaniya I ovryadovoe graficheskoe iskusstvo gruzinskikh plemen” (The Earliest Religious Beliefs and Ritual Graphic Art of the Georgian Tribes) published in 1957 in Russian, V. Bardavelidze introduces the Great Mother Nana for the first time into scholarly circulation, referring to her twice as the “hypostasis of the sun-goddess Kal-Babar‘”without bringing forward any evidence for such an identification and any parallel to the goddess known by the name Great Mother Nana in other countries.

V. Bardavelidze suggests that the Georgian lullaby refrain – “Iav-Nana, Vardo Nana, Iav Naninao” (Violet-Nana, Rose-Nana, Violet Nanina) – is connected with the cult of Nana. She also mentions that the evidences for Nana’s function and nature can be found in Georgian fairy tales and legends, whereas her cult worship elements have been preserved in nursery rituals carried out in the treatment of persons suffering from infectious diseases (smallpox, measles, called “Batonebi” in Georgian). She points out that in the Batonebi “departure” ritual, the astral nature of the Great Mother Nana, her connection with the sun in particular, is evidenced by circular motion of the ritual performers around the sick person, as well as in dancing in a ring. The fact that in the Georgian highlanders’ religious texts the earth is defined as one “owned by the sun,” that is, by the goddess Nana (Barbale, Mzekali), as suggested by V. Bardavelidze, like the saying “I swear by your sun” referred to in the proof of the same connection, together with all above-mentioned considerations, is neither reliable nor sufficient evidence for an explanation of why the sun-goddess is called the Great Mother Nana.

In her next study “Kartvel tomta astralur ghvtaebata panteonis ganvitarebis ert-erti udzveles saphexurtagani” (One of the Most Ancient Stages of the Development of Astral Divinities‘ Pantheon of Georgian Tribes) published in 1959 in Georgian, V. Bardavelidze formulates the concept of the triad of deities worshipped by the Pshav-Khevsurs (the eastern highland tribes), but no longer making any note of any kind of the relationship between the triad’s second divinity and Great Goddess Nana.

That is, basically and in brief, all our knowledge about this goddess built upon Georgian ethnographic data. The investigation of this question has shown that the goddess worshipped under name Great Mother Nana across Near and Middle Eastern civilizations, opposite to this interpretation, is credited with associating her with the moon rather than with the sun, the evidence which may help to establish some thread of consistency in my line of thinking about personification of Ainina/Danana.


As studied by scholars, the name of the Great Mother goddess,22 whom the Romans called Magna Mater, is encountered most frequently in Asia Minor as Kubaba or Cybele.23 The cult of the Mother Goddess traces its origin to the Paleolithic Age. Her worship seems to be as old as the archaeological record: a figurine from Chatal Htiytik depicts her as potnia therōn, "Lady of the Beasts" (83, p. 15; Figs. 4, 5)

The goddess is usually shown enthroned, flanked by two lions. It is suggested that lions signal her command over wild creatures, and implicitly over tame ones, too (39, p.104) One of her titles seems to have been “the lady,”24 as attested in North Syrian theophoric name Alli-Kubaba, meaning “Kubaba is the lady” [(17th-16th centuries B. C), vermas. 24]. Mother of all, Cybele was the ruler, not only of the land, but of the life-giving waters. In the legend of Cybele and her son and lover Attis, Nana is mentioned as the daughter of the River Sangarius.

The goddess Nana is probably to be identified with Nanā, patron goddess of the Sumerian city of Uruk, whose name in Sumerian, Innin or Inanna, means “Lady of Heaven”. In the Mesopotamian glyptic art and statuary she appears often armed with arrows or a mace, carrying flowers or a scepter, standing on a lion, or lions, accompanied by the planet Venus whose astrological forces she embodies (71, p. 85).25

Nanā was principally a goddess of fertility and she seems to have adopted the attributes of Cybele; this is evidenced by the image of Nanā shown likewise Cybele accompanied by a lion,26 as on one of the Sumerian cylindrical seals dated back to the 3rd millennium BC. Nana is also depicted together with other animals or pairs of animals (73, p. 235).

This iconographical trait seems not unfamiliar to the goddess known under different name: on the terracotta relief from Sardis is shown the winged goddess holding two lions by their tails. Here the evidence of Lydian inscription makes it plain that the Lydian Artemis (Artimu) is intended and she is probably the same “native goddess” as, as suggested by G. Hanfmann, Cybebe Kubaba, whose worship was widely spread in Anatolia in the second millennium BC (31, p. 65).

As the name of the moon divinity of the Sumerian city of Ur, Nana reveals closeness to Inanna, it has been suggested that in prehistoric times they were one and the same divinity or had a common origin. More frequently Inanna is taken in the Sumerian period as the moon god Nana‘s daughter (28, p. 94), but endowed with masculine power,27 the evidence being reflected in her androgenic nature – Inanna, just like Assyro-Babylonian Ishtar, is the goddess of both love and war (11, p. 29). An unmistakable symbol of Inanna-Ishtar was the eight-pointed star or rosette, which signified her identification with the planet Venus28 (87, p. 176; 32, p. 230), the morning or evening star venerated by the Babylonians as Ishtar and called by the Persians Ana-hiti-s meaning “undefiled.”

A significant symbol of Inanna was also a hook-shaped twisted knot of reeds or a wheatear - the sign with which her name was always written is easily recognized and goes back to an archaic pictograph representing a gatepost of the storehouse [and thus fertility and plenty (27, p. 73, Fig.25 in the text and Fig. 4 in attached file)].

The Persians, according to Herodotus (1.131), sacrificed to the “Heavenly Goddess”, whom later Greek writers called Aphrodite Anaitis or simply Anaitis. As regards to Aphrodite, most scholars regard her as coming to the Greek people from the Semitic area of Astarte cult (20, p.97). As pointed out by B. Mukherjee, like Inanna, the Persian Anahita was the warlike goddess, to whom the Achaemenian kings and princes probably addressed prayers for victory over foes. Like as in Mesopotamian art Ishtar is regularly represented as carrying weapons, apparently the Iranian Anahita was conceived as similarly equipped, for later on, on the Kushan coins she appears, as Nanaia, armed with what looks like a sword or club ( 51, p. 224).

From early times, Inanna and Ishtar became increasingly identified, until, by the period of Sargon the Great (about 2300 B.C.), they were so similar that in discussing them scholars usually treat them as one deity – Inanna-Ishtar.

In Goddess movement literature, the goddess Inanna is said to be the Great Mother:

“…[her] title ”Queen of Earth and Heaven” reveals lineaments of the Neolithic Great Mother .:. For Inanna, is, above all, a lunar goddess who gives life as the waxing moon and then withdraws it as the waning moon ... she is incarnated in the morning and evening star and in the star Sirius ... The light and dark dimensions to her power, the horned headdress and serpent staff, her dying and resurrected son-lover, who annually descends to the underworld and rises again from it - all suggest a lunar mythology” (27, p. 72).

In the Hellenistic period Nana was frequently assimilated with the Greek Artemis in Mesopotamia. A temple of Artemis-Nana was built in the middle of the city of Dura-Europos in Roman times where a dedicatory inscription identified Nana as the chief goddess of that city. The Images of Aphrodite, winged victory, and Tyche or Fortuna which were erected in the temple of Nana at Dura, indicate that the celestial Mesopotamian Nana combined the functions of all those Graeco-Roman divinities. (6, p. 537).


The Georgian scholars M. Khidasheli and L. Pantskhava have exhaustively and convincingly examined the ways of Ishtar-Artemis-Dali (the Svan goddess of hunting) connection with the zoomorphic images of stags, whose astral symbol is the moon. In this respect, one pattern of the openwork buckles (termed as “Caucasian bronze buckles”) found in Ghebi (western Georgia) is a subject of special interest. It shows the image of the goddess standing between two figures of fantastic stags (Fig.5). M. Khidasheli considers the female figure to be the Great Mother connected with the moon (42, pp. 58-86; 63, pp. 40-45), referring to the study by F. Hančar and other in which semantic relationship between the moon and the goddess riding a two-headed animal or pair of animals is carefully examined. However, not discussing about the existed conception on “Georgian” Great Mother Nana’s connection with the sun in the light of this evidence, the studies of M. Khidasheli and L. Pantskhava leave reliability of such an assumption still under question, whereas, along with other evidences, the same trait has been attested, as noted above in the iconography of the goddess Nana, like as Cybele.29

On the Kushan coins the lion-riding goddess depicted with crescent moon above her head is titled “Nano” [(15, pp. 75-77; 77, p. 137) Fig.6], while reverse shows the image of the bull which is unlikely to be random: the particular sacrifice offered to Nano/Nana was the cow or bull, perhaps because of the connection of the animal with fertility.30 Along with the coins of the Kusano-Bactrian kings Kaniska and Huviska, Nana is found on a Kushan intaglio: she is shown seated on a lion, and there is a crescent above her head with the horns pointing upwards to either side (71. p. 84, Fig.10).

The archaeological finds unearthed in 1951 in Building No. 1 of the earliest settlements at Katlanikhevi, located near the cave town of Uplistsikhe in Georgia include the clay head of a woman sculpted in high relief (Fig.7). D. Khakhutaishvili suggests it is a ritual object representing the image of the Great Goddess Nana, dating to the 1st millennium BC (41, pp. 19-29).

The sculpture, which has obsidian-encrusted eyes, seemingly had been attached to the clay wall, through which it finds parallel, as D. Khakhutaishvili suggests, in the painted clay head of the goddess Ishtar, attached to a temple wall of the Jemdet-Nasr period (3100-2900 BC) in the same manner. In addition, the head‘s typological-iconographic traits (middle-parted hair rendered with a thickened layer of clay) reveal a formal closeness with the well-known sculpture of the goddess from Uruk (Fig. 8), identified in some studies with the goddess Inanna.

Among the objects discovered on Building No. 1‘s floor (fragment of a clay model of a bull-calf, pottery pots and discs made of their pieces, damaged figures of animals, a bullock-cart wheel, pierced cobble-stones, etc., Fig. 9) D. Khakhutaishvili interpreted the discoid-shaped items as representing a material emanation of the solar cult. He thereby recognized Building No. 1 as a shrine of the “Great Mother Nana” [the same Mze-Kali (Sun-Woman), Barbale].

In his attempt to examine semantic meaning of the bull-headed altar found in Building No. 3 at Katlanikhevi D. Khakhutaishvili points out the ethnographic evidence of religious belief recorded by V. Bardavelidze in Svaneti (northern Georgia) that the reproduction of cattle depends greatly upon having offered bulls to the sun goddess. Thus, it is understandable that D. Khakhutaishvili connects the bull cult attested in Katlanikhevi with the sun goddess, whereas, even putting aside other evidence, the connection of the bull with the moon, widely known in ancient cultures, has been likewise reflected in the Ancient Greek Orphic Chants, wherein the crescent moon is addressed thus: “the luminous Selene, bull-horned moon.” (62, p.18). In the Persian religious thought, the sole-created Bull, the progenitor of the animal world, is invoked along with the moon (Sr. I. 12; 2. 12; 18, p. 214).

As Khakhutaishvili suggests, a terracotta figurine of a bull with four holes on its back supposedly for attaching something, which was found together with the Katlanikhevi anthropomorphic figure in Building No. 1, can be paralleled with the seal of the Jemdet-Nasr period showing a bull with an altar attached to its back (Fig. 9). The scholar confines his observation solely to this detail, not pointing out the element of special significance in this case: it seems more essential that the altar is crowned by the symbol of Inanna (a wheatear) rather than the altar itself. Regrettably, the scholar has overlooked the evidence for reasons we can understand.

If follow the line of thinking given above, then Khakhutaishvili would find in this evidence a direct argument for taking the bull figurine as a sacrificial animal offered to the goddess who could well be named Inanna or the Great Mother Nana – as mentioned above, the bull was an animal sacrificed to Inanna/Nana. This consideration is proved by archaeological evidence from the Oureki burial: together with the figurine of the goddess with a child discussed below, a terracotta figurine of a bull (Fig. 10, Nos. 9, 10) was unearthed, which T. Mikeladze connects with the Great Mother goddess, like the images of bulls on the reverse of 4th-century BC Colchian coins, as their front side shows the image of this deity. T. Mikeladze supports his opinion with a successful argument: in the same burial were also found figurines of lions or leopards (Fig.10, Nos. 13, 14), the animals connected, as we saw above, with the Great Mother goddess Nana/Cybele (55, p. 67); scholars usually assume that the animal figurines found in shrines may be regarded as attributes of the deities, rather than as symbols of the god and goddess themselves (52, p. 78).


Let us turn to the problem of worship of the goddess known under name Nana-Nanaia.

In ca. 1700 B.C. the Elamite King Kuter-Nahhunte carried off Nanā’s statue from of Uruk (Erech) and set it up in Susa, where it remained, the object of veneration until Assurbanipal seized it in the seventh century and restored it to Erech (76, p. 140; 11, p.31; 73, p. 237). Nanā’s cult continued nevertheless to flourish in Susa, where the cult of Nana had been introduced from Mesopotamia as early as the third millennium B.C. and the goddess was named as the principal deity of that city. However, despite her importance among the native population of Susa, Nana is not named on Seleucid coins from Susa, whereas Greek gods occupied an exclusive position in the official cult of the Seleucids, oriental divinities with whom they were assimilated at an early date, reappeared in the official pantheon of the city of Susa in the Parthian period. Thus Nana's astral aspect and her function as a city goddess were assumed by Artemis with whom Nana was assimilated at Susa in the Parthian period. The rayed halo and polos crown of Artemis represented on coins of Mithradates II, issued around 110 B.C. at Susa (6, p. 538, Fig. 2), thus transferred Nana's functions to the syncretic cult of Artemis-Nana.

The cult of Nana which even reached Athens and Alexandria in the west, also spread to Armenia, the Iranian plateau and the remote east. G. Azarpay argues that in Bactria where Nana was not assimilated with Artemis, the iconography of the goddess remained strictly Near Eastern. The Kushan Nana whose image and symbols appear on Kushan coins (one of them referred to above) of the second to the fourth century, was obviously modeled after the Mesopotamian Nana who was the iconographic prototype for several female divinities of the Indo-Iranian pantheon. Thus the Iranian Anahita, who was ultimately a river goddess, later assumed the functions and manifestations of the Mesopotamian Nana (6, 539).31

According to II Maccabees I.13, the Seleucid king Antiochus IV (mid-2nd century BC) sacked the temple of Nanaia in Persis, providing evidence that the cult of the goddess persisted in eastern Iran. This has been proved by archaeological record: R. Ghirshman suggests that the thousands of the “mother goddess” figurines found in Near East sites, particularly in Susa attest her cult worship, supposedly under name Nanai, from the territory of Asia Minor to Susa. As pointed out by him, in Susa was venerated Nanaia which is the Semitic name of Anahit (25, pp. 102-103)32

R. Ghirshman’s view has been supported by M. Boyce’s opinion: “Ishtar was worshipped there (in Susa – M.G.) also, and it seems that Persians identified both goddesses with their Anāhiti and used the name “Nana” as a by name for their own divinity, possibly because it sounded to Persian ear like a word for “mother” and hence seemed an appropriate epithet for a protective female divinity” (11, p. 31).

Referring to the landed property recorded in the documents from Nisa as ‘yzn nnystnkn (āyazan, Old Pers. āyadana) – “temple of Nanai”. R. Fry suggests that this evidence “…favors the view that Nanai was identified with Anahita” (23, p. 274) Perhaps, it is not accident that “the latter name (Anahit – M.G.) is not referred to in the documents from Nisa” (23, p. 274).

As pointed out by J. Russell: “It is difficult to separate the cult of Anahit from that of Nanē (who was worshipped also in Iranian lands, in Parthian times, as far east as Sogd), whose name, ultimately from Sumerian Inanna, “Lady of Heaven” in later ages must have understood merely as a Lallwort for Mother” (74, p. 372).

As noted above, in the Parthian period, Nana was widely venerated. An image of Artemis in Greek dress, depicted on a tessera from Palmyra, actually identifies the Greek huntress goddess as Nanaia, as she is labeled there as NNY. (6, p. 537; 73, p. 238). The Roman writer Tacitus calls Anāhitā the “Persian Diana” [(Annals III.63), 73, p. 245]. The movement, characteristic of the Hellenistic time-period, was a great expansion of syncretism, the equation or fusion of one god with another as being alike forms of the one divinity behind. The consort of Zeus of Damascus and Zeus of Heliopolis (Baalbek) at Damascus and Heliopolis Atargatis, Lucian's “Syrian goddess”, was originally a pointed stone (betyl), but had long since become a woman under the influence of the invading Persian goddess Anahita (Anaitis); subsequently she often became a Greek city-goddess (76, pp. 341-342) It should be noted here that Artemis is the daughter of Zeus (like as Nanē and Nino of Aramazd and Armazi respectively) who in the process of the syncretization of divinities in the Hellenistic epoch and even earlier33 became the equivalent of Ahura Mazda, the Iranians‘ supreme divinity. Agathangelos refers to Anahita as ‘the daughter of great, manly Aramazd‘ (Agath. 53).

In Armenia the temple of Nanē, the goddess whose name is taken as of Mesopotamian origin, was in the village T cil of the province Ekełik‘, facing the village Eriza, the center of the cult of Anahit, on the opposite bank of the river Gayl. As suggested by A. Petrosyan, the proximity of the sanctuaries might have also reflected some relations between the two deities (65, p.176).34 In modern scholarship is corroborated the view about that the two goddesses were very similar, or equated, it seems, in their principal characteristics (73, pp. 235-253; 74, p.282; 81, p. 33535).

Basing upon these data, and, particularly, the suggestion offered by M. Boyce about the motivation of preference given by the Persians to the name “Nana” as to associating her with “mother”, with which J. Russell’s opinion is in full accord, it seems plausible to think that the same must be held true for the Georgians for whom “Nana” has the same meaning and to whom the worship of the Great Mother Goddess had been known from the earliest times, as the archaeological records suggest, from the Chalcolithic era. The reason for introduction of the cults or cult of Ainina/Danana into Georgia seemingly follows the common pattern - closely related both geographically and culturally to Iran, Seleucid kingdom and Armenia, Georgia exhibits a wide range of cultural and religious evidences in common with them, and whether or not the textual data concerning the installation of the idols of Anina/Danina by the king Saurmag can be taken for reliable evidence, it can be safely asserted that it was in this contexts that the figure of such a divine being or beings emerged in the kingdom of Kartli.

Given the fact that Anahita has been equated with Nana (Nane, Nanaia), if follow the line of the linguistic interpretations of the names of deities in question, the hypothesis about identification of Ainina (Anahita) and Da-Nana (Nana) seems reasonable, since it may be considered as an adequate testimony of the melting-pot of religious ideas and currents around the times of Saurmag’s reign.

Therefore, we should admit the possibility that the deities referred to in Georgian writings under the names Ainina/Danana are in fact one and the same, or interchangeable divinities, of course, if accept the conception of their identification with Anahita and Nana, for attestation of which let us look for broader parallels both in textual sources and iconography.


It is conceivable that the Mother Goddess was venerated as Nanai later too, in the Sassanian era, which is evidenced by one historical document: Akbalach, the Christian nobleman who was a contemporary of Shahinshah Bahram (388-399 B.C.), son of Sapur II, narrates that Sapur transferred ninety families from the southern district of Mesene to Mesopotamia and settled them in the village which was named “Ninety” after number of the families that were transferred together with their idol Nanai: “they venerated Nanai whom they had brought from their native land.” (66, p. 45).36 In the 4th century AD, the same Sasanian king Sapur II commanded a general named Mucain or Mucin, a recent convert to Christianity, to worship the Sun, Moon, Fire, Zeus, Bel, Nebo and Nanai ”the great goddess of all the world” (73, p. 238). The cult of the latter had also been established in remote Sogd – Nanai was the city goddess of Panjicant, and was called “the Lady.”

Placed in the very heart of the cradle-land of the agricultural civilization of Western Asia, the Iranian plateau hardly could fail to make its contribution to the development and diffusion of this goddess cult, which was firmly established in the peripheral regions of ancient Persia.


I should like to mention here, for I shall not return to the subject, certain archaeological data which point to resemblance to the cult figurines of female deities of Georgia and to those of unearthed outside exhibiting inter-cultural relation between them. A closer look at these deities in context and the evidence for their origins follows and similarities in deities’ attributes and iconography between periods or between cultures may lead us to the conclusion that we are dealing with the same deity.

A terracotta statuette of a mother suckling a child, presumably Nana and Attis was found at Koy Krylgan Kala in Chorasmia; the same scene is shown on a medallion of greenish glass mounted in silver with a ring at the top for a neck-chain, from Balalyk Tepe, also in Chorasmia (22, pp. 96, 119).

In Armenia, large number of terracotta figurines at Artaxata and Armavir represent a lady enthroned, dressed in robes and wearing a veil suspended from her high tiara. To her left stands a naked little boy. These figurines have been suggested to be the cult statues of Great Mother and her child Attis, and it is likely that the goddess was called by the name Nanē (73, pp. 241-242), as the goddess likened to the Great Mother (74, p.67).

The terracotta mother-and-child figurines of the type elsewhere termed Isis lactans, were found in Armenia and they are suggested to represent Nanē and Attis, the legend of which is associated with the same of the young king Ara the Beautiful and the Assyrian queen Semiramis narrated by the Armenian historian Moses Xorenaci.37

Terracotta figurines of a naked woman with a child dated back to the first half of the Early Iron Age and recognized as the Great Mother Cybele and Attis, widely attested both in the Eastern and Aegean worlds from Neolithic time through the Hellenistic period, find a parallel in the small-scale bronze sculpture unearthed in No. 3 burial at Oureki, in the region of ancient Colchis, which has been interpreted by T. Mikeladze as representing the Great Mother goddess [(Fig. 10, No. 4), 55, pp. 63-66]. The iconography of the seated figure of a naked woman holding a child with both hands, is very similar to that of discovered at the Heraion on Samos.

Some of the types of votives may assist us in understanding the nature of the deity worshipped at this site.

Scholars have tended to argue that the production centre of some bronze figurines found in the sanctuary of Hera on Samos must have been in Colchis, where almost identical pieces came to light at several places (55, p.65). These early contacts with the Greek world rose sharply in the sixth century BC, when the first Greek settlers reached the eastern shore of the Black Sea.

A number of examples of female riders seated side-saddle on a quadruped (horse or donkey) and holding a baby from the eight – to seventh century BC tombs at the sites of Oureki and Mukhurcha38 have attracted attention both of Georgian and Western scholars.39 The example illustrated by Lordkipanidze and Mikeladze provides the closest known parallel to the Samian bronze (46, p. 44, Fig.8).

The view about the provenance of such type figurines has been shared and further developed in the study of M. Voyatzis Votive Riders Seated Side-Saddle at Early Greek Sanctuaries,40 where has drawn quite considerable conclusions that the “Samian bronze rider seated side-saddle, as well as other Caucasian bronzes from the Heraion on Samos suggest that some links with the Caucasus went back to the eight century BC. The enigmatic Samos rider thus appears to possess a mixture of traits, but has a predominantly Caucasian appearance. This apparent combination of influences speak for a workshop situated somewhere, where Greek, Orientalizing and Caucasian elements were all present, possibly on Samos itself....The Samos bronze may initially have been influenced by Olimpian rider or another rider statuette, but is clearly the product of a different tradition and is apparently meant to portray the Caucasian Great Mother” (84, p. 272).

The archaeological excavations carried out in Tsaishi (ancient Colchis) during last two years have furnished new material which is of special importance for our study. This diverse and rich collection of objects reflects a strong and active cult over a long period of time with a concentration in the eighth and seventh centuries BC., or sometimes, even earlier. It is pleasant to mention that the number of the above-mentioned type of female riders have been enlarged to a considerable extent through the finds from this site which needs further line of study and which once more confirms the suggestion about their Georgian provenance.

Amongst the small-scale sculptures found in Tsaishi a votive bronze figurine of a female nude with her hands clasped on her breast (Fig. 11) finds the closest parallel with that of from Tegea of an earlier date (the 12th century BC) which, as suggested by scholars, may represent an Eastern goddess type who later became associated with Aphrodite (27, p. 139, cf. Fig. 63).

All of these archaeological records, beginning with most ancient women figurines from Khramis Didi Gora and other districts indicate to unbroken and continuous chain of the worship of the Great Mother goddess in Georgia, which exhibits correspondence in common trends to that of practiced in other countries, to say nothing about the existence of the sculptured image of Rea41-Phasiane (Cybele),42 holding a tympanum in her hand and standing together with two lions at the River Phasis in Colchis as described by the second century AD Roman writer Arrian: 43

“At the entrance to the Phasis, to the left stands Phasian Theos. Judging by its appearance this is Rhea; and indeed, she holds a cymbal in her hands, and lions are at the throne; and she is seated like [Rhea] of Phidias in the Metroon of Athens”44 (Arr., Periplus, 11).

Discussing about the goddess Rhea Phasiane, O. Loedkipanidze argues that Phasiane must probably be considered to have been one of the local names of Rhea/Cybele, derived from the name of locality, and consequently “Phasiane Theos” ought to be translated “the Goddess Phasiane”, denoting the goddess Rhea/Cybele or the Great Mother at Phasis. Contrary Boltunova’s assertion about that “the name of the goddess at Phasis remained unknown to Arrian and he called it “Phasiane Theos”, O. Lordkipanidze argumentatively suggests that it was not Arrian, who invented this name; “it doubtless existed prior to Arrian and was the local name of the Great Goddess or Mother of Gods – Rhes/Cybele, like Pessinuntis, Dindymene, Sipylene, Plakione, Tolypiane, and the like.” Further he argues that the religious and mythical image of Phasiane Theos that had become one of the chief deities of Phasis, may possibly go back to the cult of local, Colchian goddess, close in her essence to Cybele: “...such may be the cult of Great Mother, revered by many peoples from ancient times. Most of the archaeological finds related to the cult of Great Mother in Colchis a bronze sculpture of a woman with an infant, seated on the throne, with miniature sculptures of birds, a bull, a panther and a chamios found in a burial complex in the village of Nigvziani (25 km south-east of Poti – former Phasis) should be considered one of the most striking. The goddess with an infant, seated on a throne, and surrounded by birds and animals, is undoubtedly the Great Mother. The cult of the Great Goddess or Great Mother is attested in most diverse manifestations archaeologically in various regions of Colchis. Colchis was certainly once considered to have been one of the seats of the Great Mother/Rhea/Cybele.” (45, pp. 91-92)45

Thus, as it may be seen, the theory of connection of Great Mother Nana with the sun grounded itself upon ethnography-based doubtful approaches and assumptions, in no way finds support in that of corroborated about the deity known under this name across Near and Middle East, since the Georgian both textual and archaeological evidences of her worship fall in the context common to them. Furthermore, we have no reason to suggest that Georgia was exception in this respect, but quite to the contrary – situated at crossroad of Eastern and Western worlds, the country had been a bridge for cross-cultural interactions over its long history, the evidence, most clearly reflected in archaeological finds furnishing extensive information both on eastern and western influences.
There is an archaeological evidence in Georgia which is of crucial significance four our study as it appears, as suggested, the place where a memory of Anahita’s cult survived, contributing thereby independent evidence to the solution of our question about identity of Ainina and Anahita, the conception corroborated till now by solely linguistic approach.

Amongst the archaeological remains bearing the traits of influence of the Iranian architecture46 is an enormous sanctuary unearthed at the Dedophlis Mindori (“Queen’s47 Field”) by the archaeological expedition initiated by I. Gagoshidze in the seventies of the last century. It has attracted the attention of several scholars over the years because of its distinctive appearance and uniqueness.

The Dedophlis Mindory territory which covers 6250 acres in the Kareli district, is located in K’art’li. The huge temenos (255X150m) consists of the main temple surrounded by the immense yard and nine minor temples. Exhaustive examination of architectural structures and details, the objects discovered within the temenos and its near vicinity as well as the toponym of the site suggest I. Gagoshidze to date the sanctuary to the late second-early first century BC48 and attribute the main temple as a Zoroastrian fire temple49 typical of the Parthian epoch, which must have been consecrated to the Iranian Ardvi Sura Anahita or Anahita’s type local goddess. Basing upon written sources I. Gagoshidze assumes that the site must have been fallen within the king’s domain in its times, that is, the Parthian epoch, and it is the most impressive size and grandiosity of the architectural complex that associates its construction exclusively with the Kartlian king and which favors, as I. Gagoshidze suggests, with the existence of royal cult there. The kings and queens of Kartli are supposed to have had considered themselves as the earthly representatives of the gods worshipped in the kingdom of Kartli. As studied by I. Gagoshidze, the mediaeval period records make clear that the land of Dedophlis Mindory was once subjected to the Georgian queens and it is highly probable that this tradition comes from the pre-Christian times, when the main temple of Anahita, a heavenly prototype of queens was constructed.50

Amongst the objects discovered in the vicinity called “Dedophlis Gora” (“Queen’s Hill”) a golden belt merits special attention. It shows woman’s head, worked in high relief and crowned with crescent and adorned with a diadem, earrings and necklace (Fig.12). Her iconography is very similar to that of the goddess Anahit widely known in the Parthian epoch, a period of acquiring the supremacy in the Zoroastrian Trinity (Ahura Mazda, Mithra, Anahit) by her.

It is highly tempting, as noted by I. Gagoshidze, to suggest a fine pestle and mortar discovered in the main temple, to be the vessel used for preparing the holy water Haoma. Another argument supporting the scholar’s line of thinking is the etymology of the villages located nearby-Aradeti, Eredvi, the roots of which - Ard, Erdv seem to be connected with the goddess name. It is noticeable that there is a spring nearby the main temple called “Dedophlis C’ka’ro” (“Queen’s Spring”) as well as the early tenth century AD Christian church in which the vestige of a pagan rite connected to fertility and childbirth is traceable: while reciting prayers for fertility, women who are barren or have lost milk for their newborn babies, use to rub oil into the grape bunch-like figures carved on the capital of the column, with which I. Gagoshidze associates the multi-breast image of Artemis of Ephesus, a well-known goddess of fertility and childbirth.51 Such an association would seem more plausible if take into account the sculls of stags, goats and wild bears more than hundred in number unearthed at the main temple, in which a great majority are those of stags, the animal sacred to Artemis (Anahita), thereby they might be offered to the goddess in whose honor the main temple was dedicated. All of these evidences encourage I. Gagoshidze to conclude that the native population, as well as the royal family and the noblemen in the central Kartli were worshippers of the Iranian gods, who might well be merged with local astral divinities52 acquiring thereby somewhat modified forms.

Although in my opinion, there is no unevenness surrounding the attribution of the Dedophlis Mindory53 sanctuary as to be consecrated to the goddess Anahita, we can understand the reason why the author of this important study hasn’t forged a connection between the textual evidence of the establishment of the cult of Ainina (Anahita) and the archaeological record of Dedophlis Mindori, which would be unquestionably most supporting argument for reliability of his assertions. While discussing about the dissemination of the cult of Ardvi Sura Anahita as the goddess rightly equated by him with the Semitic Nanaia and Atargatis, the Greek Aphrodite and Artemis and the Asia Minor Cybele, I. Gagoshidze remarks that ”… the worship of Anahita’s cult in Georgia traces back to that of ancient and developed goddess of fertility venerated there as the sun-goddess, the “Great Mother” of gods” (24, p.113). However, referring to the image of Anahita shown with crescent on the belt, I. Gagoshidze consequently fails to expose concrete correspondences between her and Great Mother goddess being attributed by him in such a manner. The examination of the noted goddesses not in their entirety but with the preconceived idea has led him to unsuccessful attempt to connect someway Anahita-Artemis’ lunar character not to her prototype Great Mother goddess but quite unexpectedly, to the moon god54 as a divinity uniting in himself a female hypostases, overlooking thereby direct connections of the syncretic goddesses in terms of their lunar aspect discussed above.

It is due to a lack of consistency in study of the Great Mother goddess on Georgian evidence that some archaeological records had not been noticed by I. Gagoshidze: together with the belt, there were unearthed two objects at the site of Dedophlis Gora. One of them is eight-pointed gold star, the symbol of Inanna-Ishtar, the existence of which would serve as a visual indication of identity of Inanna-Ishtar-Anahita-Nana and the second one is a gold crescentic pendant once more associating the goddess with the moon. It is conceivable that if not the firmly rooted in Georgian scholarly circulation conception on solar character of the Great Mother goddess, he wouldn’t face difficulties in tracing the ways of transformation and diffusions these goddesses had undergone through millennia in various civilizations under various names, with which Georgian evidence exhibits, as it might be seen, apparent coincidence.

On my side, I should submit additional evidence in support of both I. Gagoshidze’s observation focused on reflection of pagan custom viewed in connection with fertility being associated with Artemis and the identity of the latter with Anahita. In his History of Zoroastrianism M. Dhalla notes that as Zoroastrian texts (Ys. 65.2; Yt. 5. 2, 87; Ny. 4. 3; Yd. 7. 16) allow us to think, “Ardvi Sura Anahita bestows fruitfulness to women; she purifies the seeds of all males and the wombs of all females for bearing. She, as a divine bestower, gives easy childbirth to all females, and gives them right and timely milk” (18, p. 227).

These reinforcing parallels inclines us to suggest that the traces of Anahita or, as referred to by I. Gagoshidze, “Anahita’s type goddess’” worship in Kartli hardly seem doubtful, and thereby this archaeological evidence provides a clue to our line of thought centered around identity of Ainina/Danana and Anahita/Nana, whose names found in our texts evidently represent the same admixture of divine attributes and functions that have become so intertwined in near to Georgia countries by the period of introduction of their cults (I would say, cult) into Kartli. But the absence of systematic study of divinities on Georgian evidence has regretfully tended I. Gagoshidze to misleading conclusion: carefully associating the construction of the sanctuary with the King Pharnajom or possibly, his successor Arshake, he makes no reference to the textual evidence related to the installation by the former king the idol of Zaden which, whether he is or not of the Persian origin, has indisputably no points of connections with Ainina/Anahita. The arguments offered by the author on this point most likely are based on somewhat close parallels in chronological terms between the periods of the sanctuary construction and the two kings’ reign, although the site’s both radiocarbon and stylistic dating hardly contradicts to that of the reign of Saurmag (r.234-159BC), during or shortly after which the main temple of “Anahita or Anahita’s type goddess” might easily be constructed in the kingdom of K’art’i, where the Zoroastrian religious orientation had been determined by the worship of Armazi, the divinity without a doubt related to the Iranian Ahura Mazda.

Our conjecture about that the Dedophlis Mindori main temple might be named after the alternative names of one and the same deities – Ainina/Danana, is expected to be strengthened by the fact that at Susa, classical sources frequently refer to a temple of Nanaia-Artemis-Diana, a sanctuary which, as pointed out by J. Rosenfield, “....have been virtually a temple-state,...where the worship of the goddess (and not goddesses although being referred to under different names – M.G.) can be traced to unbroken tradition back to the third millennium BC” (71. pp. 86-87).55 As suggested by the scholar, although the identification of the Kushan Nana as Anāhitā should not be made without caution, “...however, speculatively, there is no obvious reason why Nanaia and Anāhitā could not have been combined syncretically, because the religious value of both was very similar. Classical sources used the rubrics Artemis and Diana and Aphrodite to describe both and there are even some suggestions that Anāhitā herself might have been an ancient offshoot of the Inanna-Ishtar cult which had spread onto the Iranian plateau in pre-Zoroastrian times and adopted certain Iranian features...and the spirit of her cult lies closer to the Mother Goddess in the Near East” (71, p. 88). As it may be seen, the scholar’s view is in full accordance with the indications discussed above in this respect.

This evidence, in our opinion, once more makes clear that Ainina and Danana, resp. Anahita-Nana/Nanaia-Artemis might have been the goddess to whom the sanctuary associated by I. Gagoshidze with the cult of Anahita had been consecrated and who appears thereby the bridge providing a significant link between Georgian textual and archaeological records.
Although any of the problems I have stated here still invite further research which may considerably modify our theories, basing upon all the indications by which an attempt has been made to achieve a comparative survey of the goddesses, I’m inclined to think that there is a ground which justify the linguistic identity of Anahit/Nana and Anina/Danana.

J. Russell in his studies notes that the pagan worship of Anahit and Nanē, the two goddesses who seem to heva derived many of their characteristics from the Great Mother goddess of ancient Asia Minor, may in part survive still in the reverence paid by Armenian Christians to the Virgin Mary (73, p. 235).


One is inevitably reminded of the epithet applied to the Virgin in the mediaeval Georgian chants: “the Mother of God, thou are the Moon” – perhaps, echoing that of the most remote Great Mother goddess.....
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