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Master of Animals

by Dr Alena Trckova-Flamee, Ph.D.
Master of Animals - a Late Bronze Age deity

In the Minoan and Mycenaean mythological and religious iconography appears a male deity, called later by the Greeks, Master of Animals. He is a counterpart of the Mistress of Animals (Potnia theron) 1 portrayed with wild animals, mainly lions and exerting his power over them. On the seals and rings-relief the Master of Animals is depicted with the Minoan manner, wearing only a small cloth around his slim waist and turning his body to show his muscular breasts and shoulders in a frontal position. The head, usually with beard and rich hair, has a strong facial expression. The gem from Kydonia or the Mycenaean seal ring are illustrating such type, while the well known Aegina Treasure-pendant represents the Master of Animals with an Egyptian influence. The motif is created by a completely different way. The deity looks like an Egyptian, holding waterbirds in his hands and his surrounding consists of double snakes and papyrus flowers. The Oriental seals from the Palace of Cadmus in Thiva are showing the Master of Animals with goats, some vegetation and various symbols from the Syrian and Mesopotamian mythology.

Some authors are supposing, that the Master of Animals could represent a hunting deity and protector nature, or even a nature god 2. But sometimes the deity, accompanied by a lion, is armed with a spear and a shield and at the other case he is armed with weapons again, but without company of animals. M.P. Nilsson opened an interesting question about the close relation between Master of Animals and the armed god, as a hunter and wargod. He believed, that the spear and the shield became a religious symbol of this god 3.

In my opinion, the Master of Animals could represent from the beginning of the Late Helladic period, a nature god who is related with hunting. The Mycenaeans took this type from the Minoan belief system, which was the origin of this deity. After 1500 BCE and during the 14th century BCE the conception of this figure was changing. A warlike tendency of Mycenaean society was growing and it could be a reason, that their male god had to take another responsibility. His attributes, mainly the shield, became frequent decorative motives in Mycenaean art and pottery production. So it is possible, that the male god, depicted from beginning mainly with animals, and later on with a spear and a shield could be Enualios, known from Linear B script 4; related in Greek literature with Ares, god of war.


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