The bee in Aegean culture.

winged bee goddesses from Rhodes
Gold plaques embossed with winged bee goddesses
The bee, in Aegean civilization, was believed to be the sacred insect that connected the natural world to the underworld. Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea.

These gold plaques (above) were found at Camiros on Rhodes, which is a large island in the Aegean Sea south east of Athens ,and are dated to 7th century BCE (British Museum). These Bee-goddess were perhaps associated with Artemis or perhaps the Thriai, nymphs, virginal sisters, in Greek mythology. Artemis was the patron of the Bee in all of Greece. Artemis was the goddess of nature and the daughter of Zeus and twin sister to Apollo.

In classical Greece the title potnia meaning "Mistress, Lady" is usually applied to the goddesses Artemis, Athena, Demeter and Persephone. The bee was an emblem of the Potnia, also referred to as "The Pure Mother Bee".  Her priestesses were called "Melissa" which means honey bee. 

READ MORE about the honey bee in ancient Greece here.

Scheinberg, Susan 1979. "The Bee Maidens of the Homeric Hymn to Hermes" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology.
G.W. Elderkin (1939) "The Bee of Artemis" The American Journal of Philology
Neustadt, Ernst 1906. De Jove cretico, (dissertation, Berlin). Chapter III "de Melissa dea" discusses bee-goddesses and bee-priestesses in Crete.
Harrison, Jane Ellen, (1903) 1922. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek religion, third edition

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