Night (Nyx, Nox, Išpant, Išpanzašepa)

Category: Gods > Stars & Constellations

1 Introduction

The goddess Night (or, as Hittitologists are wont to call her, the Goddess of the Night) appears not only in early Greek theogonic poetry – such as Hesiod’s Theogony and various poems ascribed to Orpheus –, as one of the most ancient deities, but also in the Orphic Hymns, where she is one of the very first deities to be invoked, even before Heaven. Thus, at least for the intended audience of this set of hymns, thought to have been written in 2nd-century CE Anatolia, Night was not an obsolete figure of myth, but a deity to be worshipped.

The fact that this worship took place in Anatolia, and that the Greek theogonic tradition received its basic structure and many individual features from Anatolian models, suggests that there may be a historical connection between the Greek sources and earlier Anatolian records. We know, at any rate, that the goddess (of the) Night was worshipped in the Hurrian kingdom of Kizzuwatna, and subsequently in the Hittite empire, which incorporated this kingdom. The Night appears in both Hurrian- and Hittite-language sources, including some important ritual instructions. Especially suggestive of such a link is the fact that Orphic Hymn 3 calls the Night ‘Cypris’ (Aphrodite), and the Hurro-Hittite goddess in her time was identified with Ištar, who functionally is Aphrodite.

In view of this, and the fact that worship of the Night was rare in the wider region (compared to Day and Dawn), I feel justified in treating the Hurro-Hittite and the Greco-Anatolian complexes as representing two distinct periods within one theological tradition.


2 The cosmogonic role of Night in Greek myth

[Work in Progress]

Scholia on Works and Days
Lydus, Months 2.8.22
Malalas p. 74
Procl. Tim. 1.315;324, 2.256, 3.102;168;169
Porphyry, Cave 16
Proclus, Cratylus 99, 110, 168
Damasc. In Parm. 92, 95
Damasc. De princ. 1.146;319
Herm. 147, 154
Alexander, Met. 821

Hyginus, Nonnus, Orphic Argonautica, etc. etc.


3 Other appearances of the goddess Night in Greek and Latin

[Work in Progress]

Grammarians. Plut. De sera numinis vindicta 566b (?), Pausianias, etc.


4 The Hurro-Hittite sources

[Work in Progress]

paper