In the Bosphorus, Argimpasa was identified with Aphrodite
Ourania. This Scythian Goddess bears the traits of a native Great Goddess, and
seems to have heavily influenced how the Greeks at Apatourum understood the
Golden Goddess of Love.
Herodotus saw the connections between the two, and tells us
that there were oracles who worked for Aphrodite called the Enareis, who seem
to have been trans*persons, though it is tricky to apply our modern understanding
of what that means to such a different society.
Unlike the Greek Aphrodite, Argimpasa is closely associated
with the dead, and has many images buried in graves. She is associated with a
fish-woman, Derceto, who, it was said offended Aphrodite, and killed herself in
a deep lake in Ascalon. In so doing, she was turned into a fish, with the head
of a woman. Derceto herself is sometimes
known as Derceto-Atargatis, suggesting that She is a Goddess in Her own right.
Argimpasa is seen dancing with Satyrs and Maenads,
celebrating orgiastic rites.
All that said, Argimpasa differs from Aphrodite in
significant ways. She is a vegetal-fertility goddess with a distinct chthonic
streak. Some of the images associated with the cult have her in a semi-bestial
state, with two tentacle or serpentine legs (coins and gems from the ancient
world often show Abraxas with the same feature.) She is winged, and rides lions
and griffins. She is associated with funerals.
She is the Goddess of Love (thus Her association with
Aphrodite) and War, Death, and Destruction. She is also a Mistress of Animals,
something also shared with Aphrodite.
Argimpasa is also crueler and more violent in her character,
than Aphrodite (who, in spite of her association with Ares, ran home to her
mother in the Iliad when she was hurt in battle).
Argimpasa shares many traits also with Anahita and Astarte.
She is a mistress of the celestial waters, and rules sovereignity, fecundity,
and is generally multi-functional. She was served by eunuch priests from the
highest class families and even was the patron of royalty.
Many of the surviving images of Argimpasa-Aphrodite display
an enthroned Goddess with a man facing her. She is often robed and veiled,
sometimes holding a mirror or a small vessel. Her image seems to be a popular
choice for diadems and headdresses in gold.
Ultimately, it seems that Argimpasa is a Goddess spanning
both heaven and earth, life and death. She brings love, and pain. For the
Scythians, who were one of the people that the Greeks understood to be Amazons,
She encompassed many things, and came with them into the afterlife. A truly
vast Goddess, as broad and powerful as the plains which carried Her people.
Jacobsen, Esther. The
Art of the Scythians: the Interpenetration of Cultures at the Edge of the
Hellenic World, Brill, 1995.
Shenkar, Michael. Intangible
Spirits and Graven Images: the Iconography of Deities in the Pre-Islamic
Iranian World. Brill, 2014.
Ustinova, Yulia. “Aphrodite Ourania of the Bosphorus: The
Great Goddess of a Frontier Pantheon,” in Kernos 11, 1998. p.209-226
Supreme Gods of the Bosporan Kingdom: Celestial Aphrodite and the Most High
God, Brill, 1999.
Unknown, “Golden Deer,” Scythian, 6th c. BCE, now
in the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest. Photo by Yelkrokoyade, 2011. Via
“Silver Demetrius, with Derceto from Ascalon,” photo by Yak,
2007. Via wikicommons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Derketo.jpg