The Horn of Plenty, or cornucopia, is a common harvest motif, but do you know why?

You’ve likely seen the traditional symbols of the harvest—ears of corn, strands of wheat, and the cornucopia among them—but do you know the history of the cornucopia? Depicted as a horn overflowing with fruits, vegetables, and nuts, it is also called the Horn of Plenty. It has long represented the harvest in Western culture, and it has come to be associated with Thanksgiving. Read about the cornucopia’s ancient roots and modern depictions below.

The Beginnings of the Cornucopia

The earliest reference to a cornucopia is found in Greek and Roman mythology, which dates back nearly 3,000 years ago. The name itself comes from Latin, cornu copiae, which translates to horn of abundance.

The most likely source of the horn of plenty symbol is a story related to the Greek Zeus, king of all the gods. As a baby, Zeus had to be hidden from his father, Kronos, who would consume all his children. Zeus was kept in a cave with the goat Amalthea, who fed him. Zeus accidentally broke off one of her horns, and the horn then had the power to provide food without end.

The Horn of Plenty symbol has been used in art and literature ever since. It became an attribute of other gods associated with the harvest and prosperity, such as the Greek Fortuna, the goddess of luck and the Roman Annona, goddess of the grain supply of Rome. Depictions of the cornucopia are found everywhere in art and literature through the ages.

The Modern Cornucopia

It’s no wonder the Horn of {lenty became associated with the Thanksgiving holiday, as both are associated with celebrating a plentiful harvest. It has been used in art, literature, advertising, and so many other places in our society. For instance, the state seal of North Carolina features a cornucopia with Liberty and Plenty.

 

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