Independence Day Mythology: Our Goddess Liberty

Mythology Matters

Not many of us know that a goddess stood behind our founding fathers in America’s struggle for independence. And she has served as a national symbol ever since then, which continues to irritate some religious conservatives. These days when questions about the role of religion in our society have become especially acute, on this July 4th it is timely to remember the mythology of our nation’s goddess.

Lady Liberty’s name comes from the Roman goddess Libertas, but she had a Greek precursor, the goddess Eleutheria (meaning “freedom” or “liberty” in Greek). Zeus in his role as protector of political freedom also was known as Zeus Eleutherios (“Zeus the Liberator”), in whose name a stoa at the Agora in Athens was built after deliverance from the Persians. Eleutheria was actually an epithet of Artemis, for whom we have much mythology, but no mythology in her aspect as Eleutheria survives, only…

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