May, the great Arabian goddess of the Roman Empire

Monis Bukhari
3 min readMay 1, 2023

النسخة العربية على مدوّنة البخاري من هنا

In ancient times, the city of Emesa (now known as Homs in Syria) was associated with a sun deity or goddess named “Me”. This deity was known as the patron goddess of Emesa, and was considered to be a manifestation of the sun.

According to ancient sources, Me was a local Arabian goddess who was worshipped primarily in the city of Emesa and the surrounding region. She was often depicted as a feminine figure with solar attributes, such as a crown of rays or a disk representing the sun. In some accounts, Me was also associated with the moon (Meh) and was worshipped as a lunar deity as well, in Māda (Media).

Me was an important deity in the religious life of Emesa, and her worship was closely tied to the city’s political and social identity. She was believed to protect the city and its inhabitants, and her cult was supported by a network of priests and priestesses who performed rituals and sacrifices in her honor.

Over time, Me’s cult spread beyond Emesa to other parts of the Roman Empire, and she was sometimes identified with the goddess Isis or the Greek goddess Artemis. However, her primary association was always with the sun and the local traditions of Emesa.

The name of the sun goddess Me, worshipped in the ancient city of Emesa (Homs), was written in various ancient languages depending on the time period and cultural context. Here are some examples:

  1. Aramaic: The language spoken in Emesa during the time of the goddess Me was likely Aramaic, and the name of the goddess in this language would have been written as מא (mem-aleph), which is the Aramaic word for “water”. Compare to Arabic Maiia and May and Mā’.
  • 2. Greek: In Greek, the name of the goddess Me was often spelled Μα (ma), which is the Greek equivalent of the Aramaic מא (mem-aleph).
  • 3. Latin: The name of the goddess Me was also recorded in Latin sources, where it was spelled as Maia, Maja, or Maiestas. These Latin forms of the name were likely influenced by the Roman goddess Maia, who was also associated with the sun.
  • 4. Hieroglyphics: Some ancient Egyptian sources mention the goddess Me, who was also known as “the Lady of Emesa”. In Egyptian hieroglyphics, her name was written as m3, which is a phonetic rendering of the Aramaic מא.

It’s important to note that these spellings and pronunciations may have varied depending on the time period and cultural context, and that the goddess Me may have been known by different names and titles in other languages and regions.

You can find some references that discuss the goddess Me and the history of the city of Emesa, including:

  • “The Gods of Roman Syria: Divine Politics and Identity in the Eastern Mediterranean” by Ted Kaizer and John Darley, published by BRILL in 2009.
  • - “The Oxford Handbook of Roman Syria”, published by Oxford University Press in 2011.
  • - “The Religion of the Nabataeans: A Conspectus” by Peter Alpass, published by Brill in 2013.
  • - “Syria: A Historical and Architectural Guide” by Warwick Ball, published by Interlink Books in 2011.
  • - “The Encyclopedia of Ancient History” by Roger S. Bagnall and others, published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2012.

These references provide information about the goddess Me, the history of the city of Emesa, and Roman Syria more broadly. You can find these books in university libraries or public libraries.

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Monis Bukhari

Arab researcher, passionate about culinary history, geography, and social history. Uzbek, raised in Syria, resides in Germany. With Arab-Turk roots.