History Of The Cornucopia – The Horn Of Plenty

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and many of us are beginning to think about how we want to decorate our tables for this festive occasion. In some traditional American homes, you will see a cornucopia, or “horn of plenty,” as part of the celebration.

Thanksgiving Table

Symbolizing abundance of both food and wealth, the cornucopia has a history dating back more than 2,500 years! Its story has roots in Greek and Roman mythology.

The ancient Greeks say that Zeus, when he was an infant, received a never-ending supply of nourishment from a magic goat horn provided by his caregiver Amalthea.

The ancient Romans tell it differently. According to them, Achelous, the river god, lost one of his horns in a battle with Hercules. Nymphs then placed “the choicest fruits of autumn” in it, as Ovid writes in his poem Metamorphoses, and it became the horn of plenty, a holy symbol of bounty.

Nile River god statue with Cornucopia

Nile River god statue with Cornucopia, at Palazzo Senatorio. Capitoline square in Rome.

The cornucopia symbol can be found across history on coins, coats of arms, statues, paintings, flags, buildings, and more.

Ancient Egyptian Coins

Ancient Egyptian Coins From The Reign Of Ptolemy II.
Image Credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis

 

Coats of Arms, Peruvian Flag, US State Seals

Coats of Arms, Peruvian Flag, US State Seals

 

Emblem on university in Italy

Emblem on university in Italy

 

Baroque Fresco

Baroque Fresco

Eventually, the cornucopia represented the harvest season, and it was frequently found at festivals. The goat horn was ultimately replaced by a horn-shaped basket that today is often made of woven wicker.

Cornucopias - food and flowers

Cornucopias here in the USA are often filled with food, leaves, and flowers.

In the United States it became a part of our Thanksgiving holiday and now graces many homes this time of year!