Around 1000 BC, the earliest documented mermaid legends arose in Assyria. The Assyrian queen Semiramis' mother, the goddess Atargatis, fell in love with a mortal (a shepherd) and unintentionally murdered him. She leaped into a lake and transformed into a fish, yet the water could not hide her magnificent beauty. Atargatis decided to punish the mortal world by creating a female child with sea creatures' features. The legend tells that she raised this girl in the waters near Assur and named her Mermernis. Eventually, Semiramis grew up to be a powerful ruler herself.
Many other mermaid stories have arisen over time, but none of them can be proven true. We do know that Semiramis did exist because many historians believe that these legends were inspired by her life. However, there is no direct evidence that any other woman has ever been a mermaid before or after Semiramis. It is possible that others have taken on mermaid traits without changing completely into fish.
In conclusion, it is impossible to say for sure who the first mermaid was, but it probably was either Semiramis or her mother Atargatis. These two women have been involved in many legends across different cultures over time so it is likely that others have appeared in the past too.
Mermaid stories initially originated in ancient Assyria, when the Assyrian goddess Atargatis changed herself into a mermaid out of humiliation for unwittingly causing murder. Images of the ancient Philistine god Dagon (1 Samuel 5:2) might readily pass for current merman concepts. The word "mermaid" comes from a Greek term meaning "sea nymph."
In classical literature, there are several references to mermaids. In some cases, they are half woman, half fish creatures that live in the sea. Others are simply female humans who have the ability to transform themselves into mermaids.
Mermaids were popular subjects for paintings by old European artists. Here are just a few examples:
Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526-1593) created a series of paintings called "Mercy," where he combined portraits with other images such as flowers and fruit. He used this technique to create a body of work that was later sold to finance his expedition to Poland.
Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) is another famous artist who painted many works on the subject of mermaids. One of his paintings, titled "The Little Mermaid" is in the Royal Museum in Copenhagen.
Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Norwegian painter known for his psychological realism.
Archaeologists have discovered records of Oannes, a male fish-god, in Mesopotamian mythology dating back over 5,000 years. Around 1000 BC, one of the first mermaid traditions emerged in Syria, when the goddess Atargatis dived into a lake and took the appearance of a fish. She later became associated with water in general and the goddess Aphrodite.
At first, mermaids were only seen in stories and paintings but soon they became part of daily life. They appeared in temple rituals, on pottery, in drawings, and even on coins. There are even reports of people who saw mermaids swimming in the ocean! In Europe, there are tales of sea monsters called "mermen" who kidnap women. These men have beards like females and can walk on land but they usually return the women to their families.
In America, the first recorded sighting of a mermaid was by Captain James Cook himself in 1772. He wrote about two small islands off the coast of Hawaii that contained sightings of animals with human faces but no body parts above the waist. This proves that mermaids are not humans but rather creatures from another world.
Since then, many other sailors have reported seeing mermaids traveling in groups near islands all around the world. Some believe these sightings are caused by unknown creatures while others claim them to be illusions created by sharks or other marine animals trying to scare away prey.
The belief in mermaids may have developed from the very beginning of our existence. Magical female characters initially emerged in cave paintings some 30,000 years ago, when modern humans achieved mastery over the land and, presumably, began to sail the seas. These were not imaginary creatures but real women who possessed many skills that are useful for survival. They probably helped their men by fishing and collecting food, which required physical strength and intelligence. Ancient sailors probably told stories about these beautiful women because they wanted to keep their spirits up during dangerous trips.
As humans started to cultivate crops and domesticated animals, they needed a way to transport them from place to place. It made sense for them to use whatever resources were available, including the bodies of dead sailors. Over time, these human-powered vehicles came to be known as ships, and the people who built them became sailors. As sailors traveled farther and wider, they noticed other continents than Europe's, which led them to wonder if there were other habitable worlds out there. Eventually, boats were built large enough to carry humans across oceans, which is how we got to Asia today. But since these ships relied on the skill of their builders for their success, some people decided they could make their own ship using only what was available to them at home or near by. This is how the myth of the mermaid originated.
Mermaids are never mentioned in the Bible, not even in the biblical creation story in Genesis 1-2, although this neither supports nor disproves their existence. Many animals in the globe are not mentioned in the Bible, therefore universal negatives might be difficult to show. However, it can be argued that if mermaids did exist, the writers of the Bible would have known about them.
In fact, it is very unlikely that they exist at all. The oldest written reference to them is by Aristotle who lived between 347 B.C. and 322 B.C. He said: "The Ethiopians believe that those women who want to be cured of their leprosy plunge into the rivers where there are mermaids who take away their bad skin."
This shows that mermaids were already popular knowledge at the time when the Bible was written (around 400 B.C.). Although the Bible does not mention them, this does not mean that they do not exist. For example, humans used to live along the Nile River until the Israelites conquered Egypt. Perhaps there were some ancient Egyptians who wanted to be healed of leprosy so they plunged into the river but the God who rules over the waters prevented them from being eaten by mermaids.
Since the Bible does not mention mermaids, it is possible that they may yet prove to be real.