Allegorical depiction of the Roman goddess Abundantia with a cornucopia, by Rubens (ca. 1630)

The cornucopia (in Latin also cornu copiae) or horn of plenty is a symbol of abundance and nourishment, commonly a large horn-shaped container overflowing with produce, flowers, nuts, other edibles, or wealth in some form. Originating in classical antiquity, it has continued as a symbol in Western art, and in North America is particularly associated with the Thanksgiving holiday.


In mythology

Classical mythology offers multiple explanations of the origin of the cornucopia. One of the best-known involves the birth and nurturance of the infant Zeus, who had to be hidden from his devouring father Cronus. In a cave on Mount Ida on the island of Crete, baby Zeus was cared for and protected by a number of divine attendants, including the goat Amalthea ("Nourishing Goddess"), who fed him with her milk. The suckling future king of the gods had unusual abilities and strength, and in playing with his nursemaid accidentally broke off one of her horns, which then had the divine power to provide unending nourishment, as the foster mother had to the god.

In another myth, the cornucopia was created when Heracles (Roman Hercules) wrestled with the river god Achelous and wrenched off one of his horns; river gods were sometimes depicted as horned.[1]

The cornucopia became the attribute of several Greek and Roman deities, particularly those associated with the harvest, prosperity, or spiritual abundance, such as personifications of Earth (Gaia or Terra); the nymph Maia; and Fortuna, the goddess of luck, who had the power to grant prosperity. In Roman Imperial cult, abstract Roman deities who fostered peace (pax Romana) and prosperity were also depicted with a cornucopia, including Abundantia, "Abundance" personified, and Annona, goddess of the grain supply to the city of Rome. Pluto, the classical ruler of the underworld in the mystery religions, was a giver of agricultural, mineral and spiritual wealth, and in art often holds a cornucopia to distinguish him from the gloomier Hades, who holds a drinking horn instead.[2]

Modern depictions

Poster of cornucopia for California
A cornucopia made of bread, prepared for a Thanksgiving meal in 2005 for U.S. Navy personnel

In modern depictions, the cornucopia is typically a hollow, horn-shaped wicker basket filled with various kinds of festive fruit and vegetables. In North America, the cornucopia has come to be associated with Thanksgiving and the harvest. Cornucopia is also the name of the annual November Wine and Food celebration in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. Two cornucopias are seen in the flag and state seal of Idaho. The Great Seal of North Carolina depicts Liberty standing and Plenty holding a cornucopia. The coat of arms of Colombia, Panama, Peru and Venezuela, and the Coat of Arms of the State of Victoria, Australia, also feature the cornucopia, symbolising prosperity.

The horn of plenty is used on body art and at Halloween, as it is a symbol of fertility, fortune and abundance.[3]

In the popular young adult novel The Hunger Games, the Cornucopia is a giant golden horn overflowing with weapons and supplies, which is the center of the bloodbath, the opening fight in the Games.

Cornucopia is also the name of a magazine about Turkish culture. It alludes to the traditional depiction of Anatolia as a land of plenty.

See also


  1. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.87–88, as cited by J. Rufus Fears, "The Cult of Virtues and Roman Imperial Ideology," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt II.17.2 (1981), p. 821.
  2. ^ Kevin Clinton, Myth and Cult: The Iconography of the Eleusinian Mysteries (Stockholm, 1992), pp. 105–107.
  3. ^ Hastings, James, ed. Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. [page needed]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cornucopia — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Para otros usos de este término, véase Cornucopia (desambiguación). Representación de una cornucopia La cornucopia (del latín cornu, ‘cuerno’ y copĭa, ‘abundancia’), conocida también en español como el …   Wikipedia Español

  • cornucopia — sustantivo femenino 1. Vaso en forma de cuerno del que salían frutas y flores, símbolo de la abundancia en la antigüedad clásica: La cornucopia es un motivo bastante frecuente en el arte clásico. 2. Espejo adornado con uno o más brazos para poner …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • Cornucopia — Cor nu*co pi*a (k[^o]r n[ u]*k[=o] p[i^]*[.a]), n.; pl. {Cornucopias} ( [.a]z). [L. cornu copiae horn of plenty. See {Horn}, and {Copious}.] 1. The horn of plenty, from which fruits and flowers are represented as issuing. It is an emblem of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cornucopia — c.1500, from L.L. cornucopia, from L. cornu copiae horn of plenty, originally the horn of the goat Amalthea, who nurtured the infant Zeus. See HORN (Cf. horn) and COPIOUS (Cf. copious) …   Etymology dictionary

  • cornucopia — (Del lat. cornucopĭa). 1. f. Vaso en forma de cuerno que representa la abundancia. Era u. t. c. m.) 2. Espejo de marco tallado y dorado, que suele tener en la parte inferior uno o más brazos para poner bujías cuya luz reverbere en el mismo espejo …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • cornucopia — index boom (prosperity), sufficiency Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • cornucópia — s. f. 1. Símbolo da agricultura e do comércio (é um vaso em forma de corno que se representa cheio de frutos e flores). 2. Corno mitológico, atributo da abundância …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • cornucopia — ► NOUN 1) a symbol of plenty consisting of a goat s horn overflowing with flowers, fruit, and corn. 2) an abundant supply of good things. DERIVATIVES cornucopian adjective. ORIGIN from Latin cornu copiae horn of plenty (a mythical horn able to… …   English terms dictionary

  • cornucopia — [kôr΄nə kō′pē ə, kôr΄nyo͞okō′pē ə] n. [L cornu copiae, horn of plenty: see HORN & COPIOUS] 1. Gr. Myth. a horn of the goat that suckled Zeus: it becomes full of whatever its owner wants 2. a representation in painting, sculpture, etc. of a horn… …   English World dictionary

  • Cornucopia — (De lat. cornu copia, la abundancia del cuerno.) ► sustantivo femenino 1 Vaso en forma de cuerno, rebosante de frutas y flores, que entre los antiguos griegos y romanos simbolizaba la abundancia. 2 Espejo con un marco dorado tallado y varios… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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