Nanaea

NANAEA nə ne’ ə (Ναναία, meaning unknown).

“Nanaea” was the name given to a Pers. goddess. She is not mentioned in either the OT or the NT, but her temple in the city of Elymais is referred to in the Apoc. (2 Macc 1:13). Other names by which she was known are Anaea (Anaitis) and Nana, the latter used esp. in Babylon. She eventually became identified with the Gr. goddess Aphrodite.


The leader described in 2 Maccabees 1:13-17 arrived at Nanaea’s temple under the pretext of marrying her, hoping to receive the riches of the temple as a dowry. The deception was discovered by the priests of the temple, who, in turn, laid a trap for Antiochus. When he and a small number of his men had entered the treasure room, the door was shut and locked. Then the victims were stoned to death from a hole in the ceiling, dismembered and their heads thrown to those who waited outside. This fate is depicted by the writer of 2 Maccabees as an act of God’s justice against this unrighteous king.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A female deity worshipped by the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians and other Asiatic peoples, the Nana or Nanai of the Babylonians, known as "the lady of Babylon." The name means "the undefiled," and probably represented originally the productive powers of Nature (genetrix), and as such was the companion of the sun-god. She was identified with Ishtar in Assyria and Ashtoreth in Phoenicia, by the Greeks as Aphrodite (Clement of Alexandria Protr., 19), but sometimes as Artemis the huntress (Paus. iii.16,8; Plut. Artax. xxvii). Strabo (xv. 733) identifies her with Anaitis (equalsAnahita), the Asian Artemis. She was the Venus, but sometimes the Diana, of the Romans. There are many variants of the name: Anaea (Strabo xvi.738), Aneitis (Plut. Artax. xxvii), Tanais (Clement of Alexandria, loc. cit.), also Tanath, sometimes in Phoenician inscriptions, Tanata, Anta (Egyptian). In 2 Macc 1:13 ff, a fictitious account is given of the death of Antiochus Epiphanes, in a temple of Nanaea in Persia, by the treachery of Nanaea’s priests. The public treasury was often placed in Nanaea’s temple; this, Epiphanes was anxious to secure under the pretext of marrying the goddess and receiving the money as dowry. The priests threw down great stones "like thunderbolts" from above, killed the king and his state and then cut off their heads. But 1 Macc 1 ff, which is more reliable, gives a different account of the death of Epiphanes after an attempt to rob a rich temple in Elymais. The account of 2 Macc 1:13 ff must be mere legend, as far as Epiphanes is concerned, but may have been suggested or colored by the story of the death of Antiochus the Great, who met his death while plundering a temple of Belus near Elymais (Strabo xvi.l.18; Diod. Sic. 573; Justin, xxxii.2). The temple of Nanaea referred to in 2 Macc 1:13 ff may be identified with that of Artemis (Polyb. xxxi.11; Josephus, Ant, XII, ix, 1) or Aphrodite (Appian, Syriac. 66; Rawlinson, Speaker’s Comm.).