Aion, Aeon, the god of unbounded time

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The Hellenistic deity Aion (Aeon in Latin) is linked to time, the sphere or circle that surrounds the world, and the zodiac.

The “time” that Aion symbolizes is unending, ritualistic, and perpetual: the future is a replay of the past, which is referred to as aevum (see Sanskrit Ṛtú). This type of time contrasts with Chronos’ representation of empirical, linear, progressive, and historical time, which is divided into the past, present, and future. As a result, Aion is a deity of the cyclic ages as well as the annual and astrological cycles. He was affiliated with mystery cults that were concerned with the afterlife in the latter half of the Classical era, including the Mithraic mysteries, the mysteries of Cybele, the Dionysian mysteries and the Orphic religion. The concept of the deity in Latin might be Aeternitas, Anna Perenna, or Saeculum.

Related article: Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Rome

Emperors like Antoninus Pius produced coins with the inscription Aion, whose (female) Roman equivalent was Aeternitas. This syncretic Aion became a symbol and guarantor of the perpetuity of Roman sovereignty. As a representation of rebirth and cyclical renewal, the phoenix appears on Roman coinage under the names Aion and Aeternitas.

Aion was one of the virtues and heavenly personifications that were referred to be “creating agents in grand cosmological schemes” in late Hellenic discourse. In the framework of syncretic and monotheistic impulses throughout the Hellenistic era, Aion serves as a “fluid notion” through which multiple views about time and god combine.

Featured image: Mosaic pavement of Aion from the House of Aion in Arles, France Roman 2nd century CE

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