In the 18th century it was common for European countries to use Latin names when referring to themselves and each other in formal contexts. The names were held over or at least inspired by the names used by the Roman Empire for the countries in question. (Britannia for England, Caledonia for Scotland, Gallia for France, Iberia for Spain…) Almost as a joke, in The Gentleman’s Magazine in England in the 1730s, the name Columbia was used to refer to the colonies in the New World.
By the time of the American Revolution, Columbia became a poetic name for America and was embraced by the colonists. She became a personification of the American identity and took the form of a classical goddess. Her image appeared in art and sculpture and her name was invoked in poetry. As America grew she morphed and never really settled on one image though she is always female and goddess-like in appearance. She is usually dressed in a long gown reminiscent of Classical Greek and Roman deities. Occasionally she wears a laurel wreath or a Native American headdress, and sometimes a Phrygian Cap. Her name is on universities, rivers, cities, movie companies, recording companies, ships, and a space shuttle.
Why am I telling you this? Because it’s almost The United States of America’s birthday. In honor of what she was intended to stand for I created an altar to Columbia: the original American identity and the ideals of Liberty, and Freedom she personifies.
(Plus, this election cycle has already gone on too long and the worst part is that one of those horrible people will win)
This is a replica of the Statue of Freedom that stands atop the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia). 🙂 I bought this statue years ago from the U.S. Capitol Historical Society. The marble used to create her was taken from a staircase in the wing occupied by the House of Representatives. Every member of the House, between 1865 when they were installed and 1995 when they were removed, has climbed those stairs and the marble they trod has been crushed and combined with resin to make this statue. That is why I chose her for this altar. She is a physical piece of the Capitol building and the image of Columbia.
Here’s hoping she still has some juice.