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The first known mermaid stories appeared in Assyria, ca. 1000 BC. Atargatis, the mother of Assyrian queen Semiramis, was a goddess who loved a mortal shepherd and in the process she accidentally killed him. Ashamed, she jumped into a lake to take the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty. Thereafter, she took the form of a mermaid; human above the waist, fish below.

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