In Greek mythology, Amalthea or Amaltheia (Greek: Ἀμάλθεια) is the most-frequently mentioned foster-mother of Zeus. Her name in Greek ("tender goddess") is clearly an epithet, signifying the presence of an earlier nurturing goddess, whom the Hellenes, whose myths we know, knew to be located in Crete, where Minoans may have called her a version of "Dikte". Amalthea is sometimes represented as the goat who suckled the infant-god in a cave in Cretan Mount Aigaion ("Goat Mountain"), sometimes as a goat-tending nymph of uncertain parentage (the daughter of Oceanus, Haemonius, Olenos, or - according to Lactantius — Melisseus), who brought him up on the milk of her goat. Having multiple and uncertain mythological parents, indicates wide worship of a deity in many cultures having varying local traditions. Amalthea becomes blurred with Adamanthea at times.
In the tradition represented by Hesiod's Theogony, Cronus swallowed all of his children immediately after birth. The mother goddess Rhea, Zeus' mother, deceived her brother consort Cronus by giving him a stone wrapped to look like a baby instead of Zeus. Since she instead gave the infant Zeus to Adamanthea to nurse in a cave on a mountain in Crete, it is clear that Adamanthea is a doublet of Amalthea. In many literary references, the Greek tradition relates that in order that Cronus should not hear the wailing of the infant, Amalthea gathered about the cave the Kuretes or the Korybantes to dance, shout, and clash their spears against their shields.
Amalthea's skin, or that of her goat, killed and skinned by the grown Zeus, became the protective aegis in some traditions, a vivid enough metaphor for the transfer of power to this Olympian god from that of the goddess who preceded his cult.
"Amaltheia was placed amongst the stars as the constellation Capra — the group of stars surrounding Capella on the arm (ôlenê) of Auriga the Charioteer." Capra simply means "she-goat" and the star-name Capella is the "little goat", but some modern readers confuse her with the male sea-goat of the Zodiac, Capricorn, who bears no relation to Amalthea, no connection in a Greek or Latin literary source nor any ritual or inscription to join the two. Hyginus describes this catasterism in the Poetic Astronomy, in speaking of Auriga, the Charioteer:
Parmeniscus says that a certain Melisseus was king in Crete, and to his daughters Jove was brought to nurse. Since they did not have milk, they furnished him a she-goat, Amalthea by name, who is said to have reared him. She often bore twin kids, and at the very time that Jove was brought to her to nurse, had borne a pair. And so because of the kindness of the mother, the kids, too were placed among the constellations. Cleostratus of Tenedos is said to have first pointed out these kids among the stars.
But Musaeus says Jove was nursed by Themis and the nymph Amalthea, to whom he was given by Ops, his mother. Now Amalthea had as a pet a certain goat which is said to have nursed Jove.