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Cybele ( ; Phrygian: ''Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya'' "Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother", perhaps "Mountain Mother";
Lydian Lydian may refer to: * Lydians, an ancient people of Anatolia * Lydian language, an ancient Anatolian language * Lydian alphabet ** Lydian (Unicode block) * Lydian (typeface), a decorative typeface * Lydian dominant scale or acoustic scale, a musica ...
''Kuvava''; el, Κυβέλη ''Kybele'', ''Kybebe'', ''Kybelis'') is an
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
n
mother goddess A mother goddess is a goddess A goddess is a female deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polyth ...
; she may have a possible forerunner in the earliest neolithic at
Çatalhöyük Çatalhöyük (; also ''Çatal Höyük'' and ''Çatal Hüyük''; from ''çatal'' "fork" + ''höyük'' "") was a very large and settlement in southern , which existed from approximately 7500 BC to 6400 BC, and flourished around 7000 BC. In J ...
, where statues of plump women, sometimes sitting, have been found in excavations.
Phrygia In classical antiquity, Phrygia (; grc, Φρυγία, ''Phrygía'' ; tr, Frigya) (also known as the Kingdom of Muska) was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now Asian Turkey, centred on the Sangarios River. After its co ...
's only known goddess, she was probably its
national deity National gods are a class of guardian divinities or deities whose special concern is the safety and well-being of an ethnic group (''nation''), and of that group's leaders. This is contrasted with other guardian figures such as family gods respons ...
. Greek colonists in
Asia Minor Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on most of its border while b ...

Asia Minor
adopted and adapted her Phrygian cult and spread it to mainland Greece and to the more distant western Greek colonies around the 6th century BC. In Greece, Cybele met with a mixed reception. She became partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess
Gaia In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of s originally told by the , and a of . These stories concern the and , the lives and activities of , , and , and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own and practices. ...
, of her possibly
Minoan The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age Aegean civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands, flourishing from c. 3000 BC to c. 1450 BC and, after a late period of decline, finally ending around 1100 BC, during the early Greek Da ...
equivalent Rhea, and of the harvest–mother goddess
Demeter In ancient Greek religion Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and Greek mythology, mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and Cult (religious practice), cult ...

Demeter
. Some city-states, notably
Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens rect 15 475 48 ...

Athens
, evoked her as a protector, but her most celebrated Greek rites and processions show her as an essentially foreign, exotic mystery-goddess who arrives in a lion-drawn chariot to the accompaniment of wild music, wine, and a disorderly, ecstatic following. Uniquely in Greek religion, she had a
eunuch A eunuch ( ) is a man A man is an adult male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot ...

eunuch
mendicant A mendicant (from la, mendicans, "begging") is one who practices mendicancy, relying chiefly or exclusively on alms to survive. In principle, Mendicant orders, mendicant religious orders own little property, either individually or collectively, ...
priesthood. Many of her Greek cults included rites to a divine
Phrygia In classical antiquity, Phrygia (; grc, Φρυγία, ''Phrygía'' ; tr, Frigya) (also known as the Kingdom of Muska) was a kingdom in the west central part of Anatolia, in what is now Asian Turkey, centred on the Sangarios River. After its co ...
n castrate shepherd-consort
Attis Attis (; grc-gre, Ἄττις, also , , ) was the consort of Cybele Cybele ( ; Phrygian: ''Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya'' "Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother", perhaps "Mountain Mother"; Lydian Lydian may refer to: * Lydians, an ancient people of Anato ...

Attis
, who was probably a Greek invention. In Greece, Cybele became associated with mountains, town and city walls, fertile nature, and wild animals, especially lions. In
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...
, Cybele became known as Magna Mater ("Great Mother"). The Roman state adopted and developed a particular form of her cult after the Sibylline oracle in 205 BC recommended her conscription as a key religious ally in Rome's second war against Carthage (218 to 201 BC). Roman mythographers reinvented her as a goddess, and thus an ancestral goddess of the Roman people by way of the Trojan prince
Aeneas In Greco-Roman mythology, Aeneas (, ; from Greek language, Greek: Αἰνείας, ''Aineíās'') was a Trojan hero, the son of the Trojan prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite (equivalent to the Roman Venus (mythology), Venus). His father ...
. As Rome eventually established
hegemony Hegemony (, , ) is the political, economic, and military predominance of one state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (new ...
over the Mediterranean world, Romanized forms of Cybele's cults spread throughout Rome's empire. Greek and Roman writers debated and disputed the meaning and morality of her cults and priesthoods, which remain controversial subjects in modern scholarship.


Anatolia

No contemporary text or myth survives to attest the original character and nature of Cybele's Phrygian cult. She may have evolved from a statuary type found at
Çatalhöyük Çatalhöyük (; also ''Çatal Höyük'' and ''Çatal Hüyük''; from ''çatal'' "fork" + ''höyük'' "") was a very large and settlement in southern , which existed from approximately 7500 BC to 6400 BC, and flourished around 7000 BC. In J ...
in
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
, dated to the
6th millennium BC The 6th millennium BC spanned the years 6000 BC to 5001 BC (c. 8 ka to c. 7 ka). It is impossible to precisely date events that happened around the time of this millennium and all dates mentioned here are estimates mostly based on geological and ...
and identified by some as a
mother goddess A mother goddess is a goddess A goddess is a female deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polyth ...
. In Phrygian art of the 8th century BC, the cult attributes of the Phrygian mother-goddess include attendant lions, a bird of prey, and a small vase for her
libation A libation is a ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious communit ...
s or other offerings. The inscription ''Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya'' R. S. P. Beekes, ''Etymological Dictionary of Greek'', Brill, 2009, p. 794 (''s.v.'' "Κυβέλη"). at a Phrygian rock-cut shrine, dated to the first half of the 6th century BC, is usually read as "Mother of the mountain", a reading supported by ancient classical sources, and consistent with Cybele as any of several similar tutelary goddesses, each known as "mother" and associated with specific Anatolian mountains or other localities: a goddess thus "born from stone". She is ancient Phrygia's only known goddess, the divine companion or consort of its mortal rulers, and was probably the highest deity of the Phrygian state. Her name, and the development of religious practices associated with her, may have been influenced by the cult of the deified
Sumer Sumer ()The name is from Akkadian language, Akkadian '; Sumerian language, Sumerian ''kig̃ir'', written and ,approximately "land of the civilized kings" or "native land". means "native, local", iĝir NATIVE (7x: Old Babylonian)from ''The ...

Sumer
ian queen
Kubaba Kubaba (in the ''Weidner'' or ''Esagila Babylonian clay brick from sixth century BC cuneiform inscription "Nebuchadnezzar support Esagila temple and temple Ezida (Borsippa). Eldest son of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon. Hecht Museum Haifa T ...
. In the 2nd century AD, the geographer
PausaniasPausanias (; Greek language, Greek: Παυσανίας) is the name of several people: *Pausanias of Athens, lover of the poet Agathon and a character in Plato's ''Symposium'' *Pausanias (general), Spartan general and regent of the 5th century BC *Pa ...
attests to a Magnesian (
Lydia Lydia (Lydian language, Lydian: ‎𐤮𐤱𐤠𐤭𐤣𐤠, ''Śfarda''; Aramaic: ''Lydia''; el, Λυδία, ''Lȳdíā''; tr, Lidya) was an Iron Age Monarchy, kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the mod ...

Lydia
n) cult to "the mother of the gods", whose image was carved into a rock-spur of
Mount Sipylus Mount Spil ( tr, Spil Dağı), the ancient Mount Sipylus ( grc, Σίπυλος) (elevation ), is a mountain rich in legends and history in Manisa Province, Turkey, in what used to be the heartland of the Lydians and what is now Turkey's Aegean Reg ...
. This was believed to be the oldest image of the goddess, and was attributed to the legendary
BroteasIn Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature of the ...
. At
Pessinos Pessinus ( el, Πεσσινούς or Πισσινούς) was an Ancient city and archbishopric in Asia Minor Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula A peninsula ( la ...
in Phrygia, the mother goddess—identified by the Greeks as Cybele—took the form of an unshaped stone of black meteoric iron, and may have been associated with or identical to
Agdistis Agdistis ( grc, Ἄγδιστις) was a deity of Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast E ...
, Pessinos' mountain deity. This was the aniconic stone that was removed to Rome in 204 BC. Images and iconography in funerary contexts, and the ubiquity of her Phrygian name ''Matar'' ("Mother"), suggest that she was a mediator between the "boundaries of the known and unknown": the civilized and the wild, the worlds of the living and the dead. Her association with hawks, lions, and the stone of the mountainous landscape of the Anatolian wilderness, seem to characterize her as mother of the land in its untrammeled natural state, with power to rule, moderate or soften its latent ferocity, and to control its potential threats to a settled, civilized life. Anatolian elites sought to harness her protective power to forms of ruler-cult; in Phrygia, the
Midas monument Midas (; grc-gre, Μίδας) is the name of one of at least three members of the royal house of Phrygia. The most famous King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. This cam ...
connects her with king
Midas Midas (; grc-gre, Μίδας) is the name of one of at least three members of the royal house of Phrygia. The most famous King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into gold. This ca ...

Midas
, as her sponsor, consort, or co-divinity. As protector of cities, or city states, she was sometimes shown wearing a
mural crown A mural crown ( la, corona muralis) is a crown '' File:서봉총 금관 금제드리개.jpg, The Seobongchong Golden Crown of Ancient Silla, which is 339th National Treasure of South Korea. It is basically following the standard type of Sil ...
, representing the city walls. At the same time, her power "transcended any purely political usage and spoke directly to the goddess' followers from all walks of life". Some Phrygian shaft monuments are thought to have been used for libations and blood offerings to Cybele, perhaps anticipating by several centuries the pit used in her and criobolium sacrifices during the Roman imperial era. Over time, her Phrygian cults and iconography were transformed, and eventually subsumed, by the influences and interpretations of her foreign devotees, at first Greek and later Roman.


Greek Cybele

From around the 6th century BC, cults to the Anatolian mother-goddess were introduced from Phrygia into the ethnically Greek colonies of western Anatolia, mainland
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geogr ...

Greece
, the Aegean islands and the westerly colonies of
Magna Graecia Magna Graecia (, ; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic ...

Magna Graecia
. The Greeks called her ''Mātēr'' or ''Mētēr'' ("Mother"), or from the early 5th century ''Kubelē''; in
Pindar Pindar (; grc-gre, Πίνδαρος , ; la, Pindarus; c. 518 – 438 BC) was an Greek lyric, Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes, Greece, Thebes. Of the Western canon, canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserv ...

Pindar
, she is "Mistress Cybele the Mother". In
Homeric Hymn The ''Homeric Hymns'' () are a collection of thirty-three anonymous ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is ...
14 she is "the Mother of all gods and all human beings." Cybele was readily assimilated with several Greek goddesses, especially Rhea, as ''Mētēr theōn'' ("Mother of the gods"), whose raucous, ecstatic rites she may have acquired. As an exemplar of devoted motherhood, she was partly assimilated to the grain-goddess
Demeter In ancient Greek religion Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and Greek mythology, mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and Cult (religious practice), cult ...

Demeter
, whose torchlight procession recalled her search for her lost daughter,
Persephone In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature ...

Persephone
; but she also continued to be identified as a foreign deity, with many of her traits reflecting Greek ideas about
barbarians A barbarian is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, language and tools. They ...
and the wilderness, as ''Mētēr oreia'' ("Mother of the Mountains"). She is depicted as a
Potnia Theron The Potnia Theron (, , lit. "The Animal Queen") or Lady/Queen of Animals is a widespread motif (visual arts), motif in ancient art from the Mediterranean world and the ancient Near East, showing a central human, or human-like, female figure who gr ...
("Mistress of animals"), with her mastery of the natural world expressed by the lions that flank her, sit in her lap or draw her chariot. This schema may derive from a goddess figure from
Minoan religion" or a priestess performing a ritual Minoan religion was the religion of the Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by the use of bronze, in some areas proto-writing, and other early features of ...
.
Walter Burkert Walter Burkert (; 2 February 1931 – 11 March 2015) was a German scholar of Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myth Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of ...
places her among the "foreign gods" of Greek religion, a complex figure combining a putative Minoan-Mycenaean tradition with the Phrygian cult imported directly from Asia Minor. Cybele's early Greek images are small votive representations of her monumental rock-cut images in the Phrygian highlands. She stands alone within a
naiskos 200px, Funerary naiskos of Aristonautes from the Kerameikos, ca. 330–310 B.C. marble, h. 2.91m. The naiskos (pl.: naiskoi; el, ναΐσκος, diminutive of ναός "temple") is a small temple in classical order with columns or pillars and pe ...
, which represents her temple or its doorway, and is crowned with a ''polos'', a high, cylindrical hat. A long, flowing
chiton Chitons () are marine Marine is an adjective meaning of or pertaining to the sea or ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of the Earth.Agoracritos created a fully Hellenised and influential image of Cybele that was set up in the Metroon in the
Athenian agora The ancient Agora of Athens (also called the Classical Agora) is the best-known example of an ancient Greek agora upAgora of Tyre The agora (; grc, ἀγορά ''agorá'') was a central public space in ancient Greek city-states. It is ...
. It showed her enthroned, with a lion attendant, holding a '''' (a dish for making
libation A libation is a ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious communit ...
s to the gods) and a ''
tympanon The hammered dulcimer (also called the hammer dulcimer, dulcimer, or tympanon) is a percussion-string instrument, stringed instrument which consists of strings typically stretched over a trapezoidal resonant sound board (music), sound board. The h ...
'' (a hand drum). Both were Greek innovations to her iconography and reflect key features of her ritual worship introduced by the Greeks which would be salient in the cult's later development. For the Greeks, the tympanon was a marker of foreign cults, suitable for rites to Cybele, her close equivalent Rhea, and
Dionysus Dionysus (; grc-gre, Διόνυσος) is the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking, fertility, orchards and fruit, vegetation, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre in Religion in ancient Greece, ancient Greek rel ...

Dionysus
; of these, only Cybele holds the tympanon herself. She appears with Dionysus, as a secondary deity in
Euripides Euripides (; grc, Εὐριπίδης ''Eurīpídēs'', ; ) was a tragedian Tragedy (from the grc-gre, τραγῳδία, ''tragōidia'', ''tragōidia'') is a form of drama based on human suffering and, mainly, the terrible or sorrowfu ...

Euripides
' ''
Bacchae ''The Bacchae'' (; grc-gre, Βάκχαι, ''Bakchai''; also known as ''The Bacchantes'' ) is an Classical Greece, ancient Greek tragedy, written by the Classical Athens, Athenian playwright Euripides during his final years in Macedonia (ancient ...
'', 64 – 186, and
Pindar Pindar (; grc-gre, Πίνδαρος , ; la, Pindarus; c. 518 – 438 BC) was an Greek lyric, Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes, Greece, Thebes. Of the Western canon, canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserv ...

Pindar
's ''Dithyramb'' II.6 – 9. In the ''Bibliotheca'' formerly attributed to Apollodorus, Cybele is said to have cured Dionysus of his madness. Their cults shared several characteristics: the foreigner-deity arrived in a chariot, drawn by exotic big cats (Dionysus by tigers, Cybele by lions), accompanied by wild music and an ecstatic entourage of exotic foreigners and people from the lower classes. At the end of the 1st century BC
Strabo Strabo''Strabo'' (meaning "squinty", as in strabismus Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object. The eye that is focused on an object can alternate. The condition may be pre ...

Strabo
notes that Rhea-Cybele's popular rites in Athens were sometimes held in conjunction with Dionysus' procession. Both were regarded with caution by the Greeks, as being foreign, to be simultaneously embraced and "held at arm's length". Cybele was also the focus of
mystery cult Mystery religions, mystery cults, sacred mysteries or simply mysteries, were religious schools of the Greco-Roman world for which participation was reserved to initiation rite, initiates ''(mystai)''. The main characterization of this religion is ...
, private rites with a
chthonic The word chthonic is derived from the Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speaker ...

chthonic
aspect connected to
hero cult at Sagalassos, Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. It shares borders with Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic ...
and exclusive to those who had undergone initiation, though it is unclear who Cybele's initiates were.
Relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term ''wikt:relief, relief'' is from the Latin verb ''relevo'', to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the ...
s show her alongside young female and male attendants with torches, and vessels for purification. Literary sources describe joyous abandonment to the loud, percussive music of tympanon, castanets, clashing cymbals and flutes, and to the frenzied "Phrygian dancing", perhaps a form of circle-dancing by women, to the roar of "wise and healing music of the gods". In literary sources, the spread of Cybele's cult is presented as a source of conflict and crisis.
Herodotus Herodotus ( ; grc, Ἡρόδοτος, Hēródotos, ; BC) was an Classical Greece, ancient Greek writer, geographer, and historian born in the Greek city of Halicarnassus, part of the Achaemenid Empire, Persian Empire (now Bodrum, Turkey). He ...
says that when
Anacharsis . Anacharsis (; grc, Ἀνάχαρσις) was a Scythians, Scythian philosopher; he travelled from his homeland on the northern shores of the Black Sea, to Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275p ...

Anacharsis
returned to
Scythia Scythia (, ; from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is appro ...
after traveling and acquiring knowledge among the Greeks in the 6th century BC, his brother, the Scythian king, put him to death for celebrating Cybele's mysteries. The historicity of this account and of Anacharsis himself are widely questioned. In
Athenian , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens The Acropo ...

Athenian
tradition, the city's
Metroon A metroon (, or ) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following ...
was founded to placate Cybele, who had visited a plague on
Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens rect 15 475 48 ...
when one of her wandering priests was killed for his attempt to introduce her cult. The earliest source is the ''Hymn to the Mother of the Gods'' (362 AD) by the
Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Politica ...
Julian, but references to it appear in
scholia Scholia (singular scholium or scholion, from grc, σχόλιον, "comment, interpretation") are grammatical In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of langu ...
from an earlier date. The account may reflect real resistance to Cybele's cult, but Lynne Roller sees it as a story intended to demonstrate Cybele's power, similar to myth of
Dionysus Dionysus (; grc-gre, Διόνυσος) is the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking, fertility, orchards and fruit, vegetation, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre in Religion in ancient Greece, ancient Greek rel ...

Dionysus
' arrival in Thebes recounted in ''
The Bacchae ''The Bacchae'' (; grc-gre, Βάκχαι, ''Bakchai''; also known as ''The Bacchantes'' ) is an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kin ...
''. Many of Cybele's cults were funded privately, rather than by the
polis ''Polis'' (, ; grc-gre, πόλις, ), plural ''poleis'' (, , ), literally means "city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (199 ...

polis
, but she also had publicly established temples in many Greek cities, including Athens and Olympia. Her "vivid and forceful character" and association with the wild set her apart from the
Olympian gods upright=1.8, Fragment of a Hellenistic relief sculpture, relief (1st century BC1st century AD) depicting the twelve Olympians carrying their attributes in procession; from left to right: Hestia (scepter), Hermes (winged cap and staff), Aphrodite ...
. Her association with Phrygia led to particular unease in Greece after the
Persian Wars The Greco-Persian Wars (also often called the Persian Wars) were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empi ...
, as Phrygian symbols and costumes were increasingly associated with the
Achaemenid empire The Achaemenid Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, translit=Xšāça, translation=The Empire), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian Iranian may refer to: * Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia and offi ...

Achaemenid empire
.
Conflation Flag of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a heraldic emblem which displays conflated or "con-joined" images. Conflation is the merging of two or more sets of information, texts, ideas, opinions, etc., into one, often in error. In logic, it ...
with Rhea led to Cybele's association with various male demigods who served Rhea as attendants, or as guardians of her son, the infant
Zeus Zeus or , , ; grc, Δῐός, ''Diós'', label=genitive In grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Ling ...

Zeus
, as he lay in the cave of his birth. In cult terms, they seem to have functioned as intercessors or intermediaries between goddess and mortal devotees, through dreams, waking trance or ecstatic dance and song. They include the armed Curetes, who danced around Zeus and clashed their shields to amuse him; their supposedly Phrygian equivalents, the youthful Corybantes, who provided similarly wild and martial music, dance and song; and the dactyls and
Telchines In Greek mythology, the Telchines ( grc, Τελχῖνες, ''Telkhines'') were the original inhabitants of the island of Rhodes and were known in Crete and Cyprus. Family Their parents were either Pontus (mythology), Pontus and Gaia (mythology), G ...
, magicians associated with metalworking.


Cybele and Attis

Cybele's major mythographic narratives attach to her relationship with Attis, who is described by ancient Greek and Roman sources and cults as her youthful consort, and as a Phrygian deity. In Phrygia, "Attis" was not a deity, but both a commonplace and priestly name, found alike in casual graffiti, the dedications of personal monuments and several of Cybele's Phrygian shrines and monuments. His divinity may therefore have begun as a Greek invention based on what was known of Cybele's Phrygian cult. His earliest certain image as deity appears on a 4th-century BC Greek
stele A stele ( ),Anglicized plural steles ( ); Greek plural stelai ( ), from Greek , ''stēlē''. The Greek plural is written , ''stēlai'', but this is only rarely encountered in English. or occasionally stela (plural ''stelas'' or ''stelæ''), ...

stele
from
Piraeus Piraeus ( ; el, Πειραιάς ; grc, Πειραιεύς ) is a port city The Porticciolo del Cedas port in Trieste.html"_;"title="Barcola_near_Trieste">Barcola_near_Trieste,_a_small_local_port A_port_is_a_ Barcola_near_Tr ...

Piraeus
, near
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Athens
. It shows him as the Hellenised stereotype of a rustic, eastern barbarian; he sits at ease, sporting the Phrygian cap and shepherd's crook of his later Greek and Roman cults. Before him stands a Phrygian goddess (identified by the inscription as
Agdistis Agdistis ( grc, Ἄγδιστις) was a deity of Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast E ...
) who carries a tympanon in her left hand. With her right, she hands him a jug, as if to welcome him into her cult with a share of her own libation. Later images of Attis show him as a shepherd, in similar relaxed attitudes, holding or playing the
syrinx In classical Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myth Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the tradition A tradition is a belief ...

syrinx
(panpipes). In
Demosthenes Demosthenes (; el, Δημοσθένης, translit=Dēmosthénēs; ; 384 – 12 October 322 BC) was a statesman and orator of . His constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight in ...

Demosthenes
' ''
On the Crown "On the Crown" ( grc, Ὑπὲρ Κτησιφῶντος περὶ τοῦ Στεφάνου, ''Hyper Ktēsiphōntos peri tou Stephanou'') is the most famous judicial oration of the prominent Athenian statesman and orator Demosthenes, delivered in 33 ...
'' (330 BC), ''attes'' is "a ritual cry shouted by followers of mystic rites". Attis seems to have accompanied the diffusion of Cybele's cult through Magna Graecia; there is evidence of their joint cult at the Greek colonies of
Marseilles Marseille ( , , ; also spelled in English as Marseilles; oc, Marselha ) is the prefecture A prefecture (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languag ...
(Gaul) and Lokroi (southern Italy) from the 6th and 7th centuries BC. After
Alexander the Great Alexander III of Macedon ( grc-gre, Αλέξανδρος}, ; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king (''basileus ''Basileus'' ( el, βασιλεύς) is a Greek term and title A title ...

Alexander the Great
's conquests, "wandering devotees of the goddess became an increasingly common presence in Greek literature and social life; depictions of Attis have been found at numerous Greek sites". When shown with Cybele, he is always the younger, lesser deity, or perhaps her priestly attendant. In the mid 2nd century, letters from the king of Pergamum to Cybele's shrine at Pessinos consistently address its chief priest as "Attis".


Roman Cybele


Republican era

Romans knew Cybele as ''Magna Mater'' ("Great Mother"), or as ''Magna Mater deorum Idaea'' ("great Idaean mother of the gods"), equivalent to the Greek title ''Meter Theon Idaia'' ("Mother of the Gods, from Mount Ida"). Rome officially adopted her cult during the
Second Punic War The Second Punic War, which lasted from 218 to 201BC, was the second of three wars fought between Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side of the in what is now . Carthage was the most important trading ...

Second Punic War
(218 to 201 BC), after dire prodigies, including a meteor shower, a failed harvest and famine, seemed to warn of Rome's imminent defeat. The Roman Senate and its religious advisers consulted the Sibylline oracle and decided that Carthage might be defeated if Rome imported the ''Magna Mater'' ("Great Mother") of Phrygian Pessinos. As this cult object belonged to a Roman ally, the Kingdom of Pergamum, the Roman Senate sent ambassadors to seek the king's consent; en route, a consultation with the confirmed that the goddess should be brought to Rome. The goddess arrived in Rome in the form of Pessinos' black meteoric stone. Roman legend connects this voyage, or its end, to the matron
Claudia Quinta Claudia Quinta was a Roman matron said to have been instrumental in bringing the goddess Cybele, "Great Mother" of the gods from her shrine in Greek Asia Minor to Rome in 204 BC, during the last years of Rome's Second Punic War The Second Pun ...

Claudia Quinta
, who was accused of unchastity but proved her innocence with a miraculous feat on behalf of the goddess. Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, supposedly the "best man" in Rome, was chosen to meet the goddess at Ostia; and Rome's most virtuous matrons (including Claudia Quinta) conducted her to the temple of
Victoria Victoria most commonly refers to: * Victoria (Australia), a state of the Commonwealth of Australia * Victoria, British Columbia, provincial capital of British Columbia, Canada * Victoria (mythology), Roman goddess of Victory * Victoria, Seychelles ...
, to await the completion of her temple on the
Palatine Hill The Palatine Hill, (; la, Collis Palatium or Mons Palatinus; it, Palatino ) which is the centremost of the seven hills of Rome The seven hills of Rome ( la, Septem colles/montes Romae, it, Sette colli di Roma ) east of the river Tiber ...

Palatine Hill
. Pessinos' stone was later used as the face of the goddess' statue. In due course, the famine ended and Hannibal was defeated. Most modern scholarship agrees that Cybele's consort,
Attis Attis (; grc-gre, Ἄττις, also , , ) was the consort of Cybele Cybele ( ; Phrygian: ''Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya'' "Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother", perhaps "Mountain Mother"; Lydian Lydian may refer to: * Lydians, an ancient people of Anato ...

Attis
, and her eunuch Phrygian priests (
Galli A ''gallus'' (pl. ''galli'') was a eunuch priest of the Phrygian goddess Cybele (Magna Mater in Rome) and her consort Attis, whose worship was incorporated into the Religion in ancient Rome, state religious practices of ancient Rome. Origins Cyb ...
) would have arrived with the goddess, along with at least some of the wild, ecstatic features of her Greek and Phrygian cults. The histories of her arrival deal with the piety, purity and status of the Romans involved, the success of their religious stratagem, and power of the goddess herself; she has no consort or priesthood, and seems fully Romanised from the first. Some modern scholars assume that Attis must have followed much later; or that the Galli, described in later sources as shockingly effeminate and flamboyantly "un-Roman", must have been an unexpected consequence of bringing the goddess in blind obedience to the Sibyl; a case of "biting off more than one can chew". Others note that Rome was well versed in the adoption (or sometimes, the "calling forth", or seizure) of foreign deities, and the diplomats who negotiated Cybele's move to Rome would have been well-educated, and well-informed. Romans believed that Cybele, considered a Phrygian outsider even within her Greek cults, was the mother-goddess of ancient
Troy Troy (Greek language, Greek: Τροία) or Ilium (Greek language, Greek: Ίλιον) was an ancient city located at Hisarlik in present-day Turkey, south-west of Çanakkale. It is known as the setting for the Greek mythology, Greek myth of the ...

Troy
(Ilium). Some of Rome's leading
patrician Patrician may refer to: * Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of ancient Rome, and a synonym for "aristocratic" in modern English usage * Patrician (post-Roman Europe), the governing elites of cities in parts of medieval a ...
families claimed Trojan ancestry; so the "return" of the Mother of all Gods to her once-exiled people would have been particularly welcome, even if her spouse and priesthood were not; its accomplishment would have reflected well on the principals involved and, in turn, on their descendants. The upper classes who sponsored the Magna Mater's festivals delegated their organisation to the
plebeian aediles The plebeians, also called plebs, were, in ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in ...
, and honoured her and each other with lavish, private festival banquets from which her Galli would have been conspicuously absent. Whereas in most of her Greek cults she dwelt outside the ''polis'', in Rome she was the city's protector, contained within her Palatine precinct, along with her priesthood, at the geographical heart of Rome's most ancient religious traditions. She was promoted as patrician property; a Roman matron – albeit a strange one, "with a stone for a face" – who acted for the clear benefit of the Roman state.


Imperial era

Augustan ideology identified Magna Mater with Imperial order and Rome's religious authority throughout the empire. Augustus claimed a Trojan ancestry through his adoption by
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened ...

Julius Caesar
and the divine favour of
Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Venus (mythology), Roman goddess of love and beauty. As List of brightest natural objects in the sky, the brightest natural object in Earth's night sky after the Moon, Venus can ...
; in the iconography of
Imperial cult An imperial cult is a form of state religion A state religion (also called an established religion or official religion) is a religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations ...
, the empress
Livia Livia Drusilla (30 January 59 BC – 28 September 29 AD) was Roman empress from 27 BC to AD 14 as the wife of Roman emperor, Emperor Augustus. She was known as Julia Augusta after her formal Adoption in ancient Rome, adoption into the Julian fam ...

Livia
was Magna Mater's earthly equivalent, Rome's protector and symbolic "Great Mother"; the goddess is portrayed with Livia's face on cameos and statuary. By this time, Rome had absorbed the goddess's Greek and Phrygian homelands, and the Roman version of Cybele as Imperial Rome's protector was introduced there. Imperial Magna Mater protected the empire's cities and agriculture —
Ovid Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō (; 20 March 43 BC – 17/18 AD), known in English as Ovid ( ), was a Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom ...

Ovid
"stresses the barrenness of the earth before the Mother's arrival. Virgil's ''
Aeneid The ''Aeneid'' ( ; la, Aenē̆is ) is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the p ...
'' (written between 29 and 19 BC) embellishes her "Trojan" features; she is ''Berecyntian Cybele'', mother of
Jupiter Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the List of Solar System objects by size, largest in the Solar System. It is a gas giant with a mass more than two and a half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined, but ...
himself, and protector of the
Trojan Trojan or Trojans may refer to: * Of or from the ancient city of Troy * Trojan language, the language of the historical Trojans Arts and entertainment Music * ''Les Troyens'' ('The Trojans'), an opera by Berlioz, premiered part 1863, part 1890 ...

Trojan
prince
Aeneas In Greco-Roman mythology, Aeneas (, ; from Greek language, Greek: Αἰνείας, ''Aineíās'') was a Trojan hero, the son of the Trojan prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite (equivalent to the Roman Venus (mythology), Venus). His father ...
in his flight from the destruction of Troy. She gives the Trojans her sacred tree for shipbuilding, and begs Jupiter to make the ships indestructible. These ships become the means of escape for Aeneas and his men, guided towards Italy and a destiny as ancestors of the Roman people by
Venus Genetrix The Venus Genetrix (also spelled ) is a sculptural type which shows the Roman goddess Venus Venus is the second planet from the Sun. It is named after the Venus (mythology), Roman goddess of love and beauty. As List of brightest natural obj ...
. Once arrived in Italy, these ships have served their purpose and are transformed into sea nymphs. Stories of Magna Mater's arrival were used to promote the fame of its principals, and thus their descendants.
Claudia Quinta Claudia Quinta was a Roman matron said to have been instrumental in bringing the goddess Cybele, "Great Mother" of the gods from her shrine in Greek Asia Minor to Rome in 204 BC, during the last years of Rome's Second Punic War The Second Pun ...

Claudia Quinta
's role as Rome's ''castissima femina'' (purest or most virtuous woman) became "increasingly glorified and fantastic"; she was shown in the costume of a
Vestal Virgin In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian ...
, and Augustan ideology represented her as the ideal of virtuous Roman womanhood. The emperor
Claudius Claudius ( ; Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial p ...

Claudius
claimed her among his ancestors. Claudius promoted Attis to the Roman pantheon and placed his cult under the supervision of the quindecimviri (one of Rome's priestly colleges).


Festivals and cults


Megalesia in April

The ''Megalesia'' festival to Magna Mater commenced on April 4, the anniversary of her arrival in Rome. The festival structure is unclear, but it included
ludi scaenici The architectural form of theatre in Rome has been linked to later, more well-known examples from the 1st century B.C.E. to the 3rd Century C.E. The Theatre of ancient Rome referred to as a period of time in which theatrical practice and performan ...
(plays and other entertainments based on religious themes), probably performed on the deeply stepped approach to her temple; some of the plays were commissioned from well-known playwrights. On April 10, her image was taken in public procession to the
Circus Maximus The Circus Maximus (Latin for "largest circus"; Italian language, Italian: ''Circo Massimo'') is an ancient Rome, ancient Roman chariot racing, chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue in Rome, Italy. In the valley between the Aventin ...

Circus Maximus
, and
chariot race Chariot racing ( grc-gre, ἁρματοδρομία, harmatodromia, la, ludi ''Ludi'' (Latin plural) were public games held for the benefit and entertainment of the SPQR, Roman people (''populus Romanus''). ''Ludi'' were held in conjunction wit ...
s were held there in her honour; a statue of Magna Mater was permanently sited on the racetrack's dividing barrier, showing the goddess seated on a lion's back. Roman bystanders seem to have perceived Megalesia as either characteristically "
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
"; or Phrygian. At the cusp of Rome's transition to Empire, the Greek
Dionysius of Halicarnassus Dionysius of Halicarnassus ( grc, Διονύσιος Ἀλεξάνδρου Ἁλικαρνασσεύς, ; – after 7 BC) was a Greek historian Hellenic historiography (or Greek historiography) involves efforts made by Greeks to track and r ...
describes this procession as wild Phrygian "mummery" and "fabulous clap-trap", in contrast to the Megalesian sacrifices and games, carried out in what he admires as a dignified "traditional Roman" manner; Dionysius also applauds the wisdom of Roman religious law, which forbids the participation of any Roman citizen in the procession, and in the goddess's mysteries; Slaves are forbidden to witness any of this. In the late republican era,
Lucretius Titus Lucretius Carus ( , ; 99 – c. 55 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Rom ...
vividly describes the procession's armed "war dancers" in their three-plumed helmets, clashing their shields together, bronze on bronze, "delighted by blood"; yellow-robed, long-haired, perfumed Galli waving their knives, wild music of thrumming tympanons and shrill flutes. Along the route, rose petals are scattered, and clouds of incense arise. The goddess's image, wearing the Mural Crown and seated within a sculpted, lion-drawn chariot, is carried high on a bier. The Roman display of Cybele's Megalesia procession as an exotic, privileged public pageant offers signal contrast to what is known of the private, socially inclusive Phrygian-Greek mysteries on which it was based.


'Holy week' in March

The
Principate The Principate is the name sometimes given to the first period of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republ ...
brought the development of an extended festival or "holy week" for Cybele and Attis in March (Latin '' Martius)'', from the Ides to nearly the end of the month. Citizens and freedmen were allowed limited forms of participation in rites pertaining to Attis, through their membership of two
colleges A college (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in rel ...
, each dedicated to a specific task; the ''Cannophores'' ("reed bearers") and the ''Dendrophores'' ("tree bearers"). * March 15 (Ides): ''Canna intrat'' ("The Reed enters"), marking the birth of Attis and his exposure in the reeds along the Phrygian river
Sangarius The Sakarya ( tr, Sakarya Irmağı; gr, Σαγγάριος, translit=Sangarios; Latin: ''Sangarius'') is the third longest river in Turkey. It runs through the region known in ancient times as Phrygia. It was considered one of the principal rive ...

Sangarius
, where he was discovered—depending on the version—by either shepherds or Cybele herself. The reed was gathered and carried by the ''cannophores''. * March 22: ''Arbor intrat'' ("The Tree enters"), commemorating the death of Attis under a pine tree. The ''dendrophores'' ("tree bearers") cut down a tree, suspended from it an image of Attis, and carried it to the temple with lamentations. The day was formalized as part of the official Roman calendar under Claudius. A three-day period of mourning followed. * March 23: on the Tubilustrium, an archaic holiday to
Mars Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury (planet), Mercury. In English, Mars carries the name of the Mars (mythology), Roman god of war and is often referred to ...
, the tree was laid to rest at the temple of the Magna Mater, with the traditional beating of the shields by Mars' priests the
Salii In , the Salii ( , ) were the "leaping priests" (from the verb ''saliō'' "leap, jump") of supposed to have been introduced by King . They were twelve youths, dressed as archaic warriors: an embroidered , a , a short red cloak ('')'', a sword, ...
and the lustration of the trumpets perhaps assimilated to the noisy music of the Corybantes. * March 24: ''Sanguem'' or ''Dies Sanguinis'' ("Day of Blood"), a frenzy of mourning when the devotees whipped themselves to sprinkle the altars and effigy of Attis with their own blood; some performed the self-castrations of the Galli. The "sacred night" followed, with Attis placed in his ritual tomb. * March 25 ( vernal equinox on the Roman calendar): ''
Hilaria The Hilaria (; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman ...
'' ("Rejoicing"), when Attis was reborn. Some early Christian sources associate this day with the
resurrection of Jesus The resurrection of Jesus ( gr, ανάσταση του Ιησού) is the Christianity, Christian belief that God in Christianity, God Resurrection, raised Jesus on the third day after Crucifixion of Jesus, his crucifixion, starting – or Pr ...
.
DamasciusDamascius (; grc-gre, Δαμάσκιος, 458 – after 538), known as "the last of the Neoplatonists," was the last scholarch of the School of Athens. He was one of the pagan Paganism (from classical Latin ''pāgānus'' "rural", "rustic ...
attributed a "liberation from Hades" to the Hilaria. * March 26: ''Requietio'' ("Day of Rest"). * March 27: ''Lavatio'' ("Washing"), noted by
Ovid Pūblius Ovidius Nāsō (; 20 March 43 BC – 17/18 AD), known in English as Ovid ( ), was a Augustan literature (ancient Rome), Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom ...

Ovid
and probably an innovation under Augustus, when Cybele's sacred stone was taken in procession from the Palatine temple to the
Porta Capena 300px, The Obelisk of Axum in Rome in 2002. Porta Capena was a gate in the Servian Wall The Servian Wall ( la, Murus Servii Tullii; it, Mura Serviane) was an ancient Roman defensive barrier constructed around the city of Rome , establish ...
and down the
Appian Way The Appian Way (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of ...

Appian Way
to the stream called Almo, a
tributary A tributary, or affluent, is a stream A stream is a body of water (Lysefjord) in Norway Norway, officially the Kingdom of Norway,Names in the official and recognised languages: Bokmål Bokmål (, ; literally "book tongue") ...
of the
Tiber The Tiber (; la, Tiberis; it, Tevere ) is the third-longest and the longest in Central Italy, rising in the in and flowing through , , and , where it is joined by the River , to the , between and . It estimated at . The river has achi ...

Tiber
. There the stone and sacred iron implements were bathed "in the Phrygian manner" by a red-robed priest. The ''quindecimviri'' attended. The return trip was made by torchlight, with much rejoicing. The ceremony alluded to, but did not reenact, Cybele's original reception in the city, and seems not to have involved Attis. * March 28: ''Initium Caiani'', sometimes interpreted as initiations into the mysteries of the Magna Mater and Attis at the Gaianum, near the Phrygianum sanctuary at the
Vatican Hill Vatican Hill (; la, Mons Vaticanus; it, Colle Vaticano) is a hill located across the Tiber river Rome Historical marker, flood marker, 1598, set into a pillar of the Ospedale di Santo Spirito in Sassia, Santo Spirito Hospital near Basilica di ...
. Scholars are divided as to whether the entire series was more or less put into place under Claudius, or whether the festival grew over time. The Phrygian character of the cult would have appealed to the Julio-Claudians as an expression of their claim to Trojan ancestry. It may be that Claudius established observances mourning the death of Attis, before he had acquired his full significance as a resurrected god of rebirth, expressed by rejoicing at the later ''Canna intrat'' and by the Hilaria. The full sequence at any rate is thought to have been official in the time of
Antoninus Pius Antoninus Pius (; la, Antōnīnus Pius ; 19 September 86 – 7 March 161) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emper ...

Antoninus Pius
(reigned 138–161), but among extant ''
fasti In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian i ...
'' appears only in the
Calendar of Philocalus A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time Time is the indefinite continued sequence, progress of existence and event (philosophy), events that occur in an apparently irreversible process, ...
(354 AD).


Minor cults

Significant anniversaries, stations and participants in the goddess' 204 arrival – including her ship, which would have been thought a sacred object – may have been marked from the beginning by minor, local or private rites and festivals at Ostia, Rome, and Victoria's temple. Cults to Claudia Quinta are likely, particularly in the Imperial era. Rome seems to have introduced evergreen cones (pine or fir) to Cybele's iconography, based at least partly on Rome's "Trojan ancestor" myth, in which the goddess gave Aeneas her sacred tree for shipbuilding. The evergreen cones probably symbolised Attis' death and rebirth. Despite the archaeological evidence of early cult to Attis at Cybele's Palatine precinct, no surviving Roman literary or epigraphic source mentions him until
Catullus Gaius Valerius Catullus (; ), often referred to simply as Catullus (), was a Latin poet of the late Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public ...

Catullus
, whose poem 63 places him squarely within Magna Mater's mythology, as the hapless leader and prototype of her Galli.


Taurobolium and Criobolium

Rome's strictures against castration and citizen participation in Magna Mater's cult limited both the number and kind of her initiates. From the 160's AD, citizens who sought initiation to her mysteries could offer either of two forms of bloody animal sacrifice – and sometimes both – as lawful substitutes for self-castration. The sacrificed a bull, the most potent and costly
victim Victim may refer to: Films and television * ''The Victim'' (1916 film), an American silent film by the Fox Film Corporation starring vamp Valeska Suratt * ''The Victim'' (1930 film), an American film starring Frank Orth and Esther Howard * Vict ...
in Roman religion; the Criobolium used a lesser victim, usually a ram. A late, melodramatic and antagonistic account by the Christian apologist Prudentius has a priest stand in a pit beneath a slatted wooden floor; his assistants or junior priests dispatch a bull, using a sacred spear. The priest emerges from the pit, drenched with the bull's blood, to the applause of the gathered spectators. This description of a Taurobolium as blood-bath is, if accurate, an exception to usual Roman sacrificial practice; it may have been no more than a bull sacrifice in which the blood was carefully collected and offered to the deity, along with its organs of generation, the testicles. The Taurobolium and Criobolium are not tied to any particular date or festival, but probably draw on the same theological principles as the life, death and rebirth cycle of the March "holy week". The celebrant personally and symbolically took the place of Attis, and like him was cleansed, renewed or, in emerging from the pit or tomb, "reborn". These regenerative effects were thought to fade over time, but they could be renewed by further sacrifice. Some dedications transfer the regenerative power of the sacrifice to non-participants, including Imperial cult (ancient Rome), emperors, the Imperial family and the Roman state; some mark a Glossary of ancient Roman religion#dies natalis, ''dies natalis'' (birthday or anniversary) for the participant or recipient. Dedicants and participants could be male or female. The sheer expense of the Taurobolium ensured that its initiates were from Rome's highest class, and even the lesser offering of a Criobolium would have been beyond the means of the poor. Among the Roman masses, there is evidence of private devotion to Attis, but virtually none for initiations to Magna Mater's cult. In the religious revivalism of the later Imperial era, Magna Mater's notable initiates included the deeply religious, wealthy and erudite praetorian prefect Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, Praetextatus; the Quindecimviri sacris faciundis, quindecimvir Gaius Caeionius Rufius Volusianus, Volusianus, who was twice consul; and possibly the Julian the Apostate, Emperor Julian. Taurobolium dedications to Magna Mater tend to be more common in the Empire's western provinces than elsewhere, attested by inscriptions in (among others) Rome and Ostia Antica, Ostia in Italy, Lugdunum in Gaul, and Carthage, in Africa.


Priesthoods

"Attis" may have been a name or title of Cybele's priests or priest-kings in ancient Phrygia. Most myths of the deified
Attis Attis (; grc-gre, Ἄττις, also , , ) was the consort of Cybele Cybele ( ; Phrygian: ''Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya'' "Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother", perhaps "Mountain Mother"; Lydian Lydian may refer to: * Lydians, an ancient people of Anato ...

Attis
present him as founder of Cybele's Galli priesthood but in Servius' account, written during the Roman Imperial era, Attis castrates a king to escape his unwanted sexual attentions, and is castrated in turn by the dying king. Cybele's priests find Attis at the base of a pine tree; he dies and they bury him, emasculate themselves in his memory, and celebrate him in their rites to the goddess. This account might attempt to explain the nature, origin and structure of Pessinus' theocracy. A Ancient Greek literature#Hellenistic poetry, Hellenistic poet refers to Cybele's priests in the feminine, as ''Gallai''. The Roman poet
Catullus Gaius Valerius Catullus (; ), often referred to simply as Catullus (), was a Latin poet of the late Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public ...

Catullus
refers to Attis in the masculine until his emasculation, and in the feminine thereafter. Various Roman sources refer to the Galli as a middle or third gender (''medium genus'' or ''tertium sexus''). The Galli's voluntary emasculation in service of the goddess was thought to give them powers of prophecy. Pessinus, site of the temple whence the Magna Mater was brought to Rome, was a theocracy whose leading Galli may have been appointed via some form of adoption, to ensure "dynastic" succession. The highest ranking Gallus was known as "Attis", and his junior as "Battakes". The Galli of Pessinus were politically influential; in 189 BC, they predicted or prayed for Roman victory in Rome's imminent war against the Galatians. The following year, perhaps in response to this gesture of goodwill, the Roman senate formally recognised Troy, Illium as the ancestral home of the Roman people, granting it extra territory and tax immunity. In 103, a Battakes traveled to Rome and addressed its senate, either for the redress of impieties committed at his shrine, or to predict yet another Roman military success. He would have cut a remarkable figure, with "colourful attire and headdress, like a crown, with regal associations unwelcome to the Romans". Yet the senate supported him; and when a plebeian tribune who had violently opposed his right to address the senate died of a fever (or, in the alternative scenario, when the prophesied Roman victory came) Magna Mater's power seemed proven. In Rome, the Galli and their cult fell under the supreme authority of the pontifices, who were usually drawn from Rome's highest ranking, wealthiest citizens. The Galli themselves, though imported to serve the day-to-day workings of their goddess's cult on Rome's behalf, represented an inversion of Roman priestly traditions in which senior priests were citizens, expected to raise families, and personally responsible for the running costs of their temples, assistants, cults and festivals. As eunuchs, incapable of reproduction, the Galli were forbidden Roman citizenship and rights of inheritance; like their eastern counterparts, they were technically mendicants whose living depended on the pious generosity of others. For a few days of the year, during the Megalesia, Cybele's laws allowed them to leave their quarters, located within the goddess' temple complex, and roam the streets to beg for money. They were outsiders, marked out as Galli by their regalia, and their notoriously effeminate dress and demeanour, but as priests of a state cult, they were sacred and inviolate. From the start, they were objects of Roman fascination, scorn and religious awe. No Roman, not even a slave, could castrate himself "in honour of the Goddess" without penalty; in 101 BC, a slave who had done so was exiled. Augustus selected priests from among his own freedmen to supervise Magna Mater's cult, and brought it under Imperial control.
Claudius Claudius ( ; Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial p ...

Claudius
introduced the senior priestly office of Galli#Archigallus, Archigallus, who was not a eunuch and held full Roman citizenship. The religiously lawful circumstances for a Gallus's self-castration remain unclear; some may have performed the operation on the Dies Sanguinis ("Day of Blood") in Cybele and Attis' March festival. Pliny the elder, Pliny describes the procedure as relatively safe, but it is not known at what stage in their career the Galli performed it, or exactly what was removed, or even if all Galli performed it. Some Galli devoted themselves to their goddess for most of their lives, maintained relationships with relatives and partners throughout, and eventually retired from service. Galli remained a presence in Roman cities well into the Empire's Christian era. Some decades after State church of the Roman Empire, Christianity became the sole Imperial religion, St Augustine saw Galli "parading through the squares and streets of Carthage, with oiled hair and powdered faces, languid limbs and feminine gait, demanding even from the tradespeople the means of continuing to live in disgrace".


Temples

The earliest known temple for Cybele in the Greek world is the Daskalopetra monument on Chios, which dates to the sixth or early fifth centuries BC. In Greek, a temple to Cybele was often called a ''
Metroon A metroon (, or ) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the classical antiquity, ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following ...
''. Several Metroa were established in Greek cities from the fifth century BC onwards. The Metroon at Athens was established in the early fifth century BC on the west side of the Athenian Agora, next to the Boule (ancient Greece), Boule (town council). It was a rectangular building with three rooms with an altar in front. It was destroyed during the Greco-Persian_Wars#Sack_of_Athens, Persian sack of Athens in 480 BC, but repaired around 460 BC. The cult was deeply integrated into civic life; the Metroon was used as the state archive and Cybele was one of the four main gods, to whom serving councillors sacrificed, along with Zeus, Athena, and Apollo. The highly influential fifth-century BC statue of Cybele enthroned by Agoracritus was located in this building. The building was rebuilt around 150 BC, with separate rooms for cult worship and archival storage, and remained in use until Late Antiquity. A second Metroon in the Athenian suburb of Agrae was associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries. At the end of the fifth century BC, a Metroon was established at Olympia, Greece, Olympia. It is a small hexastyle temple, the third to be built on the site after the archaic Temple of Hera, Olympia, Heraion and the mid-fifth century Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Temple of Zeus. In the Roman period it was used for the Imperial cult of ancient Rome, Imperial cult. In the fourth century, further Metroa are attested at Smyrna and Colophon (city), Colophon, where they also served as state archives, as in Athens. Magna Mater's temple stood high on the slope of the Palatine Hill, Palatine, overlooking the valley of the
Circus Maximus The Circus Maximus (Latin for "largest circus"; Italian language, Italian: ''Circo Massimo'') is an ancient Rome, ancient Roman chariot racing, chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue in Rome, Italy. In the valley between the Aventin ...

Circus Maximus
and facing the temple of Ceres (mythology), Ceres on the slopes of the Aventine Hill, Aventine. It was accessible via a long upward flight of steps from a flattened area or proscenium below, where the goddess's Ludi, festival games and Ludi scaenici, plays were staged. At the top of the steps was a statue of the enthroned goddess, wearing a mural crown and attended by lions. Her altar stood at the base of the steps, at the proscenium's edge. The first temple was damaged by fire in 111 BC, and was repaired or rebuilt. It burnt down in the early Imperial era, and was restored by Augustus; it burned down again soon after, and Augustus rebuilt it in more sumptuous style; the Ara Pietatis relief shows its pediment. The goddess is represented by her empty throne and crown, flanked by two figures of Attis reclining on
tympanon The hammered dulcimer (also called the hammer dulcimer, dulcimer, or tympanon) is a percussion-string instrument, stringed instrument which consists of strings typically stretched over a trapezoidal resonant sound board (music), sound board. The h ...
s; and by two lions who eat from bowls, as if tamed by her unseen presence. The scene probably represents a ''sellisternium'', a form of banquet usually reserved for goddesses, in accordance with "Glossary of ancient Roman religion#ritus graecus, Greek rite" as practiced in Rome. This feast was probably held within the building, with attendance reserved for the aristocratic sponsors of the goddesses rites; the flesh of her sacrificial animal provided their meat. From at least 139 AD, Rome's port at Ostia Antica, Ostia, the site of the goddess's arrival, had a fully developed sanctuary to Magna Mater and Attis, served by a local Archigallus and college of ''dendrophores'' (the ritual tree-bearers of "Holy Week"). Ground preparations for the building of St Peters' basilica on the Vatican Hill uncovered a shrine, known as the Phrygianum, with some 24 dedications to Magna Mater and Attis. Many are now lost, but most that survive were dedicated by high-status Romans after a taurobolium sacrifice to Magna Mater. None of these dedicants were priests of the Magna Mater or Attis, and several held priesthoods of one or more different cults. Near Setif (Mauretania), the ''dendrophores'' and the faithful (''religiosi'') restored their temple of Cybele and Attis after a disastrous fire in 288 AD. Lavish new fittings paid for by the private group included the silver statue of Cybele and her processional chariot; the latter received a new canopy with tassels in the form of fir cones. Cybele drew ire from Christians throughout the Empire; when Theodore of Amasea, St. Theodore of Amasea was granted time to recant his beliefs, he spent it by burning a temple of Cybele instead.


Myths, theology, and cosmology

Rome characterised the Phrygians as barbaric, effeminate orientals, prone to excess. While some Roman sources explained Attis' death as punishment for his excess devotion to Magna Mater, others saw it as punishment for his lack of devotion, or outright disloyalty. Only one account of Attis and Cybele (related by
PausaniasPausanias (; Greek language, Greek: Παυσανίας) is the name of several people: *Pausanias of Athens, lover of the poet Agathon and a character in Plato's ''Symposium'' *Pausanias (general), Spartan general and regent of the 5th century BC *Pa ...
) omits any suggestion of a personal or sexual relationship between them; Attis achieves divinity through his support of ''Meters cult, is killed by a boar sent by Zeus, who is envious of the cult's success, and is rewarded for his commitment with godhead.Roller, 1999, pp. 241-244. The most complex, vividly detailed and lurid accounts of Magna Mater and Attis were produced as anti-pagan polemic in the late 4th century by the Christian apologist Arnobius, who presented their cults as a repulsive combination of blood-bath, incest and sexual orgy, derived from the myths of Agdistis. This has been presumed the most ancient, violent and authentically Phrygian version of myth and cult, closely following an otherwise lost orthodox, approved version preserved by the priest-kings at Pessinous and imported to Rome. Arnobius claimed several scholarly sources as his authority; but the oldest versions are also the most fragmentary and, after an interval of several centuries, apt to diverge into whatever version suited a new audience, or potentially, new acolytes. Greek versions of the myth recall those concerning the mortal Adonis and his divine lovers, - Aphrodite, who had some claim to cult as a 'Mother of all", or her rival for Adonis' love,
Persephone In Greek mythology Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the Ancient Greece, ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the Cosmogony, origin and Cosmology#Metaphysical cosmology, nature ...

Persephone
- showing the grief and anger of a powerful goddess, mourning the helpless loss of her mortal beloved.Roller, 1999, pp. 244-255 The emotionally charged literary version presented in Catullus 63 follows Attis' initially ecstatic self-castration into exhausted sleep, and a waking realisation of all he has lost through his emotional slavery to a domineering and utterly self-centered goddess; it is narrated with a rising sense of isolation, oppression and despair, virtually an inversion of the liberation promised by Cybele's Anatolian cult. Contemporaneous with this, more or less, Dionysius of Halicarnassos pursues the idea that the "Phrygian degeneracy" of the Galli, personified in Attis, be removed from the Megalensia to reveal the dignified, "truly Roman" festival rites of the Magna Mater. Somewhat later, Vergil expresses the same deep tension and ambivalence regarding Rome's claimed Phrygian, Trojan ancestors, when he describes his hero Aeneas as a perfumed, effeminate Gallus, a half-man who would, however, "rid himself of the effeminacy of the Oriental in order to fulfil his destiny as the ancestor of Rome." This would entail him and his followers shedding their Phrygian language and culture to follow the virile example of the Latins. In Lucretius' description of the goddess and her acolytes in Rome, her priests provide an object lesson in the self-destruction wrought when passion and devotion exceed rational bounds; a warning, rather than an offer. For Lucretius, Roman Magna Mater "symbolised the world order": her image held reverentially aloft in procession signifies the Earth, which "hangs in the air." She is the mother of all, ultimately the Mother of humankind, and the yoked lions that draw her chariot show an otherwise ferocious offspring's duty of obedience to the parent. She herself is uncreated, and thus essentially separate from and independent of her creations. In the early Imperial era, the Roman poet Marcus Manilius, Manilius inserts Cybele as the thirteenth deity of an otherwise symmetrical, classic Greco-Roman zodiac, in which each of twelve House (astrology), zodiacal houses (represented by particular constellations) is ruled by one of twelve deities, known in Greece as the Twelve Olympians and in Rome as the Di Consentes. Manilius has Cybele and
Jupiter Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the List of Solar System objects by size, largest in the Solar System. It is a gas giant with a mass more than two and a half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined, but ...
as co-rulers of Leo (astrology), Leo (the Lion), in astrological opposition to Juno (mythology), Juno, who rules Aquarius (astrology), Aquarius. Modern scholarship remarks that as Cybele's Leo rises above the horizon, Taurus (the Bull) sets; the lion thus dominates the bull. Some of the possible Greek models for Cybele's Megalensia festival include representations of lions attacking and dominating bulls. The festival date coincided, more or less, with events of the Roman agricultural calendar (around April 12) when farmers were advised to dig their vineyards, break up the soil, sow millet "and – curiously apposite, given the nature of the Mother's priests – castrate cattle and other animals."Hannah, p. 872, citing Varro, ''De Re Rustica'', 1. 30; Columella, ''De Re Rustica'', 11. 2. 32 – 35; Pliny the Elder, Historia Naturalis, 18. 246 – 249.


See also

*
Agdistis Agdistis ( grc, Ἄγδιστις) was a deity of Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast E ...
* Atargatis *
Attis Attis (; grc-gre, Ἄττις, also , , ) was the consort of Cybele Cybele ( ; Phrygian: ''Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya'' "Kubileya/Kubeleya Mother", perhaps "Mountain Mother"; Lydian Lydian may refer to: * Lydians, an ancient people of Anato ...

Attis
* Mother goddess * Rhea


Notes


References

* Mary Beard (classicist), Beard, Mary, ''The Roman and the Foreign: The Cult of the 'Great Mother' in Imperial Rome'', in Nicholas Thomas and Caroline Humphrey, eds., Shamanism, History, and the State (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, 1994) pp. 164–90. * Walter Burkert, Burkert, Walter, 1982. ''Greek Religion'' (Cambridge:Harvard University Press), especially section III.3.4 * Cameron, Alan, ''The Last Pagans of Rome'', Oxford University press, 2011. * Duthoy, Robert, ''The Taurobolium: Its Evolution and Terminology, Volume 10'', Brill, 1969. * Lane, Eugene, (Editor) ''Cybele, Attis, and Related Cults: Essays in Memory of M.J. Vermaseren'', Brill, 1996. * Laroche, Emanuel, "Koubaba, déesse anatolienne, et le problème des origines de Cybèle", Eléments orientaux dans la religion grecque ancienne, Paris 1960, p. 113–128. * Motz, Lotte, ''The Faces of the Goddess'', Oxford University Press US, 1997. * . * * . *


Further reading

* Knauer, Elfried R. (2006). "The Queen Mother of the West: A Study of the Influence of Western Prototypes on the Iconography of the Taoist Deity." In: ''Contact and Exchange in the Ancient World''. Ed. Victor H. Mair. University of Hawai'i Press. Pp. 62–115. ; (An article showing the probable derivation of the Daoist goddess, Xi Wangmu, from Kybele/Cybele) * Lane, Eugene, (Editor) ''Cybele, Attis, and Related Cults: Essays in Memory of M.J. Vermaseren'', Brill, 1996. * Munn, Mark. "Kybele as Kubaba in a Lydo-Phrygian Context." In Anatolian Interfaces: Hittites, Greeks and Their Neighbours, edited by Collins Billie Jean, Bachvarova Mary R., and Rutherford Ian C., 159-64. Oxford, UK: Oxbow Books, 2008. Accessed July 11, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1cd0nsg.22. * Roller, Lynne E. "THE PHRYGIAN CHARACTER OF KYBELE: THE FORMATION OF AN ICONOGRAPHY AND CULT ETHOS IN THE IRON AGE." In Anatolian Iron Ages 3: The Proceedings of the Third Anatolian Iron Ages Colloquium Held at Van, 6-12 August 1990, edited by Çilingiroğlu A. and French D.H., 189-98. London: British Institute at Ankara, 1994. Accessed July 11, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/10.18866/j.ctt1pc5gxc.29. * Vermaseren, Maarten Jozef. ''Cybele and Attis: The Myth and the Cult'' trans. from Dutch by A. M. H. Lemmers (Thames and Hudson, 1977) * Virgil. ''The Aeneid'' trans from Latin by West, David (Penguin Putnam Inc. 2003)


External links


Britannica Online Encyclopædia
*[https://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/romrelig2.html Ancient History Sourcebook: Roman Religiones Licitae and Illicitae, c. 204 BC-112 AD] * Images of Cybele in th
Warburg Institute Iconographic Database
{{Authority control Cybele, Hellenistic Anatolian deities Phrygian goddesses Greek goddesses Roman goddesses Mountain goddesses Mother goddesses Metamorphoses characters