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Cybele (pronounced: /kɪbəliː/ or /ˈsɪb.əl.i/; Phrygian: Matar Kubileya/Kubeleya "Kubeleyan Mother", perhaps "Mountain Mother"; Greek: Κυβέλη Kybele, Κυβήβη Kybebe, Κύβελις Kybelis), was the Phrygian deification of the Earth Mother. As with Greek Gaia (the "Earth"), or her Minoan equivalent Rhea, Cybele embodies the fertile Earth, a goddess of caverns and mountains, walls and fortresses, nature, wild animals (especially lions and bees). Phrygian Cybele is often identified with the Hittite-Hurrian goddess Hebat, though this latter deity might have been the origin of only Anatolian Kubaba. The Greeks frequently conflated the two names, the Anatolian "Kubaba" and the Phrygian "Kybele", to refer to the Phrygian deity.
The goddess was known among the Greeks as Μήτηρ (Mētēr "Mother") or Μήτηρ Ὀρεία ("Mountain-Mother"), or, with a particular Anatolian sacred mountain in mind, Idaea, inasmuch as she was supposed to have been born on Mount Ida in Anatolia, or equally Dindymene or Sipylene, with her sacred mountains Mount Dindymon (in Mysia and variously located) or Mount Sipylus in mind. In Roman mythology, her equivalent was Magna Mater or "Great Mother". In most mythology her story is Phrygian.
Walter Burket, who treats Cybele among "foreign gods" in Greek Religion, notes that "The cult of the Great Mother, Meter, presents a complex picture insofar as indigenous, Minoan-Mycenean tradition is here intertwined with a cult taken over directly from the Phrygian kingdom of Asia Minor" The inscription matar occurs frequently in her Phrygian sites (Burkert). Kubileya is usually read as a Phrygian adjective "of the mountain", so that the inscription may be read Mother of the Mountain, and this is supported by Classical sources (Roller 1999, pp. 67–68). Another theory is that her name can be traced to the Luwian Kubaba, the deified queen of the Third Dynasty of Kish worshiped at Carchemish and Hellenized to Kybebe (Munn 2004, Motz 1997, pp. 105–106). With or without the etymological connection, Kubaba and Matar certainly merged in at least some aspects, as the genital mutilation later connected with Cybele's cult is associated with Kybebe in earlier texts, but in general she seems to have been more a collection of similar tutelary goddesses associated with specific Anatolian mountains or other localities, and called simply "mother" (Motz).
Later, Cybele's most ecstatic followers were males who ritually castrated themselves, after which they were given women's clothing and assumed female identities, who were referred to by one 3rd-century commentator, Callimachus, in the feminine as Gallai, but to whom other contemporary commentators in ancient Greece and Rome referred to as Gallos or Galli.
There is no mention of these followers in Classical references although they related that her priestesses led the people in orgiastic ceremonies with wild music, drumming, dancing, and drinking. She was associated with the mystery religion concerning her son, Attis, who was castrated, died of his wounds, and resurrected by his mother. The dactyls were part of her retinue.
Other followers of Cybele, the Phrygian kurbantes or Corybantes, expressed her ecstatic and orgiastic cult in music, especially drumming, clashing of shields and spears, dancing, singing, and shouting—all at night.
Her cult moved from Phrygia to Greece from the 6th to the 4th century BCE. In 203 BCE, Rome adopted her cult as well.
Anatolia and Greece
Greek mythographers recalled that Broteas, the son of Tantalus, was the first to carve the Great Mother's image into a rock-face. At the time of Pausanias (2nd century CE), a sculpture carved into the rock-face of a spur of Mount Sipylus was still held sacred by the Magnesians.
At Pessinos in Phrygia, an archaic image of Cybele had been venerated as well as the cult of Agdistis, in 203 BCE its aniconic cult object was removed to Rome.
Her cult had already been adopted in 5th century BCE Greece, where she is often referred to euphemistically as Meter Theon Idaia ("Mother of the Gods, from Mount Ida") rather than by name. Mentions of Cybele's worship are found in Pindar and Euripides, among other locations. Classical Greek writers, however, either did not know of or did not mention the castrated galli, although they did mention the castration of Attis.
Cybele's cult in Greece was closely associated with, and apparently resembled, the later cult of Dionysus, whom Cybele is said to have initiated and cured of Hera's madness. They also identified Cybele with the Mother of the Gods Rhea.
Various aspects of Cybele's Anatolian attributes probably predate the Bronze Age in origin.
The figurine found at Çatalhöyük, (Archaeological Museum, Ankara), dating about 6000 BCE, is generally conceded to depict a corpulent and fertile Mother Goddess in the process of giving birth while seated on her throne, which has two hand rests in the form of feline (leopard or panther) heads. The similarity to later iconography of the Anatolian Mother Goddess is striking.
- "[O]n the basis of inscriptional and iconographical evidence it is possible to trace the diffusion of her cult in the early Iron Age; the cult reached the Phrygians in inner Anatolia, where it took on special significance" (Burkert, III.3.4, p. 177).
If the theory on the Luwian origin of Cybele's name is correct, Kubaba must have merged with the various matar goddesses well before time the Phrygian matar kubileya inscription was made around the first half of the 6th century BCE (Vassileva 2001).
In Phrygia Rhea-Cybele was venerated as Agdistis, with a temple at the great trading city Pessinos, mentioned by the geographer Strabo. It was at Pessinos that her lover Attis (son of Nana) was about to wed the daughter of the king, when Agdistis-Cybele appeared in her awesome glory, and he castrated himself.
In Archaic Phrygian images of Cybele of the 6th century, already betraying the influence of Greek style (Burkert), her typical representation is in the figuration of a building’s façade, standing in the doorway. The façade itself can be related to the rock-cut monuments of the highlands of Phrygia. She is wearing a belted long dress, a polos (high cylindrical hat), and a veil that falls over her shoulders and down her back. In Phrygia, her usual attributes are the bird of prey and a small vase, and she is seen with attendant lions in early Phrygian art. Later, the lions are shown drawing her chariot which may be related as the sun traversing the sky daily.
Under Hellenic influence along the coastal lands of Asia Minor, the sculptor Agoracritos, a pupil of Pheidias, produced a version of Cybele that became the standard one. It showed her still seated on a throne but now more decorous and matronly, her hand resting on the neck of a perfectly still lion and the other hand holding the circular frame drum, similar to a tambourine, (tymbalon or tympanon), which evokes the full moon in its shape and is covered with the hide of the sacred lunar bull.
Cybele and Attis
The goddess appears alone, 8th–6th centuries BCE, but later she is joined by Attis, a vegetation spirit who was born and died each year, was the son of Nana and the consort of Cybele. Cybele in jealousy drove him mad after he married Sangarius, and he in an ecstasy, castrated himself and subsequently died. Grieving, Cybele brought him back to life as a fir tree. The evergreen tree and violets were sacred in the cult of Cybele and Attis This tale is told by Catullus in carmen 63. He later became a solar deity.
Some ecstatic followers of Cybele, known in Rome as galli, willingly castrated themselves in imitation of Attis. For Roman devotees of Cybele Mater Magna who were not prepared to go so far, the testicles of a bull, one of the Great Mother's sacred animals, were an acceptable substitute, as many inscriptions show. An inscription of 160 CE records that a certain Carpus had transported a bull's testes from Rome to Cybele's shrine at Lyon, France.
The worship of Cybele spread from inland areas of Anatolia and Syria to the Aegean coast, to Crete and other Aegean islands, and to mainland Greece. She was particularly welcomed at Athens. The geographer Strabo made some useful observations:
- Just as in all other respects the Athenians continue to be hospitable to things foreign, so also in their worship of the gods; for they welcomed so many of the foreign rites ... the Phrygian [rites of Rhea-Cybele are mentioned] by Demosthenes, when he casts the reproach upon Aeschines' mother and Aeschines himself, that he was with her when she conducted initiations, that he joined her in leading the Dionysiac march, and that many a time he cried out evoe saboe, and hyes attes, attes hyes; for these words are in the ritual of Sabazios and the Mother [Rhea]. (Strabo, book X, 3:18)
In Ancient Egypt at Alexandria, Cybele was worshiped by the Greek population as "The Mother of the Gods, the Savior who Hears our Prayers" and as "The Mother of the Gods, the Accessible One". Ephesus, one of the major trading centers of the area, was devoted to Cybele as early the 10th century BCE, and the city's ecstatic celebration, the Ephesia, honored her.
The goddess was not welcome among the Scythians north of Thrace. From Herodotus (4.76-7) we learn that the Scythian Anacharsis (6th century BCE), after traveling among the Greeks and acquiring vast knowledge, was put to death by his fellow Scythians for attempting to introduce the foreign cult of Magna Mater.
Atalanta and Hippomenes were turned into lions by Cybele or Zeus as punishment for having sex in one of her or his temples because the Greeks believed that lions could not mate with other lions. Another account says that Aphrodite turned them into lions for forgetting to do her tribute. As lions they then drew Cybele's chariot.
According to Livy in 210 BCE, an archaic version of Cybele, from Pessinos in Phrygia, as mentioned above, that embodied the Great Mother was ceremoniously and reverently moved to Rome, marking the official beginning of her cult there. Rome was embroiled in the Second Punic War at the time (218 to 201 BCE). An inspection had been made of the Sibylline Books and some oracular verses had been discovered that announced that if a foreign foe should carry war into Italy, that foe could be driven out and conquered if the Mater Magna were brought from Pessinos to Rome. The Romans also consulted the Greek oracle at Delphi, which also recommended bringing the Magna Mater "from her sanctuary in Asia Minor to Rome." Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica was ordered to go to the port of Ostia, accompanied by all the matrons, to meet the goddess. He was to receive her image as she left the vessel, and when brought to land he was to place her in the hands of the matrons who were to bear her to her destination, the Temple of Victory on the Palatine Hill. The day on which this event took place, 12 April, was observed afterwards as a festival, the Megalesian.
Plutarch relates that in 103 BCE, Battakes, a high priest of Cybele, journeyed to Rome to announce a prediction of Gaius Marius' victory over the Cimbri and Teutoni. A. Pompeius, plebeian tribune, together with a band of ruffians, chased Battakes off of the Rostra. Pompeius supposedly died of a fever a few days later.
Under the emperor Augustus, Cybele enjoyed great prominence thanks to her inclusion in Augustan ideology. Augustus restored Cybele's temple, which was located next to his own palace on the Palatine Hill. On the cuirass of the Prima Porta of Augustus, the tympanon of Cybele lies at the feet of the goddess Tellus. Livia, the wife of Augustus, ordered cameo-cutters to portray Cybele with her likeness. The Malibu statue of Cybele bears the visage of Livia. The cult seems to have been fully accepted under Claudius as the festival of Magna Mater and Attis are included within the stes religious calendar. At the same time the chief priest of the cult (the archigallus) was permitted to be a Roman citizen, so long as he was not a eunuch.
Under the Roman Empire the most important festival of Cybele was the Hilaria, taking place between March 15 and March 28. It symbolically commemorated the death of Attis and his resurrection by Cybele, involving days of mourning followed by rejoicing. Celebrations also took place on 4 April with the Megalensia festival, the anniversary of the arrival of the goddess (i.e. the Black Stone) in Rome. On the 10th April, the anniversary of the consecration of her temple on the Palatine, a procession of her image was carried to the Circus Maximus where races were held. These two dates seem to be incorporated within the same festival, though the evidence for what took place in between is lacking.
The most famous rite of Magna Mater introduced by the Romans was the taurobolium, the initiation ceremony in which a candidate took their place in a pit beneath a wooden floor. A bull was sacrificed on the wooden floor so that the blood would run through gaps in the slats and drench the initiate in a symbolic shower of blood. This act was thought to cleanse an initiate of sin as well as signify a 'rebirth' and re-energisation. A cheaper version, known as a criobolium, involved the sacrifice of a ram. The first recorded taurobolium took place at Puteoli in 134 CE in honour of Venus Caelestia.
Roman devotion to Cybele ran deep. Not coincidentally, when a Christian basilica was built over the site of a temple to Cybele to occupy the site, the sanctuary was rededicated to the Mother of God, as the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. However, later, Roman citizens were forbidden to become priests of Cybele, who were eunuchs like those of their Asiatic Goddess.
The worship of Cybele was exported to the empire, even as far away as Mauretania, where, just outside Setif, the ceremonial "tree-bearers" and the faithful (religiosi) restored the temple of Cybele and Attis after a disastrous fire in 288 CE. Lavish new fittings paid for by the private group included the silver statue of Cybele and the chariot that carried her in procession received a new canopy with tassels in the form of fir cones. (Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, p 581.) The popularity of the Cybele cult in the city of Rome and throughout the empire is thought to have inspired the author of Book of Revelation to allude to her in his portrayal of the mother of harlots who rides the Beast. Cybele drew ire from Christians throughout the Empire; famously, St. Theodore of Amasea is said to have spent the time granted to him to recant his beliefs, burning a temple of Cybele instead.
Today, a modern monumental statue of Cybele can be found in one of the principal traffic circles of Madrid, the Plaza de Cibeles.
In Roman poetry
In Rome, her Phrygian origins were recalled by Catullus, whose famous poem (number 63) on the theme of Attis includes a vivid description of Cybele's worship: "Together come and follow to the Phrygian home of Cybele, to the Phrygian forests of the goddess, where the clash of cymbals ring, where tambourines resound, where the Phrygian flute-player blows deeply on his curved reed, where ivy-crowned maenads toss their heads wildly."
In the second book of his De rerum natura, Lucretius appropriately uses the image of Cybele, the Great Mother, as a metaphor for the Earth. His description of the followers of the goddess is thought to be based on autopsy of the celebration of her cult in Rome.
Cybele in the Aeneid
In his Aeneid, which was written in the 1st century BCE (between 29 and 19 BCE), Virgil called her Berecyntian Cybele, alluding to her place of origin. He described her as the mother of the gods.
In his late version of the legendary story, the Trojans are in Italy and have kept themselves safe in a walled city, following Aeneas's orders. The leader of the Rutuli, Turnus, then ordered his men to burn the ships of the Trojans. At this point in the new legend, there is a flashback to Mount Olympus years before the Trojan War: After Cybele had given her sacred trees to the Trojans so that they could build their ships, she went to Zeus and begged him to make the ships indestructible. Zeus granted her request by saying that when the ships had finally fulfilled their purpose (bringing Aeneas and his army to Italy) they would be turned into sea nymphs rather than be destroyed; so, as Turnus approached with fire, the ships came to life, dove beneath the sea, and emerged as nymphs.
Of course, Cybele was a powerful goddess who had existed long before the "birth" of Zeus, and she would have been worshipped in that area from antiquity, so this new legend may contain elements of much older myths that have been lost — such as the trees that turned into sea nymphs.
- ↑ Burkert, Greek Religion, 1985, section III.3,4 p. 177). Ancient Greeks considered "Cybele" to be Greek; however, the traditional derivation of her name, as "she of the hair" can be ignored, now that the inscription of one of her Phrygian rock-cut monuments has been read matar kubileya.
- ↑ C.H.E. Haspels, The Highlands of Phrygia, 1971, I 293 no 13, noted in Walter Burkert, Greek Religion, 1985, III.3.4, notes 17 and 18.
- ↑ Pausanias: "the Magnesians, who live to the north of Spil Mount, have on the rock Coddinus the most ancient of all the images of the Mother of the gods. The Magnesians say that it was made by Broteas the son of Tantalus." (Description of Greece)
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Catullus, Gaius Valerius (ca. 84 BC – ca. 54 BC). Attis. Carmina. 63. ISBN 9004141324. As translated and published in: Morford, Mark P.O.; Lenardon, Robert J.; Sham, Michael. "Cybele and Attis". Classical Mythology. Archived from the original on 2005-01-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20050130092338/http://www.classicalmythology.org/archive/classical/catullus_attis.html. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
- ↑ A typical assessment: "A terracotta statuette of a seated (mother) goddess giving birth with each hand on the head of a leopard or panther from Çatal Höyük (dated around 6000 B.C.E.)" (Sarolta A. Takács, "Cybele and Catullus' Attis", in Eugene N. Lane, Cybele, Attis and related cults: essays in memory of M.J. Vermaseren 1996:376.
- ↑ Compare: the lion throne in Anatolian Cybele Bithynia Nicaea.jpg, hellenistic Roman CybeleHellenistic.jpg] and Roman Cybele Getty Villa 57.AA.19.jpg. In case of the hellenistic Roman one, mind the apparently ancient confusion between Cybele and Cybebe.
- ↑ Elizabeth Simpson, "Phrygian Furniture from Gordion", in Georgina Herrmann (ed.), The Furniture of Ancient Western Asia, Mainz 1996, pp. 198-201.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Howard Hayes Scullard (1988). From the Gracchi to Nero: a history of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68. Psychology Press. pp. 361–. ISBN 9780415025270. http://books.google.com/books?id=1DcIx7ADqOgC&pg=PA361. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
- ↑ Patricia Turner; Charles Russell Coulter (2001). Dictionary of ancient deities. Oxford University Press US. pp. 81–. ISBN 9780195145045. http://books.google.com/books?id=jEcpkWjYOZQC&pg=PA81. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
- ↑ Michael Grant; John Hazel (2002). Who's who in classical mythology. Psychology Press. pp. 153–. ISBN 9780415260411. http://books.google.com/books?id=IKRDEAeout8C&pg=PA153. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
- ↑ James G. Frazer (May 2006). Adonis Attis Osiris: Studies in the History of Oriental Religion. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 166–. ISBN 9781425499914. http://books.google.com/books?id=5gKJH_YSncIC&pg=PA166. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
- ↑ Boatwright et al., The Romans, from Village to Empire ISBN 978-0-19-511875-9
- ↑ Livy, History of Rome, 29.10-11, .14 (written circa 10 CE).
- ↑ Plutarch, "Life of Marius," 17.
- ↑ P. Lambrechts, "Livie-Cybele," La Nouvelle Clio 4 (1952): 251-60.
- ↑ C. C. Vermeule, "Greek and Roman Portraits in North American Collections Open to the Public," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 108 (1964): 106, 126, fig. 18.
- ↑ C.I.L. X.1596
- ↑ "St. Theodore of Amasea". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Encyclopedia Press. 1914. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14573a.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-16.
- ↑ Book IX, lines 99–109.
- ↑ Book IX, lines 143–147.
- Burkert, Walter, 1982. Greek Religion (Cambridge:Harvard University Press), especially section III.3.4
- Motz, Lotte (1997). The Faces of the Goddess. New York: Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0195089677.
- Mark Munn, "Kybele as Kubaba in a Lydo-Phrygian Context": Emory University cross-cultural conference "Hittites, Greeks and Their Neighbors in Central Anatolia", 2004 (Abstracts)
- Roller, Lynn Emrich (1999). In Search of God the Mother: The Cult of Anatolian Cybele. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. ISBN 0520210247.
- Vassileva, Maya (2001). "Further considerations on the cult of Kybele". Anatolian Studies (British Institute at Ankara) 51, 2001: 51.
- Virgil. The Aeneid trans from Latin by West, David (Penguin Putnam Inc. 2003) p. 189-190 ISBN 0-14-044932-9
- Emmanuel Laroche, "Koubaba, déesse anatolienne, et le problème des origines de Cybèle", Eléments orientaux dans la religion grecque ancienne, Paris 1960, p. 113-128.
- Brixhe, Claude "Le Nom de Cybele", Die Sprache, 25 (1979), 40-45
- George E. Bean. Aegean Turkey: An archaeological guide ISBN 978-0-510-03200-5, 1967. Ernest Benn, London.
- Hyde, Walter Woodburn Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire (U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1946)
- 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. ISBN 978-0-8248-2884-4; ISBN 0-8248-2884-4 (An article showing the probable derivation of the Daoist goddess, Xi Wangmu, from Kybele/Cybele)
- Lane, Eugene. Ed. Cybele, Attis, and Related Cults: Essays in Memory of M.J. Vermaseren (E.J. Brill, 1996)
- Showerman, Grant The Great Mother of the Gods (Argonaut, 1969)
- 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)
- Media related to Cybele at Wikimedia Commons
- Ancient History Sourcebook: Roman Religiones Licitae and Illicitae, c. 204 BCE-112 CE
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