The Phrygian Background of Kybele

in Numen
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Abstract

The cult of Kybele is well known from Greek and Roman sources and well-described in most modern literature on antique religions. The cult, however, is primarily known in its Roman version, which differs greatly from the cult in the ancient Phrygian homeland of Kybele. This article presents the latest research on this subject: iconography and roles, attendants relating to the goddess, cult places, rituals and worship, and transference of the cult from Phrygia to Greece. The Phrygian goddess, characterised by features of wild nature, was represented primarily by predatory birds, and she was worshipped in mountainous settings. Instead of portraying her as a typical Mother goddess associated with nature, fertility and procreation, new research has argued that her status as a Mother derives from her connection to the king, thus being the mother of the state and the throne. It is also maintained in the article that Attis is a late, Greek invention, and that the cult in Phrygia did not take the form of a mystery religion. In conclusion, it is suggested that the Black sea area played a role in the development and the dissemination of the cult.

Numen

International Review for the History of Religions

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