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Cybele  

Francis Redding Walton and John Scheid

Cybele (Κυβέλη; Lydian form Κυβήβη, Hdt. 5. 102), the great mother-goddess of Anatolia, associated in myth, and later at least in cult, with her youthful lover *Attis. *Pessinus in Phrygia was her chief sanctuary, and the cult appears at an early date in *Lydia. The queen or mistress of her people, Cybele was responsible for their well-being in all respects; primarily she is a goddess of fertility, but also cures (and sends) disease, gives oracles, and, as her mural crown indicates, protects her people in war. The goddess of mountains (so Μήτηρ ὀρεία; Meter Dindymene), she is also mistress of wild nature, symbolized by her attendant lions. Ecstatic states inducing prophetic rapture and insensibility to pain were characteristic of her worship (cf. especially Catull. 63).

By the 5th cent. bce Cybele was known in Greece; she was soon associated with *Demeter (H. Thompson, Hesp.

Article

Richard Gordon

The Graeco-Roman view of Egyptian religion is sharply fissured. Despite Herodotus 2. 50. 1 (comm. A. B. Lloyd, 1975–88), many writers of all periods, and probably most individuals, found in the Egyptians' worship of animals a polemical contrast to their own norms (though cf. Cic. Nat. D. 1. 29. 81 f.), just as, conversely, the Egyptians turned animal-worship into a symbol of national identity (cf. Diod. Sic. 1. 86–90). The first Egyptian divinity to be recognized by the Greek world was the oracular *Ammon of the *SiwaOasis (Hdt. 2. 54–7); but *oracles have a special status. The only form of Late-period Egyptian religion to be assimilated into the Graeco-Roman world was to a degree untypical, centred on anthropomorphic deities—*Isis, *Sarapis, and Harpocrates—and grounded in Egyptian vernacular enthusiasm quite as much as in temple ritual. The other gods which became known in the Graeco-Roman world, *Osiris, *Anubis, *Apis, *Horus, *Bubastis, Agathodaemon (see agathos daimon), Bes, etc.

Article

Richard Gordon

In the Classical period, religious eunuchs are a feature of several Anatolian cults of female deities, extending across to Scythia (Hdt. 4. 67: not shamans) and to the southern foothills of the Taurus mountains, but independent of Babylonian and Phoenician (Euseb. Vit. Const. 3. 55. 2 f.) practices (see anatolian deities). As a whole the institution created a class of pure servants of a god (Matt. 19: 12). Its significance derives from a double contrast, with the involuntary castration of children for court use and the normal obligation to marry. The adult self-castrate expressed in his body both world-rejection and -superiority.Two forms may be distinguished. (1) A senior, or even high, priest in a temple, e.g. the eunuchs of *Hecate at Lagina in *Caria (Sokolowski, LSAM no. 69. 19, etc.); the Megabyz(x)us of *Artemis at *Ephesus (Strabo 14. 1. 23; Vett. Val., 2. 21. 47); the *Attis and Battaces, the high priests of Cybele at *Pessinus.

Article

Isis  

Richard Gordon

Isis (Egyptian s or st, Gk. ῏Ισις, Εἶσις), ‘mistress of the house of life’, whose creative and nurturing functions made her the most popular divinity of the Late period in the Egyptian *Fayûm and delta. As such she absorbed, or was equated with, many other divinities, acquiring a universal character expressed in Gk. as μυριώνυμος, ‘invoked by innumerable names’ (Plut. De Is. et Os. 53, 372f; cf. Apul. Met. 11. 5, comm. J. G. Griffiths (1975)). The hieroglyphic form of her name, whose meaning is disputed, connects her with the royal throne and with *Osiris: his centre at Busiris was close to hers in the twelfth nome (see nomos(1)). A connected narrative of her myth appears late, doubtless under Greek influence (Diod. Sic. 1. 13–27; Plut. De Is. et Os. 12–19, 355d–358d). In the Egyptian versions, the myth generally begins with Set's murder of her brother and husband, Osiris, whom she and her sister Nephthys revive by mourning. Impregnated by Osiris after his resurrection, Isis gives birth to *Horus, who, after ‘redeeming his father’, ascends his throne, and later attacks and rapes, even beheads, Isis.

Article

Mithras  

Roger Beck

An ancient Indo-Iranian god adopted in the Roman empire as the principal deity of a mystery cult which flourished in the 2nd and 3rd cents. ce. Iranian Mithra was a god of compact (the literal meaning of his name), cattle-herding, and the dawn light, aspects of which survive (or were re-created) in his western manifestation, since Roman Mithras was a sun-god (‘deus sol invictus Mithras’, ‘invincible sun god Mithras’), a ‘bull-killer’, and ‘cattle-thief’, and the saviour of the sworn brothers of his cult.

The cult is known primarily from its archaeological remains. Over 400 find-spots are recorded, many of them excavated meeting-places. These and the c. 1,000 dedicatory inscriptions give a good idea of cult life and membership. Some 1,150 pieces of sculpture (and a few frescos) carry an extraordinarily rich sacred art, although the iconography remains frustratingly elusive in default of the explicatory sacred texts. Literary references to Mithras and Mithraism are as scarce as the material remains are abundant.