Cybele | Greek Goddess

Cybele Greek Mythology

Cybele was a goddess originating from Phrygia. Designated as "Mother of Gods" or Mother Goddess, she symbolized the fertility of nature. Her cult began in the Asia Minor region and spread to various territories in Ancient Greece.

Under the ancient Greek title, Potnia Theron, she was also associated with the Minoan mother goddess, whose cult dates back to the Neolithic period of "Lady of the Animals". Cybele became a deity of the life-death-rebirth cycle linked to the resurrection of her son and lover Attis.

Attributes of the goddess

Cybele was often depicted with a crown of walls, symbolizing her military power as a protector and at the same time destroyer of cities, with lions nearby or in a chariot pulled by these animals and a cornucopia, the horn (horn) of plenty, referring to fertility and wealth.

The Greeks

According to the Greeks, this goddess was an incarnation of Reia, worshipped at Berecynth, one of the peaks of Mount Ida in Phrygia, hence the epithet Berecynthian sometimes given to her. The cult included orgiastic manifestations, as was proper for gods related to fertility, celebrated by the curettes or coribants. It is also related to the Greek legend of Agdístis and Attis.

Magna Mater

This oriental deity was introduced in Rome during the Punic Wars, around 204 B.C. Her adoption in Rome, and in Latium, is made after the Latinization of her name, becoming Magna Mater, the "Great Mother" of Mount Ida, located near Troy, which goes back to the legend of Aeneas, portrayed by Virgil in the Aeneid.

At the time, the Romans ordered a black stone to symbolize the goddess from Pessinunte, the land of King Midas and the location of the main temple dedicated to the goddess. Her priests, the galli, are imported and the renewal of this priesthood is done in the same way, because castration, a ritual present in the initiation of these people, was not something admissible to a Roman.

A temple to the goddess was built on the Palatine Hill and her rituals entered the official religious calendar of the city of Rome. She was accompanied by a guide and lover, Attis, whose worship, suspicious in the eyes of the Romans, was only really liberated by Emperor Claudius.

Cybele remained at the Temple of Victoria until her own temple was dedicated in 191 BC. The goddess would have come accompanied by her priests, the galli, and her rituals were gradually incorporated into the festival calendar. Despite her foreign character, Cybele, made Magna Mater, passed into the list of the major deities from this date onward.

Virgil and the Aeneid

Augustus' interest in this deity may explain the importance Virgil attaches to her in the Aeneid. In book II, verse 779, she tells Aeneas that it was Jupiter himself who forbade Creusis to accompany him on his flight to create a new Troy. In III, 111-113, Virgil presents some aspects of her cult, and Anquises, Aeneas' father, attributes a Cretan origin to her.

In VII, 139, Cybele figures among the deities invoked by Aeneas. Later, in book IX, Cybele intervenes so that the Ruthulians (or Ruthulians) do not burn the ships of the besieged Trojans, and through her intercession, Jupiter transforms the ships into sea nymphs (IX, 80-83). Cybele also appears in book X of the Aeneid (verse 220), under the name Cybebe. She is mentioned further in XI, 768.

Adoption of the cult in Cicero

In the 1st century BC, the lawyer, writer, historian, and philosopher Marcus Tulius Cicero takes up the incorporation of the goddess into the Roman pantheon in one of his speeches in the forum against Clodia Pulchra Metelli:

It was then, by the advice of this prophetess, at a time when Italy was suffering the Punic War and was devastated by Hannibal, that our (greater) ancestors brought this cult from Phrygia and established it in Rome; it was hosted by the man best regarded by the Roman people, P. Scipio, and by the woman reputed to be the most chaste of matrons, Q. Claudia...

Thus, in order to discredit and incriminate Clodia Metelli, Cicero uses this ancient account, comparing the two women of the gens Claudia. Cicero is important to us, therefore, to show how the issue of family (gens) and ancestry (major) is important and serves as a law to incriminate someone.

Ovid and the Epic of the Magna Mater's Entrance

In the period of the restauratio augustana, that is, the program of restoration of the Roman religion - among other elements - made by Augustus where rites, priesthoods, games and festivals of the past were reincorporated into Roman society, the poet Ovid, when writing his book Fastii, a poem-calendar, resumes the insertion of Magna Mater in the official cult and Claudia Quinta with more impact.

At this point, the matron is seen as a great heroine who single-handedly unhooks the boat where the goddess (her statue) is with her hands and pulls her to Rome, being a great heroine.

Information about the cult of Cybele is found further in Catullus, 63 and in Lucretius, 2, 598-643.