Lewis Richard Farnell.

The cults of the Greek states online

. (page 29 of 40)
Online LibraryLewis Richard FarnellThe cults of the Greek states → online text (page 29 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


v] CULT OF THE GOD OF THE LOWER WORLD 287



and on one vase-painting placed on the top of his cap *. On
a vase that is earlier in style than any of these we have the
remarkable example of a Zeus-Trinity that includes Hades,
which has been noticed in a former volume \ And the same
idea, though expressed with less insistence on the identity of
personality, is found on the vase of Xenocles, where the three
brothers are represented in animated converse, and Hades is
distinguished by no attribute at all, but merely by the gesture
of the averted head ; and we may accept the explanation that
this is an expression in art-language of the name of the
* unseen' who hides his face (PL XXXH b). The latest art-record
of this simple and natural conception of a trinity of brothers is
perhaps a late coin of Mitylene of the imperial period, showing
us the three side by side, and the inscription d€o\ ^KpaXot,
MvriAiyvaMttv ^ : but it is unsafe to read theological d(^ma into
this, for the type may have arisen from the casual juxtaposition
of their three temples on the Acropolis, or on the heights above
the sea®. However, in the dedication found at Mitylene to



feld, na 38S (published Roscher's
Lixikon, I, p. iSio) : Brit, Mus, Cat.
Vases f vol. 4, F. 333 : Vasensamm-
lung zu Petersburg^ no. 426 (the eagle
sometimes painted white); ct the
statoette in the British Mnseum, vol. i,
PI. I c.

* Brit, Mus, Cat, Vases, vol. 4,
F.277.

* Vol. I, p. 104, PL Lb: the genuine-
ness of this vase has been doobted:
vide Roscher, op. dt. i, p. 1799.

* Mr. Cook, in Class, Rev, 1904,
p. 76, is over-rash in tracing this triple
cnlt bade to a pre-historic Argive-
Lydan Zeus-Trinity. He finds the
same trinity in the three male figures
enthroned on the Harpytomb, ib.
p. 74. But it seenu idle to draw
religious deductions from this mysterious
monument,, until one can find ground
for a decision whether the male and
female personages there receiving offer-
ings from the women and from the
warrior are the deities of the lower
world or the heroic ancestors of the



family : the question remains open in
spite of Milchhofer*s attempt (^Arc/u
Zeit. x88i, p. 53) to prove that they
cannot be divinities : one does not see
why the Greeks who habitually placed
images of divinities in graves should
never venture to carve them in relief
outside : on the other hand, the argu-
ments in fiivour of the ' hero-worship '
theory are strong, and we know sufchy^
worship was rife in Lyda. It ^
certainly tempting to detect Demeter
and Kore in the seated personages on
the west-front, thpiigh we have no
proof of their worship at this early date
at Xanthurtvtde Demeter, Geogr. Reg.
s,v, Lycia). But if we believe the
seated male to be a divinity, a chtho-
nian or other trinity is a hazardous
assumption here ; for the multiplication
of the figures may well be merely a
convention of art-lajnguage ; the same
divinity mayTcintendcd on each of
the three sides of the tomb, though he
appears once without his beard. Mean-
time we may doubt if a Greek god



Digitized by



Google



288 GREEK RELIGION

' Zeus the all-seeing, to Plouton, and to Poseidon, the gods of
all salvation/ set up by a lady in gratitude for a safe voyage,
we may discern dimly the idea of a divine One-in-Three : for
having mentioned the Three, she adds * that she was saved by
the Providence of God *.'

The personality of the nether god was strengthened, as we
have seen, in Magna Graecia, and the art-type modified, by his
fusion with Dionysos. In the Hellenistic period the cult
received a further stimulus from Alexandria and the establish-
ment of the worship of Sarapis by the first or second Ptolemy
as the religious bond of his Graeco-Egyptian kingdom *. The
records of this cult and the question concerning the authorship
of the cult-image lie beyond our present limits. It may suffice
to note that though the name Sarapis is probably Egyptian, the
monuments of the worship, which spread itself over a large area
of the ancient civilized world, and only in the fourth century of
our era yielded in the struggle with Christianity, are entirely
Greek ; and some of them may reproduce features of the
original statue that Ptolemy introduced from Sinope or
Antioch. The attributes, such as the calathos Cerberus eagle
cornucopia, are derived from the monumental tradition of
Hades-Plouton and Zeus the nether god ; while the mildness
joined with melancholy that we detect in some of the better
busts may descend from the original cult-image and accords
with the refined conception of the more advanced Greek
world concerning the god of death *^.

woald keep a small bear under his religions valae lies in its illustration of

throne. The precise significance of the the belief in the correlation of birth

Harpy-tomb we may never know : in and death,

the main a HeUenic work, its general * Vide Poseidon, R. s, v, Lesbos.



Digitized by V^OOQIC



CHAPTER VI

THE CULTS OF THE MOTHER OF THE GODS AND
RHEA-CYBELE

The primitive earth-goddess has been discovered in various
parts of the Hellenic world, under various forms and names ;
and there still remain certain worships that claim a brief con-
sideration, consecrated to a name of some potency once on
Greek soil and of abiding interest in the history of religion,
* the Mother/ * the Great Mother/ or * the Mother of the Gods/
We find her cult occurring sporadically about the Greek main-
land, and of considerable importance and some antiquity in
Boeotia *^, Athens ^^, and Arcadia ^^, while Akriai in South
Laconia boasted to possess her oldest temple ^. Her divinity
was prominent in the Attic state church ; for besides an altar
dedicated to her in the Agora "^ she possessed a temple in the
Kerameikos near the council-hall, which came to be used as
a record office of the state-archives *^^» ® ; a festival was held in
her honour, in which she received a cereal oblation called
ij TaXa^ia^ a sort of milk-porridge''*. We have also some
traces of her cult outside the ancient limits of the city ; at
least we hear of a ' Mother-temple at Agrai,* and of * the
Mother in Agrai/ and her images — not apparently of the
earliest period — have been found in the cave of Vari on
Hymettus*. We have nothing that suggests a late date for
the introduction of her worship into Attica ; only, under this
name at least, it does not seem to have belonged to the
aboriginal religion ; the earliest monument that we possess of

• Vide Apollo, R. :o.

rARKBLL. Ill U



Digitized by LjOOQIC



290 GREEK RELIGION [chap.

the Attic cult, a terracotta figure of the goddess with a lion in
her lap, a work of the sixth century B.C., is no trustworthy
chronological datum, for it may have been an object of
import ^^". Finally we may remark, what will appear of
importance, that she was indifferently styled in common Attic
speech * the Mother ' or * the Mother of the Gods ^^^ ".'

From Boeotia we have clear evidence of the recognition of
' the Mother ' or ' the Mother of the Gods * in some of the lead-
ing cities ^^"^^ but we cannot follciw it back under this name
to a date earlier than the fifth century B.C. ; it is Tanagra ^®'*
so far that has bequeathed us the earliest monument At
Corinth the temple of the ' Mother of the Gods * on the slope of
the Acropolis is described by Pausanias, who mentions also in
his account of this state a T^k^ri] Mr/rpoy, * a mystic service of
the Mother/ with which Hermes the ram-bearer was in some
way connected, but the context and the phrase are too obscure
for precise information -^

The cult was more prominent in Arcadia -^ and we have
reason for believing in its great antiquity here, for it was
associated on Mount Azanion with the worship of the mj'thic
ancestor Azan *. She was also honoured with a shrine by the
sources of the Alpheios, where two lions were carved as her
temple-warders^***, giving to the place the name of the Mions'
ford ' ; and along the banks of this river on the way to Elis
there appears to have existed a very primitive and rustic cult
of Heracles and the Greek * Mother of the Gods,' in which
a prophetess gave oracles to the folk of the country-side ^
Coming into Elis we find an altar and a temple erected not
earlier than the fourth century, dedicated to this divinity under
this special name^: and some cymbals of ancient bronze
technique discovered at Olympia, though apparently conse-
crated to the temple of Zeus, may have been associated with
the ritual of the * Mother «.'

We need not for the present follow this cult-appellative
further through its other settlements in Greece and the islands,

• Vide Lact. Plac ad SUt. Theb. Ckrys. (?r. i, p. 59 R.
4. 292. « Bronun von Olywpia^ Text^ p. 70.

^ Vide the long narrative in Dio,



Digitized by V^OOQIC



VI] CULTS OF MOTHER OF GODS, RHEA-CYBELE 291

but at once consider the question that naturally arises. Who is
this Great Mother, who is also called in cult and in secular
speech the * Mother of the Gods ' ? Were she only called * the
mother/ we might be content with regarding her as a vague
aspect of the earth-goddess viewed from her maternal side*,
and we might believe her to have originated in that stratum of
religion which gave birth to such immature personal forms as
the * corn-mother ' ; and we might raise the theory of nameless
• Pelasgic ' divinities. In fact we might be satisfied with the
hypothesis that various settlements in prehistoric Greece may
have just worshipped a local divine * Mother/ about whom no
more could be said. But more is to be said about this par-
ticular ' Mother/ for she also enjoyed the style of the ' Mother
of the Gods/ ^ NUyoArj M^Tiyp and M^riyp r«r ^ea>r being
inseparable titles of one personality. Now this latter appel-
lative is of far greater importance, for, like the Christian
71 6€ot6kosj it implies a dogma. It also implies a fixed religious
system, no amorphous world of vague and unrelated mimina,
but a plurality of definite divinities grouped according to some
principle of correlation. Such a grouping would arise, for
instance, when a number of kindred tribes, having already
attained to an advanced anthropomorphic religion, were drawn
into closer relations, or were obliged to take over certain
indigenous deities of an earlier and perhaps conquered race :
the need for systematization would make itself felt, and the
priest or the poet would be at hand to supply it It may well
have been under such circumstances that Zeus, for instance,
was affiliated to Kronos, the fading divinity of an older race of
men than those to whom the leading Olympians belonged.
Who then among the pre-Hellenic or proto-Hcllenic goddesses
was likely to acquire the august position of the d€w Mrjrrip ?
We may be fairly certain that she would be one of the many
shapes of the earth-goddess, if not Gaia herself, for the aflSnity

* Varicras goddesses of the pol3rthe- iv^Aypau is the mother of the gods : cf.

istic system might occasionally be called the cult of the ' Meteres ' or Cretan

Ufrnjp : Athena for instance (Athena, R. * nurse-mothers,' R. 38 ^ Vide article

66), and Demeter at Kyzikos (Demeter, , on * Meter* by Drexler in Roscher's

R. 55), and possibly at Agrai, though I Lexiion, vol. 2.
think it more probable that this fUrtrrjp

U 2



Digitized by V^OOQIC



292 GREEK RELIGION [chap.

of the MeyclXiy Miyn/p with the earth is amply attested •. But
it is clear from the cults and the religious genealogy that Gaia
or Ge was not under this name actually identified with her,
though the poets may have occasionally used language sugges-
tive of such a belief*. Nor, again, was Demeter wholly, though
her personality and her very name brought her into the closest
relations with the ^cwi/ M^p, and the two were often associ-
ated intimately in cult and in the vague syncretism of the
poets ^ We may suppose that Djmeters family-legend and
personality had become crystallized in the Greek belief before
the necessity of finding room in the system for a mother of the
gods had arisen. Our earliest genealogist, Homer, regards no
single goddess as the 6€tAV M^jjp in the full application of the
term ; in one passage® he speaks vaguely of ocean as the source
whence the gods sprung, as the d€(iv yiv^cris, and of ' mother
Tethys his spouse * ; yet in the same context he shows that
he regards Rhea as the mother of Hera, as elsewhere he
speaks of her as the mother of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades**.
Hesiod, who gives the Cretan legend in full, enlarges the
family of Rhea, giving her Hestia and Demeter for her chil-
dren as well as the former four •, but we are not aware that he
used the term B^i^v M^ttjp as a personal appellative. The first
example in actual literature of this use is the fragment of the
Homeric hymn*, in which the religious conception is pan-
theistic and the unnamed goddess is regarded as the source of
all life, human and divine, but the description is picturesque
and precise, and exactly answers to the contemporary or at
least the later ideal of Rhea. Then from the fifth century
onwards the three names, the Mother of the Gods or Great
Mother, Rhea, Cybele, are used indistinguishably in the litera-
ture to denote one divine personality, and we may suspect that
the cult-ideas attaching to the various shrines and altars of the
Mijnyp ^€«if were influenced by this fusion. The alien element
that infuses itself into the Greek worship of the Great Mother

' Vide Ge, R. 28 r^ M^ny/) at Ery- »> Vide R. 55 and Demeter, R. 7.

thrai : Ge is called 1) VLr^rf tf«a at * //. 14. 201.

Phlye, Ge, R. 16* : cf. Rhea -Cybele. * 15. 187.

R. 12. • Theo^. 453.



Digitized by V^OOQIC



VI] CULTS OF MOTHER OF GODS, RHEA^CYBELE 293

will be considered shortly ; but the primary question must be
first discussed whether this identification of Rhea with the ^e»v
Miynyp of the Greek mainland is an original fact explaining the
religious dogma expressed by the title, or whether it is one of
those later syncretisms so common in all polytheistic religions.
Modem theory seems to incline to the latter view% and to
distinguish between an aboriginal Hellenic O^&v Mifrrfp and
the Creto-Phrygian Rhea-Cybele. But if this view is correct,
the former personage with her dogmatic appellative remains an
unsolved mystery. To test it, we must consider the facts of
the Rhea-cult outside Crete. And what strikes us first is that
the name 'Rhea* itself was apparently not much in vogue in the
official cult-language. The oldest religious archive that con-
tains it is an inscription from Ithaka of the sixth century B.C.^^;
but in early times the Arcadians seem to have appropriated
the story of the birth of Zeus and the worship of Rhea, which
we find on Mount Lykaion and on Mount Thaumasion near
Methydrion ^^^'^. The name of Rhea is well attested for both
these cults, and the latter at least, where the sacred shrine was
a cave into which none but women might enter, is not likely
to have been a late importation ^ At Athens a joint temple
of Rhea and Kronos stood in the temenos of Zeus Olympics *^,
where Ge also enjoyed honour ; and Rhea s cult is well attested
at Kos^^ and Olympia", and possibly existed at an early
period at Byzantium ***. These statistics of Rhea- worship are
very scanty, and though the record that has come to us is pro-
bably incomplete, we can conclude that the goddess under this
name did not play a very prominent part in Hellenic religion.
We find also that at Athens and Olympia at least her shrines
and altars were distinct from those of the $€Qp Mrfrrip ; and
hence the conclusion has been drawn • that they were originally
two distinct personages. But such an argument is fallacious.
The power of the divine name was transcendent in ancient

* So, for instance, Rapp in his article mountain, it is not clear from the words

on Cybele, Roscher's LexiMon, 2, of Callimachus '*' whether women were

p. 1660. Showerman, in his recent forbidden altogether or only pregnant

treatise on the worship of Cybele and women,

the great mother, is not explicit. ^ e. g. by Rapp, loc. cit.

^ As regards the shrine on the other



Digitized by V^OOQIC



294 GREEK RELIGION [chap.

religion; the same divinity, with two different appellatives,
would demand two altars, and appellatives were always liable
to detach themselves from their owner and evolve a new cult-
personage. Thus, if the Greeks found in Crete a great mother-
goddess called Rhea, to whom in their desire to adopt her into
their system they affih'ated Zeus and others of their Olympian
group, her cult could easily pass forth to other Greek commu-
nities, trailing with it sometimes the name 'Pw, sometimes the
title T] M^/p T(av 6€Qiv, or simple ?/ yirJTTjp,

And that something like this actually happened we may be
inclined to believe when we weigh certain facts in the ancient
records that are sometimes overlooked. The cult of the d€(iv
Mr/r7//) on the Greek mainland is by no means very widely
extended, and it is imbedded in just those localities where we
have clear proofs of Cretan influence. In South Laconia,
which boasted to possess at Akriai the oldest temple of the
mother of the gods, the traces of the Cretan religion were
fairly numerous *. At Olympia -' we have the ancient legend
of Kronos, that gave its name to the hill above the Alt is, and
the worship of the Idaean Dactyli and the Kouretes for proofs
of early Cretan association **. In Arcadia the story of Rhea
was widely diffused ^ though it did not apparently touch the
actual cult of the * Mother of the Gods * ; and it is probable that
Heracles came to be associated with her on the Alphios owing
to his curious affinity with the Idaean Dactyli, which explains
also his association with Demeter at Mykalessos in Boeotia ^.
The Arcadians may have had direct relations with Crete •, or
Cretan myths and cults may have filtered through into the
country by the valley of the Alpheios. As regards Attica, its
close prehistoric connexion with Crete is reflected, as we have
seen, in many cults and legends ; the cereal oblation in the

* Britomards, vide Artemis, R. 131 ** ; 8. 47, 3 ; Arne, 8. 8, a.

Pasiphae, Aphrodite, R. 103; cf. Apollo, * Demeter, R. 8.

R. 34', Apollo Delphinios in Laconia. * Vide Evans, * Mycenaean Tree and

^ Vide Paus. 5. 4, 6 ; 5. 14, 9. The Pillar Cult/ HelLJmm, 1901, p. 129 ;

Cretan symbol of the doable-aze has Immerwahr in his KuUe m. Afythat

been found at Olympia, apparently in Arkadiem, p. 213, &c. denies Cretan

connexion with the worship of Zens. influences in Arcadia, but without criti-

« At Phigalcia, Paus. 8. 41 , 2 ; Tegea, dsm of the whole question.



Digitized by V^OOQIC



VI] CULTS OF MOTHER OF GODS, RHEA-CYBELE 295

ritual of the Mother may have been derived from old Cretan
ritual. In Boeotia the figures of Demeter Europa at Lebadeia
and of the Idaean Heracles at Mykalessos * are cult-tokens
of a Cretan strain in a land where evidence has also been
gathered of the existence of the mysterious Cretan script * ;
and the story of Rhea and the divine birth was rife in the
country, for instance at Plataea* and Chaeronea*^. Finally,
we have recent evidence from Epidauros of the coincidence of
the Mother and the Cretan Kouretes in the local worship -*.
The inference that these indications suggest has received the
strongest confirmation by the recent epoch-making discoveries
in the field of Cretan religion that we owe chiefly to Dr. Arthur
Evans. The curtain seems to be partly lifted that concealed the
prehistoric past of Hellenic life. The influences of so brilliant
and long-enduring a civilization as that which he has revealed,
and is still revealing at Knossos, must have been potent and
far-reaching in religion as well as in art and politics. The
boast of the Cretans which Diodorus unsuspectingly records,
that Greece derived most of its religion from their island, need
not now be set down merely to that characteristic which
St Paul and others deplored in the people of Crete ; though
the claim was no doubt excessive, there was an element of
reason in it. The facts which the above-mentioned writer has
gathered and weighed in his able treatise on the Mycenaean
tree and pillar cult, and in his various reports concerning the
excavations at Knossos, are sufficient to convince us that the
central figure of the old Cretan religion was a great goddess of
fertility, of maternal character • : a male deity also received
recognition, but there is some indication that he played a sub-
ordinate part, standing to the goddess perhaps in the relation



* Demeter, R. 3, 8. maternity in the Cretan religion b illns-
^ Vide M. Salomon Reinach in VAn^ trated also by the Cretan colt of the

thropohgUf 1900, p. 197, and my note 'Meteres,* the * Holy Mothers' who

in Ciass, Rev. 1902, 137 a, b. were transplanted at an early time from

* Pans. 9. 2, 7. Crete to Engyon in Sicily *••; their
' Id. 9. 41, 6. temple is spoken of erroneously by

* e. g. IleiL Joum, 1901, p. icS, Cicero as that of the 'Magna Mater/
Fig. 4 (* Mycenaean Tree and Pillar Ferr. 4. 44.

Colt ') : the prominence of the ideaM>f



Digitized by L:iOOQIC



296 GREEK REUGION [chap.

of son to mother*: women were prominent in her worship,
though the male votary is frequently found. Of this great
goddess we are presented with a fairly complete picture by
representations on seals, and in plastic and pictorial art. She
was of ample form and large breasts, and flowers and fruits are
among her emblems : she was therefore a mother-goddess, the
source of fertility and life. The snake was also consecrated to
her, and the most interesting idol of all, which was found in
one of the temple repositories of tha palace in the chapel of the
Sacred Cross, represents her with snakes coiled round her
waist and arms, and before her was a figure of her female
votary brandishing a snake in each hand**: we may venture
then to regard her also as a chthonian goddess, a deity that
might be concerned with death and the life of the tomb. She
was also a warrior-goddess, armed with spear and bow and
helmet ; a representation that is of most value for the present
purpose shows her thus °, standing on a peak as a mountain-
mother, Mt/ttjp (Jpcfa, and guarded by lions (PL XXXIII) ; and
many other monuments ^ prove that the lion was her constant
and familiar animal. Finally, there is reason to think that the
axe was consecrated to her as it was to the god of Knossos •.

Here then is a great religious personality revealed from the
second or third millennium before our era, to whom the later
creeds of Europe may have been deeply though unconsciously
indebted ; the sanctity of the cross in the aboriginal religion
of Crete is in itself a momentous fact. It is no wonder that
the discoverer himself is tempted to regard all the later
Hellenic goddesses, such as Artemis, Athena, Hera, and
Aphrodite, as mere variant forms of the great Cretan
mother. Such a hypothesis probably claims too much, even
for Crete ; and we must reckon as probable the view that
goddess-worship was an aboriginal Aryan heritage, and that
many goddesses possessing a fixed name and character may



* Hell. Joum, 1 90 1 , p. 1 68. holding lioos on Mycenaean gem, Evans,

^ Vide Evans, Report of Excavations , op. dt. HelL Joum. 1901, p. 164, Fig.

1903-3, p. 92, Fig. 63. 44-
« Evans, Report ^ 1901, p. 29, Fig. 9. • Vide Eph. Arch, 1900, n/r. 3. 4.



d



e. g. Cretan goddess guarded by or



Digitized by V^OOQIC



vi] CULTS OF MOTHER OF GODS, RHEA^CYBELE 297

have accompanied a Hellenic migration from the north. It is
enough, at least at present, to assert the belief that here in the
Cretan great goddess we have the prototype of the Hellenic
Mother of the Gods, the Hellenes in Crete giving her this name
and spreading it to adjacent shores, either because they found
her regarded in the aboriginal cult as the mother of God, or
because they assimilated her to their own Olympian system by
giving her this position out of respect for her supremacy in the
preceding cult-dynasty : and we may discern in the story of
Rhea and Kronos a reflex of the stone-worship of Minoan
Crete. The mother-goddess probably possessed many per-
sonal names among the Eteocretan population. We may sup-
pose that Rhea was one of them, a name which has not been
successfully traced to any Hellenic stem: her worship at
Knossos, of which Diodorus records certain relics ^^, belonged
evidently to the prehistoric period.

The monuments tell us most about the Cretan great mother ;
but we may gather something from the literature also. The



Online LibraryLewis Richard FarnellThe cults of the Greek states → online text (page 29 of 40)