(This article was written 2011-12 for publication in The Alexandrina, Centre des Études Alexandrines, commissioned by Dr. Mona Haggag, Dep. of Classical studies, University of Alexandria. Due to the political turmoil in Egypt, publication has been delayed)
Mother of the Gods in Alexandria
Sing to me, clear-toned Muse, daughter of great Zeus, of the Mother of all Gods and of all human beings; she takes pleasure in the resounding of castanets and tympana and the roar of flutes, the cry of wolves and bright-eyed lions, the echoing mountains and the wooded glens. And hail to you too, and all the Goddesses who join in song. 
I The relief sculpture of a mature goddess, enthroned in her naiskos, which has recently been acquired by the University of Alexandria, Egypt and exhibited in the Faculty of Arts Educational Museum, represents one of the most influential and widespread votive depictions of the Greek Meter, Mother of the Gods, Kybele, and Rome’s Magna Mater, Cybele, originally the Phrygians Matar, Matar Kubile, Mother and Mountain Mother.
The Mother is seated on a low throne in a naiskos, between two lions. Both the goddess and the lions, seated on their hind legs, are shown strictly frontal, in a hieratic position. The goddess holds a large tympanon in her left hand, vertically and from under, and a flat libation bowl, slightly damaged but probably a phiale, in her outstretched right hand. She wears a medium high polos, a chiton, (damaged on the upper part of the body but probably) pinned on both shoulders, and a himation or mantle, attached to her polos and extending from under her right arm, and draped across her lap, falling down in a tip on her left side. She sits with her legs somewhat apart with her feet (probably?) on a footstool. The mantle is carefully sculptured, showing the contrast between the vertical folds of her chiton skirt and the horizontal catenary folds of the mantle over it, falling down between the legs. The goddess fills out the whole niche, her polos almost touching the ceiling of the naiskos.
This Kybele-naiskos, made in white limestone, is most probably a votive from the late hellenistic or early Roman era. It is modelled after the marble votive reliefs of the Greek Meter which were produced ‘en masse’ in the Greek centers of her cult, Athens and Pireus, during the 5th and 4th centuries BC, and reproduced and distributed, as a sign of the goddess’s growing popularity in the Hellenistic and later in the Roman world – the center of the cult by then once again western/central Anatolia, now Roman Asia. The votives were relatively small – the dimensions of this one are 47x22x31 cm – and notably uniform. The hundreds of those which have survived, show minor variations due to local traditions and skills and use – public or domestic shrines, graves etc.
The consistency and uniformity of this representation of the Mother during almost a millennium might indicate that it was perceived as the most holy, the closest image of the goddess’s xoanon. Religion is one of the most conservative dimensions of human culture. The older the xoanon, the holier. And the holier it is perceived, the lesser the changes in time and space.
This, what here will be called, ‘standard icon’ of the Mother reflects naturally both a continuous and syncretistic process, with at least three crucial cross cultural intersections: the Phrygians reception of Anatolian traditions, both rural, indigenous and dynastic – Hattian, Hittite – with old Hattusa (Bogazköy), Ankara, Gordion as main transition areas; the Lydians reception of the Phrygian Matar, in their highly multicultural capital and old trade center, Sardes, where Neo-Hittite, Syrian, Ionian-Greek influences coexisted with indigenous traditions; and thirdly: the Greeks reception of the Phrygian Mother – with the Ionian and Aeolian cities, their colonies in north western Anatolia and the northern Aegean, as intermediaries and transition areas to the Greek mainland and Attica.
The changes in the cult image, from Phrygian to Roman times did of course reflect the fashion, the esthetics and the symbolic and religious universe of the cultures/societies where the Mother was established, but preserved at the same time crucial elements of the original Phrygian cult and iconography. The goddess remained a ‘rural’, popular, primordial mother goddess – representing Nature as the source of life, death and rebirth – and at the same time a guarantee for the strength, the protection and renewal of kingship, of states. Anatolia offered unique conditions for “the making of “a Goddess with this complexity.
This is not possible to analyse here, but some of these conditions are the climate, the fertility of the land, the richness of natural resources – such as gold, silver and other minerals in the mountains and rivers – and the many preserved local, ‘rural’ cults of mother ‘goddesses’, well attested since the Neolithic. The land, “Mother Earth” and the Mountain Mother herself provided the royal Anatolian dynasties, from the Bronze age and onwards, with their wealth, without the absolute need of central control as f.ex. in Egypt, and in Mesopotamia.
II Iconographic overview
In Naumann’s (1983) classification the standard icon represents a fusion between the archaic Greek naiskos and the classical Athenian cult statue. From her thorough examination of Die Iconographie der Kybele we can discern four principal canonical cult images of the Mother, which at the same time give us a short story of the Goddess’s wanderings in the Mediterranean world:
(1) The Phrygian, where the Goddess is pictured standing in a niche, fully frontal, with her arms usually bent towards her body, holding various objects, mostly a bird in her left hand (or a pomegranate) and a vessel in her right hand. The Phrygians “national goddess”, the only deity epigraphically and iconographically attested, is dressed as the Hittite and Neo-Hittite goddesses, heavily draped, with a high polos, from which a long veil extends to the hem of her skirt. Often one or both sides of this veil are tucked into the belt, where it appears as a series of horizontal catenary folds extending across her skirt on the left side. There is no trace of hellenic influences. (Plate 2)
(2) The archaic Greek, where the goddess is seated/enthroned, strictly frontal, with her hands resting on her knees, or holding a lion cub on her lap, on a more or less elaborated (‘rocky’) bench/throne in a more or less ornamented niche/naiskos. She is wearing a long gown and a low headdress with a veil. The folds of the himation falls down in the middle, between the goddess’s slightly – or broadly – parted legs. (Plate 3) The first and most of the examples of this icon, mainly votives, have been found in Ionian cities and are dated to the beginning and middle of the 6th century BC, that is, at the time when Lydia had expanded westwards and incorporated the Ionian cities. The architectural frame of the archaic Meter icon was clearly derived from the Phrygian iconography, while the change to a seated image indicates syncretistic processes. The “familiarity with the Greek tradition of seated statues in Ionian sanctuaries such as Didyma may have made the seated pose more attractive” but also generally in a Greek arouse “a stronger expression of power and awe”. Influences from the iconography of the enthroned Neo-Hittite state goddess Kubaba, but also indigenous representations of local mother goddesses, might have been just as important.
The image of the seated goddess spread to the Aegean islands (Samos, Chios, Thasos) and the special variant of it, the seated goddess with a lion in her lap, was carried by emigration to the western Mediterranean (Sicily, s. Italy, and the Phokaian colony, Massalia). It also appears in Aigina and in Athens, indicated by a find of terracotta figurines from the Acropolis in Athens, dated to second half of the 6th century BC. In this transition the Phrygian Mother became identified in Greek literature as Μήτηρ θεῶν, “The Mother of the Gods and of all human beings”, and with the name Κυβέλη or Rhea/Kybele.
3) The huge, exquisitely elaborated Classical Athenian cult statue, attributed to Pheidias’ pupil and co-worker Agorakritos from Paros, in the latter part of the 5th century – for the Mother’s temple on the Athenian agora, Metroön – was made to represent a goddess belonging to the official State cult. Agorakritos presents the Greek Meter enthroned, heavily draped in a Greek dress with the himation arranged in horizontal folds over the chiton, and with her from now on permanent and characteristic attributes, the tympanon in her left hand , probably a flat libation bowl, the phiale, in the outstretched right hand, and on one or both sides of the throne, the accompanying lion or lions. Agorakritos original statue has not survived but preserved in many representations of the same type, found in the Agora, in Pireus, where the Goddess also had a shrine, but a private one, and in other cities in Greece. The vast spread of it as canonical cult image of the Mother was an effect of the ‘mass production’ of small votives, Meter naiskos, since late Classical time and throughout the Hellenistic and Roman eras.
4) The Hellenistic cult image continued the Classical tradition, apart from a radically new addition in the iconography of the Mother – Attis, the dying son-lover of the Goddess, enters into the mythical, literary and pictorial images of the Goddess. As Attis is not present in the standard votive icon of the Mother I will not dwell on this theme. Important in this context is that the cult of the Mother ‘returned’- after the defeat of the Persians – hellenized to Anatolia, where it had a renaissance and flourished in the Ionian/Aeolian cities and in her old Phrygian homeland. This resulted in new iconographic variations of the standard votive icon, which both reproduced archaic and older traditions – f.ex. the standing position, as in Ephesian votive reliefs from the third and second century BC  – and added new symbols and elements, as other divinities, mythological figures. (Photo of Cairo relief)
The tendency continued in the Roman era, although with a prevalence of the plain standard icon. The Mother remained a highly popular goddess in Roman Asia Minor, best attested in western and north western Asia Minor (in Ionia, Aeolis, Mysia and Bithynia), but also with a strong presence in Caria, Lydia, Phrygia and the older Phrygian heartland, the Roman province, Galatia. The Roman cult statues of the Goddess followed the hellenistic prototypes – especially the monumental cult image/s in Pergamon, made after the classical Athenian model – but now reflecting Roman mentality and esthetics.
III Discussion of central elements in the standard votive icon
The specific combination of posture and attributes in the standard icon of the Mother in a naiskos, gave her an unique air of eternal and awe-inspiring authority. It reflected the elevated position she was given as Mother of the Gods, and retained as the Roman’s ancestress and Magna Mater. The Goddess is represented with not only one, but three archetypal universal symbols of strength, power and authority – the lions, the enthroned, strictly frontal, hieratic position and the polos – a symbol of both cosmos and the protection of a city/state. Symbols, which in the archaic and classical Greek world was associated with the ancient civilizations of the Near East.
The phiale and the tympanon are attributes associated with specific cultic rituals. The presence of the phiale as libation vessel and the fact that the goddess holds the tympanon in her left arm as if she was going to strike it and make music, rhythmic sounds, adds a special dimension to the standard icon of the Mother – the element of activity. It modifies the stiff solemnity, which distinguishes the standard icon of the Mother from the representations of other enthroned Greek goddesses, as Hera and Demeter, from classical time, and opens for an identification with her human worshippers, with their cultic activities.
While the tympanon is regarded as the most exclusive Greek addition to the iconography of the Phrygian Mother, without preceding models , the naiskos, the presentation of the Mother framed within a more or less elaborated architectural structure – with or without gables, with or without decorations in form of temple pillars, geometrical patterns etc. – has the most exclusive Phrygian background and meaning. It is also associated with cultic rituals and represents in particular the Mother as Mountain Mother.
In Hittite iconography and texts of the Empire period the lion is the sacred animal of Hebat – the Great goddess of the royal dynasties in Hattusa. In the impressive Yazilikaya reliefs, 13th century BC, exposing the exceptionally extensive Hittite Pantheon, Hebat is pictured standing on her lion, as Inanna in Sumerian art, while her consort, the Stormgod is standing on his mountains. The Neo-Hittite State goddess, Kubaba, with her ‘home’ in Karkemish, north Syria, was likewise associated with lions. In Phrygian art there are a few depictions of Matar with lions. The most remarkable is the rock monument known as “the lion rock”, from Arslankya, western Phrygia. In this monumental rock niche, dated to 7th or early 6th century BC, two huge lions are standing upright on their hind legs on each side of the Goddess, each places a front paw on the top of her head. The goddess holds another lion, a cub, upside down by its hind legs so that its head swings down to her knees. On the outer sides of the rock ‘building’ two huge lions are standing upright. The position of the lions reminds of the Minoan Cretan representations of the goddess flanked by standing lions, sometimes on mountains, of the Lion Gate at Mycenae, of the crowned Hera (?) between two lionesses – on a relief on the neck of a grave pithos from Thebe beginning of the 7th cent. BC –  and generally the standard type of the Pothnia Theron with animals climbing up on her body.
The fact that some of the earliest known examples of the archaic Greek Meter with lions show her seated in a naiskos with a lion cub in her lap indicates an interesting ‘motherly’ initial Greek reception of the Phrygian Mother .  In Agorakritos cult statue and the standard icon on the other hand, the lions are fully grown and majestic, reconnecting to Near East symbolism. The image of the enthroned Cybele, flanked by two majestic lions, became consequently especially influential as iconographic model for the great goddesses in Syria during the Roman era, Dea Syria, Atargatis and the Arab goddess, Allât.
The vessel is a frequent attribute in the Phrygian iconography of the Mother, absent in the archaic images of the goddess, but reintroduced in form of the phiale in the classical standard icon of Greek Meter, when in the beginning of 5th century BC this type of “sacrificing deity” becomes especially prominent. The vessel is not exclusive to Matar in Anatolian iconography, nor is the phiale to Greek Meter. It is common in Greek votives from the classical period, but not the permanent attribute of any other Greek deity.
According to Roller, the “replacement of a Phrygian vessel with a Greek one …carried a critical difference in meaning”. Naumann specifies one significant “critical difference”: In Greece “the presence of the bowl is not only a sign that the deity brings blessings, that she should be honoured by sacrifices, and thereby renew her divine strengths, but it also belongs to the image of the divinities as dependent for their existence of the human sacrifices to them. This symbolism is unknown in the ancient Near East”; in the rare iconographical representations where the deity, mostly a goddess, holds a vessel, it signifies the opposite gesture – divine gifts to the worshippers.
In Hittite iconography the vessel in the hand of a goddess is more frequent. Vessels seem to have played a central role in the Hittite’s cult rituals and ritual feasts, according to preserved texts and items. Hittite cult inventories give proof of the rich variety of vessels used in the cult: “animal-shaped vessels, vessels in the shape of a breast, scrotum or fist, simple vessels, horns ….”. Libations were made to the gods and ritual toasts drunk, the latter referred to as “drinking a god”. Whether the vessel in the hand of the Phrygian goddess is a libation bowl for receiving sacrifices or for giving divine offerings, or both, we do not know. Roller’s conclusion that it was “a common pottery shape, one that would be used in daily usage by human beings, but the Greek phiale was almost always a ritual vessel”, does not however give a relevant picture of its meaning. The vessel in the hand of Matar could have been a “simple” cult vessel, or a vessel “in the shape of a breast”, or a vessel, similar to the small, round, petaled, s.c.“Omphalos bowl” in bronze, found in Gordion, 8th century BC, but most certainly a ritual vessel. Considering the ‘omphalos’, the protruding navel or “boss” in the center of the Greek phiale, the fact that it was made of a metal, of which the Greeks were dependent on import, and the Phrygian and later Lydian kings rich gifts in gold, silver and bronze to Delphi, the Phrygian “omphalos bowl”, inspired by the omphalos in Delphi, might even have been the model for the phiale in Greek cult!? 
According to Robertson (1996) the phiale was essential in the Mother’s spring festival, the Γαλαξία, the “Milk-rites”. Mythically this festival was connected to the birth drama in the cave of Cretan Mount Ida, the nursing of the new-born Zeus-Zagreus by the mother goat, Amaltheia. In the festival – the content of which is known first through Athenian records from second century BC – this was ritually enacted in the giving of a phiale to the Mother every year: “… a porridge was made of boiled milk and barley meal…It was obviously an offering to the goddess and perhaps also refreshment for the worshippers…the porridge requires a suitable vessel and this can only be the bowl, phiale, which is one of the Mother’s attributes.” ‘Refreshment’ is maybe not the best word to describe the religious meaning of this act. Rather “drinking a god” or as it is defined later in Roman cult, “a symbol of rebirth”.
The tympanon signals music which heightens the emotional tension; in Greek cult and myth associated with the birth drama in the cave of the Mount Ida on Crete, with the Kouretes loud and shrilling clashing of their shields to protect the new-born Zeus from Kronos, but also with several other later stories and myths around the Mother. In a hymn inscribed at Epidaurus, the Mother is roaming through the mountains in a frantic state of mind, and: “Lord Zeus, when he saw the Mother of Gods, would hurl lightning – and she would take up the tympana – and he would split rocks -and she would take up the tympana”. Robertson connects this tale and similar tales with the summer festival for the Mother of Gods, the Κρονία, with “the howling, and clashing and banging”, a time of merry-making, rituals whose purpose was to celebrate the fruits of nature and at the same time increase “nature’s potency and abundance”. The percussion instruments, but also the flutes, the cymbals, and dance, played a central role in the nocturnal mystery rites of Greek Meter, known through literary texts of the 5th and 4th centuries BC.:“/the Phrygian women/ who with their tympana and the whirling of the resounding brass and the clashing of cymbals in their hands roar out the wise and healing music of the gods”. 
Contrary to Robertson, Roller emphasizes that the Greeks regarded the tympanon, and generally the frenzied movements and the ecstatic states, as ‘oriental’, as alien. Just as Dionysos – with whom The Mother was connected in literature, as in Euripides Bachae, written by the same time as Agorakritos cult statue was made – was conceived by the Greeks as a Lydian god, their Meter, in spite of the conflation with Rhea, was Phrygian. But this is evident first in Classical literature, and not at all something per definition negative.
The Greeks attributed instruments and generally music to Anatolia, to Phrygia and Lydia, also the tympanon. There are however as yet no evidence for its use in the Mother’s cult in Phrygia. The two (small) musicians accompanying the Phrygian Mother in the unique Bogazköy relief, early 6th century BC, plays the double flute, auloi, and the lyre or chitara  – instruments more suited to the Korybantes, who danced themselves to trance. (Plate 4) The Korybantes, young male followers of the Mother in myths and tales, were identified as Phrygian, and contributed to the merging of the Cretan Rhea and the Kouretes, and the Phrygian Mother, Kybele.
The tympanon is an universal instrument, and was used in ceremonies and festivals in the Ancient Near East. It was evidently a part of the Hittites cult festivals. On a painted and relief-decorated pottery sherd, also from Bogazköy (ancient Hattusa), dated to ca 1500 BC, a musician with a bull mask, “enveloped in a cloak such as worn by priests, kings and women, is playing on a tambourine”. It was known to the Greeks through imported items from Phoenicia and Cyprus at least as early as ca 700 BC. 
(There is another possible reason for the tympanon in the classical iconography of Greek Meter, though very speculative. Could one of the standard attributes of Kubaba have been misinterpreted in the syncretistic ‘making of the goddess’ Kybele? Kubaba is mostly represented with a pomegranate in her left hand, and with what is usually interpreted as a mirror in her right hand. Kubaba is, as Laroche calls her, “une déesse au miroir”. But the ‘mirror’ was not only a feminine object, associated with the goddess of love and beauty; in old Hattian-Hittite mythological texts it was also the attribute of the fate goddesses of the Netherworld, in which they ‘saw’ or read the future. Could the ‘mirror’ have been interpreted as a tympanon, as there is a striking resemblance between the objects iconographically? Plate 5)
The naiskos was exclusive to the Mother. No other Greek deity was consistently represented in a naiskos. The naiskos, “the house”, of the goddess Matar was however not an impressive, urban temple. There are only few buildings in Phrygia, that may be identified as temples for Matar  – instead the goddess seems to have been worshiped in natural, extra-urban ‘sanctuaries’, at wells, groves, rivers, but most of all in the mountains – just as deities in Hattian-Hittite religion. In the impressive highlands of western Anatolia, as well as in the old Hattian-Hittite territories further east, a large amount of rock monuments/ sanctuaries – rock-cut altars and cult façades – have been found, dated to eight-six centuries BC. The former are s.c. stepped altars or throne monuments cut out of the rock, usually situated on a hill, or in front of a cult façade, sometimes with aniconic stone idols. Altars of this type can among others still be seen on the acropolis of the “Midas City” – the largest concentration of monuments of Phrygian rock-architecture – and on the peak of Kalehisar, near Alacahöyük, the Hattian-Hittite sacred mountain of Daha . The other form of religious monuments, the rock-cut cult façades, were cut out in the form of more or less elaborated – with geometrical and meander patterns – ornamented cult niches, intended for the cult statues, stationary or portable. The cult façade appears to be “a development of the idea of a gate leading to the inside of the rock where the deity lives”, “the goddess’s natural cave dwelling”, and allows for the goddess “to make an epiphany from the doorway of her mountain”. Almost all of the preserved cult statues and reliefs of the Phrygian Mother have similar architectural frames.
The close connection between the goddess and mountains is one of the most prominent and basic features of the Phrygian Mother throughout her long history, in cult, mythology and literature – Μήτηρ ὀρεία, Mountain Mother, remained one of her main Greek epithets. Her Phrygian ‘name’, Matar, Mother, which is known from several phrygian/lydian inscriptions from the 7th century BC, is in two instances followed by the word Kubile, which according to Brixhe is an adjective, an epithet, meaning “of the mountain”, either a specific mountain or mountains in general. The fact that the two rock monuments with the inscriptions Matar Kubile, one in the highlands and the other in a remote area in Bithynia, are the most plain and least ornamented frames around seemingly natural, womblike cave-openings, may indicate that they are very old, and that the inscriptions were made later.
The tradition to see the mountains as the holy homes of deities and places from where the humans could connect to them is archetypal, a fundamental conception of the human mind. In the history of religion it is connected both to the cult of mother goddesses – caves, the dark inside of the mountains, as the seat of the birth miracle – and to the (later) cult of the Storm-god – the top of the mountains, closest to the miracles of the heavenly phenomena of lightning and thunder.
In Bronze Age Anatolia holy mountains were closely connected to rituals concerning the protection and renewal of kingship. In the Old Hittite period one central festival, “called the raising of the Great Sun, took place in the mountains that remained in the power of the Sun goddess and the Storm God. In the presence of the assembly of gods, the Sun goddess and the Storm-god make a covenant with the king; they entrust him with the land and make him young again…” This tradition might have been transferred in some form to the Phrygians. The Phrygian rock monuments were all oriented toward the rising sun, and the link between the Phrygian kingship and Matar is clearly attested in the most famous of the Phrygian rock monuments, the s.c. “Midas monument”. The Sun Goddess, who had a renaissance in the Hittite Empire period, and by then called the Sun-goddess of (the holy Hattian town) Arinna, “Lady of the land of Hatti”, the principal goddess in Hattusa, and in the pantheon of Hittite Hattusa “listed above the Storm-god as a rule”, had both heavenly and chtonic aspects. As earthly she was called, Mother (of) Earth –Wurun-semu.
The stepped altars, the s c throne monuments, may also have had an old Anatolian background. The Hattian Throne-goddess, Hanwasuit (Hittite Halmasuit), who represented the ceremonial royal throne (as Isis in Egypt), was ”living in the mountains and protecting the king”. Her messenger was the eagle with which she stayed in contact with the fate goddesses, ”sitting in the forest at the edge of the sea, and spinning the unending thread of the kings life”.
The extent to which the Phrygians were influenced by the religious traditions of the Hittites and made them their own is as yet not possible to know, due to the scarcity of Phrygian texts and the difficulties in interpreting their language. But considering the conservatism that characterizes religion – strongly manifested in the Hittites reverence for Hattian religion – and the continuity in settlements, it is likely that at least some traditions were integrated in their religious universe, maybe especially those connected to the kingship.
I have focused on the Anatolian and Greek origins of the standard icon of the Mother in order to contribute to the understanding of the historical and symbolic layers in its central elements. In the Phrygians Matar Kubile as Mountain Mother two ancient religious traditions converge – the ‘rural’, primordial Mother so abundantly attested in Anatolia since the Neolithic, and the ‘urban’ Great Goddesses of prominent royal dynasties. From iconographical perspective the similarities between Mellart’s sensational find of a terracotta statuette of a woman with exaggerated motherly features, enthroned between two mountain cats, leopards or lionesses, in the Neolithic city, Cathal Hüyük (near the Turkish city, Konya), dated to c. 6000 BC, and the Mother, Kybele, are striking, which may be an indicator of the conservatism in religious traditions, even if the religious content naturally undergoes more or less radical transformations. (Plate 6)
The Mother was for the Greeks most of all an ancient, age old, goddess. This is why she came to be identified with Gaia and Rhea – the Earth Mother and the Mother of the Gods in Hesiodos’ Theogony. Belonging to the older generation these goddesses had, by the time Meter arrived to Athens and was incorporated in the Athenian state cult, lost some of their actuality and strength in the minds of the Greeks. The Phrygian Mother revitalized their own Earth Mother and Mother of the Gods, in times of crisis – epidemics, the growing threat from east, from the Persians and later the impending Peloponnesian war.
With the goddess’s establishment as Mother of the Roman state, as Mater Deum Magna Idaea, the mythical home of the founder of Rome, the Troian Aeneas, the circle was closed. She regained the status she once had in Phrygia and Lydia, and partly in Athens, representing the alliance between a mighty state and an omnipotent goddess.
But even as ‘national goddess’ in Phrygia she also was “a godhead of the people as many of the votives associated with the goddess are very humble objects, such as crude stone idols, and stone and terracotta birds of prey, found in ordinary household contexts”. This popular tradition was preserved and is reflected in the mass production of the standard icon of the Mother for almost a millennium. And this double aspect – protector of the state and ancient mother goddess – is one of the central keys to her vast and long lasting popularity.
Eva B Mannheimer, Classical studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
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Illustrations ( here only the photos of Eva B Mannheimer, EBM, as they appear in the text)
(Plates of the Greek Meter in Alexandria)
Plate 1: Enthroned Cybele, leaning her left arm on the tympanon and resting her head in her left hand. Bithynia, 2-100 BC, Istanbul, Archeological Museum, Inv. 5297. Photo: EBM.
Plate 2: The phrygian Mother, standing in a niche, with bird and vessel. Gordion, early 7th cent. BC. Anatolian Civilizations Museum. Photo: EBM.
Plate 3: Example of the archaic Greek, enthroned Mother in a niche from the Konya region. The goddess holds her left hand under her breast, and the folds of the himation falls down between the legs. Aga Hamam, 6-500 BC. Istanbul, Archeological Museum, Inv. 2474. Photo; EBM.
(Plate : Cairo relief xx)
Plate 4: Goddess (Matar?) with musicians, and pomegranate. Unique relief/statue 126 cm. Bogazköy, early/mid 6th cent. BC, Anatolian Civilizations Museum. Photo: EBM.
Plate 5: Kubaba with mirror, seated on a bull-throne while her consort, the god of thunder is standing on a lion. Orthostat relief, Malataya, 9th cent. BC, Anatolian civilizations Museum. Photo: EBM
Plate 6: Enthroned woman with exaggerated motherly features, between two leopards or lionesses. Terracotta statuette, 20 cm. Cathal Höyuk, ca 6000 BC. Anatolian Civilizations Museum. Photo: EBM.
 The 14th Homeric Hymn, “To the Mother of the Gods”, dated to the last quarter of 6th century BC; here in the English translation made by Lynn Roller (1999, 122).
 In the extensive research on the Mother, her origins and transformations and their bearings on the iconography, my main reference is Lynn Roller, In Search of God the Mother (1999). Succeeding M.J.Vermaseren as the main expert on the subject, her focus lies on the Mother’s Phrygian origin and the Greeks reception of the Goddess, which is the relevant focus in this brief discussion of the standard icon of the Mother, of which the Alexandrian ‘Kybele-naiskos’ is an example. In her thorough and (almost) exhaustive examination and mostly convincing analysis Roller deepens and differentiates the discussion on the Mother’s Anatolian context, f.ex. the common view of Kybele as the direct descendent of the Neo-Hittite state goddess Kubaba (Laroche 1960, Vermaseren 1977, Munn 2008, et al. ) This is however a theme that remains to be explored further, not only – as Roller herself admits – the origin of the Phrygian tribes (Thrace, the Balkans) but also the Phrygian religion in a Hittite context. Among others I have found that Pjotr Taracha’s recent work on Hittite religion (2009) opens for new possibilities in this ongoing puzzle-laying. As to iconography my other main reference, apart from CCCA, Vermaseren and Roller, is F.Naumann, Die Iconographie der Kybele (1983).
Vermaseren and Roller, is F. Naumann, Die Iconographie der Kybele (1983).
 Its provenance is uncertain. There is little evidence of a cult of the Mother in Alexandria, where Isis was the Great Goddess, but the material, the white limestone, might be from the Mex quarries, outside Alexandria, which were used during both Hellenistic and Roman times.
 In Egypt this votive relief is an exceptional item. In the Roman empire, except for Roman Asia and adjacent territories, the naiskos is not as common, and other representations, as the one depicting Cybele riding on a lion, gain popularity as small, portable representations of the goddess, especially in North Africa. See Vermaseren 1977, 75. The frequency of Roman representations of Attis in Egypt, is probably due to identification of Attis with Osiris, as dying and resurrected vegetation gods. See CCCA V, VI. Vermaseren 1977, 116.
 A more exceptional variant was developed in Bithynia, and in the Black Sea region (finds from second century BC to first century AD, in Bithynia, Dacia, Regnum Bospori, Mysia): The Mother leans her left arm on the tympanon, and rests her head in her left hand, in a “mourning” (brooding) position. See Inv. No 5297, Istanbul, Archeological museum; See also CCCA I, no 236, 263, 363; CCCA VI, no 579, 580. The gesture has a late successor in Rodin’s, Le Penseur, and an early forerunner in the s. c “Sorrowful God” or “Thinker” of Hamangia, found in a grave in eastern Romania, dated by Gimbutas to ca 5000 BC (Se Gimbutas 1996, fig. 248-250.) (Plate 1)
 The identical icon without the architectural frame is an expression of the same phenomena; the original Phrygian meaning of the naiskos was for natural reasons especially kept in remembrance in the goddess’s original homeland, Anatolia/Roman Asia.
 And through them Mesopotamian, Hurrian, Syrian traditions.
 See Roller, chapter 3. See also the ACM, map over excavations, revealing the continuity in settlements.
 My emphasis will be on the first and third of these intersections. Important for understanding the last stage in this process is the fact that there was an active communication at least already in the 8th century BC between Phrygia/Lydia and the Greek world, culturally and socially through intermarriages. The Phrygians (and the Lydians), special interest in oracles is attested by their rich gifts to Delphi. There are several references to the Phrygians in the Iliad. Herodotos mentions the throne of the Phrygian king Midas in Delphi (Herod. 1.14), and a fragment of Aristoteles records that Midas married an Aeolian princess. See Roller 1999, 127; Rein 1996, 228. Robertson (1996) questions the whole idea of the Mother as spread from the East to Greece. She was, as he says, always there, both in Anatolia and in Greece.
 For a description of the prototype, see Naumann 1983, 180-87. Roller 1999, 145-48.
 The bird, most likely a predatory bird, connects the Phrygian Matar to Hattian- Hittite traditions; to the Hittite Throne Goddess, whose bird was the eagle, and to the Mother of the Hittite God of chase. A beautiful image of this enthroned mother goddess with a big falcon on her left hand and a vessel in her right hand, is preserved on the rim of a silver cup from 1400-1200; See Van Loon 1985, 15, Pl. XLb. Auguries, observation of birds, were part of Old Hittite oracular and magical rituals, and experienced female practitioners, called Old Women by the Hittites, played the most important role in Anatolian divination and magic. (See Taracha 2009, 147,151) The name of the Neo-Hittite state goddess, Kubaba, also contains the bird, as the syllable Ku – is followed by the hieroglyph for bird in Neo-Hittite script. (See Roller 1999, 46). The name of the Lydians most prominent dynasty, Mermnades, meaning falcon in Lydian, could be understood in this context.
 Naumann 1983, 91; Roller 1999, 71-72, see also n. 49 for Roller’s discussion of wrongly assumed Hellenic influences.
 See Naumann 1983, 117-135. Roller 1999, 131-133. In some examples of this type from the Konya region (“Phrygischer Raum”) the goddess holds her left hand under her breast, emphasizing her nourishing nature, common iconographic representation of Ishtar, a iconographic tradition that goes back to the Neolithic. See Naumann Taf. 14;3,4. (See Plate 3)
 Except Miletos, but this city had independent early contacts with Phrygia through its colonies at the Sea of Marmara and southern shore of the Black Sea. A marble temple model with a relief of Kubaba (?) with snakes, from the Lydian capital, Sardis, early 6th century, that is before the arrival of the Persians, standing in the doorway, fully frontal, wearing a Greek dress, and “Greek in style” can serve as an example of the transition from Phrygian/Lydian context to Greek iconography. See Naumann 1983, 111; Taf. 12.3; Roller 1999, 131.
 Roller 1999, 132. The fact that one of the largest corpus of the early archaic Meter votives was found in Miletos seems to confirm Roller’s claim. See also Rein, 1996.
 The s c Meter Sipylene, however unique, gives a hint of the ancient tradition of ‘mother cults’ in western Anatolia: In a 9 meter high niche on Mount Sipylos, in the vicinity of Kyme, close to a well, some artist/s in the 14th or 13th century BC had carved out in high relief a frontally exposed, huge seated female figure into the rock façade, still to this day to be seen close to the Turkish village Akpinar. At that time this was s c Arzawa land, which according to Taracha (2009,107) was least influenced by Hittite religion/culture. Pausanius saw her and called her Niobe (Paus. III.22.4) and in modern research wrongly identified as Kubaba or Kybele. See Naumann 1983, 20-22; Taf. I.1.
 There is a striking abundance of this archaic icon in the archeological museums in northern Greece; in the museum on Thasos, a whole section is dedicated to Kybele. Thasos may have been one of the centers of the cult of the Greek Mother of the Gods, in the northern Aegean. At least, one of the Mother’s two great festivals in Greece, the Galaxia, is attested in the Thasian calendar from the Archaic period. See Robertson 1996, 241-45.
 See CCCA V: Gallia, no 276-317.
 See Roller 1999, 2, 122-25, for a discussion of the process through which the name in Greece became Kybele.
 In the antiquity it was attributed to the master himself, Pheidias, as if it was impossible to imagine such a magnificent work made by his pupil. But as Pheidias was exiled from Athens 432 BC Agorakritos is regarded more plausible, also due to his Ionian origin. See Naumann 1983, 160-62; Vermaseren 1977, 33.
 It is assumed that a small archaic temple had been built for the Mother on the Athenian agora already in the beginning of the 5th century, according to Suda in connection with a plague epidemic, but destroyed by the Persians. The Mother had since then shared “house” with the legal archives and before the construction of a new Bouleuterion at the end of the 5th century´, with the council members as well. Naumann dates the new cult statue to ca 430 BC, at the time of the beginning of Peloponnesian War, when there was a new big plague epidemic, which could have motivated a revival of the cult of the Mother. But this is controversial, it could have been later. Naumann, ibid.; Vermaseren ibid.; Roller 1999, 162.
 The iconographic variations concerns the position of the tympanon in relation to the goddess’s body: parallel to the body, as in the Alexandrian example, or angled outwards as if to emphasize its importance – and whether the goddess holds the tympanon from under, which is the most common in the votives since late Classical time, or is leaning her left arm on it, attested first in the beginning of the 4th century, most likely with Agorakritos’ statue as model and prevalent in hellenistic life-size statues. See Naumann 1983, 161.
 As the original cult statue has not survived, it is not certain, but induced from later works. See Naumann 1983, 164.
 For the cult statue, see Naumann, 1983, 159-169. Roller 1999, 145-148.
 Attis as male companion to Greek Meter appears already in late classical time, but from the third century BC he is represented with “increasing frequency, attesting to its increasing prominence”. (Roller 1999, 217). In Rome, with the cult of Kybele and Attis in Pergamon as model, Attis becomes at least as prominent as the Mother; a special iconography is developed for him, either together with Cybele or alone, always with the ‘Phrygian cap’, identifying him as shepherd, and thus associated with the Mother as Mountain mother.
 See Roller 1991.
 See Roller 1999, 198-216.
 See Naumann 1983, Taf. 33.
 The plaster relief in Cairo, Egyptian Antiquities Museum (no. 26.6.20), probably Roman after an Hellenistic example from the 4th century BC, could serve as an example: Cybele with her standard attributes is seated on a high-backed throne in a naiskos with ionic columns, flanked by seated lions and her feet on a lion. The base of the naiskos is decorated with the twelve Olympian gods standing in a row. In the pediment an oxhead, flanked by a lion and lioness, lying down. On the top of the acroteria a radiate head of Helios and on either side three Kuretes in helmets with lances and shields. At the Mother’s right side stands Hermes, holding his caduceus in his left hand. On the other side of the Mother stands Artemis-Hecate, in a long garment, holding a flaming torch in each hand. Artemis is identified by a quiver and bow behind the figure. See CCCA V, no. 28; Reeder, 1987, Naumann 1983, 208-10, Taf. 31,1; In Ionia, Hecate and Artemis were sometimes conflated, probably due to the nocturnal rites of Artemis Ephesia, who in her turn had overshadowed the Lydian Mother in Ephesos as the protectress of the necropolis on the mountain, Panayir Dag. See Vermaseren 1997, pl. 23, for an early example, a relief from Piraeus, beginning of the 4th century BC, depicting an enthroned Cybele, with Hecate and Hermes.
 Se CCCA 1. Asia Minor. Roller 1999, ch. 11.
 A typical monumental Roman representation of Cybele – spread westwards with the Roman empire – can still be seen elevated in a central agora of Madrid, Fuente de Cibeles, The Well of Cybele. The goddess is seated enthroned with her patera, and instead of tympanon the key of the city, in her processional wagon, drawn by two big lions. An early model may be the female divinity driving a lion chariot on the north Gigantomachie-frieze of the Siphinian Treasury in Delphi from archaic times, reproduced on the relief on the Pergamon altar, by then definitiely representing the Mother. See Naumann 1983, 155-158, for this iconographical form, “Kybele auf dem Löwenwagen”.
 The position of the lion/s varies in the enthroned representations of the Mother framed in a naiskos, from being part of the throne itself, standing beside her throne, crouched in her lap, reclining beneath the goddess, to being used as the Goddess’s “footstool” (as on the Cairo relief ).
 The polos varies from high – as in Phrygian representations of Matar – to medium high – as in the standard icon – and low – as generally in Greek iconography. Early prototypes are the Egyptian crowns, and the Sumerian deities’ shugurra, “the crown of the steppe”, symbolizing the divine mountain. In the form of a mural crown it appeared in Greece first in the Hellenistic period, common in the iconography of the goddess in Rome. See Roller 1999, 145, n.6.
 Robertson (1996) names two great yearly festivals in Greece to the Mother, the Galaxia, the “Milk-rites”, in spring, and the Κronia, in summer. “The direct evidence, including the calendar of months at some Ionian cities, shows that they are very old. So do the related myths and legends”.(Ibid.,241) In the mythical context the Mother is identified with Rhea; the ritual content is best known through later Athenian records. In Athens the Mother is commonly assumed to have been part of the Lesser Mysteries, thus associating the Mother with Demeter. (See Roller 1999, 174-5) Roller mentions “the nocturnal mystery rites” of Greek Meter, but gives no reference to a special festival. Ibid. 151
 The earliest finds of the Mother holding the tympanon may have been found in Ephesos, but certainly on Thasos, late 6th century BC. See Naumann 1983, 136. Roller 1999, 136, n. 76. What might confirm its presence in Ephesos is the fact that the greatest festival for Artemis Ephesia, established by the time of Croesus, also was en enactment of a birth drama, where the Kouretes, played a central role, but here it is Hera who is frightened away with their shields and wild dances while Leto is giving birth to Artemis. In Ephesos the wild dancing was also associated with an ancient tale of the Amazons’ dance around the original xoanon of the goddess. See Kallimachos version in his Hymn to Artemis, lines 237-51. See also Bammer 1996, Mannheimer 2009.
 Van Loon 1985, plate XXX and XXXI; see also ibid., p.9, pl. IX b, for an early depiction of a Pothnia Theron, seated between two leonine creatures, from Kültepe, 1925-1825BC. For Inanna, see Sumerian cylinder seals, late third millennium BC.
 Se Roller 1999, 49; Naumann 1983, Taf. 1:2; Laroche 1960, 125; Laroche examines in detail an orthostat stele of Kubaba from Malatya, where he traces an ‘heresy’, as the goddess is seated on a bull-throne while her consort stands on a lion, that is, their sacred animals are reversed. (See Plate 5)
 Naumann 1983, Taf.4. Roller 1999, 85-86. See also Vermaseren 1977, 20, who interprets the ‘lion rock’ as a mausoleum.
 See Vermaseren, 1977, fig. 1 for the Minoan, and pl.1 for the Boiotian pithos; Roller 1999, 136, defines the figure as neither Hera, nor Artemis, but an unnamed divinity of regenerative powers over both animals and plants.
 I agree with Naumann when she notes that the Mother is not, as often claimed, a Pothnia Theron, Mistress of Animals, but rather a Mother of all Nature; she is almost exclusively connected with first a bird, then with lions, “not as a Mistress, but as a Protectress of all Life” (Naumann 1983, 101; my translation).
 A group of six naiskos found in graves near Kyme, dated to early 6th century BC; other similar have been found in Smyrna, Samos, Thasos and in the Phokaian colony, Massalia; see Roller 1999, 132. This iconographical detail might have been the result of the hellenization of the Phrygian/Lydian Mother through Artemis Ephesia – Artemis being the protector of newborns, both humans and animals. In a unique votive relief from Sardes, dated to the 5th century BC, both goddesses are standing beside each other in a naiskos, holding their sacred animals – Artemis a little hind and the Mother a little lion. See CCCA I, no 460.
 See Drijvers 1976, 20; pl. LV; Drijvers 1981.
 Roller 1999, 146, n. 10, referring to E. Simon, Opfernde Götter (1953).
 Naumann 1983, 70-71, my translation. Naumann refers to rare representations of Mesopotamian deities offering the water of life. In Egypt, the goddess Hathor is depicted in similar acts.
 For late Bronze Age Anatolia, see Van Loon 1985, pl. XLIb, seated goddess holding a bowl in her right hand, Hattusa, 14 -1200 BC; pl. XLb, seated goddess, “hunting god’s mother”, holding a bowl, ca 1400 BC; pl. XLd, The Sun goddess, enthroned with a child on her lap, had probably, according to Van Loon, hold a vessel in her right hand, ca 13th-12th cent. BC. In a text, dated to ca 1225 BC: “Sauska..sitting …., in her right hand /she holds/ a beaker of gold …”; Ibid., 29. Sauska, the sister of the (Hurrian) Storm God, Tessub, known through the s.c. Apology of Hattusili III (1267-1237BC), his covenant with the goddess: “I will celebrate Sauskas divine providence. Let /every/man hear it and may in the future my son, grandson and further royal descendants honour Sauska among /all/ the gods”. Taracha 2009, 81; CTH §2 (Laroche, Catalogue des texts Hittites. Paris 1971)
 Cited by Van Loon 1985, 29. The text dated to ca 1225 BC. An exceptionally rich variety of rhyta have been found in Anatolia ever since the Neolithic, see ACM.
 Taracha 2009, 69.
 Roller 1999, 148.
 See ACM, fig. 183, 188.
 It may be a beautiful example of the increased interaction between the Phrygians and the Greek world from the 8th century BC. The ethymology of the word phiale is in fact uncertain – it might be a derivation of ‘omphalos’. See Liddell & Scott, entry, phiale: “after Hom. a broad, flat bowl, used for drinking or pouring libations”. The somewhat flatter phiale indicate that in Greece the pouring of libation was its primary function, rather than ‘”drinking a god”.
 Robertson 1996, 243. quoting Sallustius, ibid.n. 12. In the Roman cult of the Mother, drinking milk was part of the spring festival of Magna Mater; in the early Christian baptismal sacrament, the drink was a mixture of milk and honey. Ibid. Regarded as an early ritual vessel in the Galaxia, the boss in the middle of the phiale might symbolize the nipple and the bowl the “shape of a breast”. Robertson (1996, 244-45), linking cultic rituals with concrete human needs and purposes, regards the “Milk-Rites” as connected to the “Mother as a pastoral goddess, ruling the hills and the mountains, where animals are grazed (…) a magic means of inducing nature, both earth and sky to yield abundant moisture”.
 Cited by Robertson 1996, 288.
 Ibid., 285-86. In the Kronia, another vessel was in the center of the rituals, according to Robertson – the kernos, “a composite vessel with many small cups containing a variety of vegetables and liquids, an untreated wool”; ibid., 284.
 Diogenes, quoted by Athenaios, Deipn. xiv, 635-636.
 See Roller 1999, 148.
 See Munn (2006) for a critical view of Roller’s use of ’orientalism’ in describing the Greeks relation to Anatolia. The dichotomy Europe-Asia was not relevant neither in archaic nor in classical Greece; religious syncretism was rather the rule in the common polytheistic cosmos of the nature religions in the eastern Mediterranean. Common and similar myth elements were moulded in different, local forms and traditions, and given different names.
 ACM, fig. 185; Naumann 1983, 72-80, Taf. 7,1.
 Van Loon 1985, 12. Plate XIIIa. The Hittite deities did not only demand bread and meat, they also wanted to be entertained by singers, musicians, dancers, acrobats etc. Together with cult dramas and athletic contests, if the festival was held in open air sanctuaries, these forms of entertainments were part of all great festivals already in the Old Empire period. See Taracha 2009, 68-69, 131.
 Roller 1999, 137, n. 79.
 ACM, fig. 156, 157.
 Laroche 1960, 123. Laroche, refers to Bossert, Asia (1946). See also Taracha 2009, 49.
 Probably in Bogazköy, former Hattusa, Gordion and Midas City. Se Roller 1999, 79, 96, 112.
 Rein (1996, 233) identifies the aniconic idols, with squared bodies and rounded heads as the first phrygian representations of the goddess, “reminiscent of the stone described by Roman sources, which was worshipped at the Phrygian sanctuary of the Mother at Pessinous, until it was brought to Rome”. (Whether from Pessinous or Pergamon is a matter of controverse, see Roller 1999, ch.9)
 See map Naumann 1983, 40. Roller 1999, 84-105.
 Popko 1995, 188.
 Both Roller (1999) and Popko (1995) acknowledges the striking similarities between the Phrygian and the approximately contemporary Urartian cult niches in the rock façades in eastern Anatolia, but according to Popko, still “perhaps the most original remains of Phrygian culture and religion”(ibid., 188). Maya Vassileva (2001,55) points to the Phrygians’ supposed origins: “Rock -carving and rock-cut monuments are known throughout the eastern Mediterranean world, in south-eastern Europe and in many other areas. The monuments of Thrace have been generally neglected by modern western scholars”. She points to the similarities between Thrace and Phrygia in geometric decorative designs, abstract symbolism, often inspired by textiles – still alive in the Turkish kelims. Popko also comments the unique “tapestry-like ornaments” of the cult facades. Ibid.
 Ibid.; Rein 1996, 234; Roller 1999, 54. Berndt-Ersöz (1998) convincingly argues that the shafts behind five of the known rock-cut cult façades in western Phrygia could have had an oracular function. “The visitor or enquirer would have experienced the oracular answer as coming from the mountain itself”, that is from the “dwelling place of the Mother Goddess”.(ibid.,98)
 Herodotos calls her Meter Dindymene, but she was identified with many other mountains in Ionia and Aeolia; Strabo (10.3.12) mentions that the Phrygians addressed the goddess with a variety of toponymic epithets, some of them referring to mountains: Idaia, Dindymene, Sipylene (see note 17); in the Roman world she was called Mater Deum Magna Idaea. Many myths were told about her origin, all connected to mountains. See Roller 1999, ch. 8
 Roller 1999, 66, referring to Brixhe & Lejeune 1984. Another Phrygian epithet of Matar, found by Brixhe – the word areyasti– has been identified as a derivation from Luwian *areyatti-, “mountain”. See Munn 2008, n.7. The similarities in nomenclature between Kubile or Kubileya, and the name of the goddess Kubebe, who had an indigenous cult in Sardis (Herod. 5.102.1), and the Neo-Hittite goddess Kubaba, is one of the main reasons why Greek Kybele has been regarded as a direct descendent of Kubaba. But Brixhe &Lejeune could find no way to derive the Phrygian word, Kubile-ya, from Kubaba. See also Rein 1996, who stresses the identification of Matar Kubile with settings in nature, in contrast to the urban setting of Kubebe in Sardis. See Roller 1999, 44 -53, for an analysis of similarities and decisive differences between Phrygian Matar and Kubaba; Mark Munn (2008) acknowledges these contributions to the discussion, but adheres to the ‘Kubaba-hypothesis’, referring both to linguistics and to the fact that the chief monuments of the Phrygian Mother and attested inscriptions are products of the Lydian era; according to Munn, Kubebe was honoured both in Sardis and in the “Kubeleya, the ‘places of Kubaba’, distributed all over the land the Lydians ruled”. Ibid. 161.
 See Rein 1996, fig. 4 and 5.
 Taracha 2009, 77.
 Rein 1996, 234.
 Taracha 2009, 41; 47; For a representation of her, see Van Loon 1985, Plate XL,d. The Sun goddess, as mother goddess, enthroned with a child (a daughter, or a young king?) on her lap, ca 1300-1200 BC.
 Taracha 2009, 48, 77.
 To the Lydians and Phrygians the Mother was ”the ultimate source of all good things that came from perfect kingship. To the later Greeks, after the fall of Croesus and the manifest failure of Lydian kingship she was abstracted from tyranny and became known from the landmarks associated with her …” Munn 2008, 162.
 Roller 1991, 130.