Web Theoi
AGDISTIS
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Αγδιστις Agdistis Agdistis Of Mount Agdistis
(in Phrygia)

AGDISTIS was a hermaphroditic creature born of Gaia (Earth) when she was accidentally impregnated by the sleeping sky-god Zeus. The gods feared the strange double-gendered creature and castrated it, and it then became Kybele (Cybele), the great Phrygian goddess.

This story related by Pausanias was a Greek translation of a tale from Phrygian myth. In the original, the parents of Agdistis-Kybele would have been the Phrygian Sky-God and Earth-Mother. Since Kybele was usually identified by the Greeks with Rhea, it is somewhat curious that the sky-god of the myth is here named Zeus rather than Ouranos.

PARENTS
ZEUS & GAIA [or, more accurately, the Phrygian Sky-God & Earth-Mother] (Pausanias 7.17.8)
OFFSPRING
ATTIS (by Nana impregnated by an almond fallen from a tree that was germinated from the severed genitals of Agdistis) (Pausanias 7.17.8)

ENCYCLOPEDIA

AGDISTIS (Agdistis), a mythical being connected with the Phrygian. worship of Attes or Atys. Pausanias (vii. 17. § 5) relates the following story about Agdistis. On one occasion Zeus unwittingly begot by the Earth a superhuman being which was at once man and woman, and was called Agdistis. The gods dreaded it and unmanned it, and from its severed aidoia there grew up an almond-tree. Once when the daughter of the river-god Sangarius was gathering the fruit of this tree, she put some almonds into her bosom ; but here the almonds disappeared, and she became the mother of Attes, who was of such extraordinary beauty, that when he had grown up Agdistis fell in love with him. His relatives, however, destined him to become the husband of the daughter of the king of Pessinus, whither he went accordingly. But at the moment when the hymeneal song had commenced, Agdistis appeared, and Attes was seized by a fit of madness, in which he unmanned himself; the king who had given him his daughter did the same. Agdistis now repented her deed, and obtained from Zeus the promise that the body of Attes should not become decomposed or disappear. This is, says Pausanias, the most popular account of an otherwise mysterious affair, which is probably part of a symbolical worship of the creative powers of nature. A hill of the name of Agdistis in Phrygia, at the foot of which Attes was believed to be buried, is mentioned by Pausanias. (i. 4. § 5.) According to Hesychius (s. v.) and Strabo (xii. p. 567; comp. x. p. 469), Agdistis is the same as Cybele, who was worshipped at Pessinus under that name. A story somewhat different is given by Arnobius. (Adv. Gent. ix. 5. § 4 ; comp. Minuc. Felix, 21.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.


Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 17. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The local [Phrygian] legend about him [Attis] being this. Zeus [equated here with the Phrygian sky-god], it is said, let fall in his sleep seed upon the ground, which in course of time sent up a Daimon, with two sexual organs, male and female. They call the daimon Agdistis. But the gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ. There grew up from it an almond-tree with its fruit ripe, and a daughter of the river Sangarios, they say, took the fruit and laid it in her bosom, when it at once disappeared, but she was with child. A boy was born, and exposed, but wastended by a he-goat. As he grew up his beauty was more than human, and Agdistis fell in love with him. When he had grown up, Attis was sent by his relatives to Pessinos, that he might wed the king’s daughter. The marriage-song was being sung, when Agdistis appeared, and Attis went mad and cut off his genitals, as also did he who was giving him his daughter in marriage. But Agdistis repented of what she had done to Attis, and persuaded Zeus to grant the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay. These are the most popular forms of the legend of Attis."

For MYTHS of Kybele-Agdistis see KYBELE

CULT OF AGDISTIS

Agdistis was merely a title of the Phrygian goddess Kybele (Cybele).

Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 12 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The Phrygians in general ... hold Rhea in honor and worship her with Orgia (Orgies), calling her Meter Theon (Mother of the Gods) and Agdistis and Phrygia the Great Goddess."

Strabo, Geography 12. 5. 3 :
"Pessinos [in Phrygia] is the greatest of the emporiums in that part of the world, containing a temple of the Meter Theon (Mother of the gods) [Rhea-Kybele], which is an object of great veneration. They call her Agdistis."

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 4. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Under Mount Agdistis [near Ankyra in Phrygia], where they say Attis lies buried."

For more information on the cult of the goddess see CULT OF KYBELE

Sources:

  • Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st BC - C1st AD
  • Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD

Other references not currently quoted here: Heysichius s.v. Agdistis; Arobius Adversus Nationes 9.5.4