RHEIA-KYBELE was the Greek and Phrygian mother of the gods.
This page describes her divine attributes, estate, sacred plants and animals, and train of attendants.
The Mother of the Gods was usually depicted as a matronly woman seated on a throne, with a turret crown and pair of lions crouching at her feet.
(1) ESTATE & ATTRIBUTES
LIONS & CHARIOT The Mother of the Gods drove a chariot drawn by lions.
SCEPTRE OF RHEA The goddess Rhea bore a royal staff, a sign of her station as Queen-Mother of the Gods.
TURRET CROWN The Meter Theon wore a turret crown representing the defensive walls of a city.
BLACK-LEAF ROBES The Mother was sometimes described wearing a robe of black leaves.
CYMBALS Clashing cymbals were the musical instrument of the Meter Theon and her celebrants.
PALACE OF KYBELE The goddess possessed a fabulous palace on the peak of Mount Dindymene (Dindymon)in Phrygia.
(2) SACRED PLANTS & ANIMALS
LION The Asiatic lion was sacred to the Meter Theon. A team of the beasts was yoked to her chariot and in classical art a pair flanked her throne.
HAWK The mermnus species of hawk was sacred to the Mother.
SILVER FIR The mountain-growing silver fir was sacred to Mother of the Gods. A decorated tree was the centrepiece of her orgiastic rites and celebrants carried fir-branch torches.
KOURETES (Curetes) The Kouretes were armed warrior companions of the goddess Rhea who performed a dance of clashing shield and spear.
KORYBANTES (Corybantes) The goddess Kybele was served by a band of Korybantes, orgiastic dancers who, like the Kouretes, clashed spear and shield.
ATTIS The consort and eunuch companion of the Phrygian goddess Kybele. She drove him to castrate himself in a crazed frenzy.
PAN The goat-legged Arkadian god was a companion of Rhea in the Greek heartland.
SABAZIOS-DIONYSOS (Sabazius-Dionysus) The god of wine and vegetation was mentored by the Mother of the Gods who instructed him in the frenzied rites of the Orgia.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
LIONS & CHARIOT OF THE MOTHER
Orphic Hymn 14 to Rhea (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Illustrious Rhea . . . who drivest thy sacred car with speed along, drawn by fierce lions, terrible and strong."
Orphic Hymn 27 to the Mother of the Gods :
"Meter Theon (Mother of the Gods) . . . throned on a car, by lions drawn along, by bull-destroying lions, swift and strong."
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4. 34 (trans. Conybeare) (Greek biography C1st to 2nd A.D.) :
"[In Krete (Crete)] towards the Libyan Sea close to Phaistos (Phaestus), a little rock keeps out a mighty sea. And they say . . . the promontory . . . resembles a lion, for here, as often, a chance arrangement of rocks suggests an animal form; and they tell a story about this promontory, how it was once one of the lions which were yoked in the chariot of Rhea."
Oppian, Cynegetica 3. 7 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd A.D.) :
"The Kouretes (Curetes) were the nurses of the infant Zeus, the mighty son of Kronos, what time Rhea concealed his birth and carried away the newly-born child from Kronos (Cronus), his sire implacable, and placed him in the vales of Krete. And when [Kronos] the son of Ouranos beheld the lusty young child he transformed the first glorious guardians of Zeus and in vengeance made the Kouretes wild beasts. And since by the devising of the god Kronos exchanged their human shape and put upon them the form of Lions, thenceforth by the boon of Zeus they greatly lord it over the wild beasts which dwell upon the hills, and under the yoke they draw the terrible swift car of Rhea who lightens the pangs of birth."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 686 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"He [Melanion, and his wife Atalante,] entered here [the shrine of the Meter Theon in Thebes] and with forbidden sin defiled the sanctuary. The holy statues turned their shocked eyes away and the Mater Turrita (Tower-Crowned Mother) pondered should she plunge the guilty pair beneath the waves of Stygia. Such punishment seemed light. Therefore their necks, so smooth before, she clothed with tawny manes, their fingers curved to claws; their arms were changed to legs; their chests swelled with new weight; with tails they swept the sandy ground; and in their eyes cruel anger blazed and growls they gave for speech. Their marriage-bed is now a woodland lair, and feared by men, but by the goddess tamed, they champ--two lions--the bits of Cybele."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 530 ff :
"The holy Mother of the Gods (Genetrix Sanctum Deum) . . . made clashing cymbals fill the air and shrilling fifes, and, borne along the breeze by her tame lion-team."
Ovid, Fasti 4. 181 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"‘Why do fierce lions strangely submit their manes to her [Cybele's] arcing yoke?’ I stopped. She [the Muse] started : ‘It's thought she tamed their wildness. Her own chariot testifies to this.’"
Virgil, Aeneid 3. 111 (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"Cybele and the lions yoked for her chariot."
Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 3. 20 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"With his javelin he [King Kyzikos (Cyzicus) of Mysia] slew a lion that was wont to bear its mistress [the Meter Theon] through the cities of Phrygia and was now returning to the bridle. And now (madman!) hath he hung from his doorposts the mane and the head of his victim, a spoil to bring sorrow to himself and shame upon the goddess."
Statius, Thebaid 10. 170 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"The Idaean Mother's . . . panic-stricken lions rear the chariot high."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 9. 136 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Rheia, nurse of lions . . . While he [Dionysos] was yet a boy, she [Rhea-Kybele] set him to drive a car drawn by ravening lions . . . At nine years old the youngster went a-hunting his game to the kill . . . He dragged horrible lions all alive, and clutching a couple of feet in each hand presented them to the Mother that she might yoke them to her car. Rheia looked on laughing with joy, and admired the manliness and doughty feats of young Dionysos . . . Often he stood in the chariot of immortal Rheia, and held the flowing reins in his tenderskin hand, and checked the nimble team of galloping lions."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 1 ff :
"Swiftshoe Rheia haltered the hairy necks of her lions beside their highland manger."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 14. 247 ff :
"The Korybantes (Corybantes) were busy about the bright manger of the panthers [of Rhea-Kybele], passing the yokestraps over their necks, and entrusted their lions to ivybound harness when they had fastened this threatening bit in their mouths."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 15. 370 ff :
"Rheia Dindymis upon her lion's car."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 25. 185 ff :
"Bakkhos (Bacchus) [Dionysos] too when still a young lad, while playing the mountains, grasped a deadly lion by the shaggy throat with one hand, dragged him away and presented him to his mother Rheia, pressing down the maned neck of the gaping beast--dragged him still alive, and fastened him under the yokestrap, put on the guiding bridle over slavish cheeks, then seated high in the ar whipt the back of the frightful creatures."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 25. 310 ff :
"Attis came in his trailing robe, whipping up the travelling team of lions . . . This was the messenger who came driving the car of goddess Kybele (Cybele) . . . [and he] called out a flood of loud words to Bakkhos (Bacchus)--‘. . . Not yet have you brought a herd of eastern lions from India as a token of victory for the breeder of beasts, the mother of the gods!’
. . . and guiding the hillranging car on the road back to Phrygia . . . he entered the divine precinct selfbuilt of Rheia, mother of mighty sons. He freed his ravening lions from the yokestraps, and haltered them at the manger which he filled with ambrosial fodder."
Suidas s.v. Kybele (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Kybele (Cybele) : Rhea. [So named] from the Kybela mountains; for she is a mountain goddess; that is why she rides in a chariot drawn by a team of lions . . . effeminates are present in the mysteries of Rhea."
TURRET CROWN OF THE MOTHER
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 687 (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The Mater Turrita (Tower-Crowned Mother)."
Ovid, Fasti 4. 181 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
“Why is her [Cybele's] head burdened with a turreted crown? Or did she turret the primal cities?' She [the Muse] nodded [that it was so]."
Ovid, Fasti 6. 319 :
"Coroneted Cybele, with her crown of turrets."
Propertius, Elegies 3. 17 (trans. Goold) (Roman elegy C1st B.C.) :
“Wearing her turreted headdress, the great goddess Cybele will clash her hoarse cymbals to accompany the Idean dance."
BLACK-LEAF ROBES OF THE MOTHER
Timotheus, Fragment 791 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric V) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"If one could fall at queenly knees, black-leaf-robed, of the Mater Oreias (Mountain Mother) and casting one's beautiful arms about them might pray, ‘Gold-tressed Mater Theon (Mother of the Gods).’"
ROYAL SCEPTRE OF RHEA
Callimachus, Hymn 1 to Zeus (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Holden in distress the lady Rheia [during her labour with Zeus] said, ‘Dear Gaia (Earth), give birth thou also! Thy birthpangs are light.’ So spake the goddess, and lifting her great arm she smote the mountain with her staff; and it was greatly rent in twin for her and poured forth a mighty flood." [I.e. Rhea created the Arkadian river Neda to bath her new-born infant Zeus.]
PALACE OF THE MOTHER
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 12. 394 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Father Zeus sent Iris to the divine halls of Rheia . . . She paddled her way with windswift beat of wings, and entered the echoing den of stabled lions. Noisless her step she stayed, in silence voiceless pressed her lips, a slave before the forest queen. She stood bowing low, and bent down her head to kiss Rheia's feet with suppliant lips. Rheia unsmiling beckoned, and the Korybantes (Corybantes) served her beside the bowl of the divine table."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 12. 247 ff :
"The Korybantian courtyard . . . and the peaceful precincts of danceloving Rheia . . . The Korybantes were busy about the bright manger of the panthers."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 25. 310 ff :
"Guiding the hillranging car on the road back to Phrygia . . . he [Attis] entered the divine precinct selfbuilt of Rheia, mother of mighty sons."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 239 ff :
"Rheia's house, where the divine court of the prolific Kybele (Cybele) stood on Phrygian soil."
SACRED BIRDS & ANIMALS
Aelian, On Animals 12. 4 (trans. Schofield) (Greek natural history C2nd to 3rd A.D.) :
"There are in fact several species of Hawks . . . They are allotted separately to many gods. The partridge-catcher . . . is the servant of Apollon . . . [and] to the Meter Theon (Mother of the Gods) they assign the mermnus, and to one god one bird, to another another."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 44. 5 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Near the source of the Alpheios (Alpheus) [in Arkadia] is a temple of the Meter Theon (Mother of the Gods) without a roof, and two lions made of stone."
See also Lions & Chariot of the Mother (this page)
I. SILVER FIR
The silver fir was the sacred tree of the Meter Theon (Mother of the Gods). Note however that it is often loosely translated as "pine tree".
Pindar, Dithyrambs Heracles the Bold (trans. Sandys) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"In the adorable presence of the mighty Meter Theon (Mother of the Gods) . . . the torch blazeth beneath the glowing pine-trees."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 103 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Pines, high-girdled, in a leafy crest, the favourite of the Gods' Great Mother (Grata Deum Matri), since in this tree Attis Cybeleius doffed his human shape and stiffened in its trunk."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 530 ff :
"Turnus [of the Rutuli of Italy] had sent his firebrands to consume the pine-framed vessels [of Aeneas' fleet] . . . And then the holy Mother of the Gods (Genetrix Sanctum Deum) remembering that on Ida's peaks those pines were felled [from her sacred groves], made clashing cymbals fill the air and shrilling fifes."
Virgil, Aeneid 9. 82 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"[Cybele speaks :] ‘I had a forest of pine trees, cherished for many a year, a plantation high up on the mountain [of Ida near Troia], dusky with glooming spruces and maple wood : men used to bring me offerings there. This did I gladly give to the Dardan prince [Aeneas], when he needed a fleet.’"
Statius, Thebaid 10. 170 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"The Idaean Mother [Rhea-Cybele] summons from the terrible shrine the blood-stained Phrygian and makes him unconscious of his knife-hacked arms; he beats the holy pine-brands against his breast, and tosses his gory hair and deadens his wounds by running; all the country-side and the bespattered votary tree [i.e. Cybele's sacred pine-tree] feels terror."
ATTENDANTS : CURETES, CORYBANTES, DACTYLS & CABEIRI
The attendant daimones of the Mother of the Gods had several names--in Krete they were Kouretes (Curetes), in Arkadia Gigantes ("Earth-Born"), in Samothrake Kabeiroi (Cabeiri), in the Troad Daktyloi (Dactyls), and in Phrygia Korybantes (Corybantes). All of these were closely related in form and function and the names were often used interchangeably. The most comprehensive overview of these daimones is the essay in Strabo's Geography.
Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 7 ff (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
The accounts [of the Daimones called Kouretes (Curetes)] which are more remotely related, however, to the present subject [the like-named Kouretes tribe of Aitolia (Aetolia)], but are wrongly, on account of the identity of the names, brought into the same connection by the historians--I mean those accounts which, although they are called Kouretan History and History of the Kouretes, just as if they were the history of those Kouretes [the tribe] who lived in Aitolia and Akarnania, not only are different from that history, but are more like the accounts of the Satyroi (Satyrs), Silenoi (Silens), Bakkhai (Bacchae), and Tityroi (Tityri); for the Kouretes, like these, are called Daimones or ministers of gods by those who have handed down to us the Kretan and the Phrygian traditions, which are interwoven with certain sacred rites, some mystical, the others connected in part with the rearing of the child Zeus in Krete (Crete) and in part with the orgies in honor of the Meter Theon (Mother of the Gods) which are celebrated in Phrygia and in the region of the Trojan Ida. But the variation in these accounts is so small that, whereas some represent the Korybantes (Corybantes), the Kabeiroi (Cabeiri), the Daktyloi Idaioi (Dactyls of Mount Ida), and the Telkhines (Telchines) as identical with the Kouretes, others represent them as all kinsmen of one another and differentiate only certain small matters in which they differ in respect to one another; but, roughly speaking and in general, they represent them, one and all, as a kind of inspired people and as subject to Bacchic frenzy, and, in the guise of ministers, as inspiring terror at the celebration of the sacred rites by means of war-dances, accompanied by uproar and noise and cymbals and drums and arms, and also by flute and outcry; and consequently these rites are in a way regarded as having a common relationship, I mean these and those of the Samothrakians [the Kabeiroi] and those in Lemnos [also the Kabeiroi] and in several other places, because the divine ministers are called the same. However, every investigation of this kind pertains to theology, and is not foreign to the speculation of the philosopher . . .
But I must now investigate how it comes about that so many names have been used of one and the same thing, and the theological element contained in their history. Now this is common both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, to perform their sacred rites in connection with the relaxation of a festival, these rites being performed sometimes with religious frenzy, sometimes without it; sometimes with music, sometimes not; and sometimes in secret, sometimes openly. And it is in accordance with the dictates of nature that this should be so, for, in the first place, the relaxation draws the mind away from human occupations and turns the real mind towards that which is divine; and, secondly, the religious frenzy seems to afford a kind of divine inspiration and to be very like that of the soothsayer; and, thirdly, the secrecy with which the sacred rites are concealed induces reverence for the divine, since it imitates the nature of the divine, which is to avoid being perceived by our human senses; and, fourthly, music, which includes dancing as well as rhythm and melody, at the same time, by the delight it affords and by its artistic beauty, brings us in touch with the divine, and this for the following reason; for although it has been well said that human beings then act most like the gods when they are doing good to others, yet one might better say, when they are happy; and such happiness consists of rejoicing, celebrating festivals, pursuing philosophy, and engaging in music . . .
[II. KOURETES OF KRETE.]
In Krete (Crete), not only these rites, but in particular those sacred to Zeus, were performed along with orgiastic worship and with the kind of ministers who were in the service of Dionysos, I mean the Satyroi (Satyrs). These ministers they called ‘Kouretes’ (Curetes), young men who executed movements in armour, accompanied by dancing, as they set forth the mythical story of the birth of Zeus; in this they introduced Kronos as accustomed to swallow his children immediately after their birth, and Rhea as trying to keep her travail secret and, when the child was born, to get it out of the way and save its life by every means in her power; and to accomplish this it is said that she took as helpers the Kouretes, who, by surrounding the goddess with tambourines and similar noisy instruments and with war-dance and uproar, were supposed to strike terror into Kronos (Cronus) and without his knowledge to steal his child away; and that, according to tradition, Zeus was actually reared by them with the same diligence; consequently the Kouretes, either because, being young, that is ‘youths,’ they performed this service, or because they ‘reared’ Zeus ‘in his youth’ (kouros) (for both explanations are given), were accorded this appellation, as if they were Satyroi, so to speak, in the service of Zeus. Such, then, were the Greeks in the matter of orgiastic worship.
[III. KORYBANTES OF PHRYGIA AND TROIA.]
But as for the Berekyntes (Berecynthians), a tribe of Phrygians, and the Phrygians in general, and those of the Trojans who live round Ida, they too hold Rhea in honor and worship her with orgies, calling her Mother of the gods and Agdistis and Phrygia the Great Goddess, and also, from the places where she is worshipped, Idaia (Idaea) and Dindymene and Sipylene and Pessinuntis and Kybele (Cybele) and Kybebe. The Greeks use the same name Kouretes for the ministers of the goddess, not taking the name, however, from the same mythical story, but regarding them as a different set of Kouretes, helpers as it were, analogous to the Satyroi (Satyrs); and the same they also call Korybantes (Corybantes).
The poets bear witness to such views as I have suggested. For instance, when Pindar, in the dithyramb which begins with these words, ‘In earlier times there marched the lay of the dithyrambs long drawn out,’ mentions the hymns sung in honor of Dionysos, both the ancient and the later ones, and then, passing on from these, says, ‘To perform the prelude in thy honor, great Mother, the whirling of cymbals is at hand, and among them, also, the clanging of castanets, and the torch that blazeth beneath the tawny pine-trees,’ he bears witness to the common relationship between the rites exhibited in the worship of Dionysos among the Greeks and those in the worship of the Meter Theon (mother of the Gods) among the Phrygians, for he makes these rites closely akin to one another. And Euripides does likewise, in his Bakkhai, citing the Lydian usages at the same time with those of Phrygia, because of their similarity: ‘But ye who left Mt. Tmolos, fortress of Lydia, revel-band of mine, women whom I brought from the land of barbarians as my assistants and travelling companions, uplift the tambourines native to Phrygian cities, inventions of mine and mother Rhea.’
And again, ‘happy he who, blest man, initiated in the mystic rites, is pure in his life, . . . who, preserving the righteous orgies of the great mother Kybele, and brandishing the thyrsus on high, and wreathed with ivy, doth worship Dionysos. Come, ye Bakkhai (Bacchae), come, ye Bakkhai, bringing down Bromios, god the child of god, out of the Phrygian mountains into the broad highways of Greece.’
[IV. KOURETES AND KORYBANTES.]
And again, in the following verses he connects the Kretan usages also with the Phrygian : 'O thou hiding-bower of the Kouretes, and sacred haunts of Krete that gave birth to Zeus, where for me the triple-crested Korybantes (Corybantes) in their caverns invented this hide-stretched circlet, and blent its Bakkhic revelry with the high-pitched, sweet-sounding breath of Phrygian flutes, and in Rhea's hands placed its resounding noise, to accompany the shouts of the Bakkhai (Bacchae), and from Mother Rhea frenzied Satyroi (Satyrs) obtained it and joined it to the choral dances of the Trieterides, in whom Dionysus takes delight.
And in the Palamedes the Chorus says, ‘Thysa, daughter of Dionysos, who on Ida rejoices with his dear mother in the Iakkhic (Iacchic) revels of tambourines.’
And when they bring Seilenos (Silenus) and Marsyas and Olympos into one and the same connection, and make them the historical inventors of flutes, they again, a second time, connect the Dionysiac and the Phrygian rites; and they often in a confused manner drum on Ida and Olympos as the same mountain. Now there are four peaks of Ida called Olympos, near Antandria; and there is also the Mysian Olympos, which indeed borders on Ida, but is not the same. At any rate, Sophokles, in his Polyxena, representing Menelaus as in haste to set sail from Troy, but Agamemnon as wishing to remain behind for a short time for the sake of propitiating Athena, introduces Menelaüs as saying, ‘But do thou, here remaining, somewhere in the Idaian land collect flocks of Olympos and offer them in sacrifice.’
They invented names appropriate to the flute, and to the noises made by castanets, cymbals, and drums, and to their acclamations and shouts of ‘eu-ah,’ and stampings of the feet; and they also invented some of the names by which to designate the ministers, choral dancers, and attendants upon the sacred rites, I mean Kabeiroi (Cabeiri) and Korybantes and Panes and Satyroi (Satyrs) and Tityroi (Tityri), and they called the god Bakkhos (Bacchus) [Dionysos], and Rhea Kybele (Cybele) or Kybebe or Dindymene according to the places where she was worshipped. Sabazios (Sabazius) [the Phrygian Dionysos] also belongs to the Phrygian group and in a way is the child of the Meter (Mother), since he too transmitted the rites of Dionysos . . .
[VII. DAIMONES: KOURETES, KORYBANTES, TELKHINES, KABEIROI, DAKTYLOI.]
Further, one might also find, in addition to these facts concerning these Daimones and their various names, that they were called, not only ministers of gods, but also gods themselves. For instance, Hesiod says that five daughters were born to Hekateros (Hecaterus) and the daughter of Phoroneus, ‘from whom sprang the mountain-ranging Nymphai (Nymphs), goddesses, and the breed of Satyroi (Satyrs), creatures worthless and unfit for work, and also the Kouretes (Curetes), sportive gods, dancers.’
And the author of Phoronis speaks of the Kouretes as flute-players and Phrygians; and others as earth-born and wearing brazen shields. Some call the Korybantes, and not the Kouretes, Phrygians, but the Kouretes Kretes (Cretans), and say that the Kretes were the first people to don brazen armour in Euboia (Euboea), and that on this account they were also called Khalkidians (Chalcidians); still others say that the Korybantes, who came from Baktriana (some say from among the Kolkhians), were given as armed ministers to Rhea by the Titanes (Titans). But in the Kretan accounts the Kouretes are called rearers of Zeus, and protectors of Zeus, having been summoned from Phrygia to Krete (Crete) by Rhea.
Some say that, of the nine Telkhines (Telchines) who lived in Rhodes, those who accompanied Rhea to Krete and reared Zeus in his youth (kouros) were named Kouretes; and that Kyrbas (Cyrbas), a comrade of these, who was the founder of Hierapytna, afforded a pretext to the Prasians for saying among the Rhodians that the Korybantes (Corybantes) were certain Daimones, sons of Athena and Helios. Further, some call the Korybantes sons of Kronos (Cronus), but others say that the Korybantes were sons of Zeus and Kalliope (Calliope) and were identical with the Kabeiroi, and that these went off to Samothrake, which in earlier times was called Melite, and that their rites were mystical.
But though the Skepsian, who compiled these myths, does not accept the last statement, on the ground that no mystic story of the Kabeiroi (Cabeiri) is told in Samothrace, still he cites also the opinion of Stesimbrotos the Thasian that the sacred rites in Samothrake were performed in honor of the Kabeiroi: and the Skepsian says that they were called Kabeiroi after the mountain Kabeiros (Cabeirus) in Berekyntia. Some, however, believe that the Kouretes were the same as the Korybantes and were ministers of Hekate (Hecate) . But the Skepsian again states, in opposition to the words of Euripides, that the rites of Rhea were not sanctioned or in vogue in Krete, but only in Phrygia and the Troad, and that those who say otherwise are dealing in myths rather than in history, though perhaps the identity of the place-names contributed to their making this mistake. For instance, Ida is not only a Trojan, but also a Kretan, mountain; and Dikte is a place in Skepsia and also a mountain in Krete; and Pytna, after which the city Hierapytna was named, is a peak of Ida. And there is a Hippokorona in the territory of Adramyttion and a Hippocoronion in Krete. And Samonion is the eastern promontory of the island and a plain in the territory of Neandria and in that of the Alexandreians.
Akusilaüs, the Argive, calls Kadmilos (Cadmilus) the son of Kabeiro (Cabeiro) and Hephaistos (Hephaestus), and Kadmilos the father of three Kabeiroi (Cabeiri), and these the fathers of the Nymphai (Nymphs) called Kabeirides (Cabeirides). Pherekydes says that nine Kyrbantes (Cyrbantes) were sprung from Apollon and Rhetia, and that they took up their abode in Samothrake; and that three Kabeiroi and three Nymphai called Kabeirides were the children of Kabeiro, the daughter of Proteus, and Hephaistos, and that sacred rites were instituted in honor of each triad. Now it has so happened that the Kabeiroi are most honored in Imbros and Lemnos, but they are also honored in separate cities of the Troad; their names, however, are kept secret. Herodotos says that there were temples of the Kabeiroi in Memphis, as also of Hephaistos, but that Kambyses destroyed them. The places where these deities were worshipped are uninhabited, both the Korybanteion (Corybantium) in Hamaxitia in the territory now belonging to the Alexandreians near Sminthion, and Korybissa in Skepsia in the neighborhood of the river Eurëeis and of the village which bears the same name and also of the winter torrent Aithalöeis. The Skepsian says that it is probable that the Kouretes and the Korybantes were the same, being those who had been accepted as young men, or youths, for the war-dance in connection with the holy rites of the Mother of the gods, and also as ‘korybantes’ from the fact that they ‘walked with a butting of their heads’ in a dancing way. These are called by the poet ‘betarmones’ : ‘Come now, all ye that are the best "betarmones" of the Phaiakians.’
And because the Korybantes are inclined to dancing and to religious frenzy, we say of those who are stirred with frenzy that they are ‘korybantising.’
Some writers say that the name Daktyloi Idaioi (Idaean Dactyls) was given to the first settlers of the lower slopes of Mt. Ida, for the lower slopes of mountains are called ‘feet,’ and the summits ‘heads’; accordingly, the several extremities of Ida (all of which are sacred to the Mother of the gods) were called Daktyloi [meaning ‘fingers’]. Sophokles thinks that the first male Daktyloi were five in number, who were the first to discover and to work iron, as well as many other things which are useful for the purposes of life, and that their sisters were five in number, and that they were called Daktyloi from their number. But different writers tell the myth in different ways, joining difficulty to difficulty; and both the names and numbers they use are different; and they name one of them Kelmis (Celmis) and others Damnameneus and Herakles (Heracles) and Akmon (Acmon). Some call them natives of Ida, others settlers; but all agree that iron was first worked by these on Ida; and all have assumed that they were wizards and attendants of the Mother of the gods, and that they lived in Phrygia about Ida; and they use the term Phrygia for the Troad because, after Troy was sacked, the Phrygians, whose territory bordered on the Troad, got the mastery over it. And they suspect that both the Kouretes and the Korybantes were offspring of the Daktyloi Idaioi; at any rate, the first hundred men born in Krete were called Idaean Daktyloi, they say, and as offspring of these were born nine Kouretes, and each of these begot ten children who were called Daktyloi Idaioi.
I have been led on to discuss these people rather at length, although I am not in the least fond of myths, because the facts in their case border on the province of theology. And theology as a whole must examine early opinions and myths, since the ancients expressed enigmatically the physical notions which they entertained concerning the facts and always added the mythical element to their accounts. Now it is not easy to solve with accuracy all the enigmas, but if the multitude of myths be set before us, some agreeing and others contradicting one another, one might be able more readily to conjecture out of them what the truth is. For instance, men probably speak in their myths about the mountain-roaming of religious zealots and of gods themselves, and about their religious frenzies, for the same reason that they are prompted to believe that the gods dwell in the skies and show forethought, among their other interests, for prognostication by signs. Now seeking for metals, and hunting, and searching for the things that are useful for the purposes of life, are manifestly closely related to mountain-roaming, whereas juggling and magic are closely related to religious frenzies, worship, and divination. And such also is devotion to the arts, in particular to the Dionysiac and Orphic arts. But enough on this subject."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 36. 2 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"Mount Thaumasios (Wonderful) lies beyond the river Maloitas [in Arkadia], and the Methydrians hold that when Rhea was pregnant with Zeus, she came to this mountain and enlisted as her allies, in case Kronos (Cronus) should attack her, Hopladamos (Armed Warrior) and his few Gigantes [i.e. the Kouretes]. They allow that she gave birth to her son on some part of Mount Lykaios (Lycaeus), but they claim that here Kronos was deceived, and here took place the substitution of a stone for the child that is spoken of in the Greek legend."
Pausanias, Description of Greece 8. 32. 5 :
"Gigantes [i.e. the earth-born] mustered by Hopladamos to fight for Rhea."
RHEA COMPANIONS : PAN
The mountain-dwelling, goat-footed god of the herds was a companion of Rhea in Arkadian myth.
Pindar,Maiden Songs Fragment 95 (trans. Sandys) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"O Pan, that rulest over Arkadia, and art the warder of holy shrines . . . thou companion of the Megale Mater (Great Mother)."
For MORE information on this god see PAN
CYBELE ATTENDANTS : ATTIS
The eunuch Attis was the consort, companion, charioteer and herald of the Phrygian goddess Kybele. He is never mentioned in connection with the Greek Rhea however.
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 20. 35 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Rheia the loverattle goddess, seated in her lionchariot . . . [Attis] drove the team of the chariot . . . Kybele's (Cybele's) charioteer, a softskinned man in looks with shrill tones like the voice of a woman."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 25. 310 ff :
"A messenger came [to Dionysos] in haste through the Skythian mountains from divine Rheia, sterile Attis in his trailing robe, whipping up the travelling team of lions . . . This was the messenger who came driving the car of goddess Kybele, to comfort discouraged Lyaios (Lyaeus). Seeing him Dionysos sprang up, thinking perchance he might have brought the allconquering Rheia to the Indian War. Attis checked the wild team, and hung the reins on the handrail, and disclosing the smooth surface of his rosy cheeks, called out a flood of loud words to Bakkhos (Bacchus)--‘. . . Not yet have you brought a herd of eastern lions from India as a token of victory for the breeder of beasts, the mother of the gods!’
. . . and guided the hillranging car on the road back to Phrygia . . . There he entered the divine precinct selfbuilt of Rheia, mother of mighty sons. He freed his ravening lions from the yokestraps, and haltered them at the manger which he filled with ambrosial fodder."
For MORE information on Kybele's consort see ATTIS
CYBELE COMPANIONS : SABAZIUS - DIONYSUS
The Phrygian god Sabazios (who the Greeks identified with Dionysos) was the son and companion of Kybele who shared in her orgiastic rites.
For MYTHS of Kybele and Sabazios see Cybele & the Mentoring of Sabazius (next page)
- Pindar, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Greek Lyric V Timotheus, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Pausanias, Description of Greece - Greek Travelogue C2nd A.D.
- The Orphic Hymns - Greek Hymns C3rd B.C. - C2nd A.D.
- Aelian, On Animals - Greek Natural History C2nd - 3rd A.D.
- Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana - Greek Biography C2nd A.D.
- Oppian, Cynegetica - Greek Poetry C3rd A.D.
- Nonnus, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Ovid, Fasti - Latin Poetry C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
- Virgil, Aeneid - Latin Epic C1st B.C.
- Propertius, Elegies - Latin Elegy C1st B.C.
- Valerius Flaccus, The Argonautica - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Statius, Thebaid - Latin Epic C1st A.D.
- Suidas, The Suda - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.