Agdistis (Gr. polytonic|Ἀγδίστις) was a deity of Greek, Roman and Anatolian mythology, possessing both male and female sexual organs, connected with the
Phrygian worship of Attisand Cybele.Citation
last = Schmitz | first = Leonhard | author-link = | contribution = Agdistis | editor-last = Smith | editor-first = William | title =
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology| volume = 1 | pages = 67 | publisher = | place = Boston | year = 1867 | contribution-url = http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/0076.html ] Her androgynywas seen as symbolic of a wild, uncontrolled nature and, as a trait threatening to the gods, was condemned and destroyed by them.
According to Pausanias, on one occasion
Zeusunwittingly begot by the Earth a superhuman being which was at once man and woman, and was called Agdistis. In other versions, there was a rock, called "Agdo", on which the Great Mother slept. Zeus couldn't get the Great Mother pregnant, so he impregnated the rock, which brought forth Agdistis.Citation | last = | first = | author-link = | contribution = Agdistis | editor-last = Turner | editor-first = Patricia | title = Dictionary of Ancient Deities | volume = 1 | pages = 24 | publisher = Oxford University Press| place = Oxford | year = | contribution-url = ]
The gods were afraid of the multi-gendered Agdistis. One deity (in some versions
Liber, in others Dionysus) put a sleeping draught in Agdistis's drinking well. After the potion had put Agdistis to sleep, the deity tied his foot to his male genitalia (polytonic|αἰδοῖα) with a strong rope. When he awoke and tried to free himself, Agdistis ripped his penisoff, castrating himself. The blood from his severed genitals fertilized the earth, and from that spot grew an almondtree. Once when Nana, daughter of the river-god Sangarius, was gathering the fruit of this tree, she put some almonds (or, in some accounts, a pomegranate) into her bosom; but here the almonds disappeared, and she became pregnant with Attis. [Pausanias, "Description of Greece" vii. 17. § 5] In some versions, Attis was born directly out of the almond.
Attis 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, and he went accordingly. In some versions, the king betroths Attis to his daughter to punish Attis for his incestuous relationship with his mother. At the moment when the marriage song had commenced, Agdistis appeared, and all of the wedding guests were instantly driven mad, and both Attis and the king of Pessinus castrated themselves. Agdistis now repented her deed, and obtained from Zeus the promise that the body of Attis should not become decomposed or disappear. This is 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 Attis was believed to be buried, is also mentioned by Pausanias. [Pausanias, "Description of Greece" i. 4. § 5]
A story somewhat different is given by
Arnobius, in which Attis is beloved by both Agdistis and Cybele. [ Arnobius, "Adversus Gentes" ix. 5. § 4; comp. Mimic. Felix, 21] cite book | last = Lancellotti | first = Maria Grazia | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Attis, Between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God | publisher = Brill Publishers| date = 2002 | location = Amsterdam | pages = 20, 92 | url = http://books.google.com/books?id=oE8vW4BX9kwC | doi = | id = | isbn = 90-0-412851-4]
The cult of Agdistis
According to Hesychius [
Hesychius of Alexandria, "s.v."] and Strabo, [ Strabo, xii. p. 567; comp. x. p. 469] Agdistis is the same as Cybele, who was worshiped at Pessinusunder that name. In many ancient inscriptions, Agdestis is clearly distinct from Cybele, but in many others she is listed as merely an epithetof Cybele.cite book | last = Gasparro | first = Giulia Sfameni | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Soteriology and Mystic Aspects in the Cult of Cybele and Attis | publisher = Brill Publishers| date = 1985 | location = Amsterdam | pages = 34 | url = http://books.google.com/books?id=K_EUAAAAIAAJ | doi = | id = | isbn = 90-0-407283-7]
Although a primarily an
Anatolian goddess, the cult of Agdistis covered a good deal of territory. By 250 BCit had spread to Egypt, and later to Attica: notably it could be found in Piraeusas early as the 3rd or 4th century BC, Rhamnusaround 80 BC(where there was a sanctuaryof Agdistis), and Lesbosand Panticapeumsome time later on. Inscriptions honoring her have been found at Mithymnaand Paros. In the 1st century BC, her shrine in Philadelphia in Asia Minorrequired a strict code of behavior. At that location and others she is found with " theoi soteres". Citation
last = Walton | first = Francis Redding | author-link = | contribution = Agdistis | editor-last = Hornblower | editor-first = Simon | title =
Oxford Classical Dictionary| volume = | pages = | publisher = Oxford University Press| place = Oxford | year = 1996 | contribution-url = ] Inscriptions found at Sardisfrom the 4th century BCindicate that priests of Zeuswere not permitted to take part in the mysteries of Agdistis. [cite book | last = Turcan | first = Robert | authorlink = | coauthors = Antonia Nevill | title = The Cults of the Roman Empire | publisher = Blackwell Publishing| date = 1996 | location = Oxford | pages = 31-34 | url = http://books.google.com/books?id=Q6sSsAR0ZO8C | doi = | id = | isbn = 0-631-20047-9]
Scholars have theorized that Agdistis is part of a continuum of androgynous Anatolian deities, including an ancient
Phrygian deity probably named "Andistis" and one called "Adamma", stretching all the way back to the ancient kingdom of Kizzuwatnain the 2nd millennium BC. There is also some epigraphic evidence that in places Agdistis was considered a healing goddess of wholly benevolent nature.
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