In pagan mythology, Cybele was a nature goddess in Asia Minor, the great “mother of the gods,” the patroness of nature and fertility, and came to the western world from Phrygia. In the Ephesus Museum there is a display devoted to the cult.
On our recent trip to Greece at Delphi we saw the remains of a site devoted to the worship of Cybele.
At first this cult was not very popular in Rome, since it was accompanied by ecstatic excesses. By the beginning of the imperial era, however, its influence increased, especially when the emperor Claudius extended his patronage to it. From that time Roman citizens could become priests of Cybele. (The New Testament Milieu).
The worship of Artemis and Cybele in the process of time morphed into one.
Two remarkable aspects of Hellenistic religion are syncretism and the role of the mystery religions. When, as a result of Alexander the Great’s conquests, the city-state disappeared from Greece and the national borders were blurred, the frontiers between the domains of the various deities were also effaced. In Alexander’s world empire and in the large Hellenistic kingdoms of his successors, an enormous cultural and religious commingling gradually occurred. People came to know one another’s gods and accepted them as their own, because they no longer regarded them as alien forces. They were simply worshipped under other names and with different rites in the various countries. So the Greek goddess Artemis and Cybele of Asia Minor were equated: they were no longer regarded as two different goddesses, but as one and the same divinity with various names. (ibid.)
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