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Birgitte Bøgh

Danish National Research Foundation's Centre for Black Sea Studies

University of Aarhus, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 3, bygn. 1451, lok. 321

DK-8000 Aarhus C

Tel.: +45 89 42 54 08


Research profile

I am a ph.d. student working on a project entitled "Mother of the Gods: The reception and transformation of an Anatolian goddess in the Black Sea area". I have a M.A. in History of Religions and Classical Studies from the University of Aarhus, and during my years of studying I have focused on the religions of the Graeco-Roman age with a special emphasis on the cult of Isis.

Research Project

My ph.d. project focuses on the cult of Matar (or Kybele, as she is more commonly known) in the Black Sea region. This goddess was originally from Phrygia in central Anatolia and was already in the 6th century BC popular in the eastern Greek cities of Ionia. Later, in the 5th century BC, she had also captured the hearts of the rest of Greece, and in the Hellenistic and Roman age, she had become one of the most sensational and beloved, yet also one of the most feared and detested goddesses of the Graeco-Roman world. Concerning the Black Sea area, it can be established that there are traces of her cult in 6th century BC, and that it existed in this area for approximately 1000 years.

The Black sea, geographically situated in the periphery of the Roman empire, has often been viewed as culturally peripherical, as well. Given that the archaeological material exhibits types of representations not seen in the Mediterranean countries until decades later - like a statue of Matar from the 6th century BC holding a tympanon, and a collection of coins from the 4th century BC presenting Meter riding on a lion - I expect to present a more nuanced picture of Black Sea region in this regard.

The cult has been carefully examined as a typical Hellenistic mystery religion in Greece and Rome, and we also possess a thorough knowledge of Matar's background and development in her native country, Phrygia. However, no comparative studies of her cult in the Black Sea area exist, despite the fact that a lot of archaeological material is available from this region, and even though local researchers have engaged themselves in this religion for some years now. In my project I will try to throw light on the worship of Matar in the Black Sea area (including the Propontic region) with a special attendance to the reception of the cult: When did Matar arrive in this area, and who introduced her - that is, did the cult get there in a Greek disguise, or did the Phrygians themselves introduce the goddess? What were her "fields of responsibility", and what epithets did she have? What shape did the worship assume, and by what means did the cult vary from the cult in other parts of the Graeco-Roman world? Does the cult fulfil the demands that we usually make on mystery religions? To what degree did the local traditions influence the cult, and to which extent is it reasonable to maintain that the cult was Hellenized and Romanized (interpretatio graeca or romana)? Starting from an analysis of Matar's identifications and associations with other divinities, I will furthermore include discussions of a broader theoretical character, namely on the phenomenon of transformation on a more general level, and on notions such as syncretism, creolisation, and acculturation.

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