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RA 6E: Mother of the Gods: reception and transformation of an Anatolian deity

One of the main narratives testifying to the clash of Greek and Nomadic civilisations in the Black Sea region is the story of how the Hellenised Scythian prince Anacharsis, who tried to introduce the Meter cult in the territory of Olbia, was killed by his own tribesmen “because he left his country for Hellas and followed the customs of strangers” (Herodotos 4.76). Herodotos, who was writing in the mid 5th century BC, perceived the Meter cult as an exponent of Greek cult. But the Meter cult was of Anatolian origin, and before she was introduced to the Greeks, she had had a long independent life as the most important deity of central Anatolia, the purveyor of fertility and power. Her entering into the Greek pantheon was late and the transmission happened not surprisingly in the Greek cities of the west coast of Asia Minor (late 7th-early 6th century BC). Moreover, Greek attitude to her cult was and remained ambivalent, and even though she received honours at state level, she nevertheless was left at the margins of the Greek pantheon as a consequence of her eastern origin. Whereas the Meter cult is relatively well studied in the Anatolian homeland, no comprehensive study has ever made in the Black Sea region. What we possess is again confined to small parts of the region. Her cult may have been introduced to the region prior to the Greek colonisation, and the ancient author Strabon even ascribes the origin of the Korybants to Kolchis (10.3.9). A diachronic analysis of the deity, the cult and its transformations within the Anatolian neighbour region will contribute significantly to our understanding of the interregional interconnectedness and to religion and cult as a primary force in cultural exchange. The interdisciplinary milieu of the Centre will provide the unique opportunity to maximize integration and analysis of all available sources (iconography, archaeology, and text).

Responsible: Birgitte Bøgh

Main activity:  PhD dissertation

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