The one-day symposium »The cult of Meter/Kybele in western Anatolia« in the Theatersaal of the OeAW in Fall 2017 was attended by ten scholars from Germany, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Turkey and the US respectively in order to discuss questions regarding the religious history and archaeology of the cult of the goddess who played a very important role in ancient Anatolia.
The route from northern Mesopotamia and Phrygia to western Anatolia and the Aegean
The first part of the symposium dealt with the origin of the cult which reaches back to at least the Bronze Age and also includes Oriental elements (Fahri Işık, Burdur). Here, the developments were studied that the religious ideas of this goddess and her rites underwent in the course of the centuries and as a result of its adoption by new cultures. The route led from Karkemiş (Michèle Meijer, Amsterdam) and Phrygia (Susanne Berndt-Ersöz, Stockholm) to Lydia (Gallart Marques, Ithaca) and Ionia (Aygün Ekin Meriç, Izmir).
Cult images of Meter
Contrary to general assumptions, the question regarding the appearance of the cult images of Meter in the Greco-Roman period is not easily answered, as demonstrated by Tanja Scheer (Göttingen). This mainly relates to the early period of the cult because written sources of the Archaic period are lacking. Later authors frequently include contradictory or unreliable statements, as is the case of the cult image of Meter of Pessinus.
Kybele and Artemis: the ambiguous iconography in the Archaic period
Four presentations focused on the iconography of Meter/Kybele in the Archaic period and on their relationship to related deities, in particular to Artemis. Evgenia Vikela (Kerkyra) discussed the Kybele sanctuaries on the Greek mainland and the Aegean islands of the 6th and 5th century BCE. Antoine Hermary (Aix-en-Provence/Marseille) proposed that the lion in the Archaic and early Classical period should not be iconographically reserved for Kybele but instead should be understood as representations of power and strength of various female deities, in particular also Artemis. This idea was picked up by Laura Rohaut (Aix-en-Provence/Marseille) and further expounded on a large material basis. Michael Kerschner (Vienna) presented a new Naiskos-stele from the sanctuary of Artemis Chitone in Miletus. The deposition of the stele in the temenos, which is epigraphically connected with Artemis, supports the interpretation of the depicted goddess as Artemis.
From Kubaba and Matar Kubileya to Kybele and Meter
In his evening lecture Jan Bremmer (Groningen) analyzed the origins and dissemination path of the goddess. He illustrated that it initially was not a homogeneous figure. Instead it was two different mother goddess – the northern Mesopotamian Kubaba and the Phrygian Matar Kubileya – that were fused in the Aegean to one goddess – Kybele/Meter.