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The Mother of the Gods, Athens, and the Tyranny of Asia

A Study of Sovereignty in Ancient Religion

Mark H. Munn (Author)


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Among maternal deities of the Greek pantheon, the Mother of the Gods was a paradox. She is variously described as a devoted mother, a chaste wife, an impassioned lover, and a virgin daughter; she is said to be both foreign and familiar to the Greeks. In this erudite and absorbing study, Mark Munn examines how the cult of Mother of the Gods came from Phrygia and Lydia, where she was the mother of tyrants, to Athens, where she protected the laws of the Athenian democracy. Analyzing the divergence of Greek and Asiatic culture at the beginning of the classical era, Munn describes how Kybebe, the Lydian goddess who signified fertility and sovereignty, assumed a different aspect to the Greeks when Lydia became part of the Persian empire. Conflict and resolution were played out symbolically, he shows, and the goddess of Lydian tyranny was eventually accepted by the Athenians as the Mother of the Gods, and as a symbol of their own sovereignty.

This book elegantly illustrates how ancient divinities were not static types, but rather expressions of cultural systems that responded to historical change. Presenting a new perspective on the context in which the Homeric and Hesiodic epics were composed, Munn traces the transformation of the Asiatic deity who was the goddess of Sacred Marriage among the Assyrians and Babylonians, equivalent to Ishtar. Among the Lydians, she was the bride to tyrants and the mother of tyrants. To the Greeks, she was Aphrodite. An original and compelling consideration of the relations between the Greeks and the dominant powers of western Asia, The Mother of the Gods, Athens, and the Tyranny of Asia is the first thorough examination of the way that religious cult practice and thought influenced political activities during and after the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.
List of Illustrations

1. Sovereignty and Divinity in Classical Greek Thought
The Study of Religion in Greek History
Sovereignty and Tyranny
Sovereignty and Greek Religion
Theogony; or, The Conditions of Sovereignty
Humanity and Divine Sovereignty
The Passing of an Age of Innocence
The Quest for Transcendent Divinity

2. The Mother of the Gods and the Sovereignty of Midas
The Mother of the Gods and “the Phrygian Man” at Athens
The Land of Midas
The Home of Kybele, the Mother of the Gods
The Mother of Midas
Sovereignty and the Gods of Phrygia
The Legacy of Midas

3. The Mother of the Gods and the Ideals of Lydian Tyranny
The Lover of Gordius
Sovereigns and Their Concubines
Aphrodite and Lydian Tyranny
Aphrodite, Kybebe, and Kubaba
Kubaba, Kybebe, and Kybele
Mistress of Lions and the Consort of the King
The Ideals of Lydian Tyranny: A Summary So Far

4. The Mother of the Gods and the Practices of Lydian Tyranny
Tyranny and Fertility
The Grief of the Goddess
Grieving for Atys
The Tribute of Tyranny
Deifying the Mother of Kingship
Eunuchs, Tyranny, and the Mother of the Gods
Artemis and the Mother
The Legacy of Lydia

5. Asia, the Oikoumen9, and the Map of the World
The Idea of Asia
Anaximander’s Map
Kingship and the Oikoumen9
The Itinerary of the Oikoumen9
The Balance of Justice in the World
The Landscape of Creation at Sardis
The Purification of Delos
The Rulership of the Sea
Hecataeus’ Map

6. The Mother of the Gods and Persian Sovereignty
Earth and Water
The Persians and the Gods of Lydia
Scythia and the Oikoumen9
Athens, Tyranny, and Persia
The Ionian Revolt
The Heralds of Darius
The M9tragyrt9s at Athens
The Legacy of the M9tragyrt9s: The Argument So Far

7. Persian Sovereignty and the Gods of the Athenians
The Mother of the Gods Rejected
Placating Artemis and Honoring Demeter
Miltiades, Themistocles, and the Mother of the Gods
Founding the League at Delos
The Peace of Callias
Honoring Athena on the Acropolis

8. Herodotus and the Gods
Religion in Greek Historical Thought
Herodotus and the Unnamed Divinity
Religion and Universal History
Herodotus’ Way of Knowing the Past
The Knowledge Herodotus Shared with His Audience
Herodotus, the Gods, and History

9. The Mother of the Gods at Athens
Alcibiades’ Tyrannical Ambitions
The Symbiotic Sovereignty of Greeks and Persians
The Mother of the Gods Accepted
The Mother of the Gods and the Sovereignty of the Laws
The Names of the Mother
The Mother of the Gods in Greek Historiography
The Mother of the Gods, Spartan Hegemony, and War
The Mother of the Gods, Athenian Hegemony, and Peace

General Index
Index of Select Greek Terms
Index Locorum
Mark Munn is Associate Professor of History and Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of The School of History: Athens in the Age of Socrates (2000) and The Defense of Attica: The Dema Wall and the Boiotian War of 378-375 B.C. (1993), both from California.
“A valuable, resourceful and innovative book.”—Maya Vassileva Ancient West & East
“Addresses several extraordinarily important and intriguing subjects.”—Bridges
“A very rich book . . . that deserves to be read.”—Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR)
“Elegantly and persuasively argued. . . . In method, evidence, and conclusions, this is an important and often enlightening book.”—Choice
“The significance of Munn’s work extends far beyond the narrow confines of the history analyzed and interpreted here.”—Review Of Biblical Literature
"This book is a remarkable achievement: fascinating, stimulating, in many ways brilliant and revolutionary because it forces us at every turn and on almost every page to reassess traditional views, familiar explanations, and a worldview we took for granted."—Kurt Raaflaub, co-author of The Origins of Democracy in Ancient Greece

"Munn has a superb gift for association, interconnecting facts into completely unexpected new vistas."—Henrik Versnel, author of Triumphus: An Inquiry into the Origin, Development and Meaning of the Roman Triumph

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