The Mother of the Gods, Athens, and the Tyranny of Asia: A Study of Sovereignty in Ancient Religion

The Mother of the Gods, Athens, and the Tyranny of Asia: A Study of Sovereignty in Ancient Religion

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By (author) Mark H. Munn

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  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Format: Hardback | 476 pages
  • Dimensions: 158mm x 229mm x 41mm | 431g
  • Publication date: 11 July 2006
  • Publication City/Country: Berkerley
  • ISBN 10: 0520243498
  • ISBN 13: 9780520243491
  • Illustrations note: 10 b/w photographs, 6 line illustrations, 3 maps

Product description

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.

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Author information

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.

Review quote

"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"

Back cover copy

"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

Table of contents

List of Illustrations Preface Abbreviations Introduction 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 Conclusions Bibliography General Index Index of Select Greek Terms Index Locorum