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Anatolia and the Phrygian Cap

Hebat, also transcribed Kheba or Khepat, was the mother goddess of the Hurrians, known as “the mother of all living”. She is also a Queen of the gods. Hebat is the wife of Teshub, the Hurrian god of sky and storm, and the mother of Sarruma, the “king of the mountains”, and Alanzu, as well mother-in-law of the daughter of the dragon Illuyanka.

The mother goddess is likely to have had a later counterpart in the Phrygian goddess Cybele, the “Mountain Mother”. Cybele may have evolved from an Anatolian Mother Goddess of a type found at Çatalhöyük, dated to the 6th millennium BC.

This corpulent, fertile Mother Goddess appears to be giving birth on her throne, which has two feline-headed hand rests. In Phrygian art of the 8th century BC, the cult attributes of the Phrygian mother-goddess include attendant lions, a bird of prey, and a small vase for her libations or other offerings.

Cybele was an originally Anatolian mother goddess. Little is known of her oldest Anatolian cults, other than her association with mountains, hawks and lions. She may have been Phrygia’s state deity; her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread from there to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies from around the 6th century BC.

Attis was the consort of Cybele (Hebat) in Phrygian and Greek mythology. His priests were eunuchs, the Galli, as explained by origin myths pertaining to Attis and castration.

Attis was also a Phrygian god of vegetation, and in his self-mutilation, death, and resurrection he represents the fruits of the earth, which die in winter only to rise again in the spring.

An Attis cult began around 1250 BC in Dindymon (today’s Murat Dağı of Gediz, Kütahya). He was originally a local semi-deity of Phrygia, associated with the great Phrygian trading city of Pessinos, which lay under the lee of Mount Agdistis. The mountain was personified as a daemon, whom foreigners associated with the Great Mother Cybele.

Some authors say, that the Christian religion partly origins from the Attis cult. Attis is known to be worshipped between 500 B.C. and 400 A.C., first in Phrygia and eventually even in Rome. During this period, the legend of Attis has taken many forms, which makes it hard to comment on the parallels.

It is hard to determine which version of the legend was most popular at the time when and the place where Christianity emerged.

The Phrygian cap is a soft conical cap with the top pulled forward, associated in antiquity with the inhabitants of Phrygia, a region of central Anatolia.

The Phrygian cap identifies Trojans such as Paris in vase-paintings and sculpture, and it is worn by the syncretic saviour god Mithras and by the Anatolian god Attis who were later adopted by Romans and Hellenic cultures.

In the later parts of Roman history, the god Mithras – whose worship was widespread until suppressed by Christianity – was regularly portrayed as wearing a Phrygian cap, fitting with his being perceived as a god who had “come out of the East”.

Both Vedic Mitra and Avestan Mithra derive from an Indo-Iranian common noun *mitra-, generally reconstructed to have meant “covenant, treaty, agreement, promise.” This meaning is preserved in Avestan mithra “covenant.” In Sanskrit and modern Indo-Aryan languages, mitra means “friend,” one of the aspects of binding and alliance.

The first extant record of Indo-Aryan Mitra, in the form mi-it-ra-, is in the inscribed peace treaty of c. 1400 BC between Hittites and the Hurrian kingdom of the Mitanni in the area southeast of Lake Van in Asia Minor. There Mitra appears together with four other Indo-Aryan divinities as witnesses and keepers of the pact.

This kingdom was known as the Maryannu, Nahrin or Mitanni to the Egyptians, Hurri to the Hittites and Hanigalbat to the Assyrians. All three names were equivalent and interchangeable.

Maryannu is an ancient word for the caste of chariot-mounted hereditary warrior nobility which dominated many of the societies of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The term is attested in the Amarna letters written by Haapi. Robert Drews writes that the name ‘maryannu’ although plural takes the singular ‘marya’, which in Sanskrit means young warrior, and attaches a Hurrian suffix.

The Kura–Araxes culture or the early trans-Caucasian culture, was a civilization that existed from 3400 BC until about 2000 BC. The earliest evidence for this culture is found on the Ararat plain. Jaimoukha believes that its southern expanse is attributable primarily to Mitanni and the Hurrians.

Founded by an Indo-Aryan ruling class governing a predominately Hurrian population, Mitanni came to be a regional power after the Hittite destruction of Amorite Babylon, and a series of ineffectual Assyrian kings created a power vacuum in Mesopotamia.

At the beginning of its history, Mitanni’s major rival was Egypt under the Thutmosids. However, with the ascent of the Hittite empire, Mitanni and Egypt made an alliance to protect their mutual interests from the threat of Hittite domination.

At the height of its power, during the 14th century BC, it had outposts centered around its capital, Washukanni, whose location has been determined by archaeologists to be on the headwaters of the Khabur River.

Some theonyms, proper names and other terminology of the Mitanni exhibit close similarities to Indo-Aryan, suggesting that an Indo-Aryan elite imposed itself over the Hurrian population in the course of the Indo-Aryan expansion.

The names of the Mitanni aristocracy frequently are of Indo-Aryan origin, but it is specifically their deities which show Indo-Aryan roots (Mitra, Varuna, Indra, Nasatya).

Hurrian is related to Urartian, the language of Urartu, both belonging to the Hurro-Urartian language family. In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521/0 BC by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.

The name Mithra was adopted by the Greeks and Romans as Mithras, chief figure in the mystery religion of Mithraism. At first identified with the Sun-god Helios by the Greeks, the syncretic Mithra-Helios was transformed into the figure Mithras during the 2nd century BC, probably at Pergamon.

This new cult was taken to Rome around the 1st century BC and was dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. Popular among the Roman military, Mithraism was spread as far north as Hadrian’s Wall and the Germanic Limes.

The Macedonian, Thracian, Dacian and 12th-century Norman military helmets had a forward peaked top resembling the Phrygian cap called Phrygian type helmets.

In the western provinces of the Roman Empire it came to signify freedom and the pursuit of liberty, perhaps through a confusion with the pileus, the felt cap of manumitted (emancipated) slaves of ancient Rome.

John R. Hinnells has written of Mitra/Mithra/Mithras as a single deity worshipped in several different religions. On the basis of his astronomical interpretation of Mithraism, David Ulansey argues for a “profound kinship between Mithraism and Christianity”, in that Mithras, like Jesus Christ, was considered to be “a being from beyond the universe”.

Ulansey suggests that these two figures, Mithras and Jesus, “are to some extent both manifestations of a single deep longing in the human spirit”.

Accordingly, the Phrygian cap is sometimes called a liberty cap; in artistic representations it signifies freedom and the pursuit of liberty.

The pileus was worn in Illyria, Epirus and Ancient Greece and later copied by Ancient Rome. It was associated with the manumission of slaves. who wore it upon their liberation, and became emblematic of liberty and freedom from bondage.

During the classic revival of the 18th and 19th centuries it was widely confused with the Phrygian cap which, in turn, appeared frequently on statuary and heraldic devices as a “liberty cap.”

Stephane Hessel, the concentration camp survivor who inspired the Occupy Wall Street movement, had a Phrygian cap, an icon of the French Revolution, on him when he spoked at a rally of Solidarite-Palestine in Paris, January 18 2011.

In 2011, one of the names given to the 2011 Spanish protests against corruption and bipartisan politics was Los Indignados (The Outraged), taken from the title of the book’s translation there (¡Indignaos!).

The Spanish protests later inspired other protests all around the world, including Greece, Israel and Occupy Wall Street in the United States.

According to Hessel his runaway best-seller “Indignez-Vous” (Be Indignant!) is a call to action to protect human rights and combat the yawning gap between rich and poor.

Attis – Jesus

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