Attis wearing the Phrygian cap.
Terracotta thymiaterion from Tarsus (Louvre).
Attis is a deity or semi-deity in the Phrygian and Greek mythology. He is the consort of Cybele and 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.
Some authors say, that the Christian religion partly origins from the Attis cult. To support this view, they see a number of parallels, as listed below.
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.
Jesus and Attis were both born from a virgin. > One difference is, though, that Jesus’s mother was human while Attis’s mother Nana was a nymph. Further, Maria got pregnant by the Holy Spirit and Nana got pregnant by an almond from a daemon. Another version of the legend tells that the goddess Cybele (not a virgin) was his mother.
Jesus and Attis both died a violent death. > Jesus was crucified and Attis killed himself, or, in an old Lydian version of the story, was killed by a boar.
Jesus and Attis both resurrected from the death. > According to some versions, Attis was reborn as the evergreen pine, in another version, he just disappeared and in yet other versions, he was indeed resurrected by either Zeus or Cybele. The resurrection played an important role in the Roman cult in the first century. This may be influenced by Christianity.
The Attis cult included that the worshippers had a meal, that symbolized the body of Attis, just like the Holy Communion of the Christians. > They did have a meal, but there is no evidence that this symbolized the body of Attis. Furthermore, this meal was part of an extensive yearly ritual, while in the first century the christian communion was held separately and frequently, although the exact frequency is not known.
Attis of Phrygia offers the following similarities to Jesus, according to some critics:
Attis was born on December 25th of the Virgin Nana.
He was considered the savior who was slain for the salvation of mankind.
His body as bread was eaten by his worshippers.
His priests were “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.”
He was both the Divine Son and the Father.
On “Black Friday,” he was crucified on a tree, from which his holy blood ran down to redeem the earth.
He descended into the underworld.
After three days, Attis was resurrected on March 25th (as tradition held of Jesus) as the “Most High God.”
Attis was represented as a “a man tied to a tree, at the foot of which was a lamb, and, without doubt also as a man nailed to a tree…”
On March 22nd, a pine tree was felled and “an effigy of the god was affixed to it, thus being slain and hung on a tree…” Later the priests are supposed to have found Attis’ grave empty.