Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology/Agdistis

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AGDISTIS (Ἄγδιστις), a mythical being connected with the Phrygian worship of Attes or Atys. Pausanias (vii. 17. § 5) relates the following story about Agdistis. On one occasion Zeus unwittingly begot by the Earth a superhuman being which was at once man and woman, and was called Agdistis. The gods dreaded it and unmanned it, and from its severed αἰδοῖα there grew up an almond-tree. Once when the daughter of the river-god Sangarius was gathering the fruit of this tree, she put some almonds into her bosom; but here the almonds disappeared, and she became the mother of Attes, who was of such extraordinary beauty, that when he had grown up Agdistis fell in love with him. His relatives, however, destined him to become the husband of the daughter of the king of Pessinus, whither he went accordingly. But at the moment when the hymeneal song had commenced, Agdistis appeared, and Attes was seized by a fit of madness, in which he unmanned himself; the king who had given him his daughter did the same. Agdistis now repented her deed, and obtained from Zeus the promise that the body of Attes should not become decomposed or disappear. This is, says Pausanias, the most popular account of an otherwise mysterious affair, which is probably part of a symbolical worship of the creative powers of nature. A hill of the name Agdistis in Phrygia, at the foot of which Attes was believed to be buried, is mentioned by Pausanias. (i. 4. § 5.) According to Hesychius (s. v.) and Strabo (xii. p. 567; comp. x. p. 469), Agdistis is the same as Cybele, who was worshipped at Pessinus under that name. A story somewhat different is given by Arnobius. (Adv. Gent. ix. 5. § 4; comp. Minuc. Felix, 21.) [L. S.]