Page:Journal of American Folklore vol. 12.djvu/549

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The Worship and Folk-Lore of Meteorites. 201

rity and importance in Roman history, and was worshipped through long centuries as the image of Cybele. It was described as conical in shape and ending in a point ; brown in color and looking like a piece of lava. It fell at some unknown early time near Pessinus on the border line between Phrygia and Galatia. The worship of Cybele being carried on there, the stone was set up and adored as her image. At the time when Hannibal was maintaining his army in Italy, and threatening the Roman state, a shower of stones occurred which alarmed the Romans as to their future, and caused them to consult the sibylline books as to what should be done. The response was that whenever a foreign enemy had carried war into Italy, he could be expelled and conquered if the Idasan mother (this meteoric stone) be brought from Pessinus to Rome. Accordingly with the greatest ceremony the stone was brought to Rome. A new ship was built to carry it, and it was received in the city with elaborate rites and festivals of many days' duration. Before another year had passed, Hannibal had been forced back to Africa. In gratitude for deliverance a temple was erected to Cybele. In it a silver statue of the goddess was placed, and the stone was made to serve as her head. For more than 500 years thereafter the stone was an object of public worship. In the course of time, however, the worship was discontinued, and the stone disappeared from view, probably, alas ! never to be found again. It has been searched for most industri- ously by modern excavators, but no trace has ever been found of it except an account of its probable rejection. The chances of its ever being discovered seem now therefore exceedingly small.

Heliogabahis} — This meteoric stone was worshipped in the time of Emperor Macrinus as the image of the Sun God. According to tradition, it fell from heaven, and is described as " a large stone rounded on the base, and gradually tapering upward to a sharp point ; it is shaped like a cone. In color it is black, and they show certain small prominences and depressions in the stone." Such a description accords well with those of the peculiar features of a meteoric stone. The stone was first worshipped in Asia on the banks of the Orontes between Damascus and Antioch, a magnificent temple being built over it there. Macrinus, on becoming emperor, had the stone brought to Rome, where its worship was carried on with the most costly and elaborate ceremonies as long as he reigned. After his death, however, the worship was probably discontinued, as nothing more can be learned of the stone or of this form of wor- ship.

The Image of Artemis at Ephesus? — This image was the central

1 Newton, /. c. p. 11.

2 Fletcher, /. c. p. iS; Newton, /. c. p. 13.

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