Cybele, terra-cotta statuette, from Camirus, Rhodes, early 5th century BC; in the British Museum, elipsis
Deity of the ancient Mediterranean world. Her cult originated in Phrygia in Asia Minor and spread to the Greek world, where she was identified with Rhea
. It reached Rome by the 3rd century BC
and became a major cult during the empire. Known by a variety of local names, Cybele was venerated as the universal mother of gods, humans, and animals. Her lover was the fertility god Attis
. Her priests, the Galli, castrated themselves when they entered her service, and on her festival day they spattered their blood on her altar and her sacred pine tree.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.