Attis, between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God

Attis, between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God

Attis, between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God

Attis, between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God

Synopsis

This volume deals with the figure of Attis. The work aims to reconsider the mythical and cultic information about this character, trying to provide proof of the processes of construction" and "reconstruction" that have contributed to the moulding of the different forms of Attis that developed as a result of various demands within different religious traditions. After an introduction about the history of the studies, the first part examines the oldest evidence on Attis, resorting to comparison with religious traditions earlier than or contemporary with Phrygian culture. The second part tackles the classical world and collects the elements of continuity and of innovation in respect of Asianic religious traditions. The third part analyses the problem of the processes of reinterpretation of the traditional cults that both the "pagan" philosophers and the fathers of the Church effected. The link between Attis and Death is discussed in the fourth part."

Excerpt

The present work does not intend to be either a new critical catalogue of all the sources concerning the Great Mother and Attis or else a global study that examines this vast topic and analyses it from every possible aspect. Recent research has already completed or is in the process of completing this task in an excellent way (cf.infra), while several recent surveys such as those by P. Borgeaud (1996) and L. E. Roller (1999) - would render superfluous and so probably useless any book claiming to be exhaustive or else prompted by the concern to tackle this problem in a global way.

It may be true, on the one hand, that it is impossible to attempt a study of this kind without being aware of every possible angle of interpretation and without taking into account, in varying degrees, what each implies. Yet, on the other hand, it is also true that it is possible to avoid re-formulating a general synthesis, once certain specific keys to interpretation have been identified that are largely innovative. In that case the problem, instead, is how to harmonise the new approaches and the results that may be derived from them with what has already been gained, that is, with the facts that arc available and the interpretations of those facts that, even though not absolutely certain and unquestioned, are at least marked by a wide and qualified consensus in the scholarly world.

In the light of these reflections, it will immediately be obvious that the present work has exactly the features just indicated. In fact, it was sparked off by one dominant intuition (accompanied by other “lesser” intuitions) that arose from re-reading the documentation on Attis and it has been verified in the course of a detailed study. To cut a long story short, the starting point was a presupposition very different from the one that so far has inspired studies on Attis, which, in essence, have run along two lines of research. On one hand, the original divine nature of Attis has been maintained, that is, to say, he was an ancient Anatolian god linked to a goddess and connected with seasonal fecundity/fertility. On the other hand, there has been a tendency to deny that in the archaic period of his history, Attis was a divine being. Instead, the emphasis has been placed on the fundamental role played by the eunuch priests of the Anatolian Great Mother in the development of that character, whose “divine” form, in the final . . .

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