Notes on John the Lydian, De Mensibus

Looking at the downloadable PDF, I find book 4 of De Mensibus (on the months) starts on p. 127 (p.50 of the printed text).  It is devoted to discussing events in the Roman calendar, month by month, so starts with January.  February starts on p. 138;  March on p.143; April on p.153; May on p.163; June on p.169; July on p.171; August on p.178; September on p.182; October on p.184; November on p.185; and December on p.186.  So the whole work is not very extensive.

IV.41 reads:

On day 11, the kalends of April, a pine tree is carried into the Palatine by the tree-bearers.  But the emperor Claudius instituted these these ferias, a man of such justice in judgement that…

This event looks like the carrying of the sacred tree into the temple of Cybele.  That the festival was created by Claudius again indicates the lack of Attis-related events in Republican times.

The short entry on December does not seem to mention Christmas, nor Saturnalia, nor any solar festival.

I can’t find any translations of De Mensibus, although a 1983 English translation of his work in 3 books on the Roman Magistrates exists, and a French edition and translation of the same work was made in 2006.  An Italian version of another of his works.  I’ve asked in the BYZANS-L if anyone is working on this text, and also emailed Prof. Jacques Schamp, who did the French translation of the Magistrates book.

Latin translation of John Lydus

I was looking at the edition of John the Lydian, here.  I had not realised that the Bonn Scriptores Historiae Byzantinae editions came with Latin translations at the bottom of the page.  This makes things much easier for those of us whose Latin is much better than our Greek. 

Attis – a useful dissertation

There is online a 1900 dissertation on Cybele and Attis by Grant Showerman, The great mother of the gods, Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, vol. 1 (1898-1901). p. 219, online here, starting on p. 219, which is very good on ancient literary sources for its statements.  Thanks to Christopher Ecclestone for the link!  Some notes:

Herodian gives (book 1, ch. 11) an account of the origins of the cult of Cybele, although not mentioning Attis.  Pliny the Elder also gives an explanation of the term ‘Gallus’ for the eunuch priests, in NH V.147, VI.4.

He says that the legend of Attis first appears “in the elegiac poet Hermesianax, around 340 BC” (p.240). No reference is given; but about a hundred lines of this otherwise lost writer is preserved by Athenaeus, xiii. 597.  This can be found online here, and Hermesianax starts on p. 953.  However it seems very questionable that any of this really refers to Attis; and a look at Vermaseren, Cybele and Attis, p.111 tells us that he means the statements of Pausanias, which the latter attributes to Hermesianax.

The thesis then lists the four different legends known to us (respectively in Pausanias, Arnobius the Elder, Diodorus Sicilus, Firmicus Maternus).  Different accounts again appear in Ovid, Sallustius and Julian.

An identification of Attis with Adonis is given by Hippolytus, Refutation, V.9, and apparently Socrates HE III.23 refers.  This is a description of the confused system of the Naassenes.  But it tells us little except that the Naassenes were syncretists, or liberals as they prefer to be known today. 

Attis is also referred to  by Theocritus, XX.40 ff.  About the same time, Neathes of Cyzicus wrote something about Attis which is referred by Harpocration the lexicographer as a myth, under ‘Atths’.  Nicander at the start of the 2nd century BC mentions him in the context of the creation of galloi (Alex. 8).

There is clear evidence that Attis was not worshipped at Rome in Republican times; Dionysius of Halicarnassus says (II.19.2)  ca. 30 BC that:

And no festival is observed among them as a day of mourning or by the wearing of black garments and the beating of breasts and the lamentations of women because of the disappearance of deities, such as the Greeks perform in commemorating the rape of Persephonê and the adventures of Dionysus and all the other things of like nature.

whereas such a procession did exist as part of the annual rites of Cybele, for Attis, in imperial times (p.263).  A similar piece of information can be found in the Fasti praenestini (ca. 3 AD). (See article in TAPA 1900, p.46 f).  At this date he was merely a mythological person associated with Cybele, rather than a separate deity.

 In the calendar in the Chronography of 354, on March 22 “arbor intrat” — the sacred tree of Cybele is taken into the sanctuary.  John the Lydian, De Mens. IV, 36, 41 f. gives information on the dates of the festivals.  On March 24 is the “sanguem” in the calendar, labelled elsewhere as “dies sanguinem” (Treb. Poll. Claudius IV).  This was the day when the galli got the chop.

The scholiast on Nicander’s Alex. 8 writes: τοποι ἱεροὶ ὑπογειοι ….. οπου ἐκτεμνόμενοι τὰ μήδεα κατετίθεντο οἱ τῷ αττει καὶ τῇ ῥέᾳ λατρεύοντες. indicating that in the taurobolium, the removal of the bull’s genitals commemorates Attis.

Attis is described by Michael Psellus as the “Phyrgian Zeus” (Peri Onomaton 109), and there is a reference in Arrian.

Augustine on Attis and the Galli

Augustine, City of God, book 6, chapter 7:

There are sacred rites of the mother of the gods, in which the beautiful youth Atys, loved by her, and castrated by her through a woman’s jealousy, is deplored by men who have suffered the like calamity, whom they call Galli. …

What good is to be thought of their sacred rites which are concealed in darkness, when those which are brought forth into the light are so detestable? And certainly they themselves have seen what they transact in secret through the agency of mutilated and effeminate men. Yet they have not been able to conceal those same men miserably and vile enervated and corrupted.

Let them persuade whom they can that they transact anything holy through such men, who, they cannot deny, are numbered, and live among their sacred things. We know not what they transact, but we know through whom they transact; for we know what things are transacted on the stage, where never, even in a chorus of harlots, hath one who is mutilated or an effeminate appeared.

And, nevertheless, even these things are acted by vile and infamous characters; for, indeed, they ought not to be acted by men of good character. What, then, are those sacred rites, for the performance of which holiness has chosen such men as not even the obscenity of the stage has admitted?

“At least I’ve still got my bus-pass”

Does anyone have an image of a sculpture of Attis, slumped down just after castrating himself?  I was searching for images of Attis “reclining”, but found little.  There is one in Vermaseren’s Cybele and Attis, but I don’t have it here.

That one pictured Attis as looking a little depressed. And no wonder.  What was he thinking, we ask?  My guess is in the title.

If I can get a picture, I might run a small caption competition.

Attis Menotyrannus – Lord of the Moon, or Lord of the Months?

Using the Clauss-Slaby database, and searching for ‘attid’ (i.e. attidi or the like), an interesting set of results appear in which Attis is given the title “Menotyrannus”.

All the results are on material found in Rome, and nowhere else.  What does this title mean?

The title seems to be Greek, and might refer (I am told) to the Phyrgian moon-god.  In this context it would relate to the astrological ideas about Attis as the sun, which we saw earlier.  But in the absence of any literary testimony, how can we tell?

These are the results:

Publication: CIL 06, 00499 p 3005, 3757 = CIL 06, 30779c = D 04147 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Matri deum Magnae Idaeae Summae Parenti Hermae et Attidi Menotyranno Invicto Clodius Hermogenianus Caesarius vir clarissimus proconsul Africae praefectus urbis Romae XVvir sacris faciundis taurobolio criobolioque perfecto XIIII Kalendas Augustas diis animae suae mentisque custodibus aram dicavit domino nostro Gratiano Augusto tertium et 3 Aequitio conssulibus

Publication: CIL 06, 00500 p 3005, 3757 = CIL 06, 30779d = D 04148 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Matri deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidi Menotyranno Conservatoribus suis Caelius Hilarianus vir clarissimus duodecimvir urbis Romae pater sacrorum et hieroceryx Invicti Mithrae sacerdos dei Liberi sacerdos deae Hecate domino nostro Gratiano Augusto et Merobaude conssulibus III Idus Maias

Publication: CIL 06, 00501 p 3005, 3757 = CIL 06, 30779e = D 04149 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Matri deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidi Sancto Menotyranno Quintus Clodius Flavianus vir clarissimus pontifex maior XVvir sacris faciundis septemvir epulonum pontifex dei Solis taurobolio criobolioque percepto aram dicavit Nonis Aprilibus FFllavis Merobaude II et Saturnino conssulibus

Publication: CIL 06, 00508 p 3757 = D 04146 = AE 2003, +00151 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Potentissimis Dis Matri deum Magnae et Attidi Menotyranno 3 Serapias honesta femina sacrata deum matris et Proserpinae taurobolium criobolium caernophorum perceptum per Flavium Antonium Eustochium sacerdotem Phryges maximus praesentibus et tradentibus cclarissimorum vvirorum ex amplissimo et sanctissimo collegio XVvirum sacris faciundis die XIII Kalendas Maias cerealibus ddominis nnostris Constantino Maximo Augusto V et Licinio Iuniori Caesari conssulibus

Publication: CIL 06, 00511 p 3005 = CLE 01529 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Matri deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidi Menoturano sacrum nobilis in causis forma celsusque Sabinus hic pater Invicti mystica victor habet sermo duos 3 reservans consimiles aufert3 et veneranda movet Cibeles Triodeia signa augentur meritis simbola tauroboli Rufius Caeionius Caeioni(?) Sabini filius(?) vir classimus pontifex maior hierofanta deae Hecatae augur publicus populi Romani Quiritium pater sacrorum Invicti Mthrae tauroboliatus Matris deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidis Minoturani et aram IIII Idus Martias Gratiano V et Merobaude consulibus dedicabit antiqua generose domo cui regia Vesta pontifici felix sacrato militat igne idem augur triplicis cultor venerande Dianae Persidicique Mithrae antistes Babloniae templi taurobolique simul magni dux mistice sacri

Publication: AE 1953, 00238 = AE 2000, +00136 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Diis Magnis Matri deum Idaeae et Attidi sancto Menotyranno Alfenius Ceionius Iulianus Kamenius vir clarissimus VIIvir epulonum pater et hieroceryx sacrorum Soli Invicti Mithrae hierofanta H{a}ecatae archibucolus dei liberi aram taurobolio criobolioque percepto dicabit! die XIIII Kalendas Augustas domino nostro Gratiano Augusto III et Equitio conssulibus

Publication: CIL 06, 00512 p 3005, 3757 = CLE +00264 = D 04154 = SIRIS 00447 = RICIS-02, 005010212 = AE 2003, +00151 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Matri deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidi Menotyranno dis Magnis et Tutatoribus suis Ceionius Rufius Volusianus vir clarissimus et inlustris ex vicario Asiae et Ceioni Rufi Volusiani viri clarissimi et inlustris ex praefecto praetorio et ex praefecto urbi et Caecinae Lollianae clarissimae et inlustris feminae deae Isidis sacerdotis filius iterato viginti annis expletis taurobolii sui aram constituit et consecravit X Kalendas Iunias domino nostro Valentiniano Augusto IIII et Neoterio conssulibus

Publication: AE 1953, 00237 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Diis! Magnis Matri deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidi Menotyranno Sextius Rusticus vir clarissimus et inlustris pater patrum dei Invicti Mithrae

Publication: AE 1953, 00238 = AE 2000, +00136 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Diis Magnis Matri deum Idaeae et Attidi sancto Menotyranno Alfenius Ceionius Iulianus Kamenius vir clarissimus VIIvir epulonum pater et hieroceryx sacrorum Soli Invicti Mithrae hierofanta H{a}ecatae archibucolus dei liberi aram taurobolio criobolioque percepto dicabit! die XIIII Kalendas Augustas domino nostro Gratiano Augusto III et Equitio conssulibus

Publication: CIL 06, 00499 p 3005, 3757 = CIL 06, 30779c = D 04147 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Matri deum Magnae Idaeae Summae Parenti Hermae et Attidi Menotyranno Invicto Clodius Hermogenianus Caesarius vir clarissimus proconsul Africae praefectus urbis Romae XVvir sacris faciundis taurobolio criobolioque perfecto XIIII Kalendas Augustas diis animae suae mentisque custodibus aram dicavit domino nostro Gratiano Augusto tertium et 3 Aequitio conssulibus

Publication: CIL 06, 00500 p 3005, 3757 = CIL 06, 30779d = D 04148 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Matri deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidi Menotyranno Conservatoribus suis Caelius Hilarianus vir clarissimus duodecimvir urbis Romae pater sacrorum et hieroceryx Invicti Mithrae sacerdos dei Liberi sacerdos deae Hecate domino nostro Gratiano Augusto et Merobaude conssulibus III Idus Maias

Publication: CIL 06, 00501 p 3005, 3757 = CIL 06, 30779e = D 04149 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Matri deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidi Sancto Menotyranno Quintus Clodius Flavianus vir clarissimus pontifex maior XVvir sacris faciundis septemvir epulonum pontifex dei Solis taurobolio criobolioque percepto aram dicavit Nonis Aprilibus FFllavis Merobaude II et Saturnino conssulibus

Publication: CIL 06, 00508 p 3757 = D 04146 = AE 2003, +00151 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Potentissimis Dis Matri deum Magnae et Attidi Menotyranno 3 Serapias honesta femina sacrata deum matris et Proserpinae taurobolium criobolium caernophorum perceptum per Flavium Antonium Eustochium sacerdotem Phryges maximus praesentibus et tradentibus cclarissimorum vvirorum ex amplissimo et sanctissimo collegio XVvirum sacris faciundis die XIII Kalendas Maias cerealibus ddominis nnostris Constantino Maximo Augusto V et Licinio Iuniori Caesari conssulibus

Publication: CIL 06, 00511 p 3005 = CLE 01529 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Matri deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidi Menoturano sacrum nobilis in causis forma celsusque Sabinus hic pater Invicti mystica victor habet sermo duos 3 reservans consimiles aufert3 et veneranda movet Cibeles Triodeia signa augentur meritis simbola tauroboli Rufius Caeionius Caeioni(?) Sabini filius(?) vir classimus pontifex maior hierofanta deae Hecatae augur publicus populi Romani Quiritium pater sacrorum Invicti Mthrae tauroboliatus Matris deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidis Minoturani et aram IIII Idus Martias Gratiano V et Merobaude consulibus dedicabit antiqua generose domo cui regia Vesta pontifici felix sacrato militat igne idem augur triplicis cultor venerande Dianae Persidicique Mithrae antistes Babloniae templi taurobolique simul magni dux mistice sacri

Publication: CIL 06, 00512 p 3005, 3757 = CLE +00264 = D 04154 = SIRIS 00447 = RICIS-02, 005010212 = AE 2003, +00151 Province: Roma Place: Roma
Matri deum Magnae Idaeae et Attidi Menotyranno dis Magnis et Tutatoribus suis Ceionius Rufius Volusianus vir clarissimus et inlustris ex vicario Asiae et Ceioni Rufi Volusiani viri clarissimi et inlustris ex praefecto praetorio et ex praefecto urbi et Caecinae Lollianae clarissimae et inlustris feminae deae Isidis sacerdotis filius iterato viginti annis expletis taurobolii sui aram constituit et consecravit X Kalendas Iunias domino nostro Valentiniano Augusto IIII et Neoterio conssulibus

Herodotus on Attis?

In Herodotus, book 1, 34-45, there is a rambling story about Atys, son of Croesus, accidentally killed by a spear while hunting.  In his Cybele and Attis, M. J. Vermaseren considers whether this is part of the myth of Attis.  This link asserts that it is.

But on looking at the text, the account is very dissimilar from any other account.  Does anything but the similarity of name tie the two together?

Catullus on Attis

One of our earlier sources for Attis is Catullus, poem 63. It’s here in Latin and English (done rather nicely). Edition and translation are not specified, but I think may be an old Loeb edition.

Here’s the English:

Borne in his swift bark over deep seas,
Attis, when eagerly with speedy foot he reached the Phrygian woodland,
and entered the goddess’ abodes, shadowy, forest-crowned;
there, goaded by raging madness, bewildered in mind,
he cast down from him with sharp flint-stone the burden of his member.
So when she felt her limbs to have lost their manbood,
still with fresh blood dabbling the face of the ground,
swiftly with snowy bands she seized the light timbrel,
your timbrel, Cybele, thy mysteries, Mother,
and shaking with soft fingers the hollow oxhide
thus began she to sing to her companions tremulously:
“Come away, ye Gallae, go to the mountain forests of Cybele together,
together go, wandering herd of the lady of Dindymus,
who swiftly seeking alien homes as exiles,
followed my rule as I led you in my train,
endured the fast-flowing brine and the savage seas,
and unmanned your bodies from utter abhorrence of love,
cheer ye your Lady’s heart with swift wanderings.
Let dull delay depart from your mind; go together, follow
to the Phrygian house of Cybele, to the Phrygian forests of the goddess,
where the noise of cymbals sounds, where timbrels re-echo,
where the Phrygian flute-player blows a deep note on his curved reed,
where the Maenads ivy-crowned toss their heads violently,
where with shrill yells they shake the holy emblems,
where that wandering company of the goddess is wont to rove,
whither for us ’tis meet to hasten with rapid dances.”
So soon as Attis, woman yet no true one, chanted thus to her companions,
the revellers suddenly with quivering tongues yell aloud,
the light timbrel rings again, clash again the hollow cymbals,
swiftly to green Ida goes the rout with hurrying foot.
Then too frenzied, panting, uncertain, wanders, gasping for breath,
attended by the timbrel, Attis, through the dark forests their leader,
as a heifer unbroken starting aside from the burden of the yoke.
Fast follow the Gallae their swift-footed leader.
So when they gained the house of Cybele, faint and weary,
after much toil they take their rest without bread;
heavy sleep covers their eyes with drooping weariness,
the delirious madness of their mind departs in soft slumber.
But when the sun with the flashing eyes of his golden face
lightened the clear heaven, the firm lands, the wild sea,
and chased away the shades of night with eager tramping steeds refreshed,
then Sleep fled from wakened Attis and quickly was gone;
him the goddess Pasithea received in her fluttering bosom.
So after soft slumber, freed from violent madness,
as soon as Attis himself in his heart reviewed his own deed,
and saw with clear mind what lie had lost and where he was,
with surging mind again he sped back to the waves.
There, looking out upon the waste seas with streaming eyes,
thus did she piteously address her country with tearful voice:
” O my country that gavest me life! O my country that barest me!
leaving whom, all wretch! as runaway servants leave their masters,
I have borne my foot to the forests of Ida,
to live among snows and frozen lairs of wild beasts,
and visit in my frenzy all their lurking-dens,
— where then or in what region do I think thy place to be, O my country?
Mine eyeballs unbidden long to turn their gaze to thee
while for a short space my mind is free from wild frenzy.
I, shall I from my own home be borne far away into these forests?
from my country, my possessions, my friends, my parents, shall I be?
absent from the market, the wrestling-place, the racecourse, the playground?
unhappy, all unhappy heart, again, again must thou complain.
For what form of human figure is there which I had not?
I, to be a woman–who was a stripling, I a youth, I a boy,
I was the flower of the playground, I was once the glory of the palaestra:
mine were the crowded doorways, mine the warm thresholds,
mine the flowery garlands to deck my house
when I was to leave my chamber at sunrise.
I, shall I now be called–what? a handmaid of the gods, a ministress of Cybele?
I a Maenad, I part of myself, a barren man shall I be?
I, shall I dwell in icy snow-clad regions of verdant Ida,
I pass my life under the high summits of Phrygia,
with the hind that haunts the woodland, with the boar that ranges the forest?
now, now I rue my deed, now, now I would it were undone.”
From his rosy lips as these words issued forth,
bringing a new message to both ears of the gods,
then Cybele, loosening the fastened yoke from her lions,
and goading that foe of the herd who drew on the left, thus speaks:
“Come now,” she says, “come, go fiercely, let madness hunt him hence
bid him hence by stroke of madness hie him to the forests again,
him who would be too free, and run away from my sovereignty.
Come, lash back with tail, endure thy own scourging,
make all around resound with bellowing roar,
shake fiercely on brawny neck thy ruddy mane.”
Thus says wrathful Cybele, and with her hand unbinds the yoke.
The monster stirs his courage and rouses him to fury of heart;
he speeds away, he roars, with ranging foot he breaks the brushwood.
But when he came to the watery stretches of the white-gleaming shore,
and saw tender Attis by the smooth spaces of the sea,
he rushes at him–madly flies Attis to the wild woodland.
There always for all his lifetime was he a handmaid.
Goddess, great goddess, Cybele, goddess, lady of Dindymus
far from my house be all thy fury, O my queen
others drive thou in frenzy, others drive thou to madness.

Sallustius on Attis

The late antique philosopher Sallustius in De diis et mundo also wrote about Attis. The text is online here. I suspect this is the A.D.Nock 1926 translation, but there is an old one somewhere by Thomas Taylor.

To take another myth, they say that the Mother of the Gods seeing Attis lying by the river Gallus fell in love with him, took him, crowned him with her cap of stars, and thereafter kept him with her. He fell in love with a nymph and left the Mother to live with her. For this the Mother of the Gods made Attis go mad and cut off his genital organs and leave them with the nymph, and then return and dwell with her.

Now the Mother of the Gods is the principle that generates life; that is why she is called Mother. Attis is the creator of all things which are born and die; that is why he is said to have been found by the river Gallus. For Gallus signifies the Galaxy, or Milky Way, the point at which body subject to passion begins. Now as the primary gods make perfect the secondary, the Mother loves Attis and gives him celestial powers.

That is what the cap means. Attis loves a nymph: the nymphs preside over generation, since all that is generated is fluid. But since the process of generation must be stopped somewhere, and not allowed to generate something worse than the worst, the creator who makes these things casts away his generative powers into the creation and is joined to the Gods again. Now these things never happened, but always are. And mind sees all things at once, but reason (or speech) expresses some first and others after. Thus, as the myth is in accord with the cosmos, we for that reason keep a festival imitating the cosmos, for how could we attain higher order?

The gallos-priests of Attis

The full text of Lucian De Dea Syria is online here. cc. 50-51 discuss the galli.

50. On certain days a multitude flocks into the temple, and the Galli in great numbers, sacred as they are, perform the ceremonies of the men and gash their arms and turn their backs to be lashed. Many bystanders play on the pipes the while many beat drums; others sing divine and sacred songs. All this performance takes place outside the temple, and those engaged in the ceremony enter not into the temple.

51. During these days they are made Galli. As the Galli sing and celebrate their orgies, frenzy falls on many of them and many who had come as mere spectators afterwards are found to have committed the great act. I will narrate what they do. Any young man who has resolved on this action, strips off his clothes, and with a loud shout bursts into the midst of the crowd, and picks up a sword from a number of swords which I suppose have been kept ready for many years for this purpose. He takes it and castrates himself and then runs wild through the city, bearing in his hands what he has cut off. He casts it into any house at will, and from this house he receives women’s raiment and ornaments. Thus they act during their ceremonies of castration.

52. The Galli, when dead, are not buried like other men, but when a Gallus dies his companions carry him out into the suburbs, and laying him out on the bier on which they had carried him they cover him with stones, and after this return home. They wait then for seven days, after which they enter the temple. Should they enter before this they would be guilty of blasphemy.

There is a question whether this rite relates to Cybele and Attis, depending on whether we identify the Syrian goddess with Cybele.