From Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation, The Gifford Lectures in the University of Edinburgh, 1915-1916, by Sir William M. Ramsay, D.C.L., LL.D., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1928; pp. 272-277.

Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation.





THE personal name Kabeiris was used in Tracheiotis, as appears from a remarkable inscription found by Professor T. Callander, dating about A.D. 200, in which an uncle and a nephew both are called Kabiris, i.e. man of the gods Kabeiroi. The genealogy of the family for generations is recovered, and is full of old Anatolian names.1

On Pisidian coins the worship of the Kabeiroi was often shown. They are represented in several ways: (1) as a pair of warriors, armed and nude, like the naked Homanadensian soldier on the monument to the deified Augustus at Pisidian Antioch; (2) as a pair of warriors with the crescent between them, the crescent being the symbol of the moon-goddess; (3) as a pair of dismounted cavaliers, each holding his horse with a standing goddess between them; (4) as unseen figures represented by two altars, each surmounted by a star.2


These twin gods on Pisidian coins were by the Greeks called the Dioskouroi, and the female figure between them was called Helena. The type was modelled to suit this identification; and the names are accepted by numismatists. The twin gods, however, would be more correctly named the Kabeiroi.3 They are the gods worshiped by and representative of the Khabiri, the bodyguard of the Hittite kings, also called Sagasi, executioners, in the Assyrian inscriptions.

Hill, in Cat. Brit. Mus. p. cvii, says “The Dioskouroi” (Kabeiroi) “are one of the commonest types in this part of Pisidia” (Sagalassos to Termessos). “The ‘two Emperors Caracalla and Geta’ described by the Prince of Saxe-Coburg, Rev. Numism., 1891, p. 248, are possibly the Dioskouroi. The altars of the two heroes” (I should prefer the term gods), “each within its shrine, are seen on several coins; the pillar between them may be intended to support dedications, or, more probably, to represent the temple, which appears in one case” (these are all at Sagalassus).

If the two Emperors are identified as the Dioskouri, this would be a complete proof that the personalities with whom they are identified are gods, not mere heroes. An Emperor was regularly identified with the chief god of a city.

The accompanying Fig. 7 shows that the female figure between the Kabeiroi is the great goddess herself. They are here represented as horsemen, grouped on each side of the supreme goddess. 274 The figure on the right bears the battle-axe on his shoulder; the figure on the left, a horseman, is mutilated, but was doubtless the same as the other.

Pen and ink sketch of the two Kabeiroi, in Anatolia, as horsemen on either side of the great goddess.

FIG. 7.

The Kabeiroi in Anatolia.

The three Kabeiroi were called in their great seat on Samothrace Axiokersos, Axiokersa, and Axieros: two brothers and a sister between them.4 The interpretation of the three figures as Castor, Pollux, Helena is a misfit, because the second sister, Clytaimestra, is dropped. Connected with the three powers is Kasmilos, called King of Asia and King of the Kabeiroi;5 he is understood to be their father. Sayce’s identification of Kasmilos with a name in the Hittite form Khasamilis is very tempting; he was an ancient king, the ancestor of the later kings, deified at his death, and worshipped by his descendants.


In Fig. 7 they face towards the goddess in the centre, who is almost identical in form with the Ephesian goddess, the body that of the queen-bee, a great ovary, arms held out on each side supported by staves or sceptres, and human feet peeping out at the base of the long veiled tapering body.

This rude, broken relief explains the religious character, and leaves no doubt as to the origin of the cult, which is as old as, and may be older than, the Hittite period. The inscription is a mere fragment of which the beginning may be restored as follows:

The demos of the Mo[ssyneis gives ef-

fect acccording to the de[cree by a ste- 6

le (here radiated head) and a cr[own (relief broken) .nbsp;. .

With regard to the mystic pair, Axiokersos, Axiokersa, the element -kersos recalls the strange tale of the Lydian Kersos, a sort of thief, brigand, wooer, and intended murderer, who is connected with the traditions of the Herakleid dynasty and with Thyessos; see Nicolas of Damascus in Müller’s Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, iii., and Radet, La Lydie et le monde grec. The latter tries to make it into history rather too bluntly; it is tradition, and Kersos is probably a Lydian name of Hermes, the god of thieves.

There can be hardly any doubt that this Fig. 7 is a monument that was originally exactly similar to those of the Brotherhood in Chapter XIV. It was a Phratra that was honoured here as at the neighbouring Thiounta; but, although the old warrior type was generally retained on coins, at Thiounta the Phratra had become purely agriculturally early in the first century. At Mossyna, however, the warrior type was still kept to that time. Yet the whole district is confined, and the villages of Thiounta and Mossyna are close together on the high land that breaks down towards the Maeander gorge. Across the Maeander gorge on the 276 opposite plateau is the village Motella (now still retaining its name as Medele), in which the name of the old Hittite king Mutallu is unmistakable (see p. 154.).7

That the idea of development in the divine ideal was realised and openly acknowledged is certain. The Kabeiroi, mere savage, naked warriors, gradually change to the gods of an agricultural brotherhood, and then are made into a sort of pantheon showing Zeus, the supreme god, in the midst of a set of gods and goddesses, typical of various sorts of divine activities. Only in the cult did the old order persist. Thinking men quite understood it.

The best example of the definite recognition of such development is found in Aeschylus in the first lines of his Eumenides, where the Pythian priestess does reverence and worship, first to Gaia, the Earth-goddess, the first giver of prophecy, then to Themis (law and justice), who took her place and gave moral form to the ruder simpler conception. Later, a change of sex was accomplished by interposing Phoebe between Themis and Phoebus Apollo, the oracular god of Delphi through all later time.

The change from deity to deity is explicitly stated by the priestess to have been a process of peaceful growth, not of violence nor intrusion of one deity into the rights and powers of another. Aeschylus puts this truth most emphatically. Apollo came from Delos, from east westwards, and was speeded on his way by the Athenians.

The insignificance of sex is an Anatolian characteristic, often taking ludicrous and even ugly forms, as the Carian Hermaphroditic deities. At Delphi the change from goddess to god was made by putting Phoebe, a quite unimportant and meaningless personality, between Themis and Apollo. She transmits it to her grandson Phoebus Apollo as a birth gift, made to a child on the ninth day after birth, when it was carried round the hearth, and name and presents were given to it.


A scholiast asserts plainly that Phoebe was the sister of Leto, and she gave the prophetic power and seat on Parnassus to her nephew, Leto’s son. All is represented as voluntary by the poet, all is peaceful; and yet the great change is accomplished from the old Titanian regime to the new Olympian system, for Gaia and her moralised form Themis, and Phoebe, belonged to the Titanic powers.

The Athenians aided in sending on Apollo to Delphi. They cut the Sacred Way by a rather roundabout road: the mountains and forests were almost trackless; and, when an embassy was sent to Delphi from Athens in historic time to consult the god, axes went in front, as a scholiast says, in order to make the path easy. The Athenians were geographically suited to convoy Apollo, also poetically, to glorify the god in their tragedy, and finally mythologically, for they were the descendants of Erichthonios, whose parents were Earth and Hephaestus.

Euripides follows a different tradition, or modifies it: he makes the transition at Delphi take place by force.



 1  The names of the ladies are not given, except in one case, Immatis (Mateis in Iconium); four sons named, and four daughters unnamed, occur in one generation. The proper treatment of this family would occupy a whole chapter, but Callander’s paper is lying in America awaiting publication.

 2  (1) Adada, Pednelissos, Sagalassos; (2) Pednelissos, Prostanna, Verbe; (3) Akalissos, Ariassos, Kodroula, Termessos, Sibidounda: the last is usually assigned to Phrygia, but is, in an article now in the press for the second number of Orient, identified with the modern Zivint or Sivint, a little north of Termessos; Sivint is the same name as Sibidinda, a variant form of Sibidounda, and was abbreviated in pronunciation to Sibindi: Sibid, Siba was the Anatolian name for pomegranate (Hesychius). Head declared that coins of Sibidounda had none of the marks of Phrygian coins, but were similar in type to those of Pisidia; (4) Sagalassos, where the cult appears in varied forms, claimed to be “first city of the Pisidians.”

 3  When the Khabiri were first discovered in cuneiform inscriptions about 2000 B.C. the idea prevailed for a time that they were Hebrews resident in Syria and Palestine long before the Exodus. Their true character has been established by Forrer and Sayce. A Pisidian relief, dedicated [GREEKtext], copied by us in 1901, is published by Buckler, J.H.S., 1924, Pl. I., 5.

 4  The accounts transmitted of this mystic Samothracian company of deities vary greatly. I have taken what seems to me most probable.

 5  Authorities are quoted in Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. Kabeiroi.

  6    [GREEKtext] was the form used, divided between two lines. The verb lost in l. 1 is [[GREEKtext]][GREEKtext] or [[GREEKtext]][GREEKtext].

  7    Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, Pt. I. p. 141.