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. 72-83.

Asianic Elements in Greek Civilisation.



Chapter VII


ON a Pisidian tombstone the name Gagdabos Edagdabos occurs. In publishing this in the Revue des Universités du Midi, 1895, p. 360, I quoted Radet’s tempting conjecture, that it meant Gagdabos, son of Gdabos, according to very common usage. Religion, however, furnishes a more probable explanation. A priest named Gagdabos adds his title Edagdabos. Gagdabos is a reduplicated form, such as is extremely common in Anatolian nomenclature: e.g. on a sarcophagus found in the north Isaurian hills not very far from Lystra the two names Gaa and Goggoa both occur and are evidently names in the same family, one a reduplication of the other; Kretschmer (like all Anatolian students) has noted the habit of using reduplicated names.

Gagdabos, therefore, implies a similar name Gdabos or Gdawos: this word was grecised as δάος. Δάος is explained by Hesychius as meaning wolf; and the Phrygo-Pisidian god Manes was Daos, the Wolf.

That the god of certain districts in Asia Minor was the Wolf-God is assured by in inscription of Central Phrygia, dated in A.D. 314, when the last and most desperate stage of the pagan reaction against the Christian religion was in progress throughout most part of Asia Minor, and when a general syncretism of various forms of the old Anatolian paganism was fashionable. It has fortunately been preserved practically complete, and now it rests in the Museum 73 at Brussels. How it reached that safe port is unknown to me. I saw it in 1883 and published it in J.H.S., 1883, p. 4191 (cp. J.H.S., 1918, p. 145). It was lying at a village called Otourak (Leisure), near the small ancient city of Hierocharax, which struck a few rare coins. “In the year 398, and waiting on the commands of the immortal (gods): And I am he that speaks all things, I, Immortal Fortunate2 (by name), who was initiated by an honourable3 high priestess of the people, who bore the honourable name Spatale, whom the immortal gods glorified, etc.” There was a relief on this side: it was much defaced in ancient time, and a rude cross was incised in its place: this was evidently done by the victorious Christians, not long after the grave-monument was erected. “The high priest Athanatos Epitynchanos (Immortal Fortunate), son of Pious, glorified by Hekate first of all, secondly by Manos-Daos-Heliodromos-Zeus, thirdly by Phoebus, Guiding Leader and Giver of Oracles, received the gift of prophecy from the immortal gods.”

In this curious epitaph, where reminiscences of New Testament phraseology occur, the supreme god is named according to the syncretism of the time; Manes-Wolf-Sun-in-its-course-Zeus is an attempt to combine the main characteristics of the divine conception current in the later semi-philosophical revival of paganism; and the inscription is an excellent example and complete proof of the impossibility of such a revival. Paganism in Asia Minor was dead. The world had outgrown it. By stringing together names 74 from various local cults, one could not give life to a dead faith. When the old religions were living, their vitality arose from their being instructive. They consecrated and enforced the laws of right living, according to the country where they were believed. People who lived by agriculture must enforce on all the observance of seasons and days and work. The tribe could not afford to allow its land to be wasted. All might suffer through the carelessness or the neglect of one. The land, too, must life fallow for certain years and periods; it was a bad style of agriculture, but it was all that the tribe knew, and life for the tribe depended on this. Then the toilsome process of breaking up the hard fallow land, that had grown rich, must be enforced at the proper season. Yet how enforce it? There are in every tribe the lazy and the careless and the idle. That is part of human nature. There existed no formal law that could be enforced.

Religious observance was the only method possible. The cultus of the divine mother, and the observance of her law. Her law was adapted to the country. She, in fact, was herself adapted to the country. Other lands had other gods and strange gods; hence each deity was limited in power to his or her own country. David could complain that Saul had cast him out from his own land to strange gods.

Under the universal Roman Empire, universal throughout the Mediterranean lands, and even beyond, such ideas had become irrational, inconceivable, unbelievable. People were now accustomed to travel, to compare customs and religions. The age of scepticism and indifference set in. No one could be content with the ideas of the past. The attempt to galvanise old faiths into life by syncretism and by making compound gods, such as is exemplified in this fabricated religion, might satisfy an idle, dreamy philosophy, which had no need to use the land, but lived on slavery and expected others to feed the few, and to die for the few. Philosophy could not take the place of religion. A wolf-god, a goat-priest, 75 had long been subjects of laughter and ridicule, however an abstract philosophy, divorced from the tasks of living, might read meaning into them; and even borrow expressions from the New Testament, just to show how much better paganism could use those words, how much more meaning it could find in them than the Christians. The attempt was vain; and this inscription shows the vanity of it all. It was engraved for the people; but it could not convince the common man. Here lies its interest and value. It shows how philosophy tried to make itself intelligible to the ordinary peasants in a glen of central Phrygia; and all that it produced is a Manes-Wolf-Sun-in-its-course-Zeus, which conveyed nothing to the cultivators of the ground.

Incidentally, we may remark that in this inscription we have an example of the difficulty experienced in understanding the real sense of the adjective καλός, which we have translated “honourable.” What the Greeks called honourable, or good, may often seem to us the very opposite; and at the very moment when the inscription was engraved there was a world-struggle going on as to whether the high-priestess Spatale and the high-priest Athanatos Epitynchanos deserved to be called the good and the honourable, or merited such adjectives as the abominable, the hateful one. The composer of the epitaph intended the adjective καλός to be understood as implying lofty religious character. Those who defaced the monument and marked a cross on it, understood that it meant accursed and hateful. Yet they were neighbours and contemporaries of one another.

Another point worth noting is that Otourak, “leisure,” lies at the beginning of the long ascent to the remarkable hollow ridge, along which flows the head-stream of the Tembris or Temrogius, a chief tributary of the Sangarios, and probably longer than the main stream. The name is suited to the position of the village, and at the same time it bears a resemblance to the ancient Hierocharak. Probably it is a popular formation from the ancient name 76 to suit the circumstances. One needs a rest equally at the beginning as at the end of that steep ascent, as I have experienced.

One of the names of this compound god is the Wolf (the name being Anatolian in form, Da Wos). Now, it was both the Anatolian custom and the pre-Hellenic Greek custom4 that the chief priest should wear the dress and bear the name of the god. The inscription, therefore, proves that the priest was a Wolf-priest, wearing doubtless the skin of a wolf. The wolf was the most dangerous wild animal5 of the mountains, and infested also the plains. The popular religion worshipped the object of its dread, in order to propitiate it or ward off its attacks.

Another proof that there was a Wolf-god, if any further proof or confirmation were required, may be drawn from the common practice of calling slaves in Greece or Rome by the name of some god or king of their native country. Now in Rome Davus was a common name for slaves, doubtless implying slaves from Asia Minor.6 In Asia Minor the king was often the priest of the god, and ruled the land of the god in virtue of being priest and representative of the god.

In the fertile sea-plain at Pergamos the order of priests called Boukoloi, Ox-tenders, implies a religious cult for breeding and tending the ox and the cow, agricultural, differing from the religion of the dry central plateau, where the goat and sheep can be more profitably bred. The head of this order was the Archiboukolos, and the original priest was Dionysos himself. By analogy with this 77 and the similar case of the Galloi with their Archigallos, we look for other examples. In the rude mountain country of Pisidia, i.e. in the Central Taurus, whose tribes preyed upon the level fertile plains and peaceful peoples of the Plateau to the north, as we know from the Anabasis of Xenophon and the history of Augustus’s administration, the religion was wilder; and here the Wolf-priests with their Chief-Wolf-priest Edagdabos were most naturally at home.

Radet, loc. cit., quotes the group Logbasis, Idalogbasis, where Idalogbasis is described as an eponymous ancestor of the tribe Logbaseis of Termessos (see Lanckorouski Reisen, ii. p. 28), with the obvious meaning “the chief of the tribe” (taken as a religious group).

The conclusion is inevitable: there was in Pisidia, and even in Phrygia, an order of priests called Wolves. Then it is evident that, just as there was an Archiboukolos and an Archigallos, so there must have been a chief Wolf, Eda-gdabos, implying that archi- in Greek corresponded to the Anatolian Ida or Ido or Ede. Mt. Ida was the chief or supreme mountain (cp. Sultan-Dagh, the great mountain range of the central plain of Phrygia).7 Idaguges was the chief Guges, probably some hieratic title in Lydia. Two objections might be made to the interpretation of Mount Ida as the Chief or King. (1) The first syllable of Ida is always long, but Greek poetic usage (or Latin poets following it) does not furnish sufficient proof of the original Anatolian sound: the poetic usage consulted its own convenience frequently, and was easily fixed accordingly. (2) The statement is quoted from the Etymologicum Magnum, and from Herodotus, that ἴδη means a wooded mountain or saltus; but in the former case the authority is not great, and it may (as Professor Fraser suggested) be a mere popular or scholiastic inference from such a phrase as in vallibus Idae. Idomeneus, like Ida, has the first syllable long; but this is evidently due to poetic convenience 78 (like ἀθάνατος in hexameters): the element meno or mene is common in names in the Anatolian priestly families (see J.H.S., 1918, p. 169). The Lycian city Idebessos may be another example.

The term Archigallos was used by the Romans in the borrowed Phrygian cult of Cybele (from Pessinous), and Strabo mentions (like other authorities) that the Phrygian priests were called Galloi; but no epigraphical proof has been found that this name was used in northern Phrygia. In southern Phrygia towards Pisidia the name Archigallos is found on both sides of the Sultan-Dagh, near Antioch and among the Orondeis. The name Gallos is probably old Anatolian, and it may possibly be the same as the personal name Glous found in the list of priests at Korykos; but it is more probable that the Anatolian original of the Greek Gallos was Yallos or Gialis. The Lycaonian and Isaurian name Lir or Lour (in the reduplicated form Lilous)8 may perhaps be connected. That Gallos and Gdabos should become personal names is in accordance with custom.

For the moment I can only state the opinion based on Strabo, that the Ionian tribe in old Attica, Aigikoreis, are goat-priests, who appear on ceremonial occasions as goat-men and are under the presidency of the chief goat-priest, viz. Attis himself, the god who teaches to mankind the religion of the goddess. The second half of the name, Koreis, Anatolian Kaweis, exemplifies perhaps one of the many ways in which the Greeks attempted to represent the Anatolian sound W, for which they had no symbol, and which they were evidently unable to pronounce correctly. There came into play, of course, the general popular tendency to give some sort of suggestion of a meaning to a word belonging to an unknown language; but the use of καυειν in the sense of priestess at Sardis, κοίης (also κόης : Hes.) as priest of the Kabeiroi, and 79 the employment of the word by Hipponax all show that a word which had some form approximating to Kawa or Kowo was widely spread on the west coast and islands of Anatolia.9

The same hieratic term can be traced in a more purely Asiatic form in Phrygia. The priests of Kybele at Pessinous are called in inscriptions Attabokaoi. This word falls into two elements which generally have been wrongly specified. The first is not Atta (as has been stated)10 but Attabo, and the second is Kawoi. Attabo is one way of rendering in Greek at a particular locality and time the Phrygian word mentioned elsewhere as Attego or Attago which meant goat. Ultimately the word was Attawo, and it is obviously closely related to the name of the god Attes: in fact Attes is the goat-god, i.e. the god of a people whose occupation was largely connected with the domestication of the goat.

Here again we have the goat-priests of the goat-god and the goddess who made the law of goat-keeping and goat-breeding.

The central regions of Anatolia, as has been said above, are mainly pastoral, though the soil is in the plains very fertile; but it is generally too dry for agriculture, being dependent on the uncertain chance of rainfall. Hence the god was the giver of rain, and worshipped as such. Agriculture, therefore, plays little part, except in the occasional cultivation of gardens surrounded by walls; these were in fact sometimes called by the Persian name Paradeisos, walled enclosure, but generally by the Anatolian name Kapo.

The suggestion that B and R and L and W interchange in this way will strike horror into the mind of the philologist; but it must be remembered that this is not a case of the development of one single language. It is a case of the adoption in alien countries and languages of words from a strange tongue containing a 80 number of sounds which were unknown to, and unpronounceable by, and unrepresented in the alphabet of, any of the Greek tribes and races. At different times and in different localities the same Anatolian sound was reproduced in different ways in Greek letters, in fact it is even true to assert that in the same place and much about the same time an Anatolian name was represented by different Greek letters. We are dealing here with a matter of history rather than of philology. Just as priest and presbyter are the same Greek word which has come into English through different routes and assumed totally different forms, and just as the Germans call that Polish river Weichsel which we call Vistula, and the Germans and we call Dantzig (or slightly different spellings) the Polish town Gdansk, and just as the Croatian town of Zagreb is called in German Agram, so it is with the rendering of Anatolian names in Greek. The total difference in the character of enunciation in Anatolia and in Greece is a fact which is as true at the present day as it was in ancient times. The quotation made in H.G.A.M., footnote to p. 281, can be applied universally with reference to the difference between Greek and Anatolian pronunciation. Sounds which existed on the eastern side of the Aegean were unknown on the western side. Not merely is this the case with the spirants W and Y; it is equally the case with the nasalised vowels which are such a marked feature of Lycian and Lydian alphabets and which give rise to so many variations in the grecisation of Anatolian proper names; and, also, vowels which were long in Greek were shortened in Anatolian pronunciation, and vice versa. The halting verses inscribed on tombs often show this non-Greek quantity.

It is a necessary foundation of our hypothesis, as has been already said, that in a wild mountain region like Pisidia the god and his priests should be conceived by the people in a savage aspect;11 whereas in the peaceful level plains of Phrygia, devoted largely to 81 pastoral pursuits and especially to the breeding of the goat, the god and his priests should be pictured as the teachers and regulators of goat culture; while at Pergamos, in a low rich valley, where cows were more important than goats, the god and his priests are described as cow-keepers (βουκόλοι).

Even agricultural forms are a picture of the divine life: the goddess unites with the god “in the thrice-ploughed fallow field,” Demeter with Iasion, as Homer says in the Odyssey, but Homer believed in his imagery and his religion. The primitive agriculture allowed the earth to lie fallow for certain seasons: the soil cannot produce a crop every year. But a fallow field grows hard, and the primitive plough of the ancient could not easily break up the stubborn soil. The field had to be “thrice ploughed.”12 Thus Demeter, the Earth Mother, bears the divine child; but Iasion is slain by the thunderbolt. A life must be given in primitive ritual that the crop may acquire the power of growth. The father perishes that the offspring may flourish, as is the case with the bee, which is our last example.

Clearest of all is the life-history of the bee in nature and of the queen-bee in the hive. The queen must find a consort within three weeks of her birth, otherwise the power of maternity seems to become lost. Mythology rioted in variations on the plain and unpleasant theme; but the facts of life must be faced, if we are to understand ancient religion.

Demeter was a foreigner in Attica. She had come to Eleusis probably from Crete and (as may be added) ultimately from Anatolia, whence came almost all the ritual and religious forms of Greece with the Ionic migration.


Goat-priests, Wolf-priests, even Ox-priests (though nothing is known about them except their name), might play their part on the religious stage, wearing the skin of the sacred animal. Dionysos Melanaigis was a noted figure in certain Athenian ritual; assuredly he was originally the god with the black goatskin, and as the god does, so do his priests. But the bee-priestesses are different. They could bear the name bees, working bees, μέλισσαι;13 but the outward form could not be imitated. Their goddess was the Queen-bee, the Artemis of Ephesus. A body of priests in her worship were Essenes, the drones. The Greeks, even Aristotle, misconceived the sex of bees;* and they believed the Queen-bee to be male, and called her the King-bee (βασιλεύς); and this King-bee was the chief Essen, from whom the priests took their name. There was, however, no such error in the Ephesian cult. The goddess of Ephesus, “Diana of the Ephesians,” was the Queen-bee: her image makes this plain. The body has only the slightest resemblance to a human body. Its form is much more that of a queen-bee. The ovary occupies the greater part of the body, and the ova, which seem to be swelling out, were mistaken by the Greeks for mammae. They were not intended, however, to represent breasts, for no nipple was indicated. That is quite clear on the best statuette which I have seen. Regarding the image from this point of view, the mass of the body is simply a skin filled with ova. She is the one great mother of life in the community of the hive. Without her there is no reproduction, and the hive perishes unless a new queen is found. The three classes, queen, drones, and working bees, constitute the community, viz. the goddess and her priests and priestesses. The queen selects her consort among the male bees, and flies off with him; but he perishes in the nuptial flight. 83 In the working bees the sexual character is undeveloped. The queen-bee was the Great Mother, from whom comes all life. The mystery of life, the succession of child to parent, of crop to seed, was the central idea in the Anatolian religion. The daughter is the mother, the son is the father, different and yet the same. In Attica, Demeter and Kora, the Maid Persephone, are often represented as indistinguishable. The mother is the important figure; the god is simply an accident in the full development of her life, and passes out of notice when he has fulfilled his part in the drama of the divine life. In many myths the union of the two is portrayed as a crime against law and nature, even as an act of fraud or of hateful violence, which entails punishment unto death.

Darda meant, as Hesychius mentions, a bee; but which class of bee is not easy to ascertain. Melissa, or melitta, is a formation from meli, an old Anatolian word, which is still retained in Turkish as bal, Latin mel; hence, perhaps, balyk, a town, often found in Anatolia, is derived. The town, the unity and assembly of human beings in a community, is modelled on the community of the bees in a hive. As melissai were almost certainly the working bees, darda meant probably the male bees, the drones. From it is derived the name of the people, Dardanoi, of the hero Dardanus, and the town Dardanos, in the Hellespont, between Troy and the Narrows, where now the Dardanelles has its chief modern seat at Tchanak-Kalesi (Potter’s Castle). That bees in their hive should be a model of human life in a city is natural. Bees are regarded as peculiarly closely related to human beings, viz. those human beings that know and befriend and tend them; and it was an old custom in England to whisper to the hives the news of any important event in family history, a death or a birth.

That melissai were the working bees, the undeveloped females, the makers of mel, is obvious from the derivation, and is clearly shown from the religion of Ephesus, the religion of the bee and its tending.



 1  My epigraphic copy was practically exact; but my commentary leaves much to be desired, and is in part wrong, owing to my ignorance of the conditions of that period of struggle; also my transcription was not always correct; but it is repeated better in Cities and Bish. of Phrygia, ii. p. 566.

 2  Athanatos Epitynchanos. The high priestess Spatale, whose name is quoted from Claudian and Martial, initiated him. She spelt her name Ispatale, with prosthetic vowel.

 3  That “obscure and difficult adjective,” καλός, as a great scholar once called it, is here rendered “honourable.” ἀγαθός may be coupled with it in difficulty. They are two adjectives which are first to be learned by the beginner in Greek and the despair of the best scholars.

 4  Perpetuated later by conservative religious custom in Greece in some cases.

 5  Stronger animals are found in the mountains still: bear I have seen, panther and leopard are spoken of now, but I know no one that has seen either, though friends of mine have gone to hunt them, and asserted that they were to be found. These, however, were not really so dangerous as the wolf in a pastoral country. The lion once existed in Anatolia, as reliefs prove; but I doubt whether it survived very late.

 6  As to the particular part of Asia that the slave came from, the Romans were, as always, far from exact.

 7  It is contrasted with the parallel, but lower ridge, Emir-Dagh; the king with a noble of his court.

 8  More probably Lir or Lour was a broken-down reduplication. On Lir of Lour see Miss Ramsay’s note in J.H.S., 1904, p. 285. Lilous and Lir (Lour) perhaps are the Anatolian names of the flower Lilium, the Lily; Lilous was apparently a feminine name.

 9  See Buckler and Robinson in A.J.A. xvii., 1913, p. 362 ff. Fournier, Rev. des Et. Anc., 1914, p. 438, suggests Old Persian kāvyáh.

10  Bokaoi was compared with Boukoloi. On these priests see I.G.R.R., iii. 230, 235.

11  On the monument dedicated to the deceased Augustus at Pisidian Antioch (see J.R.S., 1916, p. 105) the fettered captive Homanadensian or Pisidian Wolf-man was represented in his ideal ugliness as the naked savage. He is the man in his brutality, though retaining the human form. Only the chief of the Homanadensians wears a light garment.

12  Perhaps one should not lay a stress on the number; but probably it was prescribed in the ritual law, in order to guard against carelessness.

13  M. Picard hesitates about the use of the name μέλισσαι, but inclines to accept it in his great work on Éphèse et Claros: the priestesses, παρθένοι, as they were also called, have the nature of μέλισσαι, and other reasons, not noticed by him, make the latter name certain; and it is generally accepted.


 *  Elf.Ed.  Not just the Greeks, but the Romans, copying them, thought the queen bee was male. See Virgil, Georgics, Book IV on this site.