The Mother of Gods from right here: the goddess Meter in her Central Anatolian contexts
Aversano, Joseph Salvatore
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There are upwards of sixty different cult epithets for the Phrygian goddess Meter in Central Anatolia alone during the Roman Imperial period. Considering that only three or four of her epithets are known from the Hellenistic period, the contrast is striking. Moreover, many of the epithets tend to be epichoric, so that in essence, her names can change from one valley to the next. In some cases, merely hearing an epithet is enough to bring a certain part of central Anatolia to mind. From this, a natural question arises. Why was there a need for so many local Meter cults in Asia Minor? The goddess Meter, called Magna Mater by the Romans, had been adopted into the Roman Pantheon in 204 BC; but could she, although indigenous to Phrygia, no longer meet the religious needs of her homeland’s people? This thesis approaches these questions by two primary means. By utilizing its own accompanying catalogue of Meter epithets collected from inscriptions, it looks at patterns in the geographic distribution of epithets and in the semantics of recurring epithet types. The spatial distribution of cult epithets reflects the geopolitical situation in Roman Imperial Asia Minor where there appears to have been a lack of strong imperial centers in the uplands, and where local communities could create their own localized, albeit modest, centers at the state’s peripheries. Meanwhile, the semantics of recurring epithet types offer clues regarding the local concerns and core values of those living in these very peripheries.