The Cult of the Mother Goddess Cybele

May 4, 2015

In pagan mythology, Cybele was a nature goddess in Asia Minor, the great “mother of the gods,” the patroness of nature and fertility, and came to the western world from Phrygia. In the Ephesus Museum there is a display devoted to the cult.

Cult of Cybele. Ephesus Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Cult of Cybele. Ephesus Museum. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

On our recent trip to Greece at Delphi we saw the remains of a site devoted to the worship of Cybele.

Temple of Cybele at center.  In behind you can see ruins of temple of Apollo. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Temple of Cybele at center. Ruins of temple of Apollo in behind. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

At first this cult was not very popular in Rome, since it was accompanied by ecstatic excesses. By the beginning of the imperial era, however, its influence increased, especially when the emperor Claudius extended his patronage to it. From that time Roman citizens could become priests of Cybele. (The New Testament Milieu).

The worship of Artemis and Cybele in the process of time morphed into one.

Two remarkable aspects of Hellenistic religion are syncretism and the role of the mystery religions. When, as a result of Alexander the Great’s conquests, the city-state disappeared from Greece and the national borders were blurred, the frontiers between the domains of the various deities were also effaced. In Alexander’s world empire and in the large Hellenistic kingdoms of his successors, an enormous cultural and religious commingling gradually occurred. People came to know one another’s gods and accepted them as their own, because they no longer regarded them as alien forces. They were simply worshipped under other names and with different rites in the various countries. So the Greek goddess Artemis and Cybele of Asia Minor were equated: they were no longer regarded as two different goddesses, but as one and the same divinity with various names. (ibid.)

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Monastery of Rousanou, Meteora, Greece

April 9, 2015

We recently referenced Kalambaka, Meteora in a previous post. In our Greece/Turkey trip, Kalambaka served as  a logistically good overnight stay after leaving Athens, and en route to Thessaloniki. When we left Kalambaka early morning, there was eerie mist and fog as we drove past the stupendous rock formations, many of which are crowned with monasteries.

Our photo here shows the Monastery of Rousanou.

Roussanou Monastery at Mereora, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Rousanou Monastery at Mereora, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

History of Rousanou Monastery

Rousanou (Ρουσανου) Monastery was founded around 1545 by Maximos and Ioasaph of Ioannina. The reason for the monastery’s name is not known – it is actually dedicated to St. Barbara – but may reflect the name of a hermit who occupied the rock. It soon declined and became subject to Varlaam Monastery by 1614.

The monastery once again fell into disrepair for the two centuries prior to the 1940s, when it was damaged in World War II then plundered by the Germans. It was later repaired by the regional archaeological service and since 1988 it has been occupied by a small community of 13 nuns.

What to See at Rousanou Monastery

Rousanou Monastery stands on a low rock and is easily accessible by a bridge built of wood in 1868 and replaced by more solid material in 1930. Despite this, its situation is still quite dramatic, with the rock dropping off sharply on all sides.

The monastery covers the entire surface of the rock and consists of three levels: the church and cells occupy the ground floor, while the two upper floors house the guest quarters, reception halls, an exhibition room, and more cells.

The frescoes in Rousanou’s Church of the Transfiguration of Christ, which is essentially a smaller version of Varlaam’s church, date from 1560. The narthex is decorated primarily with gruesome scenes of martyrdom, as at other Meteora monasteries. (

At Amphipolis, the Strymon River

April 6, 2015

Our recent Greece/Turkey tour included Amphipolis, briefly mentioned in Acts 17:1: “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.” This biblical reference takes up where Paul and his companions left Philippi and were on their way to Thessalonica, 2nd Missionary Journey.

Fant and Reddish observe:

The modern, small village of Amphipolis belies the importance of the ancient city whose name it bears. Located strategically along the Strymon River and on the Via Egnatia, Amphipolis was one of the most important cities of Macedonia in antiquity. The site of ancient Amphipolis is located between Thessaloniki and Kavala, about 65 miles east of Thessaloniki. From highway E90 there are signs that point the way to Amphipolis. The ancient city sits on a bend on the east bank of the Strymon River, surrounded by the river on three sides. This geographical feature gave rise to the name of the city, since Amphipolis means “around the city.”

Here is a view of the Strymon River.

Strymon River at Amphipolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Strymon River at Amphipolis. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In addition to our above Acts 17:1 reference which specifically mentions Amphipolis, Todd Bolen in his notes in his excellent Pictorial Library collection quotes Acts 20:1-3, 6a (KJV) “And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia. And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, and there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia…And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread.” Then Bolen notes: “Although no details are given of the stops Paul made during his 3rd missionary journey in this region, it is probable that he passed through Amphipolis, both on his way into and out of Macedonia as he left via Philippi.”

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Lydia’s Baptism at Philippi

March 28, 2015

We leave momentarily for Turkey. Yesterday we visited Philippi, where Lydia and her household were the first converts. Luke writes in Acts 16:

11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

West of Philippi is the Krenides River, where the women would have been gathered for prayer, and where Lydia and her household were baptized into Christ.

At Krenides River at Philippi. Setting of Acts 16.

At Krenides River at Philippi. Setting of Acts 16.

From Kalambaka Greece

March 26, 2015

Yesterday we visited Corinth, and then made the long drive to Delphi, and then made the longer drive to Kalambaka, home to the “Hanging Monasteries.”

At Delphi we were especially interested in the Galillo Inscription.

Gallio Inscription. Delphi Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Gallio Inscription. Delphi Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Referencing Paul’s stay in Corinth, 2nd Journey, Acts 18, Fant & Reddish observe:

Thanks to an inscription that was found at Delphi concerning Gallio, the Roman governor (proconsul) in Corinth, the dates for this visit can be established.  Gallio seems to have taken office in July of 51 C.E. and served only only one year. Since Paul was forced to appear before Gallio due to a complaint lodged against him by the Jewish synagogue in Corinth, he likely arrived there in early 50 C.E. and departed in late 51 or in 52 C.E.

Today we are to make our way on up to Berea and then  to Thessalonica.

Athens, cont’d.

March 25, 2015

This morning we visited the Acropolis Museum, opened to the public in 2009.

The Acropolis Museum (Greek: Μουσείο Ακρόπολης, Mouseio Akropolis) is an archaeological museum focused on the findings of the archaeological site of the Acropolis of Athens. The museum was built to house every artifact found on the rock and on its feet, from the Greek Bronze Age to Roman and Byzantine Greece. It also lies on the archaeological site of Makrygianni and the ruins of a part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens (Wikipedia).

You can see archaeological excavations at the entrance to the museum.

Excavations at Entrance to Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Excavations at Entrance to Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Among the interesting exhibits are the original Caryatids which originally stood as support columns at the Erechtheion on the acropolis.

Original Caryatids at Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Original Caryatids at Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Yet another exhibit was the Brèal Cup. The inscription reads: “Olympic Games 1896. Marathon trophy donated by Michel Brèal.”

Brèal Cup at Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Brèal Cup at Acropolis Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We were able to visit Mars Hill, and there I read Paul’s sermon in Acts 17 to our group. See previous posts here and here.

We had a “bonus” this afternoon, getting to see the changing of the guard at the royal palace.

Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace, Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Changing of the Guard at the Royal Palace, Athens, Greece. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The Evzones is a special unit of the Hellenic Army, also known as Tsoliades, who guard the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in front of the Hellenic Parliament and the Presidential Mansion. Through the historical movement of Greece, the Evzones have become symbols of bravery and courage for the Greek people. The Presidential Guard, as the unit is now called, was constituted in 1868 and has taken many names through centuries (Guard of the Flag, Royal Guard, etc). The duties of the soldiers are part of a ceremonial nature. Every soldier guards for about an hour, 3 times in total every 48 hours. Throughout these 60 minutes, they have to stand perfectly still until it is time to switch with another guard. During the changing, they work in pairs so they can perfectly coordinate their moves. The steps that the official ceremony requires at the time of changing are carried out in really slow motion to protect their blood circulation after 60 min of immobility. The soldiers of the Presidential Guard are selected according to their height, excellent physical condition and psychological state as well as character and morality, as they follow a hard training before they become part of this honorary unit. The training lasts for one month and includes exercises to keep the body and mind still. Apart from staying still, the soldiers must also not make any face or eye move and must not show any expression. Source:

Tomorrow we are scheduled to leave early for Corinth, then on to Delphi, and from there to Kalambaka as we travel to northern Greece (biblical Macedonia) to “walk in the steps of Paul.” Thanks for following our travels.


Greetings From Athens Greece

March 24, 2015

My group arrived safely in Athens this afternoon and all of our luggage arrived as well! We are thankful.Newark seems a bit distant now.

Gathering at Newark International. Photo by Donna Keith.

Gathering at Newark International. Photo by Donna Keith.

Everyone was tired following the overnight flight. A good dinner was welcome!

Dinner at Metropolitan_IMG_0171Donna Keith

Dinner at Metropolitan in Athens. Photo by Donna Keith.


Roman Emperor Hadrian’s Gate in Athens. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

En route to our hotel we saw the Arch of Hadrian, which was constructed in honor of the emperor following the completion of the temple of Zeus. Hadrian  walked through it the arch  to attend the dedication of the temple in AD 131. The western side of the arch has the inscription, “This is Athens, the city of Theseus.”

Tomorrow is scheduled to be an all day tour of Athens. We plan to post photos from our biblical study trip as time (and internet) permit.