Agdistis (Ancient Greek: Ἄγδιστις) was a deity of Greek, Roman and Anatolian mythology, possessing both male and female sexual organs. She is closely associated with the Phrygian goddess Cybele.[1] Her androgyny was seen as symbolic of a wild and uncontrollable nature. It was this trait which was threatening to the gods and ultimately led to her destruction.[2]

Museum of Anatolian Civilizations 1320287 nevit
Phrygian statue of Kybele/Agdistis from the mid-6th century BCE at or near Hattusa


According to Pausanias, on one occasion Zeus unwittingly begot by the Earth a superhuman being which was at once man and woman, and was called Agdistis. In other versions, there was a rock, called "Agdo", on which the Great Mother slept. Zeus impregnated the Great Mother (Gaia), which brought forth Agdistis.[3]

The gods were afraid of the multi-gendered Agdistis. One deity (in some versions Liber, in others Dionysus) put a sleeping draught in Agdistis's drinking well. After the potion had put Agdistis to sleep, Dionysus tied Agdistis's foot to his own male genitalia (φαλλός) with a strong rope. When Agdistis awoke and stood, Agdistis ripped his penis off, castrating himself.[3] The blood from his severed genitals fertilized the earth, and from that spot grew an almond tree. Once when Nana, daughter of the river-god Sangarius, was gathering the fruit of this tree, she put some almonds (or, in some accounts, a pomegranate) into her bosom;[3] but here the almonds disappeared, and she became pregnant with Attis.[4] In some versions, Attis was born directly out of the almond.[3]

Attis was of such extraordinary beauty that when he had grown up Agdistis fell in love with him. His relatives, however, destined him to become the husband of the daughter of the king of Pessinus, and he went accordingly. In some versions, the king betroths Attis to his daughter to punish Attis for his incestuous relationship with his mother.[2] At the moment when the marriage song had commenced, Agdistis appeared, and all the wedding guests were instantly driven mad, causing both Attis and the king of Pessinus to castrate themselves and the bride to cut off her breasts. Agdistis now repented her deed, and obtained from Zeus the promise that the body of Attis should not become decomposed or disappear. This is the most popular account of an otherwise mysterious affair, which is probably part of a symbolical worship of the creative powers of nature. A hill of the name of Agdistis in Phrygia, at the foot of which Attis was believed to be buried, is also mentioned by Pausanias.[5]

A story somewhat different is given by Arnobius, in which Attis is beloved by both Agdistis and Cybele.[2][6]

Cult of Agdistis

According to Hesychius[7] and Strabo,[8] Agdistis is the same as Cybele, who was worshiped at Pessinus under that name. In many ancient inscriptions, Agdistis is clearly distinct from Cybele, but in many others she is listed as merely an epithet of Cybele.[9]

Although primarily an Anatolian goddess, the cult of Agdistis covered a good deal of territory. By 250 BC it had spread to Egypt, and later to Attica: notably it could be found in Piraeus as early as the 3rd or 4th century BC, Rhamnus around 80 BC (where there was a sanctuary of Agdistis),[9] and Lesbos and Panticapeum some time later on. Inscriptions honoring her have been found at Mithymna and Paros. In the 1st century BC, her shrine in Philadelphia in Asia Minor required a strict code of behavior. At that location and others she is found with theoi soteres.[10] Inscriptions found at Sardis from the 4th century BC indicate that priests of Zeus were not permitted to take part in the mysteries of Agdistis.[11]

Scholars have theorized that Agdistis is part of a continuum of androgynous Anatolian deities, including an ancient Phrygian deity probably named "Andistis" and one called "Adamma", stretching all the way back to the ancient kingdom of Kizzuwatna in the 2nd millennium BC. There is also some epigraphic evidence that in places Agdistis was considered a healing goddess of wholly benevolent nature.[2]

See also

  • Aphroditus, the androgynous aspect of the goddess Aphrodite
  • Galli, eunuch priests of the goddess Cybele and her consort Attis
  • Hermaphroditus, the androgynous son of Hermes and Aphrodite


  1. ^ Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Agdistis". In Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 1. Boston. p. 67.
  2. ^ a b c d Lancellotti, Maria Grazia (2002). Attis, Between Myth and History: King, Priest, and God. Amsterdam: Brill Publishers. pp. 20, 92. ISBN 90-04-12851-4.
  3. ^ a b c d Turner, Patricia (ed.). "Agdistis". Dictionary of Ancient Deities. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 24.
  4. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece vii. 17. § 7.9-13
  5. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece i. 4. § 5
  6. ^ Arnobius, Adversus Gentes ix. 5. § 4; comp. Mimic. Felix, 21
  7. ^ Hesychius of Alexandria, s.v.
  8. ^ Strabo, xii. p. 567; comp. x. p. 469
  9. ^ a b Gasparro, Giulia Sfameni (1985). Soteriology and Mystic Aspects in the Cult of Cybele and Attis. Amsterdam: Brill Publishers. p. 34. ISBN 90-04-07283-7.
  10. ^ Walton, Francis Redding (1996). "Agdistis". In Hornblower, Simon. Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  11. ^ Turcan, Robert; Antonia Nevill (1996). The Cults of the Roman Empire. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. pp. 31–34. ISBN 0-631-20047-9.

External links

Agdistis (moth)

Agdistis is a genus of moths in the family Pterophoridae described by Jacob Hübner in 1825. It is the only genus in the Agdistinae subfamily which was described by J. W. Tutt in 1907.

Agdistis adactyla

Agdistis adactyla is a moth in the family Pterophoridae. It is known from most of the Palaearctic ecozone, from central and south-western Europe to eastern Asia. Records including China (Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Xinjiang), Mongolia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.

The wingspan is 22–26 mm. The forewings are dark grey with four dark spots along the costa. The hindwings are also grey with a cream colored fringe. Adults are on wing from June to mid August.The larvae feed on Artemisia campestris and Chenopodium fruticosum. They live in the lower parts of the plant. Larvae can be found from September to following year May.

Agdistis arabica

Agdistis arabica is a moth in the family Pterophoridae. It is known from Israel, Iran, Pakistan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt and Pakistan.

Agdistis bennetii

Agdistis bennetii is a moth of the family Pterophoridae. It inhabits salt marshes and has been recorded in the coastal areas of Great Britain, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Albania, as well as former Yugoslavia.

The wingspan is 24–30 mm. Adults are greyish brown. There are two generations per year, with adults on wing from mid-May to the beginning of July and again from mid-July to mid-September.

The larvae feed on Limonium vulgare and Limonium binervosum. They feed on the undersides of the leaves.

Agdistis bifurcatus

Agdistis bifurcatus is a moth in the family Pterophoridae. It is known from Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, Morocco, Tunisia, the Selvagens Islands, Spain and Portugal.

The larvae feed on Limonium species, including Limonium ferulaceum.

Agdistis bouyeri

Agdistis bouyeri is a moth of the family Pterophoroidea. It is found in Angola.

The wingspan is 15–17 mm. The moth flies from January to February.

Agdistis frankeniae

Agdistis frankeniae is a moth in the family Pterophoridae. It is found from Siberia through Central Asia, the northern parts of Asia and North Africa along the Mediterranean and in the west from the Canary Islands to southern France.The wingspan is about 29 mm.

The larvae feed on Limonium minutum and Frankenia species.

Agdistis heydeni

Agdistis heydeni is a moth of the family Pterophoridae. It is known from western Asia, southern Europe, Hungary, Poland, North Africa and the Canary Islands.

The larvae feed on Atriplex halimus and Stachys glutinosa. Other recorded foodplants include Lamium, Origanum, Calamintha and Phlomis species.

Agdistis intermedia

Agdistis intermedia is a moth of the family Pterophoridae. It is found from Hungary and Romania, east to Russia and Kazakhstan.

Its wingspan measures 24–30 mm. Adults are on wing from June to August.

The larvae feed on Limonium vulgare.

Agdistis malitiosa

Agdistis malitiosa is a moth in the family Pterophoridae. It is known from Namibia, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Agdistis manicata

Agdistis manicata is a moth in the family Pterophoridae. It is known from France, Portugal, Spain, southern Russia, Libya and Tunisia.

The wingspan is about 25 mm. The forewings are bright grey.The larvae feed on Limoniastrum monopetalum.

Agdistis meridionalis

The sea-side plume (Agdistis meridionalis) is a moth of the family Pterophoridae. It is found in most of southern Europe.

The wingspan is 22–25 mm. Adults are on wing July to October, in two generations.

The larvae feed on the leaves of Limonium binervosum.

Agdistis obstinata

Agdistis obstinata is a moth in the family Pterophoridae. It is known from South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Ethiopia.

Agdistis olei

Agdistis olei is a moth in the family Pterophoridae. It is known from Iran, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Agdistis satanas

Agdistis satanas is a moth in the family Pterophoridae. It is known from the Balearic Islands, Portugal, Spain, France, Corsica, Italy (Piedmont, Val d’Aosta, Latium, Apulia, Sardinia, Sicily), Malta, Germany, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Crete, Turkey, Israel, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Morocco.

The wingspan is about 20 mm. Adults are on wing from April to September.

The larvae feed on Scabiosa candicans, Scabiosa pyrenaica, Scleranthus species and Limoniastrum monopetalum.

Agdistis tamaricis

The tamarisk plume (Agdistis tamaricis) is a moth of the family Pterophoridae. In the Palearctic ecozone, it is found on the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean region. In the north it ranges to southern Germany and Strasbourg in France. It was discovered on Jersey (Great Britain) in August 2006. In the east the range extends through the Balkan Peninsula to Anatolia, Turkmenistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China. In the south it is found in Israel, North Africa and Arabia. In the Oriental region it is found in India, China and Taiwan and in the Afrotropical region in Liberia, South Africa and Mauritania.

The wingspan is 18–27 millimetres (0.71–1.06 in). Adults are on wing from March to October in multiple generations.

The larvae feed on Tamarix gallica, Tamarix smyrnensis and Myricaria germanica.


Attis (; Greek: Ἄττις, also Ἄτυς, Ἄττυς, Ἄττης) was the consort of Cybele in Phrygian and Greek mythology. His priests were eunuchs, the Galli, as explained by origin myths pertaining to Attis and castration. Attis was also a Phrygian god of vegetation. In his self-mutilation, death and resurrection he represents the fruits of the earth which die in winter only to rise again in the spring.The 19th-century identification with the name Atys encountered in Herodotus (i.34–45) as the historical name of the son of Croesus ("Atys the sun god, slain by the boar's tusk of winter") is mistaken.

Nana (Greek mythology)

In Greek mythology, Nana (Greek: Νάνα) was a daughter of the Phrygian river-god Sangarius, identified with the river Sakarya located in present-day Turkey.

She became pregnant when an almond from an almond tree fell on her lap. The almond tree had sprung from the spot where the hermaphroditic Agdistis was castrated, becoming Cybele, the Mother of the Gods.

Nana abandoned the baby boy, who was tended by a he-goat. The baby, Attis, grew up to become Cybele's consort and lover.


The Pterophoridae or plume moths are a family of Lepidoptera with unusually modified wings. Though they belong to the Apoditrysia like the larger moths and the butterflies, unlike these they are tiny and were formerly included among the assemblage called "microlepidoptera".

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