: Eth. Πεσσινούντιος
), the principal town of the Tolistoboii, in the west of Galatia, situated on the southern slope of Mount Dindymus or Agdistis, near the left bank of the river Sangarius, from. whose sources it was about 15 miles distant. (Paus. 1.4.5
; Strab. xii. p.567
It was 16 miles south of Germa, on the road from Ancyra to Amorium. (It. Ant.
pp. 201, 202.)
It was the greatest commercial town in those parts, and was believed to have derived its name from the image of its great patron divinity, which was said to have fallen (πεσεῖν
) from heaven. (Herodian, 1.11; Amm. Marc. 22.9
.) Pessinus owes its greatest celebrity to the goddess Rhea or Cybele, whom the natives called Agdistis, and to whom an immensely rich temple was dedicated. Her priests were anciently the rulers of the place ; but in later times their honours and powers were greatly reduced. (Strab. l.c.,
x. p. 469; Diod. 3.58
, &c.) Her temple contained her image, which, according to some, was of stone (Liv. 29.10
), or, according to others, of wood, and was believed to have fallen from heaven. (Apollod. 3.11
; Amm. Marc. l.c.
) The fame of the goddess appears to have extended all over the ancient world; and in B.C. 204, in accordance with a command of the Sibylline books, the Romans sent a special embassy to Pessinus to fetch her statue, it being believed that the safety of Rome depended on its removal to Italy. (Liv. l.c.; Strab. xii. p.567
The statue was set up in the temple of Victory, on the Palatine.
The goddess, however, continued nevertheless to be worshipped at Pessinus; and the Galli, her priests, sent a deputation to Manlius when he was encamped on the banks of the Sangarius. (Liv. 38.18
; Plb. 20.4
At a still later period, the emperor Julian worshipped the goddess in her ancient temple. (Amm. Marc. l.c.
) The kings of Pergamum adorned the sanctuary with a magnificent temple, and porticoes of white marble, and surrounded it with a beautiful grove. Under the Roman dominion the town of Pessinus began to decay, although in the new division of the empire under Constantine it was made the capital of the province Galatia Salutaris. (Hierocl. p. 697.)
After the sixth century the town is no longer mentioned in history. Considerable ruins of Pessinus, especially a well-preserved theatre, exist at a distance of 9 or 10 miles to the south-east of Sevri Hissar,
where they were first discovered by Texier. (Descript. de l'Asie Mineure
). They extend over three hills, separated by valleys or ravines.
The marble seats of the theatre are nearly entire, but the scena is entirely destroyed; the whole district is covered with blocks of marble, shafts of columns, and other fragments, showing that the place must have been one of unusual magnificence. (Hamilton, Researches,
i. p. 438, foll.; Leake, Asia Minor,
p. 82, foll., who seems to be mistaken in looking for Pessinus on the right bank of the Sangarius.