previous next


GALLI (Γάλλοι, in post-Roman authors only), the eunuch priests of Cybele or the Great Mother, whose worship, so far as it can be. traced historically, had its original seat in Phrygia (Marmor Parium, ap. C. Müller, Fragm. 1.544, [βρέτας θ]εῶν μητρὸς ἐφάνη ἐν Κυβέλοις, where it is placed under the reign of Erichthonius, king of Attica, B.C. 1506; Strabo, x. pp. 469, 472, xii. p. 567, where the names Κυβέλη, Δινδυμήνη, &c., are said to be derived from Phrygian localities; Κυβέλην ἀπὸ τοῦ τόπου, Diod. 3.58). The myths of Marsyas and Hyagnis, the reputed inventors of the flute, gather round the same region, and are doubtless connected with the use of that instrument in the orgiastic worship of Cybele (cf. Dict. Biogr. art. Marsyas). The Phrygian language was Indo-European, as appears from the extant inscriptions (Rawlinson's Herodotus, vol. i. App. p. 666); and the worship of Cybele has been thought to be also Indo-European; Zend names have been traced in it--Berecyntus = Berezat, Corybantes = Gereuantô (Labatut in Rev. Numism. Belge, 1868, p. 286). Other names, however, are of distinctly Semitic affinities; Rhea perhaps =the Babylonian Ri (Mulita or Mylitta, Rawlinson, [p. 1.900]l.c. p. 605), and Nana more certainly= the Babylonian Nana, modern Syrian Nani (ib. p. 635). Whatever its origin, this cultus spread rapidly over the whole of Asia Minor: Cyzicus was one of its oldest seats, where it is visited by Anacharsis in the sixth century B.C. (Hdt. 4.76; cf. the οὖρος ἱρὸν μητρὸς Δινδυμήνης, 1.80); another was Sardis, where a temple of Κυβήβη occurs (Hdt. 5.102); but it was especially connected in historic times with Pessinus, in the country afterwards called Galatia, where also, as at Cyzicus, there was a mountain called Dindymon and where Attis was said to be buried (Paus. 1.4.5). The name Agdistis was applied both to the mountain which overhung Pessinus (Strabo xii. p.567; Paus. l.c.) and to the goddess herself (Strabo x. p.469). (Ellis, Comm. on Catull. lxiii. p. 202.).

The origin of the name of Galli is not absolutely certain, but it was doubtless a native Phrygian word: of course it has nothing to do with the Galatae or Gauls, whose first appearance in these countries dates only from B.C. 278. There is no reason to reject the tradition which derives it from a river in Phrygia: there were two small rivers called Gallus, both tributaries of the Sangarius, and the one which flows by Pessinus must be meant, whose water was fabled to cause this particular form of religious madness. (Ov. Fast. 4.363; Plin. Nat. 5.147, 11.261, 31.9; Herodian, 1.11; Fest. s. v. Galli.) A form gallantes, as if from gallare, “to rave like a priest of Cybele,” is cited from Varro (ap. Non.;p. 119,,5). In their wild, enthusiastic, and boisterous rites the Galli recalled the legends of the Corybantes (Hor. Carm. 1.16, 5 ff.; Lucan 1.565 ff.). According to an ancient custom, they were always castrated (spadones, semimares, semiviri, nec viri nec feminae), and it would seem that, impelled by religious enthusiasm, they performed this operation on themselves (Ov. Fast. 4.237; Plin. Nat. 11.261, 35.165; Martial, 3.81, 11.74; Juv. 6.512 ff.).

The worship of the Magna Mater was introduced at Rome in B.C. 204, towards the close of the Second Punic War. In the previous year an oracle had been produced from the Sibylline books, that the, enemy (Hannibal) might be driven from Italy if the Idaean mother were brought to Rome from Pessinus; and an embassy had been sent to Attalus of Pergamum, the only ally the Romans had in Asia, to request his good offices (Liv. 29.10). Attalus made over to the Romans a sacred stone of no great size, probably an aërolite, which the Pessinuntines declared to be the mother of the gods; and on the way the oracle of Delphi was consulted as to the ceremonies to be observed (100.11). The story of the selection of P. Scipio (the first who was called Nasica) as “the best man in the state” for the honour of receiving it, and the ordeal by which Claudia proved her chastity, is told by Livy in the succeeding chapters (12-14) and by Ovid in the Fasti. The temple of the Magna Mater was dedicated in B.C. 191, when the same Scipio was consul (Liv. 36.36). For the festival then instituted, the college of priests with an archiqallus and a sacerdos maxima at its head, and the priestly dress, see MEGALESIA; and cf. Marquardt, Staatsverw. 3.378-9. As might be expected from their extraordinary fanaticism, the Galli were a poor and despised class of people; for while no other priests were allowed to beg, the famuli Idaeae matris were allowed to do so on certain days (Cic. de Legg. 2.9, § 22; 16.40; AGYRTAE). The magnificent Attis of Catullus (Carm. lxiii.) with Ellis' notes, and Ovid's account of the Megalesia (Fast. 4.179-372), should be read in their entirety; to these, therefore, we have given no detailed references.

[L.S] [W.W]

hide References (11 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.76
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.102
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.4.5
    • Lucan, Civil War, 1.565
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 36, 36
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 10
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.9
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 11.74
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 3.81
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 3.58
    • Ovid, Fasti, 4
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: