Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other

Pessinus (Ballihisar)


The road to Pessinus. Photo Jona Lendering. Pessinus: town in ancient Phrygia, famous for the cult of Cybele; modern Ballihisar.

The road from Sivrihisar to Ballihisar, through a spectacularly desolate landscape, is part of the fun. It is part of the ancient Royal road that connected Sardes with the capitals of Persia, Susa and Persepolis. Ballihisar was one of the road stations, in Antiquity known as Pessinus. It was famous for its shrine of the goddess Matar or Cybele, the Phrygian Mother of the Gods who was also venerated by the Greeks and Romans.

The temple of Cybele at Pessinus was discovered by Belgian archaeologists in 1967. It is surprisingly small (the cella measures only 8 x 8 meter). Next to the sanctuary was a theater, which also served as the stairs leading to the temple. This combination is pretty unique in the ancient world - I can not remember having seen anything similar.

Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
The theater part of the temple of Cybele at Pessinus. Photo Jona Lendering. The temple of Cybele at Pessinus. Photo Jona Lendering.
The theater/temple stairs The cella of the temple
The goddess Matar (Cybele). Photo Marco Prins.
Cybele (Museum of Gordium)
The Great Mother of the Gods was also represented sitting on a chariot drawn by lions. According to legend (more...), she had fallen from the sky as a stone (a baetyl), and the name Pessinus may indeed mean something like "castle where the fall has taken place". In 204, the meteorite was given to the Romans -who had requested this- by the Pergamene king Attalus I Soter, and a new temple was built right in the center of Rome, on the Palatine. By then, this part of Anatolia had already been conquered by the Tolistobogii, one of the three Galatian tribes that invaded Asia Minor in the 270s. Pessinus became their capital.

Literature

  • Inge Claerhout & John Devreker, Pessinous. Sacred City on the Anatolian Mother Goddess (2008)
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2008
Revision: 4 juli 2008
Livius.Org Anatolia Carthage Egypt Germ. Inf. Greece Judaea Mesopotamia Persia Rome Other