The Syrian Goddess, by Lucian, tr. by Herbert A. Strong and John Garstang, , at sacred-texts.com
To the student of oriental religions the Dea Syria is brimful of interest. It describes the cult and worship of the goddess of Northern Syria, Atargatis, at her sacred city, Hierapolis, now Mumbij. The time when Lucian wrote would be the middle of the second century B.C. We do not see any reason to reject the traditional authorship of the treatise: on the contrary, the work seems to reveal the famous satirist at home, taking a natural interest in local memories and institutions, while making, doubtless, mental notes that were to prove of use in the works for which he is best known.
Of the many writers who refer to the Dea Syria, no one dwells upon the fundamental character of the cult at Hierapolis, nor deals with the problem of its historical origins. It is this aspect of inquiry, therefore, with which we chiefly deal in the Introduction and the foot notes. Lucian's description, amplified by the later account of Macrobius, and further illustrated by the local coinage of Hierapolis, reveals the central cult as that of a divine pair. The male god, a form of Hadad, is symbolised by the bull, and is hence both "Lord of Heaven" and "Creator." The female deity is shown by her very name, "Atargatis," to be a form of Ishtar or
[paragraph continues] Astarte. Being mated with the god, whom Lucian calls "Zeus," she is called by him "Hera": but she wears a mural crown, and is symbolised by the lion; and Lucian recognises in her traces of Kybele, Aphrodite, Artemis, and other aspects of the Mother Goddess. An examination of the materials which modern research has made available, shows this cult to be attributable historically to the Hittites, the earliest known masters of the soil. The argument is developed in our Introduction.
If some of our notes to Lucian's narrative appear elementary and superfluous—they were originally prepared for lecture purposes—it may be urged as an excuse for retaining them, that the eastern horizon of many of the classical students in our universities is still bounded, like that of Homer, by the Halys River. The life-work of Ramsay, Sayce, Winckler and others, in developing our knowledge of the interior of Asia Minor, is passed over in a casual or cursory fashion; and their results are relegated with vague mistrust and misgiving to the orientalist. If anyone should be tempted, however, to pursue his studies in this wider field, he will find in these notes many references to the writings and discussions of authorities like the late Robertson-Smith, Ed. Meyer, Professor Frazer, Mr. Farnell, Messieurs Cumont, Dussaud and others, that will at once introduce him to a fuller bibliography of the various aspects of Anthropology and Comparative Religions towards which this treatise naturally leads. He would do well, however, to prepare for such a study, by making himself familiar
with the broad principles of these subjects, explained in Tylor's Primitive Culture and his Anthropology, and Jevon's Introduction to the History of Religion. Otherwise he will be likely to have his mind perplexed by seemingly irreconcilable differences of opinion and interpretation.
We are indebted for assistance, suggestion and facilities, freely and generously given, to Mr. Hill and Mr. King, of the British Museum; Mr. Hogarth, Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum; M. Babélon, of the Bibliothèque Nationale; Professor Kubilschek, of Vienna; and to our colleagues, Professor Lehmann-Haupt, Professor Bosanquet, Professor Newberry and Dr. Pinches.
INSTITUTE OF ARCHÆOLOGY,
UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL,