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[Translated with annotations by G.W. Clarke in The Octavius of Marcus Minucius Felix, New York: Newman Press, 1974, in the series Ancient Christian Writers, no. 39.]


Chapter 22 [Clarke's title: "Absurdities and inconsistencies in pagan mythology"]

Paragraph 4

"I am embarrassed to mention Dindymus sacred to Cybele;[297] ugly old crone that she was (as well she might be, being after all the mother of a large number of gods), she failed in her efforts to seduce her own paramour, whom, unluckily for him, she found attractive.[298] And so she castrated him--her object must have been to make a eunuch-god! Because of this legend her Galli go so far as to sacrifice the virility of their own bodies in their worship of her.[299] These are no longer sacred rites; they are tortures.

Footnotes in Clarke's translation

[297] On Cybele see n. 69 above [in the edition mentioned above]: her sanctuary on Mount Dindymus in Phrygia was one of her most sacred; it overhangs Pessinus, the sacred city of Cybele.

[298] The castration of the youthful consort of Cybele, Attis (often a herdsman) has many variants, especially as to whether the act was self-inflicted or not, or whether Attis had been unfaithful or not. Generally speaking, the Apologists chose the variants placing the responsibility on Cybele as being the more discreditable; it is a frequent motif (Arnob. 5.5 ff.; Theoph. Ad Autol. 1.9, 1.10; Tat. Or. 8; Tert. Apol. 15.2, 15.5; Aug. De civ. Dei 6.7, following this account here). See also Catul. Carm. 63; Ovid Fasti 4.223 ff. with Frazer's nn.; and below chap. 24.12.

[299] For the eunuch priests of Cybele, the Galli, who imitated Attis in his emasculation, see especially H. Graillot, Le culte de Cybèle, mère des dieux, à Rome et dans l'empire (Paris 1912) 285 ff.; Roscher 1.2.1582-83. They were called Galli, it was said, after the river Gallus in Phrygia near Pessinus, whose waters drove them into their castrating frenzy (Ovid Fast. 4.361 ff. and Frazer's nn.). They are a constant motif of Roman satire (Juv. Sat. 2.110 ff., 6.513ff., 8.176; Pers. Sat. 5.186, etc.), and though the Christians follow them in this derision (see below 24.12 and cf. Athenag. Leg. 26; Tat. Or. 8; Tert. Apol. 25.4 f.), there are scattered references to early Christians prepared to castrate themselves (Just. Apol. 1.29; Euseb. H.E. 6.8.1 [Origen], [Cyp.] De sing. cleric. 33; ?Athenag. Leg. 33-34; Tert. De res. mort. 61.6 (metaphorical?), De virg. vel. 10.1 (metaphorical? spadones voluntarii); "Acts of John" 53 f. Cf., too, the eunuch presbyter (?) Hyacinthus, Hippol. Philos. 9.12.11, and the strong tradition of eunuch martyrs (see B. de Gaiffier, "Palatins et eunuques dans quelques documents hagiographiques," AnalBoll 75 [1957] 17-46).