Human Representatives of Attis

  • James George Frazer


From inscriptions it appears that both at Pessinus and Rome the high-priest of Cybele regularly bore the name of Attis. It is therefore a reasonable conjecture that he played the part of his namesake, the legendary Attis, at the annual festival. We have seen that on the Day of Blood he drew blood from his arms, and this may have been an imitation of the self-inflicted death of Attis under the pine-tree. It is not inconsistent with this supposition that Attis was also represented at these ceremonies by an effigy; for instances can be shown in which the divine being is first represented by a living person and afterwards by an effigy, which is then burned or otherwise destroyed. Perhaps we may go a step farther and conjecture that this mimic killing of the priest, accompanied by a real effusion of his blood, was in Phrygia, as it has been elsewhere, a substitute for a human sacrifice which in earlier times was actually offered.


Sacred Grove Sacred Tree Human Sacrifice Reasonable Conjecture Human Victim 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • James George Frazer
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Trinity CollegeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.OxfordUK
  3. 3.Cambridge and DurhamUK
  4. 4.GlasgowUK
  5. 5.Universities of Paris and StrasbourgFrance

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