A Phrygian divinity, commonly described as a son of Rhea or Cybele; but in later times he was identified with the mystic Dionysus, who hence is sometimes called Dionysus Sabazius.1 For the same reason Sabazius is called a son of Zeus by Persephone, and is said to have been reared by the nymph Nysa; though others, by philosophical speculations, were led to consider him a son of Cabeirus, Dionysus, or Cronus. He was torn by the Titans into seven pieces.2
The connection of Sabazius with the Phrygian mother of the gods accounts for the fact that he was identified, to a certain extent, with Zeus himself, who is mentioned as Zeus Sabazius, both Zeus and Dionysus having been brought up by Cybele or Rhea.3
His worship and festivals (Sabazia) were also introduced into Greece; but, at least in the time of Demosthenes, it was not thought reputable to take part in them, for they were celebrated at night by both sexes with purifications, initiations, and immoralities.4 Serpents, which were sacred to him, acted a prominent part at the Sabazia and in the processions:5 the god himself was represented with horns, because, it is said, he was the first that yoked oxen to the plow for agriculture.6
Sabazius was represented on fifth century vases, sometimes with the goddess Meter and later depicted on a relief with Demeter and Persephone, as well as with Cybele. He did not appear in Attica on horseback as it was described in the other regions. A cult-scene pictured on the volute krater made by the Polygnotan Group (Ferrara 2897) represents Sabazius with Meter seated on their thrones, with in their scepters and plates (perhaps with barley) and surrounded by their worshipers.
- Aristophanes. Birds, 873; Hesychius, s.v.
- Ioannes Lydus. De Mensibus p. 82; Orphic. Fragments viii, 46, p. 469 (ed. Herm.); Hymn 47; Cicero. On the Nature of the Gods iii, 23.
- Valerius Maximus, i, 3.4.
- Diodorus Siculus. Historical Library iv, 4; Demosthenes. De Corona, p. 313; Strabo. Geography x, p. 471; Aristophanes. Wasps, 9; Lysistrata, 389.
- Clement of Alexandria. Protrepticus, p. 6; Theophrastus. Characters, 16.
- Diodorus Siculus. Historical Library iv, 4.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.