At a lecture, which I had kindly been invited to give at the Department of Archaeology and History of Art at Bilkent University, I discussed various aspects of Phrygian iconography and one of the main issues was the iconography of the Phrygian Mother Goddess.
The only Phrygian deity that has so far been clearly attested in both the iconographical and epigraphical sources is Matar, the Mother Goddess. Matar is always depicted as a frontally standing deity, usually situ-ated in the doorway of a building. In almost all depic-tions Matar is alone, but in a few cases she is accompanied by either lions, as at the rock-cut façade Arslankaya, or small male musi-cians, as in the statue-group found in situ at Boğazköy. None of the images is identified by an inscription. It is only her attributes together with her dominant position in the niche which have made us come to the general conclusion that they represent Matar. Inscriptions where Matar is mentioned are connected with a few niches, although none of these have a preserved image of the goddess. There is, however, no reason to question this assumption.
Two different Icono-graphical types of Matar-images existed, one from Central Phrygia, i. e. the area around Gordion/ Ankara, and the other from Western Phrygia, i. e. the Phrygian Highlands, the area between Afyon and Eskişehir. The main difference between these two types is the style in which her veil was arranged.
Fig. 1 Arslankaya in the Phrygian Highlands
(Photo: B. Claasz Coockson 1993)
It was either tucked into the belt or hanging free down the back. In images from Central Phrygia the veil is tucked into the belt on her left side in front, thus creating horizontal curved lines on the left side of the skirt, while on her right side the skirt itself can be seen.
By contrast, the Western images show the veil hanging free down the back. The images from Ankara and Gordion, showing the veil tucked into the belt, appear stylistically to be earlier than the other type, mainly represented by the preserved rock-cut images from the Highlands, and there is most certainly a chronolo-gical difference between these two iconographical types. The earliest preserved Central Phrygian image should probably be dated towards the end of the 8th century, while the rock-cut images from the Highlands probably all belong to the 6th century BC.
The iconography of the two small male musicians flanking Matar in the famous Boğazköy statue-group is also to be discussed and whether they should be interpreted as human or divine. The musicians stand on the same elevated platform as Matar inside the niche, facing the worshipper. In order to interpret the musicians as adorants or attendants we would expect them to be paying attention to the goddess and be facing her, instead of the worshipper,
Fig. 2 Arslankaya, Matar accompanied by lions
(Photo: B. Claasz Coockson 1993)
similar to how the flanking lions at the Arslankaya monument are not facing the viewer, but directed towards Matar. Therefore, the musicians should be interpreted as belonging to the world of the gods rather than being human. It has been suggested by other scholars that their identity should be sought among the groups of Kouretes, Korybantes or Daktyls. These groups are in the
Greek sources to some extent confused, but generally all are regarded as followers of the Mother Goddess, playing loud and orgiastic music on instruments such as the flute, the cymbals and the tympanon. Daktyls are described in Greek literary sources as small, half-divine men, and usually believed to originate from the area of Mount Ida in Asia Minor. They are also in several cases connected
with music. For example, the Daktyls were thought to have brought the flute to the Greeks, and they were also said to have invented the musical rhythm.
The musicians are depicted as small men or boys, their heads are un-proportionally large compared with the rest of the body, giving them a dwarf-like appearance. This may be an attempt to depict them as short Daktyls, as they are explicitly described as short and small in the ancient texts. However, it is
not possible to settle conclusively the identity of the musicians without further evidence. But to search for their identity in the circle of Korybantes, Kouretes and Daktyls, who surrounded the Mother Goddess according to later sources, does appear at present as the most attractive solution. However, we should keep in mind that the Phrygian nature of these half-divine figures might differ considerably from the ones given in the later Greek and Roman sources. We lack, for example, evidence that Phrygian music was ecstatic or orgiastic.