Statue of a hunter-god, possibly Attis
Roman Britain, 2nd century AD
From Bevis Marks, City of London
Attis was the young lover of the goddess Cybele, the 'Great Mother', who was identified with earth, nature, and fertility goddesses of surrounding cultures. Her cult originated in Phrygia in Asia Minor, but, like the other Eastern cults of Mithras, Isis and Bacchus, spread widely through the Roman Empire. Her annual spring festival celebrated the death and resurrection of her beloved Attis.
Few unambiguous remains of the cult have been found in Britain. The surviving part of this broken limestone statue shows a young man with shoulder-length curly hair, holding a bow in his left hand and wearing a Phrygian cap, a short belted tunic, and a cloak fastened on the right shoulder by a brooch. The figure has long been considered to be that of Attis, but the attributes are not exclusive to him. A more recent interpretation, which relates the statue to new evidence from London and other British sites, identifies the figure as a hunter-god, who appears to have been a conflation of Apollo, an Eastern saviour-god and a British god of male youth.