This is Homeric Hymn 14, To the Mother of the Gods:

I prithee, clear-voiced Muse, daughter of mighty Zeus, sing of the mother of all gods and men. She is well-pleased with the sound of rattles and of timbrels, with the voice of flutes and the outcry of wolves and bright-eyed lions, with echoing hills and wooded coombes.

And so hail to you in my song and to all goddesses as well!

Source: The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Homeric Hymns. Cambridge, MA.,Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.

Who is "the mother of all gods and men"?

My first thought was Rhea, sister-wife of Kronos and mother to the first generation of Olympians.

However Gaia, Rhea's mother and "mother of all, eldest of all beings" according to Homeric Hymn 30, may also be a candidate.

2 Answers 2


Going by the commonest references in Ancient Greek literature and the closest associations in Ancient Greek religion, the best candidate for this particular hymn's addressee would appear to be Rhea, but specifically as filtered through her identification with the ambiguous Phrygian deity Kybele [Cybele] (or a perhaps pre-Hellenic goddess who would become identified as Kybele a couple of centuries after the Homeric Hymns' composition).

The musical and wilderness aspects, together with the lions, of this hymn are signature attributes of Rhea-Kybele, eventually finding their sharpest focus in Nonnus' Dionysiaca (see also Orphic Hymn 14, & cf. Orphic Hymn 27). Likely based on such evidence, Theoi.com evidently takes it for granted that the hymn is in honour of this divinity, listing it as one of the "Hymns to the Meter Theon {Mother of the Gods}" at the end of its "Rhea-Kybele Myths" webpage series.

This notwithstanding, there is a lot of conflation and syncretism of the most prominent goddesses, i.e. Gaia, Rhea, Demeter, Persephone and Hera, which occurs in Ancient Greek religion, which is expressed in some of its mythology, and which may or may not be a result of the identification of these goddesses, being either important maternal or chthonic figures, with the Great Phrygian Mother, whom the Greeks would call Kybele, but also simply "the Mother of the Gods."

In her 1999 book In Search of God the Mother: The Cult of Anatolian Cybele (University of California Press), Lynn Emrich Roller notes (p. 170) that the Derveni Papyrus (Col. 18, Line 7) explicitly says that:

Ge [Gaia, "Earth"] and Meter ["Mother"] and Rhea and Hera are the same thing.

Roller goes on to tell us (on pp. 174-175) that

Pindar addresses Demeter as the goddess with resounding cymbals, using the imagery of Meter, and the fifth-century B.C. poet Melanippides states explicitly that the two goddesses were regarded as identical... (Melanippides says that Demeter and the Mother of the gods are one). The Derveni Papyrus makes the some claim, stating that Demeter received her name Γῆ Μήτηρ because she was a fusion of both goddesses.

So the Meter in the earlier Derveni Papyrus reference appears to be equivalent to both the enigmatic "Mother" deity and to the less shadowy goddess Demeter.

On pp. 170-171 of her book, while observing the identification of the Phrygian Mother with Gaia, Roller explains why Rhea became the more vivid counterpart to the great Anatolian goddess.

The concept of Mother Earth, however, seems to have been a fairly abstract one to the Greeks. Mother Earth was only rarely represented in Greek art, and is usually shown as a mature woman rising up from the ground. She was not the goddess with tympanum and lions.

More concrete is the figure of Rhea, the wife of the Titan Kronos, who also figures prominently in Hesiod's Theogony...

In the mid sixth century B.C., the Greek poet Hipponax equates Kybele, the Anatolian Mother, with Rhea, the Mother of the gods. By the fifth century B.C., this syncretism had developed to the point where the cult figure Meter could be addressed as either Kybele or Rhea: In tragedy, both Kybele and Rhea use the tympanum and were at home in the mountain environment.

On pp. 169-170 of Roller's book:

It has long been recognized that the Greek Meter was a highly syncretistic deity, embodying not only an Anatolian predecessor but also traits of a Hellenic or pre- Hellenic Mother Goddess. The Classical goddess was both Μήτηρ, Meter, the Mother, a direct transfer from her Phrygian cult name Matar, and also Μήτηρ θεῶν, the Mother of the gods—that is, of the Olympian pantheon. This dual identity caused the Anatolian Mother Goddess to become conflated in Greek literature and cult practice with other Greek mother deities, each of which would contribute to her personality and to her identity in the perception of both Greeks and Romans. As the Mother of the gods, she was identified with Gaia (Earth) and, more especially, with Rhea, wife of Kronos and mother of the six original Olympian gods. As Meter, the Mother Goddess, she became closely allied with the Greek deity who exemplified motherly devotion, Demeter. The fusion was never complete, and the constituent deities who formed elements of Meter during the Classical period were recognized and often addressed as separate entities. Yet the separate elements of Meter's personality were no longer distinct either, and the assimilation of Meter with other figures such as Gaia, Rhea, and Demeter only underscores how widely the syncretism had progressed and how much the character of the Anatolian Mother had come to influence her Hellenic counterparts.

One aspect of Meter’s identity was as Mother Earth. Earth, Γῆ or Γαῖα in Greek, the Mother of all life, was already a potent figure in Hesiod’s Theogony. Not only did she symbolize the agricultural fertility of the land, but she was also, in Hesiod’s poem, literally the progenitor of all beings, divine and human.

With Homeric Hymn 14 aimed at the Phrygian Matar or to her Greek interpretation of "Kybele," it would be a short step to saying that the Mother of whom you ask is (mostly) Rhea, but also, sort of, Gaia, but in a way also Demeter, and so on and so forth we go through the various mother-deities of Greek religion, because of how Matar/Kybele ended up refracting into all these goddesses.


Not sure if this works with the Homeric hymn, but thought it was interesting:

Excerpt from The Natural Genesis - Gerald Massey

The genetrix as Ta-urt (Typhon) is designated the 'Mother of the Beginnings,' 'Mother of the Revolutions' (time-cycles), 'Mother of the Fields of Heaven,' and the 'Mother of Gods and Men.' The priority of the genetrix as typical producer was plainly enough portrayed by Tesas-Neith, the Great Mother, at Sais. 'I am all that was, and is, and is to be; no mortal hath lifted my peplum, and the fruit I bore is Helios.'[2] The title of the goddess as 'Tesas-Neith' signifies the self-existing; she who came from herself. The genetrix is celebrated as the 'Only One' in the Ritual. 'Glory to thee! Thou art mightier than the Gods! The forms of the living souls which are in their places give glory to the terrors of thee, their Mother; thou art their origin.'[3]

Following this enunciation of the female priority we find that Seb, the father of the gods, is also designated the 'Youngest of the gods.' The earlier gods, Sut (or Sevekh), Shu, Taht, and the first Horus, were children of the mother alone. They were created before there was any father in heaven, there being no fatherhood as yet individdualized on earth. [p.457]

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