Hollanda Araştırma Enstitüsü  -  Nederlands Instituut in Turkije

Ishtar and Kybele: the role of Anatolia in the transmission of religious ideas between Mesopotamia and the Greek-Roman World

Michèle Meijer (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

I was a fellow at the institute for one month in November and December 2015, where I enjoyed the institute's warm welcome and comfortable rooms and library. This library, with its books and journals on Anatolian and Near Eastern history all on shelf, formed the perfect environment for me to work on my PhD proposal—of course frequently interrupted by wonderful sightseeings throughout the city and mid-day strolls through the lovely little streets of the Beyoğlu area. The institute's library was perfectly complemented by the library of the German Archaeological Institute nearby.

Istanbul, as symbolic boundary between East and West, could not be a more fitting location to finish my PhD proposal. My intended project will investigate similarities between religious phenomena of ancient Mesopotamia on the one hand and the Graeco-Roman world on the other. How did these similarities come into being? Are these independent developments, or did one culture borrow religious elements from the other? I will investigate these issues by means of a comparative case study between the cults of the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar and the Greek goddess Kybele. These cults show striking similarities with respect to the nature of the goddesses and the physical appearance and ritual practices of their cultic personnel. I will devote a large part of my research to the question to what extent Anatolian cultures have functioned as possible intermediaries in the transmission of religious elements from Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean. In other words, I will investigate Anatolia's role as a landbridge between East and West.

Upon arrival in Istanbul, my proposal still lacked a section on the importance of this Anatolian landbridge for my research. During my stay, however, the facilities of the institute made it soon easy for me to find the time and the means to make a thorough study of relevant information to fill this gap in my research proposal. While drinking coffee on the institute's roof terrace and looking over the glittering Bosporus, Istanbul's winter sun shining bright, I could not think of a better place to spend the month.