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THE SAMOTHRAKIAN KORYBANTES (or Corybantes) were seven daimones who

presided over the Korybantic dance of the Mysteries of Samothrake.


The korybas was an orgiastic dance performed by armoured men with clashing
spear and shield, accompanied by the beat of tambourines and drums and the cries
of the mystic devotees. The Samothrakian Korybantes were barely distinguished
from the Kabeiroi, another set of orgiasticdaimones who presided over the
Mysteries. Often the two Kabeiroi sons of Hephaistos were combined with the seven
Korybant sons of Apollon to form a Mystery-chorus of nine.
The Samnothrakian daimones were also identified with the Phrygian Daktyloi,
the Kretan Kouretes and theEuboian Korybantes.
PARENTS
[1] APOLLON & THALEIA (Apollodorus 1.18)
[2] ZEUS & KALLIOPE (Strabo 10.3.19)
[3] APOLLON & RHETIA (Pherecydes Frag, Strabo
10.3.21)

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 18 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd


A.D.) :
"Apollon and [the Mousa (Muse)] Thaleia had the Korybantes (Corybantes)."
Lycophron, Alexandra 77 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"Saos [Samothrake], the strong foundation of the Kyrbantes (Cyrbantes) [or
Kabeiroi]."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 48. 2 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st
B.C.) :
"Iasion [a Samothrakian prince] married Kybele (Cybele) [Demeter of Samothrake]
and begat Korybas (Corybas). And after Iasion had been removed into the circle of
the gods, Dardanos and Kybele and Korybas conveyed to Asia the sacred rites of the
Mother of the Gods and removed with them to Phrygia . . . and Korybas gave the
name of Korybantes (Corybantes) to all who, in celebrating the rites of his mother,
acted like men possessed."
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 64. 3 :
"But some historians, and Ephoros is one of them, record that the Daktyloi Idaioi
(Idaean Dactys) [i.e. the Kabeiroi or Korybantes] were in fact born on the Mt Ide
which is in Phrygia and passed over to Europe together with Mygdon; and since they
were wizards (gonta), they practised charms and initiatory rites and mysteries, and
in the course of a sojourn in Samothrake they [as Kabeiroi or Korybantes] amazed
the natives of that island not a little by their skill in such matters. And it was at this

time, we are further told, that Orpheus, who was endowed with an exceptional gift
of poesy and song, also became a pupil of theirs, and he was subsequently the first
to introduce initiatory rites and Mysteries to the Greeks."
Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 20 - 22 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st
A.D.) :
"Further, one might also find, in addition to these facts concerning these Daimones
and their various names, that they were called, not only ministers of gods, but also
gods themselves . . .
(1) Others say that the Korybantes (Corybantes) were sons of Zeus and Kalliope
(Calliope) and were identical with the Kabeiroi (Cabeiri), and that these went off to
Samothrake, which in earlier times was called Melite, and that their rites were
mystical . . .
(2)Some, however, believe that the Kouretes [of Krete] were the same as the
Korybantes and were ministers of Hekate [on Samothrake] . . .
(3) Pherekydes [mythographer C5th B.C.] says that nine Kyrbantes (Cyrbantes) were
sprung from Apollon and Rhetia, and that they took up their abode in Samothrake;
and that three Kabeiroi (Cabeiroi) and three Nymphai called Kabeirides (Cabeirides)
were the children of Kabeiro, the daughter of Proteus, and Hephaistos, and that
sacred rites were instituted in honor of each triad . . .
(4) The Skepsian [Demetrius of Scepsis C2nd B.C.] says that it is probable that the
Kouretes (Curetes) and the Korybantes (Corybantes) were the same, being those
who had been accepted as young men, or youths, for the war-dance in connection
with the holy rites of the Mother of the Gods [Rhea], and also as korybantes from
the fact that they walked with a butting of their heads in a dancing way. These are
called by the poetbetarmones: Come now, all ye that are the best betarmones of
the Phaiakes (Phaeacians). And because the Korybantes are inclined to dancing and
to religious frenzy, we say of those who are stirred with frenzy that they are
korybantising."
Strabo, Geography 7 Fragment 50 :
"The Kabeiroi (Cabeiri) [of Samothrake] . . . the Kyrbantes (Cyrbantes) and
Korybantes (Corybantes), and likewise the Kouretes (Curetes) and the Idaean
Daktyloi Idaioi (Idaean Dactyls), are identified with them."
Clement, Exhortation to the Greeks 2. 15 (trans. Butterworth) (Greek Christian
rhetoric C2nd A.D.) :
"[The early Christian writer Clement discusses the roles of the Korybantes and
Kabeiroi in the mythos of the Samothracian Mysteries:] The [Orphic] Mysteries
(Mysteria) of Dionysos are of a perfectly savage characters. He was yet a child, and
the Kouretes (Curetes) were dancing around him with warlike movement, when the
Titanes stealthily drew near. First they beguiled him with childish toys, and then,-these very Titanes--tore him to pieces, though he was but an infant . . .
The Korybantes (Corybantes) are also called by the name Kabeiroi (Cabeiri) [N.B.
the two Kabeiroi differ from the aforementioned Korybantes], which proclaims the

Rite of the Kabeiroi (teletes Kabeirikes). For this very pair of fratricides got
possession of the chest in which the virilia of Dionysos [i.e. Zagreus who was
dismembered by the Titanes] were deposited, and brought it to Tyrrhenia
[Samothrake], traders in glorious wares! There they sojourned, being exiles, and
communicated their precious teaching of peity, the virilia and the chest, to Tyrrhenoi
(the Tyrrhenians) for purposes of worship."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 15. 65 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The orgies of the carryshield Korybantes (Corybantes), twirling their steps for the
dance-in-armour, and all in a whirl the shields were beaten by alternate thump of
hand or the plunging of iron."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 29. 284 ff :
"The loverattle Korybantes (Corybantes) beating their hands on both sides of the
rounded skin, the tinkling cymbals."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 3. 61 ff :
"Already the bird of morning was cutting the air with loud cries [on the island of
Samothrake]; already the helmeted bands of desert-haunting Korybantes
(Corybantes) were beating on their shields in the Knossian dance, and leaping with
rhythmic steps, and the oxhides thudded under the blows of the iron as they whirled
them about in rivalry, while the double pipe made music, and quickened the
dancers with its rollicking tune in time to the bounding steps. Aye, and the trees
whispered, the rocks boomed, the forests held jubilee with their intelligent movings
and shakings, and the Dryades did sing. Packs of bears joined the dance, skipping
and wheeling face to face; lions with a roar from emulous throats mimicked the
triumphant cry of the priests of the Kabeiroi (Cabeiri), sane in their madness; the
revelling pipes rang out a tune to honour of Hekate, divine friend of dogs, those
single pipes, which the horn-polishers art invented in Kronoss days.
The noisy Korybantes with their ringing din awoke Kadmos early in the morning; the
Sidonian seamen also with one accord, hearing the never-silent oxhide at dawn,
rose from their rattling pebbly pallets and left the brine-beaten back of the shore."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 4. 184 ff :
"Grottoes of the Kabeiroi and Korybantian cliffs [on the island of Samothrake]."
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 400 ff :
"Zerynthos [on the island of Samothrake] of the unresting Korybantes (Corybantes),
the foundation of renowned Perseis [Hekate], where the rocks are thronged with
torchbearing mystics of the Maid."
Suidas s.v. Zerynthia (trans. Suda On Line) (Byzantine Greek lexicon C10th A.D.) :
"Zerinthian cave, where they used to sacrifice dogs. There the mysteries of the
Korybantes (Corybantes) and of Hekate took place."

Suidas s.v. All' ei tis humn en Samothraikei memuemenos esti :


"All' ei tis humn en Samothraikei memuemenos esti (But if there is someone
among you initiated in Samothrake, now is a fine time to pray that both feet of the
pursuer be put out of joint): In Samothrake there were certain initiation-rites, which
they supposed efficacious as a charm against certain dangers. In that place were
also the mysteries of the Korybantes (Corybantes) and those of Hekate and the
Zerinthian cave, where they sacrificed dogs. The initiates supposed that these
things save [them] from terrors and from storms. The bone-socket of the pursuer to
be be put out of joint means to be distorted and dislocated. The way forward
becomes an obstacle to him, so that he can no longer turn back."

Sources:
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Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.

Lycophron, Alexandra - Greek Poetry C3rd BC

Strabo, Geography - Greek Geography C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.

Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History - Greek History C1st B.C.

Clement, Exhortation to the Greeks - Christian Rhetoric C2nd A.D.

Nonnos, Dionysiaca - Greek Epic C5th A.D.

Suidas - Byzantine Greek Lexicon C10th A.D.