Glycon

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Glycon
Glykon-statuette.jpg
Late 2nd-century statue of Glycon. (National History and Archeology Museum, Constanţa, Romania)
Abode Abonutichus

Glycon[1] was a snake god, according to the satirist Lucian, who provides the primary literary reference to the deity.[2] Lucian claimed Glycon was created in the mid-2nd century by the Greek prophet Alexander of Abonutichus. (In 20 BC Glycon is referred to by the Roman poet Horace, in his Epistle 1 to Maecenas in his First Book of Epistles; "...you despair of the muscles of the invincible Glycon...") Lucian was ill-disposed toward the cult, calling Alexander a false-prophet and accusing the whole enterprise of being a hoax: Glycon himself was supposedly a hand puppet.

Macedonian cultural roots[edit]

The cult possibly originated in Macedonia, where similar snake cults had existed for centuries. The Macedonians believed snakes had magical powers relating to fertility and had a rich mythology on this subject, for example the story of Olympias's impregnation by Zeus disguised as a serpent.

Early years[edit]

At least initially, the cult did not worship an abstraction or a spirit of a snake but an actual, physical serpent that was said to embody the god. According to the cult's mythology, the snake appeared after Alexander had foretold the coming of a new incarnation of Asclepius. When the people gathered in the marketplace of Abonutichus at noon, when the incarnation was supposed to occur, Alexander produced a goose egg and sliced it open, revealing the god within. Within a week it grew to the size of a man with the features of a man on its face, including long blond hair. At this point the figure resembling this description was apparently a puppet that appeared in the temple. In some references Glycon was a trained snake with a puppet head.

As with previous Macedonian snake cults, the focus of worship at the temple was on fertility. Barren women would bring offerings to Glycon in hopes of becoming pregnant. According to Lucian, Alexander had less magical ways of causing pregnancy among his flock as well. The god was also believed to offer protection against the plague.

Spread and influence[edit]

Glycon.JPG

By 160, the worship of Glycon had undoubtedly spread beyond the Aegean. An inscription from Antioch of that date records a slogan, "Glycon protect us from the plague-cloud" that is consistent with the description we have from Lucian. Also in that year the governor of Asia, Publius Mummius Sisenna Rutilianus, declared himself protector of Glycon's oracle. The governor later married Alexander's daughter. According to Lucian, another Roman governor, of Cappadocia, was led by Glycon's oracle to his death in Armenia, and even the Emperor himself was not immune to the cult: Marcus Aurelius sought prophesies from Alexander and his snake god.

Meanwhile, Abonutichus, a small fishing village before the arrival of the cult, became an important town and accepted another name, Ionopolis. It is uncertain what role the popularity of Glycon played in the rise of the city.

In short order Glycon worship was found throughout the vast area between the Danube and Euphrates. Beginning late in the reign of Antoninus Pius and continuing into the 3rd century, official Roman coins were struck in honor of Glycon, attesting his popularity. While the cult gradually lost followers after the death of its leader in c.170, it survived for at least a hundred years thereafter, with Alexander being incorporated into its mythology as a grandson of Asclepius. Some evidence indicates the cult survived into the 4th century.

Modern times[edit]

Residual superstitions originating with Glycon were reported by some researchers to continue even into modern times. A Turkish friend of Jona Lendering once told him that in the early 1970s, when he was hunting in the hills near Inebolu, the modern name of Ionopolis, people warned him about a magical snake.

Following his "coming out" as a magician in 1993, the English comic book writer and occultist Alan Moore has declared himself a devotee of Glycon, and has cheerfully admitted in interviews the absurdity of worshiping a probable fraud. Moore has declared he considers all ideas (including fictions) in some sense, "real". He has performed spoken word under the name of the Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels. With Steve Moore, Alan Moore is preparing a book — entitled The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic, which will detail the history of magic, and particularly the histories of both Alexander and Glycon.

One single marble statue of Glycon snake was found in excavations done under the site of former railway-station Pallas in Constanța, Romania. The statue is 0.66 metres high and the snake dimension is 4.76 metres. [3]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ancient Greek: Γλύκων, gen.: Γλύκωνος
  2. ^ {Λουκιανοῦ Ἀλέξανδρος ἢ Ψευδομάντις}, Lucian's "Alexander or the False Prophet", 18–20
  3. ^ Vatamanu Nicolae: Esculap reincarnat in Glycon, sarpele cu plete, Viaţa medicală 1972, No.7 pg 333-335

References[edit]

External links[edit]