Agrae (Pisidia)

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Agrae or Agrai (Ancient Greek: Ἀγραῖ) was an inland town of ancient Pisidia inhabited during Byzantine times.[1]

Its site is located near Ağras, in Asiatic Turkey.[1][2] Pisidia was known for not being able to grow many crops, as they had seasonal droughts and, living inland, could not dig irrigation canals from the Mediterraenean Sea. Pisidia eventually collapsed after a trade route connecting them to other cities was entirely captured by bandits. This proved a problem for the Pisideans. They had deposits of marble and copper near their city and they traded them for crops each year along their sole trade route. When bandits controlled this trade route, all of the marble and copper was usually stolen and the poor merchant was left at the entrance to Pisidia, normally unconscious or dead. Once the Pisideans no longer had any source of food sustainable to feed their city, most Pisideans fled the city in search of new homes. The remaining Pisideans tried to hunt the small supplies of rabbits and elk in the area, but the animals spooked quickly and there was not enough kill for the remaining peoples. The bandits had been scouting the city for a while and once they decided that there were not enough original Pisideans left to put up resistance, the bandits came into the town and rebuilt it. They had the original Pisideans who were still left sign a treaty which said that the remaining Pisideans would not leave the new city, now called Agrae, but would be granted the freedoms of servants, and, depending on how well behaved they were, could sometimes be granted lower class citizen freedoms.. However, the bandits were in a predicament. There were not enough bandits to keep having enough offspring to sustain their new city and grow the population. And even if there were, most of the bandits were men, and there were very few women in the group. However, the remaining original Pisideans were mostly unmarried women who had no obligation to a husband to flee with him to a new city. So the bandits also added to a treaty that said that all women from the original city would have to immediately marry a bandit or they would be killed or driven out of the city. The Pisideans agreed to this, and the bandits actually brought the new city of Agrae to prosper. The new king of Agrae was a former bandit named Cyrillus. Most rulers of that time period would name their domains or cities after themselves, but Cyrillus did not. After the treaty between the bandits and the Pisideans, Cyrillus married a Pisidean woman named Eutropia Galene. Cyrillus decided to change her name to Agrape, meaning love, and Cyrillus actually built a temple to her at the heart of the city. He named the city Agrae after her, and Agrape was venerated as a goddess on earth at the command of Cyrillus. Agrape became the goddess of Agrae, but she was only venerated inside of the city and its territory. After Cyrillus and Agrape had both passed away, Agrape started being the goddess of other things in Agrae. She replaced Aphrodite as the goddess of love and pleasure, replaced Hestia as the goddess of hearth and home, and replaced Hera as the goddess of marriage and women. A large differing between the religions of Agrae and surrounding Greek poleis is that the entire story of Persephone and Hades was replaced to fit Agrape and Cyrillus.

The myth of Agrape and Cyrillus[edit]

The myth created around Agrape and Cyrillus is a replacement of the myth of Persephone and Hades. In the myth, Cyrillus is a mortal form of Hades, the god of the underworld and death. In Agrean mythology, Hades was not the grim and evil god of normal Greek mythology. He was instead a hopeless romantic forever searching for love. No god had any interest in him unless they needed to do something with one of the dead. Hades had tried to find a lover in one of the dead, but there were none suitable for him. One day, he heard about a beautiful lady in the city of Pisidia named Agrape, who was loved by all but had rejected all of her suitors saying that she knew the perfect one was coming, but he was not here yet. (Notice how the myth is different from history, saying that while Pisidia was the name of the city, Agrape was her name, while in reality, her name changed to Agrape once the bandits conquered the city.) Hades knew Agrape had to be his perfect lover and took a mortal form to persuade her to come to the underworld with him. This mortal form was named Cyrillus. Cyrillus ventured to the city to find Agrape and immediately was found by Agrape, who said, "I could feel your love for me as soon as you entered the city! We must marry immediately!" Cyrillus was overjoyed at Agrape having feelings for him so soon and agreed. After they wed, Cyrillus told Agrape who he really was, Hades, the god of the underworld and the dead. Agrape had heard the stories about Hades forever searching for his perfect lover, and she was even more endeared to him when she found out that she was that perfect lover. Eventually, Cyrillus and Agrape became king and queen of the city, which Cyrillus renamed Agrae after his wife. They had five children. Their first child was named Alexandria, and she became the head priestess to the temple of Agrape in real life and in this myth. Their second child was named Arcadius, and he became the king after his father passed away. Their last three children were all female, and they followed the lead of their older sister Alexandria and became priestesses to Agrape's temple. Praxiaya, the youngest sibling, was the priestess who brought all of the townspeople to believe in these changed myths, mostly because she had affairs with most of them and brought them to the temple with her. The other two siblings are mostly unimportant and had nothing worthy of mention other than being in the royal family. Their names were Avilia and Distronimya.

Now in the myth, eventually Zeus found out about Hades' affair with a mortal, and was not pleased. One day when Agrape was picking grapes in the fields, Zeus sent a lightning bolt right at her and she died. However, Cyrillus had heard the lighting bolt's collision and ran over to the noise. When he found his precious wife dead he collapsed into tears. However, Cyrillus still had some magic in him, being a mortal form of Hades, and he willingly used all of the magic left within him to turn Agrape's soul into a god. However, after expending all of his magic, Cyrillus died. As he went back to the underworld, he found Agrape there waiting for him. He was overjoyed to find out that his magic had worked and that Agrape could live with him forever now, since Agrape was now an immortal god. However, Zeus was even more enraged by Agrape becoming a god and was preparing to smite the city of Agrae. Hades could not protect the city, as he had to regain his former magics by sitting in the underworld for a while, so Agrape decided to use her newfound godly powers to protect the city and all that she loved in it. At this moment, Arcadius was being crowned king, and Agrape appearing as a goddess in the sky above them was considered an amazing providence that she was there to watch her son become coronated. Agrape put a magical barrier over the city and as the citizens watched her protect them from Zeus's lightning bolts, they declared her the goddess of the city. Agrape forever watches over the city from the underworld with her husband, as the myth ends.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Richard Talbert, ed. (2000). Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World. Princeton University Press. p. 65, and directory notes accompanying.
  2. ^ Lund University. Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire.

Coordinates: 37°57′05″N 30°38′34″E / 37.951412°N 30.642907°E / 37.951412; 30.642907