The Korybantes (Ancient Greek: Κορύβαντες) were the crested dancers who worshipped the Phrygian goddess Cybele with drumming and dancing. They are also called the Kurbantes in Phrygia, and Corybants in an older English transcription. The Kuretes were the nine dancers who venerate Rhea, the Cretan counterpart of Cybele, Mother of the Gods. A fragment from Strabo, book vii, gives a sense of the roughly analogous character of these male confraternities, and the confusion rampant among those not initiated:
Many assert that the gods worshipped in Samothrace as well as the Kurbantes and the Korybantes and in like manner the Kouretes and the Idaean Daktyls are the same as the Kabeiroi, but as to the Kabeiroi they are unable to tell who they are"
These male dancers in armor, kept time to a drum and the rhythmic stamping of their feet. Dance, according to Greek thought, was one of the civilizing activities, like wine-making or music. The dance in armor (the "Pyrrhic dance" or Pyrriche [Πυρρίχη]) was a male coming-of-age initiation ritual linked to a warrior victory celebration. Both Jane Ellen Harrison and the French classicist Henri Jeanmaire have shown that both the Kouretes (Κουρῆτες) and Cretan Zeus (called "the greatest kouros (κοῦρος)" in the Cretan hymn found in an inscription at Palaikastro) were intimately connected with the transition of young men into manhood in Cretan cities.
The Phrygian Korybantes were often confused by Greeks with other ecstatic male confraternities, such as the Idaean Dactyls or the Cretan Kouretes, spirit-youths (kouroi) who acted as guardians of the infant Zeus. In Hesiod's telling of Zeus's birth, when Great Gaia came to Crete and hid the child Zeus in a "steep cave", beneath the secret places of the earth, on Mount Aigaion with its thick forests; there the Cretan Kouretes' ritual clashing spears and shields were interpreted by Hellenes as intended to drown out the infant god's cries, and prevent his discovery by his cannibal father Cronus. "This myth is Greek interpretation of mystifying Minoan ritual in an attempt to reconcile their Father Zeus with the Divine Child of Crete; the ritual itself we may never recover with clarity, but it is not impossible that a connection exists between the Kouretes' weapons at the cave and the dedicated weapons at Arkalochori", Emily Vermeule observed. Among the offering recovered from the cave, the most spectacular are decorated bronze shields with patterns that draw upon north Syrian originals and a bronze gong on which a god and his attendants are shown in a distinctly Near Eastern style.
Kouretes also presided over the infancy of Dionysus, another god who was born as a babe, and of Zagreus, a Cretan child of Zeus, or child-doublet of Zeus. The wild ecstasy of their cult can be compared to the female Maenads who followed Dionysus.
Ovid in Metamorphoses says they were born from rainwater, Ouranos fertilizing Gaia, which might connect them with the Pelasgian Hyades.
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