Hail Matres, protect us!


The Cretans who settled in Sicily built a temple to the Mothers and accorded these Goddesses unusual honours, adorning their temple with many votive offerings. The cult of these Goddesses, so men say, they moved from their home in Crete, since the Cretans also hold these Goddesses in special honour. The account which the myths preserve of the Mothers runs like this: They nurtured Zeus of old without the knowledge of his father Kronos, in return for which Zeus translated them into the heavens and designated them as a constellation which he named the Bears [i.e. Ursa Major and Minor]. And Aratos agrees with this account when he states in his poem on the stars: ‘Turned backwards then upon their shoulders are the two Bears; if true it be that they from Krete into the heavens mounted by the will of mighty Zeus, for that when he was babe in fragrant Dikton near thee Idaian Mount, they set him in a cave and nurtured him a year, the while Dictaean Kouretes practiced deceit on Kronos.’

There is no reason why we should omit to mention the sanctity of these Goddesses and the renown which they enjoy among mankind. They are honoured indeed, not only by the inhabitants of Engyon in Sicily, but certain of the neighbouring peoples also glorify these Goddesses with magnificent sacrifices and every other kind of honour. Some cities were indeed commanded by oracles from the Pythian God to honour the Goddesses, being assured that in this way the lives of their private citizens would be blessed with good fortune and their cities would flourish. (Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 4.79-80)