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Um, Phobos, as envisioned by a contemporary artist....

Phobos was the Greek god of panic and terror.  He lacked the high profile of his parents, Aphrodite and Ares, but sources indicate that people worshiped him (Greeks tended to be quiet about their prayers to chthonic deities because such wishes were usually… of a private nature).  It seems his followers sacrificed to him and called upon him to instill fear in others.   Here is a wonderfully bloody quote describing the worship of Phobos from Aeschylus’ play Seven Against Thebes (he is invoked as “Terror” in this translation):

Seven warriors yonder, doughty chiefs of might,
Into the crimsoned concave of a shield
Have shed a bull’s blood, and, with hands immersed
Into the gore of sacrifice, have sworn
By Ares, lord of fight, and by thy name,
Blood-lapping Terror, Let our oath be heard-
Either to raze the walls, make void the hold
Of Cadmus-strive his children as they may-
Or, dying here, to make the foemen’s land
With blood impasted.

Hercules encountered (and slew) another Phobos worshiper, Kyknos, who was killing passersby in order to build some sort of crazy terror temple from their skulls.  As a part of his psychological campaign, Alexander the Great publicly and ostentatiously sacrificed to Phobos the night before the Battle of Gaugamela.  Fear was a useful tool for Alexander both on the battlefield and off–so he played up his connection with its deity.

So why am I thinking about worshipers of Phobus?  For one thing I have an abiding interest in underworld deities [expect to see more of them here as an ongoing post category].  They have vivid dramatic flare and they make magnificent metaphors for the darker passions.  Also I have been thinking about the broader meaning of fear and its ramifications for our society.  It seems appropriate to start that examination with an ancient god and an Aeschylus quote.


Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

February 2023