Pessinous was the main cult centre of the Anatolian Mother Goddess Kybele. Around her sanctuary, which according to tradition was founded by king Midas (8th century B.C.) a rich temple-state, led by a great-priest Attis and a subordinate Battakes, sprung up in the Gallos-valley near the sacred Mount Dindymos at some ten kilometres from the Sangarios river.



Although the Belgian excavation team has found no old Phrygian remains in the actual village of Ballıhisar, several sites in the foothills of a mountain range located to the N and NE of its centre, have shown evidence of Phrygian occupation in the area. The one near Tekören consists of a large settlement area (ca. 10 ha), with not only Phrygian but also Bronze Age material, and an open air sanctuary with paleo-Phrygian monuments such as chamber-tombs cut out of the rock, a stepped altar and a wine-press or ritual basins.

Pessinous kept its independence even after the occupation of Phrygia by the Galatians in 275/4 and, despite the presence of the Celtic Tolistobogioi in the immediate surroundings, became the largest trade centre (emporion) of western Galatia. Political influence by the Attalids of Pergamon can be demonstrated from at least the end of the 3rd century B.C.: it was due to the mediation of the Pergamean king Attalos I that a mission of the Roman senate took the sacred statue (a black meteorite) of Kybele in order to introduce the cult of the Magna Mater to Rome in 205-4 B.C. The sanctuary, which has not yet been found to date, was embellished and enlarged by the Attalids.

The secret "Royal Correspondence" between the Pergamean kings and the high-priest of Pessinous in the period 163-157/6 clearly indicates a political and military dependence, paradoxically at a time when the Galatians controlled the position of high-priesthood of the temple. Pessinous lost its autonomy in the sixties B.C. under Roman pressure in favour of Deiotaros, tetrarch of the Tolistobogioi, who became king of Galatia.