The Korybantes, called the Kurbantes in (Phrygia), are the crested dancers who worship the Phrygian goddess Cybele with drumming and dancing. The Kuretes are the nine dancers who venerate Rhea the Cretan counterpart of Cybele.
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) was a male coming-of-age initiation ritual linked to a warrior victory celebration.
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.
The Phrygian Korybantes were often confused 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 the Greek telling of Zeus' birth, the Kouretes' ritual clashing spears and shields were interpreted as intended to drown out the infant god's cries, and prevent his discovery by his father Cronus.
The French classicist Henri Jeanmaire has convincingly shown that both the Kouretes and Cretan Zeus (called "the greatest kouros" in Cretan hymns) were intimately connected with the transition of young men into manhood in Cretan cities (in Couroi et Courètes: essai sur l'éducation spartiate et sur les rites d'adolescence dans l'antiquité hellénique, Lille, 1939).
Korybantes or Kouretes also presided over the infancy of Dionysus, another god who was born as a babe, and of Zagreus, a Cretan child of Zeus.
Alternatives: Corybants (older English texts), Koryvandes (modern Greek transliteration).
- Korybantes and Kuretes (http://www.theoi.com/Ouranos/Kouretes.html)
- Long review (in English) of Paola Ceccarelli, La pirrica nell' antichità greco romana: Studi sulla danza armata, 1998 (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2000/2000-03-17.html)