Originally Sabazius was the Thracian and Phrygian god of vegetation, worshiped in the north of the Balkan and in the central part of Anatolia in Asia Minor. His cult spread from Thrace in the north of Greece to Attica and to Athens in the fifth century BCE. There Sabazius took on a special appearance and role in relation with the Attic cults and the favorite local deities. In Athens Sabazius became the god of barley and he was related initially to Cronus. Later on, he became known as the god of beer and he was as such closely related to the wine-god Dionysus (Dionysus Sabazius).
According to certain myths, after Dionysus came to Phrygia, the Great Mother of Gods (known in Asia Minor as Cybele and among the Greeks called Meter -- Gaea, Rhea or Demeter) initiated him into her mysteries and he assumed the name Sabazius. For this reason Sabazius was worshiped in Athens -- in the 5th century BC -- in the same temple as the goddess Meter (Rhea). Part of his cult included the god's annual death in the grain fields, with the participants of this ritual weeping for him. He was honored also in the private mysteries near Athens (Pireus, Kifisia) together with the favorite Greek deities Demeter and Persephone.
An important symbol of his cult was a snake, which is a chthonian symbol as well as one of revival. Another symbol of Sabazius was a crown (with two small snakes raising their heads) worn by the god himself and by some of the members initiated into his cult. Small snakes encircled also the hands of his worshipers. The cult of Sabazius (similar to that of Cybele or Dionysus) was accompanied by music, particularly by the players of double flute and castanets, and by ecstatic dancers holding these small snakes.
With the name Sabazius came to the Greek language words like saboi which was used in this ritual context for bacchic crying. The cult of Sabazius flourished in Athens even during the Roman period and was later on introduced into Rome and further into Europe. So, it is not to be wondered that we can find a representation of Sabazius, with his hands raised and encircled by a snake, in a Gallo-Roman relief on a stele (first century BCE) from the cemetery of Arolaunus Vicus (present-day Arlon, Belgium), an important center between Reims and Trier in Roman times.
Sabazius was represented on fifth century vases, sometimes with the goddess Meter and later depicted on a relief with Demeter and Persephone, as well as with Cybele. He did not appear in Attica on a horseback as it was described in the other regions. A cult-scene pictured on the volute krater made by the Polygnotan Group (Ferrara 2897) represents Sabazius with Meter seated on their thrones, with in their scepters and plates (perhaps with barley) and surrounded by their worshipers.