The Mystery-Religions

The Mystery-Religions

Language: English

Pages: 386


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This classic study offers an understanding of the ancient religious cults, exploring their appeal and eventual failure in the face of Christianity. Topics include the Eleusinian mysteries of ancient Greece; Asiatic cults of Cybele, the Magna Mater, and Attis; Dionysian groups; Orphics; Egyptian devotees of Isis and Osiris; Mithraism; and others.

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honour of the twelve official Greek gods with whom the Roman gods were equated. Roman rites, a ver sacrum, and human sacrifice, were tried in vain. In 207 the Senate met the position created by Hasdrubal’s entry into Italy and the occurrence of a hermaphrodite birth at Frosinum by decreeing a grand festal procession in Greek style with a Latin hymn sung by a choir of twenty-seven maidens in 49 honour of Juno. A momentous step was taken in 205—on the advice of the Sibylline books—the

of the Mysteries, but, in their 57 apologetic, Christian writers represented, or rather misrepresented, the Mystery-cults in such a way that one is sometimes compelled to question how these ever exercised such a potent spell over ancient religious minds. Ancient writers 85 are not agreed as to the effects of initiation, though the majority maintain that participation in the Mysteries was salutary. Indeed, it would have been no easy task even for an ancient adherent to give an account of his

This increasing demand for explanation is well illustrated in both Hermeticism and Gnosticism, and was accentuated by the cosmic pretensions of the Mysteries. Taurobolium The most impressive sacrament of the Mysteries was the taurobolium,331 or bath in bull’s blood—a rite so costly that sometimes the expense was borne by the whole brotherhood.332 The taurobolium formed part of the ritual of the Cybele-Attis cult 333 from at least the second century, from which it may have been borrowed by the

Hesione by Hercules, Orpheus and Eurydice—symbolize the rape of the soul or the attainment of apotheosis. The palaestra scenes, with the crowns and fillets and palms for the victors, confirm the faith of the initiate. Memorable is the stucco of the apse 574 representing a scene of apotheosis by water. Into a stormy sea beating between two rocky promontories an Eros (Love) gently assists a veiled figure (the soul, or the initiate herself) holding a lyre (signifying salvation and participation in

marriages and modes of life. He commanded all to regard the world as their fatherland, the good as their kith, and the wicked as aliens; . . . for the Hellenic spirit was manifested only in virtue and the barbarian only in vice.” Alexander was the inaugurator of that comprehensive cosmopolitanism which reached its apogee in the Roman Empire. Though favouring Greek culture, his larger aim was to accomplish “the marriage of East and West,” as was symbolized in striking fashion by the espousals of

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