Mystic Cults in Magna Graecia
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: University of Texas Press
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Chapter 1. Introduction
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The definition of âMagna Graeciaâ has varied from the time the Greeks first settled the coastal regions of Italyâsometimes including the area from Campania to Sicily, at other times excluding significant portions of this territory.1 But this area has always been home to the mystic cults and traditions that preceded and accompanied Christianity, including the Sibyl ...
Part I. Dionysus and Orpheus
Chapter 2. Dionysus in Campania: Cumae
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Gods rise and dieâand rise again, despite the contrary opinion of an eminent Chicago professor of history of religions.1 Gods, at least the gods of paganism,2 have a body. They drink, eat, copulate, and with advancing years they waste away, stricken with the infirmities of old age. The place where the most pagan of all the gods of Mediterranean paganismâDionysus-Bacchusâmight have liked to spend his third age,...
Chapter 3. The Meaning of Î²á½±ÎºÏÎ¿Ï and Î²Î±ÎºÏÎµá½»ÎµÎ¹Î½ in Orphism
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The meanings of the denomination Î²á½±ÎºÏÎ¿Ï and the verb Î²Î±ÎºÏÎµá½»ÎµÎ¹Î½ in Orphic context differ from their value in other religious circles. Generally speaking, the adjective Î²á½±ÎºÏÎ¿Ï denominates those who have experienced rituals of purification or ritual ecstasies.1 Îá½±ÎºÏÎ¿Ï and the verb Î²Î±ÎºÏÎµá½»ÎµÎ¹Î½ describe states of mystical and cathartic exaltation peculiar to the enthusiastic...
Chapter 4. New Contributions of Dionysiac Iconography to the History of Religions in Greece and Italy
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How did paintersâand usersâof Greek vases in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE view Dionysus? It was this question to which I intended to respond in a new history of the images of Dionysus and his followers up to the years before 500 BCE.1 This history had to be reconstructed in the most objective and systematic way possible, by searching in the meanwhile to ...
Chapter 5. Who Are You? Mythic Narrative and Identity in the âOrphicâ Gold Tablets
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âWho are you?â ask the unnamed guardians, as the deceased begs for the water of Memory. âWhere are you from?â From the discovery of the first gold lamellae in the nineteenth century to the most recent discoveries, scholars have asked much the same questions about the tablets themselves: Who are the people who chose to have these enigmatic scraps of gold foil...
Chapter 6. Imago Inferorum Orphica
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One of the features that most differentiates between Olympic religiosity and mystery cults in general (and particularly Orphic religiosity) is the image of the underworld. The religion of the polis is public and collective; its rites, its sacrifices, its processions serve as an element of social cohesion, as a way of integrating the individual in the community. This ...
Chapter 7. Putting Your Mouth Where Your Money Is: Eumolpusâ Will, Pasta e Fagioli, and the Fate of the Soul in South Italian Thought from Pythagoras to Ennius
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You will recall that near the end of the extant portion of Petroniusâ Satyricon, the anti-hero Encolpius finds himself shipwrecked at Croton with his associates, Eumolpus the poetaster, their boy-toy Giton, and hired man Corax. Here the tireless grifters launch their final sting, Eumolpus posing as a wealthy magnate, conveniently both childless and moribund, with ...
Part II. Demeter and Isis
Chapter 8. Aspects of the Cult of Demeter in Magna Graecia: The âCaseâ of San Nicola di Albanella
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Due to the extremely limited number of literary sources, which are often merely scholiastic or hypomnematic documents providing scarce information, our reconstruction of the religious panorama of Magna Graecia, like that of Sicily, remains largely based on archaeological, monumental, and epigraphical evidence. We need not stress the importance of this documentation...
Chapter 9. Landscape Synchesis: A Demeter Temple in Latium
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Besides the Eleusinian mysteries, the late-fall pre-planting rites of the Thesmophoria were the most characteristic of the festivals of Demeter. The thesmophoria themselves, usually translated as âthe things laid down,â were offerings flung into a natural crevice or man-made chamber in the rock known as a megaron, left to decay, and then retrieved and plowed ...
Chapter 10. The Eleusinian Mysteries and Vergilâs âAppearance-of-a-Terrifying-Female-Apparition-in-the-Underworldâ Motif in Aeneid 6
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More than two and a half centuries ago, in 1745, in the second book of his The Divine Legation of Moses, Bishop William Warburton put forth the hypothesis that Aeneasâ Descent into the Underworld was an allegorical representation of an initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries.1 The bishop considered Aeneas to be a grand legislator (in his capacity as founder of ...
Chapter 11. Women and Nymphs at the Grotta Caruso
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Epizephyrian Locri was arguably the most culturally dazzling city of Magna Graecia in the Classical and Hellenistic periods. It was known throughout the Greek world for innovations and professionalism in music and dance, for its athletes victorious in the pan-Hellenic games, for the precision and order of its government, and for its military prowess. It has ...
Chapter 12. âGreat Royal Spouse Who Protects Her Brother Osirisâ: Isis in the Isaeum at Pompeii
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Perhaps Apuleius at the end of his Metamorphoses was right, that at Rome in the Isaeum Campense, at least in his time, not Isis but Osiris was the highest god.1 This was not, apparently, true for the Isaeum at Pompeii.2 Here, clearly, Isis is represented as the predominant divinity. The situation is similar to that at Kenchreai, the southern port of Corinth, where Lucius, ...
Chapter 13. Aegyptiaca from Cumae: New Evidence for Isis Cult in Campania: Site and Materials
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In 1992, during the construction of a gas pipeline, the Archaeological Superintendence of Naples and Caserta, under my direction, undertook emergency excavations at Cumae (Campania).1 Architectural remains, dating back to the Roman age, were found on an area of about 480 square meters, lying on the site identified by Paget 2 as pertaining to the Greco-Roman...
Chapter 14. The Mystery Cults and Vergilâs Georgics
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Among the many elements that contribute to the elusive art of the Georgics is its finely tuned balance between labor and religion. When scholarly attention has turned to religion in this poem, however, it has tended to focus on the religion of the state1 rather than on the more intimate, personal religion of individuals, families, and other affiliationsâreligions represented ...
Part III. Mithras
Chapter 15. The Amor and Psyche Relief in the Mithraeum of Capua Vetere: An Exceptional Case of Graeco-Roman Syncretism or an Ordinary Instance of Human Cognition?
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The âmain characteristic feature of Hellenistic religion[s]â such as Mithra-ism has been described as âsyncretism,â as has the entire Hellenistic age (Grant 1953: xiii). However, the utility of this category of syncretism, usually understood as some sort of mutual influence upon a religious practice or representation by two (or more) cultures in contact, is contested. ...
Chapter 16. The Mithraic Body: The Example of the Capua Mithraeum
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Within the now considerable corpus of scholarship devoted to the antique body, the Roman cult of Mithras has been prominent mainly by its absence.1 Neglect is not difficult to explain. The obsession with deciphering the âtrueâ meaning of the cult relief, the identification of the cult as an âastral religion,â the fixation upon origins, the silence of the literary ...
Chapter 17. Why the Shoulder?: A Study of the Placement of the Wound in the Mithraic Tauroctony
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The study of Roman Mithraism has consisted, in large part, of a series of interpretations and elucidations applied to a complex and enigmatic corpus of images. The ubiquitous central monument, the tauroctony (Fig. 17.1), in its more detailed examples, offers a bewildering array of images, among them the awkward, backward-glancing pose of Mithras, the suffering...
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Index of Authors
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Page Count: 390
Illustrations: 53 b&w photos, 38 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2009