Myth, Salvation, and Ethics in the Cults of Cybele, Isis, and Mithras
Author: Jaime Alvar Ezquerra
The traditional grand narrative correlating the decline of Graeco-Roman religion with the rise of Christianity has been under pressure for three decades. This book argues that the alternative accounts now emerging significantly underestimate the role of three major cults, of Cybele and Attis, Isis and Serapis, and Mithras. Although their differences are plain, these cults present sufficient common features to justify their being taken typologically as a group. All were selective adaptations of much older cults of the Fertile Crescent. It was their relative sophistication, their combination of the imaginative power of unfamiliar myth with distinctive ritual performance and ethical seriousness, that enabled them both to focus and to articulate a sense of the autonomy of religion from the socio-political order, a sense they shared with Early Christianity. The notion of 'mystery' was central to their ability to navigate the Weberian shift from ritualist to ethical salvation.
Two Greek cities which in their time were leading states in the Mediterranean world, Selinus in Sicily and Cyrene in Libya, set up inscriptions of the kind called sacred laws, but regulating worship on a larger scale than elsewhere - Selinus in the mid fifth century B.C., Cyrene in the late fourth. In different ways, the content and the format of both inscriptions are so unusual that they have baffled understanding. At Selinus, a large lead tablet with two columns of writing upside down to each other is thought to be a remedy for homicide pollution arising from civil strife, but most of it remains obscure and intractable. The gods who are named and the ritual that is prescribed have been misinterpreted in the light of literary works that dwell on the sensational. Instead, they belong to agrarian religion and follow a regular sequence of devotions, the upside-down columns being reversed midway through the year with magical effect. Gods and ritual were selected because of their appeal to ordinary persons. Selinus was governed by a long enduring oligarchy which made an effort, appearing also in the economic details of sacrifice, to reconcile rich and poor. At Cyrene, a long series of rules were displayed on a marble block in the premier shrine of Apollo. They are extremely diverse - both costly and trivial, customary and novel - and eighty years of disputation have brought no agreement as to the individual meaning or general significance. In fact this mixture of things is carefully arranged to suit a variety of needs, of rich and poor, of citizens of long standing and of new-comers probably of Libyan origin. In one instance the same agrarian deities appear as at Selinus. It is the work once more of a moderate oligarchy, which on other evidence proved its worth during the turbulent events of this period. Religion and Reconciliation in Greek Cities provides a revised text and a secure meaning for both documents, and interprets the gods, the ritual, and the social background in the light of much comparative material from other Greek cities. Noel Robertson's approach rejects the usual assumptions based on moralizing literary works and in doing so restores to us an ancient nature religion which Greek communities adapted to their own practical purposes.
This book is a collection of studies about the Greek and Roman goddesses—Artemis and Diana—who ruled creatures of the wild. Although they arose separately in Greek and Roman cultures, they were often treated as equivalent. These goddesses had the power of giving birth, health and death. Diana’s temples were built at places where three roads meet, writes Servius (ad Aen. IV.511), outside the city itself, and so they were common, safe meeting places which belonged to no one but were the sites for federal councils, hosted by the goddess. Artemis was associated in particular with bears, and Diana with deer, but both were generally associated with wild animals, as well as with the different phases of life. This volume will be useful not only for researchers on this subject, but also for courses in Greek and Roman studies, mythology, history, and women’s studies.
Agathokles of Syracuse ruled large areas of Sicily and southern Italy between 317 and 289 BC. In this book, Christopher de Lisle argues that Agathokles was an important player in the Mediterranean world at a key moment in its history. Agathokles' career has important implications for our definition of the Hellenistic world and its relationship to both the western Mediterranean and earlier Greek history. However, he has tended not to feature in studies of the Hellenistic world or of ancient Sicily. In ancient discourse about him, in the coins he issued, in his interactions with the world around him, and in the way he ruled, Agathokles is simultaneously heir to a long tradition and actively engaged in his contemporary world. The failure to place Agathokles in both of these contexts up till now has contributed to the development of an excessively deep separation between the western and eastern Mediterranean and between the Classical and Hellenistic periods. This work - the first book-length study of Agathokles in English in over a century - places him in the context of both the earlier history of Sicily, and the developments in the eastern Mediterranean that mark the start of the Hellenistic era. The volume includes a narrative of his career, studies of his coinage and his representation in literary sources, and a series of explorations of important themes and regions.
Attilio Mastrocinque explains the mysteries of Mithras in a new way, as a transformation of Mazdean elements into an ideological and religious reading of Augustus' story. The author shows that the character of Mithras played the role of Apollo in favoring Augustus' victory and the birth of the Roman Empire.