Mystic Cults in Magna Graecia
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In Vergil's Aeneid, the poet implies that those who have been initiated into mystery cults enjoy a blessed situation both in life and after death. This collection of essays brings new insight to the study of mystic cults in the ancient world, particularly those that flourished in Magna Graecia (essentially the area of present-day Southern Italy and Sicily).
Implementing a variety of methodologies, the contributors to Mystic Cults in Magna Graecia examine an array of features associated with such "mystery religions" that were concerned with individual salvation through initiation and hidden knowledge rather than civic cults directed toward Olympian deities usually associated with Greek religion. Contributors present contemporary theories of ancient religion, field reports from recent archaeological work, and other frameworks for exploring mystic cults in general and individual deities specifically, with observations about cultural interactions throughout. Topics include Dionysos and Orpheus, the Goddess Cults, Isis in Italy, and Roman Mithras, explored by an international array of scholars including Giulia Sfameni Gasparro ("Aspects of the Cult of Demeter in Magna Graecia") and Alberto Bernabé ("Imago Inferorum Orphica"). The resulting volume illuminates this often misunderstood range of religious phenomena.
personal exercise of asceticism (askēsis). This askēsis is in practice equivalent to accepting the Ὀρφικὸς βίος. The perseverance implicit in βακχεύειν can be seen in the use of the perfect participle βεβαχχευμένον, found in an inscription of Cumae.60 The verbal form has been translated in different ways, “initiated” being the most usual,61 although this translation does not cover all of its shades. The use of the perfect tense allows us to specify that it is not a single or isolated fact, but a
familiar: the deceased leaves the world of the living and journeys to the realm of the dead. In this chapter, I analyze the relative importance of structural components of the narrative: the obstacle the deceased faces, the solution that allows her to bypass the obstacle, and the result she obtains. I also compare the selection of certain traditional mythic elements for these components to the selections made in other myths of the journey to the underworld. The results of this analysis can
underworld than to the entrance to an illuminated telesterion. The description that follows, however, is exclusive to the mysteries. According to the mystery beliefs, the soul that, after death, reaches the meadow of the blessed never comes back. Therefore, the return described by Plutarch is the return of an initiate after initiation, while the following passage, in which is described the mob of living beings that persist in the fear of death in the middle of mire, is absolutely imprecise. It
and lengthwise (right). The location of the boss showing the two deity figures on the vault has been marked and x’s indicate the location of the later Christian frescoes. Canina 1853. Figure 9.9. An altar to Dionysus, either in its original position or found nearby and set within the church of S. Urbano. Piranesi 1780; Vatican Library listing: Cicognara XI.3837. Figure 9.10. Stucco representations of weaponry at the spring of the vault of S. Urbano. Note the battle trophies and captured
conflict with the location of the main dead beyond the door of Pluto’s house (760), from which the deceased Aeschylus and Euripides exit onto the stage at 830ff. Aristophanes also evidently judged it more dramatically effective to put second the region of the snakes and monsters, in which the two panicstricken travelers are made to linger by Empousa’s frightful apparition. The detail provided by Apollodorus to which I just alluded, which enables us to infer in which order Aristophanes’ source