THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES: A Sourcebook by Marvin W.--Ed. Meyer


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An anthology of writings on the Greco-Roman mystery religions, with a helpful introduction and clarifying notes. Using selections from Herodotus, Aristophanes, Plutarch, Euripides, Plato, Origen and many others, the editor gives us a picture of the religions of the Hellenistic period. The so-called mystery religions were popular among people seeking newer, deeper and more rewarding religious experiences. The dieties worshipped were Greek, Syrian Anatolian, Egyptian or Persian and combinations thereof. They were often quite different and had varied cultural and theological bases, but they shared enough similarities to be classed together. The origins of some of them were quite old and are lost to history. Some of the dieties worshipped are familiar--Osiris, Dionysius, Baal, Adonis--and others are strange and exotic. The relationship of agrarian and fertility festivals to the mystery religions is examined, as are the religious concepts of good and evil, life and death and rebirth. Secret ceremonies, religious experiences and the types of people in the various cults are described, sometimes satirically. The worshippers of Mithras, an early competitor of Christianity, were often Roman soldiers and government officials. When the Titans and their usurpers like Zeus were worn out, the mystery religions fulfilled a need for a more personal, ecstatic experience. This collection gives one a feeling for the times and the issues, as well as an insight into the Judaeo-Christian tradition.

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1986
Publisher: Harper & Row