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dance on the twentieth. It is true that
those who join are called /iv^rcu, but
this name does not prove that they had
all been through the fivijinr in the
rcXeoTi^pioy ; for the catechumens are all
equally called fivcrai at the d'yvpfUs
and at the irp6pprjffis,

^ There are strong reasons aga'mst
Mommsen*s identification of the nxi/fto-
Xocu and the irpoxai/MynJ/xa {FesUj p.44)y
see p. 115.

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174 GREEK RELIGION [ch.^p.

I he uttered with his lips any forbidden secret, but that he acted
I a sacred pageant, and Aeschylus was accused for acting on the
j stage something that was performed in the mystery-hall ^'^
/ We may note too that Porphyry in an otherwise doubtful
and obscure statement -^^ speaks of the hierophant and the
^aSoCxo? as acting divine parts*, and that in the mysteries
of Andania, modelled to some extent on the Eleusinian,
provision was made for women playing the part of god-
desses '^\ \

What then was the subject of this mystic play ? We may
imagine that it was one which would best move pity and love,
the sense of pathos and consolation in the spectator, such
a theme as the loss of the daughter, the sorrow of the mother,
the return of the loved one and the ultimate reconciliation.
And parts of such a complex myth appear on many vases and
works of Greek art ; but let us beware of supposing that vase-
painters would dare to reproduce, however freely, any real
scene of the ixvotikov bpaixa. There are two citations from
which we may extract evidence. Clemens tells us that * Deo
and Kore became (the personages of) a mystic drama, and
Eleusis with its 5a8oOxoy celebrates the wandering, the abduc-
tion, and the sorrow* -^^. But he himself affirms that the
same theme was solemnized by the women in the Thesmo-
phoria and the other women's festivals ^^S and we know that
Eleusis had its Thesmophoria. Still the use of the peculiar
verb S^fiouxft in the first citation almost compels us to con-
clude that it refers to the Eleusinia. And we may suppose
that Tertullian's words -^^^ *Why is the priestess of Ceres
carried off unless Ceres herself had suffered the same sort of
thing ? ' assuming a confusion of Ceres with Proserpine, allude
to the Eleusinia rather than to the Thesmophoria, where there
was no man to act the part of the ravisher**. But the words

* According to him the hierophant That a priest impersonated Selene is

represented the Demiorgos, the dadon- a hard saying.

chos the Sun, the priest M /3«^ ^ It is also not impossible that Ter-

the Moon, and the hierokeryx Hermes, tnllian is referring to the Sabazios-

The treatise of Porphyry from which mystery, which is not proved to have

Eusebios gives as a long extract is fall been ever engrafted on the Eleusinia

of nnnatural and fictitioos symbolism. (vide note b, p. 1 7S) ; there is no other

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of Appuleius, in spite of their lack of that simplicity which
wins credence, are of even more importances^', the words
that are put into the mouth of Psyche when she appeals to
Demetcr in the name of ' the unspoken secrets of the mystic
chests, the winged chariots of thy dragon-ministers, the bridal-
descent of Proserpine, the torch-lit wanderings to find thy
daughter, and all the other mysteries that the shrine of Attic
Eleusis shrouds in secret/

From these statements, then, in spite of verbiage and vague-
ness, we have the right to regard it as certain that part at
least of the great myth was acted before the eyes of the
mystae in the telesterion. And some of the dances outside
the temple, the nightly wanderings with torches over the land,
the visits to the well KaWixopov and the * unsmiling rock,'
may well have been in some way mimetic of the myth,
though part of such ritual may have been originally mythless.
A statement by Apollodorus^ is interpreted by M. Foucart
as referring also to an episode in the mystic passion-play • :
* The hierophant is in the habit of sounding the so-called gong
TTJs Kopijs iTTiKaXovfjLijnis* He understands these last words in
the sense of • Kore calling for aid ' ; but in such a sentence
they are more likely to signify * when Kore is being invoked
by name.' According to his interpretation the words allude
to a critical moment in the drama ; according to the other to
a point of ritual in a divine service when the worshippers or
the minister called aloud upon the name of the goddess. The
gong may have been sounded to drive away evil spirits ; but
whether the worshipper understood this or not its effect would
not be lost ; many of us are aware of the mesmeric thrill that
is caused to the religious sense by the sudden sound of the
gong in the Roman celebration of the Mass. Unfortunately

Demeter-myth to which the words of Plato, Corgias, p. 497 c (quoted in

TertnUiiui coold properly apply, except part, R. 319*)—' the greater and lesser

the Arcadian l^end of Poseidon and mysteries were instituted because Pluto

the horse-headed goddess which is out abducted Kore and Zeus united himself

of the question here : there is no reason with Deo : in which many shameful

for supposing that the Btoydfua of Zeus things were done.' He is drawing

and Demeter was part of the mystic ignorantly from Christian sources, and

drama at Eleusis, except perhaps the is a valueless authority,

▼cry vague note of the scholiast on • Les Grcuids Myitircs^ p. 34.

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we are not sure that the text refers to Eleusinian ceremonies
at all : for Apollodorus merely indicates the place of the action
by the word 'A^vjyo-i, and the ritual in which the gong or the
• f cymbal was used appears to have been fairly common in


From vague hints we may regard it as probable that some
form of Upbs yifios was celebrated in the Eleusinia, in which
the hierophantes or the dadouchos may have personated the
bridegroom •. We find record of such ritual elsewhere, but
at Eleusis the evidence is too slight to allow us to dogmatize.
The words in Appuleius-^^ need not mean more than that
there was a representation of the abduction in accordance
with the ordinary legend ; but Asterius -^®® seems to be
alluding, and with unpleasant innuendo, to some form of Upb^
ydixos when he speaks of * the underground chamber and the
solemn meeting of the hierophant and the priestess, each with
the other alone, when the torches are extinguished, and the
vast crowd believes that its salvation depends on what goes
on there.' Asterius wrote in the fourth century A.D., but we
know so little about the facts of his life that we cannot judge
the value of his evidence. Admitting the truth of his state-
ment, and supposing the last words to reveal the true signifi-
cance of the rite, we should conclude that this sacred marriage
was more than a mere ixiiMrja-i?, and was a representative act
whereby the whole company of the initiate entered into
mystic communion with the deities, just as Athens with
Dionysos through his union with the Basilinna. At any rate
we have no right to imagine that any part of the solemn
ceremony was coarse or obscene. Even Clemens, who brings
such a charge against all mysteries in general, does not try to
substantiate it in regard to the Eleusinia ; and the utterances
of later Christian writers who accuse the indecencies of
paganism have no critical value for the study of the mysteries
of Eleusis \

* A Up6s y^f occurred in Alex- context dealt with below betis witness

ander*s mysteries, which are described to the scrapulons purity of the Eleosi-

by Lncian as in some respects a parody nian hierophant, which was safi^narded

of the Elensinian, Aiexandr, $$ 38, 39. by the ose of anti-aphrodisiac drags.

^ It is carious that Hippolytos in the R. aoa

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Did the Elensinian miracle-play include among its motives
the birth of a holy child, lacchos for instance? A divine
birth, such as the At^9 yoval^ was an ancient theme of Greek
dramatic dancing, and we infer from Clemens that the birth of
Dionysos was a motive of Phrygian-Sabazian mysteries •. As
regards Eleusis the evidence on this point, both the literary
and the archaeological, wants very careful scrutiny. We know
how valuable is the combination of these two sources when
one or both are clear : but when both are doubtful, they may
combine to give us a very dubious product. Now the person
who wrote the Philosophwnena, who used to be called Origen
but is now regarded as Hippolytus, informs us that at a certain
moment in the Eleusinian mysteries the hierophant called
aloud, *The lady-goddess Brimo has born Brimos the holy
child '^°2^ This is an explicit statement, and is accepted as
a fact to build upon by many scholars and archaeologists ^ :
and on the strength of it certain vase-representations have
been interpreted by Furtwangler and Kern as showing the
Eleusinian mystic story of the divine birth. The archaeological
evidence will be discussed later®. But so far as this interpre-
tation depends on the text of the Philosoplmmena^ it rests on
a very frail foundation. For Hippolytus, who seems in that
passage to be revealing the very heart of the mystery, does
not even pretend to be a first-hand witness, but shows that he
IS drawing from gnostic sources. For our purpose he could
hardly have been drawing from worse: for we know that
a gnostic with his uncompromising syncretism would have no
scruple in giving to Eleusis what belonged to Phrygia. Hence
Hippolytus, in the same breath, goes on to speak of Attis and
the story of his self-mutilation. And Clemens, a far higher
authority, associates Brimo, not with Eleusis, but with the
Phrygian story of Attis ^ and is followed in this by Amo-

• iVv/r<^/. i4(PottO: cf. the 'AmJA- JakHmch d. d. InsL 1891. p. ui;

X«rot 70MU in the mock-mysteries of Kern, ibid, 1895, p. 163 (Anzeiger).

Lncian's false prophet, Alexandr. % 38. ^ Vide pp. 352-356.

^ e. g. Foucart, Rech^rches^ pp. 48, 49 ^ In the Greek myth Brimo had a

(who assigns, in my opinion, excessive close connexion with Thessaly (Propert.

weight to all citations from the Christian a. a, 12) and with the Pheraean Ar-

writers on the Eleusinia) ; Furtwangler, temis-Hekate ; and probably because of

FAticBLL. m N

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bius •. Now this medley of Phrygian and Elcusinian legend and
cult,which appears in the textof Hippolytusandin the comments
of the scholiast on Plato ^^^ *, may conceivably be due to the
actual infusion of the Asia Minor orgies into the Attic mystery
in the later days of paganism ^. But it is hard to believe that
the Athenian state, which never, even in the late days of its
decadence, publicly established the orgies of Sabazios and
Attis, should have allowed the responsible officials of the Eleu-
sinia to contaminate the holiest of tha state ceremonies at their
own caprice. The late imperial inscriptions show us the great
mysteries practically unchanged : nor did Clemens find
Sabazianism at Eleusis.

The other explanation involves less difficulty : later writers,
whether controversialists or compilers, had little first-hand
knowledge, and relied much on late Orphic literature, believing
in its claim to represent Eleusinian dogma all the more readily,
as that literature freely borrowed Eleusinian names ; and the
same 6€0Kpa<rCa or religious syncretism which was characteristic
of gnostic was also a fashion of Orphic speculation, and Diony-

this affinity she is called UapBivos by
Lycophron (Cass. 1 1 75). Yet she joins
in love with Hermes, but the legend
contains no idea of Mmmacnlate con-
ception * snch as Miss Harrison wonld
find in it {Prolegotnenaf p. 553). In
the later syncretistic theology the name
' Brimo * floats round Thracian, Samo-
thracian, Phrygian cult-legend : but it
may be an old north Greek name for
the goddess of the under-world, mean-
ing *the strong/ or the 'angry one,*
as Horn, H, 28, 10 ^p^fti; signifies
'strength' or 'rage*: cf. Ha^tirpdrcia
i« Persephone at Selinus, E/mtcmi the
Cabirian goddess on the vase from the
Theban Kabeirion, vide Athtn, Mitth,

• Protrept,^. 14 (Pott); Amob.^<ft/.
Cent, 5, 30.

^ This is Prof. Ramsay's explana-
tion in his article on the 'Mysteries,*
Enc. Brit, The strongest evidence in
support of this view might seem at first

sight the citation from Tatian"*",
who first gives the Orphic-Sabaziaii
story of the incestuous union of Zeus
and his daughter and her conception :
' Eleusis shall now be my witness and
the mystic snake and Orpheus': then
follows the ordinary Eleusinian story of
the abduction of Kore, the sorrow and
wandermgs of Demeter. It is all equally
immoral in Tatian's view : and Tatian
might have known the truth about the
later Eleusinia and may have wanted to
tell it The 'mystic snake* in this
context is meant no doubt to be Saba-
zios. But of what is Eleusis ' the
witness,* of the first story or the second
or of both? Even if Tatian means
that Eleusis is witness for Sabazios, the
doubt arises whether for Tatian, at for
the later uncritical age generally, 'Eleu-
sis* has not become a mere name
synonymous with Orpheus, the belief
prc>Tiiling that everything 'Orphic'
was also Eleusinian.

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SOS is identified with Eubouleus, Attis, Sabazios, and even
perhaps Jehovah. With the same recklessness the Orphic poet
thrusts lacchos into the place which the babe Demipho occu-
pies in the Homeric hymn : and thus Lucretius may have got
the idea that it was Ceres who nursed lacchos, and hence may
have arisen the phrase * Dionysos at the breast * as a synonym
for lacchos 2-^ ^

But those who think that lacchos was the holy babe in the
Eleusinian passion-play should explain how it was that he
went to Eleusis, in the procession of the mystac, in the form of
*a god in his first prime ';229ft ^j^j ^^j^y ^g whole Athenian
people hailed him at the Lenaea as the son of Semele^^^**.
We must suspend our judgement for the present about the
divine birth in the great mysteries.

A further question arises concerning the dramatic element in
the Eleusinia. Was there some kind of stage-machinery and
scenic arrangement whereby a vision of Paradise and the
Inferno could be revealed before the eyes of the mystae^ so as
strongly to impress their imaginative faith and to produce
a permanent conviction ? A passage from Themistius* treatise
*0n the Soul,' preserved by Stobaeus, has been sometimes
quoted as proof that there was ^^ : * The soul (at the point of
death) has the same experiences as those who are being initiated
into great mysteries ... at first one wanders and wearily hurries
to and fro, and journeys with suspicion through the dark as one
uninitiated : then come all the terrors before the final initiation,
shuddering, trembling, sweating, amazement: then one is
struck with a marvellous light, one is received into pure regions
and meadows, with voices and dances and the majesty of holy
sounds and shapes : among these he who has fulfilled initiation
wanders free, and released and bearing his crown joins in the
divine communion, and consorts with pure and holy men,
beholding those who live here uninitiated, an uncleansed horde,
trodden under foot of him and huddled together in filth and
fog, abiding in their miseries through fear of death and mis-
trust of the blessings there.' Themistius, a pagan writer of
the time of Julian, a man of many words and bad style, is
unusually interesting in this dithyrambic fragment. It suggests

N a


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a passing reflection on the indebtedness of Christian apoca-
lyptic literature to some of the later utterances of the older
religion. And no doubt it contains an allusion, more or less
remote, to certain facts of the Eleusinia. But we dare not
strain the words to any very definite conclusion. For the two
sides of the simile are confused in a dreamy haze, nor can we
disentangle the phrases that refer to the mysteries from those
that describe the life of the soul after death. Yet M. Foucart,
in his Mimoire^, finds in this passagej a proof that the initiated
in the mystery-hall were supposed to descend into hell and to
witness the terrors of the place. Now we can easily believe,
and Themistius may help us to the belief, that the catechu-
mens passing from the outer court into the pillared hall might
pass through darkness into a wonderful light, and \ve know
that at the moment of the climax the form of the hierophant,
radiant in light, appeared from the suddenly opened shrine,
and the bewildering interchange of darkness and blaze can
work marvels upon an imagination sharpened by fasting and
strained with ecstatic expectancy. We conceive also that after
the completion of the hol> ceremony, the initiated, wearing his
crown, could walk with the other holy and purified beings in
a blissful communion. But there is no /itjUTjcns in all this so
far. When Themistius asks us to imagine — if he really asks
us — that within the T^Xeonfptoi; there was an impressive scenic
arrangement of meadows and flowers, and a region of mud and
mist where the superior persons might behold the wallowing
crowd of the damned, we are unable to follow him. The spade
of the Eleusinian excavations, as Prof. Gardner has some time

* p. 58. He bases his belief also on sible fooling and delightful poetry. A

the />v^J of Aristophanes, 11. 315-459: passage in Lucian*s KararXovs might

but the whole scene there, read naturally seem to give tome support to his

and critically, conveys no aUusion what- theory^^: the friends who are joumey-

erer to any of the Spufitva of the ing together in the lower world see

mystery-hall: the myst<u are partly something that reminds them of the

in their own nether Paradise with torches mysteries in the scene around, especially

and a pervading smell of roast pig, when a female approaches them bearing

partly on the Athenian stage, and they a torch ; but the only clear reference is

sing as if they were escorting lacchos to the darkness and the sudden gleam

along the sacred way : all fs irrespon- of light approaching.

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ago pointed out ^ has dispelled these allusions : the construc-
tion of the hall was such as would give very little opportunity
to the modem scene-artist : the basement has been laid bare,
and no substructures or subterranean passages have been found
into which the mystae might descend for a glimpse into the
Inferno or from which ghosts might arise to point a moraP.
In fact, whatever passion-play was acted, the stage-properties
must have been of the simplest kind possible, probably nothing
beyond torch-light and gorgeous raiment. The most impres-
sive figures were the hierophant and the dadouchos, as we
gather from the late rhetorician Sopatros *-^® ^ : * When I had
passed within the inner shrine, and being now an initiate had
seen the hierophant and dadouchos, ... I came out feeling
strange and bewildered.' The eight sacred officials, the priests
and priestesses, were enough to give, by solemn dance and
gesture, a sufficiently moving representation of the abduction,
the sorrowful search, the joyful reunion, a holy marriage, and
the mission of Triptolemos. In part of the drama, the search
for Kore, the mystae themselves may have joined, moving in
rhythmic measures with torches waving. * In Ceres* mystery
all night long with torches kindled they seek for Proserpine,
and when she is. found the whole ritual closes with thanks-
giving and the tossing of torches.' These words of Lactan-
tius 2" may allude to the Thesmophoria, but we can conceive
them applicable to the Eleusinia too.

This is about as far as our imagination can penetrate into
the passion-play of the mysteries. Or may we suppose that
though there was no architectural structure lending itself to
elaborate stag^efTects, yet the art of the painter might have
come to their aid, and have provided vlvaK€9 to be hung on the
columns or displayed by the hierophant, representing scenes of
the Inferno? Might such a supposition explain the strange
words in the speech against Aristogeiton ®, in which the writer

" Gardner and Jevons, Greik Antu which latter he takes to be the 'anak-

qnitieSf p. 383. toron * ( Joum, Inttmat, Arch, Nttmism,

^ M. Svoronos supposes the revela- 1901) : I cannot discuss the topography

tion of the {•pfi not to have gone on in of Eleusis here, but am unable to

the rtKter^piov at all, but in the fore- reconcile his views with the texts,

court before the temple of Demeter, ® i) § S^.

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— not Demosthenes nor an early Christian, but an orator of
the fourth century B.C. — describes the h'fe of Aristogeiton in
Athens, *who walks in company with cursing, blasphemyi
envy, faction, and strife, even^as the painters depict the guilty
in hell.' This is startling language from a Greek of this
period : and such paintings as those by Polygnotus on the
Delphian Lesche were not of a style to justify it. Neverthe-
less, he may have been thinking of these ; and at least \\^ have
no indication that he was thinking of any Eleusinian mystery-
paintings. Not only have we no reason to suppose that such
existed at Eleusis, but we have this reason for supposing they
did not : in the elaborate accounts of the Eleusinian commis-
sioners, drawn up in the administration of Lycurgus, and in-
scribed on a stone that was discovered some years ago *, amidst
the very multifarious items no single entry occurs that points
to any expenditure on scene-painting or stage-machinery, or
any kind of outfit intended for the passion-play in the tcXcott/-

Ipiov. We are forced to conclude that the latter was a simple
form of choral mimetic dancing, solemn and impressive no
doubt, but not able to startle the spectator by any cunningly
devised stage effects. The representation in a mediaeval
picture of the Last Judgement would be something far beyond
its scope.
But among the religious acts in the service of the mystery
there was one of at least equal importance with that which
has been called the * passion-play ' : and this was the act of
the hierophantes whe^ he ' displayed the sacred things.'
Some of these could^^iAwn to the neophyte, as we gather
from the story about Apollonios -^^ ^ : others were reserved
for the final iiroitTtCa to which one could only attain after
a year's interval, this being sometimes the distinction between
the ftt/oTT/s and the tTTOTm^^. What were these Upi? We
can at least make a probable guess. Surely 'the sacred
things' that were escorted so reverently to Athens by the
epheboi must have included statues of the deities: reason
for this has already been shown. These images were perhaps
of great antiquity or at least of preternatural sanctity, so that

* £/f/s. Arch. 1883, p. 109.

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the view of them was both a danger and a privilege : and the
men who saw them, revealed perhaps in some mystic light,
would feel that they stood nearer to the divinity henceforth.
But other things may have been shown among these lepcJ,
legendary relics, things that the Greeks might call <l>pi,K<ihri,
such as would cause a religious tremor in the spectator.

Of one of these we seem to be told by Hippolytus, who
leads his readers up to it as to an anti-climax : he speaks of
* the Athenians initiating people at the Eleusinia and showing
to the epoptae that great and marvellous mystery of perfect
revelation, in solemn silence •, a cut corn-stalk !' 2180.

Now these words occur in the suspicious statement that has
been examined above in which the formula is given concerning
the holy birth of Brimos, and the writer immediately goes on
to speak of the self-mutilation of Attis : and it is a noteworthy
coincidence that in a trustworthy account of the Attis-
Sabazian mysteries, Attis himself is called a araxvs iixrjrSs, an
identical phrase with araxvs T€0€pi,<rix€vo9. Considering the
context, therefore, and the sources from which Hippolytus is
drawing, we are at liberty to doubt whether he is giving us
anything genuinely Eleusinian at all. Nevertheless, it is
quite credible and even probable, that a corn-token was
among the precious things revealed. For we have every
reason to regard the mysteries as in some sense a commemo-
rative harvest-festival, although they were held some time

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