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November 26 - Roman Ecstatic Cults Isis Bacchus Cybele...

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November 26, 2007 Roman Ecstatic Cults: Isis, Bacchus, Cybele Ecstatic cults in ancient Rome o Mystery or mystery-like cults Hellenic or other non-Roman origins o Generally outside state control More popular, aristocratic ecstatic integrated into state pantheon o Common elements Secret lore ( arcane ): hymns, beliefs Rituals Initiation: learning, purification, vow of silence Sacrifice: animals connected with underworld, rebirth Hope for the afterlife: often literal Connection to Neoplatonic, other mystical philosophies o Roman response to ecstatic cults Suspicion Lack of native tradition; fear of instability Fascination Lack of native tradition; Etruscan focus on underworld The Roman cult of Isis o Egyptian religion practice in Rome by 2 nd c. BCE Isis – fertility goddess, associated with childbirth, consort of Osiris o Points of contact Greeks: transmit Hellenized form of Isis-worship (Delos) Roman annexation of Egypt: direct contact People: slaves (> freedmen), soldiers, traders, craftsmen o Iconography of Isis in Hellenistic period Maternal, gentle Exotic scenes (Nile, snakes) Cult functions overlap Juno’s Isis more approachable (common theme) Sources for Isis o Major source for Roman period o Metamorphosis or Golden Ass by Apuleius (Neoplatonic philosopher) Only surviving complete Latin novel Narrator transformed into ass in magic mishap, restored by Isis o Vague description of initiation into her cult The Roman cult of Isis o Adherents Men and women admitted Large role for women
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Republic: associated with lower classes Empire: upper classes (expensive, time-consuming, texts) o Rituals (goddess and her dying/reviving consort Osiris/Serapis) Sexual restrictions Initiation: purification, symbolic rebirth in underground sanctuary
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November 26 - Roman Ecstatic Cults Isis Bacchus Cybele...

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