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Lyra Jean
05-06-2009, 08:05 AM
In my novel there is a mystery cult like ones similar during Ancient Rome and Greece. Does anyone know of any good websites or books on the history and how they were formed?

Thanks!

Sirion
05-06-2009, 08:08 AM
In my novel there is a mystery cult like ones similar during Ancient Rome and Greece. Does anyone know of any good websites or books on the history and how they were formed?

Thanks!

Here's a site (http://www.usu.edu/markdamen/1320Hist&Civ/chapters/12CULTS.htm) that says it's about ancient Roman cults. I'm not sure if that's the kind of website you were looking for.

There seems to be plenty of information all over the internet about that subject. It sounds interesting, I might have to read up a bit more about it myself.

Here's an excerpt:


One of the oldest cults imported into ancient Rome was that of the earth-mother goddess Cybele. Originating in Asia Minor—the Near East incubated many new religions in antiquity—Cybele entered the Roman sphere at a crucial juncture in history. In 205-202 BC at the close of the Second Punic War, the Romans narrowly defeated Carthage, their rival for control of the western Mediterranean region. Bloodied but victorious, the state felt it owed some measure of that victory to Cybele, since, according to Roman historical records, it was on the advice of an oracle that her worship had been imported to Italy.

It sounds a bit 'technical'. Maybe you were looking for more intimate details about how they worshiped, their rituals, etc?

Medievalist
05-06-2009, 08:14 AM
Look at the frescoes of "The villa of Mysteries" in Pompei.

And no, we don't much about the actual rituals; for obvious reasons, they weren't written down.

Lyra Jean
05-06-2009, 08:19 AM
I did do a google search and there were just so many sites. I was hoping someone could help narrow it down a little bit.

Thanks for the site TT. Technical is okay. I asked my professor who has a PhD in ancient history and he said to just watch out for books that actually want to start up mystery cults again as they get away from the history aspect and get really weird.

I'll definitely google that Medievalist. Thanks for the term. The idea of having a mystery cult came after reading "The Golden Ass" by Apulieus (sp?) for my Roman Empire class. My novel is taking a bit of a religious type turn. So it's interesting.

Medievalist
05-06-2009, 08:29 AM
There's a bit more data about the Mithras cults--which were not technically "mysteries"--but reading about Mithras and the temples that have been found might help too. But the "Villa of mysteries" frescoes are lovely, and very odd, and no one really knows what's going on.

Lyra Jean
05-06-2009, 08:34 AM
I did find this site (http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/timelines/rome/empire/vm/villaofthemysteries.html) about the Villa of Mysteries. I'll look into the Mithras cult as well since you said there is more information about it. From what I read on one site mystery cults became popular because the Romans were feeling that they were becoming cogs in the giant Roman machine and felt that they were losing their individuality and control. If that's true it will definitely fit into my story to a degree. :)

I have another class with my history professor this summer so I will definitely ask him for some suggestions or at least find some titles and ask him about them.

MaLanie1971
05-07-2009, 12:28 AM
Here are some books that might help.

The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World by Payam Nabarz and Caitlin Matthews

The Book of Gods & Goddesses: A Visual Directory of Ancient and Modern Deities by Eric Chaline

Ancient Mystery Cults (Carl Newell Jackson Lectures) by Walter Burkert

The Atlas of Lost Cults and Mystery Religions: Rediscover Extraordinary Traditions from the Dawn of Time by David Douglas

Medievalist
05-07-2009, 12:35 AM
Avoid anything by Caitlin Matthews. Seriously. Not a scholar, not even a decent writer.

I am so not a fan that I'm having difficulty expressing my true opinions

ETA: MaLanie1971, that is not at all meant as a criticism of you for being exceedingly helpful.

C.M. Daniels
05-07-2009, 12:37 AM
Really, you should read "The Golden Ass" because it's an awesome book!

Medievalist
05-07-2009, 01:17 AM
Really, you should read "The Golden Ass" because it's an awesome book!

It is, and it's even better in Latin. Really, truly!

job
05-07-2009, 02:18 AM
Maybe try 'The Golden Bough' by Frazer.

Medievalist
05-07-2009, 02:28 AM
Maybe try 'The Golden Bough' by Frazer.

I'm feeling guilty about being a nay-sayer--but go to Frazer or Robert Graves only with enormous quantities of salt. Think of them both as less than accurate or scholarly. Use for fictive inspiration only.

C.M. Daniels
05-07-2009, 03:37 AM
It is, and it's even better in Latin. Really, truly!

I know, isn't it!

C.M. Daniels
05-07-2009, 03:38 AM
Maybe try 'The Golden Bough' by Frazer.

Armchair anthropology.

It's an interesting read, but it's far from being accurate.

Lyra Jean
05-07-2009, 08:25 AM
Really, you should read "The Golden Ass" because it's an awesome book!

I did read it and thought it was very good. It was an english version translated by P.G. Walsh.

MaLanie I will definitely check out those books. I'm off tomorrow so I'll have time. I went to BAM but without a title they couldn't really help me much. I didn't have to go B&N or Borders which is in Sarasota.

Smiling Ted
05-07-2009, 11:51 AM
From what I read on one site mystery cults became popular because the Romans were feeling that they were becoming cogs in the giant Roman machine and felt that they were losing their individuality and control. If that's true it will definitely fit into my story to a degree. :)


Although that might explain their popularity, they existed before Rome became an empire.

You might have a little extra success if you researched particular cults, as well as general terms like "Mysteries" - for instance, start with the most famous (The Eleusinian Mysteries) and continue on with the cults of Isis/Osiris, Cybele and Attis (creepy), and Orpheus.

MaLanie1971
05-07-2009, 05:18 PM
Although that might explain their popularity, they existed before Rome became an empire.

You might have a little extra success if you researched particular cults, as well as general terms like "Mysteries" - for instance, start with the most famous (The Eleusinian Mysteries) and continue on with the cults of Isis/Osiris, Cybele and Attis (creepy), and Orpheus.

I agree.

I also want to add, and I know I am going to get flack for this, but it is how I feel on the matter. I've found it hard to know whose research to trust. There are artifacts, ruins and maybe some text to go with, but the truth is researchers are speculating. They were not there at that time, records were usually not kept, so a lot of what you are reading is assumption from clues they have put together.

We have a pot, an alter and some hieroglyphs = A+B Religion

I picture archaeologist a thousand years into the future digging up a CD from our era and speculating, "it might have been used as a plate or some sort of weapon." I am being silly here but I think you get my point.

Lyra Jean
05-07-2009, 06:07 PM
I agree.

I also want to add, and I know I am going to get flack for this, but it is how I feel on the matter. I've found it hard to know whose research to trust. There are artifacts, ruins and maybe some text to go with, but the truth is researchers are speculating. They were not there at that time, records were usually not kept, so a lot of what you are reading is assumption from clues they have put together.

We have a pot, an alter and some hieroglyphs = A+B Religion

I picture archaeologist a thousand years into the future digging up a CD from our era and speculating, "it might have been used as a plate or some sort of weapon." I am being silly here but I think you get my point.

Oh yes, I've heard all about that. And you are right it is a lot of speculation and best guesses based on the evidence we have. The evidence we have isn't a whole lot. My ancient history professor is always talking about that. He'll say something like historians think it might be A but we just don't really know because there is so little to go on.

Lyra Jean
05-07-2009, 06:08 PM
Everyone here has been so helpful. Thanks guys. :)

Medievalist
05-07-2009, 09:52 PM
I agree.

I also want to add, and I know I am going to get flack for this, but it is how I feel on the matter. I've found it hard to know whose research to trust. There are artifacts, ruins and maybe some text to go with, but the truth is researchers are speculating. They were not there at that time, records were usually not kept, so a lot of what you are reading is assumption from clues they have put together.


You can generally tell a lot, frankly, by doing a little research. For instance, look at this book:

The Mysteries of Mithras: The Pagan Belief That Shaped the Christian World by Payam Nabarz and Caitlin Matthews. If you look on Amazon

http://www.amazon.com/Mysteries-Mithras-Belief-Shaped-Christian/dp/1594770271/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241718219&sr=8-2

You will note it's by a publisher who only publishes neo-Pagan and new age books. You will further note, with a little research, that one of the authors is a "revivalist" -- neither author has academic credentials, and, moreover, while Nabarz is Persian, neither Narbarz or Matthews are fluent with Latin.

This is essentially a book for people who want to re-invent Mithras worship, and the description is filled with sweeping assertions about the connection of Mithras and Christianity. Scholars don't do that.

If you look at Matthews, she writes for Neo-Pagan publishers on a variety of subjects, mostly though, about things Celtic. She is equally lacking in the language skills you need to deal with primary sources--such as they are--about Mithras in Persia, and the Mithraic cults of the Romans.

Language is a big clue; if authors are writing about something that has ties to a particular language, then they need to know that language in the form used in the primary sources.

Moreover, a publisher like Inner Traditions or Llewellyn, ideal if you're interested in Neo Pagan practices, are not at all reliable scholarly publishers like Oxford or Columbia, or Chicago or any number of other university presses, or a reputable mainstream publisher like DK or Norton, or Harper Collins, etc.

Also: If the author is long dead, like Frazer, and if the author does not cite sources specifically, and if the author is not cited by other reputable authors--all of which you can tell via Internet searches, they're likely not the best.

MaLanie1971
05-08-2009, 01:16 AM
Great points, Medi!

C.M. Daniels
05-08-2009, 08:51 PM
I agree.

I also want to add, and I know I am going to get flack for this, but it is how I feel on the matter. I've found it hard to know whose research to trust. There are artifacts, ruins and maybe some text to go with, but the truth is researchers are speculating. They were not there at that time, records were usually not kept, so a lot of what you are reading is assumption from clues they have put together.

We have a pot, an alter and some hieroglyphs = A+B Religion

I picture archaeologist a thousand years into the future digging up a CD from our era and speculating, "it might have been used as a plate or some sort of weapon." I am being silly here but I think you get my point.


A prime example of that (in fiction) is a book called "Motel of the Mysteries". It's about archaeologists in the future digging up an old dump of a motel, and speculating on what everything was. It's quite funny.

Medievalist
05-08-2009, 09:04 PM
There's an essay about the Body Ritual Among the Nacirema (https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html) by an anthropologist, Harold Miner, that I love to teach in comp classes.