ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶσ ἀπὸ τοῦ ποηροῦ.
Matt. vi. 14.
HE first century of our era is a time in which the fear of evil leads to the organisation of religious institutions having in view the atonement of sin and the redemption of the soul from the terrors of hell. The ideas evil, sin, hell, salvation, and immortal life were familiar to the Greek mind even before the days of Plato, but were still mixed up with the traditional mythology. When philosophers began to wage war against the gross idolatry of Greek polytheism, a fermentation set in which prepared the Greek nation for the reception of Christianity. We say "prepared," but we might just as well say that it resulted in the formation of the Christian Church as an institution to deliver mankind from evil. The fear of punishment in the life to come led in the days of savagery to human sacrifices as a vicarious atonement. This barbarous practice was abandoned in the progress of civilisation by a substitution of animal victims. But the idea lingered in the minds of the people and was retained in
Click to view
(Greatly reduced from Mon. Inst., VIII., 9.)
Picture of a vase found at Altamura, representing a period in which the fear of Hell had become greatly subdued and the belief in its terrors is offset by the legend of a return from the realm of the dead and the conquest of death.
[The upper center shows Pluto and Persephone, the rulers of the Nether World, in their palace, the former with scepter and Kantharos, or sacred cup, the latter holding the cross-torch and a dish filled with fruits and flowers. Kantharos means both scarabæus-beetle, the Egyptian symbol of immortality, and the drinking vessel used in the mysteries which probably derives its name from some unknown connexion with the scarabæus. Underneath we see Heracles taming the three-headed Cerberus in the moment of crossing the Acheron, which originates (see Homer, Odyssey, X, 513) in the conflux of Cocytos and Pyriphlegethon. Hermes points out the road leading back to the upper world. The Danaides with the water vessels on the right bear their punishment with placidity, while Sisyphos on the left seems to be more severely taxed. Dire Necessity (Ἀνάγκη) holds the whip in her right hand, but her left extends to the sufferer a laurel branch. (The branch is missing in many similar pictures. It is apparently not an apple branch, which was a symbol of Nemesis, as some archæologists suggest.)
The upper scene on the right shows Hippodameia and Pelops, the latter in a Phrygian cap conversing with Myrtilos, who promises to remove a nail from the wheel of Oinomaos's chariot in the race for Hippodameia, his future bride, a trick by which he remains victorious. Underneath are the judges of the dead, Triptolemos, Aiacus, and Rhadamanthys, the latter in the attitude of pleading a case with great zeal.
The upper scene on the left represents Megara and her sons, the Heraclides, innocent victims of a cruel fate in life, who are here comforted. Below this group we see Orpheus with lyre in hand, approaching the palace to ask Persephone for a release of Eurydice. The Erinyes, or avenging demons (called ) in the picture have lost their terrible appearance and let the singer pass by unmolested.]
Christianity, where, however, it received a new significance when restated under the influence of Paul's message of the crucified, and therefore glorified, Saviour. Christ's death was now declared to be a sacrifice that would be sufficient for all the ages to come. 1
The Greeks, equally with other nations, feared punishment after death as the greatest evil, and their belief in hell can be traced back to the dawn of the history of Greece.
Click to view
HUMAN SACRIFICES AT THE FUNERAL PYRE OF PATROCLUS.
Wall picture of a tomb in Vulci.
(From Michaelis, Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte, I., p. 235.)
The most ancient description of the Greek conception of the land of the dead, which is found in Homer, resembles the Jewish Sheol in so far as Hades is the abode of the shades of the dead, both good and evil. It is a gloomy place; there is a grove of willow and poplar trees, and a large lawn covered with asphodels. The
Click to view
CHRIST'S DEATH ON THE CROSS AND ITS PROTOTYPES.
Biblia Pauperum. (Woodcut of the fifteenth century.)
The immolation of Isaac shows Christ's death in its connexion with human sacrifice, and the story of the serpent lifted up in the wilderness exemplifies the healing power of faith.
shade of Achilles declares that he would rather be upon earth a day laborer in a poor man's employ than ruler in
the land of the dead. While the oldest reports do not as yet contain any reference to a reward of the good (for even Achilles shares the sad fate of all mortals), we learn
Click to view
OKNOS AND THE DAUGHTERS OF DANAOS IN HADES.
Oknos (i. e., the Tardy or Inattentive One) weaving a rope of hay which is devoured by the donkey, and the daughters of Danaos endeavoring to fill the urn without a bottom.
(Frieze of a Roman well decoration. Vatican.)
of the tortures to which the wicked are subjected,--Tantalus, the Danaides, Sisyphos, Ixion, Oknos.
Homer represents the dead as unsubstantial forms, like dream images. However, an exception is made in the case of Hercules, whose shadow is in Hades, while Hercules himself, who is an Immortal, lives among the gods in Olympus (Odyssey, XI., 601-626). Another hero whose fate after death is more cheerful than that of common people is Menelaos. Being a son-in-law of Zeus,
Click to view
IXION ON THE FIERY WHEEL.
Underneath an avenging Erinys, Hephaestos, the Smith of the gods, looks at the wheel, his handiwork, with apparent satisfaction. Hermes is ready to return to the Upper World. Archaeologists have not yet succeeded in interpreting the significance of the angel-like figures on both sides of Ixion.
Ixion, a Thessalian king, committed a murder, but was lustrated by Zeus himself who admitted him as a guest to his own table. But the criminal lusted after Hera, the queen of the gods. In her place he embraced a cloud which bore to him the unruly race of Centaurs. Thereupon Zeus had Ixion fastened to a fiery wheel in Hades.
The suffering Ixion is commonly regarded as the mythological precipitate of a former god of the sky, a rival of Zeus; but the features of his divinity have paled in the human conception of a later age which was no longer conscious of the mythological significance of his deeds.
the husband of Helen, who is apparently conceived as the goddess of the moon, he lives in Elysion where Rhadamanthys rules. There the people live in ease. There is
Click to view
GIGANTOMACHY; THE GIANTS STORMING HEAVEN.
Bas relief of an ancient sarcophagus. Now in the Museum of the Vatican.
no snow, no winter, no storm, but only gentle and refreshing zephyrs blow from the ocean.
The Egyptian origin of the belief in Elysion is
Click to view
ZEUS CONQUERING TYPHOEUS.
Picture on an antique water pitcher. (Baumeister, Denkm. d. class. Alt., p. 2135.)
guaranteed by the name Rhadamanthys which is the god Ra Amenthes, the Lord of the Hidden World, Amenti.
When the spread of gnostic views prepared the Greek nation for Christianity, the ancient pagan myths
were not abandoned but transformed. Hesiod tells us in the Theogony of the terrible struggle between Zeus and the Titans; and St. Peter, 1 when speaking in his second letter of the revolution of the angels that sinned, says that "God hurled them down to Tartarus." The expression, however, is obliterated in the version of King James, for the word ταρώταρσας (having hurled them to Tartarus) is translated "sent them down to hell."
Click to view
GIGANTOMACHY; THE GIANTS STORMING HEAVEN. An ancient Greek frieze.
We read in the Theogony of the battle between Zeus and the monster Typhon (also called Typhoeus):
"When Zeus had driven the Titans out from heaven, huge Earth bare her youngest born son, Typhoeus, . . . . whose hands, indeed, are fit for deeds on account of their strength. . . . . On his shoulders there were one hundred heads of a serpent, of a fierce dragon, playing with dusky tongues. From the eyes in his wondrous heads fire struggled beneath the brows. From his terrible mouths voices were sending forth every kind of sound ineffable, the bellowing of a bull, the roar of a lion, the barking of whelps, and the hiss of a serpent. The huge monster would have reigned over mortals unless the sire of gods and men quickly observed him.
Click to view
WAR IN HEAVEN. After the Revelation of St. John. (By Albrecht Dürer.)
[paragraph continues] Harshly he thundered, and heavily and terribly the earth re-echoed around. Beneath Jove's immortal feet vast Olympus trembled, and the earth groaned. Heaven and sea were boiling. Pluto trembled, monarch of the dead. The Titans in Tartarus trembled also, but Jove smote Typhoeus and scorched all the wondrous heads of the terrible monster. When at last the monster was quelled, smitten with blows, it fell down lame, and Zeus hurled him into wide Tartarus."
Click to view
CHIMÆRA OF AREZZO. The monster slain by Bellerophon. (Now at Florence.)
This description reminds us not only of the Second Epistle of St. Peter, but also of Revelation, xii. 7-9:
"And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels; and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
Thus the old Greek demons merely changed names and reappeared in new personalities. In this shape they were embodied into the canonical books of the New Testament and became the integral part of the new religion, which at that time began to conquer the world.
Click to view
THESEUS AND PIRITHOUS.
Venturing down to Hades for the purpose of bringing up Persephone, the daughter of Ceres, they are made prisoners and bound by an Erinys. Theseus is at last rescued by Hercules. Pluto holds in his hand a scepter on the top of which sits the dismal owl as an avis funebris, Persephone carries two cross-torches.
(From an Etruscan Vase. Baumeister, Denkmäler des class. Altertums.)
The Greek idea of salvation is mirrored in the legends of Hercules, Bellerophon, Theseus, Dionysius, and other myths, which had become dear to the Greek mind through the tales of poets and the works of artists.
The powers of evil which Hercules overcomes are represented as a lion, a dragon, a wild boar, harpy-like
birds, and a bull. In addition he captures the swift hind of Arcadia, he cleanses the stables of Augeas, tames the man-eating mares of Diomedes, conquers Hypolyte, the queen of the Amazons, brings the oxen of Geryon from the far West, and carries Cerberus to the upper world.
Click to view
PERSEUS WITH THE HEAD OF THE DECAPITATED MEDUSA.
The soul of the latter is represented as a small figure leaving the body and still trying to retain the head. (Terra cotta from Melos. Baumeister, Denkmäler des class. Altertums.)
The poet Peisander (who lived about 650 B. C.) wrote an apotheosis of Hercules, called the Heracley, which contributed much toward idealising the hero.
[paragraph continues] Later Greek philosophers, such men as Xenophon and the sophist Prodicus, 1 regarded him as the realisation of divine perfection, and now it became customary to look
Click to view
PERSEUS AND ANDROMEDA. 2
Picture of an ancient Amphora in Naples. (From Baumeister, D. d. cl. A., p. 1291.)
upon the old legends as perversions of a deeper religious truth. Epictetus, who speaks of Hercules as the saviour,
Click to view
SICILIAN COIN WITH MEDUSA-HEAD.
The use of the Triquetra (three legs) is frequent in the three-cornered island. The ears of wheat indicate the proverbial fertility of Sicily, the granary of Rome.
Click to view
THE GORGONEION ON THE SHIELD OF PHIDIAS'S ATHENE.
The head of the Medusa is surrounded by scenes of a battle with Amazons. One of the fighters (the man with the bald head) is supposed to be a portrait of the artist Phidias.
and as the son of Zeus, says (iii. 24) Do you believe all the fables of Homer? "Hercules is called repeller of evil (ἀλεξίκακος), leader
Click to view
GORGONEION, ANCIENT FACE OF THE GORGON MEDUSA.
Click to view
Beautiful yet ghastly. (Glyptothek, Munich.)
in the fray (πρόμαχος), the brightly victorious (καλλίνικος), 1 the celestial (ὀλύμπιος), destroyer of flies, vermin, and grasshoppers (μυίαργος, ἰπόκτονος, κορνοπίων). He, the solar hero, is identified with Apollo, the sun-god, in the names prophet (μάντις), and leader of the Muses (μουσαγέτης).
Click to view
BELLEROPHON SLAYING THE CHIMERA.
(A terra cotta statue of Melos, now at the British Museum.)
The legends of Perseus are in many respects similar to the tales of Hercules. Perseus, too, the Greek prototype of the Christian St. George, is a divine saviour. Assisted by Athene, he liberates Andromeda, the bride of Death, held captive by the horrible Medusa, a symbol of deadly fright. 2
As a symbol which destroys evil influences, the Medusa-head frequently appears on shields and coins.
Bellerophon is another solar hero. He rides on Pegasus, a mythological representation of the thundercloud, 1 and slays the Chimera, a monster half lion, half goat, representing barbarism and savagery, or some similar evils.
Click to view
THE LION-KILLING HERO OF KHORSABAD 2
Some of the tales of divine saviours may be ultimately founded upon local Greek traditions, but many features of these religious myths indicate that they were introduced early from the Orient whose religions began to influence the occidental nations at the very dawn of their civilisation. Thus Hercules is the Tyrian Baal Melkarth, probably identical with the Babylonian Bel,--the conqueror of Tiamat; and his twelve labors are the deeds of the sun-god in the twelve months of the year. Phnix-like, he dies by
self-combustion and rises in a transfigured shape from the flames of the pyre. The Jews also appropriated the figure of this solar hero in the shape of Samson whose strength is conditioned by his hair, as the power of the sun lies in his rays.
In spite of the strong admixture of foreign mythology, Hercules has become the national hero of Greece, and the Greek idea of salvation has found in him the most typical expression, which has been most beautifully worked out by Æschylus in a grand tragedy which represents
Click to view
PROMETHEUS TIED BY ZEUS TO THE STAKE (OR CROSS) AND EXPOSED TO THE EAGLE; RESCUED By HERCULES.
(A vase found at Chiusi, now in Berlin. Baumeister, D. d. cl. A., p. 1410.)
[paragraph continues] Prometheus (the fore-thinker) as struggling and suffering mankind, tied to the pole of misery by Zeus as a punishment for the sin of having brought the bliss of light and fire down to the earth. But at last the divine saviour, Hercules, arrives, and, killing the eagle that lacerates the liver of the bold hero, sets him free.
Prometheus and Hercules are combined into one person in the Christian Saviour, Jesus Christ. The similarity of the story of Golgotha with the myth of Prometheus is not purely accidental. For observe that in some of the older pictures, as for instance in the vase of
Chiusi (see illustration on p. 210), Prometheus is not chained to a rock but tied to a pole, i. e., to a σταυρός or cross, and Greek authors frequently use expressions such as the verb ἀνασκολοπίϩεσϑαι (Æschylus) and ἀνασταυ ροῦσϑαι, (Lucian) which mean "to be crucified." 1
Seneca speaks of Hercules as the ideal of the good man who lives exclusively for the welfare of mankind. Contrasting him to Alexander the Great, the conqueror of Asia, he says (De Benef., I., 14):
"Hercules never gained victories for himself. He wandered through the circle of the earth, not as a conqueror, but as a protector. What, indeed, should the enemy of the wicked, the defensor of the good, the peace-bringer, conquer for himself either on land or sea!"
Epictetus praises Hercules frequently and declares that the evils which he combated served to elicit his virtues, and were intended to try him (I., 6). Zeus, who is identified with God, is called his father and Hercules is said to be his son (III., 26). Hercules, when obliged to leave his children, knew them to be in the care of God. Epictetus says (III., 24):
"He knew that no man is an orphan, but that there is a father always and constantly for all of them. He had not only heard the words that Zeus was the father of men, for he regarded him as his father and called him such; and looking up to him he did what Zeus did. Therefore he could live happily everywhere."
In Christianity the struggles of the saviour receive a dualistic interpretation and are spiritualised into a victory
THE MYTH OF PROMETHEUS ON A SARCOPHAGUS
over the temptations of the flesh and other worldly passions.
* * *
The conception of evil as hell received a philosophical foundation in the dualism of Plato who did not shrink from depicting its minutest details; and his views of the future state of the soul, its rewards in heaven and hell, are in close agreement with Christian doctrines, even in
Click to view
THE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST.
(Seventh century. Mosaic in the cathedral of Monreale, Sicily.)
most of their details, with the exception of the doctrine of the transmigration of the soul.
Plato concludes his book on the Republic (X., 614-621) with the tale of Er, the son of Armenius, a man who had died and come back to life for the purpose of giving information to mankind concerning the other world which might serve to warn people as to what they had to expect in the life to come. Plato says that this Er, a Pamphylian by birth, was slain in battle, but when the dead were taken up his body was found unaffected by decay, and, on the twelfth day, as he was lying on the funeral pile, he returned to life. Plato continues:
"He [Er, the son of Armenius] said that when his soul left the body he went on a journey with a great company, and that they came to a mysterious place at which there were two openings in the earth; they were near together, and over against them were two other openings in the heaven above. In the intermediate space there were judges seated, who commanded the just, after they had given judgment on them and had bound their sentences in front of them, to ascend by the heavenly way on the right hand; and in like manner the unjust were bidden by them to descend by the lower way on the left hand; these also bore the symbols of their deeds, but fastened on their backs.
"Er said that for every wrong which they had done to any one they suffered tenfold."
Hell is described as follows:
"'And this,' said Er, 'was one of the dreadful sights which we ourselves witnessed. We were at the mouth of the cavern, and, having completed all our experiences, were about to reascend, when of a sudden Ardiaeus [the tyrant] appeared and several others, most of whom were tyrants; and there were also, besides the tyrants, private individuals who had been great criminals: they were, as they fancied, about to return into the upper world, but the mouth, instead of admitting them, gave a roar, whenever any of these incurable sinners or some one who had not been sufficiently punished, tried to ascend; and then wild men of fiery aspect, who were standing by and heard the sound, seized and carried them off; and Ardiaeus and others they bound head and foot and hand, and threw them down and flayed them with scourges, and dragged them along the road at the side, carding them on thorns like wool, and declaring to passers-by what were their crimes, and that they were being taken away to be cast into hell.' And of all the many terrors which they had endured, he said that there was none like the terror which each of them felt at that moment, lest they should hear the voice; and when there was silence, one by one they ascended with exceeding joy. These, said Er, were the penalties and retributions, yet there were blessings as great."
The idea of the rising and sinking of the wicked in hell is similar to the Buddhist view of Buddhagosha who in his parables (translated by Capt. T. Rogers, R. E., pp. 128-129) tells us how the condemned go up and down like grains of rice in a boiling cauldron. The conceptions of the mouth of hell, of the fierce tormentors and the various punishments are probably older than Plato; they reappear in the gnostic doctrines and were retained by Christianity down to the age of the Reformation.
The belief in hell and the anxiety to escape its terrors produced conditions which are drastically described by Plato, who says, speaking of the desire of the wicked to ransom their souls from a deserved punishment:
"Mendicant prophets go to rich men's doors and persuade them that they have a power committed to them by the gods of making an atonement for a man's own or his ancestor's sins by sacrifices or charms, with rejoicings and feasts. . . . And they produce a host of books written by Musaeus and Orpheus, who were children of the Moon and the Muses--that is what they say--according to which they perform their ritual, and persuade not only individuals, but whole cities, that expiations and atonements for sin may be made by sacrifices and amusements which fill a vacant hour, and are equally at the service of the living and the dead; the latter sort they call mysteries, and they redeem us from the pain of hell, but if we neglect them no one knows what awaits us."
The dualism that underlies Plato's views began to be taken more seriously by his disciples, the Neo-Platonists, and reached an extraordinary intensity in the beginning of the Christian era. The philosopher longed for death, and the common people feared the terrors of the next life.
The philosophical longing for death is satirically described in one of the epigrams of Callimachus, who says (No. XXIV):
"Cleombrot, 1 he of Ambracia, took leave of the sun in the heavens:
Leapt from a wall in the hope Sooner to reach the Beyond;
Not that he e'er had encountered an ill that made life to him hateful;
Merely because he had read Plato's grand book on the soul."
The idea of immortality became more and more accepted by the masses of the people; but there were many to whom it was no welcome news, for it served only to enhance the fears of man's fate after death. Acquaintance with other religions revealed new terrors everywhere. The Egyptians' dread of judgment in the nether world, the Jews' horror of Gehenna, the Hindus' longing for an escape from future sufferings, were now added to the Greek notions of Hades, and rendered them more terrible than before. The Christian conception of hell is more fearful and at the same time drastic than any one of the older beliefs in future punishment.
Lucian tells the story of Peregrinus, surnamed Proteus, who after various adventures became a convert to Christianity. He would have been forgotten and his name would never have been mentioned in history but for the fact that in the presence of a great crowd at the Olympian festivals he burned himself to death on a big pile of wood.
All these strange facts were symptoms which illustrated the religious zeal of the people and characterised
the unrest of the times. Further, Plutarch tells us in his Morals that the superstitious are chastised by "their own imagination of an anguish that will never cease." He says:
"Wide open stand the deep gates of the Hades that they fable and there stretches a vista of rivers of fire and Stygian cliffs; and all is canopied with a darkness full of fantasms, of spectres threatening us with terrible faces and uttering pitiful cries."
Mr. F. C. Conybeare, in his Monuments of Early Christianity, says, concerning the belief in hell:
"We make a mistake if we think that this awful shadow was not cast across the human mind long before the birth of Christianity. On the contrary, it is a survival from the most primitive stage of our intellectual and moral development. The mysteries of the old Greek and Roman worlds were intended as modes of propitiation and atonement, by which to escape from these all-besetting terrors, and Jesus the Messiah, was the last and best of the λυτήριοι θεοὶ, of the redeeming gods. In the dread of death and in the belief in the eternal fire of hell, which pervaded men's minds, a few philosophers excepted, Christianity had a point d'appui, without availing itself of which it would not have made a single step towards the conquest of men's minds."
And why was Christ a better Saviour than the gods and heroes of Greece? Simply because he was human and realistic, not mythological and symbolical; he was a sufferer and a man,--the son of man, and not a slayer, not a conqueror, not a hero of the ferocious type, ruthless and bloodstained; he fulfilled the moral ideal which had been set up by Plato, who, perhaps under the impression of Æschylus's conception of the tragic fate of
[paragraph continues] Prometheus, 1 says of the perfect man who would rather be than appear just:
"They will tell you that the just man who is thought unjust will be scourged, racked, bound; will have his eyes burnt out; and, at last, after suffering every kind of evil, he will be hung up at the pale."
The strangest thing about this passage is that the word ἀνασχινδυλευϑήσεται, which means "he will be hung up at the stake," or "fixed on a pale," is an older synonym of the New Testament term σταυρόειν, commonly translated "to crucify."
Alluding to Plato, Apollonius, a Christian martyr, declares:
Click to view
CHRISTIAN GEM 2
One of the Greek Philosophers said: The just man shall be tortured, he shall be spat upon, and last of all be shall be crucified. just as the Athenians Passed an unjust sentence of death, and charged him falsely, because they yielded to the mob, so also our Saviour was at last sentenced to death by the lawless." 3
In the days of Augustus and his successors the people were taught to expect salvation, the dispensation of justice, protection, peace, and prosperity from the emperor; and just as we have to-day monarchies where the king regards himself as the Anointed One by the grace of God and a representative of God on earth, so the Roman emperor arrogated to himself divine honors, and even philosophers such as Seneca did not hesitate to acknowledge
the claim. The practical significance of this view is that the government should be regarded with religious awe, and its officers, as such, are divine. The Christians who refused to worship before the emperor's images must have appeared to the Romans of those days as anarchists and rebels. But when Nero committed matricide and other most outrageous crimes, the belief in the emperor's divinity dwindled away, and the idea of the suffering God, the man who died on the cross because he would rather be than appear just, gained ground among the people.
Christianity was not the only religion which promised deliverance from evil through the saving power of blood and by means of a vicarious atonement, for we know of the immortality-promising mysteries, and especially of the cult of Mithras, which had embodied many ideas and ceremonies that are also met with in Christianity.
The early Christians belonged exclusively to the lower walks of life, and the earliest Church authorities, with few exceptions, were by no means cultured or highly educated persons. Some Christian writers were quite talented men; but few of the Church fathers can be said to have enjoyed more than a mediocre education. Platonic philosophy, for instance, did not enter into Christian minds directly, but only through the channels of Philo's books. Thus it is natural that Christians were lacking both in knowledge as to the origin of many of their rites and also in critique, and when they were confronted with the same practices and conceptions
Click to view
MITHRAS MONUMENT OF OSTBURKEN.
among non-Christians, they were puzzled and found no other explanation for such remarkable coincidences, than the guiles of Satan. Even the most peculiarly Christian sacrament, the Lord's Supper, was, according to the testimony of Justin Martyr, celebrated by the Persians in the same way as by the Christians; 1 and Justin is ingenuous enough to attribute this coincidence without the slightest hesitation to the influence of evil spirits. Tertullian is also aware of many similarities between Church institutions and the pagan modes of Mithras worship, which observation prompted him to declare that "Satan imitates the sacraments of God." 2 The Devil appears to have been very cunning in those days, for if he had not daring spies in heaven, he must himself have anticipated the Lord's plans; for the pagan institutions spoken of as Satanic imitations, such as the Persian haoma sacrifice, the eating of consecrated cakes in commemoration
Click to view
MITHRAIC SYMBOLS. 3
of the dead for the sake of obtaining life immortal are older than Christianity.
The competitors of Christianity which endeavored to
Click to view
MITHRAS THE SAVIOUR. (Borghesi Monument, now at the Louvre in Paris.) 1
embody the religious ideals of the age, for various reasons failed to be satisfactory, leaving the field to Christianity, which in its main doctrines was simple and in its morality direct and practical. But it is to be regretted that the fanaticism of Christian monks has almost totally wiped out the traces of other religious aspirations, leaving only scattered fragments, which are, however, very interesting to the historian, partly on account of their similarity to Christianity, partly through their dissimilarities.
We know of several Oriental gods who became fashionable at Rome, among whom Mithras, the Egyptian Serapis, and Iao-Abraxas were the most celebrated.
The influence of Mithras worship on Christianity is well established. 1 We mention especially the rites of baptism, the Eucharist, facing the Orient in prayer, the sanctification of the day of the sun, and the celebration of the winter solstice as the birthday of the Saviour. Concerning this latter institution, the Rev. Robert Sinker says in William Smith's Dictionary of Christian Antiquities (pp. 357-8):
"As Mithraicism gradually blended with Christianity, changing its name but not altogether its substance, many of its ancient notions and rites passed over too, and the Birthday of the Sun, the visible manifestation of Mithras himself, was transferred to the commemoration of the Birth of Christ.
"Numerous illustrations of the above remarks may be found in ancient inscriptions, e. g., SOLI INVICTO ET LUNAE AETERNAE C. VETTI GERMANI LIB. DUO PARATUS
[paragraph continues] ET HERMES DEDERUNT, 1 or ΗΑΙΩ ΜΙΘΡΑ ΑΝΙΚΗΤΩ 2 (Gruter, Inscriptiones Antiquae, p. xxxiii). In the legend on the reverse of the copper coins of Constantine, SOLI INVICTO COMITI, 3 retained long after his conversion, there is at once an idea of the ancient Sun-God, and of the new Sun of Righteousness.
"The supporters of this theory cite various passages from early Christian writers indicating a recognition of this view. The sermon of Ambrose, quoted by Jablonsky, is certainly spurious, and is so marked in the best editions of his works; it furnishes, however, an interesting illustration of an early date. The passage runs thus: 'Bene quodammodo sanctum hunc diem Natalis Domini Solem novum vulgus appellat, et tanta sui auctoritate id confirmat, ut Judaei etiam atque Gentiles in hanc vocem consentiant. Quod libenter amplectandum nobis est, quia oriente Salvatore, non solum humani generis salus, sed etiam solis ipsius claritas innovatur.' 4 (Serm. 6, in Appendice, p. 397, ed. Bened.)
"In the Latin editions of Chrysostom is a homily, wrongly ascribed to him, but probably written not long after his time, in which we read: 'Sed et Invicti Natalem appellant. Quis utique tam invictus nisi Dominus noster, qui mortem subactam devicit? Vel quod dicunt Solis esse Natalem, ipse est Sol Justitiae, de quo Malachias propheta dixit, Orietur vobis timentibus nomen ipsius Sol Justitiae et sanitas est in pennis ejus.' 5 (Sermo de Nativitate S. Joannis Baptistae; vol. ii. 1113, ed. Paris, 1570.
"Leo the Great finds fault with the baneful persuasion of some 'quibus haec dies solemnitatis nostrae, non tam de Nativitate Christi, quam de novi ut dicunt solis ortu, honorabilis videtur.' 1 (Serm. 22, § 6, vol. i. p. 72, ed. Ballerini.) Again, the same father observes: 'Sed hanc adorandam in caelo et in terra Nativitatem nullus nobis dies magis quam hodiernus insinuat, et nova etiam in elementis luce radiante, coram (al. totam) sensibus nostris mirabilis sacramenti ingerit claritatem.' 2 (Serm. 26, § I, p. 87.)
"We may further cite one or two instances from ancient Christian poets: Prudentius, in his hymn Ad Natalem Domini, thus speaks (Cathemerinon, xi. init., p. 364, ed Arevalus):
'Quid est, quod arctum circulum sol jam recurrens deserit?
Christusne terris nascitur qui lucis auget tramitem?' 3
Paulinus of Nola also (Poema xiv. 15-19, p. 382, ed. Muratori):
'Nam post solstitium, quo Christus corpore natus
Sole novo gelidae mutavit tempora brumae,
Atque salutiferum praestans mortalibus ortum,
Procedente die, secum decrescere noctes
Reference may also be made to an extract in Assemani (Bibl. Or. i. 163) from Dionysius Bar-Salibi, bishop of Amida, which shows
traces of a similar feeling in the East; also to a passage from an anonymous Syrian writer, who distinctly refers the fixing of the day to the above cause; we are not disposed, however, to attach much weight to this last passage. More important for our purpose is the injunction of a council of Rome (743 A. D.): 'Ut nullus Kalendas Januarias et broma (= brumalia) colere praesumpserit' 1 (can. 9, Labbé vi. 1548), which shows at any rate that for a long time after the fall of heathenism, many traces of heathen rites still remained."
Click to view
ÆON OR ZRVAN AKARANA.
Unlimited Time. 2
Æon, the lion faced, with key, torch, and measuring staff is a divinity of considerable importance in the religion of Mithras. He is the Zrvan Akarana (Time unlimited) of the Zend-avesta, not so much a personality as a personified abstraction, representing the primordial state of existence from which Ahura Mazda is born. The serpent's coils that surround his body represent the revolutions of time, his wings the four seasons. His relation to the deities of the Greek pantheon, Hephæstus, Æsculapius, Hermes, and Dionysius, is indicated by the presence of their emblems.
Mr. W. C. King quotes from Flaminius Vacca (No. 117) the interesting story of the discovery of an Æon statue as follows:
"I remember there was found in the vineyard of Sig. Orazio Muti (where the treasure was discovered), opposite S. Vitale, an idol in marble, about 5 palms high (31/2 feet), standing erect upon a pedestal in an empty chamber, with the door walled up. Around him were many little lamps in terra cotta, set with their nozzles towards the idol. This had a lion's head, and the rest of the body that of a man. Under his feet was a globe, whence sprang a serpent which encompassed all the idol, and its head entered into his mouth. He had his hands crossed upon the breast: a key in each, four wings fastened upon the shoulders, two pointing upwards, two downwards. I do not consider it a very antique work, being done in a rude manner; or perhaps it is so ancient that at the time it was made the good style was not yet known. Sig. Orazio, however, told me that a theologian, a Jesuit Father, explained its meaning, saying it signified the Devil, who in the time of heathenism ruled over the world; hence the globe under his feet; the serpent which begirt him and entered into his mouth, his foretelling the future with ambiguous responses; the keys in his hands, his sovereignty over the world; the lion's head, the ruler of all beasts. The wings signified his presence everywhere. Such was the version given by the aforesaid Father. I have done everything to see the idol, but Sig. Orazio being now dead, his heirs do not know what has become of it. It is not unlikely that by the advice of the theologian, Sig. Orazio may have sent it to some lime-kiln to cure its dampness, for it had been buried many and many a year."
Iao, the god with the adorable name (i. e., Abraxas), 1 bears the cock's head, which is the emblem of Æsculapius, the god of healing. When Socrates died he requested
his friends to sacrifice a cock to Æsculapius because his soul had recovered from the disease of bodily existence. The serpent (the emblem of mystery, of eternity, of wisdom, the prophet of the gnosis) walks without feet, and therefore Iao is serpent-legged.
The God of Goodness, or Agathodæmon, exercised a great charm upon the minds of the people. He is represented on gems in the shape of a serpent whose head is surrounded with solar rays, hovering about the sacred
cista, the cylindrical box, from which the priest emerged at the celebration of the mystery.
The design of the Agathodæmon is as common as the Iao design and that it was used as an amulet appears from a passage of Galen, who says:
"Some, indeed, assert that a virtue of this kind is inherent in certain stones, such as is in reality possessed by the green jasper, which benefits the chest and mouth of the stomach, if tied upon
them. some, indeed, set the stone in a ring and engrave upon It a serpent with his head crowned with rays, according as is prescribed by King Nechepsos in his thirteenth book."
How excusable these gnostic superstitions were in those days appears from the strange fact that such a sober man as Galen believed in the efficiency of these amulets. He continues:
"Of this I have had ample experience, having made a necklace of such stones and hung it round the patient's neck, descending low enough for the stones to touch the mouth of the stomach, and they proved to be of no less benefit thus than if they had been engraved in the manner laid down by King Nechepsos." (De Simp. Med., IX.)
Click to view
To us who have grown up under the influence of Christian traditions, the idea of representing the Good God under the allegory of a serpent seems strange, but we must bear in mind that other people and other ages had different ideas associated with the serpent. To the people of the Orient the limbless serpent was a symbol of mystery, and represented health and immortality. Eusebius (I., 7) informs us:
"The serpent never dies naturally, but only when injured by violence, whence the Phoenicians have named it the good genius (Agathodæmon). Similarly the Egyptians have called him Cneph and given him a hawk's head on account of the special swiftness of that bird."
Serapis, which is a Hellenised form of Osiris-Apis,
was a religion which in many respects resembled Christianity. Their sacred symbol was the cross, as we know through Christian authors, 1 and Emperor Adrian (no mean authority in such matters) speaks of Serapis worshippers as Christians, saying that those who consecrated themselves to Serapis called themselves "bishops of Christ." Even if a local blending of Christianity with the Serapis cult in Egypt had not taken place we must recognise that the monkish institutions of the Serapean temples were an exact prototype of the Christian monasteries which originated in Egypt and flourished there better than anywhere else.
The Serapis cult was a reformation of the old Egyptian Osiris worship, introduced by Ptolemy Soter for the purpose of adapting the old traditions of Egypt to the Hellenic culture of Alexandria.
Click to view
Akin in spirit but independent in its development, is the worship of the Egyptian Tot, the ibis-headed scribe of the gods. Originally a personification of the moon, Tot, or Tehuti, was the deity of all measure, and thus his importance grew to signify the divine cosmic order. He is called "Ibis the Glorious," and "the Ibis who proceeded from Ptah." Osiris, the dying and resurrected God, is identified with him as "Osiris the Ibis, the Blessed One." Together with the moon god, Xunsu and Máut, he is worshipped in the trinity Xunsu-Máut-Tehuti as the "child ever being born again." 2
Among the Greeks, Tot was identified with Hermes, who now begins to play a very prominent rôle as Hermes Trismegistos, the thrice great, the saviour of souls. Hermes is now adored as the first-born son of Zeus, and is even identified with the father of the gods as his representative and plenipotentiary.
The philosophers of the time bear the stamp of their age. Thus Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and other pagan sages are kindred in spirit to the Christian religion; they are under the influence of Platonism; they object to the idolatry of polytheism and demand a
pure theism; they speak of the fatherhood of God; they insist upon morality and are inclined to conceive the soul as distinct from, and superior to, the body which is regarded as its temporal tabernacle, and as the seat, if not cause, of all evil. Yet they are philosophers, not pastors. They are too aristocratic to appreciate their kinship to Christianity. They even show a contempt for the religion of the vulgar, and they themselves appeal to the thinkers, not to the toilers, not to the multitudes, not to the poor in spirit.
Græco-Egyptians developed a religious philosophy upon the basis of ancient Egyptian traditions, compiled
in a book called the Divine Pymander, 1 which contains many beautiful sayings that remind us of Christian views; but the Divine Pymander (like other philosophical books) is addressed to the few not to the many, and its mysticism rendered it unfit to become the religion of mankind.
Apollonius of Tyana is a figure in many respects similar, but by no means superior, to Jesus Christ. For in him the philosophy of the age becomes a religion. His followers, however, were neither better nor wiser than the early Christians; they shared with them the same superstitions, cherishing the same trust in miracles, yet for all we know, they had only few of their redeeming features.
Julian, surnamed by Christian authors the Apostate, is in spite of his idealism a reactionary man who set his face against Christianity because he recognised in the latter the most powerful representative of the coming faith. This last pagan emperor, it is true, was a noble-minded and thoughtful man who opposed Christianity mainly on account of its shortcomings, its Jewish affiliations, and the narrowness of its devotees, but he was enamored with the past, and his highest ambition was to revive the barbarism of pagan institutions, which tendency appears most plainly in his retention of bloody sacrifices, his esteem for oracles and a general indulgence in the mysteries of Neo-Platonism.
The various schools of post-Christian gnosticism were in all probability the most dangerous competitors of
[paragraph continues] Christianity, which explains the bitterness with which the Church-fathers revile gnostic doctrines. But the gnostics were after all so similar to the Christians that some Church-fathers use the name "Gnostic" as a synonym for Christians. Gnostic teachers are looked upon less as strangers than as heretics, and their speculations have been an important factor in the development of Christian dogmas.
The gnostics, as a rule, represent the demiurge, i. e., the architect of the world, whom they identify with the Jewish Yahveh, as the father of all evil. They describe him as irascible, jealous, and revengeful, and contrast him with the highest God who had nothing to do with the creation. As the demiurge created the world, he has a right to it, but he was overcome through the death of Jesus. The demiurge thought to conquer Jesus when he let him die on the cross, but his triumph was preposterous, for through the passion and death of the innocent Jesus the victory of God was won and the salvation of mankind became established.
One peculiarly interesting sect of gnostics is called the Ophites, or serpent worshippers. The demiurge (so they hold), on recognising the danger that might result from the emancipation of man through gnosis (i. e., knowledge or enlightenment), forbade him to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge. But the God, the highest Lord, the all-good and all-wise Deity, took compassion on man and sent the serpent to induce him to eat of the tree of knowledge so that he might escape the bondage of ignorance in which Yahveh, the demiurge, tried to hold him.
The serpent appears on many gnostic gems and is never missing in the Mithras monuments. Frequently it is found on Christian devices where it is sometimes difficult to interpret it as the representative of evil.
Irenaeus, an adversary of the gnostic view, replaced the demiurge by the Devil, whom he regards as a rebel angel, having fallen by pride and arrogance, envying God's creation (Adv. hær., No. 40). He agrees, however, with the gnostics, in that he maintains that the Devil had claims upon man because of man's sin. Jesus,
however, having paid the debt of mankind, has the power to redeem the souls of men from the clutches of the Devil who, by having treated a sinless man as a sinner, became now himself a debtor of mankind.
This juridical theory of the death of Jesus and his relation to the Devil was further elaborated by Origen. According to Origen the sacrifice of Jesus is not rendered to make an atonement to God or satisfy his feeling of justice (which is the Protestant conception), but to pay off the Devil. Jesus is, as it were, a bait for the Devil. Satan imagines he must destroy Jesus, but having succeeded
in killing him, finds out to his unspeakable regret that he has been outwitted by the Lord. God had set a trap, and the Devil was foolish enough to allow himself to be caught.
Manes, a man educated in the Zoroastrian faith, endeavored to found a universal religion through the synthesis of all the religions he knew; and because Manicheism, as this view is called, contains many Christian elements, it is commonly regarded as a Christian or a gnostic sect, but it was strongly denounced as heretical by St. Augustine. Manes taught the Persian dualism,
CHRISTIAN SYMBOLS OF THE CATACOMBS.
but St. Augustine, who formulated the orthodox Christian doctrine denying the independent existence of evil, explains the presence of sin in the world by the free will with which Adam was endowed at creation, and regards evil as a means to an end in God's plan of education.
* * *
Christianity triumphed over paganism, and it did so by embodying in its fabric everything that in those days was regarded as true and good and elevating. Thus the adoration of statues and images, at first so vehemently denounced by Christians as heathenish, was reintroduced with all the pagan methods of worship, the burning of
incense, processions, sprinkling with holy water, and other rituals. The old symbol of the labarum was interpreted as the monogram of Christ; and the sacred mark of two intersecting lines, a religious emblem of great antiquity, was identified with the cross of Golgotha. The figure of two intersecting lines was a mark of salvation among the Syrians and other nations, and the probability is that it represented the four quarters of the compass; 1 but now since is was called a cross, it recovered in a higher degree its traditional reputation as a powerful magic charm and was extensively used for exorcisms. 2 There is no doctrine on which the Christian fathers so thoroughly agree as on the belief that the Devil is afraid of the cross.
Click to view
ARAMÆAN WARRIORS, WEARING THE CROSS AS AN AMULET FOR PROTECTION IN BATTLE. 3
The Greek gods were regarded as demons by the early Christians, but the ideas which found expression in the mythology of Greece, in the tales of Greek deities
and heroes, were retained and Christianised. The old Greek saviours simply changed names and became Christian saints, or at least contributed important features to the legends of their lives.
Christianity is a religion of peace, but the Western nations are warlike, and at the very beginning of the Christian era the need was felt to have the spirit of belligerency
consecrated by religious sentiment and represented in struggling saints and angels.
The Christian patron saint of fighters is St. George, and it is natural that the English, who among the Christian nations are not the least pious and at the same time not the least belligerent, have chosen the name of St. George for their battle-cry.
The legend and pictures of St. George remind us strongly of the myths of Perseus. In its Christian form the tale appears first in the Legendæ Sanctorum of Jacobus de Voragine, who tells us of a pagan city, the neighborhood of which was infested by a dragon that had to be appeased by human sacrifices. The monster was finally slain by St. George, a chivalrous Christian knight, who arrived at the moment the king's daughter was offered as a victim. The princess, at the request of the knight, tied her girdle round the dragon's neck, who now, although the beast had been reported dead, rises and follows the virgin like a tame lamb to the city. The people are frightened by the sight, but St. George kills him once more, this time for good. St. George is richly rewarded, but he distributes his wealth among the poor, converts the King and his subjects to Christianity, and goes to another land, where he dies a martyr's death.
The historical St. George, an archbishop of Alexandria and a follower of Arius, possesses no features whatever of the heroic dragon-slayer of the legend. According to the unanimous report of Christian and pagan historians, he was an abject, cringing fellow, and when he had attained the high position of archbishop, proved a cruel and extortionate tyrant who was greatly hated by the people. He was deposed by the worldly authorities and put in jail on Christmas eve, 361. But his enemies, mostly poor people belonging to his diocese, grew tired of the delay of the law; a mob broke open the prison doors and lynched the deposed archbishop on January 17, 362. His violent death was later on regarded as a sufficient title to the glory of the martyr's crown. The most
important service he rendered the Church consisted in the fact, that the official recognition of an Arian saint helped to reconcile the followers of Arius.
Gelarius seems to be the first Roman Catholic Pope who mentions St. George, and he knows nothing of his life, but counts him among those saints "who are better
known to God than to mankind." 2 It is difficult to say whether His Holiness was conscious of the irony of this passage.
It is an unsolved problem how St. George could have been identified with the dragon-slaying deities of ancient
pagan mythologies. The connecting links are missing, but it is probable that there is no deeper reason than a similarity in the sound of names. Perhaps a solar deity was somewhere worshipped under the name γεωργόσ, i. e., tiller of the ground, because the civilisation of agriculture overcame the dragon of savage barbarism.
The final conqueror of the dragon, however, is not St. George, but the Archangel Michael, who, on the day of judgment, plays the part of Zeus defeating the giants and Typhaeus, or the Teuton God Thor, slaying the Midgard serpent; and when the victory is gained Michael will hold the balances in which the souls are weighed.
The belligerent spirit did not remain limited to Michael and St. George, but was also imputed to other saints who proved their prowess in various ways in their encounters with the Evil One. St. Anthony, of Egypt (251-356), the founder of the Christian monastery system, is reported to have battled with evil spirits in the desert near Thebes, whither he withdrew from the world to practise severe penances. His heroic deeds, which consist of frightful struggles with the demons of his imagination, have been recorded by the good Bishop Athanasius, whose book on the subject is of special interest because it contains an essay written by St. Anthony himself, containing the gist of his wisdom and experience in struggling with evil spirits. 1 The artistic genius of Salvator Rosa gave a concrete plausibility to the story in a highly dramatic picture illustrating the combat in a critical
moment when only the cross saved the undaunted saint from defeat during a daring onslaught of the fiend in his most horrible shape. (See the illustration on page 236.)
There can scarcely be any doubt that the original doctrine of Jesus of Nazareth was an ethics of peace; not only peacefulness and gentleness of mind in general, but peace at any price, and a non-resistance to evil. The warlike spirit among later Christians and the worship of belligerent archangels and saints were introduced into the writings of the early Church from pagan sources and the importance of this phase of Christianity grew with its expanse among the energetic races of the North. The Teutonic nations, the Norsemen, the Germans, the Anglo-Saxons and their kin, whose conversion is the greatest conquest Christianity ever made, proved no less belligerent than the Greek and Roman, but they were their superiors in strength, in generosity, in fairness toward their enemies, and in purity of morals.
195:1 The Christian Church never lost sight of the idea that a human sacrifice is indispensable for the expiation of sin, the atonement being procured by the mystic effects of faith. Hence the constant reference of Christ's death on the cross to both Abraham's offering of Isaac and the miraculous healing power of the brazen serpent in the desert.
200:1 Or rather the author of the second epistle of St. Peter, so called.
205:1 Xen., Mem., ii. I. Plato, Symp., 177 B.
205:2 Trendelenburg has discovered a passage commenting on this or a similar picture in Achilles Tatius, and explains it as follows: Andromeda, adorned as the bride of death with girdle, crown, and veil, is tied to two poles. Above her Cupid stands engaged with women in the preparation of a wedding. Andromeda's old nurse hands her a twig. Behind and above the nurse are guards with Phrygian caps and arms. On the left, Cassiopeia, Andromeda's mother, who exhibits the vanity of which the legend accuses her, is seated in conversation with her servants. Underneath Perseus fights the monster, which scene is witnessed by three Nereids, one riding on a sea-horse, one on a dolphin, and the third resembling the typical figure of Scylla. The monster differs here from the typical Medusa figure.
208:1 The Greek καλός is not limited to the definition of beautiful as we use the word.
208:2 The Medusa is mentioned by Homer, λ 634, as a terrible monster of the Nether World; it was used as an amulet to avert evil, and became therefore a favorite device p. 209 on shields. The original of the upper illustration on p. 207 is colored,--which adds to the frightful appearance of this picture found on the Acropolis at Athens.
209:1 The statue reproduced on p. 208 belongs to an older period of Greek art, and the horse Pegasus is not as yet endowed with wings, which became very soon its never-missing attributes. The modern notion that Pegasus is the symbol of poetical enthusiasm only dates back to the fifteenth century of our era, and was foreign to the Greek.
209:2 Figures of the lion -killing saviour are also found on Asiatic coins and on Assyrian cylinders.
211:1 In the beautiful sarcophagus (see illustration on p. 212) which represents the Prometheus myth, the first design is apparently incomplete; for we should expect to see Prometheus represented as stealing the fire and offering it to Deukalion.
216:1 Cleombrotus may have been the same disciple of Socrates who is mentioned in Phaedo II-- p. 59, c. This strange case of suicide is alluded to by St. Augustine in de Civ. Dei, I., 22--The verses are translated in the original metre.
218:1 See above, page 210.
218:2 This gem (a Christian New Year's present) represents the death of a martyr. The letters A N F T mean annum novum felicem tibi.
218:3 The Apology and Acts of Apollonius, 40-41. Translated by F. C. Conybeare in Monuments of Early Christianity, p. 47.
220:1 Apol., 86.
220:2 Dei sacramenta Satanas affectat. De exh. cast., 13.
220:3 After Chiflet, reproduced from C. W. King. Two erect serpents stand like supporters, on both sides. Mithras, between the stars of the twins (the Dioscuri), holds the horses of the rising and of the setting sun, or of life and death. Above his head, the raven; in the sky, the emblems of sun and moon. Underneath. the table with the consecrated bread and the cup of the Eucharist.
221:1 The Monument bears the inscription "Den Soli Invicto Mithrae." Mithras sacrifices in a cave a bull for the forgiveness of sins. A dog licks the dripping blood, called "nama sebesion" (the sacred fluid). A serpent crawls on the ground. A scorpion pinches off the bull's testicles. A youth at the left turns a torch upwards; at the right, downwards. A raven, which here looks like an owl, witnesses the scene. Over the cave, the sungod, Helios, and the goddess of the moon, Selene, drive past in their chariots. Whether the sacrifice of the bull was practised or only commemorated is not known. Concerning the significance of the Mithras mysteries little is known, except that initiations were by penances, fasts, self-mortifications, lustrations, and water and fire probations. Baptism was practised, and Mithras was called the mediator for the remission of sin. The most important references besides the monuments are passages in Justin Martyr, Apol., I., 66, and Tertullian, Praescr. haeret., 40. The Mithras cult had many votaries among the Roman soldiery garrisoned in the northern provinces.
222:1 The mysteries of Mithras were introduced into Greece at the time of Alexander. They gained more and more influence until they reached a climax in the second century of the Christian era, Most of the many monuments which the Mithras worship left all over the Roman empire, especially in Gallia and Germany, date from this period when it had almost become a rival of Christianity.
223:1 "To the unconquerable sun and the eternal moon this is given by P. and H., the two children of C. V. G."
223:2 I. e., Helios (or the sun) Mithras the invincible.
223:3 "To the invincible Sun, the protector."
223:4 "Well do the common people call this somehow sacred day of the birth of the Lord 'a new sun,' and confirm it with so great an authority of theirs that Jews and Gentiles concur in this mode of speech. And this should willingly be accepted by us, because with the birth of the Saviour there comes not only the salvation of mankind, but the brightness of the sun itself is renewed."
223:5 "But they call it the birthday of the Invincible (i. e., Mithras). Who, however, is invincible if not our Lord, who has conquered death? Further, if they say 'it is the birthday of the sun,' He is the sun of righteousness, about whom the prophet Malachi says, 'Unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.'" Observe in this passage that the prophet p. 224 thinks of the sun of God after the Babylonian and Egyptian fashion, as having wings which are of a wholesome or healing influence.
The preceding lines of this quotation from Chrysostom (Hom. 31) plainly state that Christ's birthday has been fixed upon the day of the birth of Mithras: "On this day (the birthday of Mithras) also the birthday of Christ was lately fixed at Rome in order that whilst the heathen were busied with their profane ceremonies, the Christians might perform their holy rites undisturbed."
224:1 "Some to whom this day of our celebration is worthy of honor not so much on account of the birth of Christ as for the sake of the renewal of the sun."
224:2 "But no other day appears to us more appropriate than to-day for worshipping in heaven and earth the Feast of the Nativity, and while even in the material world (in the elements) a new light shines, He confers on us before our very senses, the brightness of His wonderful sacrament."
224:3 "Why does the sun already leave the circle of the arctic north?
Is not Christ born upon the earth who will the path of light increase?
224:4 "Truly, after the solstice, when Christ is born in the body,
With a new sun he will change the frigid days of the north wind.
While he is offering to mortals the birth that will bring them salvation,
Christ with the progress of days gives command that the nights be declining."
225:1 "No one shall celebrate the 1st of January and the Brumalia."
225:2 The statue here reproduced was found in the Mithraeum of Ostia, where C. Valerius Heracles and his sons dedicated it in the year 190 A. D.; it was figured for the first time by Layard in his Recherches sur Mithra, Plate LXX. Similar statues are found in various Mithras caves.
226:1 Abrak is Egyptian, and means "bow down" or "adore." The word occurs in the Bible, Gen. 41, 43. Sas (standing for Sadshi) means "name." Abraxas is the name to be adored. (See King, The Gnostics, p. 36.)
227:1 The inscription reads, "Gabriel Sabaoth," i. e., The strong God Zebaoth. The second Ρ (i. e., R) is a mistake which the stone cutter made for Λ (i. e., L).
Bellermann, in his remarks on Abraxas-gems, in a "Programm des Grauen Klosters" (Berlin, 1817-1819) describes the gem. The priest of Abraxas carries a serpent coiled up in the form of a ring, and a lance round which entwines another serpent. His head is crowned by a strange head-dress of four feathers (presumably of the Phnikopteros) and surrounded by three stars.
227:2 From C. W. King. The first line of the inscription is between Χ crosses; it is explained to mean "I am the Good Spirit, the Eternal Sun."
229:1 See Socrates, Eccl. Hist., 5, 17, which report is repeated by Sozomenes.
229:2 R. Pietschmann. Hermes Trismegistos, p. 7.
231:1 The term "Pymander" is commonly explained to mean ποιμὴν ἀνδροῶν, i. e., shepherd of man."
235:1 The equilateral cross of Paganism is frequently, though not always, ornamented with four dots, one in each corner. We believe we are not mistaken when we interpret the dots as emblems of the sun in its four respective positions, in the east, south, west and north. Egyptian wall-pictures show the Apis covered with this sacred symbol, (see e. g. Lenormant, L'Hist. Anc. de l'Orient, V., 183,) and it serves as a not uncommon pattern on the dresses of various Greek deities.
235:2 For further details see the author's articles on The Cross, Its History and Significance in The Open Court, 1899 and 1900. Their publication in book form is contemplated by The Open Court Publishing Co.
235:3 From Egyptian monuments of the eighteenth dynasty. (After Wilkinson.) The same use of the cross, as an amulet worn round the neck, was made in Greece, as we know from ancient pictures, published by Gerhard.
238:1 Reproduced from Scheible, Das Kloster.
238:2 Qui Deo magis quam hominibus noti sunt.
239:1 See the Acta Sanctorum of the Bolandists for January 17, which is observed as St. Anthony's day. In addition there are several Latin translations of St. Anthony's letters extant in the Biblioteca Patrum.