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and ten, and the period of their office was thirty years, during which they were required strictly to observe the dictates of chastity. The first ten years were passed in learning their sacred duties, the ten following in performing them, and the latter years in instructing the vestal virgins who were in their novitiate. At the expiration of the thirty years they were permitted to marry, and leave the service of the temple; but incontinence during that term was severely punished. Under Numa they were stoned to th; but the elder Tarquin substituted for this punishment the horrible one of immurement in a vault, to which the wretched victim was dragged in a solemn procession, and where she perished miserably by starvation. It was seldom, however, that the vestals violated their vow of chastity; for it appears that, from the time of Numa to that of Theodosius, by whom the order was abolished, and the sacred fire extinguished—a period of a thousand years-only eighteen incurred the dreadful penalty described. Their costume was a white vest bordered with purple, a surplice of white linen, a flowing purple mantle, and a peculiar close cap, with hanging ribbons. Their principal duty was to watch in turn the sacred fire, the extinction of which was held to forbode some dire calamity to the Roman state; and the vestal who permitted it to expire was severely scourged by the high priest. When this happened, the sacred fire was rekindled from the sun by means of a burning lens. The vestals were maintained at the public expense, fared sumptuously, and enjoyed great privileges; they rode in chariots when they appeared in public, a lictor preceding them with the fasces; they had the first seats in the circus; they had the power pardoning criminals on their way to execution, if the meeting was accidental; their evidence was received in the courts of law without the preliminary formality of an oath; and even the consuls made way for them, and the fasces were lowered as they passed by. Any offence against them was punished with death, and they were among the few to whom was accorded the privilege of being buried within the walls of the city. On the annual festival of Vesta, which was observed on the 9th June, the Roman ladies walked in procession barefooted to the temple of the goddess; millstones were decked with garlands, and the asses that turned them were led through the streets ornamented with flowers.
Saturn, though reputed to be the son of Cælus and Terra, and the father of the gods, was less worshipped in Greece than by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Italians. By the two former nations human victims were sacrificed
upon his altars, and Apollodorus and others assert that the same horrid custom prevailed in Greece until abolished by Hercules, who is said to have substituted figures of clay. At Carthage children of the first families in the state were the victims, which hideous sacrifice probably originated in the myth of Saturn devouring the male children which Rhea bore him prior to the birth of Jupiter. The worship of the god, but without the sanguinary rites with which it was celebrated by the Carthaginians, was introduced very early into Italy; and his festivals, called the Saturnalia, were held, according to some writers, long before the founding of Rome, in commemoration of the Golden Age-a period of peace and plenty supposed to have existed under his rule. The Saturnalia was originally celebrated on one day only, but its duration was gradually extended to seven days, during which the schools were closed, the slaves,
enjoyed a holiday, and mirth and jollity prevailed without restraint, frequently growing into riot and licentiousness. The worship of Mars and Mercury was also adopted by the Romans: to the former they sacrificed horses; and in honour of the latter they held an annual festival on the 15th May, when tongues were offered, because he was supposed to preside over eloquence, and sometimes a sow or a calf. In honour of the god Pan they celebrated yearly the festival called Lupercalia, held on the 15th February, when two goats and a dog were sacrificed, and the ensanguined knife of the officiating priest was first applied to the foreheads of two noble youths, who were always obliged to smile on the occasion, and then wiped with wool dipped in milk. The skins of the animals sacrificed were afterwards cut into thongs, and given to boys, who ran through the streets in a state of semi-nudity, applying the whips to all whom they met. It was accounted fortunate to receive their stripes, particularly by married women, from a belief that they were efficacious in removing sterility, and alleviating the pangs of parturition. This custom was abolished by Augustus.
In addition to the deities whose worship was derived from Greece, the Romans had several others-as Flora, Janus, Anna, Vertumnus, Autumnus, Fortuna, &c. Flora, supposed by some to have been a beautiful courtesan, deified after death for her generosity and patriotism, was reputed to preside over flowers and gardens, and received adoration among the Sabines long before the era of Romulus. Her annual festival was the occasion of much licentiousness, women appearing in the circus almost in a state of nudity, and reproducing in Rome the scenes which characterised the rites of Anaitis in Armenia, and of Venus at Cyprus and Corinth. In honour of Janus, who presided over the year, the Romans sacrificed a ram three times in the year; and in memory of Anna, the deified sister of Dido, sometimes called Maia, they celebrated an annual festival on the 15th March, the rejoicings on which occasion too often degenerated into licentiousness.
We have reserved for particular consideration the secret mysteries of the ancient worship of the Egyptians and Greeks, and of the nations of the south-west of Asia, both because less is generally known concerning them than of the public rites, and because many important and highly-interesting questions are involved in their consideration. Owing to the inviolable secrecy required be observed by those who were initiated into these mysteries, and the loss of the works of the ancient writers who treated of them, as Melanthius, Menander, Ilicesius, Sotades, and others, all that we know concerning them has had to be searched for in detached passages of classic historians, and brief and often obscure allusions in classic poetry and fiction; and the information which has thus been laboriously gathered has never yet been presented to the public in a generally accessible form. The elaborate work of St Croix upon the subject has not yet been honoured with an English translation; the more condensed but very valuable article of Dr Doig is inaccessible to the mass of readers on account of the bulk and high price of the work— The Encyclopædia Britan
nica'-in which it appeared; and even second-hand copies of those works of Warburton, Cudworth, and Leland, in which some account is given of the mysteries, are not to be procured cheaply, in the sense in which cheapness is understood by the mechanic and the artisan. We shall, therefore, endeavour to condense within the compass of the following pages all that is known upon the subject, and thus supply a desideratum, as well to those who have not the leisure or inclination to peruse larger works, as to those whose limited pecuniary means place such works beyond their reach.
Most of the pagan divinities had their secret rites in addition to those which were performed commonly and in public, and these were called Mysteries, because none were admitted to participation in them without a previous initiation and an engagement to secrecy, and also on account of the garb of mystery in which the secrets of religion were presented by the presiding hierophant. The secret rites were not performed in all places, but only in such as were especially sacred to the god of whose worship they appeared to form a part; and when the divinities of one nation were adopted by the people of another, according to that intercommunity of worship which prevailed among most nations in the middle and latter ages of polytheism, the mysteries were not always adopted along with the public rites. Thus the public worship of Bacchus prevailed in Rome long before the introduction of his mysteries; but in the case of Isis, the public rites seem to have been introduced only for the sake of those which were celebrated in secret. The first mysteries of which any account has been preserved were those of Isis, which were first celebrated in Egypt, in the holy city of Memphis; and it is probable that they had their origin in that country, and were invented by the priesthood, as a means of preserving their esoteric doctrines, at the time when polytheism and philosophy began to rise side by side as the old Fetichist worship faded out. Hence the secrecy required among a people so deeply imbued with ignorance and superstition, and the solemnities and allusions so well calculated to make a deep impression upon the minds of the initiated. Hence also the circumspection exercised in the admission of aspirants, and the exclusion of all who were not freeborn citizens of the state, and of irreproachable character. Those who, like the writer, have been engaged in the study of the secret societies that have prevailed in Europe from the middle ages down to our own time, will be able to trace a resemblance in the initiated of Memphis and Eleusis to the Rosicrusians and the Illuminatists; and it is remarkable that a discourse found upon one of the Carbonaro conspirators of Macerata, and printed in the official report of their trial, connects the secret societies with the pagan mysteries: The mysteries of Mithra in Persia, of Isis in Egypt, of Eleusis in Greece, and of the temples yet to be rebuilt, and the light that is yet to be spread,' says the discourse,' are all so many rays proceeding from the same centre, moving in an orbit whose field is the immensity of wisdom.' It is easy to understand that the Magi of Persia and the Egyptian hierophants should desire to preserve and transmit to posterity their philosophic doctrines, and our knowledge of the origin of the Rosicrusians prepares us for the course which they adopted in order to do so. "A few wise and good men,' says the discourse just quoted, 'who still cherished in their hearts that morality whose principles are unalterable, either by change of time or
the succession of generations, while they wept in secret, ruminated on the means of preserving untainted some sentiment of sound morality. They secretly imparted their knowledge and their views to a few persons worthy of the distinction. Thus transmitted from generation to generation, their maxims became the fountain of that true philosophy which can never be corrupted nor altered in its appearance.'
Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Plutarch, are unanimous in ascribing the origin of the mysteries to the Egyptian priests; and the disputes of the Greeks as to their origin are an additional support to that opinion. The Cretans, the Athenians, and the Thracians contended that their respective countries had the honour of introducing them; and when their introduction from Egypt had long been forgotten, it was natural for each of these states, knowing that it had not derived the mysteries from its neighbours, to conclude, from the similitude between the secret rites of the various divinities, that they had borrowed them from it. The hypothesis of a common origin in Egypt explains the difficulty which the different states of Greece had in determining this point. The mysteries are said to have been introduced into Persia by Zoroaster, into Cyprus by Cinyras, into Crete by Minos, into Boeotia by Trophonius, into Argos by Melampus, and into Thrace by Orpheus; but as many of the characters mentioned are now believed to be mythical, this acconnt, which is derived from the poets, is not to be depended on. In each state the institutor placed them under the protection of the tutelary divinity which best suited his purpose, as giving them a greater importance and sanctity: thus, in Persia they were grafted upon the worship of Mithra ; in Cyprus, upon that of Venus; in Crete, of Jupiter; in Lemnos, of Vulcan; in Phoenicia, of the Cabiri; in Samothracia, of Cybele ; in. Boeotia, of Bacchus ; in Delphi, of Semele ; and in Athens, of Ceres. Those of Egypt were the most celebrated until they were eclipsed by those of Eleusis ; and so similar do all the pagan mysteries appear to have been, as well in the secrets revealed as in the manner of their revelation, that it will be sufficient to glance cursorily at those of Isis, Serapis, Mithra, the Cabiri, and Semele, and then give a particular account of those of Ceres, concerning which we possess the greatest amount of knowledge.
Concerning the mysteries of Isis much may be gathered from the ‘Metamorphosis' of Apuleius, a Platonist philosopher of Madaura in Africa, who lived in the reign of Severus, and who states in his apology before the proconsul of Africa, that he had been initiated into almost all the pagan mysteries, and in the celebration of some of them had borne the most distinguished offices. The mysteries had in his time become much perverted and corrupted from their original foundation and intention; and they were growing into discredit in proportion as the Christian doctrines became more widely diffused. The initiated were accused of the practice of magic, and the perpetration of the grossest immorality in their nocturnal assemblies for the purpose of celebrating the mysteries ; and Apuleius in particular had been charged with sorcery before the proconsul of Africa. Whether the Metamorphosis' was written after or before the 'Apology' is not certainly known; but the hypothesis that it was written afterwards receives a strong support from the circumstance that his accusers never
once alluded to it, which, from the many passages they miglit have quoted from it in support of their charges, they would scarcely have failed to have done had it then been written. The • Metamorphosis' appears to have been written for the vindication of his character and the support of paganism, and particularly of the mysteries; and with this view the author represents the hero of his fiction as a young man addicted to sensual excesses and the practice of magic, and led on by them to the perpetration of crimes, the enormity of which caused his transformation into an ass. In relating this change the author displays great ingenuity and art; for debauchery and magic, which had produced the metamorphosis, were the corruptions charged against those initiated into the pagan mysteries, which Apuleius wished to defend ; and while he drew attention to the degrading and brutalising tendencies of vice, he conformed to the vulgar belief in punishing his hero by actual transformation. In the subsequent adventures of his hero he shews the miseries which attend a career of vice and depravity; and his account of the enormities of the mendicant priests of Cybele, seem designed for after contrast with the mysteries of Isis. His hero falls deeper and deeper into vice; but assailed at length by the stings of remorse, he flies to the sea-shore, and addresses himself in solitude to the moon ; then he falls asleep, and has a dream, in which Isis appears to him in the resplendent form under which she was represented in her grand temple at Memphis. The goddess acquaints him with the means by which he may be restored to the human form: on the following day there is to be a procession in her honour, and the priest who leads it will carry a garland of roses, which possesses the power to retransform him. On eating the roses as the priest of Isis passes him, he becomes a man again; the priest throws a linen cloth over him as a garment, and invites him to become initiated in the mysteries of the goddess; and he is initiated accordingly. That a virtuous life was imperatively required from the aspirant as a condition of admission, is shewn by the doubts and fears which beset him at the moment of presenting himself for admission; and this is one of the many points in which the pagan mysteries agree with each other. Having been initiated with much ceremony and solemnity, he is afterwards counselled by Isis to obtain admission to the secret rites of Osiris likewise, which he does; and concludes with relating the prosperity and happiness which attended his future life.
The Epicurean' of Moore the poet contains a beautifully - written description of the mysteries of Isis, which may be perused with equal pleasure and advantage, as it appears to give a tolerably correct account of the matter, though not a complete one. Alciphron, a young Athenian of the school of Epicurus, penetrates into the subterraneans of the temple of Isis at Memphis, in quest of a beautiful young priestess whom he has seen dancing in the temple, and feeding the sacred birds at the Isiac festival ; and the Egyptian priests, being desirous of effecting his conversion, draw him onward by a series of illusions, wonders, and apparent dangers, which awe while they attract. He descends a well, involved in pitchy darkness, by means of an iron ladder; passes through gates inscribed with characters of fire; traverses a subterranean passage, in which he has to rush through a grove of flaming pine-trees, while fiery serpents pursue each other among the branches, and burning brands and myriads of sparks fall on every side;