The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism By Franz Cumont

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The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism


Franz Cumont



The religions of Syria never had the same solidarity in the Occident as

those from Egypt or Asia Minor. From the coasts of Phoenicia and the

valleys of Lebanon, from the borders of the Euphrates and the oases of

the desert, they came at various periods, like the successive waves of the

incoming tide, and existed side by side in the Roman world without

uniting, in spite of their similarities. The isolation in which they remained and

the persistent adherence of their believers to their particular rites

were a consequence and reflection of the disunited condition of Syria

herself, where the different tribes and districts remained more distinct than

anywhere else, even after they had been brought together under the

domination of Rome. They doggedly preserved their local gods and Semitic



It would be impossible to outline each one of these religions in detail

at this time and to reconstruct their history, because our meager

Information would not permit it, but we can indicate, in a general way, how they

penetrated into the Occidental countries at various periods, and we can

try to define their common characteristics by showing what new elements the

Syrian paganism brought to the Romans. The first Semitic divinity to enter Italy was {104} _Atargatis_, frequently mistaken for the Phoenician Astarte, who had a famous temple at Bambyce or Hierapolis, not far from the Euphrates, and was worshiped with her

husband, Hadad, in a considerable part of Syria besides. The Greeks considered

her as the principal Syrian goddess ([Greek: Suria thea]), and in the Latin countries she was commonly known as _dea Syria_, a name corrupted into _Iasura_ by popular use.

We all remember the unedifying descriptions of her itinerant priests that Lucian and Apuleius[1] have left. Led by an old eunuch of dubious habits, a crowd of painted young men marched along the highways with an ass that bore an elaborately adorned image of the goddess. Whenever they passed through a village or by some rich villa, they went through their sacred exercises. To

the shrill accompaniment of their Syrian flutes they turned round and round, and with their heads thrown back fluttered about and gave vent to hoarse clamors until vertigo seized them and insensibility was complete.


Then they flagellated themselves wildly, struck themselves with swords and shed their blood in front of a rustic crowd which pressed closely about them, and finally they took up a profitable collection from the wondering spectators. They received jars of milk and wine, cheeses, flour, bronze coins of small denominations and even some silver pieces, all of which disappeared in the folds of their capacious robes. If opportunity presented they knew how to increase their profits by means of clever thefts or by making commonplace predictions for a moderate consideration.

This picturesque description, based on a novel by {105} Lucius of Patras, is undoubtedly extreme. It is difficult to believe that the sacerdotal corps of the goddess of Hierapolis should have consisted only of charlatans and thieves. But how can the presence in the Occident of that begging and low nomadic clergy be explained? It is certain that the first worshipers of the Syrian goddess in the Latin world were slaves. During the wars against Antiochus the Great a number

Of prisoners were sent to Italy to be sold at public auction, as was the custom, and the first appearance in Italy of the _Chaldaei_[2] has been connected with that event. The _Chaldaei_ were Oriental fortune-tellers who asserted that their predictions were based on the Chaldean astrology. They found credulous clients among the farm laborers, and Cato gravely exhorts

the good landlord to oust them from his estate.[3] Beginning with the second century before Christ, merchants began to import Syrian slaves. At that time Delos was the great trade center in this human commodity, and in that island especially Atargatis was worshiped by citizens of Athens and Rome.[4] Trade spread her worship in the Occident.[5] We know that the great slave revolution that devastated Sicily in 134 B. C. was started by a slave from Apamea, a votary of the Syrian goddess. Simulating divine madness, he called his companions to arms, pretending to act in accordance with orders from heaven.[6] This detail, which we know by chance, shows how considerable a proportion of Semites there was in the gangs working the fields, and how much authority Atargatis enjoyed in the rural centers. Being too poor to build temples for their

national goddess, those agricultural laborers {106} waited with their devotions until a band of itinerant _galli_ passed through the distant hamlet where the lot of the auction had sent them. The existence of those wandering priests depended, therefore, on the number of fellow countrymen they met in the rural dstricts, who supported them by sacrificing a part of their poor savings.


Towards the end of the republic those diviners appear to have enjoyed rather serious consideration at Rome. It was a pythoness from Syria that advised Marius on the sacrifices he was to perform.[7] Under the empire the importation of slaves increased. Depopulated Italy

needed more and more foreign hands, and Syria furnished a large quota of the forced immigration of cultivators. But those Syrians, quick and intelligent as they were strong and industrious, performed many other functions. They filled the countless domestic positions in the palaces of the aristocracy and were especially appreciated as litter-bearers.[8] The imperial and municipal administrations, as well as the big contractors to whom customs and the mines were farmed out, hired or bought them in large numbers, and even in the remotest border provinces the _Syrus_ was found serving princes, cities or private individuals. The worship of the Syrian

goddess profited considerably by the economic current that continually brought new worshipers. We find her mentioned in the first century of our era in a Roman inscription referring in precise terms to the slave market, and we know that Nero took a devout fancy to the stranger that did not,

however, last very long.[9] In the popular Trastevere quarter she had a temple until the end of paganism.[10] {107}


During the imperial period, however, the slaves were no longer the only missionaries that came from Syria, and Atargatis was no longer the only divinity from that country to be worshiped in the Occident. The propagation of the Semitic worship progressed for the most part in a different

Manner under the empire. At the beginning of our era the Syrian merchants, _Syri negotiatores_,

undertook a veritable colonization of the Latin provinces.[11] During the second century before Christ the traders of that nation had established settlements along the coast of Asia Minor, on the Piraeus, and in the Archipelago. At Delos, a small island but a large commercial center, they

maintained several associations that worshiped their national gods, in particular Hadad and Atargatis. But the wars that shook the Orient at the end of the republic, and above all the growth of piracy, ruined maritime commerce and stopped emigration. This began again with renewed vigor when the establishment of the empire guaranteed the safety of the seas and when the Levantine traffic attained a development previously unknown. We can trace the history of the Syrian establishments in the Latin provinces from the first to the seventh century, and recently we have begun to appreciate their economic, social and religious importance at its true value.

The Syrians’ love of lucre was proverbial. Active, compliant and able, frequently little scrupulous, they knew how to conclude first small deals, then larger ones, everywhere. Using the special talents of their race to advantage, they succeeded in establishing themselves on all coasts of

The Mediterranean, even in {108} Spain.[12] At Malaga an inscription mentions a corporation formed by them. The Italian ports where business was especially active, Pozzuoli, Ostia, later Naples, attracted them in great numbers. But they did not confine themselves to the seashore; they penetrated far into the interior of the countries, wherever they hoped to find profitable

trade. They followed the commercial highways and traveled up the big rivers. By way of the Danube they went as far as Pannonia, by way of the Rhone they reached Lyons. In Gaul they were especially numerous. In this new country that had just been opened to commerce fortunes could be made rapidly. A rescript discovered on the range of the Lebanon is addressed to

sailors from Arles, who had charge of the transportation of grain, and in the department of Ain a bilingual epitaph has been found mentioning a merchant of the third century, Thaïm or Julian, son of Saad, decurion of the city of Canatha in Syria, who owned two factories in the Rhone basin,

where he handled goods from Aquitania.[13] Thus the Syrians spread over the entire province as far as Treves, where they had a strong colony. Not even the barbarian invasions of the fifth century stopped their immigration. Saint Jerome describes them traversing the entire Roman world amidst the troubles of the invasion, prompted by the lust of gain to defy all dangers.

In the barbarian society the part played by this civilized and city-bred element was even more considerable. Under the Merovingians in about 591 they had sufficient influence at Paris to have one of their number elected bishop and to gain possession of all ecclesiastical offices. Gregory of

Tours tells how King Gontrand, on entering the city of Orleans {109} in 585, was received by a crowd praising him “in the language of the Latins, the Jews and the Syrians.”[14] The merchant colonies existed until the Saracen corsairs destroyed the commerce of the Mediterranean.

Those establishments exercised a strong influence upon the economic and material life of the Latin provinces, especially in Gaul. As bankers the Syrians concentrated a large share of the money business in their hands and monopolized the importing of the valuable Levantine commodities as well as of the articles of luxury; they sold wines, spices, glassware, silks and

purple fabrics, also objects wrought by goldsmiths, to be used as patterns by the native artisans.


Their moral and religious influence was not less

considerable: for instance, it has been shown that they furthered the

development of monastic life during the Christian period, and that the

devotion to the crucifix[15] that grew up in opposition to the

monophysites, was introduced into the Occident by them. During the first

five centuries Christians felt an unconquerable repugnance to the

representation of the Saviour of the world nailed to an instrument of

punishment more infamous than the guillotine of to-day. The Syrians were

the first to substitute reality in all its pathetic horror for a vague

symbolism. In pagan times the religious ascendency of that immigrant population

was no less remarkable. The merchants always took an interest in the affairs of

heaven as well as in those of earth. At all times Syria was a land of

ardent devotion, and in the first century its children were as fervid in

propagating their barbarian gods in the Occident as after their

conversion they were enthusiastic in spreading Christianity as far {110} as

Turkestan and China. As soon as the merchants had established their places of

business in the islands of the Archipelago during the Alexandrian

period, and in the Latin period under the empire, they founded chapels in which

they practised their exotic rites. It was easy for the divinities of the Phoenician coast to cross the

seas. Among them were Adonis, whom the women of Byblos mourned; Balmarcodes,

“the Lord of the dances,” who came from Beirut; Marna, the master of rain,

worshiped at Gaza; and Maiuma,[16] whose nautical holiday was celebrated

every spring on the coast near Ostia as well as in the Orient.

Besides these half Hellenized religions, others of a more purely Semitic

nature came from the interior of the country, because the merchants

frequently were natives of the cities of the _Hinterland_, as for

instance Apamea or Epiphanea in Coele-Syria, or even of villages in that flat

country. As Rome incorporated the small kingdoms beyond the Lebanon and

the Orontes that had preserved a precarious independence, the current of

emigration increased. In 71 Commagene, which lies between the Taurus and

the Euphrates, was annexed by Vespasian, a little later the dynasties of

Chalcis and Emesa were also deprived of their power. Nero, it appears,

Took possession of Damascus; half a century later Trajan established the new

province of Arabia in the south (106 A. D.), and the oasis of Palmyra, a

great mercantile center, lost its autonomy at the same time. In this

manner Rome extended her direct authority as far as the desert, over countries

that were only superficially Hellenized, and where the native devotions

had preserved all their {111} savage fervor. From that time constant

communication was established between Italy and those regions which had

heretofore been almost inaccessible. As roads were built commerce

developed, and together with the interests of trade the needs of

administration created an incessant exchange of men, of products and of

beliefs between those out-of-the-way countries and the Latin provinces.

These annexations, therefore, were followed by a renewed influx of

Syrian divinities into the Occident. At Pozzuoli, the last port of call of the

Levantine vessels, there was a temple to the Baal of Damascus (_Jupiter

Damascenus_) in which leading citizens officiated, and there were

altars on which two golden camels[17] were offered to Dusares, a divinity who had

come from the interior of Arabia. They kept company with a divinity of

more ancient repute, the Hadad of Baabek-Heliopolis (_Jupiter Heliopolitanus_),

whose immense temple, considered one of the world’s wonders,[18] had

been restored by Antoninus Pius, and may still be seen facing Lebanon in

majestic elegance. Heliopolis and Beirut had been the most ancient

colonies founded by Augustus in Syria. The god of Heliopolis participated in the

privileged position granted to the inhabitants of those two cities, who

worshiped in a common devotion,[19] and he was naturalized as a Roman

with greater ease than the others.


The conquest of all Syria as far as Euphrates and the subjection of

even a part of Mesopotamia aided the diffusion of the Semitic religions in

still another manner. From these regions, which were partly inhabited by

fighting races, the Cæsars drew recruits for the imperial army. They levied a

great number of {112} legionaries, but especially auxiliary troops, who were

transferred to the frontiers. Troopers and foot-soldiers from those

provinces furnished important contingents to the garrisons of Europe and

Africa. For instance, a cohort of one thousand archers from Emesa was

established in Pannonia, another of archers from Damascus in upper

Germany; Mauretania received irregulars from Palmyra, and bodies of troops

levied in Ituraea, on the outskirts of the Arabian desert, were encamped in Dacia,

Germany, Egypt and Cappadocia at the same time. Commagene alone

Furnished no less than six cohorts of five hundred men each that were sent to the

Danube and into Numidia.[20] The number of inscriptions consecrated by soldiers proves both the ardor of their faith and the diversity of their beliefs. Like the sailors of today

who are transferred to strange climes and exposed to incessant danger,

they were constantly inclined to invoke the protection of heaven, and

remained attached to the gods who seemed to remind them in their exile of the

distant home country. Therefore it is not surprising that the Syrians

who served in the army should have practised the religion of their Baals in

the neighborhood of their camps. In the north of England, near the wall of

Hadrian, an inscription in verse in honor of the goddess of Hierapolis

Has been found; its author was a prefect, probably of a cohort of Hamites

stationed at this distant post.[21]


Not all the soldiers, however, went to swell the ranks of believers

worshiping divinities that had long been adopted by the Latin world, as

did that officer. They also brought along new ones that had come from a

still greater distance than their predecessors, in fact {113} from the

outskirts of the barbarian world, because from those regions in particular trained

men could be obtained. There were, for instance, _Baltis_, an “Our Lady”

from Osroene beyond the Euphrates;[22] _Aziz_, the “strong god” of

Edessa, who was identified with the star Lucifer;[23] _Malakbel_, the “Lord’s

messenger,” patron of the soldiers from Palmyra, who appeared with

several companions at Rome, in Numidia and in Dacia.[24] The most celebrated of

those gods then was the Jupiter of Doliche, a small city of Commagene,

that owed its fame to him. Because of the troops coming from that region,

this obscure Baal, whose name is mentioned by no author, found worshipers in

every Roman province as far as Africa, Germany and Brittany. The number

of known inscriptions consecrated to him exceeds a hundred, and it is still

growing. Being originally nothing but a god of lightning, represented as

brandishing an ax, this local genius of the tempest was elevated to the

rank of tutelary divinity of the imperial armies.[25]


The diffusion of the Semitic religions in Italy that commenced

imperceptibly under the republic became more marked after the first

century of our era. Their expansion and multiplication were rapid, and they

attained the apogee of their power during the third century. Their

influence became almost predominant when the accession of the Severi

lent them the support of a court that was half Syrian. Functionaries of all

kinds, senators and officers, vied with each other in devotion to the

patron gods of their sovereigns, gods which the sovereigns patronized in

turn. Intelligent and ambitious princesses like Julia Domna, Julia

Maesa, Julia Mammea, whose ascendency was very {114} considerable, became

propagators of their national religion. We all know the audacious

pronunciamento of the year 218 that placed upon the throne the

fourteen-year-old emperor Heliogabalus, a worshiper of the Baal of

Emesa. His intention was to give supremacy over all other gods to his barbarian

divinity, who had heretofore been almost unknown. The ancient authors

narrate with indignation how this crowned priest attempted to elevate

his black stone, the coarse idol brought from Emesa, to the rank of supreme

divinity of the empire by subordinating the whole ancient pantheon to

it; they never tire of giving revolting details about the dissoluteness of

the debaucheries for which the festivities of the new _Sol invictus

Elagabal_furnished a pretext.[26] However, the question arises whether the Roman

historians, being very hostile to that foreigner who haughtily favored

the customs of his own country, did not misrepresent or partly misunderstand

the facts. Heliogabalus’s attempt to have his god recognized as supreme,

and to establish a kind of monotheism in heaven as there was monarchy on

earth, was undoubtedly too violent, awkward and premature, but it was in

keeping with the aspirations of the time, and it must be remembered that

the imperial policy could find the support of powerful Syrian colonies

not only at Rome but all over the empire.


Half a century later Aurelian[27] was inspired by the same idea when he

created a new worship, that of the “Invincible Sun.” Worshiped in a

splendid temple, by pontiffs equal in rank to those of ancient Rome,

having magnificent plays held in his honor every fourth year, _Sol invictus_

was also elevated to the supreme rank in the divine hierarchy, and became

the special {115} protector of the emperors and the empire. The country

where Aurelian found the pattern he sought to reproduce, was again Syria. Into

the new sanctuary he transferred the images of Bel and Helios, taken

from Palmyra, after it had fallen before his arms.

* * * * *

The sovereigns, then, twice attempted to replace the Capitoline Jupiter

By a Semitic god and to make a Semitic religion the principal and official

religion of the Romans. They proclaimed the fall of the old Latin

idolatry and the accession of a new paganism taken from Syria. What was the

superiority attributed to the creeds of that country? Why did even an

Illyrian general like Aurelian look for the most perfect type of pagan

religion in that country? That is the problem to be solved, but it must

remain unsolved unless an exact account is given of the fate of the

Syrian beliefs under the empire.


That question has not as yet been very completely elucidated. Besides

The superficial opuscule of Lucian on the _dea Syria_, we find scarcely any

reliable information in the Greek or Latin writers. The work by Philo of

Byblos is a euhemeristic interpretation of an alleged Phoenician

cosmogony, and a composition of little merit. Neither have we the original texts of

the Semitic liturgies, as we have for Egypt. Whatever we have learned we

owe especially to the inscriptions, and while these furnish highly

valuable indications as to the date and area of expansion of these religions,

they tell us hardly anything about their doctrines. Light on this subject

may be expected from the excavations that are being made in the great

sanctuaries of Syria, and also from a more exact interpretation {116} of the

sculptured monuments that we now possess in great numbers, especially those of

Jupiter Dolichenus.


Some characteristics of the Semitic paganism, however, are known at

present, and it must be admitted that it would appear at a disadvantage

if judged by those noticeable features that first attract our attention. It

had retained a stock of very primitive ideas and some aboriginal nature

worship that had lasted through many centuries and was to persist, in

part, under Christianity and Islam until the present day.[28] Such were the

worship of high elevations on which a rustic enclosure sometimes marked

the limits of the consecrated territory; the worship of the waters that

flow to the sea, the streams that arise in the mountains, the springs that gush

out of the soil, the ponds, the lakes and the wells, into all of which

offerings were thrown with the idea either of venerating in them the

thirst-quenching liquid or else the fecund nature of the earth; the

worship of the trees that shaded the altars and that nobody dared to fell or

mutilate; the worship of stones, especially of the rough stones called

bethels that were regarded, as their name (_beth-El_) indicates, as the

residence of the god, or rather, as the matter in which the god was

embodied.[29] Aphrodite Astarte was worshiped in the shape of a conical

stone at Paphos, and a black aerolite covered with projections and

depressions to which a symbolic meaning was attributed represented

Elagabal, and was transferred from Emesa to Rome, as we have said.

The animals, as well as inanimate things, received their share of

homage. Remnants of the old Semitic zoolatry perpetuated themselves until the

end of paganism and even later. Frequently the gods were {117} represented

standing erect on animals. Thus the Dolichean Baal stood on a steer, and

his spouse on a lion. Around certain temples there were sacred parks, in

which savage beasts roamed at liberty,[30] a reminder of the time when

they wereconsidered divine. Two animals especially were the objects of

universal veneration, the pigeon and the fish. Vagrant multitudes of

pigeons received the traveler landing at Ascalon,[31] and they played

about the enclosures of all the temples of Astarte[32] in flocks resembling

white whirlwinds. The pigeon belonged, properly speaking, to the goddess of

love, whose symbol it has remained above all to the people worshiping that

goddess. “Quid referam ut volitet crebras intacta per urbes

Alba Palaestino sancta columba Syro?”[33]


The fish was sacred to Atargatis, who undoubtedly had been represented

In that shape at first, as Dagon always was.[34] The fish were kept in

pondsin the proximity of the temples.[35] A superstitious fear prevented

people from touching them, because the goddess punished the sacrilegious by

covering their bodies with ulcers and tumors.[36] At certain mystic

repasts, however, the priests and initiates consumed the forbidden food

in the belief that they were absorbing the flesh of the divinity herself.

That worship and its practices, which were spread over Syria, probably

Suggested the ichthus symbolism in the Christian period.[37]

However, over this lower and primordial stratum that still cropped out

Here and there, other less rudimentary beliefs had formed. Besides inanimate

objects and animals, the Syrian paganism worshiped personal divinities

especially. The character of the gods that were originally adored by the

Semitic tribes has been {118} ingeniously reconstructed.[38] Each tribe

Had its Baal and Baalat who protected it and whom only its members were

permitted to worship. The name of _Ba’al_, “master,” summarizes the

conception people had of him. In the first place he was regarded as the

sovereign of his votaries, and his position in regard to them was that

of an Oriental potentate towards his subjects; they were his servants, or

rather his slaves.[39] The Baal was at the same time the “master” or

proprietor of the country in which he resided and which he made fertile

by causing springs to gush from its soil. Or his domain was the firmament

and he was the _dominus caeli_, whence he made the waters fall to the roar

of tempests. He was always united with a celestial or earthly “queen” and,

in the third place, he was the “lord” or husband of the “lady” associated

with him. The one represented the male, the other the female principle; they

were the authors of all fecundity, and as a consequence the worship of

the divine couple often assumed a sensual and voluptuous character.

As a matter of fact, immorality was nowhere so flagrant as in the

Temples of Astarte, whose female servants honored the goddess with untiring

ardor. In no country was sacred prostitution so developed as in Syria, and in

the Occident it was to be found practically only where the Phoenicians had

imported it, as on Mount Eryx. Those aberrations, that were kept up

until the end of paganism,[40] probably have their explanation in the

primitive constitution of the Semitic tribe, and the religious custom must have

been originally one of the forms of exogamy, which compelled the woman to

unite herself first with a stranger.[41] {119}


As a second blemish, the Semitic religions practised human immolations

longer than any other religion, sacrificing children and grown men in

order to please sanguinary gods. In spite of Hadrian’s prohibition of those

murderous offerings,[42] they were maintained in certain clandestine

rites and in the lowest practices of magic, up to the fall of the idols, and

even later. They corresponded to the ideas of a period during which the life

of a captive or slave had no greater value than that of an animal.

These sacred practices and many others, on which Lucian complacently

enlarges in his opuscule on the goddess of Hierapolis, daily revived the

habits of a barbarous past in the temples of Syria. Of all the conceptions

that had successively dominated the country, none had completely

disappeared. As in Egypt, beliefs of very different date and origin

coexisted, without any attempt to make them agree, or without success

when the task was undertaken. In these beliefs zoolatry, litholatry and all

the other nature worships outlived the savagery that had created them. More

than anywhere else the gods had remained the chieftains of clans[43]

because the tribal organizations of Syria were longer lived and more

developed than those of any other region. Under the empire many

districts were still subjected to the tribal régime and commanded by “ethnarchs”

or “phylarchs.”[44] Religion, which sacrificed the lives of the men and the

honor of the women to the divinity, had in many regards remained on the

moral level of unsocial and sanguinary tribes. Its obscene and atrocious

rites called forth exasperated indignation on the part of {120} the

Roman conscience when Heliogabalus attempted to introduce them into Italy with

his Baal of Emesa.

* * * * *

How, then, can one explain the fact that in spite of all, the Syrian

Gods imposed themselves upon the Occident and made even the Cæsars accept

them? The reason is that the Semitic paganism can no more be judged by certain

revolting practices, that perpetuated in the heart of civilization the

barbarity and puerilities of an uncultivated society, than the religion

of the Nile can be so judged. As in the case of Egypt we must distinguish

between the sacerdotal religion and the infinitely varied popular

religion that was embodied in local customs. Syria possessed a number of great

sanctuaries in which an educated clergy meditated and expatiated upon

the nature of the divine beings and on the meaning of traditions inherited

from remote ancestors. As their own interests demanded, that clergy

constantly amended the sacred traditions and modified their spirit when the letter

was immutable, in order to make them agree with the new aspirations of a

more advanced period. They had their mysteries and their initiates to whom

they revealed a wisdom that was above the vulgar beliefs of the masses.[45]

Frequently we can draw diametrically opposite conclusions from the same

principle. In that manner the old idea of _tabu_, that seems to have

transformed the temples of Astarte into houses of debauchery, also

became the source of a severe code of morals. The Semitic tribes were haunted

with the fear of the tabu. A multitude of things were either impure or sacred

because, in the original confusion, those two notions {121} had not been

clearly differentiated. Man’s ability to use the products of nature to

satisfy his needs, was thus limited by a number of prohibitions,

restrictions and conditions. He who touched a forbidden object was

soiled and corrupted, his fellows did not associate with him and he could no

longer participate in the sacrifices. In order to wipe out the blemish,

he had recourse to ablutions and other ceremonies known to the priests.

Purity, that had originally been considered simply physical, soon became

ritualistic and finally spiritual. Life was surrounded by a network of

circumstances subject to certain conditions, every violation of which

meant a fall and demanded penance. The anxiety to remain constantly in a

state of holiness or regain that state when it had been lost, filled one’s entire

existence. It was not peculiar to the Semitic tribes, but they ascribed

a prime importance to it.[46] And the gods, who necessarily possessed this

quality in an eminent degree, were holy beings ([Greek: hagioi])[47]

_par excellence_.In this way principles of conduct and dogmas of faith have frequently

Been derived from instinctive and absurd old beliefs. All theological

Doctrines that were accepted in Syria modified the prevailing ancient conception

Of the Baals. But in our present state of knowledge it is very difficult

indeed to determine the shares that the various influences contributed,

from the conquests of Alexander to the Roman domination, to make the

Syrian paganism what it became under the Cæsars. The civilization of the

Seleucid empire is little known, and we cannot determine what caused the

alliance of Greek thought with the Semitic traditions.[48] The religions of the

neighboring nations {122} also had an undeniable influence. Phoenicia

and Lebanon remained moral tributaries of Egypt long after they had

liberated themselves from the suzerainty of the Pharaohs. The theogony of Philo of

Byblos took gods and myths from that country, and at Heliopolis Hadad

Was honored “according to Egyptian rather than Syrian rite.”[49] The

Rigorous monotheism of the Jews, who were dispersed over the entire country, must

also have acted as an active ferment of transformation.[50] But it was

Babylon that retained the intellectual supremacy, even after its

Political ruin. The powerful sacerdotal caste ruling it did not fall with the

independence of the country, and it survived the conquests of Alexander

as it had previously lived through the Persian domination. The researches

of Assyriologists have shown that its ancient worship persisted under the

Seleucides, and at the time of Strabo the “Chaldeans” still discussed

cosmology and first principles in the rival schools of Borsippa and

Orchoë.[51] The ascendancy of that erudite clergy affected all

Surrounding regions; it was felt by Persia in the east, Cappadocia in the north, but

more than anywhere else by the Syrians, who were connected with the

Oriental Semites by bonds of language and blood. Even after the

Parthians had wrested the valley of the Euphrates from the Seleucides, relations

With the great temples of that region remained uninterrupted. The plains of

Mesopotamia, inhabited by races of like origin, extended on both sides

Of an artificial border line; great commercial roads followed the course of

the two rivers flowing into the Persian Gulf or cut across the desert,

and the pilgrims came to Babylon, as Lucian tells us, to perform their

devotions to the Lady of Bambyce.[52] {123}


Ever since the Captivity, constant spiritual relations had existed

Between Judaism and the great religious metropolis. At the birth of Christianity

they manifested themselves in the rise of gnostic sects in which the

Semitic mythology formed strange combinations with Jewish and Greek

Ideas and furnished the foundation for extravagant superstructures.[53]

Finally, during the decline of the empire, it was Babylon again from which

Emanated Manicheism, the last form of idolatry received in the Latin world. We

Can imagine how powerful the religious influence of that country on the

Syrian paganism must have been. That influence manifested itself in various ways. First, it introduced new gods. In this way Bel passed from the Babylonian pantheon into that of

Palmyra and was honored throughout northern Syria.[54] It also caused

ancient divinities to be arranged in new groups. To the primitive

couple of the Baal and the Baalat a third member was added in order to form one of

those triads dears to Chaldean theology. This took place at Hierapolis

as well as at Heliopolis, and the three gods of the latter city, Hadad,

Atargatis and Simios, became Jupiter, Venus and Mercury in Latin

inscriptions.[55] Finally, and most important, astrolatry wrought

radical changes in the characters of the celestial powers, and, as a further

consequence, in the entire Roman paganism. In the first place it gave

them a second personality in addition to their own nature. The sidereal myths

superimposed themselves upon the agrarian myths, and gradually

obliterated them. Astrology, born on the banks of the Euphrates, imposed itself in

Egypt upon the haughty and unapproachable clergy of the most

Conservative of all nations.[56] Syria {124}


received it without reserve and surrendered unconditionally;[57] numismatics and archeology as well as literature prove this. King Antiochus of Commagene, for instance, who died 34 B. C.,

built himself a monumental tomb on a spur of the Taurus, in which he placed

his horoscope, designed on a large bas-relief, beside the images of his

ancestral divinities.[58] The importance which the introduction of the Syrian religions into the

Occident has for us consists therefore in the fact that indirectly they

brought certain theological doctrines of the Chaldeans with them, just

as Isis and Serapis carried beliefs of old Egypt from Alexandria to the

Occident. The Roman empire received successively the religious tribute

Of the two great nations that had formerly ruled the Oriental world. It is

characteristic that the god Bel whom Aurelian brought from Asia to set

up as the protector of his states, was in reality a Babylonian who had

emigrated to Palmyra,[59] a cosmopolitan center apparently predestined

by virtue of its location to become the intermediary between the

civilizations of the Euphrates and the Mediterranean.


The influence exercised by the speculations of the Chaldeans upon

Greco-Roman thought can be asserted positively, but cannot as yet be

strictly defined. It was at once philosophic and religious, literary and

popular. The entire neo-Platonist school used the names of those

venerable masters, but it cannot be determined how much it really owes to them. A

selection of poems that has often been quoted since the third century,

under the title of “Chaldaic Oracles” ([Greek: Logia Chaldaika])

combines the ancient Hellenic theories with a fantastic {125} mysticism that was

certainly imported from the Orient. It is to Babylonia what the

literature of Hermes Trismegistus is to Egypt, and it is equally difficult to

determine the nature of the ingredients that the author put into his

sacred compositions. But at an earlier date the Syrian religions had spread far

and wide in the Occident ideas conceived on the distant banks of the

Euphrates. I shall try to indicate briefly what their share in the pagan

syncretism was. We have seen that the gods from Alexandria gained souls especially by

the promise of blessed immortality. Those from Syria must also have

satisfied doubts tormenting all the minds of that time. As a matter of fact the

old Semitic ideas on man’s fate in after-life were little comforting. We

know how sad, dull and hopeless their conception of life after death was. The

dead descended into a subterranean realm where they led a miserable

existence, a weak reflection of the one they had lost; since they were

subject to wants and suffering, they had to be supported by funeral

offerings placed on their sepulchers by their descendants. Those ancient

beliefs and customs were found also in primitive Greece and Italy.

This rudimentary eschatology, however, gave way to quite a different

conception, one that was closely related to the Chaldean astrology, and

which spread over the Occident towards the end of the republic.

According to this doctrine the soul returned to heaven after death, to live there

among the divine stars. While it remained on earth it was subject to all

the bitter necessities of a destiny determined by the revolutions of the

stars; but when it ascended into the upper regions, it escaped that fate

and even the limits of time; {126} it shared equally in the immortality

of the sidereal gods that surrounded it.[60] In the opinion of some, the

soul was attracted by the rays of the sun, and after passing through the

moon, where it was purified, it lost itself in the shining star of day.[61]

Another more purely astrological theory, that was undoubtedly a

Development of the former, taught that the soul descended to earth from the heights

Of heaven by passing through the spheres of the seven planets. During its

passage it acquired the dispositions and qualities proper to each

planet. After death it returned to its original abode by the same route. To get

from one sphere to another, it had to pass a door guarded by a

commandant ([Greek: archôn]).[62] Only the souls of initiates knew the password

that made those incorruptible guardians yield, and under the conduct of a

psychopompus[63] they ascended safely from zone to zone. As the soul

rose it divested itself of the passions and qualities it had acquired on its

descent to the earth as though they were garments, and, free from

sensuality, it penetrated into the eighth heaven to enjoy everlasting

happiness as a subtle essence. Perhaps this doctrine, undoubtedly of Babylonian origin, was not

generally accepted by the Syrian religions, as it was by the mysteries of Mithra,

but these religions, impregnated with astrology, certainly propagated the

belief that the souls of those worshipers that had led pious lives were

elevated to the heights of heaven, where an apotheosis made them the

equals of the luminous gods.[64] Under the empire this doctrine slowly

supplanted all others; the Elysian fields, which the votaries of Isis and Serapis

still located in {127} the depths of the earth, were transferred into

the ether bathing the fixed stars,[65] and the underworld was thereafter

reserved for the wicked who had not been allowed to pass through the

celestial gates. The sublime regions occupied by the purified souls were also the abode

of the supreme god.[66] When it transformed the ideas on the destiny of

man, astrology also modified those relating to the nature of the divinity. In

this matter the Syrian religions were especially original; for even if

the Alexandrian mysteries offered man just as comforting prospects of

immortality as the eschatology of their rivals, they were backward in

building up a commensurate theology. To the Semitic races belongs the

honor of having reformed the ancient fetichism most thoroughly. Their base and

narrow conceptions of early times to which we can trace their existence,

broaden and rise until they form a kind of monotheism.

As we have seen, the Syrian tribes worshiped a god of lightning,[67]

Like all primitive races. That god opened the reservoirs of the firmament to

Let the rain fall and split the giant trees of the woods with the double ax

that always remained his emblem.[68] When the progress of astronomy

removed the constellations to incommensurable distances, the “Baal of the

Heavens” (_Ba’al [vs]amîn_) had to grow in majesty. Undoubtedly at the time of

The Achemenides, he was connected with the Ahura-Mazda of the Persians, the

ancient god of the vault of heaven, who had become the highest physical

and moral power, and this connection helped to transform the old genius of

thunder.[69] People continued to worship the material heaven in him;

under the Romans he was still simply called {128} _Caelus_, as well as

“Celestial Jupiter” (_Jupiter Caelestis_, [Greek: Zeus Ouranios]),[70] but it was a

heaven studied by a sacred science that venerated its harmonious

mechanism. The Seleucides represented him on their coins with a crescent over his

forehead and carrying a sun with seven rays, to symbolize the fact that

he presided over the course of the stars;[71] or else he was shown with the

two Dioscuri at his side, heroes who enjoyed life and suffered death in

turn, according to the Greek myth, and who had become the symbols of the

two celestial hemispheres. Religious uranography placed the residence of

the supreme divinity in the most elevated region of the world, fixing

its abode in the zone most distant from the earth, above the planets and the

fixed stars. This fact was intended to be expressed by the term Most-

High ([Greek: Hupsistos]) applied to the Syrian Baals as well as to

Jehovah.[72] According to this cosmic religion, the Most High resided in the immense

Orb that contained the spheres of all the stars and embraced the entire

universe which was subject to his domination. The Latins translated the

name of this “Hypsistos” by _Jupiter summus exsuperantissimus_[73] to

indicate his preeminence over all divine beings.

As a matter of fact, his power was infinite. The primary postulate of

The Chaldean astrology was that all phenomena and events of this world were

necessarily determined by sidereal influence. The changes of nature, as

well as the dispositions of men, were controlled according to fate, by

the divine energies that resided in the heavens. In other words, the gods

were almighty; they were the masters of destiny that governed the universe

absolutely. The notion of their {129} omnipotence resulted from the

development of the ancient autocracy with which the Baals were

credited. As we have stated, they were conceived after the image of an Asiatic

monarch, and the religious terminology was evidently intended to display the

humility of their priests toward them. In Syria we find nothing

analogous to what existed in Egypt, where the priest thought he could compel the

gods to act, and even dared to threaten them.[74] The distance separating the

human and the divine always was much greater with the Semitic tribes,

and all that astrology did was to emphasize the distance more strongly by

giving it a doctrinal foundation and a scientific appearance. In the

Latin world the Asiatic religions propagated the conception of the absolute

And illimitable sovereignty of God over the earth. Apuleius calls the Syrian

goddess _omnipotens et omniparens_, “mistress and mother of all



The observation of the starry skies, moreover, had led the Chaldeans to

The notion of a divine eternity. The constancy of the sidereal revolutions

inspired the conclusion as to their perpetuity. The stars follow their

ever uncompleted courses unceasingly; as soon as the end of their journey is

reached, they resume without stopping the road already covered, and the

cycles of years in which their movements take place extend from the

indefinite past into the indefinite future.[76] Thus a clergy of

astronomers necessarily conceived Baal, “Lord of the heavens,” as the

“Master of eternity” or “He whose name is praised through all

eternity”[77]–titles which constantly recur in Semitic inscriptions.

The divine stars did not die, like Osiris or Attis; whenever they seemed to

weaken, they were {130} born to a new life and always remained

invincible (_invicti_). Together with the mysteries of the Syrian Baals, this theological notion

penetrated into Occidental paganism.[78] Whenever an inscription to a

_deus aeternus_ is found in the Latin provinces it refers to a Syrian sidereal

god, and it is a remarkable fact that this epithet did not enter the

ritual before the second century, at the time the worship of the god Heaven

(_Caelus_)[79] was propagated. That the philosophers had long before

Placed the first cause beyond the limits of time was of no consequence, for

Their theories had not penetrated into the popular consciousness nor modified

The traditional formulary of the liturgies. To the people the divinities

Were beings more beautiful, more vigorous, and more powerful than man, but

Born like him, and exempt only from old age and death, the immortals of old

Homer. The Syrian priests diffused the idea of a god without beginning

And without end through the Roman world, and thus contributed, along lines

parallel with the Jewish proselytism, to lend the authority of dogma to

what had previously been only a metaphysical theory.

The Baals were universal as well as eternal, and their power became

limitless in regard to space as it had been in regard to time. These two

principles were correlative. The title of “_mar’olam_” which the Baals

bore occasionally may be translated by “Lord of the universe,” or by “Lord of

eternity,” and efforts certainly have been made to claim the twofold

quality for them.[80] Peopled with divine constellations and traversed

by planets assimilated to the inhabitants of Olympus, the heavens

determined the destinies of the {131} entire human race by their movements, and the

whole earth was subject to the changes produced by their revolutions.[81]

Consequently the old _Ba’al [vs]amîn_ was necessarily transformed into a

universal power. Of course, even under the Cæsars there existed in Syria

traces of a period when the local god was the fetich of a clan and

could be worshiped by the members of that clan only, a period when strangers were

admitted to his altars only after a ceremony of initiation, as brothers, or

at least as guests and clients.[82] But from the period when our knowledge

of the history of the great divinities of Heliopolis or Hierapolis

begins, these divinities were regarded as common to all Syrians, and crowds of

pilgrims came from distant countries to obtain grace in the holy

cities. As protectors of the entire human race the Baals gained proselytes in the

Occident, and their temples witnessed gatherings of devotees of every race

and nationality. In this respect the Baals were distinctly different

from Jehovah. The essence of paganism implies that the nature of a divinity broadens

as the number of its votaries increases. Everybody credits it with some new

quality, and its character becomes more complex. As it gains in power it

also has a tendency to dominate its companion gods and to concentrate their

functions in itself. To escape this threatening absorption, these gods must

be of a very sharply defined personality and of a very original character.

The vague Semitic deities, however, were devoid of a well-defined

individuality. We fail to find among them a well organized society of

immortals, like that of the Greek Olympus where each divinity had its own

features and its own particular {132} life full of adventures and

experiences, and each followed its special calling to the exclusion of

all the others. One was a physician, another a poet, a third a shepherd,

hunter or blacksmith. The Greek inscriptions found in Syria are, in this

regard, eloquently concise.[83] Usually they have the name of Zeus accompanied

by some simple epithet: kurios ([Greek: kurios], Lord), _aniketos_ ([Greek:

anikêtos], invincible), _megistos_ ([Greek: megistos], greatest). All

these Baals seem to have been brothers. They were personalities of

indeterminate outline and interchangeable powers and were readily confused.

At the time the Romans came into contact with Syria, it had already

Passed through a period of syncretism similar to the one we can study with

Greater prcision in the Latin world. The ancient exclusiveness and the national

particularism had been overcome. The Baals of the great sanctuaries had

enriched themselves with the virtues[84] of their neighbors; then, always

following the same process, they had taken certain features from foreign

divinities brought over by the Greek conquerors. In that manner their

characters had become indefinable, they performed incompatible functions

and possessed irreconcilable attributes. An inscription found in

Britain[85] assimilates the Syrian goddess to Peace, Virtue, Ceres,

Cybele, and even to the sign of the Virgin.


In conformity with the law governing the development of paganism, the

Semitic gods tended to become pantheistic because they comprehended all

nature and were identified with it. The various deities were nothing but

different aspects under which the supreme and infinite being manifested

itself. Although Syria {133} remained deeply and even coarsely idolatrous

in practice, in theory it approached monotheism or, better perhaps,

henotheism. By an absurd but curious etymology the name Hadad has been

explained as “one, one” (_’ad ‘ad_).[86] Everywhere the narrow and divided polytheism

showed a confused tendency to elevate itself into a superior synthesis, but in Syria astrology lent

the firmness of intelligent conviction to notions that were vague elsewhere.

The Chaldean cosmology, which deified all elements but ascribed a

predominant influence to the stars, ruled the entire Syrian syncretism.

It considered the world as a great organism which was kept intact by an

intimate solidarity, and whose parts continually influenced each other.

The ancient Semites believed therefore that the divinity could be

Regarded as embodied in the waters, in the fire of the lightning, in stones or

plants. But the most powerful gods were the constellations and the

planets that governed the course of time and of all things.

The sun was supreme because it led the starry choir, because it was the

king and guide of all the other luminaries and therefore the master of the

whole world.[87] The astronomical doctrines of the “Chaldeans” taught

that this incandescent globe alternately attracted and repelled the other

sidereal bodies, and from this principle the Oriental theologians had

concluded that it must determine the entire life of the universe,

inasmuch as it regulated the movements of the heavens. As the “intelligent

light” it was especially the creator of human reason, and just as it repelled and

attracted the planets in turn, it was believed {134} to send out souls,

at the time of birth, into the bodies they animated, and to cause them to

return to its bosom after death by means of a series of emissions and

absorptions. Later on, when the seat of the Most-High was placed beyond the limits of

the universe, the radiant star that gives us light became the visible

image of the supreme power, the source of all life and all intelligence, the

intermediary between an inaccessible god and mankind, and the one

object of special homage from the multitude.[88]

Solar pantheism, which grew up among the Syrians of the Hellenistic

Period as a result of the influence of Chaldean astrolatry, imposed itself upon

the whole Roman world under the empire. Our very rapid sketch of the

constitution of that theological system shows incidentally the last form

assumed by the pagan idea of God. In this matter Syria was Rome’s

teacher and predecessor. The last formula reached by the religion of the pagan

Semites and in consequence by that of the Romans, was a divinity unique,

almighty, eternal, universal and ineffable, that revealed itself

throughout nature, but whose most splendid and most energetic manifestation was the

sun. To arrive at the Christian monotheism[89] only one final tie had

to be broken, that is to say, this supreme being residing in a distant heaven had

to be removed beyond the world. So we see once more in this instance, how

the propagation of the Oriental cults levelled the roads for Christianity

and heralded its triumph. Although astrology was always fought by the

church, it had nevertheless prepared the minds for the dogmas the church

was to proclaim.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Syrian religions have been studied with especial

attention to their relation with Judaism: Baudissin, _Studien zur

semitischen Religionsgeschichte_, 2 vols., Leipsic, 1876. The same

author has published veritable monographs on certain divinities (Astarte, Baal,

Sonne, etc.) in the _Realencyclopädie für prot. Theol._, of Herzog-

Hauck, 3d ed.–Bäthgen, _Beiträge zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte_, Berlin,

1888.–W. Robertson Smith, _The Religion of the Semites_, 2d. ed.,

London, 1894.–Lagrange, _Etudes sur les religions sémitiques_, 2d ed., Paris,

1905. The results of the excavations in Palestine, which are important

In regard to the funeral customs and the oldest idolatry, have been

Summarized by Father Hugues Vincent, _Canaan d’après l’exploration récente_,

1907.—On the propagation of the Syrian religions in the Occident, see Réville,

_op. cit._, pp. 70 _et passim_; Wissowa, _Religion der Römer_, pp. 299 ff.;

Gruppe, _Griech. Mythol._, pp. 1582 f.–Important observations will be

found in Clermont-Ganneau, _Recueil d’archéologie orientale_, 8 vols.,

1888, and in Dussaud, _Notes de mythologie syrienne_, Paris, 1903. We

Have published a series of articles on particular divinities in the

_Realencyclopädie_ of Pauly-Wissowa (Baal, Balsamem, Dea Syria,


Gad, etc.). Other monographs are cited below.

1. Lucian, _Lucius_, 53 ff.; Apul., _Metam._, VIII, 24 ff. The

Description by these authors has recently been confirmed by the discovery of an

inscription at Kefr-Hauar in Syria: a slave of the Syrian goddess “sent

by her mistress ([Greek: kuria]),” boasts of having brought back “seventy

sacks” from each of her trips (Fossey, _Bull. corr. hell._, XXI, 1897, p.

60; on the {242} meaning of [Greek: pêra], “sack,” see Deissmann, _Licht

von Osten_, 1908, p. 73).

2. Cf. Riess in Pauly-Wissowa, s. v. _Astrologie_, col. 1816.

3. Cato, _De agric._, V, 4.

4. On dedication of Romans to Atargatis, see _Bull. corr. hell._, VI,


p. 497, No. 15; p. 498, No. 17.

5. Since the year 187 we find the Syrian musicians (_sambucistriae_)

mentioned also at Rome. Their number grew steadily (Livy, XXXIX, 6; see

Friedländer, _Sittengesch._, III^6, p. 346.)

6. Florus, II, 7 (III, 9); cf. Diodorus Sic., fr. 34, 2, 5.

7. Plut., _Vit. Marii_, 17.

8. Juvenal, VI, 351; Martial, IV, 53, 10; IX, 2, 11, IX, 22, 9.

9. _CIL_, VI, 399; cf. Wissowa, _op. cit._, p. 201.–Suetonius, _Nero_,


10. A temple of the Syrian gods at Rome, located at the foot of the

Janiculum, has been excavated very recently. Cf. Gauckler, _Bolletino

communale di Roma_, 1907, pp. 5 ff. (Cf. Hülsen, _Mitt. Inst. Rom_,


1907, pp. 225 ff.); _Comptes Rendus Acad. Inscr._, 1907, pp. 135 ff.;


pp. 510 ff.; 1909, pp. 424 ff., pp. 617 ff.; Nicole and Darier, _Le

sanctuaire des dieux orientaux au Janicule_, Rome, 1909 (Extr. des “Mél.

Ecole franç. de Rome,” XXIX). In it have been found dedications to

Hadad of

the Lebanon, to the Hadad [Greek: akroreitês], and to Maleciabrudus (in

regard to the latter see Clermont-Ganneau, _Rec. d’archéol. or._, VIII,

1907, p. 52). Cf. my article “Syria Dea” in Daremberg-Saglio-Pottier,

_Diction. des antiquités gr. et rom._, 1911.

11. I have said a few words on this colonization in my _Mon. rel. aux


de Mithra_, I, p. 262. Courajod has considered it in regard to artistic

influences, _Leçons du Louvre_, I, 1899, pp. 115, 327 ff. For the

Merovingian period see Bréhier, _Les colonies d’orientaux en Occident au

commencement du moyen âge_ (_Byzant. Zeitschr._, XII), 1903, pp. 1 ff.

12. Kaibel, _Inscr. gr._, XIV, 2540.

13. _Comptes Rendus Acad. Inscr._, 1899, p. 353 = Waltzing,


professionelles_, II, No. 1961 = _CIL_, III S., {243} 14165^8.–


of Thaïm of Canatha: Kaibel, _Inscr. gr._, XIV, 2532.

14. Gregory of Tours, _Hist. Fr._, VIII, 1.–On the diffusion of the

Syrians in Gaul, see Bréhier, _loc. cit._, p. 16 ff.

15. Cf. Bréhier, _Les origines du crucifix dans l’art religieux_, Paris,


16. Adonis: Wissowa, p. 300, n. 1.–Balmarcodès: Pauly-Wissowa,


s. v.; Jalabert, _Mél. fac. orient. Beyrouth_, I, p. 182.–Marnas: The

existence at Ostia of a “Marneum” can be deduced from the dedication


5892 (cf. Drexler in Roscher, _Lexikon_, s. v., col. 2382).–On

Maleciabrudus, cf. _supra_, n. 10.–The Maiuma festival was probably

introduced with the cult of the god of Gaza, Lydus, _De Mensib._, IV, 80

(p. 133, Wünsch ed.) = Suidas s. v. [Greek: Maioumas] and Drexler, _loc.

cit._, col. 2287. Cf. Clermont-Ganneau, _Rec. d’archéol. orient._, IV,



17. Cf. Pauly-Wissowa, s. v. “Damascenus, Dusares.”

18. Malalas, XI, p. 280, 12 (Bonn).–The temple has recently been


by a German mission; cf. Puchstein, _Führer in Baalbek_, Berlin,


the Hadad at Rome, cf. _supra_, n. 10.

19. _CIL_, X, 1634: “Cultores Iovis Heliopolitani Berytenses qui


consistunt”; cf. Wissowa, _loc. cit._, p. 504, n. 3; Ch. Dubois,


antique_, Paris, 1906, p. 156.

20. A list of the known military societies has been made by Cichorius in

Pauly-Wissowa, _Realencycl._, s. v. “Ala” and “Cohors.”

21. _CIL_, VII, 759 = Buecheler, _Carmina epigr._, 24. Two inscriptions

dedicated to the Syrian Hercules (Melkarth) and to Astarte have been

discovered at Corbridge, near Newcastle (_Inscr. gr._, XIV, 2553). It is

possible that Tyrian archers were cantoned there.

22. Baltis: Pauly-Wissowa, _Realencyclop._, s. v.

23. Pauly-Wissowa, _Realenc._, s. v. “Aziz”; cf. Wissowa, _op. cit._, p.

303, n. 7.

24. On the etymology of Malakbel, see Dussaud, _Notes_, 24 ff. On the

religion in the Occident see Edu. Meyer in Roscher, _Lexikon_, s. v.


25. Kan, _De Iovis Dolicheni cultu_, Groningen, 1901; cf. Pauly-Wissowa,

_Realencycl._, s. v. “Dolichenus.”

26. Réville, _Relig. sous les Sévères_, pp. 237 ff.; Wissowa, _op.


p. 305; cf. Pauly-Wissowa, s. v. “Elagabal.”–In a recent article (_Die

politische Bedeutung der Religion von Emesa_ [_Archiv für Religionsw._,

XI], 1908, pp. 223 ff.) M. von Domaszewski justly lays stress on the

religious value of the solar monotheism that arose in the temples of


but he attributes too important a part in its formation to the clergy of

Emesa (see _infra_, n. 88). The preponderant influence seems to have


exercised by Palmyra (see _infra_, n. 59).

27. Cf. _infra_, n. 59.

28. Cf. Curtiss, _Primitive Semitic Religion To-day_, Chicago, 1902;

Jaussen, _Coutumes des Arabes du pays de Moab_, Paris, 1908, pp. 297 ff.

29. Cf. Robertson Smith, _passim_; Lagrange, pp. 158-216; Vincent, _op.

cit._, pp. 102-123; 144 f.–The power of this Semitic litholatry equaled

its persistence. Philo of Byblus defined the bethels as [Greek: lithoi

empsuchoi] (2, § 20, FHG, III, p. 563): Hippolytus also tells us (V, 1,


145, Cruice), that in the Syrian mysteries ([Greek: Assuriôn teletai])


was taught that the stones were animated ([Greek: hoi lithoi eisin

empsuchoi; echousi gar to auxêtikon]), and the same doctrine perpetuated

itself in Manicheism. (Titus of Bostra, II, 60, p. 60, 25, de Lagarde


[Greek: Ouk aischunetai de kai tous lithous epsuchôsthai legôn kai ta


empsucha eisêgoumenos]).

During the last years of paganism the neo-Platonists developed a

superstitious worship of the bethels; see Conybeare, _Transactions of


Congress of Hist. of Rel._, Oxford, 1908, p. 177.

30. Luc., _De dea Syria_, c. 41. Cf. the inscription of Narnaka with the

note of Clermont-Ganneau, _Etudes d’arch. orient._, II, p. 163.–For


worship in Syria cf. Ronzevalle, _Mélanges fac. orient. Beyrouth_, I,


pp. 225, 238; Vincent, _op. cit._, p. 169.

31. Philo Alex., _De provid._, II, c. 107 (II, 646 M.); cf. Lucian, _De


Syria_, 54.

32. For instance on Mount Eryx in Sicily (Ael., _Nat. Anim._, {245} IV,

2).–Cf. Pauly-Wissowa, _Realenc._, s. v. “Dea Syria,” col. 2242.

33. Tibullus, I, 7, 17.

34. Lucian, _De dea Syria_, 14; 54. Cf. Diodorus, II, 4, 2; Ovid,


IV, 46; V, 331.

35. Pauly-Wissowa, _loc. cit._, col. 2241; W. Robertson Smith, p. 175.

36. The ancient authors frequently alluded to this superstition of the

Syrians (the texts have been collected by Selden, _De dis Syris_, II,

C. 3,

pp. 268 ff., ed. of 1672). W. Robertson Smith (_loc. cit._, p. 449), is

right in connecting it with certain ideas of savages. Like many


beliefs, this one has continued to the present day. It has been pointed


to me that at Sam-Keuï, a little west of Doliché, there is a pond fed

by a

spring and well stocked with fish, which one is forbidden to take. Near


mosque of Edessa is a large pond where catching fish is prohibited. They

are considered sacred, and the people believe that any one who would eat

them would die instantly. (Sachau, _Reise in Syrien_, 1883, pp. 196 ff.


Lord Warkworth, _Diary in Asiatic Turkey_, London, 1898, p. 242). The


is the case at the mosque of Tripoli and elsewhere (Lammens, _Au pays


Nosaïris_ [_Revue de l’Orient chrétien_], 1908, p. 2). Even in Asia


this superstition is found. At Tavshanli, north of Aezani on the upper

Rhyndacus, there is to-day a square cistern filled with sacred fish


no one is allowed to take (on the authority of Munro). Travelers in


have frequently observed that the people do not eat fish, even when


is a scarcity of food (Sachau, _loc. cit._, p. 196) and the general


that their flesh is unhealthful and can cause sickness is not entirely

unfounded. Here is what Ramsay has to say on the subject (_Impressions


Turkey_, London, 1897, p. 288): “Fish are rarely found and when found


usually bad: the natives have a prejudice against fish, and my own

experience has been unfavorable…. In the clear sparkling mountain


that flows through the Taurus by Bozanti-Khan, a small kind of fish is

caught; I had a most violent attack of sickness in 1891 after eating


of them, and so had all who partook.” Captain Wilson, who spent a

number of

years in {246} Asia Minor, asserts (_Handbook of Asia-Minor_, p. 19),


“the natives do not eat fish to any extent.” The “totemic” prohibition


this instance really seems to have a hygienic origin. People abstained


all kinds of fish because some species were dangerous, that is to say,

inhabited by evil spirits, and the tumors sent by the Syrian goddess


merely the edemas caused by the poisoning.

37. On the [Greek: Ichthus] symbolism I will merely refer to Usener,

_Sintflutsagen_, 1899, pp. 223 ff. Cf. S. Reinach, _Cultes, mythes_,


1908, pp. 43 ff. An exhaustive book on this subject has recently


Dölger, [Greek: ICHTHYS], _das Fischsymbol in frühchristlicher Zeit_, I,

Rome, 1910.

On sacred repasts where fish was eaten see Mnaseas, fragment 32 (_Fragm.

histor. graec._, III, 115); cf. Dittenberger, _Sylloge_, 584: [Greek:


de tis tôn ichthuôn apothanêi, karpousthô authêmeron epi tou bômou], and

Diog. Laert., VIII, 34. There were also sacred repasts in the Occident


the various Syrian cults: _Cenatorium et triclinium_ in the temples of

Jupiter Dolichenus (_CIL_, III, 4789; VI, 30931; XI, 696, cf. _Mon.


Mithra_, II, p. 501); _promulsidaria et mantelium_ offered to the Venus

Caelestis (_CIL_, X, 1590); construction of a temple to Malachbel with a

_culina_ (_CIL_, III, 7954). Mention is made of a [Greek: deipnokritês,

deipnois kreinas polla met’ euphrosunês], in the temple of the Janiculum

(Gauckler, _C.R. Acad. Inscr._, 1907, p. 142; _Bolletino communale_,


pp. 15 ff.). Cf. Lagrange, _Religions sémitiques_, II, p. 609, and

Pauly-Wissowa, _Realenc._, s. v. “Gad.”

38. W. Robertson Smith, pp. 292 ff.

39. An inscription discovered at Kefr-Hauar (Fossey, _Bull. corr.


1897, p. 60) is very characteristic in this respect. A “slave” of the

Syrian goddess in that inscription offers his homage to his “mistress”

([Greek: kuria]).

40. Notably at Aphaca where they were not suppressed until the time of

Constantine (Eusebius, _Vit. Const._, III, 55; cf. Sozom., II, 5).

41. Much has been written about the sacred prostitutions in paganism,


it is well known that Voltaire ridiculed the scholars who were credulous

enough to believe in the tales of Herodotus. But this practice has been

proven by {247} irrefutable testimony. Strabo, for instance, whose

great-uncle was arch-priest of Comana, mentions it in connection with


city, (XII, 3, 36, p. 559 C), and he manifests no surprise. The history


religion teaches many stranger facts; this one, however, is


The attempt has been made to see in it a relic of the primitive


or polyandry, or a persistence of “sexual hospitality,” (“No custom is


widely spread than the providing for a guest a female companion, who is

usually a wife or daughter of the host,” says Wake, _Serpent Worship_,

1888, p. 158); or the substitution of union with a man for union with


god (Gruppe, _Griech. Mythol._, p. 915). But these hypotheses do not

explain the peculiarities of the religious custom as it is described by

more reliable authors. They insist upon the fact that the girls were

dedicated to the temple service while _virgins_, and that after having


_strangers_ for lovers, they married in their own country. Thus Strabo


14, § 16, p. 532 C.) narrates in connection with the temple of Anaitïs


Acilisena, that [Greek: thugateras hoi epiphanestatoi tou ethnous


parthenous, ais nomos esti kataporneutheisais polun chronon para têi


meta tauta didosthai pros gamon, ouk apaxiountos têi toiautêi sunoikein

oudenos]. Herodotus (I, 93), who relates about the same thing of the


women, adds that they acquired a dowry in that manner; an inscription at

Tralles (_Bull. corr. hell._, VII, 1885, p. 276) actually mentions a

descendant of a sacred prostitute ([Greek: ek progonôn pallakidôn]) who


temporarily filled the same office ([Greek: pallakeusasa kata chrêsmon

Dii]). Even at Thebes in Egypt there existed a similar custom with


local peculiarities in the time of Strabo (XVII, 1, § 46), and traces

of it

seem to have been found in Greece among the Locrians (Vurtheim, _De


origine_, Leyden, 1907). Every Algerian traveler knows how the girls of


Ouled-Naïl earn their dowry in the _ksours_ and the cities, before they


back to their tribes to marry, and Doutté (_Notes sur l’Islam


les Marabouts_, Extr. _Rev. hist. des relig._, XL-XLI, Paris, 1900), has

connected these usages with the old Semitic prostitution, but his thesis

has been attacked and the historical circumstances of the arrival of the

Ouled-Naïl in Algeria in the eleventh century render it very doubtful


by Basset).–It seems certain (I do not know whether this explanation


ever been offered) {248} that this strange practice is a modified

utilitarian form of an ancient exogamy. Besides it had certain favorable

results, since it protected the girl against the brutality of her


until she was of marriageable age, and this fact must have insured its

persistence; but the idea that inspired it at first was different. “La

première union sexuelle impliquant une effusion de sang, a été


lorsque ce sang était celui d’une fille du clan versé par le fait d’un

homme du clan” (Salomon Reinach, _Mythes, cultes_, I, 1905, p. 79. Cf.

Lang, _The Secret of the Totem_, London, 1905.) Thence rose the


on virgins to yield to a stranger first. Only then were they permitted


marry a man of their own race. Furthermore, various means were resorted


in order to save the husband from the defilement which might result from

that act (see for inst., Reinach, _Mythes, cultes_, I, p. 118).–The

opinion expressed in this note was attacked, almost immediately after


publication, by Frazer (_Adonis, Attis, Osiris_, 1907, pp. 50 ff.) who

preferred to see in the sacred prostitutions a relic of primitive

communism. But at least one of the arguments which he uses against our

views is incorrect. Not the women, but the men, received presents in

Acilisena (Strabo, _loc. cit._) and the communistic theory does not

seem to

account for the details of the custom prevailing in the temple of


There the horror of blood clearly appears. On the discovery of a skull

(having served at a rite of consecration) in the temple of the


see the article cited above, “Dea Syria,” in _Dict. des antiquités_.

42. Porphyry, _De Abstin._, II, 56; Tertull., _Apol._, 9. Cf. Lagrange,

_op. cit._, p. 445.

43. Even in the regions where the cities developed, the Baal and the


always remained the divinities [Greek: poliouchoi], the protectors of


city which they were supposed to have founded.

44. Le Bas-Waddington, 2196.–Suidas, s. v. [Greek: Phularchês] (II, 2,

col. 1568, Bernhardy). Cf. Marquardt, _Staatsverwaltung_, I, p. 405,


45. Hippolytus, Adv. Haeres., V, II, § 7: [Greek: Assuriôn teletai]; §


[Greek: Assuriôn mustêria] (pp. 145, 148, ed. by Cruice). Cf. Origen,

_Contra Celsum_, I, 12. Pognon (_Inscrip. sémitiques_, {249} 1907, No.


has recently published a Syrian epitaph that is unfortunately mutilated,

but which seems to be that of an adept of the pagan mysteries; see


_Zeitschrift für Assyr._, XXI, 1907, p. 155.

46. On the Semitic notion of purity, W. Robertson Smith has written

admirably and convincingly (pp. 446 ff. and _passim_). The question has

been taken up from a different point of view by Lagrange, pp. 141 ff.–


development of the notion of purity in the ancient religions has been

recently expounded by Farnell, _The Evolution of Religion_, 1905, pp. 88

ff., especially pp. 124 ff. Cf. also _supra_, p. 91 f. An example of the

prohibitions and purifications is found in the Occident in an


unfortunately mutilated, discovered at Rome and dedicated to Beellefarus

(_CIL_, VI, 30934, 31168; cf. Lafaye, _Rev. hist. relig._, XVII, 1888,


218 ff.; Dessau, _Inscr. sel._, 4343). If I have understood the text

correctly it commands those who have eaten pork to purify themselves by

means of honey.–On penances in the Syrian religions see ch. II, n. 31.

47. M. Clermont-Ganneau (_Etudes d’archéologie orientale_, II, 1896, p.

104) states that the epithet [Greek: hagios] is extremely rare in pagan

Hellenism, and almost always betrays a Semitic influence. In such cases


corresponds to [Hebrew: QRSH], which to the Semites is the epithet _par

excellence_ of the divinity. Thus Eshmon is [Hebrew: QRSH]; cf.


_Ephemer. für semit. Epigraph._, II, p. 155; Clermont-Ganneau, _Recueil

d’archéol. orient._, III, p. 330; V, p. 322.–In Greek Le Bas-


2720, has: [Greek: Oi katochoi hagiou ouraniou Dios]. Dittenberger,

_Orientis inscript._, 620, [Greek: Zeus hagios Beel bôsôros]. Some time


I copied at a dealer’s, a dedication engraved upon a lamp: [Greek: Theôi

hagiôi Arelselôi], in Latin: J. Dolichenus _sanctus_, _CIL_, VI, 413, X,

7949.–J. Heliopolitanus _sanctissimus_, _CIL_, VIII, 2627.–“Caelestis

_sancta_,” VIII, 8433, etc.–The African Saturn (= Baal) is often called

_sanctus_.–_Hera sancta_ beside Jupiter Dolichenus, VI, 413.–Malakbel


translated by _Sol sanctissimus_, in the bilingual inscription of the

Capitol, VI, 710 = Dessau, 4337. Cf. _deus sanctus aeternus_, V, 1058,

3761, and _Comptes Rendus Acad. Inscr._, 1906, p. 69.–See in general

Delehaye, _Analecta Bollandiana_, 1909, pp. 157 ff. {250}

48. As curious examples of Greco-Syrian syncretism we may mention the

bas-relief of Ed-Douwaïr in the Louvre, which has been analyzed in


by Dussaud (_Notes_, pp. 89 ff.), and especially that of Homs in the

Brussels museum (_ibid._, 104 ff.).

49. Macrobius, I, 23, § 11: “Ritu Assyrio magis quam Aegyptio colitur”;


Lucian, _De dea Syria_, 5.–“Hermetic” theories penetrated even to the

Sabians of Osrhoene (Reitzenstein, _Poimandres_, 166 ff.), although


influence seems to have been merely superficial (Bousset, _Göttingische

gelehrt. Anzeigen_, 1905, 704 ff.)–The existence of [Greek: katochoi]


Baetocécé and elsewhere appears to be due to Egyptian influence


_Mélanges de la fac. orient. de Beyrouth_, II, 1907, pp. 308 ff.). The

meaning of [Greek: katochos] which has been interpreted in different


is established, I think, by the passages collected by Kroll, _Cat. codd.

astrol. graec._, V, pars 2, p. 146; cf. Otto, _Priester und Tempel_, I,


119; Bouché-Leclercq, _Hist. des Lagides_, IV, p. 335. It refers to the

poor, the sick and even the “illumined” living within the temple


and undoubtedly supported by the clergy, as were the refugees of the

Christian period who availed themselves of the right of sanctuary in the

churches (cf. _Comptes Rendus Acad. Inscr._, 1907, p. 454).

50. Cf. _infra_, n. 59.

51. Strabo, XVI, 1, 6. Cf. Pliny, _H. N._, VI, 6: “Durat adhuc ibi Iovis

Beli templum.” Cf. my _Mon. myst. Mithra_, I, pp. 35 ff.; Chapot, _Mém.

soc. antiq. de France_, 1902, pp. 239 ff.; Gruppe, _Griech. Mythol._, p.

1608, n. 1.

52. Lucian, _De dea Syria_, c. 10.

53. Harnack, _Dogmengeschichte_, I, pp. 233 ff. and _passim_.

54. On the worship of Bel in Syria cf. _Comptes Rendus Acad. Inscr._,


pp. 447 ff.–Cf. _infra_, n. 59.

55. On the Heliopolitan triad and the addition of Mercury to the


couple see Perdrizet, _Rev. études anc._, III, 1901, p. 258; Dussaud,

_Notes_, p. 24; Jalabert, _Mélanges fac. orient. de Bayrouth_, I, 1906,


175 ff.–Triad of Hierapolis: Lucian, _De dea Syria_, c. 33. According


Dussaud, the three divinities came from Babylon together, _Notes_, p.

115.–The existence of a Phoenician triad (Baal, Astarte, Eshmoun or


Melkarth), and of a Palmyrian triad has been conjectured but without

sufficient reason (_ibid._, 170, 172 ff.); the existence of Carthaginian

triads is more probable (cf. Polybius, VII, 9, 11, and von Baudissin,

_Iolaos_ [_Philothesia für Paul Kleinert_], 1907, pp. 5 ff.)–See in

general Usener, _Dreiheit_ (Extr. _Rhein. Museum_, LVIII), 1903, p. 32.


triads continued in the theology of the “Chaldaic Oracles” (Kroll, _De

orac. Chald._, 13 ff.) and a threefold division of the world and the


was taught in the “Assyrian mysteries” (_Archiv für Religionswiss._, IX,

1906, p. 331, n. 1).

56. Boll, _Sphaera_, p. 372.–The introduction of astrology into Egypt

seems to date back no further than the time of the Ptolemies.

57. The Seleucides, like the Roman emperors later, believed in Chaldean

astrology (Appian., _Syr._, 28; Diodorus, II, 31, 2; cf. Riess in

Pauly-Wissowa, _Realenc._, s. v. “Astrologie,” col. 1814), and the

kings of

Commagene, as well as of a great number of Syrian cities, had the signs


the zodiac as emblems on their coins. It is even certain that this

pseudo-science penetrated into those regions long before the Hellenistic

period. Traces of it are found in the Old Testament (Schiaparelli;

translation by Lüdke, _Die Astron. im Alten Testament_, 1904, p. 46). It

modified the entire Semitic paganism. The only cult which we know in any

detail, that of the Sabians, assigned the highest importance to it; but


the myths and doctrines of the others its influence is no less apparent

(Pauly-Wissowa, _Realencycl._, s. v. “Dea Syria,” IV, col. 2241, and s.


“Gad”; cf. Baudissin, _Realencycl. für prot. Theol._, s. v., “Sonne,”


510-520). To what extent, for instance, the clergy of Emesa had been

subjected to its ascendency is shown by the novel of Heliodorus,

written by

a priest of that city (Rohde, _Griech. Roman_^2, p. 464 [436]), and by


horoscope that put Julia Domna upon the throne (_Vita Severi_, 3, 8;

cf. A.

von Domaszewski, _Archiv für Religionsw._, XI, 1908, p. 223). The

irresistible influence extended even to the Arabian paganism (Nöldeke in

Hastings, _Encyclop. of Religion_, s. v. “Arabs,” I, p. 661; compare,

_Orac. Sibyll._, XIII, 64 ff., on Bostra). The sidereal character which


been attributed to the Syrian gods, was borrowed, but none the less


From very early times the Semites worshiped the sun, {252} the moon, and

the stars (see Deut. iv. 19; Job xxxi. 25), especially the planet Venus,

but this cult was of secondary importance only (see W. Robertson Smith,

_op. cit._, p. 135, n. 1), although it grew in proportion as the


influence became stronger. The polemics of the Fathers of the Syrian


show how considerable its prestige was in the Christian era (cf. Ephrem,

_Opera Syriaca_, Rome, 1740, II, pp. 447 ff.; the “Assyrian” Tatian, c.


ff., etc.).

58. Humann and Puchstein, _Reise in Klein-Asien und Nord-Syrien_, 1890,


XL; _Mon. myst. Mithra_, I, p. 188, fig. 8; Bouché-Leclercq, _Astrol.


p. 439.

59. Cf. Wissowa, _op. cit._, p. 306-7.–On the temple of Bel at Palmyra,

cf. Sobernheim, _Palmyrenische Inschriften_ (_Mitt. der vorderasiat.

Gesellsch._, X), 1905, pp. 319 ff.; Lidzbarski, _Ephemeris_, I, pp. 255

ff., II, p. 280.–Priests of Bel: Clermont-Ganneau, _Recueil d’arch.

orient._, VII, p. 12, 24, 364. Cf. _supra_, n. 54. The power of Palmyra

under Zenobia, who ruled from the Tigris to the Nile, must have had as a

corollary the establishment of an official worship that was necessarily

syncretic. Hence its special importance for the history of paganism.

Although the Babylonian astrology was a powerful factor in this worship,

Judaism seems to have had just as great an influence in its formation.

There was at Palmyra a large Jewish colony, which the writers of the


considered only tolerably orthodox (Chaps, _Gli Ebrei di Palmira_


Israelitica_, I], Florence, 1904, pp. 171 ff., 238 f. Cf. “Palmyra” in


_Jewish Encycl._; Jewish insc. of Palmyra; Euting, _Sitzb. Berl. Acad._,

1885, p. 669; Landauer, _ibid._, 1884, pp. 933 ff.). This colony seems


have made compromises with the idolaters. On the other hand we see


herself rebuilding a synagogue in Egypt (_Revue archéologique_, XXX,


p. III; _Zeitschrift für Numismatik_, V, p. 229; Dittenberger, _Orientis

inscript._, 729). This influence of Judaism seems to explain the

development at Palmyra of the cult of [Greek: Zeus hupsitos kai


“he whose name is blessed in eternity.” The name of Hypsistos has been

applied everywhere to Jehovah and to the pagan Zeus (_supra_, p. 62,


at the same time. The text of Zosimus (I, 61), according to which


brought from Palmyra to Rome the statues of [Greek: Hêliou te kai Bêlou]

(this has been wrongly changed to read [Greek: tou kai Bêlou]), proves


the {253} astrological religion of the great desert city recognized a

supreme god residing in the highest heavens, and a solar god, his


image and agent, according to the Semitic theology of the last period of

paganism (_supra_, p. 134).

60. I have spoken of this solar eschatology in the memorial cited


n. 88.

61. This opinion is that of Posidonius (see Wendland, _Philos Schrift


die Vorsehung_, Berlin, 1892, p. 68, n. 1; 70, n. 2). It is shared by


ancient astrologers.

62. This old pagan and gnostic idea has continued to the present day in

Syria among the Nosaïris; cf. Dussaud, _Histoire et religion des


1900, p. 125.

63. The belief that pious souls are guided to heaven by a psychopompus,


found not only in the mysteries of Mithra (_Mon. myst. Mithra_, I, p.


but also in the Syrian cults where that rôle was often assigned to the

solar god, see Isid. Lévy, _Cultes syriens dans le Talmud_ (_Revue des

études juives_, XLIII), 1901, p. 5, and Dussaud, _Notes_, p. 27; cf.

the Le

Bas-Waddington inscription, 2442:

“[Greek: Basileu despota] (= the sun), [Greek: hilathi kai didou pasin

hêmin hugiên katharan, prêxis agathas kai biou telos esthlon].”–

The same idea is found in inscriptions in the Occident; as for instance


the peculiar epitaph of a sailor who died at Marseilles (Kaibel, _Inscr.

gr._, XIV, 2462 = _Epigr._, 650):

“[Greek: En de [te] tethneioisin homêguri [es] ge pelousin]

[Greek: doiai; tôn heterê men epichthoniê pephorêtai,]

[Greek: hê d’ heterê teiressi sun aitherioisi choreuei,]

[Greek: ês stratiês eis eimi, lachôn theon hêgemonêa].”

It is the same term that Julian used (_Césars_, p. 336 C) in speaking of

Mithra, the guide of souls: [Greek: hêgemona theon]. Cf. also _infra_,


66 and ch. VIII, n. 24.

64. The Babylonian origin of the doctrine that the souls returned to


by crossing the seven planetary spheres, has been maintained by Anz


Frage nach dem Ursprung des Gnostizismus_, 1897; cf. _Mon. myst.


I. pp. 38 ff., p. 309; Bousset, _Die Himmelsreise der Seele_ [_Archiv


Religionsw._, IV], 1901, pp. 160 ff.) and “Gnosis” in Pauly-Wissowa,

_Realencyclopädie_, col. 1520. It has since been denied by Reitzenstein

(_Poimandres_, p. 79; cf. Kroll, _Berl. philol. Wochensch._, {254}

1906, p.

486). But although it may have been given its precise shape and been

transformed by the Greeks and even by the Egyptians, I persist in


that it is of Chaldean and religious origin. I heartily agree with the

conclusions recently formulated by Bousset, (_Göttingische gelehrte

Anzeigen_, 1905, pp. 707 ff.). We can go farther: Whatever roots it may

have had in the speculations of ancient Greece (Aristoph., _Pax_, 832,

Plato, _Tim._, 42B, cf. Haussoullier, _Rev. de philol._, 1909, pp. 1


whatever traces of it may be found in other nations (Dieterich,

_Mithrasliturgie_, pp. 182 ff.; _Nekyia_, p. 24, note; Rohde, _Psyche_,


p. 131, n. 3), the idea itself of the soul rising to the divine stars


death certainly developed under the influence of the sidereal worship of

the Semites to a point where it dominated all other eschatological

theories. The belief in the eternity of souls is the corollary to the

belief in the eternity of the celestial gods (p. 129). We cannot give


history of this conception here, and we shall limit ourselves to brief

observations. The first account of this system ever given at Rome is


in “Scipio’s Dream” (c. 3); it probably dates back to Posidonius of


(cf. Wendland, _Die hellenistisch-römische Kultur_, p. 85, 166, n. 3,


n. 1), and is completely impregnated with mysticism and astrolatry. The

same idea is found a little later in the astrologer Manilius (I, 758;


404, etc.). The shape which it assumed in Josephus (_Bell. Judaic._, V,


5, § 47) is also much more religious than philosophical and is


similar to a dogma of Islam (happiness in store for those dying in


a Syrian [_ibid._, § 54] risks his life that his soul may go to heaven).

This recalls the inscription of Antiochus of Commagene (Michel,


No. 735, l. 40):

[Greek: Sôma pros ouranious Dios Ôromasdou thronous theophilê psuchên

propempsan eis ton apeiron aiôna koimêsetai].

It must be said that this sidereal immortality was not originally

common to

all men; it was reserved “omnibus qui patriam conservaverint adiuverint,

auxerint” (_Somn. Scip._ c. 3, c. 8; cf. _Manil._, I, 758; Lucan,


IX, 1 ff.; Wendland, _op. cit._, p. 85 n. 2), and this also is in

conformity with the oldest Oriental traditions. The rites first used to

assure immortality to kings and to make them the equals of the gods were

extended little by little as a kind of privilege, to the important {255}

persons of the state, and only very much later were they applied to all



Regarding the diffusion of this belief from the beginning of the first

century of our era, see Diels, _Elementum_, 1899, p. 73, cf. 78;

Badstübner, _Beiträge zur Erklärung Senecas_, Hamburg, pp. 2 ff.–It is

expressed in many inscriptions (Friedländer, _Sitteng._, III, pp. 749


Rohde, _Psyche_, p. 673, cf. 610; epitaph of Vezir-Keupru, _Studia

Pontica_, No. 85; _CIL_. III (Salone), 6384; _supra_, n. 63, etc.) It

gained access into Judaism and paganism simultaneously (cf. Bousset,


Religion des Judentums im neutest. Zeitalter_, 1903, p. 271, and, for


of Alexandria, Zeller, _Philos. der Griechen_, V, p. 397 and p.

297).–During the third century it was expounded by Cornelius Labeo, the

source of Arnobius and Servius (Nieggetiet, _De Cornelio Labeone_ [Diss.

Munster], 1908, pp. 77-86). It was generally accepted towards the end of

the empire; see _infra_, n. 25.–I hope soon to have the opportunity of

setting forth the development of this sidereal eschatology with greater

precision in my lectures on “Astrology and Religion in Antiquity” which

will appear in 1912 (chap. VI).

65. According to the doctrine of the Egyptian mysteries the Elysian


were in the under-world (Apul., _Metam._, XI, 6).–According to the

astrological theory, the Elysian Fields were in the sphere of the fixed

stars (Macrobius, _Comm. somn. Scip._, I, 11, § 8; cf. _infra_, chap.


n. 25). Others placed them in the moon (Servius, _Ad Aen._, VI, 887; cf.

Norden, _Vergils Buch_, VI, p. 23; Rohde, _Psyche_, pp. 609 ff.).

Iamblichus placed them between the moon and the sun (Lydus, _De mens._,


149, p. 167, 23, Wünsch).

66. The relation between the two ideas is apparent in the alleged


of the Pythagorean doctrine which Diogenes Laertius took from Alexander

Polyhistor, and which is in reality an apocryphal composition of the


century of our era. It was said that Hermes guided the pure souls, after

their separation from the body, [Greek: eis ton Hupsiston] (Diog.


VIII, § 31; cf. Zeller, _Philos. der Griechen_, V, p. 106, n. 2).–On


meaning of Hypsistos, cf. _supra_, p. 128. It appears very plainly in


passage of Isaiah, xiv, 13, as rendered by the Septuagint: {256}

[Greek: Eis ton ouranon anabêsomai, epanô tôn asterôn thêsô ton thronon


… esomai homoios tôi Hupsistôi.]

67. Originally he was the thunder-god, in Greek [Greek: Keraunos]. Under

this name he appeared for instance on the bas-relief preserved in the

museum of Brussels (Dussaud, _Notes_, p. 105). Later, by a familiar

process, the influence of a particular god becomes the attribute of a

greater divinity, and we speak of a [Greek: Zeus Keraunios] (cf. Usener,

_Keraunos_, Rhein. Museum, N. F., LX, 1901).–This Zeus Keraunios


in many inscriptions of Syria (_CIG_, 4501, 4520; Le Bas-Waddington,


2557 _a_, 2631, 2739; cf. Roscher, _Lexikon Myth._, s. v. “Keraunos”).

He is the god to whom Seleucus sacrificed when founding Seleucia


p. 199), and a dedication to the same god has been found recently in the

temple of the Syrian divinities at Rome (_supra_, n. 10).–An

equivalent of

the Zeus Keraunios is the Zeus [Greek: Kataibatês]–“he who descends in


lightning”–worshiped at Cyrrhus (Wroth, _Greek Coins in the British

Museum_: “Galatia, Syria,” p. 52 and LII; Roscher, _Lexikon_, s. v.)

68. For instance the double ax was carried by Jupiter Dolichenus (cf.

_supra_, p. 147). On its significance, cf. Usener, _loc. cit._, p. 20.

69. Cf. Lidzbarski, _Balsamem, Ephem. semit. Epigr._, I, p. 251.–Ba’al

Samaïn is mentioned as early as the ninth century B. C. in the


of Ben Hadad (Pognon, _Inscr. sémit._, 1907, pp. 165 ff.; cf. Dussaud,

_Rev. archéol._, 1908, I, p. 235). In Aramaic papyri preserved at


the Jews of Elephantine call Jehovah “the god of heaven” in an address

to a

Persian governor, and the same name was used in the alleged edicts of


and his successors, which were inserted in the book of Esdras (i. 1;

vi. 9,

etc.)–If there were the slightest doubt as to the identity of the god


thunder with Baalsamin, it would be dispelled by the inscription of

Et-Tayibé, where this Semitic name is translated into Greek as [Greek:


megistos keraunios]; cf. Lidzbarski, _Handbuch_, p. 477, and Lagrange,


cit._, p. 508.

70. On the worship of Baalsamin, confused with Ahura-Mazda and


into _Caelus_, see _Mon. myst. Mithra_, p. 87.–The texts attesting the

existence of a real cult of {257} heaven among the Semites are very

numerous. Besides the ones I have gathered (_loc. cit._, n. 5); see

Conybeare, _Philo about the Contemplative Life_, p. 33, n. 16; Kayser,


Buch der Erkenntniss der Wahrheit_, 1893, p. 337, and _infra_, n. 75.


[Greek: Ouranios]: Le Bas-Waddington, 2720 _a_ (Baal of Bétocécé);


_Mission de Phénicie_, p. 103.–Cf. _Archiv für Religionswissenschaft_,


1906, p. 333.

71. Coins of Antiochus VIII Grypus (125-96 B. C.); Babelon, _Rois de


d’Arménie_, 1890, p. CLIV, pp. 178 ff.

72. All these qualities ascribed to the Baals by astrological paganism

([Greek: hupsistos, pantokratôr], etc.), are also the attributes which,

according to the doctrine of Alexandrian Judaism, characterized Jehovah

(see _supra_, n. 66). If he was originally a god of thunder, as has been

maintained, the evolution of the Jewish theology was parallel to that of

the pagan conceptions (see _supra_, n. 69).

73. On this subject cf. _Jupiter summus exsuperantissimus_ (_Archiv f.

Religionsw._, IX), 1906, pp. 326 ff.

74. Ps.-Iamblichus, _De mysteriis_, VI, 7 (cf. Porph., _Epist. Aneb._,


29), notes this difference between the two religions.

75. Apul., _Met._, VIII, 25. Cf. _CIL_, III, 1090; XII, 1227 (= Dessau,

2998, 4333); Macrobius, _Comm. somn. Scipionis_, I, 14, § 2: “Nihil


esse deum nisi caelum ipsum et caelestia ipsa quae cernimus, ideo ut


omnipotentiam dei ostenderet posse vix intellegi.”–[Greek: Hêlios

pantokratôs]: Macrob., I, 23, 21.

76. Diodorus, II, 30: [Greek: Chaldaioi tên tou kosmou phusin aidion


einai k. t. l.]; cf. Cicero, _Nat. deor._, II, 20, § 52 ff.; Pliny, _H.

N._, II, 8, § 30. The notion of eternity was correlative with that of

[Greek: heimarmenê]; cf. Ps.-Apul., _Asclep._, 40; Apul., _De deo

Socratis_, c. 2: “(The planets) quae in deflexo cursu … meatus


divinis vicibus efficiunt.”–This subject will be more fully treated in


lectures on “Astrology and Religion” (chaps. IV-V).

77. At Palmyra: De Vogüé, _Inscr. sem._, pp. 53 ff., etc.–On the first

title, see _infra_, n. 80.

78. Note especially _CIL_, VI, 406 = 30758, where Jupiter Dolichenus is

called _Aeternus conservator totius poli_. The {258} relation to heaven

here remained apparent. See _Somn. Scip._, III, 4; IV, 3.

79. Cf. _Rev. archéol._, 1888, I, pp. 184 ff.; Pauly-Wissowa, s. v.

“Aeternus,” and _Festschrift für Otto Benndorf_, 1898, p. 291.–The

idea of

the eternity of the gods also appeared very early in Egypt, but it does


seem that the mysteries of Isis–in which the death of Osiris was

commemorated–made it prominent, and it certainly was spread in the

Occident only by the sidereal cults.

80. The question has been raised whether the epithet [Hebrew: MR’ `LM’]

means “lord of the world” or “lord of eternity” (cf. Lidzbarski,

_Ephemeris_, I, 258; II, 297; Lagrange, p. 508), but in our opinion the

controversy is to no purpose, since in the spirit of the Syrian priests


two ideas are inseparable and one expression in itself embraces both,


world being conceived as eternal (_supra_, n. 76). See for Egypt,

Horapoll., _Hieroglyph._, I (serpent as symbol of the [Greek: aiôn] and

[Greek: kosmos]). At Palmyra, too, the title “lord of all” is found,

[Hebrew: MR’ KL] (Lidzbarski, _loc. cit._); cf. Julian, Or., IV, p.

203, 5

(Hertlein): [Greek: Ho basileus tôn holôn Hêlios], and infra, n. 81; n.


Already at Babylon the title “lord of the universe” was given to Shamash

and Hadad; see Jastrow, _Religion Babyloniens_, I, p. 254, n. 10.


has been good enough to write me as follows on this subject: “Daran kan

kein Zweifel sein, dass [Hebrew: `LM] zunächst (lange Zeit) Ewigkeit

heisst, und dass die Bedeutung ‘Welt’ secundär ist. Ich halte es daher


so gut wie gewiss dass das palmyrenische [Hebrew: MR’ `LM’], wenn es ein

alter Name ist, den ‘ewigen’ Herrn bedeutet, wie ohne Zweifel [Hebrew:


`WLM], Gen., xxi. 33. Das biblische Hebräisch kennt die Bedeutung ‘Welt’

noch nicht, abgesehen wohl von der späten Stelle, Eccl. iii. 11. Und, so

viel ich sehe, ist im Palmyrenischen sonst [Hebrew: `LM’] immer


z.B. in der häufigen Redensart [Hebrew: LBRYK SHMCH L`LM’]. Aber das

daneben vorkommende palmyr. [Hebrew: MR’ KL] führt allerdings darauf,


die palmyrenische Inschrift auch in [Hebrew: MR’ `LM’] den ‘Herrn der


sah. Ja der syrische Uebersetzer sieht auch in jenem hebräischen


‘L `WLM] ‘den Gott der Welt.’ Das Syrische hat nämlich einen formalen

Unterschied festgestellt zwischen _'[=a]l[)a]m_, dem Status absolutus,

‘Ewigkeit,’ und _'[=a]lm[=a]_ [_[=a]l^em[=a]_] dem Status emphaticus

‘Welt.’–Sollte übrigens die {259} Bedeutung Welt diesem Worte erst


Einfluss griechischer Speculation zu Teil geworden sein? In der

Zingirli-Inschrift bedeuted [Hebrew: BTSLM] noch bloss ‘in seiner


81. Cf. _CIL_, III, 1090 = Dessau, _Inscr._, 2998: “Divinarum


rerum rectori.” Compare _ibid._, 2999 and Cagnet, _Année épigr._, 1905,


235: “I. O. M., id est universitatis principi.” Cf. the article of the

_Archiv_ cited, n. 73. The _Asclepius_ says (c. 39), using an


term: “Caelestes dii catholicorum dominantur, terreni incolunt singula.”

82. Cf. W. Robertson Smith, 75 ff., _passim_. In the Syrian religions

as in

that of Mithra, the initiates regarded each other as members of the same

family, and the phrase “dear brethren” as used by our preachers, was

already in use among the votaries of Jupiter Dolichenus (_fratres

carissimos_, _CIL_, VI, 406 = 30758).

83. Renan mentioned this fact in his _Apotres_, p. 297 = _Journal

Asiatique_, 1859, p. 259. Cf. Jalabert, _Mél. faculté orient. Beyrout_,


1906, p. 146.

84. This is the term (_virtutes_) used by the pagans. See the


_Numini et virtutibus dei aeterni_ as reconstructed in _Revue de

Philologie_, 1902, p. 9; _Archiv für Religionsw._, _loc. cit._, p. 335,


1 and _infra_, ch. VIII, n. 20.

85. _CIL_, VII, 759 = Bücheler, _Carm. epig._, 24.–Cf. Lucian, _De dea

Syria_, 32.

86. Macrobius, _Sat._, I, 23, § 17: “Nominis (Adad) interpretatio

significat unus unus.”

87. Cicero, _Somnium Scip._, c. 4: “Sol dux et princeps et moderator

luminum reliquorum, mens mundi et temperatio.” Pliny, _H. N._, II, 6, §


“Sol … siderum ipsorum caelique rector. Hunc esse mundi totius animam


planius mentem, hunc principale naturae regimen ac numen credere decet,”

etc. Julian of Laodicea, _Cat. codd. astr._, I, p. 136, l. 1:

[Greek: Hêlios basileus kai hêgemôn tou sumpantos kosmou kathestôs,


kathêgoumenos kai pantôn ôn genesiarchês.]

88. We are here recapitulating some conclusions of a study on _La


solaire du paganisme romain_ published in _Mémoires des savants


présentés à l’Acad. des Inscr._, XII, 2d part, pp. 447 ff., Paris, 1910.


89. The hymns of Synesius (II, 10 ff., IV, 120 ff., etc.) contain

Peculiar examples of the combination of the old astrological ideas with Christian