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Mithras

(2,056 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
(Μίθρας/ Míthras, Μίθρης/ Míthrēs). [German version] I. Persia A Hittite treaty with the Mitanni (14th cent. BC) contains the earliest evidence of Mithras ([1. No. 16]: Mitra). In the oldest literary evidence, the Indian Ṛg Veda, Mitra is the god who together with Varuna is responsible for upholding the ṛta, the cosmic order. Likewise, in Iran Mi θ ra is one of the most important yazata (gods), who leads people ‘on the path of aša, order’ ( Yašt 10,86; [2. 114f.]), and guides a multitude of social relations such as agreements, friendship, marriage and blood kinship ( Yašt 10,116f.). In thi…

Selene

(441 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Σελήνη/ Selḗnē, Μήνη/ Mḗnē, cf. Latin Luna [1]). In Greece in the Archaic and Classical Periods the moon (thought of as female), although generally known as the nocturnal counterpart of the sun (Helios/Sol), was barely personified (Personification): she is neither present as a deity either in the epic tradition, where night (Nyx) virtually replaces S., nor (with two exceptions) in the elegiac and lyric poets. Hesiod seems to fit S. into his cosmology almost as an afterthought, namel…

Cottyto

(343 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
(Κοτυτώ; Kotytṓ; variant Kótys/Κότυς, Kottṓ/Κοττώ; Lat. Cottyto). [German version] A. General Traditionally considered variants of the name of a Thracian-Phrygian goddess who was honoured in orgiastic rites and whose festivity, the Kotytia, was celebrated in Corinth and Sicily in the Greek world [1]. However, it is probable that the Corinthian-Sicilian cult was part of the calendar of rural celebrations and should be differentiated from the putative Thracian cult [2]. Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster) [German version] B. The Corinthian-Sicilian cult According to the Suda (s…

Molpus

(170 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Μόλπος/ Mólpos). In the local legend of Tenedos, according to some sources M. is a flute-player from Colonae in the Troad whose false testimony was partly responsible for the banishment of Tennes, the son of Cycnus [2], when Tennes was accused by his stepmother Philonome of attempted rape (Plut. Quest. Graec. 28; schol. Lycophr. 232). Older sources (‘Heraclides’ = Aristot. fr. 611,22 Rose; Lycophr. 232-239; Conon FGrH 26 F 1; as well as Paus. 10,14,2) do not mention M. According t…

Molpoi

(512 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Μολποί/ Molpoí). Term for the members of a society responsible for performing the paean at public sacrifices, documented almost exclusively in the towns of the Ionic Dodecapolis (especially Miletus and Ephesus) and their colonies. Although colleges of M. are only sparsely attested, the number of personal names formed from Μολπ- in the Ionic Aegean [1], the Dodecapolis (e.g., Hdt. 5,30,2; IEph 4102) and the Milesian colonies (e.g., SEG 41, 619, Olbia) indicates their political and …

Magic doll

(426 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] Loose term for an anthropomorphous statuette made from a variety of different materials for specific ritual purposes. The conceptual condition for such statuettes, which function as signs or images of a physical and social existence, is the context-contingent abolishment of the difference between living creatures and objects that are incapable of self-determination [1]. Such statuettes were used for beneficial as well as harmful purposes in the ancient Oriental empires, while in M…

Zagreus

(351 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Ζαγρεύς/ Zagreús). The name Z. (or 'Dionysus Z.') is used as a useful if also problematic term for Dionysus, the son of Zeus (and the daughter of Zeus Persephone) who, according to the Orphic anthropogony (Orphism), had been killed and eaten as a small child by the Titans. Ancient lexica cite Callimachus's Aítia (fr. 43,177) as the sole source for the epiclesis of Dionysus Z.; but this is not used until the 6th cent. AD (in Ps.-Nonnus, Commentaria in Greg. Naz. Serm. 5,30 Nimmo Smith) in the context of the Z. myth. The name, which…

Curetes

(1,030 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Κουρῆτες; Kourêtes, Lat. Curetes). Mythological beings who protect the infant  Zeus from his father  Kronos by hitting their spears against their shields in order to drown out his screams (Callim. H. 1,51-53; Apollod. 1,1,6f.) or to deter the father (Str. 10,3,11). Most sources locate the scene in the cave of  Dicte on Crete, others locate it on  Ida [1] (e.g. Epimenides, FGrH 457 F 18, Aglaosthenes of Naxos, FGrH 499 F 1f., Apoll. Rhod. 1,1130, cf. Callim. H. 1,6-9). In one variati…

Cautes, Cautopates

(221 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Καύτης, Καυτοπάτης; Kaútēs, Kautopátēs). Antithetical pair of companions of  Mithras, associated with a large number of attributes, e.g. burning torches [1]. The etymology is disputed, the most plausible being the derivation from old Iranian * kaut ‘young’ [2]. Already the earliest iconographic representation displays them as complementary opposites [3]. They are the ‘twin brothers’ who are nourished by Mithras' water miracle (Mithraeum of Santa Prisca, Rome). The only literary documentation (Porph. de antro Nympharum 24 with conjecture Arethusa, p. 24,14…

Caelestis

(290 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] Latin name for the female counterpart of the highest Punic-Berber deity  Saturnus. The earliest iconographic portrayal, on the denarii of Q. Caecilius Metellus 47-46 BC, show C. as a lion-headed figure, genius terrae Africae (RRC 1. 472, no. 460. 4. pl. LIV). Literary sources describe her as the city goddess of Carthage; C. was also the protective goddess of Thuburbo maius, Oea and probably of other towns; ruler of the stars in the heavens, and of the Earth with all its produce and its inhabitants, as well as of …

Magical papyri

(1,407 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] I. General information Loose term for the constantly increasing body of Graeco-Egyptian magic texts (standard editions: [1; 2], since then, newly published texts in [3]). The most important distinction is to be made between the handbooks (until now more than 80 published copies) on papyrus, which contain the instructions for acts of magic, and directly used texts (at least 115 published copies) on papyrus, metal (lead tablets), pottery shards, wood, etc., corresponding to the extant …

Theoi Megaloi, Theai Megalai

(494 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
(θεοὶ μεγάλοι/ theoì megáloi, θεαὶ μεγάλαι/ theaì megálai, Latin di magni). [German version] I. General Term for a variety of deities or groups of gods in the Greek world. A distinction is made between deities or groups of gods for whom the adjective 'great' was used as an honorary epithet (e.g. Megálē Týchē, Theòs hýpsistos mégas theós) and those whose cultic nomen proprium was 'Great God' or 'Great Gods', such as the TM in Caria (SEG 11,984; 2nd cent. AD). Inscriptions record a broad range of use between these two poles. Often the TM are deities or groups…

Anaetis

(258 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Ἀναῖτις; Anaîtis). Iranian goddess. The Avestic name, Aredvī-Sūrā-Ānāhitā, goddess of the waters, consists of three epithets (e.g. anāhitā = untainted). The Indo-Iranian name was probably Sarasvatī, ‘the one who possesses the waters’. Yašt 5 describes her as a beautiful woman clad in beaver skins, who drives a four-horse chariot. She cleanses male sperm and the wombs of animals and humans, brings forth mother's milk, but also bestows prosperity and victory. Promoted in Achaemenid times (Berossus, FGrH 680 F11); in an undefined phase previously, she…

Maskelli Maskello

(215 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Μασκελλι Μασκελλω). The two first ‘names’ in one of the most common lógoi ( lógos II. 2) in Graeco-Egyptian magic texts ( Magic). The lógos appears mainly in so-called agṓgima (coercive love spells; for example PGM IV 2755-2757, XIXa 10f.), but it also appears in other genres (albeit not with protective amulets) and is often identified expressly as a formula of ‘necessity’ (e.g. katà tês pikrâs Anánkēs, ‘according to bitter Anánkē ’, PGM VII 302; cf. XII 290f.). The suggestion that M.M. is derived from the Hebrew mśkel, ‘psalm of praise’, and represents a type of ‘…

Cannophori

(155 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] ( cannofori, καννηφόροι; kannēphóroi). The younger of the two colleges connected with the cult of Magna Mater; founded as part of Antoninus Pius' reorganization of the cult (2nd cent. AD). It was their ritual function in Rome, on 15 March to carry a bundle of reeds to the temple on the Palatine as part of the joyful procession commemorating the discovery of the young Attis by the Magna Mater on the banks of the  Gallus (Iul. or. 5,165b) [1] ( canna intrat, calendar of Philocalus, CIL I2 p. 260). On the same day, the Archigallus and the C. sacrificed a bull to ensur…

Brahmin

(137 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Βραχμᾶνες, also Βραχμάναι, Βραχμῆνες; Brachmânes, Brachmánai, Brachmênes). Collective name of the Indian priestly caste. Sanskrit brāhmaṇa ‘praying person, priest’, members by birth of the highest caste, together with the samanaioi (Sanskrit śramaṇa) scholars, clerics and people of high social standing in Ancient Indian society (Str. 15,1,39). Entirely unknown in the Greek world prior to Alexander's campaign (Arr. Anab. 6,16,5; Str. 15,1,61), viewed as exemplary ascetics, were immediately described as the teac…

Dolichenus

(268 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] Jupiter Optimus Maximus D., highest divinity of Dolichē in  Commagene, now Dülük near Gaziantep. The original temple on the Dülük Baba Tepe has not been excavated. However, the god's pose on the bull, his thunderbolt and his double axe suggest his descent from the Hittite storm-god Tesšub. In Rome he was venerated as conservator totius mundi, preserver of the universe (AE 1940, 76). The counterpart of Jupiter Optimus Maximus D. was named  Juno Sancta/ Regina. Two other pairs occur, sun and moon, and the Dioscuri. There is no literary …

Zurvan

(215 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] The Iranian god of time (Avestan: zruuan; Pahlavi: zamān). Z. had two forms: as the eternal time of divine existence he is zruuan akarana- (Avestan), 'the boundless time', as the period of the confrontation between Good and Evil, zruuan darengō.xvadāta, 'the time of long dominion'. Earlier it was assumed that within the Zoroastrian religion (Zoroastrianism) 'Zurvanism' represented a Median sonderform, a degeneration or a heresy. The myth in which the cosmogonic deity Z. enables both the transient rule of Evil (Ahriman) and the ultimate vi…

Magical spells

(1,227 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
(ὀνόματα βάρβαρα/ onómata bárbara, Lat. nomina barbarica). [German version] I. General Broad term for names, words and sounds used in ancient incantation practices of ritual magic and popular medicine. Their obscurity or indefiniteness was often understood by ancient observers as a synecdoche for the otherness of magic, above all in poetical depictions of fictional witchcraft rituals (e.g. Lucan, 6,685-693; Lucian, Dialogi Meretricii 4,5). From the magician's perspective, such utterances underpinned his au…

Boukoloi

(280 words)

Author(s): Gordon, Richard L. (Ilmmünster)
[German version] (Βουκόλοι; Boukóloi). Male members of Dionysian communities with different tasks, including dance (Lucian. Saltatione 79; schol. Lycoph. 212). The term relates to 1. shepherds in mythical stories who have been converted to servants of the god by witnessing a miracle (Eur. Bacch. 660-774); 2. the transformation of Dionysus from human to animal form, especially as a bull (idem 616-22; Plut. Quaest. Graec. 299b) [1]. The place associated with mythical shepherds is the mountains, the c…
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