The Mysteries of Artemis of Ephesos

The Mysteries of Artemis of Ephesos

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 512
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  • Book Info
    The Mysteries of Artemis of Ephesos
    Book Description:

    Artemis of Ephesos was one of the most widely worshiped deities of the Graeco-Roman World. Her temple, the Artemision, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and for more than half a millennium people flocked to Ephesos to learn the great secret of the mysteries and sacrifices that were celebrated every year on her birthday.

    In this work Guy MacLean Rogers sets out the evidence for the celebration of Artemis's mysteries against the background of the remarkable urban development of the city during the Roman Empire and then proposes an entirely new theory about the great secret that was revealed to initiates into Artemis's mysteries. The revelation of that secret helps to explain not only the success of Artemis's cult and polytheism itself but, more surprisingly, the demise of both and the success of Christianity. Contrary to many anthropological and scientific theories, the history of polytheism, including the celebration of Artemis's mysteries, is best understood as a Darwinian tale of adaptation, competition, and change.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18270-5
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: ANATHEMA
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Maps
    (pp. xiii-xxvi)
  5. PART I: Muesis—Initiation
    • CHAPTER 1 Continuity in Change
      (pp. 3-32)

      On the sixth of thargelion, or late April/early May, at the end of the second century a.d., the Ephesians celebrated the birth of their patron goddess Artemis in a magnificent grove of trees named Ortygia.¹ In that grove were several temples, and within the older shrines were wooden images of the great goddess. A statue of Leto and her nurse Ortygia, holding Leto’s children, Artemis and Apollo, stood in one of the later temples. Skopas of Paros, one of the greatest Greek sculptors of the fourth century b.c., had created the statue group after 356.

      During the celebration of Artemis’s...

    • CHAPTER 2 Funeral Games
      (pp. 33-60)

      Some scholars have assumed that mysteries of Artemis Ephesia were celebrated by the end of the eleventh century b.c., after the arrival of the Athenian prince Androklos, the Ionian foundation of Ephesos, and the inception of a Greek sanctuary at the site of the Artemision.¹ That foundation, we now know, was focused topographically upon the hill of Ayasoluk (site of the Bronze Age Luwian town of Aspasa) and had expanded by the mid-eighth century into the area known as Koressos, on the slopes of Panayirdag (ancient Tracheia), north and east of the later stadium (Map 3).² No evidence, however, substantiates...

    • CHAPTER 3 Mysteries and Sacrifices
      (pp. 61-88)

      Lysimachos had recaptured ephesos by 294 b.c. at the latest. His foundation of the new polis of Arsinoeia and his rearrangement of the celebration of the mysteries and sacrifices need to be understood against the complicated background of both his own struggles against Demetrios and the Ephesians’ support for Demetrios from 302 to 294.

      From the decree of the Ephesian Gerousia, dated to the reign of the Roman emperor Commodus (a.d. 180 to 192), we know that mysteries and sacrifices were conducted in Ephesos before the foundation of Arsinoeia. The same decree then provides our first substantial information about the...

  6. PART II: Teletai—Rites
    • CHAPTER 4 Mystic Sacrifices
      (pp. 91-121)

      More than two hundred years passed between the time of the publication of the agreement about the libanotopolion, perhaps during the early third century b.c., and our next piece of explicit and somewhat detailed evidence about the celebration of the mysteries of Artemis of Ephesos. That evidence is the gloss written by the geographer Strabo after his visit to Ephesos in 29 b.c.¹ During the intervening centuries, following in the footsteps of Lysimachos, a series of ambitious and competitive Seleucid and Ptolemaic successors to the empire of Alexander the Great in Asia Minor sought to dominate the polis of Ephesos...

    • Color plates
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 5 Kouretes eusebeis
      (pp. 122-144)

      When strabo visited ephesos in 29 b.c., the neoi put on splendid banquets in Ortygia during the celebration of the mysteries of Artemis. The Kouretes also held symposia and performed mystic sacrifices. The Kouretes’ presence and cultic activities at the general festival must have evoked Strabo’s story of how the original Kouretes had protected Leto’s giving birth to Artemis and Apollo and ultimately had helped to expand and solidify Olympian rule. The celebration of the mysteries thus included a yearly reminder of the connections between the Ephesians and the Olympian dynasty.

      The Artemision had been the institutional base of the...

    • CHAPTER 6 Kouretes eusebeis kai philosebastoi
      (pp. 145-170)

      The kouretes’ lists remain our primary source of information for the celebration of the mysteries of Artemis after a.d. 37. As we shall see, however, the lists dated from 37 to 98 provide much more information about the celebrations than earlier ones. After the reign of Tiberius we find expanded lists of cult attendants, with their ritual or artistic office titles attached, below the names of the yearly Kouretes and the prytaneis. From the description of the titles we can deduce what many of the rituals and other performances carried out at Artemis’s mysteries entailed.

      The expanded lists of cult...

    • CHAPTER 7 Kouretes eusebeis kai philosebastoi kai bouleutai
      (pp. 171-204)

      By the end of the first century a.d. the celebration of the mysteries of Artemis included sacrifices and the reading of the entrails of victims, announcements and instructions given to the initiates, the burning of incense and a cultic dance, and some kind of pipe music, while libations were poured. Secrets were also disclosed to initiates.

      During the early second century the Ephesians continued to make changes to the festival. First, more music apparently was added to the ceremonies in Ortygia. More importantly, perhaps in response to an increase in the number of prospective initiates, a second hierophant and another...

    • CHAPTER 8 “The Nurse of Its Own Ephesian God”
      (pp. 205-229)

      During the middle decades of the second century a.d., the same wealthy Roman male citizens of Ephesos served as Artemis’s Kouretes each year on the sixth of May and helped to run the government of the polis on a daily basis. They were part of the council that approved the expansion of the festival and also gave their votes in favor of the massive and massively expensive construction projects that transformed the skyline of the lower city. Although we cannot now partake of the experience of the initiations that these Roman Ephesians created, the architectural remains of their decisions, including...

    • CHAPTER 9 “Our Common Salvation”
      (pp. 230-256)

      After enduring financial problems, plague, and then famine during the late second century a.d., the Ephesians nevertheless renewed or reendowed the associations responsible for celebrating the mysteries of Artemis. These revitalizations, however, were not completely successful.

      After the turn of the century the Ephesians once again had trouble subsidizing the traditional sacrifices of the year, including the ones that took place on Artemis’s birthday, and wide variations in the number of yearly Kouretes suggest changes or instability within the association. On behalf of the polis, the prytaneis carried out another major reorganization of the cultic personnel of the prytaneion, and...

  7. PART III: Epopteia—Viewing
    • CHAPTER 10 Cult, Polis, and Change in the Graeco-Roman World
      (pp. 259-292)

      Now that we have reviewed the evidence in chronological order, we will return to the questions posed at the beginning of this investigation. The first of these was whether the mysteries of Artemis at Ephesos involved initiation rituals, and the second was whether traits of identity were maintained in the cult over time. Our answers to these questions will lead into a discussion of the connections among authority, rituals, and theology in the mysteries. Next, we will consider the question of change and the polis within the Graeco-Roman world. In the following section we will advance a hypothesis about the...

  8. Appendix 1: The Other Mystery Cults of the Polis
    (pp. 293-302)
  9. Appendix 2: Cults of the Prytaneion
    (pp. 303-308)
  10. Appendix 3: Chronological Chart of Kouretes
    (pp. 309-310)
  11. Appendix 4: Chart of Mysteries and Change
    (pp. 311-312)
  12. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 313-314)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 315-436)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 437-440)
  15. Select Modern Bibliography
    (pp. 441-480)
  16. General Index
    (pp. 481-494)
  17. Index of Ancient Authors
    (pp. 495-496)
  18. Index of Inscriptions
    (pp. 497-500)