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ELECTEICITY AND MATTER. By Joseph John Thomson, D.Sc, LL.D., 
Ph.D., F.R.S., Fellow of Trinity College and Cavendish Professor of Ex- 
perimental Physics, Cambridge University. (Fourth printing.) 

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THEORIES OF SOLUTIONS. By Svante Arrhenius, Ph.D., Sc.D., M.D., 
Director of the Physico-Chemical Department of the Nobel Institute, 
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IRRITABILITY. A Physiological Analysis of the General Effect of Stimuli 
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Frank D. Adams, Arthur P. Coleman, Charles D. Walcott, Walde- 
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RESPIRATION. By J. S. Haldane, M.D., LL.D., F.R.S., Fellow of New 
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In the year 1883 a legacy of eighty thousand dollars 
was left to the President and Fellows of Yale College in 
the city of New Haven, to be held in trust, as a gift from 
her children, in memory of their beloved and honored 
mother, Mrs. Hepsa Ely Silliman. 

On this foundation Yale College was requested and 
directed to establish an annual course of lectures de- 
signed to illustrate the presence and providence, the wis- 
dom and goodness of God, as manifested in the natural 
and moral world. These were to be designated as the Mrs. 
Hepsa Ely Silliman Memorial Lectures. It was the belief 
of the testator that any orderly presentation of the facts 
of nature or history contributed to the end of this foun- 
dation more effectively than any attempt to emphasize 
the elements of doctrine or of creed; and he therefore 
provided that lectures on dogmatic or polemical theology 
should be excluded from the scope of this foundation, and 
that the subjects should be selected, rather, from the 
domains of natural science and history, giving special 
prominence to astronomy, chemistry, geology, and 

It was further directed that each annual course should 
be made the basis of a volume to form part of a series 
constituting a memorial to Mrs. Silliman. The memorial 
fund came into the possession of the Corporation of Yale 
University in the year 1901 ; and the present volume con- 
stitutes the sixteenth of the series of memorial lectures. 


AT the invitation of the President of Yale Univer- 
/\ sity and of Professor Eussell H. Chittenden, 
,/~m, chairman of the committee in charge of the Silli- 
man Foundation, the lectures which are here presented 
to a wider public were delivered in New Haven during 
the month of March of the year 1921. It was the wish 
of the committee that I should speak upon some subject 
from the history of religion. I chose therefore as my 
theme a matter which had occupied my attention for 
many years, viz., the ideas current in Eoman paganism 
concerning the lot of the soul after death. The argument 
has been treated more than once by distinguished scholars 
and notably — to mention only an English book — by Mrs. 
Arthur Strong in her recent work " Apotheosis and 
After Life, ' ' a study characterised by penetrating inter- 
pretation, especially of archaeological monuments. But 
we do not yet possess for the Roman imperial epoch a 
counterpart to Rohde's classical volume, "Psyche," for 
the earlier Greek period, that is, a work in which the 
whole evolution of Roman belief and speculation regard- 
ing a future life is set forth. These lectures cannot claim 
to fill this gap. They may however be looked upon as a 
sketch of the desired investigation, in which, though 
without the detailed citation of supporting evidence, an 
attempt at least has been made to trace the broad outlines 
of the subject in all its magnitude. 

The lectures are printed in the form in which they 
were delivered. The necessity of making each one intel- 
ligible to an audience which was not always the same, has 
made inevitable some repetitions. Cross references have 
been added, where the same topics are treated in different 


connections. However, in a book intended primarily for 
the general reader, the scholarly apparatus has been 
reduced to a minimum and as a rule indicates only the 
source of passages quoted in the text. 

My acknowledgment is due to Miss Helen Douglas 
Irvine, who with skill and intelligent understanding of the 
subject translated into English the French text of these 
lectures. I wish also to express my gratitude to my 
friends, Professor George Lincoln Hendrickson, who took 
upon himself the tedious task of reading the manuscript 
and the proofs of this book and to whom I am indebted 
for many valuable suggestions both in matter and in 
form, and Professor Grant Showerman, who obligingly 
consented to revise the last chapters before they were 

Rome, September, 1922. 


PREFACE. P. xi. 

HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION. General view of the subject, 
1 — The ancient beliefs : after life in the tomb, 3 — in the nether 
world, 4 — Philosophical criticism, 5 — Academic and Peripa- 
tetic schools, 6 — Epicureans, 7 — Stoics, 12 — Scepticism at the 
end of the Republic, 16 — Earthly immortality, 19 — Rebirth 
of Pythagorism, 20— Its teaching, 24— Posidonius, 27— Cicero, 
31 — Diffusion of the mysteries, 33 — Hermetic writings and 
Chaldean oracles, 38— Plutarch, 39— The second and third 
centuries, 39 — Neo-Platonism, 40 — Conclusion, 43. 

I. AFTER LIFE IN THE TOMB. Survival of primitive beliefs, 
44— After life of the body, 45— The tomb "eternal house," 48 
— Food for the dead, 50 — Sacrifices, 51 — Funeral meals, 52 — 
Gardens, 56 — Connection of the dead with the living, 57 — The 
aerial souls, 59 — Beneficent, 60 — or Malevolent, 63 — Souls of 
the unburied, 64 — Become ghosts, 67. 

II. THE NETHER WORLD. Belief in the nether world, 70— 
After life prolongation of earthly life, 72 — Greek doctrines in- 
troduced into Italy, 73 — Philosophical criticism, 76 — Hades 
transported to this life, 78 — Distinction of "soul" and shade, 
79 — Hades is the lower hemisphere, 79 — Hades in the air, 81 — 
Scepticism, 83 — Persistence of old tradition in literature and 
art, 84 — Ancient beliefs maintained in the people, 86 — Neo- 
Platonists, 87 — Persian dualism, 89. 

III. CELESTIAL IMMORTALITY. Widespread beliefs that 
souls rise to the stars, 91 — Unknown in ancient Greece, 94 — 
Pythagorism, 95 — Lunar immortality, 96 — Solar immortality, 
100— Combination of both, 102— Stellar immortality, 103— 
Combined with the other doctrines : three stages, 106 — Passage 
through the planetary spheres, 107 — Souls rise above the stars, 


IV. THE "WINNING OF IMMORTALITY. Ancient conception 
of immortality, 110 — Eminent men gods on earth, 111 — Im- 
mortality of the few, 114 — Mysteries claim to procure ' ' deifica- 
tion," 116— Lustrations, 118— Unctions, 119— Ritual banquets, 
120— The gnosis, 121 — Identification with a particular god, 
122 — Illumination by the astral divinities, 123 — Philosophy 
also leads to union with God, 124. 

V. UNTIMELY DEATH. Children not admitted to the Elysian 
Fields, 128 — Those who die violent deaths, 129 — Influence of 
astrology, 131 — Pythagorism, 132 — Magic, 134 — Philosophical 
reaction, 136 — Children initiated, 138 — Their souls rise to 
heaven, 139 — Different categories of biothanati, 141 — Soldiers 
slain in battle, 142 — Suicides, 143 — Executed criminals, 145 — 
Persistence of ancient beliefs, 146. 

nether world, 148 — The Pythagorean Y, 150 — The two roads, 
152 — How the dead reach heaven, 153 — On foot, by means of a 
ladder, 153 — In a boat, 154 — On horseback, 155 — In a chariot, 
156 — As a bird, 157 — Carried by an eagle, 158 — Solar attrac- 
tion, 160 — Physical theory, 161 — The air peopled with demons, 
162 — The gates of the planetary spheres, 162 — Guide of the 
souls, 163 — Physical character of the dead, 164 — The shade 
and the soul, 167 — Distinction of soul and reason, 168 — Neo- 
Platonic "vehicle," 169. 

SIS. Origin in Homer, 170 — Orphic theology, 171 — Resem- 
blance to penal law, 172 — Apocryphal gospel of Peter, 173 — 
Oriental influence, 174 — Fire of hell, 175 — Metempsychosis, 
its animistic basis, 177 — Origin in Greece, 177 — Souls passing 
continuously through different kinds of beings, 179 — Reincar- 
nation a punishment, 180 — "Palingenesis" or uncontinuous 
reincarnation, 182 — Transmigration from man to man, 183 — 
Purification of the soul in the air, 184 — by water and fire, 185 
— Purgatory in the atmosphere, 186 — The purified spirit re- 
mains in heaven, 187. 

190 — in the nether world, 193 — in the light of heaven, 193 — 
Persistence of these ideas among the Christians, 196 — Repast 
of the dead, 199 — Repast in the nether world, 201 — The funeral 


banquet and the sacred meal of the mysteries, 203 — Banquet 
in heaven, 205 — Persistence in Christianity, 206 — The sight of 
the god, 207 — In the astral cults, 208 — Communion of man with 
the stars, 209 — Immortality a contemplation of the astral gods, 
210 — Astral mysticism, 211 — Ecstasy of the Neo-Platonists, 212 
— Last conception of eternal bliss, 213. 

INDEX. P. 215. 


THE idea of death has perhaps never been more present to 
humanity than during the years through which we have 
just passed. It has been the daily companion of millions 
of men engaged in a murderous conflict ; it has haunted the even 
larger number who have trembled for the lives of their nearest and 
dearest; it is still constantly in the thoughts of the many who 
nurse regret for those they loved. And doubtless also, the faith 
or the hope has never more imposed itself, even on the unbeliev- 
ing, that these countless multitudes, filled with moral force and 
generous passion, who have entered eternity, have not wholly 
perished, that the ardour which animated them was not extin- 
guished when their limbs grew cold, that the spirit which im- 
pelled them to self-sacrifice was not dissipated with the atoms 
which formed their bodies. 

These feelings were known to the ancients also, who gave to this 
very conviction the form suggested by their religion. Pericles 1 
in his funeral eulogy of the warriors who fell at the siege of 
Samos declared that they who die for their country become like 
the immortal gods, and that, invisible like them, they still scatter 
their benefits on us. The ideas on immortality held in antiquity 
are often thus at once far from and near to our own — near be- 
cause they correspond to aspirations which are not antique or 
modern, but human, far because the Olympians now have fallen 
into the deep gulf where lie dethroned deities. These ideas become 
more and more like the conceptions familiar to us as gradually 
their time grows later, and those generally admitted at the end of 
paganism are analogous to the doctrines accepted throughout 
the Middle Ages. 

I flatter myself, therefore, that when I speak to you of the 
beliefs in a future life held in Roman times I have chosen a 
subject which is not very remote from us nor such as has no 
relation to our present thought or is capable of interesting only 
the learned. 

i Plut., Pericl, 8. 


We can here trace only the outlines of this vast subject. I am 
aware that it is always imprudent to hazard moral generalisa- 
tions : they are always wrong somewhere. Above all, it is perilous 
to attempt to determine with a few words the infinite variety 
of individual creeds, for nothing escapes historical observation 
more easily than the intimate convictions of men, which they 
often hide even from those near them. In periods of scepticism 
pious souls cling to old beliefs ; the conservative crowd remains 
faithful to ancestral traditions. When religion is resuming its 
empire, rationalistic minds resist the contagion of faith. It is 
especially difficult to ascertain up to what point ideas adopted 
by intellectual circles succeeded in penetrating the deep masses 
of the people. The epitaphs which have been preserved give us 
too scanty and too sparse evidence in this particular. Besides, in 
paganism a dogma does not necessarily exclude its opposite 
dogma: the two sometimes persist side by side in one mind as 
different possibilities, each of which is authorised by a respect- 
able tradition. You will therefore make the necessary reserva- 
tions to such of my statements as are too absolute. I shall be able 
to point out here only the great spiritual currents which succes- 
sively brought to Rome new ideas as to the Beyond, and to 
sketch the evolution undergone by the doctrines as to the lot and 
the abode of souls. You will not expect me to be precise as to the 
number of the partisans of each of these doctrines in the various 

At least we can distinguish the principal phases of the reli- 
gious movement which caused imperial society to pass from 
incredulity to certain forms of belief in immortality, forms at 
first somewhat crude but afterwards loftier, and we can see 
where this movement led. The change was a capital one and 
transformed for the ancients the whole conception of life. The 
axis about which morality revolved had to be shifted when ethics 
no longer sought, as in earlier Greek philosophy, to realise the 
sovereign good on this earth but looked for it after death. Thence- 
forth the activity of man aimed less at tangible realities, ensuring 
well-being to the family or the city or the state, and more at 
attaining to the fulfilment of ideal hopes in a supernatural world. 
Our sojourn here below was conceived as a preparation for 
another existence, as a transitory trial which was to result in 
infinite felicity or suffering. Thus the table of ethical values was 
turned upside down. 

"All our actions and all our thoughts," says Pascal, "must 


follow so different a course if there are eternal possessions for 
which we may hope than if there are not, that it is impossible 
to take any directed and well-judged step except by regulating 
it in view of this point which ought to be our ultimate goal. ' ' 2 

We will attempt first to sketch in a general introduction the 
historical transformation which belief in the future life under- 
went between the Republican period and the fall of paganism. 
Then, in three lectures, we will examine more closely the various 
conceptions of the abode of the dead held under the Roman Em- 
pire, study in three others the conditions or the means which 
enable men to attain to immortality and in the last two set forth 
the lot of souls in the Beyond. 

The cinerary vases of the prehistoric period are often modelled 
in the shape of huts : throughout, funeral sculpture follows the 
tradition that the tomb should reproduce the dwelling, and until 
the end of antiquity it was designated, in the West as in the East, 
as the ' ' eternal house ' ' of him who rested in it. 

Thus a conception of the tomb which goes back to the remotest 
ages and persists through the centuries regards it as ''the last 
dwelling ' ' of those who have left us ; and this expression has not 
yet gone out of use. It was believed that a dead man continued 
to live, in the narrow space granted him, a life which was grop- 
ing, obscure, precarious, yet like that he led on earth. Subject to 
the same needs, obliged to eat and to drink, he expected those 
who had been nearest to him to appease his hunger and thirst. 
The utensils he had used, the things he had cared for, were often 
deposited beside him so that he might pursue the occupations and 
enjoy the amusements which he had forsaken in the world. If he 
were satisfied he would stay quietly in the furnished house pro- 
vided for him and would not seek to avenge himself on those 
whose neglect had caused him suffering. Funeral rites were origi- 
nally inspired rather by fear than by love. They were precautions 
taken against the spirit of the dead rather than pious care 
bestowed in their interest. 3 

For the dead were powerful; their action was still felt; they 
were not immured in the tomb or confined beneath the ground. 
Men saw them reappear in dreams, wearing their former aspect. 
They were descried during shadowy vigils; their voices were 

zPensies, III, 194 (t. II, p. 103, ed. Brunschvigg). 
s See Lecture I, ' ' Lif a in the Tomb. ' ' 


heard and their movements noted. Imagination conceived them 
such as they had once been; recollection of them filled the 
memory and to think of such apparitions as idle or unreal seemed 
impossible. The dead subsisted, then, as nebulous, impalpable 
beings, perceived by the senses only exceptionally. Here the belief 
that their remains had not quite lost all feeling mingled with 
the equally primitive and universal belief that the soul is a 
breath, exhaled with the last sigh. The vaporous shade, sometimes 
a dangerous but sometimes a succouring power, wandered by 
night in the atmosphere and haunted the places which the living 
man had been used to frequent. Except for some sceptical reason- 
ers, all antiquity admitted the reality of these phantoms. Cen- 
tury-old beliefs, maintained by traditional rites, thus persisted, 
more or less definitely, in the popular mind, even after new 
forms of the future life were imagined. Many vestiges of these 
beliefs have survived until today. 

The first transformation undergone by the primitive concep- 
tion was to entertain the opinion that the dead who are deposited 
in the ground gather together in a great cavity inside the bowels 
of the earth. 4 This belief in the nether world is found among most 
of the peoples of the Mediterranean basin : the Sheol of the He- 
brews differs little from the Homeric Hades and the Italic Inferi. 

It has been conjectured that the substitution of incineration 
for inhumation contributed to spreading this new manner of 
conceiving life beyond the tomb: the shade could not remain 
attached to a handful of ashes enclosed in a puny urn. It went, 
then, to join its fellows who had gone down into the dark dwell- 
ing where reigned the gods of a subterranean kingdom. But as 
ghosts could leave their graves in order to trouble or to help 
men, so the swarms of the infernal spirits rose to the upper world 
through the natural openings of the earth, or through ditches dug 
for the purpose of maintaining communication with them and 
conciliating them with offerings. 

The Romans do not seem to have imagined survival in the 
infernal regions very differently from the survival of the vague 
monotonous shades in their tombs. Their Manes or Lemures had 
no marked personality or clearly characterised individual fea- 
tures. The Inferi were not, as in Greece, a stage for the enactment 
of a tragic drama ; their inhabitants had no original life, and in 
the lot dealt to them no idea of retribution can be discerned. 

4 See Lecture II, ' * The Nether World. ' ' 


In this matter it was the Hellenes who imposed their conceptions 
of Hades on the Italic peoples and gave them those half mythical 
and half theological beliefs which Orphism had introduced in 
their own religion. Hellenic influence was felt directly through 
the colonies of Greater Greece, indirectly through the Etruscans, 
whose funeral sculpture shows us that they had adopted all the 
familiar figures of the Greek Hades — Charon, Cerberus, the 
Furies, Hermes Psychopompos and the others. 5 

From the time when Latin literature had its beginnings and 
the Latin theatre was born, we find writers taking pleasure in 
reproducing the Hellenic fables of Tartarus and the Elysian 
Fields ; and Plautus 6 can already make one of his characters say 
that he has seen "many paintings representing the pains of 
Acheron." This infernal mythology became an inexhaustible 
theme which gave matter to poetry and art until the end of 
antiquity and beyond it. We shall see, in later lectures, how the 
religious traditions of the Greeks were subjected to various 
transformations and interpretations. 

But Greece did not introduce poetic beliefs only into Rome: 
she also caused her philosophy to be adopted there from the 
second century onwards, and this philosophy tended to be de- 
structive both of those beliefs and of the old native faith in the 
Manes and in the Orcus. Polybius, 7 when speaking appreciatively 
of the religion of the Romans, praises them for having inculcated 
in the people a faith in numerous superstitious practices and 
tragic fictions. He considers this to be an excellent way of keep- 
ing them to their duty by the fear of infernal punishment. 
Hence we gather that if the historian thought it well for the 
people to believe in these inventions, then, in his opinion, en- 
lightened persons, like his friends the Scipios, could see in them 
nothing but the stratagems of a prudent policy. But the scepti- 
cism of a narrow circle of aristocrats could not be confined to it 
for long when Greek ideas were more widely propagated. 

Greek philosophy made an early attack on the ideas held as to 
a future life. Even Democritus, the forerunner of Epicurus, 
spoke of "some people who ignore the dissolution of our mortal 
nature and, aware of the perversity of their life, pass their time 

s See Lecture II, p. 73. 

6 Plautus, Capt., V, 4, 1. 

7 Polyb., VI, 56, 12. 


in unrest and in fear and forge for themselves deceitful fables 
as to the time when follows their end." 8 It is true that in the 
fourth century Plato's idealism had supplied, if not a strict 
proof of immortality, yet reasons for it sufficient to procure its 
acceptance by such as desired to be convinced. But in the Alex- 
andrian age, which was the surpassingly scientific period of 
Greek thought, there was a tendency to remove all metaphysical 
and mythical conceptions of the soul's destiny from the field of 
contemplation. This was the period in which the Academy, 
Plato's own school, unfaithful to its founder's doctrines, was 
led by men who, like Carneades, raised scepticism to a system and 
stated that man can reach no certainty. "We know that when 
Carneades was sent to Rome as ambassador in 156 B. C. he made 
a great impression by maintaining that justice is a matter of 
convention, and that he was consequently banished by the senate 
as a danger to the state. But we need only read Cicero's works 
to learn what a lasting influence his powerfully destructive 
dialectics had. 

The dogmatism of other sects was at this time hardly at all 
more favourable to the traditional beliefs in another life. 

Aristotle had thought that human reason alone persisted, and 
that the emotional and nutritive soul was destroyed with the 
body, but he left no personality to this pure intelligence, de- 
prived of all sensibility. He definitely denied that the " blessed" 
could be happy. With him begins a long period during which 
Greek philosophy nearly ceased to speculate on destiny beyond 
the grave. It was repugnant to Peripatetic philosophy to concern 
itself with the existence of a soul which could be neither con- 
ceived nor defined by reason. Some of Aristotle's immediate 
disciples, like Aristoxenus and Dicaearchus, or Straton of Lamp- 
sacus, the pupil of Theophrastus, agreed in denying immortality 
altogether; and later, in the time of the Severi, Alexander of 
Aphrodisias, the great commentator of The Stagirite, undertook 
to prove that the entire soul, that is the higher and the lower 
soul, had need of the body in order to be active and perished 
with it, and that such was the veritable thought of the master. 
But profoundly as Peripateticism affected Greek thought, 
directly and indirectly, in practically discarding the future life, 
this was not the philosophy which dominated minds towards the 
end of the Roman Republic. Other schools then had a much wider 

sDiels, Fragm. VorsoTcratiker*, II, p. 121, fr. 297. 


influence and made this influence felt much more deeply on 
eschatological beliefs. These schools were Epicureanism and 

Epicurus took up again the doctrine of Democritus, and 
taught that the soul, which was composed of atoms, was disinte- 
grated at the moment of death, when it was no longer held 
together by its fleshly wrapping, and that its transitory unity was 
then destroyed for ever. The vital breath, after being expelled, 
was, he said, buffeted by the winds and dissolved in the air like 
mist or smoke, even before the body was decomposed. This was 
so ancient a conception that Homer had made use of a like com- 
parison, and the idea that the violence of the wind can act on 
souls as a destructive force was familiar to Athenian children 
in Plato 's time. 9 But if the soul thus resolves itself, after death, 
into its elementary principles, how can phantoms come to 
frighten us in the watches of the night or beloved beings visit 
us in our dreams? These simulacra ( € t8<oAa) are for Epicurus no 
more than emanations of particles of an extreme tenuity, con- 
stantly issuing from bodies and keeping for some time their form 
and appearance. They act on our senses as do colour and scent 
and awake in us the image of a vanished being. 

Thus we are vowed to annihilation, but this lot is not one to 
be dreaded. Death, which is held to be the most horrible of ills, 
is in reality nothing of the sort, since the destruction of our 
organism abolishes all its sensibility. The time when we no 
longer exist is no more painful for us than that when we had 
not yet our being. As Plato deduced the persistence of the soul 
after death from its supposed previous existence, so Epicurus 
drew an opposite conclusion from our ignorance of our earlier 
life ; and, according to him, the conviction that we perish wholly 
can alone ensure our tranquillity of spirit by delivering us 
from the fear of eternal torment. 

There is no one of the master's doctrines on which his disciples 
insist with more complacent assurance. They praise him for hav- 
ing freed men from the terrors of the Beyond ; they thank him 
for having taught them not to fear death ; his philosophy appears 
to them as a liberator of souls. Lucretius in his third book, of 
which eighteenth-century philosophers delighted to celebrate the 
merits, claims, with a sort of exaltation, to drive from men's 

9 Homer, II., *, 100; Plato, Phaed., 77 D; cf. Eohde, Psyche, II*, p. 264, 
n. 2. 


hearts "that dread of Acheron which troubles human life to its 
inmost depths. ' ' 10 The sage sees all the cruel fictions, with which 
fable had peopled the kingdom of terrors, scattered abroad, and, 
when he has rid himself of the dismay which haunts the common 
man, which casts a mournful veil over things and leaves no joy 
unmixed, he finds a blessed calm, the perfect quietude or 

This doctrine, which Lucretius preached with the enthusiasm 
of a neophyte won to the true faith, had a profound reaction in 
Rome. Its adepts in Cicero's circle were numerous, including 
Cassius, the murderer of Caesar. Sallust goes so far as to make 
Caesar himself affirm, in full senate, that death, the rest from 
torment, dispels the ills which afflict mankind, that beyond it 
there is neither joy nor sorrow. 11 Men of science, in particular, 
were attracted by these theories. In a celebrated passage Pliny 
the Naturalist, after categorically declaring that neither the soul 
nor the body has any more sensation after death than before the 
day of birth, ends with a vehement apostrophe : ' ' Unhappy one, 
what folly is thine who in death renewest life ! "Where will crea- 
tures ever find rest if souls in heaven, if shades in the infernal 
regions, still have feeling? Through this complacent credulity 
we lose death, the greatest boon which belongs to our nature, 
and the sufferings of our last hour are doubled by the fear of 
what will follow after. If it be indeed sweet to live, for whom 
can it be so to have lived? How much easier and more certain 
is the belief which each man can draw from his own experience, 
when he pictures his future tranquillity on the pattern of that 
which preceded his birth!" 12 

Even Seneca in one of his tragedies, an early work, makes the 
chorus of Trojan women declaim a long profession of faith which 
is the purest Epicureanism. 13 

The invasion of the Roman world by the Oriental mysteries 
and superstitions in the second century caused the unbelievers to 
exalt Epicurus yet higher. The satirist Lucian, using almost the 
same expressions as Lucretius, proclaims the truly sacred and 

10 HI, 38: 

"Et metus ille foras praeceps Aeheruntis agendus 
Funditus humanam qui vitam turbat ab imo. ' ' 
ii Sail., Cat., 51, 20. 
12 Pliny, H. N., VII, 55, § 190. 
is Seneca, Troades, 382 ss. 


divine character of him who alone knew the good with the true, 
and who transmitted it to his disciples, to whom he gave moral 
liberty. 14 Believers everywhere looked upon him as a terrible blas- 
phemer. The prophet Alexander of Abonotichos enjoined all 
who would obtain divine graces to drive away with stones ' ' athe- 
ists, Epicureans and Christians," and exclude them from his 
mysteries. 15 He ordered by an oracle that the writings of him 
whom he called "the blind old man" should be burnt. When 
mysticism and Platonism triumphed in the Roman world, Epi- 
cureanism ceased to exist. It had disappeared in the middle of 
the fourth century, yet Julian the Apostate thought it advisable 
to include the writings of Epicurus among the books which were 
forbidden to the priests of his revived paganism. 16 

Thus during several centuries this philosophy had won a 
multitude of followers. The inscriptions bear eloquent wit- 
ness to this fact. The most remarkable of them is a long text 
which was set out on the wall of a portico in the little town of 
Oenoanda in Lycia. A worthy citizen, Diogenes by name, who 
seems to have lived under the Antonines, was a convinced par- 
tisan of the doctrine of Epicurus ; and feeling his end draw near, 
he wished to engrave an exposition thereof on marble for the 
present and future edification of his countrymen and of stran- 
gers. He does not fail to evince his contempt for death, at which, 
he says, he has learnt to mock. ' ' I do not let myself be frightened 
by the Tityi and the Tantali whom some represent in Hades; 
horror does not seize me when I think of the putrefaction of my 
body . . . when the links which bind our organism are loosened, 
nothing further touches us." 17 These are ideas which we find 
reproduced everywhere, in various forms, for Epicureanism did 
not only win convinced partisans in the most cultivated circles, 
but also spread in the lowest strata of the population, as is 
proved by epitaphs expressing unbelief in an after life. Some do 
not go beyond a short profession of faith, "We are mortal; we 
are not immortal." 18 One maxim is repeated so often that it is 
sometimes expressed only by initials, "I was not; I was; I am 

i*Lucian, Alex., c. 61; c. 47. 
isLucian, ibid., c. 38; e. 44; c. 47. 
is Julian, Epist., 89 (p. 747, 23, ed. Bidez-Cumont). 

it Cousin, Bull. corr. hell, XVI, 1897; cf. Usener, Ehein. Mus., N. F., 
XLVII, p. 428. 

isCIL, XI, 856=Biicheler, Carm. epigraphica, 191. 


not ; I do not care. ' ' 19 So man goes back to nothingness whence 
he went forth. It has been remarked that this epigraphic formula 
was engraved especially on the tombs of slaves, who had slight 
reason for attachment to life. Gladiators also adopted the sen- 
tence : these wretched men, who were to prove their indifference 
to death in the arena, were taught that it marked the destruction 
of feeling and the term of their suffering. 

The same thought is sometimes expressed less brutally, almost 
touchingly. Thus a comedian, who has spouted many verses and 
tramped many roads, voices in his epitaph the conviction that 
life is a loan, like a part in a play: "My mouth no longer gives 
out any sound; the noise of applause no longer reaches me; 
I paid my debt to nature and have departed. All this is but 
dust." 20 Another actor, who recited Homer's verses in the festi- 
vals, tells us that he "laughs at illusions and slumbers softly," 
returning to the Epicurean comparison of death with an uncon- 
scious sleep which has no awakening. 21 

Some wordier unbelievers felt the need of enlarging on their 
negations. 22 "There is no boat of Hades, no ferryman Charon, 
no Aeacus as doorkeeper, no dog Cerberus. All we, whom death 
sends down to the earth, become bones and ashes and no more. . . . 
Offer not perfumes and garlands to my stele : it is but a stone ; 
burn no fire : the expenditure is vain. If thou have a gift, give 
it me while I live. If thou givest to my ashes to drink, thou wilt 
make mud : and the dead will not drink. . . . When thou scatterest 
earth on my remains, say that I have again become as I was 
when I was not. ' ' This last thought occurs frequently. Thus on a 
Roman tomb we read : "We are and we were nothing. See, reader, 
how swiftly we mortals go back from nothingness to nothing- 
ness." 23 

Sometimes these dead adopt a joking tone which is almost 
macabre. Thus a freedman, merry to the grave, boasts of the 
amenities of his new state: "What remains of man, my bones, 
rests sweetly here. I no longer have the fear of sudden starva- 

19 Dessau, Inscript. selectae, 8162 ss.; cf. Eecueil des inscriptions du 
Font, 110: "Non fui, fui, non sum, non euro." 

20 Eecueil, 143. 

21 Cf. Lecture VIII, p. 192. 

22 Kaibel, Epigr. Graeca, 646. 

23 Bucheler, Carm. epigr., 1495=CIL, VI, 26003 : 

"Nil sumus et fuimus. Mortales respice, lector, 
In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidimus." 


tion; I am exempt from attacks of gout; my body is no longer 
pledged for my rent; and I enjoy free and perpetual hospi- 
tality." 24 

Often a grosser Epicureanism recommends that we make profit 
of our earthly passage since the fatal term deprives us for ever 
of the pleasures which are the sovereign good. "Es bibe lude 
veni" — "Eat, drink, play, come hither" — is advice which is 
several times repeated. 25 Not uncommonly, variations occur, in- 
spired by the famous epitaph which was on the alleged tomb 
of Sardanapalus and is resumed in the admonition: "Indulge 
in voluptuousness, for only this pleasure wilt thou carry away 
with thee"; or as it is expressed in the Epistle to the Corin- 
thians, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 26 So we 
read on a stone found near Beneventum: "What I have eaten 
and what I have drunk; that is all that belongs to me." 27 A 
well-known distich states that "Baths, wine, and love impair 
our bodies, but baths, wine, and love make life"; 28 and a 
veteran of the army had advice based on his own example 
engraved on his tomb, "While I lived, I drank willingly; drink, 
ye who live." 29 The exhortation to enjoy a life soon to be inter- 
rupted by death is a traditional theme which has lent itself to 
many developments in ancient and modern poetry. It is the 
formula which resumes the wisdom of the popular Epicureanism. 
Some silver goblets, found in Boscoreale near Pompeii, 30 show us 
philosophers and poets among skeletons, and inscriptions urging 
them to rejoice while they live, since no man is certain of the 

24 Biicheler, Carm. epigr., 1247=CIL, VI, 7193: 

"Quod superest homini requiescunt dulciter ossa, 
Nee sum sollicitus ne subito esuriam. 
Et podagram careo, nee sum pensionibus arra 
Et gratis aeterno perf ruor hospitio. ' ' 

25 Biicheler, op. cit., 1500. 

26 I Cor. 15. 32. 

27 Biicheler, op. cit., 187: "Quod comedi et ebibi tantum meum est." Cf. 
ibid., 244 : ' ' Quod edi, bibi, mecum habeo, quod reliqui, perdidi. ' ' 

28 Biicheler, op. cit., 1499; Dessau, Inscr. sel., 8157: 

' ' Balnea, vina, venus corrumpunt corpora nostra, 
Sed vitam f aciunt balnea, vina, venus. ' ' 

29 Biicheler, op. cit., 243: "Dum vixi, bibi libenter; bibite vos qui 
vivitis. ' ' 

30 Heron de Villefosse, Le tresor de Boscoreale, in Monuments Piot, V, 
Paris, 1899. 


morrow. Epicurus appears in person, his hand stretching towards 
a cake on a table ; and between his legs is a little pig lifting his 
feet and snout to the cake to take his share of it. Above the cake 
are the Greek words, TO TEA02 HAONH, "The supreme end is 
pleasure." Horace, when he advises us to live from day to day 
without poisoning the passing hour with hopes or fears for the 
future, speaks of himself, jestingly, as a fat "hog of Epicurus' 
herd. ' ' 31 It was thus that the vulgar interpreted the precepts of 
him who had in reality preached moderation and renunciation 
as the means of reaching true happiness. 

If Epicureanism chose its ground as the passionate adversary 
of religious beliefs, the other great system which shared its 
dominance of minds in Rome, Stoicism, sought, on the contrary, 
to reconcile these beliefs with its theories. But the allegorical 
interpretations which Stoicism suggested, led, indirectly, to 
nearly the same result as a complete negation, for when it 
changed the meaning of the ancient myths it really destroyed 
the traditions which it sought to preserve. This is true in par- 
ticular of its ideas as to the future life. 

It will be remembered that man is for the Stoics a microcosm, 
who reproduces in his person the constitution of the universe. 
The entire mass of the world is conceived by them as animated 
by a divine Fire, a first principle which evokes the succession of 
natural phenomena. An uninterrupted chain of causes, ordered 
by this supreme reason, necessarily determines the course of 
events and irresistibly governs the existence of the great All. 
This cosmic life is conceived as formed of an infinite series of 
exactly similar cycles: the four elements are periodically reab- 
sorbed into the purest of their number, which is the Fire of 
intelligence, and then, after the general conflagration, are once 
more dissociated. 

In the same way our organism lives, moves and thinks because 
it is animated by a detached particle of this fiery principle which 
penetrates everything. As this principle reaches to the limits 
of the universe, so our soul occupies the whole body in which it 
lodges. The pantheism of the Porch conceives as material both 
God and the reason which rules us, the reason which is, in the 
emphatic words of Epictetus, 32 "a fragment of God." It is defined 

31 Epist., I, 4, 16. 

32 Epict., Diss., I, 14, 6; II, 8, 11 ( airb^iraana tou deov). 


as a hot breath (Trvevfxa irvp&Sesj anima inflammata) ; it is like the 
purest part of the air which maintains life by respiration, or the 
ardent ether which feeds the stars. This individual soul main- 
tains and preserves man, as the soul of the world, by connecting 
its various parts, saves it from disintegration. But on both sides 
this action is only temporary; souls cannot escape the fatal lot 
imposed on the whole of which they are but a tiny portion. At 
the end of each cosmic period the universal conflagration 
(eKTrv/Dwo-is) will cause them to return to the divine home whence 
all of them came forth. 33 But if the new cycle, making its new 
beginning, is to reproduce exactly that which preceded it, a 
1 ' palingenesis ' ' will one day give to the same souls, endowed with 
the same qualities, the same existence in the same bodies formed 
of the same elements. 

This is the maximum limit of the immortality which the 
materialistic pantheism of the Stoic philosophy could concede. 
Nor did all the doctors agree in granting it. The variations of 
the school on a point which seems to us of capital importance 
are most remarkable. While Cleanthes did indeed admit that all 
souls thus subsisted after their brief passage on earth for thou- 
sands of years and until the final ekpyrosis, for Chrysippus only 
the souls of the sages had part in this restricted immortality. 
In order to win it they must temper their strength by resisting 
the passions. The weak, who had let themselves be conquered in 
the struggle of this life, fell in the Beyond also. 34 At the most 
they obtained a short period of after life. The brevity or the 
absence of this other existence was the chastisement of their 

Thus, almost the same moral consequences and incitements to 
good could be drawn from a conditional and diminished immor- 
tality, as from the general eternity of pains and rewards which 
other thinkers taught. But the Stoics were not unanimous in 
adopting these doctrines. We do not clearly perceive how far 
they agreed in admitting that the soul, deprived of corporeal 
organs, was endowed with feeling and, in particular, kept an 
individual conscience connected with that possessed on earth. 
It is certain that a definitely negative tendency showed itself in 
Rome among the sectaries of Zeno. Panaetius, the friend of the 
Scipios, and one of the writers who did most to win the Romans 
over to the ideas of the Porch, here dissociated himself from his 

33 Cf., e.g., Sen., Consol. Marc, end. 

s^ See Lecture IV, p. 115 s. 


masters and absolutely denied personal survival. 35 This attitude 
was subsequently that of many Roman Stoics of those who repre- 
sented the school 's tradition most purely. The master of the poet 
Persius, Cornutus, of whom a short work remains to us, declared 
that the soul died with the body, immediately. 36 Similarly, at a 
later date, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, although they some- 
times seem to admit the possibility of survival, certainly incline 
rather to believe that souls are disintegrated and return to the 
elemental mass whence they were formed. Even Seneca, who is 
more swayed by other tendencies and whose wavering thought 
does not always remain consistent nor perspicuous, is not con- 
vinced of the truth of immortality. It is no more to him than a 
beautiful hope. 

How is it that Stoicism thus hesitated at a point on which 
the whole conception of human life seems to us to depend? It 
was that eschatological theories had in reality only a secondary 
value in this system, of which the essential part was not affected 
by their variability. True Stoicism placed the realisation of its 
ideal in this world. For it the aim of our existence here below was 
not preparation for death but the conquest of perfect virtue, 
which freed him who had attained to it from the passions and 
thus conferred on him independence and felicity. Man could, of 
himself, reach a complete beatitude which was not impaired by 
the limits placed to his duration. The sage, a blissful being, was a 
god on earth: heaven could give him nothing more. Therefore 
for these philosophers the answer to the question, "What be- 
comes of us after death?" did not depend on moral considera- 
tions as it generally does for us. For them it rather followed on 
physical theories. 

If these theories allow of different solutions of the problem of 
immortality, they agree on one point — the impossibility that the 
soul, if it is to last longer than we, should go down into the 
depths of the earth ; for the soul was, as we have said, conceived 
as an ardent breath ; that is to say, as formed of the two elements, 
air and fire, which have the property of rising to the heights. 
Its very nature prevented its descent : "it is impossible to con- 
ceive that it is borne downwards. ' ' 37 Thus all the vulgar notions 
as to Hades were in contradiction with Stoic psychology, a point 

35 Cic, Tusc, I, 79. 

36 Stob., Eel, I, 384, Wachsmuth. 

37 Sextus Empiricus, Adv. Math., IX, 71 : Ou5£ ras \f/vxas Zvevnv v-rroporjaai 
Kdrta 0e/)o^i/as. Cf. Cic, Tusc, I, 16, 37; 17, 40. 


to which we will return in treating of the nether world. 38 These 
philosophers do indeed speak of Hades but, faithful to their 
habits, while they use traditional terms they give them a new 
meaning. ''The descent into Hades" is for them simply the de- 
parting from life, the transference of the soul to new surround- 
ings. Thus Epictetus, who uses this expression (/<a<9o8o9 eU *Ai8ov), 
clearly states in another passage, " There is no Hades, no 
Acheron, no Cocytus, no Pyriphlegethon, but all is filled with 
gods and demons." 39 These gods and demons were, however, no 
more than personifications of the forces of nature. 40 

The true Stoic doctrine is, then, that souls, when they leave 
the corpse, subsist in the atmosphere and especially in its highest 
part which touches the circle of the moon. 41 But after a longer 
or less interval of time they, like the flesh and the bones, are 
decomposed and dissolve into the elements which formed them. 
This thought, like Epicurean nihilism, often appears in epi- 
taphs, and shows how Stoic ideas had spread among the people. 
| Thus on a tombstone found in Moesia we read first the mournful 
i statement that there is neither love nor friendship among the 
I dead and that the corpse lies like a stone sunk into the ground. 
j Then the dead man adds : 42 ' ' I was once composed of earth, water 
j and airy breath (ttvcv/xo), but I perished, and here I rest, having 
! rendered all to the All. Such is each man 's lot. What of it ? 
| There, whence my body came, did it return, when it was dis- 
i solved. ' ' Sometimes there is more insistence on the notion that 
j this cosmic breath, in which ours is gathered up, is the godhead 
who fills and rules the world. So in this epitaph: "The holy 
1 spirit which thou didst bear has escaped from thy body. That 
I body remains here and is like the earth ; the spirit pursues the 
revolving heavens ; the spirit moves all ; the spirit is nought else 
than God." 43 Elsewhere we find the following brief formula, 
which sums up the same idea: "The ashes have my body; the 
sacred air has borne away my soul. ' ' 44 Very characteristic is an 
inscription inspired by verses of a Greek poet, on the tomb of a 
| Roman woman : ' ' Here I lie dead and I am ashes ; these ashes are 

38 Cf. Lecture II, p. 77. 

39 Epictetus, III, 13, 15; cf. II, 6, 18. 

40 Bonhofer, Epictet. und die Stoa, 1890, p. 65. 
« Cf. Lecture III, p. 98. 

42 Arch. Epigr. Mitt, aus Oesterreich, VI, 1882, p. 60; cf. Epictetus, I. c. 

43 CIL, XIII, 8371, at Cologne. 

44CIL, III, 6384: "Corpus habent cineres, animam sacer abstulit aer." 


earth. If the earth be a goddess, I too am a goddess and am not 
dead." 45 

These verses express the same great thought in various forms : 
death is disappearance into the depths of divine nature. It is not 
for the preservation of an ephemeral personality that we must 
hope. Our soul, a fleeting energy detached from the All, must 
enter again into the All as must our body : both are absorbed by 

''When that which drew from out the boundless deep 
Turns again home. ' M6 

The fiery breath of our intelligence is gathered, as are the matter 
and the humours of our organism, into the inexhaustible reser- 
voir which produced them, as one day the earth and the heavens 
will be gathered thither also. All must be engulfed in one whole, 
must lose itself in one forgetfulness. "When man has reached the 
term of his fate, he faints into the one power which forms and 
leads the universe, just as the tired stars will be extinguished in 
it, when their days shall be accomplished. Resistance to the 
supreme law is vain and painful; rebellion against the irresist- 
ible order of things is impious. The great virtue taught by 
Stoicism is that of submission to the fatality which guides the 
world, of joyous acceptance of the inevitable. Philosophic litera- 
ture and the epitaphs present to us, repeatedly and in a thousand 
forms, the idea that we cannot strive against omnipotent neces- 
sity, that the rule of this rigid master must be borne without 
tears or recriminations. The wise man, who destroys within him- 
self desire of any happenings, enjoys even during this existence 
divine calm in the midst of tribulations, but those whom the 
vicissitudes of life drive or attract, who let illusions seduce or 
grieve them, will at last obtain remission of their troubles when 
they reach the tranquil haven of death. This thought is ex- 
pressed by a distich which often recurs on tombs, in Greek and in 
Latin. ' ' I have fled, escaped. Farewell, Hope and Fortune. I have 
nothing more to do with you. Make others your sport. ' ' 47 

45 Dessau, Inscr. set, 8168; Biicheler, Carm. epigr., 1532; cf. 974: 

"Mortua heie ego sum et sum cinis, is cinis terrast, 
Sein est terra dea, ego sum dea, mortua non sum." 

46 Tennyson, Crossing the Bar. 

47 Biicheler, Carm. epigr., 1498 : 

' ' Evasi effugi ; Spes et Fortuna valete ; 
Nil mihi vobiscum. Ludificate alios. ' ' 
Cf. Biicheler, 409, 9; 434; Anthol. Pal, IX, 49; 172; Vettius Valens, V, 9 
(p. 219, 26, Kroll). 


Stoic determinism found support in the astrology which 
originated in Babylonia and was transplanted to Egypt, and 
which spread in the Graeco-Latin world from the second century 
B. C. onwards, propagating its mechanical and fatalistic concep- 
tion of the universe. According to this pseudo-science, all physical 
phenomena depended absolutely, like the character and acts of 
men, on the revolutions of the celestial bodies. Thus all the forces 
of nature and the very energy of intelligence acted in accordance 
with an inflexible necessity. Hence worship had no object and 
prayer no effect. In this way the sidereal divination, which had 
grown up in the temples of the East, ended in Greece, among 
certain of its adepts, in a negation of the very basis of religion. 48 
It is noteworthy that in the writings left to us there is hardly 
an allusion to the immortality of the soul. When they speak of 
what comes after death there is question only of funerals and 
posthumous glory. We never find in them a promise to the unfor- 
tunate, weighed down by misadventure and infirmities, of con- 
solation or compensation in the Beyond. The systematic astrology 
of the Greeks limits its horizon to this world, although traces of 
the belief in Hades subsist in its vocabulary and its predictions 
and although this same astral divination inspired in the mys- 
teries certain eschatological theories, as we shall see later. 49 

The rationalistic and scientific period of Hellenic thought 
which began, as we have said, with Aristotle, filled the Hel- 
lenistic period and continued until the century of Augustus. 
Towards the end of the Roman Republic faith in the future life 
was reduced to a minimum and the scepticism or indifference of 
the Alexandrians was carried into Italy. The mocking verses of 
an epigram of Callimachus, a man of learning as well as a poet, 
is well known. 50 "Charidas, what is there down below? Deep 
darkness. But what of the journeys upwards? All lies. And 
Pluto ? A fable. Then we are lost. ' ' Catullus was to say as much, 
less lightly, with a deeper feeling. "Suns can set and rise again, 
but we, when our brief light is extinguished, must sleep for an 

48 See my Oriental religions, p. 180; 276, n. 51 s. 

49 See Lecture III, pp. 96, 107; VII, p. 176. 
so Callim., Epigr., 15, 3 : 

'ft Xapida tI ra vtpde; — IIoXi) (Xk6tos — Al 5'S.vodoi rt; 
<&ev5os — '0 5£ UXovtwv; — Mvdos — ' Airw\6/x€6a 


eternal night." 51 The religions belief in retribution in the Be- 
yond was shaken, as all the others were, not only in literary and 
philosophic circles but among a large section of the population. 
The old tales of the Elysian Fields and Tartarus no longer found 
credence, as convincing testimony will show us. 52 Those who 
sought to preserve them could do so only by using a daring 
symbol which altered their character. But the idea of conscious 
survival after death was itself no longer looked upon as sure. 
Many who did not go so far as to deny it brutally were firmly 
agnostic. When we turn over the pages of the thick volumes of 
the Corpus inscriptionum, we are struck by the small number 
of the epitaphs which express the hope of immortality. The im- 
pression received is quite the contrary of that given by going 
through our own graveyards or surveying the collections of 
Christian epitaphs of antiquity. On by far the larger number 
of the tombs the survival of the soul was neither affirmed nor 
denied; it was not mentioned otherwise than by the banal for- 
mula Dis M anions — so bereft of meaning that even some Chris- 
tians made use of it. Or else the authors of funereal inscriptions, 
like the contemporary writers, used careful phrases which showed 
their mental hesitations : "If the Manes still perceive anything. 
... If any feeling subsist after death. ... If there be reward for 
the righteous beneath the ground." 53 Such doubting propositions 
are most frequent. The same indecision made people return to an 
alternative presented by Plato in the Apology, 54 before his ideas 
had evolved, and repeat that death is ' ' an end or a passage, ' ' — • 
mors aut finis ant transit us, — and no choice is made between the 
two possibilities: the question is left open. The future life was 
generally regarded as a consoling metaphysical conception, a 
mere hypothesis supported by some thinkers, a religious hope 
but not an article of faith. The lofty conclusion which ends 
Agricola's eulogy will be remembered. "If," says Tacitus, 
"there be an abode of the spirits of virtuous men, if, as sages 
have taught, great souls be not extinguished with the body, rest 
in peace." But side by side with the supposition thus hazarded, 

si Cat., V, 4 : 

1 ' Soles occidere et redire possunt ; 
Nobis quum semel oceidit brevis lux, 
Nox est perpetua una dormienda. ' ' 

52 Cf. Lecture II, p. 83, and VII, p. 181. 

53 Biicheler, Carm. epigr., 180, 1147, 1190, 1339, etc. 

54 Plato, Apol., 40c-41c. 


the historian expresses the assurance that Agrieola will receive 
another reward for his merits. All that his contemporaries have 
loved and admired in his character will canse the fame of his 
deeds to live in men's memory through the eternity of ages. 

We here see how the perplexity in which men struggled, when 
they thought of psychic survival, gave earthly immortality a 
greater value in the eyes of the ancients. It was for many of them 
the essential point because it alone was certain. Not to fall into 
the abyss of forgetfulness seemed a sufficient reward for virtue. 
"Death is to be feared by those for whom everything is extin- 
guished with their life, not by those whose renown cannot 
perish." 55 That the commemoration of our merits may not cease 
when the short time of our passage here below has ended, but 
may be prolonged for as long as the sequence of future genera- 
tions lasts — this is the deep desire which stimulates virtue and 
excites to effort. Cicero, when celebrating in the Pro Archia™ 
the benefits wrought by the love of glory, — from which he was by 
no means exempt himself, — remarks shrewdly that even philos- 
ophers, who claim to show its vanity, are careful to place their 
names at the beginning of their books, thus showing the worth 
they attach to that which they exhort others to despise. Even 
more than today, the hope of a durable renown, the anxiety that 
their fellows should be busy about them even after their depar- 
ture, the preoccupation lest their life should not be favourably 
judged by public opinion, haunted many men, secretly or avow- 
edly dominated their thought and directed their actions. Even 
those who had played only a modest part in the world and had 
made themselves known only to a narrow circle, sought to render 
their memory unforgettable by building strong tombs for them- 
selves along the great roads. Epitaphs often begin with the 
formula Memoriae aeternae, "To the eternal memory," which 
we have inherited, although the idea it represents no longer has 
for most of us any but a very relative value. 

In antiquity it was first connected with the old belief in a 
communion of sentiments and an exchange of services between 
the deceased and their descendants who celebrated the funeral 
cult. When the firm belief in the power of the shades to feel and 
act ceased to exist, offerings were made with another intention : 

55 Cic, Parad. Stoic, II, 18: "Mors est terribilis iis quorum cum vita 
omnia exstinguntur, non iis quorum laus emori non potest. ' ' 
se Cic, Pro Archia, 11, 26; cf. Tusc, I, 15, 34. 


survivors liked to think that he who had gone had not entirely 
perished as long as his remembrance subsisted in the hearts of 
those who had cherished him and the minds of those who had 
learnt his praises. In some way, he rose from the grave in the 
image made of him by the successors of those who had known 
him. Epicurus himself stipulated in his will that the day of his 
birth should be commemorated every month, 57 and under the 
Roman Empire his disciples were still piously celebrating this 
recurring feast. Thus this deep instinct of preservation, which 
impels human beings to desire survival, showed itself even in him 
who contributed most of all to destroy faith in immortality. 

It is always with difficulty that men resign themselves to 
dying wholly. Even when reason admits, nay when it desires, 
annihilation, the subconscious self protests against it; our per- 
sonality is impelled by its very essence to crave the persistence of 
its self. Besides, the feelings of survivors rebel against the pain of 
an unending separation, the definite loss of all affections. In the 
troubled times which marked the end of the Roman Republic, at 
a moment when changing fortune periodically turned all the 
conditions of existence upside down, there grew up a stronger 
aspiration to a better future, a search, to use the words of the 
ancients, for a sure haven, in which man, tossed by the storms of 
life, might find quiet. Thus in the first century B. C. the birth was 
seen, or rather the rebirth, of a mystic movement which claimed 
to give by direct communication with God the certainties which 
reason could not supply. The chief preoccupation of philosophers 
began to be those capital questions as to the origin and end of 
man which the schools of the earlier period had neglected as 
unanswerable. It was above all the Neo-Pythagoreans who gave 
up pure rationalism, and thus brought Roman thought to admit 
new forms of immortality. 

When the scientific school of the old Pythagorism came to an 
end in Italy in the fourth century, the sect perpetuated itself 
obscurely in mysterious conventicles, a sort of freemasonry of 
which the influence in the Hellenistic period is difficult to meas- 
ure or circumscribe. It again took on new power in Alexandria 
under the Ptolemies. In this metropolis, in which all the currents 
of Europe and Asia were mingled, Pythagorism admitted at this 

57 Diog. Laert., X, 16=fragm. 217 Usener; cf. Plin., H. N., XXXV, 5. 


time many ideas foreign to the teaching of the old master of 
Samos. This teaching seems not to have set forth a rigid, 
logically constructed theology, and the points of contact with 
the beliefs of the East, which its ideas supplied, favoured an 
accommodating syncretism. Pythagoras was said to have had 
Plato as a disciple, and Plato was venerated almost as much as 
the teacher he followed. The powerful structure of Stoic panthe- 
ism did not fail to exercise an ascendency over the theorists of 
the school. This school had been, from its origin, in touch with 
the Orphic mysteries and those of Dionysos and it remained so, 
but it was also subject to the more remote influence of Baby- 
lonian and Egyptian religions, and particularly of those Chal- 
dean doctrines which the Greeks had learnt to know after 
Alexander's conquest. 

This vast eclecticism, open to all novelties, did not bring 
about a break with the past. Theology succeeded in effecting a 
reconciliation with all, even the rudest and most absurd tradi- 
tions of fable, by an ingenious system of moral allegories. 
"Divine" Homer thus became a master of piety and wisdom, 
and mythology a collection of edifying stories. Demonology made 
it possible to justify all the traditional practices of the cult, as 
well as magic and divination: everything which seemed incom- 
patible with the new idea of the divinity was ascribed to lower 
powers. Thus the Pythagoreans could take up the position not of 
adversaries or reformers but of interpreters of the ancestral reli- 
gion. They claimed that they remained faithful to the wisdom 
of the sages who, at the dawn of civilisation, had received a 
divine revelation, which had been transmitted first to Pythago- 
ras and then to Plato. They felt so sure that they were express- 
ing the thought of these masters, whose authority made law, that 
they did not hesitate to subscribe the venerated names, by a 
pious fraud, to their own writings. Nowhere did apocryphal 
literature have a more luxuriant efflorescence than in these 

When the sect was introduced into Rome it sought, according 
to its wont, to connect itself with old local traditions, and with- 
out much difficulty it succeeded. The national pride of the con- 
querors of Greece could, with some complacency, regard it as 
Italic. Pythagoras passed for the teacher of King Numa, the 
religious legislator of the city. Ennius had expressed this philos- 
opher's doctrine in his poems, and altogether, from the time of 


the ancient republic onwards, the half mythical moralist of 
Greater Greece enjoyed singular consideration in Rome. 58 

But the first to give new life to the Pythagorean school, which 
had died in Italy centuries before, was, according to Cicero, his 
friend, the senator Nigidius Figulus, a curious representative 
of the scientific religiosity which characterised the sect. This 
Roman magistrate, a man of singular erudition, was bitten with 
all the occult sciences. A grammarian, a naturalist and a theolo- 
gian, he was also an astrologer and magician and, on occasion, a 
wonder worker. He did not confine himself to theory but 
gathered about him a club of the initiate, of whom we cannot say 
whether they were most attracted by scientific curiosity, by 
austere morals or by mystic practices. Vatinius, the relative and 
friend of Caesar, and, probably, the spiritualist Appius Claudius 
Pulcher were the most prominent of this circle of converts. 

It is significant that at much the same time the historian 
Castor of Rhodes claimed to interpret Roman usages by Pythag- 
orism, 59 and the stories establishing a connection between the 
Roman state and the reformers of Greater Greece were multi- 
plied. In the Augustan age a worldly poet like Ovid 60 thought it 
permissible to introduce into his Metamorphoses, where no digres- 
sion of the sort was to be looked for, a long speech of Pythagoras 
explaining vegetarianism and transmigration. A little later 
Antonius Diogenes, the romancer, found in the same philosophy 
inspiration for his fantastic pictures of the lot of souls. 61 All this 
goes to show how powerfully seductive the new sect proved to be 
as soon as it was revived in Rome. 

But it did not lack enemies. Public malignity did not spare 
these mysterious theosophists who met in subterranean crypts. 
They were blamed for neglecting the national cult, which had 
ensured the greatness of the city, in order to indulge in con- 
demned practices or even to commit abominable crimes. It was 
a more serious matter that their secret gatherings also excited 
the suspicion of the authorities, and that the partakers were 
prosecuted as persons who dealt in magic, which was punishable 
by law. The little Pythagorean church seems not to have been 
able to maintain itself in the capital for long. In Seneca's time 
it was dead. 62 

58 Furtwangler, Die antiken Gemmen, III, 1900, 257 ss. 

59 See Lecture III, p. 97. eo Ovid, Metam., XV, 60 ss. 
ei Eohde, Der Gricch. Bomanz, p. 270 s. 

62 Sen., Quaest. not., VII, 32, 2. 


But Pythagorism continued to find adepts in the empire and 
soon returned to Rome. Under Domitian, Apollonius of Tyana 
made the East resound with his preaching and miracles, and 
although thrown into prison by this emperor he was in favour 
with his successors. Under the Antonines, the false prophet Alex- 
ander of Abonotichos, unmasked by Lucian, claimed to be a new 
incarnation of the sage of Samos, whose wisdom he pretended to 
reveal in his mysteries. The literary tradition of the sect main- 
tained itself until the third century, when it was absorbed by 
Neo-Platonism. In a period of syncretism, the originality of this 
philosophy resided less in its doctrine than in its observances, 
and when its conventicles were dissolved, it easily merged itself 
in the school which professed to continue it. During its long life 
Pythagorism had indeed had a powerful influence, not only on 
the system of Plato and Plotinus, but also on the Oriental cults 
which spread under the empire. It had supplied the first type of 
the learned mysteries in which knowledge (yvwo-is) is at once the 
condition and the end of sanctification. 63 Possibly it even pene- 
trated into Gaul at an early date, by way of Marseilles, and was 
thus known to the Druids. 

It would certainly be a mistake to look upon Pythagorism as a 
pure philosophy, like Epicureanism and Stoicism. Its sectaries 
formed a church rather than a school, a religious order, not an 
academy of sciences. Prom a recent discovery in Rome, if my 
interpretation of the monument is right, 64 we have learnt that 
the Pythagoreans met in underground basilicas, constructed on 
the model of Plato's cavern, in which, according to the great 
idealist, the chained men see only the shades of the higher 
realities. 65 A foundation sacrifice, that of a dog and a young pig, 
was made before this basilica was constructed. Its stucco decora- 
tion is borrowed almost entirely from Greek mythology or the 
ceremonies of the mysteries. Secret rites and varied purifications 
had to be accomplished in it; hymns accompanied by sacred 
music were sung; and from a chair within the apse the doctors 
gave esoteric teaching to the faithful. They taught them the 
symbols in which the truths of faith and the precepts of conduct, 
formerly revealed by Pythagoras and the other sages, were 
handed down in enigmatic form. These remote disciples inter- 
preted all the myths of the past, and especially the Homeric 

es See Lecture IV, p. 121. 

e* Revue archeologique, 1918, VIII, p. 52 ss. 

65 Plato, Eepubl, VII, p. 514. 


poems, by psychological or eschatological allegories. They laid 
down, as definite commandments, a rule of strict observance 
which included all the acts of daily life. At dawn, after he had 
offered a sacrifice to the rising Sun, the pious man must decide 
on the way in which his day was to be employed. Every evening 
he must make a threefold examination of conscience, and, if he 
had been guilty of any sin of omission or commission, must 
make an act of contrition. He was obliged to follow a purely 
vegetarian diet and to practise many abstinences, to make 
repeated prayers, to meditate lengthily. This austere and cir- 
cumstantial system of morals would ensure happiness and wis- 
dom on earth and salvation in the Beyond. 

All the Neo-Pythagoreans agree in stating that the human 
soul is related to God and therefore immortal. Many, like the 
Stoics, look upon it as a parcel of the ether, an effluvium of burn- 
ing and luminous fluid which fills the celestial spaces and shines 
in the divine stars. Others, who are nearer to Plato, believe it to 
be immaterial and define it as a number in movement. Always, 
generation is regarded as a fall and a danger for the soul. En- 
closed in the body as in a tomb, it runs the risk of corruption, 
even of perishing. Earthly existence is a hard voyage on the 
stormy waters of matter, which are perpetually rolling and 
surging. Thus a fundamental pessimism looked upon life here 
below as a trial and a chastisement ; a radical dualism placed the 
body in opposition to the divine essence residing in it. The con- 
stant care of the sage was to keep his soul from pollution by its 
contact with the flesh. He abstained from meat and other foods 
which might corrupt it ; a series of tabus protected it against all 
contagion. Ritual purifications restored to it its purity (ayj/eta) 
which was continually threatened. The unwearying exercise of 
virtue, the scrupulous practice of piety preserved its original 
nature. Music, which caused it to vibrate in harmony with the 
universe, and science, which lifted it towards divine things, 
prepared its ascension to heaven. Meditation was a silent prayer, 
which placed reason in communication with the powers on high. 
Seized by love for the eternal beauties, it rose in its transports 
even in this life to God, identified itself with Him and so rendered 
itself worthy of a blessed immortality. 66 

When the death determined by destiny occurred, the soul 
escaped from the body in which it was captive but kept its bodily 
form and appearance, and this simulacrum (ei'SwAov) appeared to 

ee See below, Lecture VIII, p. 209 ss. 


men in dreams and after evocations. According to some Pythag- 
oreans, this subtle form was distinct from the soul ( \\jvxn ) , which 
ascended immediately to the higher spheres. Others believed that, 
like a light garment, it wrapped the soul, which was for some 
time constrained to dwell here below. 67 After this shade had 
remained beside the body or somewhere near the tomb for a 
certain number of days, it rose in the atmosphere in which con- 
tended winds, water and fire, and was purified by the elements. 
This zone, the lowest circle of the world, was what fable had 
called hell (Inferi), and it was of this passage from one circle 
to that next it that poets spoke when they told of the Styx and 
Charon's boat. 68 When the soul had been purified it was borne, 
uplifted by the winds, to the sphere of the moon. Here lay the 
boundary of life and death, the limit which divided the residence 
of the immortals, where all was harmony and purity, from the 
corrupt and troubled empire of generation. Thus the luminary 
of the night was the first dwelling of the Blessed, and there lay 
the Elysian Fields of the poets, Proserpina's kingdom where rest 
the shades. And the Fortunate Islands, of which the ancients 
sung, were no other than the sun and the moon, celestial lands 
bathed by the waters of the ether. 69 

The shade remained in the moon or was dissolved there, and 
pure reason rose to the sun whence it came forth, or even reached 
the summit of the heavens where reigned the Most High. A help- 
ful escort, called by mythology Hermes the Soul-Guide, or 
psychopompos, led the elect to these Olympian peaks. There they 
regained their true country, and as birth had been to them a 
death, so their death was their rebirth. They enjoyed the con- 
templation of the luminous gods. They were rapt by the ravish- 
ing tune of the harmony of the spheres, that divine melody of 
which earthly music is but a feeble echo. 70 

Some souls were kept on the banks of the Styx and could not 
cross it : in other words, they were constrained to remain on the 
earth. The dead who had not had religious burial must linger 
beside their neglected bodies for a hundred years, the normal 
span of a human life, before they were admitted to the place of 
purgation, where they would sojourn for ten times that period. 71 

67 See Lecture VI, p. 167; cf. Ill, p. 103. 

es See Lecture II, p. 81. 

69 See, for all this, Lecture III, p. 96 s. ; cf. VIII, p. 195. 

to See Lecture VIII, p. 212. 

7i See Lecture I, p. 66. 


In the same way those who had died young or whose days had 
been cut short by violence would not enter the purgatory before 
the due term of their life. 72 But especially the souls of the crimi- 
nal and the impious were thus condemned to wander, restless 
and in pain, through the lower air, which they filled with their 
multitude. It was these demoniac spirits who returned as dismal 
phantoms to frighten the living, who were evoked by wizards and 
who revealed the future in oracles. Demonology accounted for 
all the aberrations of magic and divination. These spirits rose to 
the aerial purgatory after they had for long years tormented and 
been tormented, but they could not reach the moon, which re- 
pelled them; they were condemned to reincarnation in new 
bodies, either of men or of beasts, and were once again delivered 
to the fury of the passions. These passions are the Erinyes, of 
whom poets sung, that in Tartarus they burnt criminals with 
their torches and scourged them with their whips. For there was 
no subterranean hell : Hades was in the air or on our earth, and 
the infernal sufferings described by mythology were the various 
tortures inflicted on the souls condemned to transmigration. 73 

This religious philosophy, which, by a symbolism transforming 
the meaning of the traditional beliefs, reconciled these with 
men's intelligence, did more than any other to revive faith in 
immortality. Many enlightened men, like Cicero and Cato, had 
sought consolation for the misfortunes of this world and a hope 
for the Beyond in reading Plato, but Plato's proof of immor- 
tality could convince only those already convinced. 74 Pythagorism, 
on the other hand, offered to restless souls a certainty founded 
on a revelation made to ancient sages, and it satisfied at once 
the Roman love for order and rule, and the human love for 
the marvellous and the mysterious. The evidence of the effect of 
this philosophy is still recognisable, although it often has not 
been recognised, in the compositions decorating many sepulchral 
monuments and in the wording of several epitaphs. A tombstone 
found at Philadelphia in Lydia is particularly curious. 75 It bears 
a representation of the Y symbol, that is, of the diverging roads 
between which man must choose when he leaves childhood behind 
him. On the one side earthly travail leads the virtuous man to 
eternal rest; on the other softness and debauchery bring the 

72 See Lecture V, p. 133. 

73 See Lecture III, pp. 73, 81; VII, p. 181 s. 

74 Cf. Cic, Tusc, I, 11, 24. 

75 See Lecture VI, p. 151. 


vicious man to a gulf into which he falls. A metrical epitaph, 
found at Pisaurum (Pesaro), hints covertly at the ideas of the 
school. This commemorates a child who, in spite of his youth, 
had learnt the dogmas of Pythagoras and read ' ' the pious verses 
of Homer" as well as the philosophers, and had studied in Euclid 
the sacred science of numbers. His soul, runs the inscription, 76 
"goes forward through the gloomy stars of deep Tartarus 
towards the waters of Acheron, ' ' a sentence which can be under- 
stood only on the supposition that Tartarus and Acheron had for 
the author a figurative meaning and lay in the depths not of the 
earth but of the sky. 

The belief in a celestial immortality which was thus propa- 
gated by the half philosophical, half religious sect of the Pythag- 
oreans was to find a powerful interpreter in a thinker who had 
a predominant influence over his contemporaries and the suc- 
ceeding generation — in Posidonius. We know little of his life. 
Born at Apamea in Syria, about the year 135, he early left his 
native country, of which he seems to have kept a poor opinion, 
and as a young student in Athens he attended the lectures of 
the older Stoic Panaetius. The universal curiosity which was to 
make him a scholar of encyclopaedic knowledge soon impelled 
him to take long journeys, in which he even reached the shores 
of the Atlantic and studied the tides of the ocean. Upon his 
return he opened a school in the free city of Rhodes and there 
numbered Cicero among his hearers. When he died at the age 
of eighty- four the prestige he enjoyed both in the Roman world 
and among the Greeks was immense. He owed his intellectual 
ascendancy as much to the marvellous variety of the knowledge 
which he displayed, as philosopher, astronomer, historian, geog- 
rapher and naturalist, as to his copious, harmonious and highly 
coloured style. 

A theologian rather than a logician, a scholar rather than a 
critic, he did not construct an original metaphysical system com- 
parable to those of the great founders of schools. But Posidonius 
was the most prominent representative of that syncretism which, 
as we have seen, showed itself in the Pythagoreans before his 
day and which reigned in the world about him, because men were 
weary of the sterile discussions of opposing thinkers. He gave the 
support of his authority and his eloquence to the eclecticism 

76 Bucheler, Carm. epigr., 434. 


which reconciled the principles of the ancient Greek schools. 
Moreover, his Syrian origin led him to combine these doctrines 
with the religious ideas of the East, which had with astrology 
given the Hellenes a new conception of man and of the gods. 77 

It is exactly here that Posidonius is important from the point 
of view of our subject : his tendencies represent a direct reaction 
against the scepticism of his master Panaetius, who denied both 
the survival of the soul 78 and the possibility of divination. Posi- 
donius introduced into Stoicism momentous ideas derived at once 
from Pythagorism and from Eastern cults, and sought to estab- 
lish them firmly by connecting them with a system of the world, 
which his vast intelligence had sought to understand in all its 
aspects. His faith in immortality is strictly related to his cosmog- 
raphy and receives support from his physics. 

It was this system of the world which was, thanks to Ptolemy's 
authority, to perpetuate itself on the whole until the time of 
Copernicus. We will here give a broad outline of its essential 
features, because the eschatological doctrines were to remain for 
centuries connected with it. The terrestrial globe was held to 
be suspended, motionless, in the centre of the universe, sur- 
rounded by an atmosphere formed of the three other elements 
and reaching to the moon. That part of the atmosphere which 
was near the earth was thickened and darkened by heavy vapours 
rising from the soil and the waters. Above, there moved a purer 
and lighter air which, as it neared the sky, was warmed by con- 
tact with the higher fires. Still higher were ranged the con- 
centric spheres of the seven planets, wrapped in ether, a subtle 
and ardent fluid — first the moon, which still received and 
gave back the exhalations of the earth, 79 then Mercury and 
Venus, the two companions of the sun in his daily course. The 
fourth place, that is, the middle point of the superimposed 
heavens, was occupied by the luminary of the day, — here Posi- 
donius forsakes Plato and follows the Chaldeans, — the burning 
heart of the world, the intelligent light which is the source of 
our minds. 80 Above the sun moved the three higher planets — 
Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. And these seven wandering stars 
were surrounded by the sphere of the fixed stars, which were 
animated by constant and uniform movement. That sphere 

77 Cf. my Astrology and Beligion, 1912, p. 83 ss. 

78 See above, p. 13. 

79 See Lecture III, p. 98. 

so See below, Lecture III, p. 100 ss. 


marked the world's boundary: beyond it there was only void or 
the ether. 

The universe, as this philosophy imagined it, had therefore 
well-defined limits : when men raised their eyes to the constella- 
tions of the firmament, they thought they perceived its end. The 
depths of the sky were not then unfathomable ; he who sank his 
gaze in them was not seized with giddiness at the abysses nor 
bewildered by inconceivable magnitudes, and was not tempted to 
cry with Pascal : 81 ' ' The eternal silence of these boundless spaces 
affrights me." Nor was the universe then a multiplicity of 
heavenly bodies moving to an unknown goal and perpetually 
transformed, transitory manifestations of an energy developed 
for undiscoverable ends. The conception formed of the world 
was static, not dynamic. It was a machine of which the wheels 
turned according to immutable laws, an organism of which all 
the parts were united by reciprocal sympathy as they acted and 
reacted on each other. 

This organism was alive, penetrated throughout by the same 
essence as the soul which maintains our life and thought. This 
soul was an igneous breath of which the moral corruption was 
conceived quite materially. When it gave itself up to the desires of 
the senses, to corporeal passions, its substance thickened and was 
troubled, and the mud of this pollution adhered to it like a crust. 
When the soul left the body at the time of death, it became a 
spirit like the multitude of demons who peopled the atmosphere. 
But its lot varied in accordance with its condition. If it were 
laden with matter, its weight condemned it to float in the densest 
air, the damp-charged gas which immediately surrounded the 
earth, and its very composition then caused it to reincarnate 
itself in new bodies. 82 But if it had remained free from all alloy 
its lightness caused it to pass immediately through this heavier 
layer of air and bore it to the higher spaces. It stopped in this 
ascension when, within the ether which was about the moon, it 
found itself in surroundings like its own substance. Some elect 
beings, the divine spirits of the sages, kept such purity that they 
rose through the ether as far as the highest astral spheres. In this 
system the doctrine of immortality is seen to be closely knit up 
with cosmography. 

si Pascal, Tensees, III, 206 (t. II, p. 127, Brimschvigg) : "Le silence 
eternel de ces espaces infinis m'effraie." 

82 See Lecture III, p. 98; VI, p. 161s.; VII, p. 184. 


If Posidonius has largely borrowed these ideas from the pla- 
tonising Pythagorism of his period, he forsook this philosophy 
on an essential point. As a Stoic he did not admit the transcend- 
ency of God. For him, God was immanent in the universe; the 
seat of the directing reason of the world ( ^ye^oviKoV ) was the 
sphere of the fixed stars, which embraced all other spheres and 
determined their revolutions. There too, at the summit of the 
world but not outside it, the spirits of the blessed gathered ; from 
these high peaks they delighted to observe earthly happenings; 
and when a pious soul tried to rise to them, these succouring 
heroes, like our saints, could lend their aid and protection. 

This philosophy did not draw its power of persuasion only 
from its logical consistency, which satisfied reason, but it also 
made *. strong appeal to feeling. Posidonius caused a broad 
stream of mystical ideas, undoubtedly derived from the beliefs 
developed by the astral religions of the East, to flow into the arid 
bed of a Stoicism which had become scholastic. For him, reason 
was not enclosed in the body, even when it sojourned here below; 
it escaped from it to pass with marvellous swiftness from the 
depths of the sea to the ends of the earth and the top of the 
heavens; it flew through all nature, learning to know physical 
laws and to admire the divine order ever more and more. Above 
all it could never weary of the sight of the glowing constellations 
and their harmonious movements. It felt with emotion, as it gave 
itself up to contemplating them, its kinship with the celestial 
fires; it entered into communion with the higher gods. In 
enthusiastic terms, echoed by his imitators, Posidonius described 
the ecstasy which seized him who left the earth, who felt himself 
transported to the midst of the sacred chorus of the stars and 
who followed their rhythmic evolutions. In these transports, the 
soul did not only win to infinite power, but also received from 
heaven the revelation of the nature and cause of the celestial 
revolutions. Thus even in this life it had a foretaste of the 
beatitude which would belong to it after death when reason, rid 
of the weak organs of the senses, would directly perceive all the 
splendours of the divine world and would know its mysteries 
completely. 83 

This theology attributed to man a power such as to satisfy his 
proudest feelings. It did not regard him as a tiny animalcule 
who had appeared on a small planet lost in immensity, nor did 

83 See Lecture IV, p. 127; VIII, p. 210. 


it, when he scrutinised the heavens, crush him with a sense of 
his own pettiness as compared with bodies whose greatness sur- 
passed the limits of his imagination. It made man king of crea- 
tion, placed him in the centre of a still limited world of which the 
proportions were not so vast that he could not travel all over his 
domain. If he could tear himself from the domination of his body, 
he became capable of communicating with the visible gods who 
were almost within his reach and whom he might hope to equal 
after his passage here below. He knew himself to be united to 
them by an identity of nature which alone explained how he 
understood them. 

"Quis caelum possit, nisi caeli munere, nosse 
Et reperire deum, nisi qui pars ipse Dei est ? ' ' 84 

"Who could know heaven save by heavenly grace, or find God 
if he were not himself a part of God?" — words of the Roman 
poet who echoes Posidonius' teaching. 

It is easy to understand that such ideas were readily adopted 
at a time when human minds, tired of inconclusive disputes, 
despaired of ever reaching truth by their own strength. The 
astral mysticism eloquently preached by Posidonius was to influ- 
ence all the later Stoicism. Seneca in particular, in the numerous 
passages in which he speaks of the misery and baseness of life 
in the body and celebrates the felicity of the pure souls who live 
among the stars, shows the imprint of the philosopher of Apamea. 
And this philosopher also exerted a far-reaching action beyond 
the narrow circle of the school. The erudition of the antiquarian 
Varro, the poems of Virgil and Manilius and the biblical exegesis 
of Philo the Jew, all drew on him for inspiration. But the author 
in whom we can best discern his influence is his pupil Cicero, 
the abundance of whose writings allows us to follow the evolu- 
tion of his thought, which is characteristic of the whole society 
of his time. 

It is beyond doubt that Cicero was an agnostic for the greater 
part of his life. His mind found satisfaction in the scepticism 
of the New Academy, or rather he adopted towards the future life 
the received attitude of the world in which he lived, where the 
problem of the soul 's origin and destiny was regarded as not only 
insoluble but also idle, as unworthy to absorb the minds of men 

84 Manilius, II, 115. 


who should devote their energies to the service of the state. The 
question of the cult to be rendered to the Manes had been settled 
once for all by the ancient pontifical law. Old Rome distrusted 
speculations as to the Beyond because they dangerously diverted 
thought from actual realities. But Cicero, by his study of the 
writings of his master Posidonius and by his intercourse with 
the senator Nigidius Figulus, a fervent adept of Pythagorism, 85 
had been brought into contact with the stream of mystical ideas 
which was beginning to flow through the West. Gradually, as he 
grew older and life brought him disappointments, his thought 
was more attracted to religious ideas. 86 In 54, when he had 
given up political life, he composed the Republic, an imitation 
of Plato's work on the same subject. As Plato had introduced 
the myth of Er the Armenian at the end of his work, so his 
Roman imitator concludes with the puzzling picture of ' ' Scipio 's 
Dream," where the destroyer of Carthage receives the revela- 
tions of the conqueror of Zama. The hero, from the height of the 
celestial spheres, expounds that doctrine of astral immortality 
which was common to the Pythagoreans and to Posidonius. It is 
given as yet only as a dream, a vision the truth of which is in no 
way guaranteed. But in 45 B. C. Cicero suffered a cruel loss in 
the death of his only daughter Tullia. His grief persuaded him 
that this beloved being still lived among the gods. Even while 
he accused himself of unreasonable weakness, he ordered that not 
a tomb but a chapel (fanum) , consecrating her apotheosis, should 
be raised to this young woman. The letters he wrote at this time 
to Atticus, from the shores of the Pomptine Marshes, in the soli- 
tude of Astura, apprise us of his most intimate feelings. He gave 
vent to his sorrow in writing a Consolatio, and in its preserved 
fragments we see him strangely impressed by the Pythagorean 
doctrines: he speaks of the soul, exempt from all matter, as 
celestial and divine and therefore eternal, of the soul's life here 
below as a penalty inflicted on it because it is born to expiate 
anterior crimes (scelerum luendorum causa). 

Cicero's sensitive spirit, troubled by the perplexing problem 
of our destiny, did not turn to the old discredited beliefs but to 
the new conceptions which a mystical philosophy had brought 
from the East. Hortensius and the Tusculans, written in this 

ss See above, p. 22. 

seLehrs, Populdre Aufs'dtze aus dem Altertum, 1875, p. 349 ss.; Fowler, 
Religious Experience of the Roman People, p. 382 ss. 


period of his life, show us the empire which the Neo-Stoicism of 
his master and the Neo-Pythagorism of his fellow-senator then 
exercised over his mind, saddened and disillusioned as he was, 
and show us too how he sought consolation for the private and 
public ills which were overwhelming him in the luminous doc- 
trine of a blissful survival. 

This spiritual evolution is an image of the great change which 
was about to take place in the Roman world. 

Stoic philosophy, although its maxims had been popularised 
by education and literature, was almost as incapable of exercis- 
ing a wide influence on the deep masses of the people as the 
esoteric theosophy revealed in the aristocratic conventicles of the 
Pythagoreans. The urban "plebs," to which slavery and trade 
had given a strong admixture of Eastern blood, and the peasants 
of the rural districts, where the gaps caused by depopulation 
were filled up by a foreign labour supply, were beginning at the 
end of the Republican period to hear new dogmas preached, 
dogmas which were winning an ever increasing number of be- 
lievers. The ancient national cults of Greece and Rome aimed 
above all at ensuring civic order and earthly welfare, and paid 
small regard to the spiritual perfection of individuals and their 
eternal future. But now exotic cults claimed to reveal the secret 
of immortality to their adepts. 87 The Oriental mysteries, propa- 
gated in the West, united in the promise of securing holiness 
in this life and felicity in the next, while they imparted to their 
initiates the knowledge of certain rites and required submission 
to certain precepts. Instead of the fluctuating and disputable 
beliefs of philosophers as to destiny in the Beyond, these reli- 
gions gave certainty founded on divine revelation and on the 
faith of countless generations attached to them. The truth, which 
the mysticism of the thinkers looked to find in direct communi- 
cation with heaven, was here warranted by a venerable tradition 
and by the daily manifestations of the gods adored. The belief 
in life beyond the grave, which had in ancient paganism been 
so vague and melancholy, was transformed into confident hope in 
a definite beatitude. Participation in the occult ceremonies of the 
sect was an infallible means of finding salvation. A society that 
was weary of doubt received these promises eagerly, and the old 

87C/. my Oriental religions in Eoman paganism, Chicago, 1911, p. 39 ss. 


beliefs of the East combined with an eclectic philosophy to give 
a new eschatology to the Roman Empire. 

The salvation ensured by the mysteries was conceived as iden- 
tification with the god venerated in them. By virtue of this 
union the initiate was reborn, like this god, to new life after he 
had perished, or, like him, escaped from the fatal law of death 
which weighs on humanity. He was "deified" or "immor- 
talised, ' ' after he had taken part, as actor, in a liturgical drama 
reproducing the myth of the god whose lot was thus assimilated 
to his own. Purifications, lustrations and unctions, participation 
in a sacred banquet, revelations, apparitions and ecstasies — a 
complicated series of ceremonies and instructions helped to bring 
about this metamorphosis of the faithful whom a higher power 
absorbed or penetrated with its energy. We shall return to this 
sacramental operation which made pious souls equal to the 
divinity. 88 

There is another point on which, in the course of this historical 
introduction, we must dwell a little longer, namely, the evolu- 
tion undergone by the conception of the Beyond taught in the 
different mysteries and the share of philosophy in the transfor- 
mation. For if in the various sects the liturgy was usually pre- 
served with scrupulous fidelity, its theological interpretation 
varied considerably as time passed. In paganism much doctrinal 
liberty was always combined with respect for rites. 

Some of the mysteries often gave in their beginnings a rather 
coarse idea of the future life, and the pleasures which might 
be enjoyed therein were very material. The ancient Greek con- 
ception, going back to Orphism, was, as we have seen, that of a 
subterranean kingdom divided into two contrasted parts — Tar- 
tarus where the wicked, plunged in a dark slough or subjected to 
other pains, suffering the chastisement of their faults, on the one 
side; on the other, the Elysian Fields, those flowered, luminous 
meadows, gay with song and dance, in which the blessed pursued 
their favourite occupations, whether they were allowed to dwell 
there for ever, or whether they awaited there the hour fixed for 
their rebirth on earth. 89 This eschatology, which had become the 
common possession of the Hellenes, was certainly that of the 
mysteries of Greece and in particular of the mysteries of Eleusis. 
But these mysteries were never more than local religions : how- 

ss See Lecture IV, p. 118 ss. 

so See Lecture II, p. 76; VII, p. 171. 


ever numerous were the initiates attracted by their renown, they 
were bound to the soil where they were born. Thus their influence 
was very limited in the Roman period and cannot be compared 
with that of the universal cults which were propagated through- 
out the Mediterranean world. As for Orphism, which was never 
connected with any one temple, it is doubtful whether it still 
constituted an actual sect, and if it did, it certainly spread over 
a very narrow field. Its influence was perpetuated chiefly because 
it was absorbed by Pythagorism. 

Among the mysteries propagated in the West, the most ancient 
were those of the Thraco-Phrygian gods, Dionysos and Saba- 
zios, who were indeed looked upon as identical. We know that 
in 186 B. C. a senatus consultum forbade the celebration of the 
Bacchanalia in Italy, and in 139 some sectaries of Jupiter Saba- 
zius, who identified this god with the Jahve-Sabaoth of the 
Jews, were expelled from Rome by the praetor at the same time 
as the " Chaldeans. ' ' The cult practised by the votaries of Bac- 
chus or Liber Pater, whose confraternities were maintained until 
the end of paganism, differed profoundly from the Dionysos wor- 
ship of ancient Greece : a number of Oriental elements had been 
introduced into it ; in particular, the relations between Dionysos 
and Osiris, which go back to a very remote period, had become 
singularly close in Egypt. However, many reliefs on tombstones 
and the celebrated paintings found in the catacombs of Praetexta- 
tus prove that the cults of the Thraco-Phrygian gods remained 
faithful to the old idea of a future life. The shade went down 
into the bowels of the earth, never again to leave them. If judged 
worthy, it took part in an eternal banquet, of which the initiate 
received a foretaste on earth, in the feasts of the mysteries. 
Sacred drunkenness, a divine exaltation, was the pledge of the 
joyous intoxication which the god of wine would grant in Hades 
to the faithful who had united themselves to him. 90 

In 205, towards the end of the second Punic war, the cult of 
Cybele, the Great Mother of the Gods, and of Attis, her associate, 
was transported from Pessinus in Phrygia and officially adopted 
by the Roman people. The great feasts of this religion were cele- 
brated in March about the equinox and commemorated the death 
and resurrection of Attis, the emblem of vegetation, which, 
after it has withered, flowers again in the spring. The faithful 
associated their own destiny with the lot of their god : like him 

90 See Lecture IV, p. 120; VIII, p. 204. 


they would be reborn to a new life after they had died. Their 
doctrines on this point were certainly transformed as time 
passed, for no Oriental cult which spread in the "West underwent 
more evolution, since none was more fundamentally barbarous 
when it came from Asia. Originally, Cybele was the goddess of 
the dead, because Mother Earth receives them into her bosom. 
Every Phrygian tomb is a sanctuary and its epitaph a dedica- 
tion: often the graves are consecrated to the goddess and bear 
her image or that of the lion, her substitute. Often too the tomb- 
stone has the shape of a door, the door of the subterranean world 
whither the dead descend. The belief seems to have been held 
that the deceased were absorbed in the Great Mother who had 
given them birth, and that they thus participated in her divinity. 
She brought forth corn and grapes for men and thus sustained 
them day by day, and the bread and wine, taken in the meal 
which was the essential act of the initiation, would ensure im- 
mortality to those who were of the mystery. ' ' Thou givest us the 
food of life with unfailing constancy, ' ' says a prayer, ' ' and when 
our soul departs we will take refuge in thee. Thus all that thou 
givest, always falls to thee again. ' ' 91 

Towards the end of the Republic the mysteries of Isis and 
Serapis, which had come from Alexandria and had already 
spread through the south of Italy, established themselves in Rome 
and maintained themselves there in spite of opposition from the 
senate. Under the Empire, the Egyptian religion displayed all 
the pomp of its liturgy in magnificent temples and had a number 
of votaries in every province. The cult of Osiris, of which that 
of Serapis was a form, was originally a cult of the fields, like 
that of Attis, and the great feast which its adherents celebrated 
in autumn recalls the Phrygian spring feasts. The death of 
Osiris, whose body had been torn to pieces by Seth, was 
mourned; and when Isis had found the scattered fragments of 
the corpse, joined them together and reanimated it, noisy rejoic- 
ing followed the lamentation. Like the initiates of Cybele and 
Attis, those of Isis and Serapis were associated with the passion 
and resurrection of their god. And, in the same way, the oldest 
conception of immortality in these mysteries was that the de- 

91 < < Alimenta vitae tribuis perpetua fide, 

Et cum recesserit anima in te refugiemus, 
Ita, quicquid tribuis, in te cuneta recidunt. " 

(Anthol. Lat., ed. Riese, I, p. 27.) 


parted went down into the infernal regions, where a man became 
another Serapis, a woman another Isis, which is to say that they 
were assimilated to the gods who had granted them salvation. 92 
This is why on numerous funeral reliefs the dead man, who 
has become a hero and is shown lying on a couch, bears on his 
head the bushel (modius) which is the attribute of Serapis. 
In consequence, however, of the identification of this god with 
Dionysos, the joys beyond the grave are also represented as a 
feast in the Elysian Fields at which the great master of banquets 
presides. 93 

All these mysteries conceive immortality as a descent of the 
dead into Hades. For them, the kingdom of the dead lies in the 
bosom of the earth. Those who have been initiated will there 
enjoy a felicity made up of purely material pleasures, or they 
will be identified with the powers who reign over the nether world 
and will have part in their divine life. It will be noticed how 
closely this last conception approached to that of ancient 
Stoicism, according to which the various parts of the human 
organism, dissociated by death, were to regain their integrity 
in the divine elements of the universe. 

Quite another doctrine was propagated by the Syrian cults 
and the Persian mysteries of Mithras, which spread in the West 
in the first century of our era. These religions taught that the 
soul of the just man does not go below the ground but rises to 
the sky, there to enjoy divine bliss in the midst of the stars in 
the eternal light. Only the wicked were condemned to roam the 
earth's surface, or were dragged by the demons into the dusky 
depths in which the spirit of evil reigned. Opinions differed as 
to the region of heaven in which the souls of the elect dwelt. The 
"Chaldeans," who looked upon the sun as the master and the 
intelligence of the universe, made him the author of human 
reason, which returned to him after it had left the body, while 
for the priests of Mithras the spirit rose, by way of the planetary 
spheres, to the summit of the heavens. We will have to examine 
later the different forms of astral immortality. 94 But you will 
already have noticed how nearly this immortality, as formulated 
by the Iranian and Semitic sects, approximated to the doctrine 
taught by Pythagorism and adopted by Neo-Stoicism. 

92 See Lecture IV, p. 122. 

93 See Lecture VIII, p. 202. 

94 See Lecture III, p. 96 ss. 


This meeting of the two doctrines was not an effect of chance. 
The idea that souls are related to the celestial fires, whence they 
descend at birth and whither they reascend at death, had prob- 
ably been borrowed by the ancient Pythagoreans from the astral 
religions of the East. Recent research seems to have established 
the fact of its Chaldeo-Persian origin. But the Greek philoso- 
phers, according to their wont, defined and developed this idea 
in an original way. In the Hellenistic period, when they adopted 
astrology, they were subject for the second time to the ascend- 
ancy of the scientific religion of the "Chaldeans"; and, in their 
turn, they reacted on the Oriental cults when these spread in the 
Graeco-Roman world. We have sure evidence that the mysteries 
of Mithras were, in particular, strongly affected by the influence 
of the Pythagorean sect, which was itself organised like a kind 
of mystery. In a more general way, philosophy introduced into 
the mysteries ethical ideas and, instead of the purely ritualistic 
or rather magical means of salvation, some moral requirements 
became necessary to earn immortality. 

There is here a mass of actions and reactions of which the 
details escape us; but we can form some idea of such a syncre- 
tism from the remains of the theological writings attributed to 
Hermes Trismegistus, from the writings, that is, which are 
supposed to contain the revelations of the Egyptian god Thot. 
This professedly Egyptian wisdom includes a number of ideas 
and definitions which are characteristic of Posidonius and Neo- 
Pythagorism. The Greek and the Egyptian elements are so 
closely associated in it that it is very difficult to separate the one 
from the other. We find another example of the same mixture in 
the " Chaldaic Oracles, " which were probably composed about the 
year 200 of our era and which became one of the sacred books of 
Neo-Platonism. Unlike the Hermetic writings, this collection of 
verses does indeed seem to have belonged to a sect practising an 
actual cult : its greater part is taken up with mythology, and the 
fantastic mysticism of the East is more prominent here than in 
the Hermetic lore, but the mind of the compiler of these revela- 
tions was also penetrated by the ideas which the Greek masters 
had widely circulated. 

The tenet of astral immortality, which philosophy shared with 
the cults emanating from Syria and Persia, imposed itself on the 
ancient world. It is curious to notice how it was introduced into 
the theology of the very mysteries to which it was at first for- 


eign: Attis ended by becoming a solar god, and thenceforward 
it was in the heights of heaven that Cybele was united to the 
souls she had prevented from wandering in darkness and had 
saved from hell. The priests of the Alexandrian divinities were 
similarly to explain that the dead had not their dwelling in the 
interior of our globe, but that the "subterranean" (woyetos) king- 
dom of Serapis was situated beneath the earth, that is, in the 
lower hemisphere of heaven, bounded by the line of the horizon. 95 

According as the Oriental religions were more largely propa- 
gated, faith in a new eschatology spread gradually among the 
people; and although memories and survivals of the old belief 
in the life of the dead in the grave and the shade's descent into 
the infernal depths may have lingered, the doctrine which pre- 
dominated henceforward was that of celestial immortality. 

The distance separating the age of Augustus from that of the 
Flavians on this point can be measured by reading Plutarch's 
moral works (about 120 A. D.). A constant preoccupation with 
religious matters, and in particular a learned curiosity as to the 
cults of the East, shows itself in this Greek of Chaeronea, living 
in a country which, in its pride in its own past, had more than 
any other resisted the invasion of exoticism. Further, the eclectic 
philosopher likes to insert in his dissertations myths in which, 
after the fashion of Plato, he expounds the lot of souls in the 
Beyond and their struggle to rise heavenwards. An attempt has 
been made to prove — wrongly, I think — that he is here inspired 
by Posidonius. These apocalytic visions, which claim to reveal 
truths previously ignored, are not taken from that well-known 
writer; they have a religious imprint which betrays sacerdotal 
influence, and the philosophic ideas they contain are those which 
were part of the common wisdom of the Pythagoreans and the 

There doubtless still were in the second century Stoics, like 
the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, for whom the future life was a 
mere hypothesis, or at most a hope (p. 14), as well as sceptics, 
like Lucian of Samosata, whose irony mocked all beliefs. But 
gradually their number diminished and the echo of their voices 
grew feebler. Faith in survival deepened as present life came to 
seem a burden harder and harder to bear. The pessimistic idea 
that birth is a chastisement and that the true life is not that 
passed on earth, imposed itself in proportion to the growth of 

95 See Lecture II, p. 79. 


public and private ills and to the aggravation of the empire's 
social and moral decline. In the period of violence and devasta- 
tion which occurred in the third century, there was so much 
undeserved suffering, there were so many unjust failures and 
unpunished crimes, that men took refuge in the expectation of a 
better life in which all the iniquity of this world would be 
retrieved. No earthly hope then brightened life. The tyranny of a 
corrupt bureaucracy stifled every attempt at political progress. 
Science seemed exhausted and no longer discovered unknown 
truths ; art was struck with sterility of invention and reproduced 
heavily the creations of the past. An increasing impoverish- 
ment and a general insecurity constantly discouraged the spirit 
of enterprise. The idea spread that humanity was smitten by 
incurable decay, that society was on the road to dissolution and 
the end of the world was impending. All these causes of dis- 
couragement and pessimism must be remembered in order to 
understand the dominance of the old idea, then so often repeated, 
that a bitter necessity constrains the spirit of man to enclose 
itself in matter, and that death is a liberation which delivers 
it from its carnal prison. In the heavy atmosphere of a period 
of oppression and powerlessness, the despondent souls of men 
aspired with ineffable ardour to the radiant spaces of heaven. 

The mental evolution of Roman society was complete when 
Neo-Platonism took upon itself the office of directing minds. 
The powerful mysticism of Plotinus (205-262 A. D.) opened up 
the path which Greek philosophy was to follow until the world 
of antiquity reached its end. We shall not undertake to notice 
in this place the discrepancies of the latest teachers who theorised 
about the destiny of souls. In the course of these lectures we shall 
have occasion to quote some of the opinions of Porphyry, the 
chief disciple of Plotinus, and of his successor Jamblichus, who 
was, like himself, a Syrian. "We will here do no more than indicate 
broadly what distinguished the theories of this school from those 
which had hitherto been dominant. 

The system generally accepted, by the mysteries as by philoso- 
phy, was a pantheism according to which divine energy was 
immanent in the universe and had its home in the celestial 
spheres. The souls, conceived as material, could in consequence 
rise to the stars but did not leave the world. The Neo-Pythag- 
oreans themselves had not had a very firmly established doctrine 


on this point : while some of them stated that reason was incor- 
poreal, others, as we have seen (p. 24), admitted with the Stoics 
that it was an igneous substance. It is true that even in paganism 
the appearance can be discerned of the belief in a Most High 
ptytcrros) or an unknown god ( v Ayvwo-Tos) , whom some people 
supposed to dwell above the starry heavens, beyond the limits 
of the world, and towards whom pious spirits could rise. The 
revivers of Platonic idealism asserted the transcendence of God 
and the spirituality of the soul more strongly and clearly. A 
whole chapter of the Enneades of Plotinus is taken up with refut- 
ing those who held the soul to be material. 96 As a principle of life 
and movement, it is stated to be immortal by its very essence, 
so that if it kept its purity perfect, it would find after its passage 
here below eternal felicity in the intelligible world. 

The Neo-Platonists preserved the idea, which had previously 
been admitted, that this intellectual essence comes down to 
earth through the planetary spheres and the atmosphere, and 
that as it sinks in the luminous ether and the damp air, it be- 
comes laden with particles of the elements through which it 
passes. It surrounds itself with a garment or, as it is sometimes 
called, with a vehicle (oxnfjia) which thickens as it gradually 
draws near us. 97 This subtle body, the seat of the passions and 
of feeling, is intermediary between the spiritual principle which 
has issued from God and the flesh in which it is to enclose itself, 
and for certain philosophers it survives death and accompanies 
the soul to the Beyond, at least if the soul, not being free from 
earthly admixture, cannot wholly leave the world of sense, and 
therefore rises only to the planetary circle or to that of the fixed 

When the soul has suffered even more from the taint to which 
its contact with matter, the source of evil, exposes it, it is doomed 
to reincarnate itself in a new body and again to undergo the trial 
of this life. When it has become incurably corrupt and burdened 
with evil, it goes down into the depths of Hades. 

Following Plato, Plotinus and his successors have adopted the 
Pythagorean doctrine of metempsychosis. They have even de- 
veloped it, as we shall see, 98 together with the whole pessimistic 
and ascetic conception of life, the conception which looks at 

96 Enn., IV, 7. 

97 See Lecture III, p. 106; VI, p. 169. 

98 See Lecture VII, p. 184 ss. 


birth as a pain and a fall, a temporary subjection to a body from 
which emancipation must be sought. It is only after this libera- 
tion that the soul can reach perfect wisdom ; it must no longer be 
troubled by the senses if it is to attain to the end of existence, 
to union with God. 

This union can be realised even during this life in moments of 
ecstasy, in which the soul rises above thought and gives itself 
up entirely to love for the ineffable Unity in which it is absorbed. 
Like many other mystics, Plotinus disdains the ceremonies of 
positive cults : they were superfluous to the sage who could of 
himself enter into communion with the supreme Being. But 
even his disciple Porphyry conceded a greater value to rites and 
initiations. If they were powerless to lead the partakers of 
mysteries to the highest degree of perfection, their effect yet 
was to render men worthy to live among the visible gods who 
people heaven." But only philosophical wisdom could rise to the 
intelligible world and the Unknowable. 

The principle of a mystical relation between man and the 
divinity was to lead Neo-Platonism to more and more reverence 
for religious traditions. For it was held that in the past the 
revelation of truth had been granted by Heaven not only to 
divine Plato and the sages of Greece, but to all the founders of 
barbarous cults and authors of sacred writings. They all com- 
municated profound teaching, which they sometimes hid beneath 
the veil of allegory. Inspired by the symbolism of the Pythag- 
oreans, the last representatives of Greek philosophy claimed to 
rediscover the whole of Platonic metaphysics and the Platonic 
doctrine of immortality in the myths and rites of paganism. 
The speeches of Julian the Apostate on the Sun-King and the 
Mother of the Gods are characteristic examples of this bold 
exegesis, destitute of all critical and even all common sense, which 
was adopted by the last champions of the old beliefs. 

These aberrations of Neo-Platonic thought must not hide the 
school's historical importance from us, any more than the ex- 
cesses of the superstitious theurgy which invaded it. When it 
revived Plato's idealism, it produced a lasting change in the 
eschatological ideas which prevailed in paganism, and it deeply 
influenced even the Christian doctrines of immortality held since 

09 See Lecture IV, p. 108; VIII, p. 212. 


the fourth century. This will be better seen, we hope, in the 
course of these lectures. 100 It may be said that the conception of 
the lot of souls which reigned at the end of antiquity persisted on 
the whole through the Middle Ages — the immaterial spirits of the 
just rising through the planetary spheres to the Supreme Being 
enthroned above the zone of the fixed stars; the posthumous 
purification of those whom life has sullied in a purgatory inter- 
mediary between heaven and hell; the descent of the wicked 
into the depths of the earth where they suffered eternal chastise- 
ment. This threefold division of the universe and of souls was 
largely accepted at the time of the Empire's decline by pagans 
and by Christians, and after long centuries it was again to find 
magnificent expression in Dante's "Divine Comedy." Before it 
could be destroyed astronomy had to destroy the whole cosmog- 
raphy of Posidonius and Ptolemy on which it was based. When 
the earth ceased to be the centre of the universe, the one fixed 
point in the midst of the moving circles of the skies, and became 
a tiny planet turning round another heavenly body, which itself 
moved in the immensity of space, among an infinity of similar 
stars, the naive conception formed by the ancients of the journey 
of souls in a well-enclosed world could no longer be maintained. 
The progress of science discredited the convenient solution be- 
queathed to scholasticism by antiquity, and left us in the presence 
of a mystery of which the pagan mysteries never had even a 

100 See Lecture II, p. 90; IV, p. 109; VIII, p. 196 ss., 206. 



WHEN Cicero in his Tusculans 1 first touches on 
the question of the immortality of the soul, he 
begins by citing in its support the fact that 
belief in it has existed since earliest antiquity. He states 
that unless the first Eomans were convinced that man was 
not reduced to nought, when he left this life, and that all 
feeling was not extinguished in death, there could be no 
explanation of the rules of the old pontifical law as to 
funerals and burials, rules the violation of which was 
regarded as an inexpiable crime. This remark is that of a 
very judicious observer. There subsist in the funeral rites 
of all peoples, in the ceremony of mourning established by 
the religious law or by tradition, customs which derive 
from archaic conceptions of life beyond the tomb and 
which are still followed although their original meaning 
is no longer understood. Modern learning has sometimes 
successfully sought to elucidate them, borrowing light 
from the practices of savage peoples and from European 
folk-lore. We will not enter the domain of these re- 
searches, for since our special purpose here is to expound 
the ideas as to immortality held in later times, we have 
to consider only the beliefs which were still alive in that 
period. A false interpretation supplied by a philosopher 
may have more historical value for us than the true ex- 
planation of an institution which had lost its meaning. 

But even among the ideas which were neither obliter- 
ated nor discredited, conceptions which originated at 
very different dates have to be distinguished. 

iCic, Tusc, I, 12, §27. 


The doctrines of paganism, like the soil of our planet, 
are formed of superimposed strata. When we dig into 
them we discover successive layers under the upper de- 
posits of recent alluvia. Nothing was suddenly destroyed 
in ancient religions; their transformations were never 
revolutionary. Faith in the past was not entirely abolished 
when new ways of believing were formed. Contradictory 
opinions could exist side by side for a long time without 
any shock being caused by their disagreement ; and it was 
only little by little and slowly that argument excluded 
one way of thinking to give place to the other, while there 
were always hardy survivals left, both in thought and in 
customs. Thus the beliefs as to the future life which were 
current under the Eoman Empire present a singular mix- 
ture, coarse ideas going back to the prehistoric period 
mingling with theories imported into Italy at a late date. 

We will today examine the oldest of all the ways of 
considering survival in the Beyond : life in the tomb. 

Ethnology has proved that among all peoples the be- 
lief that the dead continue to live in the tomb has reigned, 
and sometimes still reigns. The primitive man, discon- 
certed by death, cannot persuade himself that the being 
who moved, felt, willed, as he does, can be suddenly de- 
prived of all his faculties. The most ancient and the crud- 
est idea is that the corpse itself keeps some obscure sensi- 
tiveness which it cannot manifest. It is imagined to be in a 
state like sleep. The vital energy which animated the body 
is still attached to it and cannot exist without it. This 
belief was so powerful in Egypt that it inspired a whole 
section of the funeral ritual and called forth the infinite 
care that was taken to preserve mummies. Even in the 
West it survived vaguely, and traces of it might still be 
discovered today. Lucretius combats this invincible illu- 
sion of men who, even while they affirm that death extin- 
guishes all feeling, keep a secret uneasiness as to the suf- 
fering which their mortal remains may undergo and are 


frightened by the idea that their bodies may be eaten by 
worms or carnivorous animals. They cannot separate 
themselves from this prone body, which they believe is 
still their self. Why, continues the poet, would it be more 
painful to be the prey of wild beasts than to be burnt by 
the flame of the pyre, to freeze lying on the icy slab of the 
grave or to be crushed by the weight of heaped-up earth? 2 
This very fear that the earth may weigh heavily on those 
who are deposited in the grave shows itself among many 
peoples who inter their dead, and was expressed in Rome 
by a formula so very usual that it was recalled in epitaphs 
by initials only: "S(it) t(ibi) t(erra) l(evis)," "May 
earth be light for thee." Until the Empire Stoic philoso- 
phers could be found who upheld that the soul endures 
only for the time for which the body is preserved. 3 

But experience proved that the corpse decomposed 
rapidly in the soil, all that remained of it being a skeleton 
bereft of the organs of sensation. When the custom of in- 
cineration, followed in Italy from the prehistoric period, 
became practically general in Rome, the destruction of the 
body took place regularly before the eyes of those pres- 
ent. Thus men reached the belief that those near and dear 
to them, whom they sometimes saw again in their dreams 
or seemed to feel beside them, who were kept alive at 
least in memory, differed from the beings of flesh and 
bones whom they had known. From those material indi- 
viduals subtle elements detached themselves, filled with 
a mysterious force which subsisted when the human 
organism had crumbled to dust or been reduced to ashes. 
It was this same principle which temporarily departed 
from persons who lost consciousness in a faint or a 
lethargy. If this light essence did not leave a dying man 
at the moment of his death — whether or not it could 
escape from his body immediately was indeed uncertain 
— it was set free by the funeral fire, 4 but it still inhabited 

2 Lucretius, III, 890 ss. 

3 Servius, Aen., Ill, 68. 

4 Servius, ibid. 


the tomb in which his remains rested. The idea that 
it was somehow attached to his remains had taken root 
in men's minds, and even literature bears witness to 
the persistence of this deeply implanted popular belief. 
Propertius, 5 when cursing a woman, desires that "her 
Manes may not be able to settle near her ashes.' ' And at 
Liternum in Campania, where Scipio Africanus caused 
himself to be buried because, as he said, he did not wish 
to leave even his bones to his ungrateful country, the 
grotto was shown where he rested and where, so men 
believed, 6 ' ' a serpent kept guard over his Manes. ' ' 

This primitive conception of the persistence of a latent 
life in the cold and rigid corpse or of its passage to a 
vaporous being like the body, is connected with the belief 
that the dead retain all the needs and feelings which were 
previously theirs. The funeral cult, celebrated at the 
tomb, is born of this belief. It proceeds from fear as much 
as from piety, for the dead are prone to resentment and 
quick in vengeance. The unknown force which inhabits 
them, the mysterious power which causes them to act, 
inspired great awe. If the natural course of their exist- 
ence had been interrupted, especially if they had died 
before their time, they were suspected of being victims 
of some mischievous enchantment; their sickness was 
looked upon as an invasion of maleficent spirits pro- 
voked by spells. The wrath of those who had thus been 
torn from their homes and their wonted way of life was 
to be dreaded. Loud outbursts of grief followed by pro- 
longed manifestations of mourning must prove to them, 
in the first place, that they were truly lamented and that 
no attempt had been made to get rid of them. Then, in 
their new abode to which they were conveyed, they must 
be ensured a bearable existence, in order that they might 
remain therein quietly and not trouble their families nor 
punish, by some intrusion, those who neglected them. So- 
licitude for the beloved, the desire to prevent their suffer- 

e Propertius, IV, 5,3: " Nee sedeant cineri Manes. ' ' Cf. Lucan, IX, 2. 
6 Pliny, H. N., XVI, 44, $234; cf. Livy, XXXVIII, 53. 


ing, the hope of obtaining their protection, partly account 
for the origin and maintenance of these practices, bnt they 
were above all inspired by the terror which spirits called 
forth, as is proved by the fact that they were the same for 
all the departed without distinction, for those who had 
been loved and those who had been hated. 

The tomb is the house of the dead. This is an idea 
common to the whole ancient world, going back in Italy 
beyond the foundation of Rome. The prehistoric ceme- 
teries of the first iron age have yielded a number of 
cinerary urns exactly reproducing the various types of 
huts which sheltered the tribes who then peopled the 
peninsula. The burial places of the Etruscans are often 
on the plan of their dwellings, and Roman epitaphs leave 
no doubt as to the persistence of the conviction that the 
dead inhabit the tomb. The diffusion of Oriental cults 
revived archaic beliefs on this point as on many others. 
The name "eternal house" {domus aetema), borrowed 
from the Egyptians and the Semites, often occurs in fu- 
neral inscriptions of the imperial period. 7 One text even 
specifies that this is "the eternal house in which future 
life must be passed." 8 The tomb is thus no mere passage 
through which the soul goes on its way to another region 
of the world; it is a lasting residence. "This," says an 
inscription, "is our certain dwelling, the one which we 
must inhabit." 9 In the Aeneid, & cenotaph is raised to 
Polydorus, whose body had been lost, and his "soul" is 
installed there by a funeral ceremony, 10 for the shade 
which has no sepulchre wanders, as we shall see, about the 
earth. But when a fine monument is given to a dead man, 
he is happy to be able to offer hospitality there to passers- 
by and invites them to stay on their way. Sometimes he is 

7 Cf. my Oriental religions, p. 240. 

8 OIL, I, 1108: "Domum aeternam ubi aevum degerent. " 

9 Biicheler, Carm. epigr., 1555: "Haee certa est domus, haec est colenda 
nobis. ' ' 

loVirg., Aen., Ill, 67: "Animam sepulcro condimus. ' ' Cf. Pliny, Epist., 
Ill, 27, 12: "Kite conditis Manibus." 


imagined as in a bedchamber, where he sleeps an endless 
sleep, 11 but this is not the primitive nor the dominant idea. 
This idea, on the contrary, was that his rest was at least 
not unbroken, since he had many requirements. It was 
necessary not only to ensure him a roof but also to pro- 
vide for his support, for he had the same needs and tastes 
beneath the ground as he had upon it. Therefore the 
clothes which covered him, the jewels which adorned him, 
the earthen or bronze vessels which decked his table, the 
lamps which afforded him light, would be placed beside 
him. If he were a warrior he would be given the arms he 
bore, if a craftsman the tools he used; a woman would 
have the articles necessary to her toilet, a child the toys 
which amused him ; and the amulets, by the help of which 
all that was maleficent would be kept away, were not for- 
gotten. "It is against common sense," says Trimalchio 
in Petronius' romance, 12 "to deck the house of the living 
and not to give the same care to the house which we must 
inhabit for a longer time. ' ' In fact, the larger number of 
the articles of furniture and household use preserved in 
our museums come from tombs, which, in the climate of 
Egypt, have sometimes been able to yield up to us, intact, 
some precious volume intended for a mummy's bedside 

But the tombs have kept for us only a small part of the 
offerings made to those who were leaving this world, for 
often their wardrobe and implements were delivered with 
them to the flame of the pyre in the belief that somehow 
they would find them again in the Beyond. Lucian relates 
that a husband loved his wife so dearly that at her death 
he caused all the ornaments and the clothes which she 
liked to wear to be buried with her. But seven days after 
her death, as, stretched on a couch, he was silently read- 
ing Plato's Phaedo, seeking therein solace for his grief, 
his wife appeared, seated herself beside him, and re- 

11 See above, Introd., p. 10; Lecture VIII, p. 192. 

12 Petronius, 71 : " Valde enim f alsum vivo quidem domos cultas esse, non 
curari earn ubi diutius nobis habitandum est. ' ' 


proached Mm for not having added to his offering one of 
her gilt slippers which had been left behind a chest. 
The husband found it there, and hastened to burn it in 
order that the poor woman might no longer remain half 
barefooted. 13 

Above all, the dead must be offered food, for the shade, 
like the human body which it replaces, needs nourishment 
for its subsistence. Its feeble and precarious life is quick- 
ened and prolonged only if it be constantly sustained. The 
dead are hungry; above all they are thirsty. Those whose 
humours have dried, whose mouths have withered, are 
tortured by the need to refresh their parched lips. It 
therefore is not enough to place in the tombs the drinks 
and dishes, the remains of which have often been found 
beside skeletons ; by periodic sacrifices the Manes must be 
supplied with fresh food also. If they are left without 
nourishment they languish, weak as a fasting man, almost 
unconscious, and in the end they would actually die of 
starvation. This is why the flesh of victims was, in funeral 
sacrifices, wholly destroyed by fire, none of it being 
reserved for those present. People always retained the 
conviction that the offerings burnt on the altar or the 
libations poured into the grave were consumed by him 
for whom they were intended. Often there is in the tomb- 
stone a circular cavity, the bottom of which is pierced 
with holes ; the liquid poured into it went through the per- 
forated slab and was led by a tube to the urn which held 
the calcinated bones. It is comprehensible that an unbe- 
liever protested against this practice in his epitaph. "By 
wetting my ashes with wine thou wilt make mud," he 
says, ' ' and I shall not drink, when I am dead. ' n4 But how 
many other texts there are which show the persistence of 
the ancient ideas! " Passer-by,' ' says a Roman inscrip- 
tion, "the bones of a man pray thee not to soil the monu- 

isLucian, Philopseudes, 27; cf. Dessau, Inscr. set, 8379, 1. 50 ss. 
14 Kaibel, Epigr. Graeca, 646z=Dessau, Inscr. sel., 8156 ; cf. Lueian, 
Be luctu, 19. 


ment which covers them ; but if thou be benevolent pour 
wine into the cup, drink and give me thereof. ' ,15 

If the dead ask for fresh water, with which to quench 
their insatiable thirst, they are above all eager for the 
warm blood of victims. This sacrifice to the dead was at 
first often a human sacrifice of slaves or prisoners, and 
barbarous immolations of this kind had not entirely 
disappeared even in the historic period. "When, after 
the taking of Perugia, Octavius, on the Ides of March 
(that is, on the anniversary of the slaying of Julius 
Caesar), caused three hundred notables of the town to be 
slaughtered on Caesar's altar, 16 this collective murder, 
inspired by political hatred, perpetuated an old religious 
tradition. Fights of gladiators, whose blood drenched the 
soil, originally formed part of the funeral ceremonies by 
which the last duty was paid to the remains of an illus- 
trious personage. It is said that these sacrifices were 
intended to provide him who had gone to the other world 
with servants and companions, as the offering of a horse 
gave him a steed, or else that, in case of violent death, 
they were meant to appease the shade of a victim who 
claimed vengeance. And doubtless these ideas, which 
correspond to conceptions already evolved, contributed 
to keeping this cruel custom in force. But originally the 
object of this sacrifice, as of the sacrifice of animals, was 
essentially to ensure the duration of the undefinable some- 
thing which still inhabited the tomb. 

Among all the peoples of antiquity the blood was 
looked upon as the seat of life ; 17 the vapour which rose 
from the warm red liquid, flowing from a wound, was the 
soul escaping therewith from the body; and therefore 
when blood was sprinkled on the soil which covered the 
remains of a relative or a friend, a new vitality was given 
to his shade. With the same motive women were wont to 
scratch their faces with their nails in sign of mourning. 18 

is Biicheler, Carm. epigr., 838=Dessau, op. cit., 8204. 

is Sueton., Aug., 15. " Cf. p. 52, n. 20, and Lecture IV, p. 118. 

is Servius, Aen., Ill, 67. 


This ancient conviction that fresh blood was indispen- 
sable to the dead, was maintained in some countries with 
surprising tenacity. In Syria, as late as the seventh cen- 
tury of our era, Christians insisted, in spite of episcopal 
objurgations, on immolating bulls and sheep on tombs, and 
in Armenia, where these practices were sanctioned by the 
national clergy, the faithful remained persuaded that the 
dead found no happiness in the other life unless the blood 
of victims had been made to flow for them on the days 
fixed by tradition. 19 

Other libations performed in the funeral rites of the 
Greeks, as of the Romans, were intended to produce the 
same effect, the libations, namely, of wine, milk and 
honey. The use of wine has been explained as that of a 
substitute for blood, as wine is red. Servius even inter- 
prets the purple flowers which Aeneas threw on the tomb 
of his father Anchises by the same association of ideas, 
as an u imitation of blood in which is the seat of life. ' ,20 
Many proofs could be cited of the fact that wine has often 
taken the place of the liquid which flows in our veins, but 
its use in connection with the dead can be explained also 
by its own virtue. It is the marvellous liquid which gives 
divine drunkenness and which in the mysteries ensures 
immortality to such as are, thanks to this sacred draught, 
possessed by Bacchus. 21 In the same way it vivifies the 
Manes to whom it is poured out. Similarly melikraton, a 
mixture of milk and honey, is the food of the gods, and 
when the dead absorb it, they too become immortal. 

Such is the first meaning of these offerings, one which 
was never quite forgotten. Their object is the infusion of 
new vigour into the enfeebled shades who slumber in the 
tomb. This intention can also be discerned in the fact that 
the same offerings are used in magic, which often pre- 
served ideas abolished or superseded in religion. In order 

19 Cf. Comptes-rendus Acad, des Inscr., 1918, p. 284 s. 

20 Servius, Aen., V, 79: "Ad sanguinis imitationem, in quo est sedes 
animae." Cf. II, 532. 

2i See above, Introd., p. 35, and Lecture VIII, p. 204. 


to evoke the phantoms, the necromancers dug a ditch and 
poured blood, wine, milk and honey into it. These liquids 
had an exciting effect on the spirits of the dead, arousing 
them from their torpor, and the wizard took advantage of 
it to question them. 

Precautions lest the dead should ever suffer from lack 
of nourishment were multiplied. In order that they might 
be fed on other days than those of sacrifices, all over the 
ancient world it was customary to place food on their 
tombs— eggs, bread, beans, lentils, salt, flour, with wine. 
Hungry vagrants did not always respect their offerings 
but would help themselves to the proffered viands. 

The institution which is most characterised by the per- 
sistence of the ancient ideas of life in the tomb is how- 
ever that of the funeral banquets. These family repasts, 
which had previously been celebrated among the Etrus- 
cans, took place in Rome on the grave immediately after 
the funeral (silicernium) and were repeated on the ninth 
day following (cena novemdialis). In Greece and in the 
East the ceremony took place thrice, on the third, ninth 
and thirtieth or on the third, seventh and fortieth day. 
Everywhere it was subsequently renewed every year on 
the anniversary of the death and on several other fixed 
dates, as on that of the Rosalia in May, on which it was 
customary to decorate the tombs with roses. Memorial 
monuments of some importance are often found to in- 
clude, beside the burial chamber, a dining-room (triclin- 
ium) and even a kitchen (culina). The importance 
attached to these meals is proved by several wills which 
have been preserved, and which make considerable endow- 
ments to ensure their perpetuity. For instance, at Ra- 
venna a son bequeaths a sum of money to a college on 
condition that its members annually scatter roses on his 
father's grave and feast there on the Ides of July. 22 
When Aurelius Vitalio had built at Praeneste a family 

22 CIL, XI, 132=Dessau, 7235. 


tomb, surmounted by a room with a terrace, lie wrote a 
letter in incorrect Latin to the brothers of the society to 
which he belonged : "I ask you, my companions, to refresh 
yourselves here without quarrelling. ' ,23 An African set- 
tled in Rome similarly writes to his relatives and friends, 
< ' Come here in good health for the feast, and rejoice 
together." 24 And in Gaul a will commands that the burial 
vault be furnished and receive a bed with coverings and 
cushions for the guests who have to meet on the memorial 
days. 25 

These funeral repasts go back to a prehistoric antiq- 
uity. They are found in India and in Persia as well as 
among the European peoples. They are doubtless as 
ancient as wedding and festal banquets. Among the Egyp- 
tians and the Etruscans it was even customary to place the 
representation of a perpetual feast on the walls of a tomb 
in order to secure to the dead person the relief it gave. 
The shade of a guest might well be pleased with the like- 
ness of dishes. 

It was believed that at funeral feasts the Manes of 
ancestors came to sit among the guests and enjoyed with 
them the abundance of the food and wines. Lucian tells of 
repasts of this kind, which he witnessed in Egypt, at which 
the dried mummy was invited to eat and drink at the table 
of his kin. 26 In Greece, even in the Roman period, those 
present at the feast used to summon the dead to it by 
name. An epitaph of Narbonne jokingly expresses the 
vulgar idea as to the participation of the deceased in the 
banquet: "I drink and drink again, in this monument, ,, 
says the dead man, "the more eagerly because I am 
obliged to sleep and to dwell here. ' m 

23CIL, XIV, 3323=Dessau, 8090: "Hoc peto aego a bobis unibersis 
sodalibus ut sene bile ref rigeretis. ' ' 

24 CIL, VI, 26554=zDessau, 8139. 

25 Dessau, 8379. 

26 Lucian, Be luctu, 37. 

27 Dessau, 8154=CIL, XII, 5102=Bucheler, Carm. epigr., 788: 

' ' [Eo] cupidius perpoto in monumento meo, 
Quod dormiendum et permanendum heic est mihi. ' ' 


Nothing is further from our spiritual ideas as to the 
holiness of graveyards than the conviviality occasioned 
by the cult of the departed; among the guests crowned 
with flowers, the drinks went round (circumpotatio) and 
soon produced a noisy intoxication. Do not think this was 
an abuse due to a relaxation of morals and which came 
into being in later times. The character of these funeral 
banquets was such from the beginning, and such it has 
remained down to modern times in many countries. You 
all know the practice of the Irish "wake" which has been 
preserved even in the United States. 

For it was long believed that the dead had their part 
in the merriness and inebriation of the companions at 
table and were thus consoled for the sadness of their lot. 
"Thou callest," says Tertullian, 28 "the dead careless 
(securos) when thou goest to the tombs with food and 
delicacies, but thy real purpose is to make offerings to 
thyself, and thou returnest home tipsy. ' ' And indeed, as 
we shall see, 29 these feasts were no longer of profit to the 
dead only but to the living also, because there came to be 
a confusion between them and the Bacchic communions in 
which wine was a drink of immortality. 

No religious ceremony was more universally per- 
formed in the most diverse regions of the Empire than 
this cult of the grave. At every hour of every day families 
met in some tomb to celebrate there an anniversary by 
eating the funeral meal. Peoples remained strongly at- 
tached to practices the omission of which would have 
seemed to them dangerous as well as impious, for the 
spirits of the dead were powerful and vindictive. 

It is therefore not surprising that these practices per- 
sisted in the Christian era in spite of the efforts of the 
clergy to suppress them. St. Augustine reprimands those 
who, like pagans, "drink intemperately above the dead" 
— these are his words — "and who, while serving meals to 

28 J)e testim. animae, 4. 

29 See below, Lecture VIII, p. 203 s. 


corpses, bury themselves with these buried bodies, mak- 
ing a religion of their greed and their drunkenness. ,,3 

In the East, however, ecclesiastical authority tolerated 
a custom which it could not uproot, contenting itself with 
forbidding the abuse of wine and recommending a mod- 
eration the absence of which might often be deplored. 
Ecclesiastical authority also insisted that a part of the 
feast should be given to the poor, thus giving a charitable 
character to the old pagan practice. 31 Therefore in many 
countries, and especially in Greece and in the Balkans, the 
habit has survived to this day, not only of placing food on 
tombs, but also of eating there on certain anniversaries, 
with the idea that the dead in some mysterious way share 
and enjoy the meal. 


In Rome, in historical times, the funeral repast might 
be taken not at the tomb but in the house. Among the 
feasts celebrated by the confraternities in honour of some 
dead benefactor, on the dates fixed by his last will, many 
were held in the meeting-place of the guild. But the be- 
lief continued in the real presence of him whose ' ' spirit 
was honoured," 32 and whose statue or picture often 
adorned the banqueting hall. 

From the earliest period, the spirit of the dead was in- 
deed not regarded as inseparable from his remains or as 
a recluse cloistered in the tomb. He dwelt there but could 
issue thence, although for long it was believed that he 
could not go far away but remained in the neighbourhood 
of the burial place. He was brought back to it by the 
necessity of taking food, which was no less indispensable 
to him than to men. He returned, therefore, to it, as a 
dweller returns to his home, to repair his energies and 
to rest. This idea that the soul wandered around its "eter- 

30 Augustine, Be mor. eccles., 34 : " Qui luxuriosissime super mortuos 
bibant et epulas cadaveribus exhibentes super sepultos se ipsos sepeliant et 
voracitates ebrietatesque suas deputent religioni. " 

3i Constitutiones Apostol., VIII, 42. 

32 Dessau, 8375: "Colant spiritum meum." 


nal house" often caused pains to be taken to surround 
this house with a garden. Sometimes such a garden was 
planted with a practical object: it was a vineyard, an 
orchard or a rose-garden which supplied the wine, fruit 
or flowers necessary for the offerings to the dead. 33 But 
elsewhere a mere pleasure-garden, with shady groves, 
bowers, pavilions and sparkling fountains, surrounded 
the burial place. The care which the living took to fix, 
by their will, its extent and its planting is a measure of 
the intensity of their conviction that their shade would 
take pleasure in refreshing itself in this quiet haunt. 
There, about the tomb, it would enjoy the delights which 
would afterwards be transported to the Elysian Fields, 
as we shall see later. 

The cult of the grave has not ceased in these days ; the 
ancient rites have not been discontinued. Tombstones are 
still surrounded with flowers; they are decked with 
wreaths ; in Italy lamps are kept burning over them. But 
the reasons which established these customs have disap- 
peared ; for us they are no more than a way of betokening 
our care for the beloved, of piously showing our intimate 
feelings by outward signs and marking the duration of 
our regrets and our memories. They are survivals which 
have lost all the concrete and real meaning which they 
had in the far-off days when men believed that a being 
like themselves sojourned in the place in which bones or 
ashes were deposited. 

The dead were not then cut off from the society of the 
living ; the connection between them and their surround- 
ings was not broken; the continuity between the hour 
which preceded and that which followed their decease 
was not interrupted. It has often been remarked that in 
this respect ancient ideas were profoundly different from 
ours. Those lost to sight did not then cease to partake 
of the life of their families; they remained in com- 
munication with their friends and their kin, who met 

33 Cf. Petronius, 71: "Omne genus poma volo sint circa cineres meos et 
vinearum largiter"; Dessau, 8342 ss. ; below, Lecture VIII, p. 200. 


together in their new dwelling, and an effort was made to 
render their isolation less hard to bear by bringing them 
into touch with many people. Our dead rest in peaceful 
and remote graveyards where no noise or din may trouble 
the tranquil mood of afflicted visitors. The Romans placed 
their dead along the great roads, near the gates of towns, 
where there was press of passers-by and the rolling of 
chariot-wheels. Their wish was not, when they buried 
them beside the most frequented highways, to recall their 
destiny to mortals, although philosophers have thus ex- 
plained the custom. 34 On the contrary, they wanted to 
cause those who were no more to forget their own destiny. 
"I see," says an epitaph, 35 "and I gaze upon all who go 
and come from and to the city." "Lollius has been 
placed," we read elsewhere, 36 "by the side of the road in 
order that all passers-by may say to him, 'Good day, 
Lollius.' " 

The inscriptions in which the dead speak, addressing 
those who stop before their monuments, are innumerable. 
They console such as continue to love them, thank those 
who are still busy on their behalf and express wishes for 
their happiness, or else they impart to their successors 
the wisdom acquired by experience of life. Often they take 
part with them in a dialogue, answering their greetings 
and wishes: "May the earth be light on thee!" — "Fare 
thou well in the upper world"; 37 or else: "Hail Fabia- 
nus." — "May the gods grant you their benefits, my 
friends, and may the gods be propitious to you, travellers, 
and to you who stop by Fabianus ! Go and come safe and 
sound ! May you who crown me with garlands or throw me 
flowers, live for many years ! ' ,38 


Thus throughout antiquity, in spite of the evolution of 

34Varro, Lingu. Lat., VI, 49 (45). 

35 Arch, epigr. Mitt, aus Oesterreich, X, 1886, p. 64. 

36 Dessau, 6746. 

37 Ibid., 8130. 
ss/Znd., 1967; cf. 8139. 


ideas as to the future life, the persuasion always re- 
mained invincible that the spirits of the dead moved 
about among men. These disincarnate intelligences, 
which were, however, provided with light and swift bodies, 
did not let themselves be imprisoned in the tomb. They 
fluttered unceasingly around living beings, causing them 
to feel the effects of their presence. There is here, mingled 
with the primitive idea that a mysterious being, like it in 
appearance, has its place in the ground beside the buried 
corpse, the other and equally ancient idea that the soul 
is a breath exhaled by the dead at the moment when they 
expire. To breathe is the first act which marks the life of 
a newly born infant and to cease to breathe is the first 
sign which betokens the extinction of life. Primitive peo- 
ple therefore naturally thought that the principle which 
animated the body was a breath, which entered it at birth 
and left it at death. The very name which denotes the 
vivifying essence is in most languages witness to the 
general predominance of this conception. Vvxv in Greek 
is connected with ^w, "to blow"; the Latin animus or 
anima corresponds to avefxos, "wind," and in the Semitic 
languages nefes and ruah have a similar meaning. At the 
moment in which man expired, his soul escaped through 
his mouth and floated in the ambient air. The Pythago- 
reans, when they taught that "the air is full of souls," 39 
were conforming to an old belief which is not Greek only 
but universal. When Virgil 40 shows us Dido's sister, at 
the time of the queen's suicide, receiving the last breath 
which floats on her dying lips, he is lending a Boman 
custom to the Carthaginians, the custom of the last kiss 
which, according to a widely held belief, could catch on 
its way the soul which was escaping into the atmosphere. 
This soul was often imagined as a bird in flight and we 
will see elsewhere the conclusions drawn from this naive 
conception. 41 Here we wish merely to indicate how the 

39 Diog. Laert., VIII, 32 ; cf. Servius, Aen., Ill, 63 ; Lecture VI, p. 160. 

40 Virg., Aen., IV, 685. 

4i See Lecture VI, p. 157. 


idea of the aerial soul was combined with that of the 
spirit inhabiting the tomb. This shade or simulacrum of 
those who were no longer of this world, but who still 
existed, since they showed themselves to the living in 
their previous guise, was a body like the wind — intangi- 
ble, invisible, save when it thickened like clouds or smoke. 
A multitude of these vaporous beings, innumerable as 
past generations, moved unceasingly on the earth's sur- 
face, and, above all, roamed around the tombs, where they 
were retained by their attachment to their bodies. 
Whether, like the Greeks, men identified them with the 
" demons, " or, like the Romans, called them " Manes 
gods," "genii" or " lemur es," or by other names, the 
unanimous opinion was that their power was superior to 
that of mankind and that they caused it to be felt by a 
constant intervention in the affairs of human society. 

It was generally held that if the required cult were not 
rendered them, they would punish this neglect with wrath, 
but that they showed their benevolence to those who de- 
served it by zeal in serving them. 42 The dead were capa- 
ble, like the living, of gratitude as well as of resent- 
ment. The greater had been their power in this world, the 
more considerable it remained in the other, and the more 
advantage there was in securing their protection or even 
their co-operation. 

Servius reports the existence of the singular belief that 
souls had to swear to Pluto never to help those they had 
left behind them on earth to escape from their destiny. 43 
Such was, then, the extent of their supposed power. But 
all the dead were not, like some of the heroes who had be- 
come the equals of the gods, capable of performing prodi- 
gious deeds. Many, gifted with less force, were concerned 
with lesser interests ; they did no more than protect their 
family, the domestic hearth and the neighbouring field, 
and render small daily services. "Farewell, Donata, thou 

42 Cf. Porph., Be dbstin., II, 37. 

« Servius, Georg., I, 277; cf. Dessau, 8006. 


who wast pious and just," says an epitaph, " guard all 
thy kin.' m 

The idea that the ancestors become the tutelary spirits 
of their descendants who were faithful to their duty to 
them, goes back to the remotest antiquity and probably 
lies at the foundation of the cult of the Lares. 45 But the 
field of action of these genii was multiple, since they were 
a multitude, and their functions underwent a further de- 
velopment when they were considered to be the equiva- 
lents of the demons of the Greeks. "The souls of the 
dead," Maximus of Tyre 46 tells us, "mingle with all kinds 
of men, with every destiny, thought and pursuit of man ; 
they support the good, succour the oppressed and punish 
the criminal." Plotinus, recalling the universal custom 
of paying cult to those who have gone, adds : "Many souls 
which belonged to men do not cease to do good to men 
when they have left the body. They come to their aid 
especially in granting them revelations." 47 

The wish is therefore entertained to see in dreams 
those who have left an empty place in the family dwelling 
or the marriage couch. A woman whom a murder has 
separated from her young husband prays the most holy 
Manes to be indulgent to him and to allow her to see him 
again during the hours of the night. 48 But it was not only 
in dreams that men hoped to descry again those who were 
lost to sight. "If tears are of any avail," says another 
epitaph, "show thyself by apparitions (w)." 49 Is it a 
question here also of nocturnal apparitions? Perhaps; 
but the belief that the spirits of the dead returned to the 
earth and made themselves visible to people who were 
wide awake met with very little incredulity among the 

44 CIL, VIII, 2803a : i ' Donata, pia, iusta, vale, serva tuos omnes. ' ' 

45 Margaret Waites, American journ. of archaeol., 1920, 242 ss. 

46 Maxim. Tyr., Diss., IX (XV), 6. 

47 Plotinus, Enn., IV, 7, 20. 

48 Dessau, Inscr. sel., 8006. "Manus mala" means probably a murder 
produced by witchcraft; cf. ibid., 8522; Lecture V, p. 135. 

49 CIL, II, 4427: "Lacrimae si prosunt, visis te ostende video.' ' 


ancients. It was not only the common man who accepted 
it ; most thinkers upheld this opinion. Lncian 50 shows us 
a meeting of philosophers in which no one doubts "that 
there are demons and phantoms and that the souls of the 
dead do wander on earth and show themselves to whom 
they please." A single fact will suffice to prove how 
general was this conviction. The sober historian Dio Cas- 
sius 51 relates that in his time, more precisely in the year 
220 A. D., a demon (who was evidently a flesh and blood 
impostor) appeared in the Danubian countries in the form 
of Alexander the Great. He was followed by four hundred 
Bacchantes carrying the thyrsus and the nebris. This 
troop went through all Thracia without doing any harm 
to the inhabitants, who hastened to give them shelter and 
food, and not a single official dared oppose their passage. 
Arrived near Chalcedon, the pseudo-Alexander made a 
strange sacrifice one night, burying a wooden horse, and 
thereupon immediately disappeared. 

Like modern spiritualists, the ancients saw in these 
apparitions an irrefutable proof of the after life. * ' Thou 
who doubtest the existence of the Manes/ ' we read on 
the tomb of two young girls, "invoke us after making a 
vow and thou wilt understand. ' ,52 Revelations were in- 
deed to be expected of the wisdom of the disincarnate 
souls. In spite, therefore, of the laws forbidding magic, 
necromancy never ceased to be practised. By a nocturnal 
sacrifice, analogous to that offered on tombs (p. 52) and 
by the virtue of their incantations, the wizards obliged 
the dead to appear before them and answer their ques- 
tions. The poets and romancers liked to introduce in their 
works descriptions of the atrocious ceremonies which 
were intended to give momentary life even to a corpse 
and cause it to pronounce oracles. 

The dead in these scenes often appear as restive and 

so Lucian, Philopseudes, 29. 
si Dio Cassius, LXXIX, 18. 

52 Dessau, Inscr. sel., 8201a: "Tu qui legis et dubitas Manes esse, spon- 
sione facta invoca nos et intelleges. ' ' 


even hostile beings who were forced to such actions by the 
power of witchcraft. The dominant feeling among all peo- 
ples is indeed that the dead are unhappy and therefore 
malevolent. They were believed to be excessively sensi- 
tive: great care must be taken to do nothing to offend 
them. If their rights were overlooked, if they were for- 
gotten, they showed their wrath by sending illnesses and 
scourges to the guilty. This unpleasant and sometimes 
cruel, even ferocious character of the Manes is very 
marked in Rome, perhaps in consequence of the influence 
of the Etruscans or the beliefs concerning after life. A 
legend had it that the ceremonies of the Parentalia hav- 
ing on one occasion been omitted, the plaintive ghosts 
scattered about the town and the fields and caused 
many deaths. 53 What we know of the rites performed at 
the Lemuria and at funerals shows that they tended to 
protect the house against the spirits haunting it and to 
rid it of them. ' ' The dead are welcome neither to the gods 
nor to men," says an old Latin inscription. 54 To the 
family Lares who protected a household, the larvae were 
opposed, the wandering phantoms who spread terror and 
evil. ' * Spare thy mother, thy father and thy sister, ' ' we 
read on a tomb, "in order that after me they may cele- 
brate the traditional rites for thee." 55 This hostile charac- 
ter attributed to inhabitants of the tombs explains the 
custom of placing in them leaden tablets on which curses 
were written calling down the most frightful ills on 
enemies. A large number of these tabellae defixionum in 
Greek and Latin have been found and they prove the fre- 
quency of this practice, which has perhaps an Oriental 
origin. 56 But the devotio to the Manes gods is an old 
Roman ceremony, which proceeds from the idea that they 

53 Ovid, Fast., II, 546. 

5-tCIL, I, 818=VI, 10407e=Dessau, 8749: "Mortuus nee ad deos nee ad 
homines aeceptus est." Cf. CIL, X, 8249. 

55 CIL, VI, 12072: "Parce matrem tuam et patrem et sororem tuam 
Marinam, ut possint tibi facere post me sollemnia. " 

56 Audollent, Defixionum tabellae, 1904. 


endeavour to tear the living from the earth and draw 
them to themselves. 

There is one class of the dead which is peculiarly 
noxious, those namely who have not been buried. The 
ideas connected with them are so characteristic of the 
oldest conception of immortality that these arafyoi or in- 
sepulti deserve to detain us for a few moments. 

From the most ancient times the beliefs reigned 
among all the peoples of antiquity that the souls of those 
who are deprived of burial find no rest in the other life. 
If they have no "eternal house " they are like homeless 
vagabonds. But the fact that the dead had been buried did 
not suffice; their burial must also have been performed 
according to the traditional rites. Perhaps the liturgical 
formulas were supposed to have power to keep the 
shade in the tomb, as other incantations could summon it 
thence. Above all, however, it was believed, as we have 
already stated, that when the dead had not obtained the 
offerings to which they had the right, they suffered and 
that their unquiet spirits fluttered near the corpse and 
wandered upon the surface of the earth and the waters, 
taking vengeance on men for the ills men had inflicted on 

The denial of interment was thought to be the source 
of infinite torment for the dead as for the living, and to 
throw earth on abandoned corpses was a pious duty. The 
pontiffs, who believed the sight of a corpse made them 
unclean, might not for all that leave it unburied if they 
happened to find one on their way. To bury the dead has 
remained a work of mercy in the Church, and in Rome a 
confraternity still exists which brings in from far away 
the dead found lying in the desert Campagna. The pain 
represented by lack of burial was the worst chastisement 
called down by imprecations on enemies on whom venge- 
ance was desired. Among believers it gave rise to an 
anxiety comparable with that which the refusal of the 


last sacrament now causes to Roman Catholics. In the 
Greek cities, as in Rome, the law often condemned to it 
those who had committed suicide or had been executed, 
hoping thus to divert desperate and outrageous men from 
their fatal design by the apprehension of a wretched lot 
in the Beyond. 57 Sometimes the law merely laid down that 
the guilty must not be interred in the soil of their country, 
an almost equally terrible penalty, since it cut them off 
from the family cult, by which their descendants could 
give satisfaction to their Manes. When, therefore, through 
some accident, a traveller or soldier died abroad or was 
shipwrecked at sea, his body was, when possible, brought 
back to his country, or, if this could not be done, a ceno- 
taph was raised to him, and his soul was summoned aloud 
to come and inhabit the dwelling prepared for it. When 
cremation became general in Rome, the old pontifical law 
invented another subterfuge which allowed the ancient 
rites to be accomplished : a finger was cut from the body 
before it was carried to the pyre, and earth was thrown 
three times on this "resected bone" (os resectum). 

Against these ancient beliefs, which were the source of 
so much anguish and so many superstitions, the philoso- 
phers fought energetically. First the Cynics and then the 
Epicureans and the Stoics endeavoured to show their 
absurdity. They are fond of quoting the answer of Theo- 
dore the Atheist to Lysimachus who was threatening him 
with death without burial — "What matters it whether I 
rot on the earth or under it?" Since the corpse was un- 
conscious and without any sensibility, it was indeed of no 
consequence whether it were burnt or buried, eaten by 
worms or by crows. Why should it be a misfortune to die 
abroad? Only the living had a country; the whole earth 
was the dwelling of the dead. If such cares troubled men 
they were the victims of the invincible illusion that the 
body retained capacity to feel even beyond the grave. 

The very frequency with which these commonplaces of 

57 See below, Lecture V, pp. 143, 145. 


the school are repeated shows how tenacious were the 
prejudices which they attempted to eradicate. Here, as 
in other connections, the renewal of Pythagorism super- 
vened at the end of the Republic to favour the persistence 
of the old beliefs. A doctrine, to which Plato alludes, 58 
taught that souls which had not been appeased by funeral 
rites, had to wander for a hundred years, the normal term 
of a human life. Confined in the air near the earth, they 
remained subject to the power of magicians. Especially if 
the wizards had been able to obtain possession of some 
portion of the corpse, whence the soul could not entirely 
detach itself, they gained influence over it and could 
constrain its obedience. "When this century of suffering 
had elapsed, these souls were admitted to a place of puri- 
fication, where they sojourned ten times longer, and when 
these thousand years had passed they returned to rein- 
carnate themselves in new bodies. We will see in another 
lecture 59 that the Pythagoreans enunciated analogous 
theories as to the lot of children swept off before their 
time and of men who died a violent death. 

Virgil describing the descent of Aeneas into the infer- 
nal regions recalls these Pythagorean speculations when 
he shows us the miserable crowd of the unburied shades 
fluttering for a hundred years on the bank of the Styx 
before they obtained from Charon their passage to its 
other shore. 60 

Favoured by these new tendencies of philosophy, the 
unreasoning apprehension inspired by omission of burial 
subsisted under the Empire, not only among the ignorant 
many, but also in the most enlightened classes. This fear 
explains why everyone took extreme care to have a tomb 
built for himself and to ensure, if he could, that funeral 
ceremonies were celebrated in it, why many epitaphs 
threaten with judicial penalties and divine punishments 

58 Plato, Eepubl., X, 615 A B; cf. Norden, Aeneis Buck VI, p. 10. 

so See Lecture V, p. 134. 

eoVirg., Aen., VI, 325 ss: "Inops inhumataque turba. . . . Centum 
errant annos volitantque haec litora circum." 


the sacrilegious offenders who should violate the grave, 
and why such a number of popular colleges were founded, 
of which the principal object was to secure decent obse- 
quies to their members. The rules of the cultores of Diana 
and Antinoiis at Lanuvium stipulate that when a slave 
dies and his master maliciously refuses to deliver his 
body for burial, a "funus imaginariurn" be made for him, 
that is, that the ceremony be celebrated over a figure 
representing the dead man and wearing his mask. 61 From 
this "imaginary' ' burial effects were expected as benefi- 
cent as those results are maleficent which a wizard antici- 
pated when he fettered and pierced a waxen doll to work 
a charm. 

From the stories of the gravest writers we perceive 
what lot was believed to threaten the unfortunate who 
were burnt or interred without the rites being observed. 
After Caligula's murder his corpse was hastily shovelled 
into the ground in a garden on the Esquiline (horti 
Lamiani), but then the keepers of this park were terrified 
by apparitions until the imperial victim's sisters caused 
his body to be exhumed, and buried it in accordance with 
the sacred rules. 62 Pliny the Younger in one of his letters 
seriously relates a story which seems to have been often 
repeated, for we find it, little changed, in Lucian. 63 There 
was in Athens a haunted house which remained empty, no 
one daring to live in it because several of its tenants had 
died of fright. In the silence of the night a noise was 
heard as of clanking iron ; then a horrible spectre moved 
forward in the shape of an emaciated old man, bearded 
and hairy, rattling the chains which were about his feet 
and legs. A philosopher dared to take this house, and he 
settled himself there one evening, resolved to keep him- 
self awake by working. The ghost appeared to him, came 
towards him with its usual clatter, signed to him to follow 
and disappeared in the courtyard. When daylight came, 

6i Dessau, Inscr. sel., 7213=CIL, XIV, 2112, II, 4. 

62 Sueton., Calig., 59 ; cf. Plautus, MostelL, III, 2. 

63 Pliny, Epist., VII, 27; Lucian, Philopseudes, 31. 


a hole was dug in the place where the phantom had van- 
ished, and a skeleton in fetters was found. The bones were 
taken up and burned according to the rites, and there- 
after nothing troubled the quiet of the house. Lucian, in 
his version of this ghost story, specifies the philosopher 
as a Pythagorean and shows him repelling the apparition 
by the virtue of his spells. The Pythagoreans were indeed 
often necromancers, convinced defenders of spiritualism, 
in which, as we have said (p. 62), they sought an imme- 
diate proof of the immortality of the soul, and by their 
doctrines they contributed to keeping alive the super- 
stitious fear attached to omission of burial. 

But they were no more than theorists as to a belief 
which was widespread and which the invasion of Oriental 
magic was to revive. The curse-tablets often evoke, 
together with other demons, " those who are deprived of 
a sacred tomb" (aVo/)ot 7779 tepas rcu^s). 64 They associate 
them with those who have died before their time or by a 
violent death. 65 Heliodorus 66 the romancer, a priest of 
Emesa in Syria, who probably lived in the third century, 
pictures for us a very characteristic scene: a child has 
been killed ; a wizard takes its body, places it between two 
fires, and performs a complicated operation over it, in 
order to restore it to life by his incantations and to obtain 
a prediction of the future. "Thou forcest me to rise again 
and to speak/ ' the child complains, " taking no thought 
for my funeral and thus preventing me from mingling 
with the other dead. ' ' For the shades of the nether world 
rejected one who had been left unburied. 67 

These ancient beliefs, which the East shared with the 
West, were, more or less modified, to survive the down- 
fall of paganism. If the Christians of the first centuries 
no longer feared that they would go to join the shades 
who wandered on the bank of the Styx, they were still 

64 Audollent, Defixionum tabellae, 27, 1. 18; cf. 22 ss. 

65 See Lecture V, p. 135. 

66 Heliodorus, Aeth., VI, 15. 

67 See Lecture VIII, p. 193. 


pursued by the superstitious dread that they would have 
no part in the resurrection of the flesh if their bodies did 
not rest in the grave. 68 Nay, the terrors of former ages 
still haunt the Greeks of today. The people remain per- 
suaded that those who have not had a religious funeral 
return to wander on the earth, and that, changed to 
bloody vampires, they punish men, and in particular 
their kin, for their neglect. 69 A nomocanon of the Byzan- 
tine Church orders that if the body of a ghost be found 
intact, when disinterred, its maleficent power thus being 
proved, it be burnt and a funeral service with an offering 
of meats be afterwards celebrated for its soul. This is 
exactly what was done in antiquity in order to appease 
the dead who had not been buried according to the rite, 
rite conditi. 

68 Leblant, Epigraphie cJiretienne de la Gaule, 1890, 52 ss. 

69 Lawson, Modem Greek folklore, 1910, p. 403. 



A MONG most peoples the primitive idea of an after 
/\ life in the grave was enlarged into the conception 
^~m of a common existence of the dead in the depths 
of the earth. The dead man does not stay confined in the 
narrow dwelling in which he rests; he goes down into 
vast caverns which extend beneath the crust of the soil we 
tread. These immense hollows are peopled by a multitude 
of shades who have left the tomb. Thus the tomb becomes 
the antechamber of the true dwelling of the spirits who 
have departed; its door is the gate of Hades itself. 
Through the tomb, the great company of the beings who 
have been plunged in the darkness of the infernal regions 
remains in communication with those who still sojourn 
in our upper world. The libations and offerings made by 
the survivors on the grave descend to this gloomy hypo- 
geum and there feed and rejoice those for whom they are 
intended. Until the time of the Roman Empire, nay, to the 
end of antiquity, the common man believed in this won- 
der. 1 To attempt to define the means by which it was 
brought about would be vain. These were beliefs which 
went back so far and were so deeply rooted in the mind 
of the people that men accepted them without seeking to 
explain them. 

In Rome, the idea that the spirits of the dead inhabit a 
common dwelling in the nether world existed from the 
time when the city had its beginnings. It kept in religion 
a coarsely naive form which proves how archaic it was. 

1 Lucian, Be luctu, 9. 


According to a rite borrowed by the Romans from the 
Etruscans, a pit was dug in the centre of the city, when 
the latter 's foundations were laid, in order to make the 
Inferi communicate with the upper world. First fruits and 
other gifts were thrown into the pit, as well as a clod of 
the earth of the settlers' native country. Thus they re- 
stored their broken contact with the Manes of their ances- 
tors. In all probability this hole was formed of a vertical 
pit ending in a chamber with an arched roof curved like 
the heaven — hence the name mundus given to it. The key 
of the vault of this lower cellar was formed of a stone, the 
lapis Manalis, which could be raised in order to let the 
spirits pass. Three times a year, on the twenty-fourth of 
August, the fifth of October and the eighth of November, 
this ceremony took place : the door of hell was opened and 
the dead had free access to the atmosphere. These days 
were therefore sacred, religiosi, and all business was 
suspended on them. 

Recently the mundus of the ancient Roma Quadrata 
was believed to have been discovered during excavations 
of the Palatine, but the underground space in question is 
probably only a silo or a cistern. Other pits used for the 
cult of the dead existed elsewhere in the city. It has re- 
cently been suggested that the altar of the god Consus, 
which was hidden in a ditch in the middle of the Circus 
Maximus and uncovered during the races, was one of 
these mouths of hell and like that shown in representa- 
tions of the funeral games of the Etruscans. 2 

But on certain days the souls of the dead rose to the 
earth's surface of themselves, although nothing had been 
done to make their coming thither easier, and they then 
had to be appeased by sacrifices. This was what happened 
from the thirteenth to the twenty-first of February, dur- 
ing the Parentalia, when the souls of ancestors were 
honoured, and on the ninth, the eleventh and the thir- 
teenth of May, the dates of the Lemuria, on which, at mid- 

sPiganiol, Bevue d'histoire et de litt. religieuses, VI, 1920, p. 335 ss. 


night, according to a prescribed ceremonial, the father of 
the family nine times threw black beans to the Lemur es to 
keep them away from the honse. 

Lemur es and Manes are nsed only in the plural : these 
words stand for the vague conceptions formed of the 
shades of the dead who dwelt beneath the ground. These 
were a nameless crowd, hardly individualised, not dis- 
tinguishable from the fleeting phantoms who fluttered 
about the tombs. The Romans were a people of little 
imagination, and their infernal mythology remained rudi- 
mentary until the time when they borrowed from the 
Greeks the picturesque stories about the adventures of 
travellers to Hades and the blessings and misfortunes 
which there awaited them. 

Originally no idea of retribution was attached to this 
descent of the dead into the infernal regions; it was 
neither their merits nor their demerits which determined 
their condition. On the contrary, the inequalities of 
human society were perpetuated: a nobleman kept a 
higher rank than that of his servants ; each man in some 
sort continued his occupations, even preserved his tastes 
and his passions. Existence in the Beyond was conceived 
as a mere prolongation of earthly life. It is to this idea, 
which was generally entertained, that the old custom 
corresponds of placing in the grave the implements and 
other objects which a dead man was in the habit of using. 
We have already touched on this point in speaking of life 
in the tomb (p. 49), but the things deposited beside the 
corpse were not only those which could be used by the 
dweller of the "eternal house." If he were a powerful lord 
his chariot, his horses and his arms would be buried with 
him ; 3 a hunter would be supplied in the other world with 
his spears and his nets ; 4 a craftsman with the tools of his 
trade; a woman with the objects which enabled her to 
spin and to weave. These funeral customs were more than 
a tradition, followed without reference to the reasons 

3 Cf. Lucian, De luctu, 14. 

4 Cf. Dessau, 8379. 


inspiring it. Among the Greeks, as among the Romans, the 
idea survives persistently, in poetic descriptions of the 
Elysian Fields, that each man will there keep the character 
and retain the habits which distinguished him before his 
death. Virgil, taking his inspiration from Pindar, shows 
us the blessed occupied by the contests of the palestra, by 
song and poetry and by chariot races ; for, he tells us, the 
passion which the dead had in life for arms and for horses 
still pursues them when they have been buried in the 
earth. 5 Ovid 6 sketches with rapid touches an analogous 
picture. "The shades,' ' he says, "wander bloodless, bodi- 
less, boneless; some gather in the forum, others follow 
their trades, imitating their former way of life. ' ' And 
this is no fancy due to the poet's imagination. An awk- 
ward epitaph of a young, probably Syrian, slave 7 tells us 
that he is glad still to be able to discharge his service 
zealously in the retired place where dwells the god of the 
infernal abode. In these instances we find, in spite of the 
transformation undergone by eschatological ideas as a 
whole, a survival of the old conception of the destiny of 
the dead. 

We have not to seek far to discover how this transfor- 
mation took place. It was provoked by the desire to sub- 
ject souls to different treatment according to their 
deserts, and to distribute them in distinct compartments 
in which they would be rewarded or punished in accord- 
ance with their past works. It was much prior to the 
Roman period, going back to the distant age at which 
Orphic theology, with its sanctions beyond the grave, 
modified Homeric tradition and popular religion in 
Greece. In the West the doctrine which imposed itself 
with the Hellenic civilisation on peoples of foreign race 
was ready-made. It spread through the south of Italy by 

s Aen., VI, 653 ss. 

6 Ovid, Metam., IV, 443 ss. 

7 Bucheler, Carm. epigr., 1186: 

' ' Sed in secessum numinis inf ernae domus 
Oficiosus tandem ministerio laetatur suo." 


way of the colonies of Greater Greece in which Pythag- 
orism came to its full power. It is in this country that 
some of the Orphic tablets intended as guides to the dead 
in their journey through the infernal realm have been 
discovered in the tombs; 8 and the great amphorae of a 
later date, bearing representations of scenes of Hades, 
which were also found in southern Italy, show the impor- 
tance which continued to be attached there to the idea of 
the future life. In Campania, Lake Avernus was even 
regarded as one of the entrances to the nether world, 
through which Ulysses and Aeneas had descended. 

The Greek doctrines were also introduced among the 
Etruscans and combined with the beliefs of this people 
as to an underworld in which the Manes of the dead were 
threatened by horrible demons and protected by beneficent 
genii. This Greek influence and its alliance with the 
native traditions appear in Etruria in a great number of 
funeral monuments on which we find represented many 
figures which, according to mythology, peopled the king- 
dom of Pluto. One of the most significant is the fine sar- 
cophagus, discovered a few years ago at Torre San Severo 
near Bolsena, which seems to date from the third century 
B. C. 9 The two long sides hold corresponding reliefs, the 
one showing Achilles' sacrifice of the Trojan prisoners 
on the grave of Patroclus, the other the sacrifice of Polyx- 
ena, last of Priam's daughters, on the tomb of Achilles. 
These scenes, borrowed from the Greek epic poetry, are 
placed between two Etruscan demons, winged figures 
which bear serpents and are male on one side and female 
on the other. The small sides are decorated by two scenes 
from the Odyssey, the myth of Circe changing the com- 
panions of Ulysses into animals — perhaps an allusion to 
metempsychosis — and Tiresias' evocation of the shades 
of the dead, the Elysian Fields being curiously indicated. 
This instance — and many others might be cited — shows 

8 See below, Lecture VI, p. 148. 
*Monumenti Antichi, XXIV, 1917, pp. 5-116. 


how closely the Hellenic legends of Hades had been inter- 
mingled with Etruscan demonology. 

This Greek conception of the infernal regions, which 
literature and art were to popularise and perpetuate even 
after credence had ceased to be given to it, remains 
familiar to us. Taken altogether and in the large, it is that 
of a kingdom imagined as an imitation of the cities of our 
world, in which, however, there reigns such a rigorous 
justice as is on our poor earth no more than a dream of 
minds morally disposed. This underground state, of 
which the frontier is defended by an unbridged river, the 
Styx, is governed by powerful rulers, Pluto and Proser- 
pina. It has its judges, Minos, Aeacus and Rhada- 
manthus ; its executioners, the Erinyes or Furies ; and its 
prison, Tartarus, surrounded by high walls. This jail, in 
which the guilty, laden with chains, suffer the torments 
enacted in Greece by the penal laws or others more 
atrocious, 10 is distinctly contrasted with the abode of the 
good citizens who freely enjoy in delightful gardens all 
the pleasures which make the joy of human beings. 

Books treating of the "Descent into Hades,' ' of which 
a considerable number were in circulation, and the poets ' 
descriptions embroidered various patterns around this 
central design. There was a whole mythological and theo- 
logical efflorescence which peopled with more and more 
numerous figures the fantastic kingdom occupying the 
great cavern of the earth. Infinite variations were im- 
agined on a traditional theme, of which, however, even 
certain details were preserved from age to age with a 
surprising fidelity. Lucian in his satirical description of 
Charon and his boat reproduces types fixed in the sixth 
century before our era, for, as has been observed, his 
picture is in exact agreement with the recently discovered 
fragment of a black-figured vase. 11 

Although in our sources infernal topography is occa- 
sionally somewhat confused, certain essential features, 

10 See below, Lecture VII, p. 172 s. 

ii Furtwangler, Archiv fiir Religionswissenschaft, VIII, 1905, p. 191 ss. 


which we will here merely indicate, can be recognised in 
it. We will return to them one after the other, and speak 
of them in greater detail, in later lectures. When the 
souls, or rather the shades, descend to the depths of the 
earth, they reach first a provisional abode where they 
await a decision as to their lot, an intermediate region 
through which all of them pass but in which some are kept 
for a considerable time. 12 They then cross the Styx, and a 
road which is also common to all of them leads them to 
the court which determines their lot. 13 This judging of 
the dead is foreign to Homeric poetry : the idea of it was 
perhaps borrowed by Greece from Egypt, but from 
ancient Orphism onwards it was an essential element of 
infernal eschatology. Infallible judges, from whom no 
fault is hid, divide into two companies the multitude of 
the souls appearing before them. The guilty are con- 
strained to take the road to the left which leads to dark 
Tartarus, crossing its surrounding river of fire, the 
Pyriphlegethon. There those who have committed inex- 
piable crimes are condemned to eternal chastisement. 14 
But the road to the right leads the pious souls to the 
Elysian Fields where, among flowered meadows and 
wrapped in soft light, they obtain the reward of their 
virtues, whether, having attained to perfection, they are 
able to dwell for ever with the heroes, or whether, being 
less pure, they are obliged to return later to the earth in 
order to reincarnate themselves in new bodies after they 
have drunk the water of Lethe and lost the memory of 
their previous existence. 

The philosophical criticism of the Greeks had early 
attacked these traditional beliefs, but such negative atti- 
tude became more definite among the thinkers of the sur- 
passingly rationalistic period which came after Aris- 

12 See Lecture I, p. 66. 

is See Lecture VI, p. 151. 

14 See below, Lecture VII, p. 172 ss. 


totle. 15 The Peripatetics, who admitted at most the sur- 
vival of reason, rejected in consequence all the myths 
dealing with the descent of the shades into the kingdom 
of Pluto. The Epicureans were even more radical, for, 
as we have seen (p. 7), they condemned the soul to dis- 
solution at the moment of death, thus destroying the very 
foundation of the belief in Hades. Their campaign against 
stories in which they saw only the lugubrious inventions 
of priests and poets, was one of the capital points of their 
polemics against popular religion, and they flattered 
themselves that by destroying faith in the pains of Tar- 
tarus they freed mankind from vain terrors which ob- 
sessed its minds and poisoned its joys. The Stoics, we 
know (p. 13), taught that the soul is a burning breath of 
the same nature as the ether and as the stars which shine 
in the sky. As to whether this ardent fluid was lost after 
death in the universal fire, or kept its individuality until 
the final conflagration of the world, the doctrine of the 
Porch varied. But one thing was certain : the fiery nature 
of the soul must prevent it from going down into the 
underground and impel it to rise to higher spheres. If it 
were weighed down by its contact with the body and laden 
with matter, it might float for some time in the dense air 
surrounding the earth but could never descend into its 
depths. 16 The impossibility of admitting literally the 
truth of the stories as to the infernal realm was thus 

The same psychological doctrine as to the soul's kin- 
ship with the fire of the heavenly bodies was admitted in 
the Alexandrian age by the sect which paid one and the 
same veneration to Pythagoras and to Plato and was thus 
more attached than any other to belief in immortality. 
It gave in, to some extent, to contemporary rationalism 
and was brought to modify its ideas as to life beyond the 
grave. Ancient Pythagorism, the heir of Orphism, made 
much of the sufferings reserved for sinners in the infer- 

15 See Introd., p. 6. 
i« See Introd., p. 29. 


nal abysses. A book attributed to Periktione still shows 
the daughter who has despised her parents as condemned 
to suffer, beneath the earth and in the company of the 
impious, the eternal evil inflicted by "Dike and the gods 
of down below. ,m But in the first century before our era 
the pseudo-Timaeus of Locri declares that such tales are 
fictions — salutary, it is true — imagined by Homer in 
order to divert from evil those to whom truth alone was 
not a sufficient guide. 18 The only penalty which can over- 
take the sinning soul is, according to these Neo-Pythago- 
reans, metempsychosis, which forces it to reincarnate 
itself in a fleshly prison. 19 

This doctrine of transmigration claims to transport 
hell to earth and to explain, as moral allegories, all the 
fables which the poets had invented. 20 The Inferi are noth- 
ing else than the dwellings of our globe, which is the 
lowest of the nine circles of the world. The true Hades is 
the wicked man's life in which he is tortured by his vices. 
The rivers of hell — Cocytus, Acheron, Pyriphlegethon 
and Styx — are anger, remorse, sadness and hate, which 
cause man to suffer. The Furies are the passions, scourg- 
ing him with whips and burning him with torches ; and 
similarly an ingenious interpretation is given to each of 
the pains suffered by Tantalus, Sisyphus, the Danaides 
and the others. 21 

This exegesis led finally to an absolute denial of the 
existence of hell, but such radical scepticism was in too 
flagrant contradiction to the old beliefs to be willingly 
accepted by the minds which remained attached to them. 
Hence arose attempts to bring these beliefs into harmony 
with the psychology generally admitted. 

A first theory, to which we will have to return when 

17 Mullach, Fragm. phil. Graec, II, p. 33. 

is Tim. Locr., Be anim. mundi, 17, p. 104 D; cf. Schmekel, Mittlere Stoa, 
1892, p. 435. 

19 Cf. Lecture VII, p. 178 ss. 

20 Cf. on this doctrine Bevue de philologie, XLIV, 1920, p. 230 ss. 
2i Cf. Lecture VII, p. 181. 


speaking of the nature of the surviving souls, 22 seems to 
have been invented in Alexandria and to have been in- 
spired by Egyptian religion. 23 The authors who first 
allude to it, one Greek and one Roman, are contem- 
poraries who wrote about the year 200 B. C, the critic 
Aristarchus and the poet Ennius, but the transmission of 
the doctrine can be traced through literary traditions 
down to the end of antiquity. It divides the human com- 
posite not into two but into three parts — the body, the 
soul and the shade. The body is destroyed beneath the 
earth; the soul, which is a particle of the divine ether, 
rises after death towards its place of origin ; but a form 
(etScoXov) of subtle matter detaches itself from the corpse, 
and it is this semblance (simulacrum) or shade (umbra) 
which goes down to the infernal regions. The existence 
of these regions could thus be maintained, but they were 
no longer held to receive the celestial principle which 
gave intelligence. 

Others allowed that it was impossible that the earth 
should contain subterranean caverns large enough to 
hold Tartarus, the Elysian Fields and the infinite multi- 
tude of the dead. But they explained that the word sub- 
terranean (vTToyeios) had been misunderstood, that it de- 
noted not the bowels of the earth but the lower half of the 
terrestrial globe, the southern hemisphere, which was 
unknown to the ancients, or even the whole celestial 
hemisphere, curved below this globe which hung motion- 
less in the centre of the universe. 24 This hemisphere is 
always invisible, — so the ancients might say, — which is 
exactly the sense of the word Hades (=0161877$). The 
Axiochos, an apocryphal work attributed to Plato, was 
first to reveal this doctrine, claiming that it had been com- 
municated to Socrates by the Mage Gobryes. It was in 
reality borrowed by the Greeks of the Alexandrian age 
from the astral theology of the Semitic peoples. Accord- 

22 See Lecture VI, p. 167. 

23 Cf. Bev. philol., I. c, p. 237 ss. 

24 On this doctrine see Comptes rendus Acad. Inscriptions, 1920, p. 272 ss. 


ing to this theology the world is divided into two halves 
by the line of the horizon ; the upper hemisphere is the 
domain of the living and the higher gods, the lower that 
of the dead and the infernal gods. Descent to it and ascent 
from it are by way of two gates, situated west and east, 
where the sun appears and disappears. The marshes of 
the Acheron, the river Styx, and Charon and his boat are 
constellations which the souls cross when they have 
passed through the "gate of Hades." 

The ancient Greeks had placed the Islands of the 
Blessed, whither the heroes were borne by the favour of 
the gods, somewhere far away in the ocean. These islands 
were now supposed to lie in the Antipodes, in the un- 
known half of the earth. All the poets ' stories of the fra- 
grant and melodious gardens of this abode of delights 
were applied to these marvellous countries which no 
sailor had ever reached. 25 On the other hand, Tartarus 
was placed at the bottom of the celestial abysses, near the 
lowest point of the lower hemisphere, that is, diametri- 
cally opposite to Olympus, the dwelling of the gods, who 
were throned on the summit of the starry vault. It was 
into this sombre gulf that the wicked were flung; there 
yawned the bottomless pit in which the demons of the 
dusky world inflicted eternal torture on the guilty. 

This theory claimed to bring the ancient Hellenic 
beliefs into agreement with the cosmography of astrono- 
mers, but this cosmography itself undermined the foun- 
dations of the system, in so far as it refuted the hypoth- 
esis of a physical opposition between the two halves of 
the universe. It was observed that a single sky revolved 
about our earth; that the same atmosphere, composed of 
the same elements, enveloped it entirely ; that every part 
of it was, in turn, equally in the light and in the shade. 
Therefore physical phenomena must be identical over the 
whole surface of our globe ; the climate of the Antipodes 
must be like that of our lands; if the Antipodes were 

25 Cf. Lecture VI, p. 155. 


peopled, it was by races like those of men and the beasts. 
Their inhabitants therefore were not the dead bnt living 
beings. The marvels of the Fortunate Isles did not exist 
and there was no reason for regarding the lower rather 
than the upper part of the heavens as the vast reservoir 
of souls. 

The doctrine which placed the subterranean kingdom 
of Pluto and Proserpina on the other side of the earth 
and in the other celestial hemisphere, made a poor resist- 
ance to this criticism of the Alexandrian geographers. 
If it did not entirely disappear, if its transmission can be 
followed down to the end of antiquity and even to the 
Middle Ages, it never was so widespread nor so active as 
another doctrine claiming to reconcile the beliefs of the 
past with accepted science. 

This bold doctrine transported the whole subterranean 
world above the earth's surface. We shall see, in the next 
lecture, on celestial immortality (p. 96), that the Pythago- 
reans conceived the idea of placing the Elysian Fields in 
the moon, and that the Fortunate Isles were similarly ex- 
plained by them as being the sun and the moon bathed by 
the fluid of the ether. The Inferi were thus the lower space, 
that is, the space extending between the sphere of the 
moon, which was the limit of the world of the gods, and our 
globe, which was the centre of the cosmic system. In the 
Inferi the souls which had to suffer the chastisement of 
their faults were kept prisoners ; they could not win to the 
stars but wandered plaintively on the earth's surface and 
especially about their own tombs, and then rose through 
the atmosphere in which, little by little, they were puri- 
fied by the elements. Allegorical interpretations found a 
place for the infernal rivers in this new topography of 
the Beyond : Acheron was explained as being the air, the 
Pyriphlegethon as the zone of hail and fire, and the mean- 
derings of the Styx became the circles of the universe. 
We shall have occasion to return to the passage of the 


soul through this aerial purgatory and its ascension to 
the Elysian Fields of the sky. 26 

This cosmological interpretation of the tales referring 
to Hades had a more powerful influence than the moral 
allegory which did too much violence to tradition in 
claiming to make our earthly life the mythological hell. 
The doctrine that the Inferi were in the atmosphere was 
adopted by Stoicism at least from the time of Posidonius 
and was therefore widely believed from the end of the 
Roman Republic onwards. Even the mysteries, which first 
kept alive the belief in a subterranean kingdom of the 
infernal gods, did not escape the influence of these new 
ideas and were brought to adapt their esoteric teaching 
to them. 27 

The transformation of ancestral beliefs by this the- 
ology cannot today be better apprehended than from the 
sixth book of the Aeneid. Virgil, when he relates the 
descent of Aeneas into the abode of the shades, is inspired 
by the NeJcyia of the Odyssey and other poetic tales. He 
remains apparently faithful to mythological and literary 
tradition, retaining the conventional decoration, the un- 
varying geography of the infernal kingdom ; but he does 
not admit the literal truth of these beliefs of an earlier 
time; he is aware of the figurative sense given by the 
philosophers to the old fables of Hades. At the risk of 
seeming to contradict himself, he recalls this learned 
eschatology — the purification, the ascension and the 
transmigration of souls — in connection with what might 
have been no more than the story of a marvellous journey 
to the country of the dead. The unity of the conception 
and the composition is the less seriously compromised 
because it was believed that the ancient poets themselves 
had wished to indicate these truths in their verses under 
the veil of allegory. The descent to the nether world has 
therefore a much loftier bearing in Virgil than a mere 

26 See Lecture VII, p. 185; cf. VI, p. 161 s. 

27 See Introd., p. 38 s. 


embellishment. It is the expression of a conviction or at 
least a hope, not only a brilliant fiction based on an old 
poetic theme. 

However, the symbolical interpretations of the pagan 
theologians who respected tradition and the purely nega- 
tive criticism of the sceptics led finally to a common 
result, to the destruction, namely, of the ancient beliefs, 
even when it was claimed that they were being saved. 
Whether the souls were held captive in the other hemi- 
sphere or in the atmosphere, or whether they were con- 
demned to reincarnation in a body, Hades was trans- 
formed either to the lower sky, the air or the earth, and 
the early conception of a subterranean world, whither the 
dead who had been laid in the grave descended, was 
abolished. There are abundant texts to prove that from 
the end of the Roman Republic this belief had lost its 
grip on many minds. Cicero 28 claims that there was not an 
old woman left foolish enough to fear the deep dwellings 
of Orcus and the gloomy regions peopled by the livid 
dead. "No one is childish enough,' ' Seneca repeats, 29 "to 
fear Cerberus and the phantoms which appear in the 
form of skeletons.' ' "That there are Manes," says Juve- 
nal, 30 * ' a subterranean kingdom, a ferryman armed with 
a pole, and black frogs in the gulfs of the Styx, that so 
many thousands of men can cross the dark water in a 
single boat," these are things in which everyone had 
ceased to believe except very young children. Pliny 31 
brings forward a paradoxical argument, that, had there 
been infernal regions, the zeal of the miners who had dug 
deep galleries in the ground would have pierced their 
boundaries ; and even the devout Plutarch, when he comes 
to speak of the punishments reserved by mythology for 

28Cic, Tusc, I, 21, 48; cf. I, 6, 10; Nat. deor., II, 2, 5. 

29 Sen., Epist., 24, 18. 

30 Juvenal, Sat., II, 149 ss. 
3i Pliny, E. N., II, 63, §158. 


the wicked, sees in them only nurses' tales to frighten 
babies. 32 

The multiplicity of this testimony and its precision 
allow no doubt that not only the educated classes but a 
large portion of the population rejected the fables as to 
the nether world. These fables were in any case a foreign 
importation in the Latin world. Moralists, while they 
ceased to believe in them for themselves, sometimes pre- 
tended to retain them in order to inspire the people with 
salutary fear, but Tartarus had lost much of its terror 
for those it should have kept from ill-doing. 

Is this to say that these ideas no longer found credence 
anywhere ? A faith which has long dominated minds dis- 
appears hardly and leaves persistent traces behind it in 
customs and feeling. Thus we find that, more or less 
everywhere, the practice was perpetuated of placing in 
the mouth of the corpse a piece of money which served, 
it was said, to pay Charon for the crossing of the Styx. 33 
Excavators have found these coins in many Roman 
tombs. But they are doubtless evidence of no more than 
a traditional rite which men performed without attaching 
a definite meaning to it. 

Moreover, the metrical epitaphs continue to speak of 
the Elysian Fields and of Tartarus, of Styx and of 
Acheron ; they complain of the cruelty of Pluto who bears 
away mortals before their time, or of the Parcae or Fates 
who cut the thread of their days ; they mention the aveng- 
ing Furies, the sufferings of Tantalus, Sisyphus and 
Ixion. But these are no more than ready-made formulas 
of poetical language, literary reminiscenses or traditional 
metaphors. Yet sometimes this infernal mythology is 
curiously developed. Thus a long inscription on a Roman 
tomb describes a young man descending from the ether 
in order to announce to those near and dear to him that 
he has become a celestial hero and has not to go to Pluto's 
kingdom. "I shall not wend mournfully to the floods of 

32 Plutarch, Non posse suaviter vivi sec. Epic, 27, p. 1105. 

33 Cf. Lucian, Be luctu, 10. 


Tartarus; I shall not cross the waters of Acheron as a 
shade, nor shall I propel the dusky boat with my oar; I 
shall not fear Charon with his face of terror, nor shall 
old Minos pass sentence on me ; I shall not wander in the 
abode of gloom nor be held prisoner on the bank of the 
fatal waters." 34 This epitaph dates from the century of 
Augustus, but did its author, any more than the writers 
of that time, believe in the reality of the beings with 
which he peoples Hades? He decorates his language with 
a literary ornament which Christian poetry was later to 
inherit. This poetry did not hesitate to employ these 
pagan commonplaces, which had passed from hand to 
hand until they were so worn out that their first meaning 
had been effaced. The Renaissance and the age of modern 
classicism were again to use and to abuse them. 

The sculpture of tombs continued in the same way 
often to reproduce the ancient models. Sarcophagi some- 
times show us the dead man led by Hermes, guide of 
souls, and coming into the presence of Pluto and Proser- 
pina. 35 We also see on funeral monuments Charon in his 
boat, the typical sufferings of Tantalus, whose eager lips 
cannot reach the flowing water, Ixion turning on his wheel, 
Sisyphus labouring under the weight of his rock and, 
above all, the Danaicles eternally pouring water into a 
perforated vase. 36 But it is probable that these traditional 
figures were repeated without any very strong faith being 
held as to the real existence of the personages which they 

34Biicheler, 1109, v. 19-24: 

"Non ego Tartareas penetrabo tristis ad undas, 
Non Acheronteis transvehar umbra vadis, 
Non ego caeruleam remo pulsabo carinam, 
Nee te terribilem fronte timebo Charon, 
Nee Minos mihi iura dabit grandaevus et atris 
Non errabo locis nee cohibebor aquis. " 

35 See, for instance, Jahresh. Instit. Wien, XVII, 1914, p. 133 ss.; or 
Hermes, XXXVII, 1902, p. 121 ss. 

36 Cf. Jahn, Darstellungen der Unterwelt auf Sarlcophagen, in Ber. Gesell- 
scliaft Wiss. Leipsig, 1856, p. 267 ss.; Eeinaeh, Bepertoire des reliefs, III, 
391 ; Berger, Bevue archeol., 3e serie, XXVI, 1895, p. 71 ss. 


represented ; indeed it was proposed only to show them as 
symbols which had to be interpreted allegorically. 

If we had no other evidence than funeral poetry and 
art of the persistence of the beliefs of the past, the testi- 
mony would have to be accepted very cautiously. But 
other more convincing proofs assure us that popular 
faith clung, with characteristic tenacity, to the ancient 
conception of the Inferi. Without believing precisely in 
the strange tortures inflicted on the wicked heroes of 
mythology, the man in the street was still vaguely per- 
suaded that the souls went down from the tomb to some 
deep places where they received rewards and punish- 
ments. Suetonius 37 relates that when the death of Tiberius 
became known in Rome the people "prayed Mother Earth 
and the Manes gods to give the dead man no other dwell- 
ing than that of the impious." The Oriental slaves 
brought the same convictions from their countries like 
many other old beliefs which had faded away in the West. 
The romancer Heliodorus, a Syrian priest, shows us in 
his novel his heroine invoking "the demons who on the 
earth and under the earth watch over and punish un- 
righteous men, ' ,38 her prayer being that, after the iniqui- 
tous death which threatened her, they might receive her. 
The same conviction appears in the funeral inscriptions 
of the East. Thus an epitaph of Elaiousa in Cilicia 39 
adjures "the heavenly god, the Sun, the Moon and the 
subterranean gods who receive us." The common idea 
was that a dead man can be excluded from the dwelling 
of the shades and condemned to wander miserably on the 
earth. In the same way the thought is often expressed in 
the magic papyri of Egypt that the deceased were 
plunged into the dark gulfs underground and there be- 
came demons whom the wizard called up, when he sum- 
moned them by his incantations. Even in Greece, where 

37 Sueton., Tiberius, 75, 1 : " Terram matrem deosque Manes orarent, ne 
mortuo sedem ullam nisi inter impios darent. " 

38 Heliodorus, Aeth., VIII, 9, p. 231, 10, Bekker. 

39 Jahresh. Instit. Wien, XVIII, 1915, Beiblatt., p. 45. 


rationalistic criticism had penetrated far deeper among 
the people, Plutarch, while he reports that few people 
were still really afraid of Cerberus, the lot of the Dan- 
aides and other bugbears of Hades, adds, however, that 
for fear of such pains recourse was had to purifications 
and initiations. 40 

This belief in the existence of Hades, maintained in 
the lower strata of the population in spite of the inroads 
made on it and of its partial supersession by other doc- 
trines, was to acquire new strength from the rebirth of 
Platonism, which looked upon the writings of the "divine" 
master as inspired. In several passages Plato spoke with 
so much precision of the dwelling of the souls in the 
bowels of the earth that even the subtlety of his later 
interpreters found difficulty in giving another meaning to 
his text, although the attempt was made by some of them. 
Therefore effort was directed to defending the doctrine 
of the infallible sage by refuting the objections raised 
against it by his adversaries. The Stoics had held, as we 
have seen (p. 77), that the soul, being a "fiery breath," 
had a natural tendency to rise in the air and could not 
sink into the ground. But Porphyry 41 objected that in 
lowering itself from heaven towards our world it had be- 
come impregnate with the atmospheric damp and thus 
had grown heavier, and that if during its passage in the 
body it became laden with the clay of a sensual life, if it 
wrapped itself in a material cloak, its density came to be 
such that it was dragged down into the dusky abysses of 
the earth. "It is true," says Proclus, 42 "that the soul by 
force of its nature aspires to rise to the place which is its 
natural abode, but when passions have invaded it they 
weigh it down and the savage instincts which develop in 
it attract it to the place to which they properly belong, 
that is, the earth. ' ' According to Proclus, 43 who claims to 

40 Plutarch, Non posse suaviter vivi sec. Epic., 27, p. 1105. 
iiPorph., Sent., 29 (p. 13, Mommert). 

42 Proclus, In Bemp. Plat., II, p. 126, 10 as., Kroll. 

43 Proclus, ibid., II, p. 131, 20 ss. 


interpret Plato faithfully, the soul after death is judged 
somewhere between the sky and our globe; if it be de- 
clared worthy it enjoys a life of blessedness in the celes- 
tial spheres ; if, on the other hand, it deserve penalties, 
it is sent to a place beneath the ground. Elsewhere, de- 
fining his thought, 44 he affirms that the various parts of 
Hades and the subterranean courts and the rivers of 
whose existence Homer and Plato appraise us, should not 
be regarded as vain imaginations or fabulous marvels. As 
the souls which go to heaven are distributed among 
several and different resting-places, so we must believe 
that for souls still in need of chastisement and purifica- 
tion underground dwellings, whither penetrate numerous 
effluvia of the super-terrestrial elements, are thrown 
open. It is these effluvia that are called " rivers' ' or " cur- 
rents.' ' Here too various classes of demons hold empire, 
some of them avengers, some chastisers, some purifiers 
and some executioners. Into this abode, the farthest from 
that of the gods, the sun's rays do not penetrate. It is 
filled with all the disorder of matter. Therein is the 
prison, guarded by demons who ensure justice, of the 
guilty souls hidden beneath the earth. 

It is not by their faithfulness to Plato 's doctrine, which 
in truth they alter, but by the mere logic of their system 
that the last Greek philosophers are led to admit what 
their predecessors rejected. Sometimes, more or less un- 
consciously, they were under a religious influence. The 
Platonist Celsus believed in the eternal pains of hell but 
invoked only the authority of "mystagogues and theo- 
logians" in support of this article of faith. 45 The opposi- 
tion between the obscure retreats of the Manes and the 
bright dwellings of Olympus is old, and naturally became 
prominent as the belief spread, first that heroes, and 
afterwards that all virtuous spirits, rose to the eternal 
spaces. 46 But the religion which formulated the strictly 

44 Proclus, In Kemp. Plat., I, 121, 23 ss., Kroll. 

45 Orig., Contra Celsum, VIII, 48 s. 
4c See Lecture IV, p. 113 ss. 


consequent doctrine of an absolute antithesis between the 
luminous kingdom where the divinities and the beneficent 
genii were seated, and the dark domain of the Spirit of 
Evil and his perverse demons, was Persian Mazdeism. 
The resplendent heights where the gods had their thrones 
were to be after death the abode of those who had served 
piously. On the other hand, those who had contributed 
to increase evil on the earth, were to be flung into the 
murky abysses in which Ahriman reigned. Iranian dual- 
ism imposed this eschatological conception on a section of 
Alexandrian Judaism ; it was admitted by many Pythag- 
oreans, then by the gnostic sects and later by Maniche- 
ism. But above all it was widely propagated under the 
Roman Empire by the mysteries of Mithras. We find 
then put forth the doctrine that the demons are divided 
into two armies, incessantly at war with each other, one 
good and one evil. The good army is subject to celestial 
powers and comes down to earth to give succour and 
support to the faithful. The evil army obeys an anti-god 
(avTiOeos) and issues from the bowels of the earth in order 
to scatter misery, sin and death among men. 47 The souls 
of the dead become like one or the other of these two 
opposing classes of demons. When they are virtuous and 
pure they rise to the luminous ether where dwell the 
divine spirits. If, on the contrary, they are vicious and 
defiled they go down into the underground depths where 
the Prince of Darkness commands; like the maleficent 
demons who people this hell they surfer and cause to 

It was at this compromise that paganism stopped when 
it reached the term of its evolution. Oriental dualism im- 
posed on it its final formula. It no longer admitted, like 
the ancients, that all the dead must go down from the 
grave into immense hollows dug in the bowels of the 
earth, and it no longer made the Elysian Fields and Tar- 

•*7 Porph., Be abstin., 38 ss. ; cf. Bousset, Archiv fur Religionswiss., 
XVIII, 1915, p. 134 ss., and Andres in Bealencycl., Supplementband, III, 


tarus two contiguous domains of the kingdom of Pluto. 
Nor did it transport them both, side by side, as the pagan 
theologians of the beginning of our era would have done, 
to the atmosphere and the starry spheres. It separated 
them radically, cutting the abode of the souls into two 
halves, of which it placed one in the luminous sky and the 
other in subterranean darkness. This was also the con- 
ception which, after some hesitation, became generally 
accepted by the Church, and which for long centuries was 
to remain the common faith of all Christendom. 



THE astral religion which became predominant in 
the Roman Empire may be considered as an inter- 
mediary, a connecting link, between the old anthro- 
pomorphic paganism and the Christian faith. Instead of 
moral — or, if you prefer, immoral — beings, stronger than 
man but subject to all the passions of man, it taught the 
adoration of the heavenly powers who act on nature, 
and so led mankind to the worship of the Power who is 
beyond the heavens. This influence of the astral cults of 
the East can be clearly perceived in the evolution of the 
ideas as to future life, and this above all constitutes the 
historical importance of the subject which I venture to 
treat in this lecture. 

Beliefs which are spread among many peoples of the 
world relate the immortality of the soul to the heavenly 
bodies. It was for long naively imagined that a new sun 
was created every evening, or at least every winter, and 
a new moon born each month, and traces of this primitive 
idea survived in the religion of antiquity and persist even 
in our modern speech. But when it was realised that the 
same celestial luminaries reappeared and resumed their 
ardour after their fires had died and they had ceased to 
shine, that the stars which were lit at sunset were those 
which had been extinguished at dawn, their lot was 
related to that of man, destined like them to be reborn, 
after death, to a new life. Various savage tribes thus 
associate the heavenly bodies, and especially the moon, 
with the resurrection of the dead. The wan circle which 
sheds its vague light in the darkness of night causes 
phantoms to appear to haunt vigils and dreams, and is 


therefore the power which presides over life beyond the 
tomb. Among the Greeks of the most ancient period 
Hecate was at one and the same time the goddess of the 
moon, the summoner of ghosts and the qneen of the infer- 
nal realm. In the East astrological ideas mingled with 
this mythology. It was taught that the moon's cold and 
damp rays corrupted the flesh of the dead and thus de- 
tached from it the soul which finally abandoned the 
corpse. The Syrians, at the critical times in which the 
moonbeams exercised a more active influence on this 
separation, offered sacrifices on tombs, and the threefold 
commemoration of the dead on the third, the seventh and 
the fortieth day in a part of the Eastern Church had its 
earliest origin in these offerings of the sidereal cults. 1 

There was also a very widely held belief, which has 
survived in European folk-lore, that each man has his 
star in the sky. This star is dazzling if his lot be brilliant, 
pale if his state of life be humble. It is lit at his birth and 
falls when he dies. The fall of a shooting star therefore 
denotes a person's death. This popular idea existed in 
antiquity. Pliny the Naturalist reports it, although he 
denies its truth, 2 and it was again combated in the fifth 
century by Eusebius of Alexandria. "Were there then 
only two stars in the time of Adam and Eve," asks the 
bishop, "and only eight after the Flood when Noah and 
seven other persons alone were saved in the Ark?" 3 The 
formulas of epitaphs and the very usages of language 
show how current was the belief that each man was, as we 
still say, born under a good or an evil star. Astrosus was 
the Latin equivalent of our unlucky. This doctrine of a 
rudimentary astrology was incorporated in the general 
system of learned genethlialogy. Although this latter 
attributed a predominant influence to the planets and the 
signs of the zodiac, it also taught, in accordance with 
popular opinion, that each of the most brilliant stars 

i Cf. Comptes rendus Acad. Inscriptions, 1918, p. 278 ss. 

2 Pliny, H. N., II, 8, § 28. 

s Eusebius Alex., in Pair. Graeca, LXXXVI, 1, p. 453. 


(\afjL7Tpol ao-repe?) ensures riches, power and glory to the 
newly born child, if it be in a favourable position at his 
birth. 4 

But side by side with this general conception of a rela- 
tion between the life of the stars and that of men, a much 
more precise idea is met with from the first. The soul was, 
as we shall see, 5 often conceived by the ancients as a bird 
preparing for flight. Where would it alight when it had 
passed through the air except on the heavenly bodies 
which were still imagined as quite near the earth? The 
paintings on an Egyptian tomb of a late period, found at 
Athribis, show us the soul of the dead man fluttering 
with those others like him in the midst of the constella- 
tions. 6 

The belief was widely spread that the spirits of the 
dead went to inhabit the moon. In the East this faith 
retained a very crude form which certainly went back to 
a most primitive paganism. We find it in India as well as 
in Manicheism, which arose in Mesopotamia in the third 
century, but which admitted many ancient traditions into 
its doctrine. "All who leave the earth," says an Upani- 
shad, "go to the moon, which is swollen by their breath 
during the first half of the month.' ' The Manicheans simi- 
larly affirmed that when the moon was in the crescent its 
circumference was swelled by souls, conceived as lumi- 
nous, which it drew up from the earth, and that when it was 
waning it transferred these souls to the sun. Using an 
idea much earlier than his time, 7 Mani also stated that the 
boat of the moon, which plied in the sky, received a load 
of souls which every month it transferred to the sun's 
larger vessel. The association established in Syro-Punic 
religions between the moon and the idea of immortality 
is marked by the abundance in Africa of funeral monu- 
ments bearing the symbol of the crescent, either alone or 

4 Cat. codd. astrol. Graec, V, pars. 1, p. 196 ss. 

5 See below, Lecture VI, p. 157. 

6 Flinders Petrie, Athribis, London, 1908 (52 A. B.). 
» Cf. below, Lecture VI, p. 154. 


associated with the circle of the sun and the star of 
Venus. 8 These astral symbols are identical with those 
already used by the Babylonians. But it is not only among 
the Semitic peoples that we find the crescent on tombs, 
either alone or accompanied by other figures : it is of fre- 
quent occurrence, notably in Celtic countries. Possibly 
the Druids placed in the moon the other world where men 
pursued an existence uninterrupted by death. 

As for the sun, the idea most commonly accepted was 
that the dead accompanied him on his course and went 
down with him in the west to an underground world. 
There, during the night, this enfeebled heavenly body 
recovered his strength, and there the dead too were 
revived. The power of this faith in ancient Egypt is 
known: the souls embarked on the boat of Ra, and with 
him, after they had accomplished the circle of the 
heavens, went down through a crevice of the earth or be- 
yond the ocean. This was the first origin of the role of 
"psychopomp" which we shall find attributed to the solar 

Finally many peoples believed that souls, after plying 
through air and space, inhabited the sky in the form of 
brilliant stars. The multitude of the stars scintillating in 
the firmament was that of the innumerable spirits who 
had left the world. They pressed in a dense crowd, espe- 
cially in the long luminous track of the Milky Way, which 
was, par excellence, the dwelling of the dead. Other tradi- 
tions saw in this band across the sky the highroad which 
the dead travelled to gain the summit of the world. 9 A 
vestige of this ingenuous conception is retained in the 
very name, i i Milky Way. ' ' 

These ideas as to the lot of the soul after death, which 
were spread among a number of different peoples, may 

s Toutain, Bevue des etudes anciennes, XIII, 1911, p. 166 ss. ; cf. ibid., 
p. 379 s. 

9 See below, p. 104, and Lecture VI, p. 153. 


also have existed in primitive Greece but we have no 
proof that they were current there. As the Hellenes 
granted to the stars only a restricted and secondary place 
in their anthropomorphic religion, so in early times they 
had no belief, or scarcely any, in the ascent of souls to the 
starry sky. This doctrine was entirely strange even to the 
earliest Ionian thinkers. Recent research has made it 
more and more probable that these conceptions were in- 
troduced into Greece from the East, where astrolatry was 
predominant. 10 Pausanias 11 claimed to know that the Chal- 
deans and the Magi of India were the first to assert that 
the human soul is immortal, and that they convinced the 
Hellenes, and in particular Plato, of this doctrine. Such 
an affirmation, in this form, is certainly false, but it con- 
tains an element of truth. The tenet of astral immortality 
is ancient in the East: it probably took form in Baby- 
lon about the sixth century, when Persian Mazdeism, 
which believed that the righteous were lifted up to the 
luminous dwelling of the gods, came into contact with the 
sidereal religion of the Chaldeans. It was propagated in 
Greece especially by the Pythagoreans, for whom the soul 
had a celestial origin, being, as we have seen (p. 24), a 
fiery principle, a particle of the ether which lights the 
divine fires of heaven. This spark, which descended at 
birth in the body, which it heated and animated, 
reascended after death to the upper regions, whence it 
had come forth. Aristophanes in his Peace 12 greets the 
apparition of a new star, that of the Pythagorean poet, 
Ion of Chios, who had recently died, asking ironically if 
it be not true that "when someone dies he becomes like 
the stars in the air." This is the most ancient precisely 
dated mention of stellar immortality (421 B. C), and it 
cannot be doubted that the doctrine was that of Ion him- 
self. Plato received it from the Pythagoreans and makes 
very clear allusions to it. 

io E. Pfeiffer, Studien zum antiken Sternglauben, 1916, p. 113 ss. 

ii Pausanias, IV, 32, 4. 

12 Aristophanes, Peace, 832 ss. 


The fundamental idea on which it rests, the idea that 
the psychic essence is the same as the fire of the heavenly- 
bodies, is at the root of all oriental astrology, which 
claims to explain by astral influence the formation of 
character. This idea of a relationship (avyyeveia) between 
the soul and the stars does not in Greece belong to the 
old basic popular beliefs. It was introduced thither by the 
philosophers, who, as we shall see, drew from it very im- 
portant theological conclusions. According to them, it 
was owing to this identity of nature that the soul was 
capable of knowing the gods and of aspiring to join 
them. 13 This doctrine took on new power when astrology 
succeeded in imposing itself on the Alexandrian world, 
and it is significant that we find it clearly formulated by 
an adept of this pseudo science, the famous Hipparchus, 
in the second century before our era. " Hipparchus, ' ' says 
Pliny, 14 "will never receive all the praise he deserves, 
since no one has better established the relation between 
man and the stars, or shown more clearly that our souls 
are particles of the heavenly fire." Pythagorism and 
Stoicism, and after them the Syrian and Persian mys- 
teries, were to popularise this conception throughout the 
ancient world. In certain regions, as in Gaul, it undoubt- 
edly found pre-existing native beliefs with which it com- 
bined, and in religion and among theologians it assumed 
multiple forms. We shall try to distinguish its chief 
aspects, dealing successively with lunar, solar and stellar 

The Pythagoreans, perhaps transforming a belief of 
the Greek people as to Selene's role, but more probably 
inspired by Oriental speculations, held that souls, when 
they had been purified by air, went to dwell in the moon. 
To the question, "What are the Isles of the Blessed ?" 
the orthodox doctrine of the sect answered, "The sun 

13 See below, Lecture IV, p. Ill ; cf. Introd., p. 24. 

14 Pliny, H. N., II, 26, § 95. 


and the moon. ' n5 For them the heavenly bodies were mov- 
ing islands washed by a lnminons fluid, which their swift 
motion caused to sonnd about them. These thinkers, who 
debated all the scientific hypotheses, accepted the plu- 
rality of worlds. The heavenly bodies were other earths 
surrounded by air and rolling in the boundless ether. The 
moon in particular was designated as the "ethereal" or 
< ' Olympic earth, ' ' and in the moon lay the Elysian Fields, 
the meadows of Hades, in which the shades of the heroes 
rested. Pythagoras himself, promoted to the rank of an 
immortal spirit, rejoiced there among the sages. Per- 
sephone, assimilated to Artemis, reigned over this king- 
dom. Did not the moon, like her, transfer itself alternately 
above and below the earth? The planets were this hunt- 
ress's hounds which, ever in chase, were scouring the 
fields of space around her in every direction. 

The authors of Pythagorean apocalypses peopled the 
mountains and valleys of the moon with fantastic animals, 
stronger than ours, and with strange plants, more vigor- 
ous than those of our globe. The inhabitants of the moon, 
fed on the vapours of the atmosphere, were not liable to 
human needs. In his "True Histories," Lucian 16 parodied 
these mad imaginings with comic exaggeration and 
ludicrous obscenity. 

A curious fragment of Castor of Ehodes gives an in- 
stance of an unexpected application of these beliefs. 17 
This historian, who lived at the end of the Eepublic, had 
the idea of interpreting Eoman customs by the Pythago- 
rean doctrines which Nigidius Figulus and his circle of 
theosophists had brought back into fashion (p. 22). In 
particular he explained by this method the ivory lunulae 
(crescents) which decorated the senators' shoes. They 
recalled, he says, that noble souls inhabited the moon 
after death and trod on its soil. 

is Jamblich., Vit. Pyth., XVIII, 82=Diels, VorsoTcratiker, Is, p. 358, 18 ; 
of. Plut, Be genio Socr., 22, p. 590 C ; Hierocles, In Aur. carm., end. 
is Lucian, Verae hist., I, 10 ss. 
it Castor, f ragm. 24 and 25, Muller. 


The eclectic Stoics of the same period, and especially 
Posidonius of Apamea, gave this lunar eschatology a 
place in their system, and undertook to justify it by the 
physical doctrines of the Porch. According to them, 
souls, which are a burning breath, rose through the air 
towards the fires of the sky, in virtue of their lightness. 18 
When they reached the upper zone, they found in the 
ether about the moon surroundings like their own essence 
and remained there in equilibrium. Conceived as material 
and as circular in form, they were, like the heavenly 
bodies, nourished by the exhalations which arose from 
the soil and the waters. These innumerable globes of a 
fire endowed with intelligence formed an animated chorus 
about the divine luminary of night. The Elysian Fields 
did not, in this theory, lie in the moon itself, which was no 
longer an earth inhabited by fantastic beings, but in the 
pure air about the moon whither penetrated only souls no 
less pure. This idea was to last until the end of paganism, 
although other eschatological doctrines then met with 
more favour. The emperor Julian in the beginning of his 
satire on the Caesars describes them as invited to a ban- 
quet held, as was proper, on a lower level than the feast 
of the gods, who met at the summit of heaven. "It seemed 
fitting/ ' he says, 19 "that the emperors should dine in the 
upper air just below the moon. The lightness of the bodies 
with which they had been invested and also the revolu- 
tions of the moon sustained them. ' ' 

The zone of the moon, the lowest of the seven planetary 
spheres, in which the serene ether touches our own foggy 
atmosphere, is the frontier between the world of the gods 
and that of men, the border between immortality and 
the generated, the line of demarcation between the life of 
blessedness and the death which our earthly existence 
really is. Aristotle had already noted the distinction be- 
tween the two halves of the universe, the one active and 
the other passive, the heavens formed of unalterable 

is See Introd., p. 29, and Lecture VI, p. 162. 
is Julian, Caes., p. 307 c. 


ether and subject neither to progress nor to corruption, 
and our sublunary world composed of four elements, our 
world in which all is born, is transformed and dies. Neo- 
Pythagoreans and Neo-Stoics liked, in insisting on this 
opposition, to show the contrast between the splendour 
and the darkness, the serenity and the trouble, the con- 
stancy and the mutability, the truth and the error, the 
happiness and the misery, the peace and the war, which 
reigned respectively in the dwelling of the gods and in 
the abode of men, whither souls descending to earth pene- 
trated so soon as they had crossed the circle of the 
moon. In imitation of Plato 20 this sublunary world is 
shown as a dark cave in which the captive souls, plunged 
in obscurity, aspire to see again the light from on high. 

The funeral monuments of the imperial period have 
retained numerous traces of these beliefs. As we have 
already said (p. 94), the crescent often appears on them, 
either alone or together with other symbols. Other tomb- 
stones are still more expressive. A Roman relief, pre- 
served in Copenhagen, is particularly characteristic : the 
bust of a little girl appears on it placed on a large cres- 
cent and surrounded by seven stars. 21 On this an inscrip- 
tion recently found at Didyma might serve as a com- 
mentary: "Standing before this tomb, look at young 
Choro, virgin daughter of Diognetos. Hades has placed 
her in the seventh circle," 22 that is, in the circle of the 
moon, which is the lowest of the seven planets. 

We see that philosophy and physics had united to 
transform the old belief in the ascent of souls to the 
moon. The intervention of theories claiming to explain 
the systems of the world is still more marked in the other 
doctrines of astral immortality. It was this blending 

20 Plato, Sep., VII, p. 514. 

2i Reproduced in my Etudes syriennes, 1917, p. 87; cf. below, p. 139. 

22Wiegand, in AbMndl. Akad. Berlin, 1908, Bericht, VI, p. 46: 
Eras irpocrde TVfx/3ov 54pK€ tt\v &vvp.<pov 
Kbpr)v AioyvrjToio vtjirirjv Xopovv, 
f)v drJKev "AtSTjs ev kvkKokjiv e(386p.ois. . . . 


which made them strong enough to impose themselves on 
the minds of men. By their agreement with contemporary 
science, they satisfied reason and faith at the same time. 
But as all this theology really rested on a wrong cos- 
mography, its lot was bound up with that of a false con- 
ception of the universe, and the two fell together. 

The first of these doctrines appears to us the most 
reasonable because it is founded on the primordial role 
of the sun in our world. It was born in the East when the 
Chaldean priests deprived the moon of the pre-eminence 
originally ascribed to it, and recognised the unequalled 
importance of the sun in the cosmic system. 23 These 
astronomical theologians deduced from this recognition 
a theory which includes something like an anticipation of 
universal gravitation, and which was to prove seductive 
both by its greatness and by its logic. It spread through 
the ancient world in the second and first centuries B. C. 
There are some signs that the Pythagoreans, who were 
much addicted to the study of the heavenly bodies, were 
the first to adopt it, and with the propagation of Oriental 
astrology it obtained a wide diffusion in the West. 

The sun, placed in the fourth rank or the middle of the 
planetary spheres, 24 like a king surrounded by his guards, 
was believed alternately to attract and repel the other 
celestial bodies by the force of his heat, and to regulate 
their harmonious movements as the coryphaeus directed 
the evolutions of a chorus. But since the stars were 
looked upon as the authors of all the physical and moral 
phenomena of the earth, he who determined the com- 
plicated play of their revolutions was the arbiter of des- 
tinies, the master of all nature. Placed at the centre of 
the great cosmic organism, he animated it to its utmost 
limits, and was often called the " heart of the world' ' 
whither its heat radiated. 

23 See La theologie solaire du paganisme romain in Mem. sav. Strangers 
Acad. Inscr., XII, 1909, p. 449 ss. 

24 Cf. Introd., p. 28. 


But this well-ordered universe could not be directed 
by a blind force, and therefore the sun was an "intelli- 
gent light" ((/»w5 voepov). The pagan theologians looked 
upon him as the directive reason of the world {mens 
mundi et temper atio). The Pythagoreans saw in him 
Apollo Musagetes, the leader of the chorus of the Muses, 
who were placed in the nine circles of the world and 
whose accord produced the harmony of the spheres. Thus 
he became the creator of individual reason and director 
of the human microcosm. The author of generation, he 
presided over the birth of souls, while bodies developed 
under the influence of the moon. The radiant sun con- 
stantly sent down sparkles from his flaming circle to the 
beings he animated. The vital principle which nourished 
men's material envelope and caused its growth was lunar, 
but the sun produced reason. 

Inversely, when death had dissolved the elements which 
formed the human composite, when the soul had left the 
carnal prison which enclosed it, the sun once more drew 
it to himself. As his ardent heat caused vapours and 
clouds to rise from the earth and the seas, so he brought 
back to himself the invisible essence which animated the 
body. He exercised on the earth both a physical and a 
psychical attraction. Human reason reascended to its 
original source and returned to its divine home. The rays 
of the god were the vehicles of souls when they rose aloft 
to the higher regions. 25 He was the anagogue (avayoy 
yevs) who withdrew spirits from matter which soiled 

Just as he sent the planets away from him and brought 
them back by a series of emissions and absorptions, so he 
caused his burning effluvia to descend to the beings whom 
he called to life, and so he gathered them after their death 
that they might rise to him once more. Thus a cycle of 
migrations caused souls to circulate between the sky and 
the earth, as the stars alternately drew away from and 
returned to the radiant focus, heart and spirit of the 

25 See below, Lecture VI, p. 160. 


Great All, which called forth and directed their eternal 
revolutions. It is easy to understand how this coherent 
and, it may be said, magnificent theology, founded on the 
discoveries of ancient astronomy at its zenith, imposed 
on Roman paganism the cult of the invincible Sun, the 
master of all nature, the creator and saviour of man. 

A mass of literary evidence and a number of figured 
monuments prove how powerful became, under the 
Roman Empire, the belief that the sun was the god of the 
dead. Old mythological traditions combined with Chal- 
dean theology and were propagated with the Eastern reli- 
gions. It was imagined that the deceased, and in particular 
the emperors, were borne to heaven on the chariot of 
Helios, or that the eagle, the king of the birds and the 
servant of the sovereign sun, carried off their souls to 
bear them to his master. Elsewhere it was the griffin of 
Apollo or the solar phoenix who was the bearer of the 
dead or the symbol of immortality. A funeral altar of 
Rome even bears the characteristic inscription, "Sol me 
rapuit," "the Sun has seized me up." 26 

You will probably ask how men succeeded in reconcil- 
ing this solar immortality with the doctrine which made 
the moon the abode of the dead. The Greeks, following 
the Orientals, had been able to make a lunar-solar calen- 
dar, and they also constructed an eschatology in which 
the two great heavenly bodies both played part. They 
were the two divinities whose help the priests promised 
to "those who were about to die." 27 This eschatology is 
founded on the astrological idea that the moon presides 
over physical life, over the formation and decomposition 
of bodies, but that the sun is the author of intellectual life 
and the master of reason. The doctrine also includes the 
belief we have already explained elsewhere, 28 that when 
souls leave the earth, they are still surrounded by a subtle 

26 CIL, VI, 29954; see below, Lecture VI, p. 157 ss. 

27 Commodian, VIII, 10 : ' ' Sacerdotes . . . numina qui dieunt aliquid 
morituro prodesse. " 

28 See Introd., p. 24 s.; cf. below, Lecture VI, p. 167. 


fluid which retains the appearance of the persons whom 
they formerly animated. The pagan theologians thus ad- 
mitted that the souls which came down to earth assumed 
in the sphere of the moon and in the atmosphere these 
aerial bodies which were regarded as the seat of the vital 
principle. Inversely, when they rose again to heaven, the 
function of the moon was to dissolve and to receive these 
light envelopes, as on earth its damp rays provoked the 
corruption of the corpse. The soul, thus becoming pure 
reason (vovs), ascended to the sun, the source of all intel- 
ligence. According to others the formation of the soul's 
integument was begun and its reabsorption was com- 
pleted in the planetary spheres, and this is why the Neo- 
Platonist Jamblichus 29 placed the Hades of mythology be- 
tween the sun and the moon. These theories are not the 
product of pure philosophical speculations, but have their 
roots in the old astral religion of the Semites. The mys- 
teries of Mithras, the Chaldaic oracles, and above all 
Manicheism shared the belief in a lunar-solar immor- 
tality of which the source certainly goes back to the tenets 
of the "Chaldean" priests. 

Solar immortality is a learned doctrine, the fruit of the 
astronomical theories which made the king-star the centre 
and the master of the universe. It was such as to find 
acceptance with theologians and philosophers and to be 
spread by the Oriental mysteries. But it never succeeded 
in eliminating or overshadowing the old popular idea 
that the souls of the dead dwell in the midst of the 
glittering constellations. A trace of the double conception 
is found in the Stoic school. For certain of the masters 
of this school the directing reason of the world, the 
rjyefjLoviKov, has its principal seat in the sun, for others 
in the sphere of the fixed stars. In the same way the poets, 
Lucan addressing Nero, and Statius addressing Domi- 
tian, hesitatingly ask if these emperors will ride in the 

ssLydus, Be mensib., IV, 149 (p. 167, 25, Wiinsch.). 


flaming chariot of Phoebus or if they will assume Jupi- 
ter's sceptre in the highest heaven. 30 The Neo-Pythago- 
reans admitted that souls could rise to the Most High 
(cts tov "Txjjkttov), that is to say, to the supreme God who 
was enthroned at the summit of the world. 31 It was, more- 
over, very anciently held among the Greeks that Olympus 
was in the outer circle enveloping the world, and until the 
end of antiquity we find the Elysian Fields were trans- 
ported to the zone of the constellations and in particular 
to the Milky Way. This is, for instance, the doctrine of 
Cicero as shown in the dream of Scipio. 

So the old popular idea that the soul became a star, 
which in Greece was accepted by the ancient Pythag- 
oreans, still subsisted. According to mythology this was 
the happy lot reserved for heroes. We have whole books 
which tell us how these heroes at the end of their career 
were transformed to brilliant stars in reward for their 
exploits. "Catasterism" draws a moral conclusion from 
ancient tales. Hercules, Castor and Pollux, Perseus and 
Andromeda and many others had deserved such meta- 
morphosis. It did not therefore seem bold to assign to 
the eminent men of the present the same destiny as to the 
great figures of the past, and no one was shocked by the 
supposition that their divine spirits might be added to 
the number of the "visible gods." This was, in particular, 
a lot worthy of the princes who had deserved apotheosis. 
At the death of Caesar a comet appeared. It was thought 
to be the dictator's soul which had been received among 
the Immortals, and Ovid 32 does not hesitate to show us 
Venus descending, invisible, into the senate, snatching 
this soul from the pierced body and bearing it aloft to the 
sky. There Venus feels the soul become inflamed and sees 
it escape from her breast to fly beyond the moon and turn 
into a trailing comet. Hadrian, in his grief for the death 

soLucan, Phars., I, 45; Statius, Theb., I, 27; cf. my Mudes syriennes, 
1917, p. 97 s. 

3i Diog. Laert., VIII, 31. 

32 Ovid, Metam., XV, 840 ss. ; cf. 749. 


of Antinous, let himself be persuaded that a star had just 
appeared which was the deified soul of his favourite. 33 But 
as in Greece "heroification" was finally awarded by the 
will of families to every one of their members whose loss 
they mourned, so "catasterism" was in the end accorded 
to deceased persons of very moderate deserts. " Nearly 
the whole heaven/ ' says Cicero, "is filled with man- 
kind." 34 In an inscription of Amorgos 35 a young man, car- 
ried off by the Fates at the age of twenty, thus addresses 
his mother: "Weep not; for of what use is weeping? 
Rather venerate me, for I am now a divine star which 
shows itself at sunset. ' ' And at Miletus 36 a child of eight 
years old, whom Hermes has led to Olympus, contem- 
plates the ether and shines in the midst of the stars, 
"rising every evening to the horn of the Goat. By the 
favour of the gods he protects the young boys who were 
his playfellows in the rude palaestrae." 

Epitaphs so precise in expression are exceptional. On 
the other hand, numerous epigraphic and literary texts 
declare that the soul of some dead person has risen to 
the stars to live there with the Immortals, but leave the 
position of this soul undetermined. It is stated to have 
flown towards the vast sky, to have been received by the 
ether, to be living at the summit of the world and follow- 
ing the revolutions of the celestial armies. But the place 
where the blessed thus come together, that one of the 
upper spheres in which their meeting takes place, is left 
uncertain. Their dwelling was known to be somewhere 
very high above us, but men did not willingly venture to 
fix its exact situation. 

The heathen theologians wished however to bring order 
and precision into this astral eschatology. As they had 
combined the doctrines of lunar and solar immortality, 

33 Cassius, Dio, LXIX, 11, 4. 

34 Cic, Tusc, I, 12, 28: "Totum prope caelum nonne humano generi 
completum est?" 

35 Bevue de philologie, XXXIII, 1909, p. 6 = IG, XII, 7, 123. 

36 Bevue de phil., Hid.; cf. Lecture V, p. 139. 


so they attempted to bring both into agreement with 
stellar immortality. When Lucian in the beginning of his 
"Icaromenippus" shows us his hero passing over three 
thousand stadia from the earth to the moon, where he 
makes a first halt, rising thence five hundred parasangs to 
the sun, and then ascending from the sun to heaven, Jupi- 
ter 's citadel, through the space travelled in a full day by 
an eagle in rapid flight, he is giving us a humorous parody 
of the journey which some men ascribed to souls. This 
idea that the soul thus rises to Paradise by three stages 
was widely entertained in the East, and it was notably 
held by Mazdeism. A trace of this belief seems to linger 
in the passage of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians 
in which Saint Paul tells that he has been lifted "to the 
third heaven. ' m 

The Platonists sometimes adopted the same conception 
and combined it with psychological ideas, a development 
of those we recalled in connection with solar immortality 
(p. 103). It was held that when the soul came down to earth 
it first received an ethereal garment of almost immaterial 
purity; then, imagination being added to reason, a solar 
fluid surrounded it; then a lunar integument made it 
subject to the passions; and finally a carnal body was 
the cause of its ignorance of divine truths and of its 
blind foolishness. It successively lost with these wrap- 
pings the inclinations or faculties which were bound with 
them, when after death it went back again to the place of 
its origin. 38 

The conception of the triple ascension of souls rested 
fundamentally on a rudimentary astronomy, for it con- 
fused the five planets with the fixed stars, discriminating 
from both only the sun and the moon. But for long the 
system which divided the heavens into seven superim- 
posed spheres, enveloped by an eighth sphere which was 
the limit of the universe, had imposed itself not only on 

37 II Cor. 12, 2. 

38 Porph., Sent, 292 (p. 14, Mommert) ; Proclus, In Remp., I, p. 152, 
17, Kroll; In Tim., Ill, p. 234, 25, Diehl. 


the learned but also on the authors of pagan apocalypses. 
The eschatological doctrine which triumphed at the end 
of paganism is in agreement with this theory, generally 
admitted by the science of the period. This doctrine is 
certainly of Chaldeo-Persian origin, and was spread in 
the first century especially by the mysteries of Mithras. 39 
Then, in the second century, the Pythagorean Numenius 
introduced it into philosophic speculation. Man's soul 
was held to descend from the height of heaven to this 
sublunary world, passing through the planetary spheres, 
and thus at its birth it acquired the dispositions and the 
qualities peculiar to each of these stars. After death it 
went back to its celestial home by the same path. Then as 
it traversed the zones of the sky, it divested itself of the 
passions and faculties which it had acquired during its 
descent to earth, as it were of garments. To the moon it 
surrendered its vital and alimentary energy, to Mercury 
its cupidity, to Venus its amorous desires, to the sun its 
intellectual capacities, to Mars its warlike ardour, to 
Jupiter its ambitious dreams, to Saturn its slothful tend- 
encies. It was naked, disencumbered of all sensibility, 
when it reached the eighth heaven, there to enjoy, as a 
sublime essence, in the eternal light where lived the gods, 
bliss without end. 

In the mysteries of Mithras a ladder composed of 
seven different metals served as a symbol of this passage 
of souls through the spheres, astrology placing each of 
the planets in relation with one of these metals, lead with 
Saturn, gold with the sun, silver with the moon and 
so on. 40 

But in opposition to this pantheism which, while iden- 
tifying God with the universe, placed the chief home of 
divine energy in the celestial spheres and particularly 
in the highest of them, the sectaries of Plato transported 

39 Cf. my Mysteries of Mithras, Chicago, 1903, p. 145; below, Lecture 
VI, p. 169; VII, p. 187. 

40 Origen, Contra Celsum, VI, 21 ; cf. Monum. mysteres de Mithra, I, p. 


the supreme Power beyond the limits of the world and 
made of him a Being no longer immanent, but tran- 
scendent and distinct from all matter. This conception 
became more and more predominant in pagan theology 
as Stoicism lost influence in favour of Neo-Platonism. 
This God, "ultramundane and incorporeal, father and 
architect" of creation, 41 had his seat, it was thought, in 
the infinite light which extended beyond the starry 
spheres. Religion called him sometimes the Most High 
("Ttyioros), sometimes Jupiter, but gave him at the same 
time the epithets ' ' Uppermost, " " Insuperable ' ' ( summus, 
exsuperantissimus).* 2 It was this celestial Father whom 
the elect souls aspired to join, but only those who had 
attained to perfection succeeded in doing so, as we shall 
see in our last lecture. The others stayed, in accordance 
with their degree of purity, in a lower zone of the succes- 
sive stages formed by the atmosphere, by the planetary 
circles, and by the heaven of the fixed stars, which were 
the "visible gods," opposed to the spiritual world. 43 

This was the last conception of paganism and on the 
whole it was to impose itself on men for many centuries. 
Judaism had already made concessions to the astronomi- 
cal theories of the "Chaldeans," and had borrowed from 
them the idea of seven stories of heavens, an idea which 
we find developed in particular in the apocryphal Book 
of Enoch. It also belonged to Christianity almost from 
the beginning, and the gnostics gave it a large place in 
their speculations. But especially Origen, who borrowed 
it directly from the Greek philosophers, lent the authority 
of his name to the doctrines of astral eschatology. Ac- 
cording to him, souls, after they have sojourned in Para- 
dise, which he imagined as a remote place of earth where 
they learn terrestrial truths, rise to the zone of the air 

41 Apuleius, De dogm. Plat., I, 11. 

42 Archiv fur Eeligionsw., IX, 1906, p. 323 ss. 

43 See, e.g., Plotin., Ill, 4, 6; cf. 


and there understand the nature of the beings who people 
this element. But if they are free from all material weight, 
they cross the atmosphere rapidly and reach "the dwell- 
ings of the heavens," that is, the celestial spheres. There 
they grasp the nature of the stars and the causes of their 
movements. Finally, when they have made such progress 
that they have become pure intelligences, they are ad- 
mitted to contemplate the reasonable essences face to 
face and see invisible things, enjoying their perfection. 
Although Origen was condemned by the Church, his ideas 
were not abolished. Since the Christian lore adopted the 
ancient conception of the world's structure, as formulated 
by Ptolemy, it had necessarily to admit that souls 
traversed the planetary circles in order to reach that 
"supermundane light" in which they found perfect beati- 
tude. Dante's Paradise, with its choirs of angels and its 
classes of the blessed, distributed among the superim- 
posed spheres of the heavens, is a magnificent testimony 
to the strength of the tradition which antiquity be- 
queathed to the Middle Ages. Before this tradition could 
be destroyed, Galileo and Copernicus had to ruin 
Ptolemy's system and open up to the imagination the 
infinite spaces of a limitless universe. 


A FUNDAMENTAL difference distinguishes the 
conception of immortality as it appears in the 
religion of the Eoman Empire from our modern 
ideas. Immortality, as we conceive of it, follows on the 
very nature which we ascribe to the human soul. It is 
affirmed by some, denied by others, in accordance with the 
character which each one attributes to the principle of 
conscious thought, but whenever credence is given to it, 
it is generally supposed to be absolute, eternal, universal. 
For the ancients, on the other hand, immortality was no 
more than conditional : it might not be perpetual and it 
might not belong to all men. According to the Platonists 
the soul, an incorruptible essence, a principle of life and 
movement, survived necessarily; 1 according to the Epi- 
cureans, being composed of atoms, it was dissolved at 
the moment of death. 2 But between these extreme opin- 
ions of the philosophers, the religion of the people 
remained faithful to the old belief that the shade must 
be nourished with offerings and sacrifices, that if it 
lacked sustenance it was condemned to waste away 
miserably. This conception, like not a few others which 
were fading away in the West, was revived when the 
Orientals imposed on the Roman world their more primi- 
tive and sometimes very crude beliefs. The normal 
destiny of the soul was therefore to survive the body for 
a certain time, then in its turn to disappear. A second 
death ( Sevrepos 6dvaro<; ) completed the work of the first 
which gave the corpse over to corruption. The spiritual 

1 See above, Introd., pp. 6, 41. 

2 Ibid., p. 7. 


essence which had abandoned the body was annihilated 
after it. Such was the inevitable necessity imposed on 
mankind. Immortality was a privilege of divinity. The 
man who was exempted from the common lot of his kind 
was therefore the equal of the gods ; he had risen above 
his perishable condition to acquire the everlasting youth 
of the Olympians, the unlimited duration of the stars 
which travel the heavens, the eternity of the Supreme 

If he became a god after his death it was sometimes 
because he had been one ever since his birth. For men 
were not all born equal: if each of them possessed the 
psyche which nourished and animated the body, yet all 
men did not equally receive the divine effluence (Trvev^o) 
which gave reason. This reason, which distinguished man 
from the beasts, was akin to the fires of the stars; it 
established between man and heaven a community of 
nature {avyyivtia) which alone made it possible for him 
to acquire a knowledge of divinity, 3 the " gnosis' ' of God 
and of the world which He animated. This special grace 
also exempted him who obtained it from the passions and 
weaknesses to which the inclinations of the flesh exposed 
him. It made him pious, temperate and chaste: he was 
holy (sanctus).* It communicated to him a lucidity and 
power lacking to the common run of mortals. He pene- 
trated the secrets of nature and commanded the elements ; 
he received revelations and was capable of prophetic 
divination. Inversely, every exceptional quality was re- 
garded as superhuman; every extraordinary act seemed 
a miracle. The most enlightened spoke merely of celestial 
inspiration. "Nemo magnus vir sine quodam adflatu 
divino," said Cicero. 5 The many saw in these privileged 
beings earthly incarnations of all the Olympians. From 
the moment of their appearance on the earth these men 
were really gods ; their soul kept its higher nature in all 

3 See above, Lecture III, p. 96. 

4 Link, Be vocis " Sanctus" usu pagano, Konigsberg, 1910. 
e Cic, De natura deor., II, 66, § 167. 


its purity; it would indubitably return after death to its 
place of origin. Such are the leading ideas which explain 
the belief in the immortality of the heroes. 

Among those who escaped the common law of death 
because they were divine, first of all, were the kings. In 
all times kings have been looked upon as of superior 
essence to the rest of mankind, and the ancient East 
approximated them or made them equal to the heavenly 
powers. The Hellenistic realms, in Egypt, Syria, Asia 
Minor, raised the cult of the monarch to the rank of a 
state institution ; and the Caesars inherited this homage, 
which was rendered to them by their subjects even in 
their lifetime, first in the East and then throughout the 
Empire. The powerful chief who delivered his state 
from the scourge of invasion and ensured it peace and 
welfare, accomplished a work which seemed to be beyond 
the ability of man, and he was adored as a present god 
(im^avr)^ #eo5, praesens numen), a saviour (acorijp). Some- 
times the god incarnate in him was specified ; and he was 
looked upon as a manifestation of Zeus, Apollo, or an- 
other. Very ancient but still active beliefs gave him the 
power to command nature as well as men. If the fields 
were fertile, if the flocks and herds had increased, these 
were benefits received from the godlike sovereign. No 
miracle was beyond his accomplishment. He was the 
providence of his people, having indeed the power of fore- 
seeing and foretelling the future. According to Manilius, 6 
it was to kings, whose lofty thoughts reached the heights 
of the sky, that nature first revealed her mysteries. The 
pagan theologians affirmed, indeed, that the souls of kings 
came from a higher place than those of other men, and 
that these august personages borrowed more from heaven 
than the common crowd of mortals. 7 And thus, death had 
no sooner carried them off from the earth than their souls 
once again rose to the stars, who welcomed them as their 

6 Manilius, I, 41 ; cf. Boll, Aus der Offenbarung Iohannis, 1914, p. 136 ss. 

7 Pseudo-Ecphant. ap Stob., Anth., IV, 7, 64 (IV, p. 272 ss., Wachsmuth) ; 
Hermes Trism. ap. Stob., Eel., I, 49, 45 (I, p. 407, W). 


equals (sideribus recepti). It was thought that an eagle 
or the chariot of the sun bore them away. 8 It may seem 
strange that the senate should deliberate as to whether or 
not a deceased emperor deserved apotheosis, and should 
refuse or accord him official canonisation. But this act is 
in conformity with all the ideas we have described, since 
the monarch's benefits and victories were the proof of his 
divine origin, and since, if he had committed crimes and 
caused misfortunes, he was thus shown to be in no respect 
a god. 

In the remote ages of ancient Egypt, the Pharaohs 
were the first whom Osiris consented to identify with him- 
self, or whom their father Ra bore away in the solar boat, 
but little by little the rites practised in order to ensure 
eternity to the sovereign were extended to the mag- 
nates surrounding him. Thus immortality was a kind of 
posthumous nobility bestowed on the great servants of 
the state, or usurped by them, long before the rest of the 
people obtained it. In Greece, also, kings were the first 
to be the objects of a cult as protecting heroes, but after 
them other classes of eminent men received the same title 
and the same adoration, in particular the founder of a 
city, its lawmaker who had given it a constitution and the 
warrior who had victoriously defended it. In the same 
way as fabulous demigods, Castor and Pollux or Hercules, 
had in heaven become brilliant stars as a reward for their 
earthly deeds, they also were public benefactors who by 
their works and their virtues had shown themselves 
worthy of the same "catasterism." These ideas passed 
to Rome with the Stoic philosophy. After having given 
a list of those who had triumphed in the wars of the 
Republic, Cicero lays down as a fact that not one of them 
could have attained so far without the help of God ; 9 and 
elsewhere he states more explicitly: 10 "To all who have 
saved, succoured or aggrandized their country, a fixed 

s See below, Lecture VI, p. 156 ss. 

9 Cic, Nat. deorum, II, 66, § 165. 

io Somn. Scipionis, 3 ; cf. Pro Sestio, 68, $ 143. 


place in which they shall enjoy everlasting bliss is 
assigned in heaven, for it is from heaven that they who 
guide and guard cities have descended, thither to reas- 
cend." The ex-consul Cicero claimed apotheosis for the 
great men of the state : this was the republican transfor- 
mation of the doctrine of the divinity of kings. 

Pagan theology was to give much wider extension to 
this doctrine. In a curious passage Hermes Trismegistus 11 
explains that there are royal, that is to say divine, souls 
of different kinds, for there is a royalty of the spirit, a 
royalty of art, a royalty of science, and even a royalty of 
bodily strength. All exceptional men were godly, and it 
was not to be admitted that the sacred energy which 
animated them was extinguished with them. 

Pious priests, like kings, were judged, or rather judged 
themselves, to be worthy of immortality. Who could more 
justly deserve a share in the felicity of the gods than 
those who on the earth had lived in their company and 
known their designs ? He who had thus been in communi- 
cation with the godhead and learnt his secrets was raised 
above the condition of humanity. This sacred knowledge, 
this gift of prophecy, this " gnosis,'' which was insepa- 
rable from piety, transformed him who had obtained it, 
set him free even in life from the condemnation of fate ; 
and after death he went to the immortals whose confidant 
he had been here below. 

The philosophers and theologians who treated of the 
nature of the Divine Being shared the blessed lot of the 
priests and soothsayers who interpreted His will. Their 
doctrine came to them by inspiration from on high, or at 
least so they readily believed. Their intelligence, which 
was lit by a divine ray, penetrated the world's mysteries 
and subjected it to their will. Philosophies became a 
synonym for thaumaturge. Even in this life the superior 
mind of the philosophers allowed them to escape the 
necessities by which other men were oppressed, and this 

11 Hermes Trismeg. ap. Stob., Eel, I, 49, 69 (I, p. 466, Wachsmuth). 


reason returned after death to the source of all intelli- 

But all knowledge came from God. It was He who gave 
light to the wise man, absorbed in austere research, and 
caused him to discover truth. It was He too who inspired 
the poet, who worked in him when enthusiasm carried 
him away ; He likewise who gave to the artist the faculty 
of apprehending and expressing beauty, to the musician 
the power to recall by his chords the sublime harmony 
of the celestial spheres. All who gave themselves up to 
works of the intellect had a part in the godhead. They 
were purified by the high pursuit of spiritual joy and 
freed thereby from the passions of the body and the 
oppression of matter. For this reason the Muses are fre- 
quently represented on tombs; beautiful sarcophagi are 
decorated with the figures of the nine sisters. Thanks to 
these goddesses, mortals were delivered from earthly 
misery and led back towards the sacred light of the 

Thus the spirits of all men distinguished above their 
fellows were one day to find themselves gathered together 
in the dwelling-place of the heroes. This conception made 
the future life a reward for eminent service rendered to 
the state or humanity. Its origin certainly went very far 
back: it is found among primitive peoples, in reference 
to the famous warriors of the tribes, and it never ceased 
to be accepted in ancient Greece. But towards the end of 
the Roman Republic it was more generally admitted than 
ever before. It was in harmony with the constitution of an 
aristocratic society in which it seemed that even posthu- 
mous honours should be reserved for the elect. Some 
modern thinkers and poets have shared the ancient feel- 
ing which inspired it. Carducci, who disliked the critics 
of Milan, thought that they might well perish wholly, but 
that the great spirits like Dante, whom he interpreted, — 
and doubtless also this interpreter himself, — were saved. 12 

12 Maurice Muret, Les contemporains Strangers, Paris, I, p. 30. 


Matthew Arnold also in an admirable sonnet strongly 
defends the faith in a limited immortality. Let me recall 
to you the last verses : 

"And will not then the immortal armies scorn 
The world's poor routed leavings! or will they 
Who fail'd under the heat of this life's day 
Support the fervours of the heavenly morn! 
No ! The energy of life may be 
Kept on after the grave, but not begun, 
And he who flagg'd not in earthly strife, 
From strength to strength advancing — only he, 
His soul well-knit and all his battles won, 
Mounts, and that hardly, to eternal life. ' ' 

But this proud doctrine vowed to final destruction the 
mass of humble men, the multitude of the miserable, that 
is to say, those who, because they endured most in this 
world, must most aspire to seek in another the happiness 
which was here denied them and the retribution which 
should repair the injustice of their earthly lot. This 
doctrine of the immortality of the few made low station 
in life a misfortune which was prolonged beyond the 
grave. To the immense company of the wretched, who 
suffered without consolation, the religions of the East 
brought a "better hope," the assurance that by certain 
secret rites the mystic, whatever his rank, whether sena- 
tor or slave, might obtain salvation. The virtue of the 
liturgical ceremonies made him equal to the immortals 
{aTraOavaTileiv). This was the secret of the rapid spread 
of these exotic cults in the Latin world. 

Every day the stars disappear beneath the horizon to 
reappear in the east on the morrow ; every month a new 
moon succeeds the moon whose light has waned; every 
year the sun is reborn to new strength after his fires have 
died away; every winter vegetation withers to bloom 
again in the spring. The gods of nature — Attis, Osiris, 
Adonis — also rose again after they had been slain; the 


gods of the stars resumed their glowing ardour after 
darkness had overwhelmed them. Their essential quality 
was to be for ever "living' ' or ' ' unconquered ' ' (invicti). 
Their career was a perpetual triumph over death. The 
struggle implied was, under the influence of dualism, 
recognised to be an unceasing battle between two powers 
disputing possession of the world. Thus the mystic who 
had become god, who had part in the divine energy, 
also acquired the power to conquer death. Oriental reli- 
gions looked upon earthly existence as a fight from which 
the just man issued victorious. Immortality was a 
triumph won over the powers of evil, of which the most 
implacable was death. The souls of the elect were crowned 
like athletes and soldiers; their wreath was the "crown 
of life, ' ' often represented on funeral monuments. 13 The 
Greeks sometimes, and the Etruscans frequently, had 
personified death as a horrible monster who frightened 
those whom he approached. But the idea of making death 
into the adversary of mankind, from whose empire pious 
and strong souls might escape, spread only with the 
reception of the Oriental beliefs. 

This mythological conception of salvation was com- 
bined in the mysteries with another, which was more 
scientific, that of fatalism, which was the chief dogma 
imposed by astrology on the Roman world. Death is for 
man the most inevitable and the hardest necessity. Fatum 
often denotes the unalterable term of life ; and this end, 
which diviners could foresee but could not delay, ought, 
according to the law of our kind, to overtake the soul as 
well as the body. But the Oriental cults never ceased to 
claim that the celestial powers who escaped the rule of 
Destiny, which extends only to the sublunary world, were 
also able to withdraw thence their faithful followers. As 
the emperor was not subject to Fate because he was 
god, so he who had been initiated and had acquired the 
same quality was, as a funeral inscription expressed it, 

13 See my Etudes syriennes, p. 63 ss. 


"exempt from the lot of death." 14 Those who had taken 
part in the occult ceremonies of the sect and were in- 
structed in its esoteric doctrines were alone able to pro- 
long their existence beyond the term fixed by the stars 
at their birth. By the virtue of these rites pious souls were 
withdrawn from this fate-ridden earth and were led, 
enfranchised from their servitude, to a divine world. ^ 

Thus those who had acceded to a religious initiation 
obtained eternal life, like the great men whose celestial 
origin had predestined them thereto. By what rites was 
wrought this "deification" ((wroflcWis), or rather this 
* ' immortalisation ' ' ( airaOavaTMrixo*;) f 

The soul, enclosed in the body, was by its very contact 
with matter exposed to pollution, "as pure and clear water 
poured into the bottom of a muddy well is troubled." 15 
The mysteries never conceived the soul as absolutely im- 
material: it was a subtle and light essence, but one 
coarsened and weighed down by sin, which thus altered 
its divine nature and caused its decomposition and loss. 16 
In order therefore that immortality might be ensured to 
the soul, it must be cleansed of its stains. The pagan 
religions employed a whole set of ablutions and purifica- 
tions for restoring his first integrity to the mystic. He 
could wash in consecrated water in accordance with cer- 
tain prescribed forms. This was in reality a magic rite : 
the cleanliness of the body wrought by sympathy a veri- 
table disinfection of the inner spirit, the water clearing 
off its taints or expelling the evil demons which caused 
pollution. Or else the initiate sprinkled himself with or 
drank the blood either of a slaughtered victim or of the 
priests themselves. These rites arose from the belief that 
the fluid which flows in our veins is a vivifying principle, 
able to communicate new existence. 17 The man who had 

i*CIL, VI, 1779=Bticheler, Carm. epigr., Ill, 23: "(Me) sorte mortis 
eximens in templa ducis. ..." 

is Pseudo-Lysis ap. Jamblich., Vit. Pyth., 17, § 77. 
i« See Introd., p. 29 ; Lecture VII, p. 184 s. 
17 Cf. Lecture I, p. 51. 


received baptism by blood in the taurobolitim was reborn 
for eternity (in aetemum renatus), 1 * and when, fonl and 
repulsive, he left the sacred ditch, he was adored as a 
god by those present. Elsewhere purifications by air and 
fire were found united to that by water, so that the differ- 
ent elements all had part in the purgation. 19 All these 
cathartic ceremonies had the effect of regenerating him 
who submitted to them, delivering him from the domina- 
tion of the body, making him a pure spirit, and rendering 
him fit to live an immaculate and incorruptible life. 

A similar belief in a transference to the soul of bodily 
effects partially explains why unctions were still employed 
in the liturgy of the mysteries. By rubbing himself with 
perfumed oil the wrestler in the palaestra and the bather 
after the perspiration of the sweating-room strength- 
ened their limbs and rendered them supple. Ancient 
medical science deals at great length with the propitious 
action of numerous ointments, and by their means magic 
worked not only sudden cures but also prodigious meta- 
morphoses. The aromatic unguents, which had marvel- 
lous antiseptic qualities, served to ensure the conserva- 
tion of an embalmed corpse. Similarly, in the cult of the 
mysteries, unctions gave the soul an increase of spiritual 
force and made it capable of prolonging its existence for 
ever. As rubbing with unctuous substances was a practice 
of the thermae, so it was of the temples after the liturgical 
bath. In the anointing of kings and the ordination of 
priests they communicated to man a divine character and 
higher faculties, and this idea has been preserved down 
to modern times. But, above all, as ointments preserved 
mortal remains from putrefaction, so the consecrated oil 
and honey became a means by which the soul was 
rendered incorruptible and immortality was bestowed 
upon it. 

The most efficacious means of communicating with the 
godhead which the mysteries offered was, however, that 

is CIL, VI, 510=Dessau, 4152. 
19 Servius, Aen., VI, 741. 


of participation in the ritual banquets. These banquets 
are found in various forms in all these religious com- 
munities. We have seen that among the votaries of 
Dionysos his feasts, in which the consecrated wine was 
drunk, gave a foretaste of the joys reserved for the ini- 
tiate in the Elysian Fields. 20 Drunkenness, which frees 
from care, which awakens unsuspected forces in man, 
was looked upon as divine possession, as the indwelling 
of a god in the heart of the Bacchantes. Wine thus became 
par excellence the drink of immortality, which flowed for 
the sacred guests in the meals of the secret conventicles. 
The heady liquid not only gave vigour of body and wis- 
dom of mind, but also strength to fight the evil spirits 
and to triumph over death. 

Sometimes honey, which was according to the ancients 
the food of the blessed, was offered to the neophyte and 
made him the equal of the Olympians. Elsewhere bread 
consecrated by appropriate formulae was held to pro- 
duce the same effects. 

But still another conception is discernible in the feasts 
of the mysteries and mingles with the first : it is thought 
that the god himself is eaten when some sacred animal is 
consumed. This idea goes back to the most primitive 
savagery, as is seen in the rite of "omophagy" in which 
certain votaries of Bacchus fiercely tore the raw flesh of 
a bull with their teeth and devoured it. Undoubtedly there 
was originally a belief that the strength of the sacrificed 
animal was thus acquired, like the superstition of the 
native African hunters who eat a slain lion's heart in 
order to gain his courage. Similarly, if a victim be 
regarded as divine, to consume it is to participate in 
its divinity. "Those," says Porphyry, 21 "who wish to 
receive into themselves the soul of prophetic animals 
absorb their principal vital organs, such as the hearts of 
crows, moles or hawks, and thus they become able to 
speak oracles, like a god." Similarly, the Syrians ate the 

20 See Introd., p. 35 ; cf. Lecture VIII, p. 204. 
2i Porph., Be abstin., II, 48. 


fish of Atargatis, a forbidden food which was, however, 
provided for the initiate after a sacrifice ; and those who 
partook of these mystic repasts were not, like the rest of 
men, vowed to death, but were saved by the goddess. 22 

All means of attaining to godliness were not so crude 
as these. An important part of the mysteries was the 
instruction which gave the sacred lore, the " gnosis.' ' This 
"gnosis" included the whole of religious learning, that is 
to say, it was the knowledge of rites as well as of theologi- 
cal and moral truths. It taught above all the origin and 
the end of man, but it covered all the works of God, and, 
inasmuch as it explained creation, it formed a system 
of the world and a theory of nature. In fact the world, 
being wholly penetrated by a divine energy, was itself a 
part of God. The close alliance which exists between 
philosophy and the mysteries, and which is revealed to 
us especially in the Pythagorean and Hermetic litera- 
ture, 23 is shown in the value thus given to science. This 
science, which in the East had always been sacerdotal, 
was not looked upon as a conquest of reason but as the 
revelation of a god. Illumined by this god, the initiate 
entered into communication with him, and consequently 
himself became divine and was withdrawn from the power 
of Fate. "They who possess the knowledge (yvcocns) have 
deification as their happy end," said Hermes Trisme- 
gistus. 24 

The highest degree of this "gnosis" is the sight of the 
godhead himself, or to use the Greek word, "epoptism." 
By artifice or illusion apparitions were evoked and 
"epiphanies" produced. 25 A whole system of fastings and 
macerations placed the mystic in a fit state to attain to 
ecstasy. In the temple of Isis the faithful devotee merged 

22 Cf. Comptes rendus Acad. Inscriptions, 1917, p. 281 ss. 

23 See above, Introd., p. 37. 

24 Hermes Trismeg., Poimandres, I, 26 : Tovto icm t6 d-yadbv tAos roh 
yvuxriv iaxVKOcri. decodijmt.. 

25 See below, Lecture VIII, 207. 


himself "with inexpressible delight" 26 in the silent adora- 
tion of the sacred images, and when the rites had been 
accomplished and he felt himself transported beyond the 
confines of the world, he contemplated the gods of heaven 
and hell face to face. He who had had the vision of this 
ineffable beanty was himself transfigured for ever. His 
sonl, filled with the divine splendour, must when its 
earthly captivity had ended live eternally in contempla- 
tion of the radiant beings who had admitted it to their 
company. 27 

The mysteries have thus a number of processes, some 
material and some spiritual, for producing the union with 
god which is the source of immortality. This union is first 
conceived as effected with the particular god honoured 
by a sect. As this god has died and has risen again, so the 
mystic dies to be reborn, and the liturgy even marks by 
its ceremonies the death of the former man and his return 
to a glorious life. 

The fervent disciple to whom the god has united him- 
self suffers a metamorphosis and takes on divine quali- 
ties. In magic this process is sometimes very grossly indi- 
cated: "Come into me, Hermes,' ' says a papyrus, 28 "as 
children do into women's wombs, ... I know thee, Hermes, 
and thou knowest me ; I am thou and thou art I." The old 
Egyptian doctrine of the identification with Osiris, which 
goes back to the age of the Pharaohs, was never given up 
in the Alexandrian mysteries, and the whole doctrine of 
immortality rested on it. As on the earth the initiate who 
piously observed sacred precepts received in his bosom 
the godhead, so after death the faithful became a Serapis 
if a man, an Isis if a woman. This beatification seems to 
have been conceived sometimes as an absorption into the 

26Apuleius, Metam., XI, 24: ' ' Inexplieabili voluptate divini simulaeri 
perf ruebar. ' ' 

2? See Oriental religions, p. 100, and below, Lecture VIII, p. 210 ss. 

28 Papyr. of London, CXXII, 1 ss. ; cf. Eeitzenstein, Poimandres, p. 20. 


heart of the divinity, sometimes as a multiplication of the 
divinity, who left to the deceased his own personality. 

It was above all from Egypt that apotheosis in the 
form of a particular divinity spread first in the Hellenis- 
tic and then in the Roman world. As the Pharaohs became 
Osiris on the earth and after their death, so among the 
Ptolemies such names as Isis-Arsinoe and others similar 
are found, and the emperors were adored even in their 
lifetime as epiphanies of Apollo, Zeus or Helios. 29 Their 
subjects could obtain a lot as happy as that of the sover- 
eigns. The mystics of Dionysos were early made divine, 
in imitation of those of Serapis, and became as many 
emanations of Bacchus; and finally under the empire a 
cult was rendered to the dead under such titles as Mars, 
Hercules, Venus, Diana and other Olympians. 

Conceptions less in conflict with reason were taught by 
the astral cults of the Semitic East. The celestial powers 
here were higher, more distant, less anthropomorphic, 
and it was not imagined that a man could assume their 
form. Here the action of the god on the mystic recalled 
that of the stars in nature : it was regarded as an efflu- 
ence, fallen from the ether, which penetrated the initiate, 
as an energy which filled him, as a luminous ray which 
lit his mind. Virtue from on high entered into the neo- 
phyte and transformed him into a being like the divini- 
ties of heaven. 30 He was glorified (Sofacrtfet?) as a con- 
queror who had triumphed over demons and smitten 
down death; he was illuminated (cframcrOeLs) and pene- 
trated by a supernatural light which disclosed to him all 
truth; he was sanctified {ayiacrOeU) and acquired unfail- 
ing virtue ; he was exalted ( mpovrai ) , that is to say his 
soul rose in rapture to the stars. Glory, splendour, light, 
purity, knowledge : all these ideas were confounded until 
they became almost synonymous and together denoted 

29 Eiewald, Be imperatorum Romanorum cum certis dis aequatione, Halle, 

30 Cf. Gillis Wetter, Die "Verherrlichwig," in Beitrdge zur Belig.- 
Wissenschaft, II, 1914. 


the transfiguration which was undergone by the soul 
called to rise to ethereal regions, even on this earth and 
while it was still joined to the body. 

But this divine action, which tended to become purely 
spiritual, was originally much more material. A very 
coarse substratum to the theological ideas is still appar- 
ent in the texts which mention them. Magic, which was 
addressed to the credulity of simple men, did not conceal 
it at all. Here the ascension of the spirit appeared as a 
journey to heaven. By appropriate formulae and pro- 
cesses the sorcerers pretended to secure immortality for 
their adepts, making them fly, body and soul, through the 
higher spheres to reach the dwelling of the gods. 31 

In short, the initiate of the mysteries believed that they 
found in them a warrant of immortality. By the virtue of 
the rites their souls were united to their god; thus they 
became themselves divine, and were ensured an everlast- 
ing life. Inevitably, every Oriental religion affirmed that 
it held the only sacred tradition leading surely to eternal 
felicity. Outside the sect there was no certain salvation. 
But philosophy always opposed these claims. Philosophy, 
too, thought itself able to lead through wisdom to happi- 
ness in this world and in the next, and there was rivalry 
between it and the positive cults, as soon as it took on a 
religious character and set up religious claims. The Neo- 
Pythagoreans who formed esoteric communities opposed 
their purifications and initiations to those of the mys- 
teries. But the eschatological doctrine, of which Posi- 
donius was, if not the author, at least the powerful 
promoter, and which was to be taken up again and 
transformed by the Neo-Platonists, exempted the wise 
man from any obligation to religious observances as 
ensuring his immortality. He was no longer in need of 
sacraments and sacrifices, but could by his own unaided 

3i See below, Lecture VI, p. 158. 


force become a pure intelligence, win the complete mas- 
tery of himself by reason, and thereafter be certain of 
raising himself to the godhead. 

At the most, certain thinkers granted a "propaedeutic" 
or preparatory value to ritual observances, and saw in 
them a means of predisposing the soul to ecstasy, but the 
mystic philosophers, of whom Plotinus represents the 
purest type, discarded for themselves all religious prac- 
tices. Their proud doctrine places man alone face to face 
with God. 32 Or else, like Porphyry, they admit that sacred 
ceremonies can purify the spiritual or pneumatic soul 
but not its highest part, the intellectual soul; that they 
can raise it to the region of the stars but not bring it back 
to the Supreme Being. The late pagan philosophy asserts 
constantly and forcibly that the wise man's reason is able 
by itself, or rather through a celestial grace, without the 
intervention of any liturgy, to ensure its own return to 
its divine source. "As," says Porphyry, "he who is the 
priest of a particular god knows how to consecrate his 
statues, celebrate orgies, perform initiations and lustra- 
tions, so the true philosopher, who is the priest of the 
universal God, knows how to make His sacred images and 
to carry out His purifications and all the processes which 
will unite him to this God. ' ,33 

Philosophers were therefore the priests of the world. 
Their functions were parallel to those of the actual priests 
but higher. They tended more and more to form a sacer- 
dotal order which was separated from the rest of human 
society by its customs and its way of life. Like the mys- 
teries they taught that piety, temperance and continence 
were the indispensable conditions of obtaining true 
knowledge. This "gnosis" was no longer a traditional 
theology revealed in the shadow of the sanctuary, but a 
scientific truth perceived by a grace-illumined reason. 
The philosopher took no part in the ceremonies of a 

32 See below, Lecture VIII, p. 212. 

33 Porph., De Abstin., II, 49. 


complicated ritual, but his prayer was the silent supplica- 
tion of his intelligence seeking to understand creation. He 
did not become absorbed in the contemplation of idols 
but in the sight of the divine world and in particular of 
the starry heavens. The end which this lonely cult strove 
to attain was analogous to that sought by others in the 
conventicles of the initiate — a divine revelation which 
would give to the perfect wise man superhuman power, 
which would make him a prophet, sometimes a wonder- 
worker ; and after death, already a god on earth, he went 
to live in the company of the gods on high. 

The lifting of the reason to heaven, source of all intelli- 
gence, was thus the pledge of astral immortality, as the 
liturgical banquet was of the celestial feast. As physical 
drunkenness, being divine possession, was a prelude to 
the joy of the eternal repast, so spiritual ecstasy was the 
sign of future deification. 34 

The ancients found impassioned words to depict this 
communion of man with the starry heavens, and to ex- 
press the divine love which transported the soul into 
radiant space. 35 In the splendour of night the spirit was 
intoxicated with the glow shed on it by the fires above. 
Like the possessed and the Corybantes in the delirium 
of their orgies, it abandoned itself to ecstasy, which set 
it free from its fleshly wrappings and lifted it up to the 
region of the everlasting stars. Borne on the wings of 
enthusiasm it sprang to the midst of this sacred cho- 
rus and followed its harmonious movements. Reason, 
illumined by the divine fires which surrounded it, under- 
stood the laws of nature and the secrets of destiny. It 
then partook of the life of the light-flashing beings which 
from the earth it saw glittering in the radiance of the 
ether ; before the fated term of death it had part in their 
wisdom and received their revelations in a stream of 

34 See below, Lecture VIII, pp. 201, 207, 211. 

35 See my Mysticisme astral dans I'antiquite in Bulletins de I 'Acad, de 
Belgique, 1909, p. 264 ss. 


light which dazzled even the eye of reason. This sublime 
rapture was an ephemeral foretaste of the endless felic- 
ity reserved for the sage when, after his death, rising to 
the celestial spheres, he penetrated all their mysteries. 36 

36 See Lecture VIII, p. 210 ss. 


IN the last lecture we endeavoured to show that in the 
ancient world immortality was at first conceived as 
being precarious and conditional, and that only the 
heroes, the exceptional men, who were in truth gods on 
earth, obtained apotheosis after their death. We after- 
wards saw that the mysteries extended the promise of 
eternal salvation to all the initiate, who by virtue of the 
rites were made equal to the gods, and finally that the 
philosophers contested the necessity of sacred ceremonies 
and affirmed that human reason by its own unaided power 
could win union with God. 

We will now consider in more detail what lot was 
reserved for a special class of the dead, those whose life 
had been interrupted by an untimely end, and how in 
their case philosophy modified the old traditional beliefs. 

If we turn over collections of ancient inscriptions we 
find, as when we go through our own cemeteries, a num- 
ber of epitaphs in which the grief caused by the early 
death of a friend or relative is expressed. But in antiquity 
this sorrow was called forth not alone by regret for a 
loved being, too soon lost to sight, and by painful disap- 
pointment because of the irreparable ruin of the hopes 
to which his youth had given rise. Along with these human 
feelings, which are of all time and all societies, there were 
mingled in antiquity ideas which caused the loss of those 
who died before their time to seem more fearful and 

Virgil's celebrated lines, in which he describes the 
descent of Aeneas to Hades, will be remembered -, 1 

i Virg., Aen., VI, 426 ss. 


1 1 Continue* auditae voces, vagitus et ingens, 
Infantnmque animae flentes in limine primo, 
Quos dulcis vitae exsortes et ab ubere raptos 
Abstulit atra dies et f unere mersit acerbo. ' ' 

"Ever were heard, on the outermost threshold, voices, a 
great wailing, the weeping souls of infants bereft of 
sweet life and torn from the breast, whom the ill-omened 
day swept off and whelmed in bitter death. ' ' 

In an eschatological myth of Plutarch, 2 the traveller 
beyond the grave also sees a deep abyss, in which moan 
the plaintive voices of a multitude of children who had 
died at the moment of their birth and were unable to 
rise to heaven. It has been shown that the Latin poet 
and the Greek philosopher are here interpreters of an old 
Pythagorean belief, to which Plato alludes: 3 children 
who died young, like persons who met with violent deaths, 
the dcopoi Kal fiiaLoOdvaTOL, found no rest in the other life, 
but their souls wandered on the earth for the number of 
years for which their life would normally have lasted. 
The souls of the shipwrecked who perished at sea roamed 
the surface of the waters and sailors believed that they 
were incarnated in the seagulls. 4 

How did this belief in the miserable lot of innocent 
children arise? Its origin should probably be sought in 
that fear of death which haunts all primitive peoples, and 
it developed owing to the frequency in antiquity of infan- 
ticide by abandoning or " exposing' ' newly born infants. 
Remorse provoked terror. This conclusion is especially 
suggested because the fate of those who died prematurely 
was approximated to the lot of those who died violent 
deaths. Beings who had been prevented from completing 
the natural span of life were feared; their shades were 
conceived as being unquiet and in pain, because it was 
believed that they could return to disquiet and pain the 

2 Plut., Be genio Socratis, 22, p. 590 F. 

3 Plato, Bepubl, p. 615 C; cf. Norden, Aeneis Buck VI, 1903, pp. 11, 27. 

4 Achill. Tat., V, 16. 


living. The idea was entertained that a spirit brutally 
separated from the body came to hold it in horror and did 
not consent to inhabit the tomb until a reconciliation had 
been disobtained by expiatory ceremonies. Being griev- 
ously disincarnated, the soul became harmful. Souls, said 
the ancients, whom a cruel and untimely end has violently 
or unjustly torn from their bodies, themselves tend to be 
violent and unjust in order that they may avenge the 
wrong they have suffered. 5 It is no rare thing to find evi- 
dence in the inscriptions of a suspicion that a person cut 
off in the flower of his years has been the victim of some 
foul play ; the curse of Heaven is called down on the head 
of his assumed murderer. The Sun, who discovers hidden 
crimes, is often invoked in Roman epitaphs against this 
unknown offender: 6 " Towards the Most High god, who 
watches over everything, and Helios and Nemesis, 
Arsinoe, dead before her time, lifts up her hands ; if any- 
one prepared poison for her or rejoices in her end, pursue 
him," says an inscription of Alexandria. But the victim 
was himself believed to be capable of vengeance. It 
seemed incredible that one still full of strength and life 
should be entirely blotted out and that the energy which 
had animated him should also have disappeared sud- 
denly, and the reprisals of this mysterious power were 
apprehended. This spirit pursued above all the mur- 
derer and, more generally, those who had given it cause 
for complaint. It showed itself to them in the form of 
terrifying monsters which tormented them. "As soon as I 
shall have expired, doomed to death by you," says the 
child in Horace whom the witches sacrificed, "I will 
haunt your nights like a Fury, I will tear your faces 
with my hooked nails, as the Manes gods can, and weigh- 
ing on your unquiet hearts I will take sleep from your 
affrighted eyes." 7 Suetonius 8 relates that after the death 

5 Tertull., Be anima, 57. 

6 Dessau, Inscr. sel., 8497 ss. ; cf. Becueil des inscriptions du Pont, 9, 258. 

7 Horace, Epod., 5, 92; cf. Livy, III, 58, 11. 
s Sueton., Nero, 34, 4. 


of Agrippina, Nero was, on his own confession, often 
troubled by the vision of her spectre and attempted to 
calm her spirit by a sacrifice and an evocation which he 
caused his magicians to make. The same historian 
gravely recounts that the house in which Caligula was 
murdered was every night haunted by dreadful appari- 
tions until the time when it was destroyed by fire. 9 A 
scholiast defines the lemur es as "the wandering shades 
of men who died before their normal time and are hence 
redoubtable." 10 Even today popular belief in many coun- 
tries attributes a maleficent power to the spirits of those 
who have died a violent death. 

These disquieting superstitions acquired new force 
through the teachings of astrology, which by incorporat- 
ing them in its system gave them a doctrinal foundation. 
Astrology spread the belief, which was and is common to 
all ancient and modern peoples of the East, that each 
soul has a predetermined number of years to spend on 
earth. The mathematici multiplied calculations and 
methods in order to be able to predict the instant of death 
predetermined by the horoscope. "This is the great work 
of astrology, held by its adepts to be its most difficult and 
by its enemies to be its most dangerous and blameworthy 
operation." 11 But by an internal contradiction this 
pseudo-science admitted that the natural end could be 
hastened by the intervention of a murderous star (avai- 
penjs) : Saturn and Mars can in certain positions call 
forth sudden death by accident, killing, execution. A frag- 
ment attributed to Aristotle asserts that a Syrian mage 
predicted to Socrates that he would meet such a fate. 12 
Sometimes the maleficent planets tear a nursing child 

9 Sueton., Calig., 59. 

ioPorph., Epist., II, 2, 209: "Nocturnas Lemures: umbras vagantes 
hominum ante diem mortuorum et ideo metuendas. " 

11 Bouche-Leclercq, Astrologie grecque, p. 404. 

i2Diog. Laert., II, 5, §45; cf. Lamprid., Heliog., 33, 2: "Praedictum 
eidem erat a sacerdotibus Syris biothanatum se futurum." 


from its mother's breast before a single revolution of the 
sun has been accomplished. All astrological treatises 
devote chapters to these "unfed" children (arpo^oi) and 
also to the biothanati whose life has been interrupted by 
misfortunes of any kind. Petosiris was even concerned 
to discover— Ptolemy declared such preoccupation to be 
ridiculous 13 — what the stars reserved until the end of 
their life for those who had gone through only a portion 
of it. The texts which have been preserved— and often 
expurgated — by the Byzantines give no more than a bare 
indication of astral influences on the lot of men. In an- 
tiquity other more religious and more mystical works 
doubtless existed in which the inauspicious action of the 
murderous star, still affecting after death the souls torn 
from their mortal wrappings, was shown. 

Pythagorism, which was closely connected with astrol- 
ogy, took possession of these ideas and adapted them to 
its speculations. According to this philosophy one and 
the same harmony presided over all physical phenomena 
and was, like music, subject to laws of number. These laws 
therefore were at work during pregnancy, and a compli- 
cated arithmetic was employed to show by a multiplica- 
tion of days that a child might be born after seven or 
nine months with power to live, but not after eight, for 
such was the strange doctrine of the sect. Thus gestation 
became a melody in which abortion was a false note. 
Nature was said to be like an artist who sometimes 
breaks an instrument of which he overstretches the 
chords, and sometimes leaves them too slack and can pro- 
duce no tune. Now, these harmonic laws necessarily deter- 
mined not only the formation but also the end of man : 
"There is a fixed relation of determined numbers which 
unites souls to bodies,' ' says a philosopher, "and while it 
subsists, the body continues to be animate, but so soon as 
it fails, the hidden energy which maintained this union is 
dissolved, and this is what we call destiny and the fatal 

isPtolem., Tetrabibl., Ill, 10 (p. 127, ed. 1553). 


time of life. ' ,14 When the term fixed by nature is reached, 
the soul departs without effort from the body in which it 
can no longer exercise its office. But when the soul is 
violently ejected from the body and the link connecting 
them is broken by an external force, it is troubled and is 
afflicted by an ill which will cause it pain in the Beyond. 
These ideas had sunk deep into the popular mind. The 
distinction between an end in conformity with nature and 
one unexpectedly provoked by extraneous intervention is 
often expressed in literature as well as in inscriptions. 
Thus the epitaph of a young woman of twenty-eight, who 
was believed to have been the victim of witchcraft, states 
that "her spirit was torn from her by violence rather 
than returned to nature, ' ,15 which had lent it to her ; the 
Manes or the celestial gods will be the avengers of this 
crime. Still more frequently an opposition is found be- 
tween an early death and Fatum. The hour of death is 
determined at the moment of birth : 

' ' Nascentes morimur ; finisque ab origine pendet. ' ,16 

"At the moment we are born, we die ; and our end is fixed 
from our beginning. ' ' He who reaches this term fixed for 
his life ends "on his day" (suo die) ; otherwise he dies 
"before his day" (ante diem). 17 The vulgar belief was 
that the intervention of a human or divine will could 
oppose the fated course of things and abridge the normal 
duration of existence. Often the expression occurs of a 
belief that a demon or, what is more remarkable, an evil 
god has carried off innocent children or young men whose 
life has thus been shortened. 18 But pagan theology under- 
took the task of re-establishing the order of nature thus 

i±Macrob., Somn. Scip., I, 13, 1, probably after Numenius (Bevue des 
etudes grecques, XXXII, 1921, p. 119 s.). 

is CIL, VIII, 2756=Bucheler, Carm. epigr., 1604. 

is Manilius, IV, 16. 

17 Cf. Schulze, Sitzungsb. ATcad. Berlin, 1912, p. 691 ss. 

is Demon: Kaibel, Epigr. Gr., 566, 4; 569, 3, etc.— Evil god: Dessau, 
8498; cf. 9093: "Cui (sic) dii nefandi parvulo contra votum genitorum vita 
privaverunt. ' ' 


disturbed by fortuitous accidents and by individual and 
unregulated interferences. The breaking of the laws of 
the universe was only apparent: a soul might by mis- 
chance or by a malevolent act be suddenly severed from 
its body, but, remaining obedient to Fate, it had there- 
after to linger on earth until its appointed time was 

Its lot was supposed to be analogous to that of the 
unfortunate who had been deprived of burial (ara^ot, 
insepulti) of whom we spoke in our first lecture. 19 It 
circled about the corpse, which it could not abandon, or 
fluttered here and there near the place of burial or on the 
spot where the body which it had occupied had been 
assailed. Excluded from the abode of the shades these 
wandering souls flitted near the earth or on the surface 
of the waters, miserable and plaintive. The fear of never 
being able to penetrate into the kingdom of blessed shades 
seems to have inspired the following prayer, which occurs 
in a metrical epitaph of Capri : 20 

"You who dwell in the country of Styx, beneficent 
demons, receive me too into Hades, me the unfortunate 
who was not borne away in accordance with the judg- 
ment of the Fates, but by a hasty and violent death 
provoked by unjust anger. ' ' 

These brutally disincarnated souls became like the 
swift and harmful spirits with which the air was filled : 
like them they belonged to the train of Hecate, the god- 
dess of enchantment, and like them were subject to the 
power of magicians. At Lesbos, Gello, a young virgin 
carried off before her time, became a phantom which 
killed children and caused premature deaths. 21 The leaden 
tablets, which were slipped into tombs in order to injure 
an enemy, and the magic papyri of Egypt bear a large 
number of incantations in which these mischievous 

is See Lecture I, p. 66 ss. 
20 Kaibel, Epigr. Graeca, 624. 

2i Kohde, Psyche, II*, p. 411; cf. Perdrizet, Negotium perambulans, 1922, 
p. 19 ss. 


demons are invoked. In the same way a series of conjura- 
tions, dating from the third century and found in the 
island of Cyprus, appeal to the spirits of the dead thrown 
in the common ditch, "who have met their death by vio- 
lence, or before their time, or who have been deprived 
of burial." 22 In general the sacrifice of newly born chil- 
dren, and the use of their vital organs and bones, was, 
and not without reason, a most frequent charge against 
sorcerers. Formulas preserved on papyrus recommend 
as powerful means to work a charm "a baby's heart, the 
blood of a dead maiden, and the carrion of a dog." 23 
Witches were believed to steal children in order to use 
the entrails in their occult operations, a ritualistic murder 
analogous to that attributed by popular belief, in some 
countries, to the Jews. Cicero, Horace in an epode, 
Petronius in his romance, 24 and other authors bear wit- 
ness to the extent to which this opinion was entertained. 
The epitaph of a young slave of Livia, wife of Drusus, 
relates his misfortune. Before he was four years old he 
was cut off by the cruel hand, the "black hand" of a 
witch, who practised her noxious art everywhere. ' ' Guard 
well your children, ye parents, ' ' adds the epitaph. 25 

Likewise the murder of adults and the use made of 
objects which had belonged to executed or murdered per- 
sons is frequently mentioned. The wonder-workers be- 
lieved that by practising with the bodies of this class of 
the dead, or with objects they had used, they became 
masters of their wandering souls and made them serve 
their designs. The nails of a crucified criminal, the blood- 

22 Audollent, Defixionum tdbellae, 1904, p. 40, nr, 22 ss. ; see above, Lec- 
ture I, p. 68. 

23 Wessely, Griech. Zauberpap. aus Paris in DenJcschr. AJcad. Wien, 
XXXVI, 1888, p. 85, 1. 2577 ss., p. 86, 1. 2645 ss. 

24Cie., In Vatin., 6, 14; Horace, Ep., 5; Petronius, 63, 8. 
25 Biicheler, Carm. epigr., 987 : 

1 ' Eripuit me saga manus crudelis ubique, 
Cum manet in terris et nocet arte sua. 
Vos vestros natos concustodite, parentes. ' ' 
Cf. Petronius, I. c, and Lecture II, p. 61, n. 48. 


soaked linen of a gladiator, were efficacious amulets. 26 
Faith is still kept nowadays in the rope which has hanged 
a man. 27 The books which circulated under the name of 
Hostanes the Persian, Nectabis the Egyptian and other 
illustrious wizards dealt with evocations of dwpot and 
fiiaioOdvaTOL. 28 

Thus a logical series of beliefs was pushed to its ex- 
treme consequence. At the moment of birth Fate fixed for 
each man the length of his career; if this were inter- 
rupted, the soul had to complete it in suffering, near the 
earth, and became a demon which lent its aid to diviners 
and sorcerers. This doctrine, supported by astrology and 
Oriental magic, imposed itself on many minds. Plato, who 
had found it among the Pythagoreans, alludes to it, and 
Posidonius seems to have dealt with it more at length in 
his treatise "On Divination" (wepl fiavTiKr}*;), 29 although 
we cannot tell in how far he supported it. But it encoun- 
tered the objections of other Greek philosophers. The 
reproach made to this theory was that it left out of 
account morality and merited retribution, and brought 
together, as subject to the same misfortune, criminals 
condemned to capital punishment and children whose age 
had kept them from all sin. Feeling and reason at the 
same time protested against the cruel doctrine which 
vowed indifferently the innocent and the guilty to long 
torture. When accident or illness caused the death of a 
beloved son, could his parents make up their mind to 
believe that he would suffer undeserved chastisement? A 
distinction had to be made between categories of persons, 
and to this task the pagan theologians applied themselves. 
Let us follow them in their undertaking. 


The acopoi are those who die "out of season,' ' that is to 
say, in the wide sense of the word, those whose existence 

26 Alex. Trail., I, 15, pp. 565, 567, Pusehman. 

27 Cf. Pliny, XXVIII, 12, § 49. 

28 Tertull., Be anima, 57. 

29 Norden, Aeneis Buck VI, p. 41. 


ends abnormally, but more particularly those who die 
young, who die prematurely. They include the dvcow^oi, 
those who have received no name, who have not, that is, 
reached the ninth or tenth day of life, the arpofyoi, non 
nutriti, or babes who are still being fed at the breast 
or, according to the astrologers, are not yet a year 
old, and the dyafxoi, the innupti, who have died before the 
age of marriage and have therefore left no posterity to 
render them funeral rites. 

None of these children and adolescents deserved, in the 
opinion of the sages, any chastisement. The Pythagoreans 
placed the age of reason, at which man is capable of 
choosing between good and evil and may be made respon- 
sible for his faults, as late as sixteen, that is, the age of 
puberty. Until that age the " naked " soul, without virtue 
as without vice, was exempt from all merit and demerit 
which would later attach to it. We know the unhappy lot 
to which, according to these philosophers, they were 
doomed. But other theologians considered that these 
souls, which had not been weighted by a long contact with 
matter, should fly more easily to celestial heights. Un- 
sullied by earthly pollution, their purity allowed them to 
rise without difficulty to a better life in a happier abiding- 
place. 30 

It is hard to determine to what degree these moral ideas 
had penetrated the popular mind. The reaction against 
a superstitious belief often led to pure negation. Those 
who held that death put an end to all sensibility, were 
content to affirm that the child they wept had gone down 
into everlasting night, and that nothing was left of him 
but dust and ashes. Certain epitaphs hope that, if his 
Manes still have some feeling, his bones may rest quietly 
in the tomb. But mother's love was not to be satisfied 
with this negative assurance or to resign itself to anxious 
doubting. The people kept an unreasoning fear of the 
evils which awaited the dcopot and of those which might be 

30 Sen., Dial., VI, 23, 1; Plut., Cons, ad uxorem, 11 ; cf. Dessau, 8481 ss. 


expected from them. Some also believed that an ancestral 
fault — such as was, according to the Orphic doctrine, the 
murder of Zagreus, by the Titans — made all humanity 
guilty from birth, and that this hereditary sin had to be 
effaced by purifications. 31 Religion offered a remedy for 
the ill to which, to speak with Lucretius, it had itself lent 
persuasion. The custom of initiating children to the mys- 
teries which was, at least at Eleusis, originally connected 
with the family or gentile cult, became a means of pre- 
serving them from the fatal lot which threatened them 
and of ensuring their happiness in the other life. Thus 
pueri and puellae are found admitted at the most tender 
age among the adepts of the secret cults, both Greek and 
Oriental, perhaps even consecrated from birth to the god- 
head. They are imagined as partaking in the Beyond of 
the joys which these cults promised to those whose salva- 
tion they ensured. A child who has taken part in a cere- 
mony of Bacchus lives endowed with eternal youth in the 
Elysian Fields in the midst of Satyrs. 32 Others continue 
the games proper to their years in another life, or if they 
have reached the age of first love they still sport with 
young Eros. Above all, however, the influence of the astral 
cults, added to that of philosophy, brought about an 
admission that innocent creatures ascended to the starry 
heavens. An epitaph of Thasos 33 speaks of a virgin, 
flower-bearer (dv0o(f)6po<;) probably of Demeter and Kora, 
who was carried off at the age of thirteen by the inex- 
orable Fates, but who, " living among the stars, by the 
will of the immortals, has taken her place in the sacred 
abode of the blessed.' ' At Amorgos, a child of eight was, 
we are assured, led by Hermes to Olympus, shone in the 
ether, and would henceforth protect the young wrestlers 
who emulated him in the palaestra. Even the precise spot 
in which he twinkled was fixed, the horn of the constella- 

3i See below, Lecture VII, p. 178. 
szBucheler, Carm. epigr., 1233. 
33 Kaibel, Epigr. Graeca, 324. 


tion of the Goat — an appropriate place for this little 
fighter. 34 Curiously, an epitaph of Africa, which repeats 
Virgil 's very expression (p. 129), states, in contradiction 
to the poet, that a baby, ' ' cut off on the threshold of life, ' ' 
has not gone to the Manes but to the stars of heaven, 35 and 
a relief of Copenhagen shows the bust of a little girl 
within a large crescent surrounded by seven stars, thus 
indicating that she has risen towards the moon, the abode 
of blessed souls. 36 

Examples of these premature apotheoses might be 
multiplied. I shall merely show, by a characteristic case, 
how it was possible for old popular beliefs to be com- 
bined with the new astral doctrine. The ancients attrib- 
uted to the rustic nymphs the strange powers which the 
Greek peasant today recognises in beings which he still 
designates as the Nereids. 37 Sometimes these fantastical 
goddesses possess themselves of the spirit of men and 
change them into seers or maniacs {vviifyokrjTTToi) ; some- 
times their fancy is caught by handsome youths whom 
they carry off and oblige to live with them. But above all 
they love pretty children and steal them from their 
parents, not to harm them but in order that they may 
take part in their own divine pastimes. Doubtless it was 
at first to mountain caverns, near limpid springs, in the 
depths of tufted woods, that they bore him whom they 
made their little playfellow. Such were the archaic beliefs 
of the country folk. But the mysteries of Bacchus taught 
that an innocent child, thus rapt from the earth, mingled 
in the train of the Naiads in the flowery meadows of the 
Elysian Fields ; 38 and when Paradise was transferred to 

34 Haussoullier, Eevue de philologie, XXIII, 1909, p. 6; see above, Lec- 
ture III, p. 105. 

35 Bucheler, Carm. epigr., 569: "Vitaeque e limine raptus . . . Non 
tamen ad Manes sed eaeli ad sidera pergis. " Cf. ibid., 569, 611. 

ss See Lecture III, p. 99. 

37Kohde, Psyche, II*, p. 374, n. 2; Lawson, Modern Greek folklore, 1910 
p. 140 ss. ; cf. Dessau, 8748. 

ss Bucheler, Carm. epigr., 1233; cf. Statius, Silv., II, 6, 100. 


the sky it was in the "immortal dwelling-place of the 
ether" that the nymphs, we are told, placed a little girl 
whose charm had seduced them. 39 

Transported thus to heaven, these loved beings were 
transformed by the tenderness of their relatives into pro- 
tectors of the family in which their memory survived, or 
of the friends who shared regret for them. Whether they 
were called " heroes' ' in Greek, or as elsewhere "gods," 40 
they were always conceived as guardian powers who 
acknowledged by benefits the worship rendered them. 
Thus in the middle of the second century the familia of a 
proconsul of Asia, C. Julius Quadratus, honoured a child 
of eight years as a hero, at the prayer of his father and 
mother; 41 and at Smyrna the parents of a dearly loved 
child of four, raised to this baby as their tutelary god, a 
tomb on which an epitaph described in detail all his 
illnesses. 42 

These sentimental illusions are eternal. Nothing is 
more frequently seen on tombstones in our own Catholic 
cemeteries than such invocations as "Dear angel in 
heaven, pray for us," or even a figure of a winged baby 
flying away among winged cherubs. This faith is perhaps 
touching, but its orthodoxy is doubtful. For the doctors of 
the Church, except Origen, have, I think, never adopted 
the doctrine of Philo the Jew that human souls can be 
transformed into angelic spirits. But in the oldest Chris- 
tian epitaphs the conviction is already expressed that, 
since children are without sin, they will be transported 
by angels to the dwelling of the saints and there intercede 
for their parents. "Thou hast been received, my daugh- 
ter, among the pious souls, because thy life was pure 
from all fault, for thy youth ever sought only innocent 

aoKaibel, Epigr. Graeca, 570, 571; cf. CIL, VI, 29195=Dessau, 8482: 
' l Ulpius Firmus, anima bona superis reddita, raptus a Nymphis. ' ' 

40(7/. Anderson, Journ, hell, stud., XIX, 1899, p. 127, n*, 142, and below, 
note 42. 

4i Cagnat, Inscr. Gr. ad res Bom. pertin., IV, 1377. 

42 Kaibel, Epigr. Graeca, 314. 


play," 43 says a metrical epitaph, once under the portico 
of St. Peter's. And another and older epitaph is as fol- 
lows, "Eusebius, a child without sin because of his age, 
admitted to the abode of the saints, rests there in 
peace. ' m Still others end with the words ' ' Pray for us, ' ' 
"Pete pro nobis." 

Thus little by little in antiquity the conviction gained 
strength and became predominant that, as Menander said 
with another meaning, whom the gods love die young. 45 
As to individuals whose days were cut short by a violent 
blow, they were not uniformly in the same case. The theo- 
rists here distinguished among different categories of the 
biothanati. 46 The classification seems to have originated 
with the astrologists who claimed to enumerate, in accord- 
ance with the position of Mars and Saturn, all the kinds 
of death reserved for victims of these murderous planets, 
and to foretell whether these unfortunates were to be 
drowned, burnt, poisoned, hanged, beheaded, crucified, 
impaled, crushed to death, thrown to the beasts, or given 
over to yet more atrocious tortures. But the moralists 
here also made a point of separating the innocent from 
the guilty. Only the guilty were to suffer after death and 
only their souls were to become demons. For, side by side 
with those who had deserved capital punishment for their 
crimes, or who administered death to themselves, were 
others cut off by a fatal accident, perhaps even killed 
while performing a sacred duty. 

43Biicheler, Carm. epigr., 1439; cf. 1400: 

"Vos equidem nati caelestia regna videtis 
Quos rapuit parvos praecipitata dies." 
*4 Cabrol et Leclercq, Reliquiae liturgicae vetustissimae, I, 1912, nr, 2917; 
cf. 2974; 3153. 

45 Menander 's verse, ' l "Ov ol deol <pi\ov<rip dirodv^Kei vios, ' ' is indeed trans- 
lated into Latin in a Roman epitaph (Dessau, 8481). 

46 In Greek, pioddvaros is a popular form for fiiaiodavaTos. In Latin 
biaeothanatus is found only in Tertull., Be Anima, 57, biothanatus every- 
where else. 


Such was the case of soldiers slain in battle. Logic 
ordered the theologians to place them among the bio- 
thanati, and so they are, for instance, in Virgil 's sixth 
book of the Aeneid. 47 But death on the field of honour 
could not be a source of infinite ills for them, and it was 
generally admitted that, on the contrary, their courage 
opened for them the gates of heaven. 

"Virtus recludens immeritis mori 
Caelum, ' ' 

as Horace says. 48 The Greek theory of the divinity of the 
heroes here comes to temper the severity of an unreason- 
able and dangerous doctrine. According to Josephus, 49 
Titus, when haranguing his soldiers, promised immor- 
tality to such as fell bravely, and condemned the others 
to destruction. "Who does not know," he asked, "that 
valiant souls, delivered from the flesh by the sword in 
battle, will inhabit the purest of ethereal elements, and, 
fixed in the midst of the stars, will make themselves 
manifest to their descendants as good genii and benevo- 
lent heroes? On the other hand, souls which are extin- 
guished when their body is sick, vanish, even if they are 
free from all stain and defilement, into subterranean 
darkness and are buried in deep oblivion." In the mili- 
tary monarchies of the Hellenistic East, as in the Roman 
Empire, eternal life was certainly promised to those who 
had perished arms in hand, faithful to their military duty. 
We know that the same belief was transmitted to Islam : 
a Mussulman who dies in battle "in the way of Allah" 
is a martyr (sfoahid) to whom the joys of Paradise are 
assured. The Jews, who had been reluctant to admit such 
ideas before, from the time of the Maccabees onwards 
associated with warriors those who sacrificed themselves 
in order to be faithful to their persecuted religion, and to 
these especially they promised a glorious immortality. 

47 Aen., VI, 477 ss. 

48 Horace, Od., Ill, 2, 21; cf. Introd., p. 13; Lecture IV, p. 113. 

49 Joseph., Bell. Iud,, VI, 5, $ 47. 


Faith in this celestial reward was later to cause the Chris- 
tians, who won the martyr's crown, to face all sufferings. 

The treatment which the gods reserved for another 
class of biothanati was more uncertain. In the Greek 
cities, as in Rome, moral reproof and posthumous penal- 
ties were anciently attached to suicide. The old pontifical 
law refused ritualistic burial to persons who had hanged 
themselves; and instead of funeral sacrifices it pre- 
scribed for these dead merely the hanging up of small 
images (oscilla) consecrated to their Manes, 50 — probably 
a magical, " sympathetic' ' rite, which was intended to 
purify their wandering souls by air, as other souls were 
purified by water and fire. The horrible appearance of 
men who died by strangulation had given rise to the belief 
that the breath of life had vainly sought to issue from 
their tightly closed throats. 51 A rich inhabitant of Sarsina 
in Umbria granted land for a graveyard to his fellow citi- 
zens, but excluded from the benefit of his gift those who 
had hired themselves as gladiators, had died by the rope 
by their own hand, or had followed an infamous calling. 52 
This association shows how loathsome this kind of death 
was. Funeral colleges founded under the Empire intro- 
duced into their rules a clause stipulating that if anybody 
had for any motive whatsoever put himself to death, he 
should lose his right to burial. 53 This provision seems to 
have been inspired less by the fear that fraud would be 
practised on this society of mutual insurance against 
supreme abandonment, than by the conviction that fu- 
neral honours cannot deflect the curse which weighs on 
the suicide and renders his company undesirable for 
other dead. 

50 Servius, Aen., XII, 603. 
5i Pliny, N. H., II, 63, $ 156. 

52 Dessau, Inscr. sel., 7846: "Extra auctorateis et quei sibei [la]queo 
marm attulissent et quei quaestum spurcum professi essent. " 

53 lUd., 7212, II, 5. 


But there was against popular opinion and religion, 
which attached an idea of infamy to self-murder, a 
philosophical reaction which, among the Stoics, led to an 
entirely contrary moral judgment. The powerful sect of 
the Porch caused the doctrine to prevail that suicide was 
in certain cases commendable. It saw in this end the 
supreme guarantee of the wise man's freedom, and 
praised those who by voluntary death had withdrawn 
from an intolerable life. Cato of Utica, who killed himself 
lest he should survive liberty, was held to be the wise 
man's ideal, and as worthy of apotheosis as Hercules. He 
himself, who is shown to us by the historians as reading 
and rereading Plato's Phaedo before he pierced himself 
with his sword, 54 certainly hoped for the immortality of 
heroic souls. Here, as on other points, the Neo-Pythago- 
reans, and the Neo-Platonists after them, brought the 
minds of men back to the old religious beliefs. Plotinus, 
yielding to the opinion which still prevailed in his time, 
still authorises suicide in certain cases, but we know that 
his exhortations dissuaded his pupil Porphyry from put- 
ting an end to his days, when he was seized with a disgust 
for life. This latter philosopher afterwards resolutely 
opposed the Stoic doctrine. Although the soul, said the 
Pythagoreans and Platonists, is enclosed in the body as 
in a prison, in order to suffer chastisement, it is forbidden 
by God to escape therefrom by its own act. If it do so 
escape, it incurs from the masters of its fate infinitely 
harder penalties. It must await the hour willed by these 
masters, and then it can rejoice in the deliverance which 
it obtains at the term of old age. If it itself break the link 
which joins it to the body, far from ridding itself of servi- 
tude, it remains chained to the corpse, for necessarily it 
is subject to passion at the moment of death and thus 
contracts impure desires. The only liberation worthy 
of the wise man is that of the soul which still dwells in the 
body but succeeds in freeing itself from all fleshly lean- 

54 Plut., Cato, 68. 


ings and in thus rising, by the force of reason, from earth 
to heaven. 55 

The prohibition of voluntary death anticipating the 
hour fixed by Providence for each man, was strengthened 
and enforced everywhere by the Christian Church. 

With yet more cause did those who had been condemned 
to capital punishment seem to deserve posthumous tor- 
ment and the pains reserved for the impious. These ma- 
leficent spirits, transformed to demons, continued to work 
harm to the human race. The odium which attached to 
the word biothanati ended by concentrating itself on 
these two classes — those who had committed suicide and 
those who had been executed. The horror which both 
inspired was marked by the withholding of honourable 
burial. Even in pagan times, sacred or civil law in 
many places denied funeral honours to children who 
died young, and to suicides — in order, says a text, 56 that 
those who had not feared death might fear something 
after death — and, above all, to criminals, whose corpses 
were not deposited in a tomb but were thrown without 
any ceremony into a common ditch (irokvavhpiov). In 
Eome persons executed in prison were dragged with a 
hook through the streets to the Tiber, where they were 
flung into the water. There was in the fact that they were 
deprived of funeral rites a second reason, besides their 
guilt, for their suffering in the Beyond. 57 Families and 
friends of the condemned endeavoured therefore to spare 
them this fearful penalty, and could obtain from the 
magistrates the surrender of their bodies to them. But 
the authorities often refused this supreme consolation to 
Christians who wished to pay this last duty to their 
martyred brothers. By scattering abroad the ashes of 
martyrs the pagans hoped to prevent their graves from 
becoming the sites of cults. 

The denial of a religious funeral was also from the 

55 Cf. Revue des etudes grecques, XXXII, 1921, p. 113ss. 

56 Sen., Controv., VIII, 4, end. 

57 See above, Lecture I, p. 64 ss. 


earliest time onwards ordered by Church discipline and 
sanctioned by the Councils in the case of suicides, and 
was similarly extended, in virtue of the law in force, to 
malefactors. In the Middle Ages the corpses of criminals 
were still to be seen carried to a shameful charnel-place 
in Byzantium. For instance, the chronologist Theoph- 
anes 58 relates indignantly that in 764 the iconoclastic 
Emperor Constantine Copronymus caused the arrest of 
a hermit of Bithynia, who supported the cult of the 
images. The emperor's guards tied a cord round the 
monk's foot and dragged him from the praetorium to 
the cemetery, where, after cutting him to pieces, they 
flung his remains into the ditch of the biothanati. Curi- 
ously this word, biothanati, was derisively applied to the 
Christians themselves, either because they adored a 
crucified Saviour, or in mockery of the martyrs, who be- 
lieved that through death by execution they earned a 
glorious immortality. The poet Commodianus returns 
this insult by applying the term to the pagans, whose way 
of life condemned them to everlasting flames. 59 The oppro- 
brious word remained in use until the Middle Ages, when 
it denoted all whose crimes deserved capital punishment, 
so that the final meaning of biothanatus was gallows-bird, 
gallows-food. 60 

If the meaning of the word biothanati was thus re- 
stricted in the Latin world, the old ideas which it called 
forth have had a singular vitality in folk-lore, especially 
among the Greeks. The Greeks believe even today that 
such as perish by a sudden and violent death became 
vrykolakes. 61 Their bodies can again be reanimated, can 
leave the grave, and can travel through space with 
extreme rapidity as vampires and become so maleficent 
that mere contact with them causes loss of life. Suicides 
and victims of unavenged murders are particularly fear- 

58 Theophanes, Chronicon, p. 437, 3 ss., De Boor. 

59 Commodianus, I, 14, 8. 

so Du Cange, Glossarium, s. v. 

6i Lawson, Modem Greek folklore, 1910, p. 408 ss. 


fill. It was the custom as late as the eighteenth century 
to open the grave of a dead man suspected of being a 
vryJcolakas, and if his body had escaped corruption, thus 
proving his supposed character, it was cut into pieces or 
burnt in order to prevent it from doing further harm. So 
lively did the belief remain that the biothanatus could not 
detach himself from his body, and that his existence, 
which had been too soon interrupted, was prolonged in 
the tomb. 



AS soon as belief took shape in an underground king- 
f\ dom where gathered the shades which were sepa- 
^Z7jL_rated from the body and from the grave, the idea 
also arose of a perilous journey which the soul must make 
in order to win to this distant abode. Such an idea is 
common to many peoples of the world. In California, the 
Mojave Indians are said to believe that the departed have 
to find their way through a complicated maze in search of 
the happy hunting grounds, which only the good souls 
can reach, while the wicked wander painfully and end- 
lessly. We know what minutely detailed rules are con- 
tained in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, rules to which 
the deceased had to conform in order that they might 
travel safely to the Fields of the Blessed. The Orphic 
tablets, discovered in tombs in Italy, 1 have preserved 
fragments of another guide to the Beyond. For instance, 
the tablet of Petelia, which goes back to the second or 
perhaps the third century B. C, begins thus : "Thou shalt 
find to the left of the house of Hades a well-spring, and 
by the side thereof standing a white cypress. To this 
well-spring approach not near. But thou shalt find an- 
other by the lake of Memory, cold water flowing forth, 
and there are Guardians before it. Say 'I am a child of 
Earth and of Starry Heaven. But my race is of Heaven 
(alone). This ye know yourselves. And so I am parched 
with thirst and I perish. Give me quickly the cold water 
flowing from the lake of Memory. ' And of themselves 
they will give thee to drink from the holy well-spring; 

i See above, Lecture IT, p. 74. 


and thereafter among the other heroes thou shalt have 
lordship. . . . ' ' 2 

These instructions, which accompanied the member of 
the sect to his grave, — he bore them about his neck like an 
amulet, — were supposed to enable him to keep from 
straying in his posthumous wanderings and help him to 
accomplish exactly all the acts necessary for his salva- 
tion. They were a sort of liturgy of the other side of the 
grave which would ensure eternal happiness to the faith- 
ful. "Courage ( e£t/w'x et ) > be valiant ( Bdppet ) ; no man is 
immortal on earth," such is the exhortation frequently 
expressed in epitaphs. It probably reproduces a ritual- 
istic formula intended to sustain the shade which had to 
blaze its path in the Beyond. 

The Etruscans also had libri Acheruntici, books of 
Acheron which were attributed to the sage Tages and 
which treated of the fate of the dead. These made known, 
in particular, what were the rites by which souls could 
be transformed into gods {di animates). Their very title 
betrays a Greek teaching, and there are reasons for be- 
lieving that the teaching of the Pythagoreans was not 
without influence on their composition. 3 It is hardly 
doubtful that they were concerned with the path which 
the Manes of human beings must follow in order to go 
down into the infernal regions. The Etruscan stelae and 
cinerary urns often show this journey to Hades : some- 
times the dead are placed, like heroes, in a war chariot ; 
sometimes in a cart protected by a canopy and exactly 
copied from the peasants' carts ; and often nothing would 
indicate that these travellers are but shades, were not the 
significance of the scene defined by the presence of some 
deity of the nether world, like Charon. The great sar- 
cophagus of Vulci in the Boston Museum bears a fine 
representation of this type, where the character of the 

2 Transl. Harrison, Prolegomena to the study of Greek religion, 1903, 
p. 660. 

s Timlin, Etruslcische Disciplin, III, 1909, p. 58 ss. 


travellers is shown by a winged Fury standing behind 
their carriage. 

Thus the idea that the dead have to tramp a long road 
descending into the depths of the earth before they reach 
their last abode, was accepted in Italy as in Greece from 
a very ancient period. How did men imagine this road? 
Their conception of it is connected with a whole group of 
Pythagorean doctrines which go back to a remote age. 

The old poetry of Hesiod already speaks of two roads 
of life, a short and easy road which is that of vice, and 
the path of virtue, which is at first steep and rugged but 
becomes less hard as soon as the top of the slope is 
reached. Everyone knows the use which the sophist 
Prodicus makes of this ancient comparison in the famous 
myth of Hercules at the crossroads. 4 In it, two women 
appear to the youthful hero, and one seeks to draw him 
to the path of deceitful pleasures while the other succeeds 
in conducting him to the path of austere labours which 
leads to true happiness. This same conception, which is 
transmitted through the whole of antiquity, inspired the 
Pythagoreans with the symbol of the letter Y, formed of 
a vertical spike topped by two divergent branches. The 
spike is the road common to all men until they have 
reached the age of reason and responsibility. Subse- 
quently they must choose between the right and the left 
branches. The former, say these moralists, is steep and 
rough and at first requires strenuous effort, but when 
those who climb it have gained its summit they obtain a 
well-deserved rest. The other road is at first level and 
pleasant, but it leads to harsh rocks and ends in a preci- 
pice over which the wretched man who has followed it is 
hurled. This symbol was popular in antiquity as well as 
in the Middle Ages, a fact of which a curious proof, addi- 
tional to those in the texts, has lately been found. This is 
a relief, accompanied by an inscription, dating from the 
first century of our era, which has been discovered at 

4 Xenoph., Memorab., II, 1, 21; cf. Hesiod, Op. et dies, 287 ss. 


Philadelphia in Lydia. 5 It decorated, as the epitaph 
shows, the tomb of a Pythagorean, and it is divided into 
compartments by mouldings in the form of the letter Y. 
Below, to the right, a child is seen, in the care of a woman 
who is designated as Virtue ('Aperij) ; above, a plough- 
man, driving his plough, stands for the hard and per- 
severing labour of the good man, who, still higher, lies 
on a couch before a table like the guest at a "funeral 
banquet " because he has obtained the reward of his toil. 
On the left side there is also, below, a woman with a child, 
but she stands for wantonness ('Ao-arreia) ; above her a 
figure is indolently lying on a bed ; and still further above, 
the same figure is seen falling into a gulf, head down- 
wards, in chastisement of his vices. 

These naive scenes decorated, as we have said, a burial 
place. Many other tombs are not so elaborate, but express 
the same symbolism by opposing the hard labour of man, 
represented on the lower part of the stele, to the rest 
which this same man enjoys on the upper part of the 
stone, that is, in heaven. 6 The symbol of the Y was early 
applied to the future life by the Pythagoreans, who trans- 
ferred the roads representing the courses of the moral 
and the immoral life to Hades. Their stories of the 
descent to the nether world depicted the journey of the 
dead in the same way, and it is still thus described in the 
sixth book of the Aeneid. The dead first follow a common 
road; and those whose lot is still undetermined wait in 
this first abode, just as on earth children are not yet sepa- 
rate at the uncertain age at which they have not yet made 
their decision for virtue or for vice. At the crossroads of 
earthly existence the choice must be made ; at the cross- 
road of the infernal regions (17)10809) the judges of souls 
are seated, 7 and send to the right those who have by their 
merits made themselves worthy to enter the Elysian 
Fields, while they drive to the left the wicked who are to 

s Brinkmann, Bheinisches Museum, LXVI, 1911, p. 622 ss. 
6 See below, Lecture VIII, p. 205. 
? See Lecture II, p. 76. 


be hurled into Tartarus. For in both worlds " right' ' is 
to the Pythagorean, as to the soothsayers, synonymous 
with "good," and "left" synonymous with "evil." 

The original conception was necessarily transformed 
and explained symbolically when the abode of virtuous 
souls was transported to heaven. The stories of the 
ancients were no longer taken in their literal sense, 
but an allegorical meaning, allowing them to be brought 
into harmony with the new beliefs, was given to them. 
Henceforward one of the two roads leads to the higher 
regions, the road, namely, of the Blessed (6805 fxaKapcov) 
or of the gods. The other, the path of men, is that which 
after long windings brings back to earth the impure souls 
who accomplish the cycle of their migrations and must be 
reincarnated in new bodies. 

A passage of Cicero's Tusculans, 8 which is directly 
inspired by the Phaedo of Plato, is instructive as to the 
transformation which ideas underwent. "There are," it 
says, "two roads and two courses for souls which issue 
from the body. The souls which are sullied with human 
vice and have abandoned themselves to passions . . . 
follow a crooked path which leads them away from the 
dwelling of the gods ; but for the souls which have kept 
their innocence and purity and have, while in human 
bodies, imitated the life of the gods, there is an easy 
return to the beings from whose abode they descended to 
the earth." In the same way Virgil, as we have said else- 
where, 9 is apparently faithful to the traditional topogra- 
phy of Hades, but does not regard it as really situated in 
the underground. There were even attempts to fix pre- 
cisely the itinerary which souls had to follow in the upper 
spheres. Seneca pleasantly ridicules these beliefs in his 
satire on the apotheosis of Claudius, affirming that em- 
perors went to heaven by the Appian Way. The Milky 
Way, originally regarded as the path of the sun, 

s Cic, Tusc, I, 30, 72. 

9 See above, Lecture III, p. 82. 


remained, according to an opinion which persisted nntil 
the end of antiquity, the road by which gods and heroes 
rose to the zenith. 10 It was said to cut the zodiac in the 
tropical signs of Cancer and Capricorn, and it was there 
that those gates opened by which souls went down from 
heaven to earth and rose from earth to heaven. 11 The 
former of these gates was called the Gate of Men, the 
other the Gate of Gods. 

We will return later (p. 162) to the theories which assign 
different dwellings in the starry spheres to pure spirits 
and tell of their passing through the celestial gates. We 
would merely note that the allegory of the two roads, of 
which one is the road of God and heaven and eternal life 
and the other that of Satan, hell and death, is found in 
the most ancient Christian literature, and is justifiably 
likened by Lactantius 12 to the Pythagorean Y, which is at 
the origin of all the later symbolism. 

But when the idea of a journey to the underworld had 
been transformed into that of a journey to heaven, how 
was the power of the dead to reach the upper spheres 
explained? What force or what vehicle raised them 
thither? Originally they made use of all the means of 
locomotion. They went on foot, in a ship, in a carriage, on 
horseback, and even had recourse to aviation. 

Among the ancient Egyptians the firmament was con- 
ceived as being so close to the mountains of the earth that 
it was possible to get up to it with the aid of a ladder. 
The early texts of the Pyramids describe the gods help- 
ing the king to climb the last rungs of the ladder, when he 
ascended to their high dwelling. Such ideas are found 
elsewhere, among the Chinese as well as in Europe. We 
are told that a priest-king of a people of Thrace joined 
tall wooden ladders together in order that he might go to 

10 See above, Lecture III, p. 94. 

ii Cf. Comptes rendus Acad. Inscr., 1920, p. 277. 

12 Lactantius, Inst., VI, 3 s. 


Hera to complain of his unruly subjects. 13 Although the 
stars had been relegated to an infinite distance in space, 
the ladder still survived in Roman paganism as an amulet 
and as a symbol. Many people continued to place in tombs 
a small bronze ladder, which recalled the naive beliefs of 
distant ages. This means of attaining to the upper world 
has been given to the dead man in several graves of the 
Rhine border. In the mysteries of Mithras a ladder of 
seven steps, made of seven different metals, still symbol- 
ised the passage of the soul across the planetary spheres. 14 
Philo, and after him Origen, 15 interpreted Jacob 's ladder 
as the air through which the disincarnate souls ascended 
and descended; and the patriarch's dream in the symbol- 
ism of the Middle Ages was still considered as a pledge 
of the ladder of salvation leading the elect to heaven. A 
naive miniature of the illustrated manuscripts of St. John 
Climacus — one of them is preserved in the Freer collec- 
tion — shows monks climbing the heavenly ladder of virtues 
and welcomed at the top by Christ or by an angel, while 
winged demons try to pull them down and make them fall 
into the jaws of a dragon below, which represents hell. 16 
On the other hand, even in antiquity the emblem of the 
ladder had been adopted by magic, 17 which retained it 
throughout the centuries, and to this day little ladders are 
sold in Naples as charms against the jettatura or evil eye. 
In Egypt the souls also travelled to the dwelling of the 
gods in the boat of Ra, the solar deity. This idea does not 
seem to have passed into the mysteries of Isis in the West 
but in the East it was retained by the Manicheans. The 
moon and the sun were the ships which plied through the 

13 Polyaen., VII, 22. 

1 4 See Lecture III, p. 107; Monum. mysteres de Mithra, I, p. 118 s. ; 
II, p. 525. 

is Philo, De somniis, I, 22; Origen, Contra Celsum, VI, 21. 

is Charles R. Morey, East christian paintings in the Freer collection, New 
York, 1914, p. 17 ss. 

17 Ladder among other magical emblems on terra cotta discs found at 
Taranto; cf. Bevue archeologique, V, 1917, p. 102. 


heavenly spaces carrying the luminous spirits. 18 For the 
Greeks it was to the Islands of the Blest, situated some- 
where in the distant ocean, that ships transported the 
dead. This crossing of the sea, peopled by monsters of 
the deep, was one of the favourite subjects of the decora- 
tors of Roman sarcophagi. But under the Empire the 
Fortunate Islands, we know, 19 were often explained as 
being the moon and the sun, washed by the ether, and it 
was therefore to the moon that the bark of salvation had 
to bear souls across the stormy waters of matter. The 
Styx had become a celestial or aerial river ; Charon, with 
the help of the winds, caused pious souls to pass not to the 
subterranean world but to the heavenly dwelling of 
heroes. 20 The bark which should bear the Blessed to the 
abode of delight, where they would live together, is often 
represented in funeral sculpture, 21 and continued to be in 
Christian art, the symbol of a happy passage to the shores 
of Paradise. Epitaphs sometimes cause the passer-by to 
wish the dead ' l Ev7r\o?, ' ' " A happy voyage ! ' m 

The Etruscan tombs often show the dead man on horse- 
back on the road of the underworld, and in early Greek 
tombs terra cotta shoes and horses have been discovered 
which were intended to make easier the long and danger- 
ous journey to the country whence there is no return. But 
in order that a rider may win to heaven his horse must be 
provided with strong wings. Primitively these wings were 
probably intended to indicate only the swiftness of this 
mythical steed. 23 But in Roman times they undoubtedly 
meant that it could fly up to the sky. The great Paris 

is See above, Lecture III, p. 93. 

19 Ibid., p. 96. 

20 Cf. Bevue de philologie, XLIV, 1920, p. 75. 

si Cf. Joseph Keil, Jahresh. Institute Wien, XVII, 1914, pp. 138, 142, n. 
13; Bormann, Bericht des Vereins Carnuntum, 1908-1911, p. 330, where Itala 
felix applies not to the ship but to the dead woman. 

22 For instance, Dessau, Inscr. sel., 8031. 

23 Cf. my JEtudes syriennes, 1917, p. 99, n. 1. So on the beautiful chariot 
of Monteleone in the Metropolitan Museum of New York (sixth century 
B. C). 


cameo, said to represent the apotheosis of Augustus, 
shows a prince of his house, Germanicus or perhaps Mar- 
cellus, thus borne away by a winged courser. 24 There is a 
similar representation on a coin which commemorates the 
apotheosis of an empress, probably Faustina. The same 
Pegasus, who probably has nothing in common with 
Bellerophon's steed, appears again on a fragment of a 
relief recently discovered in England at Corstopitum 
(Corbridge-on-Tyne). 25 He is carrying off a personage, 
probably an emperor, who wears the paludamentum or 
military cloak and has his head bound with a radiate 
crown, on either side of whom are the Dioscuri, the sym- 
bols of the two celestial hemispheres. The dead are 
mounted on Pegasus because he was brought into relation 
with the Sun, who is the creator and saviour of souls. 

For the same reason, because he was the sacred animal 
of Apollo, the gryphon served this purpose. Thus in the 
medallion which decorates the stucco vault of a tomb on 
the Latin Way this winged monster carries on his strong 
back a veiled figure, covered with a long garment, who 
can be no other than the shade of the dead man wrapped 
in the shroud. 26 

Throughout antiquity, however, the departed travelled 
most frequently in a chariot, which had in the Roman 
period become the chariot of the Sun-god. 27 The idea that 
the divine charioteer drives a team across the heavenly 
field existed in very early times in Babylon and Syria, as 
well as in Persia and in Greece. "The horses of fire and 
the chariot of fire" which carried up the prophet Elijah 
in a whirlwind 28 are very probably the horses and the 
chariot of the Sun. In the same way when Mithras ' mis- 
sion on earth was fulfilled, he was conveyed in the chariot 
of Helios to the celestial spheres over the ocean, as we see 

24 Cf. my Etudes syriennes, p. 91 s. 

25 Ibid., p. 92, fig. 41. 

^lUd., p. 94, fig. 42; cf. below, p. 165. 

27 Cf. ibid., p. 95 s. 

28 II Beg., 2, 11. 


on the reliefs found in his temples, and the happy lot 
which the hero had won for himself he granted also to his 
followers. The emperors in particular were commonly 
reputed to become companions of the Sun-god after death, 
as they had been under his protection in life, and to drive 
with him up to the summit of the eternal vaults. Accord- 
ing to a papyrus recently found in Egypt, 29 Phoebus, 
when informing the people of the death of Trajan and 
the accession of Hadrian, stated in set terms, "I have just 
risen with Trajan on a car drawn by white horses, and I 
come to you, people, to announce that a new prince, 
Hadrian, has made all things subject to him, by his virtue 
and by the fortune of his divine father. ' ' The writers and 
the figured monuments show us other deified rulers win- 
ning to heaven in a similar way. At the very end of 
paganism an oracle, addressing Julian the Apostate, pre- 
dicted that he would be " conducted to Olympus in a 
flaming chariot shaken by stormy whirlwinds, and would 
reach the paternal palace of ethereal light." 30 It was not 
only princes who were privileged to be drawn by the 
swift team of the royal star. The chariot appears on 
tombs of very humble persons to suggest their lot in after 
life. 31 

Yet more rapid was another method of mounting up to 
the stars. Among all the peoples of the eastern Mediter- 
ranean basin the idea was anciently spread that the 
essence or the spirit which animates man escapes from 
the body in the shape of a bird, especially a bird of prey, 
for in order not to perish this soul must feed on blood, 
the principle of life. The gravestones and funeral vases 
of Greece give us a large number of representations of 
the bird-soul. 32 In the Roman period vestiges of this con- 
ception persisted. In Syria an eagle with spread wings 

29 Kornemann, Klio, VII, p. 278; cf. Mudes syriennes, p. 98, n. 3. 
soEunap., Hist., fr. 26 (F. H. G. IV, 25; cf. Etudes syriennes, p. 104). 
si See above, Lecture III, p. 102. 

32 Weichert, Der Seelenvogel in der alien Literatur und Eunst, Leipzig, 
1902; see above, Lecture III, p. 93. 


occupies on tombs the place filled elsewhere by the por- 
trait of the dead man. 33 Magic had retained this ancient 
belief with not a few others, for superstition picks up 
many ideas that have dropped out with the progress of 
religion. Sorcerers asserted that they could cause wings 
to grow from the backs of their dupes, so as to enable 
them to soar up to heaven. One of the marvels which 
miracle-mongers most frequently boasted of working was 
that of ascending into the air. The phenomena of levita- 
tion are said to be produced at all periods. When writers 
tell us that the pure soul " flies away" to the sky on swift 
wings, the expression, which since Plato 34 has been often 
repeated, and is still in use nowadays, is no mere meta- 
phor but rather a traditional expression, first taken in 
its material sense and preserved in language, ultimately 
acquiring a figurative meaning. A late epigram composed 
on Plato's burial place 35 says: " Eagle, why art thou 
perched above this tomb and why dost thou look at the 
gods' starry dwelling? — I am the image of Plato's soul 
who has flown away to Olympus. The earth of Attica 
holds his earth-born body. ' ' Lucian in his Icaromenippus 
ridiculed the claims of the philosophers, showing Menfp- 
pus attaching wings to his shoulders in order that he 
might take his flight to the stars and thus learn the secrets 
of the world. 

The original idea of the bird-soul was transformed into 
that of the soul lifted aloft by a bird. It was in Syria that 
this change took place. 36 A widely held belief in the 
Roman period was that the soul was carried away by an 
eagle, which in Syria was the bird of the sun. The sun 
being conceived as a winged disk which flew through the 

33 Etudes syriennes, p. 38 ss. 

34 Phaedr., p. 246 C. 

ss Anth. Pal., VII, 62=Diog. Laert., Ill, 44; cf. Etudes syriennes, p. 88: 

Aleri tItttc ptfiynas virtp T&<pov; f) tLvos, eiir4 t 

darepoivTa deCov oIkov airo<TKOTr£et.s; — 
tyvxv* dfti nXdrwi'os dTroTTTafi^vvs els"0\v/xirov 
e'lKfhv <ru>fxa 5£ yrj yriyev&s 'Arflis ?%6t. 
36 Cf. Etudes syriennes, p. 57 ss. 


celestial spaces could easily be connected with an eagle. 
The king of birds was the servant or the incarnation of 
the star-king, to whom he bore his precious burden. This 
is why an eagle, preparing for flight and holding the 
crown of victory, is a usual motif of sepulchral decoration 
at Hierapolis and throughout northern Syria. The power- 
ful bird of prey lifted not with his claws, as he did 
Ganymede, but on his back, mortals who rose to heaven. 
This soul-bearing eagle passed to Italy with the cere- 
monial of the apotheosis. At the funeral rites of em- 
perors at Rome there was always fastened to the top of 
the pyre, on which the corpse was to be consumed, an eagle 
which was supposed to bear aloft the monarch's soul, and 
art frequently represents the busts of the Caesars resting 
on an eagle in the act of taking flight, by way of suggest- 
ing their apotheosis. The eagle, which is the bird of the 
Baals, solar gods, carries to his master those who have 
been his servants and representatives in the world below. 
This kind of aviation was not peculiar to monarchs. The 
eagle often has this meaning in funeral art. I will instance 
a stele, found in Rome and preserved in the museum of 
Copenhagen. 37 On this a young man, draped in a toga, is 
comfortably seated on an eagle, which is rising to the sky ; 
to his right a winged child, bearing a torch, seems to point 
out the way to him. It is Phosphorus, the morning star, 
whom Roman art often represented in this form, before 
the chariot of the Sun. An altar recalls the cult of which 
the dead man will henceforth be the object on earth, and 
a wreath on the pediment stands for the victory which he 
has won over death. 

All these supposed methods of reaching heaven are 
most primitive: they start from the supposition that a 
load has to be lifted up ; they hardly imply a separation 
of body and soul ; and they are antecedent to the distinc- 
tions which philosophers established between different 
parts of man's being. They are religious survivals of very 

37 Ittudes syriennes, 1917, p. 87, fig. 39. 


ancient conceptions which only vulgar minds still inter- 
preted literally. These mechanical means of raising one- 
self to the starry vault carry us back to an extremely low 
stage of beliefs. Hence theologians no longer accepted 
them save as symbols. Other doctrines of a more ad- 
vanced character were developed and these constituted 
the true teaching of the great Oriental mysteries, just as 
they had secured the adhesion of thinking men. They 
connected the ascent of the soul after death with physical 
and ethical theories and thus caused sidereal immortality 
to enter into the order of the universe. 38 

The first of these theories was that of solar attraction. 
We have already described the doctrine, certainly of 
eastern origin, that the sun by a series of emissions and 
absorptions projected souls onto the earth and drew them 
back to itself. 39 This unceasing action of the resplendent 
luminary of day was exercised through the force of its 
rays, 40 and very old Greek ideas here mingled with the 
"Chaldean" theory. The Pythagoreans already believed 
that the glittering particles of dust which danced cease- 
lessly in a sunbeam (gvcr juara) were souls descending 
from the ether borne on the wings of light. The air, they 
said, was "full of souls,' ' we might say "of germs' ' or 
"microbes." 41 They added that this sunbeam, passing 
through the air and through water down to the depths 
of the sea, gave life to all things below. 42 This idea per- 
sisted under the Roman Empire in the theology of the 
mysteries. Souls descended upon the earth and reas- 
cended after death towards the sky, thanks to the slanting 
rays of the sun which served as the means of transport. 
The sun is the avaycoyevs, "he who brings up from 
below. ' ' On Mithraic reliefs one of the seven rays which 
surround the head of Sol Invictus (0ebs e^ra/ms) is seen 

38 See Introd., p. 28. 

39 See Lecture III, p. 100. 

40 Etudes syriennes, p. 106 s.; cf. Lecture III, p. 101. 
4i See Lecture I, p. 59. 

42 Diog. Laert,, VIII, 1, 27. 


disproportionately prolonged towards the dying Bull, in 
order to awake the new life that is to spring from the 
death of the cosmogonic animal. "The Sun," says the 
Emperor Julian, "by the invisible, immaterial, divine and 
pure essence which dwells in its rays, attracts and raises 
the blessed souls." 43 

In this theory it is to the power of the Sun, the great 
cosmic divinity, that the ascension of the soul is due. Ac- 
cording to another doctrine the cause of this ascension 
is the physical nature of the soul. 

This latter doctrine is set forth with great precision by 
Cicero in the Tusculan Disputations, and by Sextus Em- 
piricus, doubtless after Posidonius. 44 The soul is a fiery 
breath, that is to say, its substance is the lightest of the 
four elements which compose our universe. It necessarily 
therefore has a tendency to rise, for it is warmer and 
more subtle than the gross and dense air which encircles 
the earth. It will the more easily cleave this heavy atmos- 
phere since nothing moves more rapidly than a spirit. It 
must therefore in its continuous ascent pass through that 
zone of sky where gather the clouds and the rain and 
where blow the winds, 45 and which by reason of exhala- 
tions from the earth is moist and misty. When finally it 
reaches the spaces filled by an air which is rarefied and 
warmed by the sun, it finds elements similar to its own 
substance and, ceasing to ascend, is maintained in equilib- 
rium. 46 Henceforth it dwells in these regions which are its 
natural home, continually vivified by the same principles 
as those that feed the everlasting fires of the stars. 

We shall presently see how the Platonists modified 
this Stoic doctrine, and substituted that of the "vehicle" 
(o'x^a) of souls. 

These theories made it easier than the first one had 

43 Jul., Or., V, p. 172 C. 

44Cic, Tusc, I, 42 as.; Sextus Empir., Adv. Math., IX, 71, 4; cf. above, 
Introd., p. 29. 

45 Winds and souls, see below, Lecture VII, p. 185. 

46 See below, Lecture VII, p. 186; cf. Lecture II, p. 81. 


done to establish a firm connection between ethical be- 
liefs concerning future destiny and physical theories 
about the constitution of the universe and the nature of 
man. The soul is never conceived by these theologians as 
purely spiritual or immaterial, but when it abandons 
itself to the passions it becomes gross; its substance 
grows more corporeal ; and then it is too heavy to rise to 
the stars and gain the spheres of light. 47 Its mere density 
will compel it to float in our mephitic atmosphere until 
it has been purified and consequently lightened. Thus the 
door is opened to all doctrines concerning punishment 
beyond the grave. We shall show in another lecture 48 how 
the soul was to be purified by passing through the ele- 
ments which moved in sublunary space — air, water and 

But, side by side with physical ideas, mythological be- 
liefs always retained their sway. According to the com- 
mon creed, the air was peopled with troops of perverse 
and subtle demons. They were, it was thought, the guilty 
souls whose faults condemned them to wander perpetu- 
ally near the surface of the earth. They took pleasure in 
inflicting a thousand tortures on their fellow souls, when 
these, by their impiety, were left defenceless against 
them. But succouring powers protected the good against 
these perverse spirits. Thus the atmosphere became the 
scene of an unceasing struggle between demons of every 
kind, a struggle in which the salvation of the soul was at 

The dangers to which the soul was exposed did not 
always end when, after having crossed the most danger- 
ous zone of the air, it reached the moon. 49 Those who be- 
lieved that souls must pass through the planetary spheres 
conceived these as pierced by a gate guarded by a 
commander (dpxcov) or, as they were also called, by toll 

47 See Introd., p. 29; cf. Lecture VII, p. 185. 

48 See below, Lecture VII, p. 185. 

49 See above, Lecture III, p. 93, and p. 96 s. 


gatherers (rekaivia). The mystics claimed to supply their 
initiates with the passwords which caused the incorrupti- 
ble keepers to yield. They taught prayers or incanta- 
tions which rendered hostile powers propitious; by 
1 ' seals ' ' and unctions they made their followers immune 
against the blows of such enemies. These instructions, 
which were previously given to the dead in order to facili- 
tate their descent to the nether world (p. 148), now served 
to make the ascent to heaven easy. In this matter the 
magicians emulated the priests, even claiming to show to 
their clients the way leading to heaven during life. The 
papyrus of Paris, wrongly called the "Mithraic Lit- 
urgy," 50 affords the most characteristic example of this 
superstitious literature. 

But, above all, the secret cults claimed to supply the 
soul with a guide to lead it during its risky journey 
through the whirlwinds of air, water and fire and the 
moving spheres of heaven. Plato in the Phaedo had 
already spoken of this demon leader (riye/xcov) of the 
dead, 51 and the same word is applied to the "psycho- 
pompos, ' ' whether demon, angel or god, not only by Neo- 
Platonist philosophers but also in epitaphs. Thus the 
funeral inscription of a sailor, who died at Marseilles, 52 
says: " Among the dead there are two companies; one 
moves upon the earth, the other in the ether among the 
choruses of stars. I belong to the latter, for I have ob- 
tained a god for my guide." This divine escort of souls 
frequently retains the name of Hermes in conformity 
with the old mythology, for Hermes is the Psychopompos 
who leads the shades to their subterranean abode and 
moreover summons them and brings them back, in another 
migration, to the earth. An epigram belonging to the first 
century of our era apostrophises the deceased with these 
words: "Hermes of the winged feet, taking thee by the 
hand, has conducted thee to Olympus and made thee to 

so Dieterieh, Eine Mithrasliturgie 2, 1910. 

51 Plato, Phaedo, p. 107 D, 108 B. 

52Kaibel, Epigr. Graeca, 650=Inscr. Sic. Ital, 2461. 


shine among the stars." 53 But often the role of escort 
devolved on the Sun himself. We have seen (p. 157) that 
at the end of paganism the star-king is figured as carry- 
ing mortals in his flying chariot ; and the emperor Julian, 
at the end of his satire on the Caesars, represents himself 
as addressed by Hermes, who states that in causing him to 
know Mithras he rendered propitious to him this leader- 
god (rjyefxova 6e6v), who will enable him to leave the 
earth with the hope of a better lot. 

In these beliefs we see persisting to the end of pagan- 
ism the old conception that heroes could be carried off to 
heaven, body and soul. 54 It was never entirely given up 
by popular faith, and appears notably in ideas as to the 
apotheosis of the emperors, although learned theology 
rose in arms against it and affirmed that nothing terres- 
trial could be admitted into the ethereal spheres. An- 
tinous and Apollonius of Tyana are thus said to have 
been borne away and to have continued without interrup- 
tion the life they had begun on earth. 55 

# # * # # 

We are thus brought to ask ourselves how, at the very 
time when the conception of the journey of the dead was 
being transformed, the idea entertained as to the physical 
character of the dead also underwent a change. Let us, 
in conclusion, seek briefly to trace the course of this 

Originally, as we said at the beginning of these lec- 
tures, two beliefs as to life beyond the grave existed 
together. On the one hand, the illusion was kept that the 
corpse which lay in the grave continued in some obscure 
way to live, feel and nourish itself there. Side by side with 
this simple faith the idea was maintained that the soul 
is a breath, emitted by the dying man, which floats in 
the atmosphere and which reproduces, when it makes 

53 Haussoullier, Revue de philologie, XXIII, 1909, p. 6; cf. Lecture III, 
p. 105. 

54 See above, Lecture IV, p. 112. 

55 Cf. Bolide, Psyche, II*, p. 376 s. 


itself visible in dreams and apparitions or in remem- 
brance, the outward appearance of the person from whom 
it issued. 56 

These two conceptions of life beyond the grave are 
combined in the nature with which the inhabitants of the 
infernal regions are credited, and give these fantastic 
beings a character full of contradictions. Cicero justly 
remarks that acts are attributed to them which would be 
conceivable only if they had bodies. Thus they are sup- 
posed to speak, although they have neither tongue, palate, 
throats nor lungs. 57 The common belief was indeed that 
the shades fed, even in their deep abode, on the offerings 
made on their burial places ; and the pains which might 
be inflicted on them presupposed that they had retained 
the sensibility and needs of men; while the pleasures 
accorded to them in the Elysian Fields were in part very 
material — to participate in a banquet was an essential 
part of them. 58 

Hence, when the dead showed themselves, they were 
sometimes given the appearance not of the living being 
but of the corpse : it was the body, as it was when buried, 
which issued from the entrails of the earth. Ennius, when 
he showed Homer appearing to him in a dream, said that 
the shades were "of prodigious paleness," 59 and the idea 
is often expressed that ghosts are bloodless in colour. 
Not only are their faces wan : their mouths are mute ; they 
are the taciti, the silent Manes. Much more, it is some- 
times in the form of skeletons that they return to terrify 
men. The most usual way of figuring the soul in funeral 
sculpture is to show a person completely wrapped, save 
for his face, in a long garment, the shroud in which his 
body was buried. 60 

But on the other hand, side by side with this more or 

56 See above, Lecture I, p. 45 ss., 59 ss. 

57 Cf. Cic, Tusc, I, 16, 37. 

ss See below, Lecture VIII, p. 199 ss. 

59 Lucretius, I, 124: "Simulacra modis pallentia miris." 

so See, for instance, above, p. 156. 


less unconscious belief as to a survival of the body, the 
soul continued to be regarded as a light breath. The 
beings who peopled the infernal regions were imagined 
as almost immaterial forms. They were called " shades' ' 
(ovacu, umbrae) or " images' ' (eiScuXa, simulacra). The 
former term implies, besides the idea of a subtle essence, 
the notion that the inhabitants of the dusky spaces under- 
ground were black, and this is in fact the colour often 
given to them. It is also the colour of the victims offered 
them and of the mourning garments worn in their honour. 
These sombre phantoms, which passed unnoticed in the 
darkness of night, returned after the sunset to haunt the 
houses of men, and this is why the Inferi or beings of 
the nether world are above all appeased by nocturnal 

The words etSwXoz/, simulacrum, imago, especially ex- 
press the complete resemblance of the dead to the living. 
Are not the beings who return to talk with us in dreams 
exactly like the persons we have known? This tenuous 
image was compared to the reflection seen on limpid 
waters or on the polished surface of metal. 61 Both alike 
reproduced the features and colour and imitated the 
movements of those whom they faithfully expressed. This 
is why magicians often made use of mirrors in order to 
evoke the spirits of the departed. 62 As to the nature of 
these simulacra, the ancients agree in declaring them to 
be material, for how otherwise could they convey sensual 
impressions? But their substance is of an extreme sub- 
tlety. They are forms which are corporeal but empty, 
flimsy, impalpable, often of such rarity that they remain 
invisible. They are compared to the wind, for the wind 
is the air in motion, to a vapour, to a smoke which escapes 
so soon as its restraint is attempted. 

This shade, formed of a light fluid, has a form which is 
necessarily malleable and yielding. The fact is thus ex- 

ei Cf. Proclus, In BempuU., I, p. 290, 10 ss., Kroll. 

62 On this Tcatoptromanteia, cf. Bevue archeologique, V, 1917, p. 105 ss.; 
Ganschinietz in Bealencycl., s. v. 


plained that souls can take on various appearances and 
sometimes let themselves be seen as terrible monsters, 
especially if they are the souls of criminals who have 
become maleficent spirits. 63 Heroes, on the contrary, 
whose virtue has enabled them to be borne to heaven, 
appear to be of more than natural stature when they 
descend from the ether; they are surrounded by a radiant 
nimbus, and their resplendent beauty strikes with admira- 
tion those who perceive them. 

But here the ancients were faced with the question as 
to whether that part of the human composition which won 
to heaven was the same as that which descended to the 
infernal regions. 

As to this puzzling question there arose in the Alexan- 
drian period a theory unknown to ancient Greece, — we 
have already touched on this point 64 — the theory that man 
is formed not of two elements but of three, namely, the soul 
(xpvxVy anima), the shade (o-/aa, etScoXov, umbra, simula- 
crum) and the body (crw^a, corpus). This doctrine 
claimed to be justified by a passage in Homer, in fact an 
interpolation, as to the apotheosis of Hercules, but it was 
manifestly borrowed from Egyptian religion by the 
Pythagoreans of Alexandria. For Egyptian religion is 
"polypsychic" and distinguishes different kinds of souls. 
So the ka or "Double" has been explained as a living and 
coloured projection of the individual whom it reproduced 
feature by feature, which inhabited the tomb, but could 
leave it and return to it as freely as a man to his 
house. The ba'i, on the other hand, is thought to be a more 
refined matter which enclosed a portion of the celestial 
fire and which departed to another world. Certain Alex- 
andrian Pythagoreans therefore admitted that when the 
soul was not entirely purified, it remained joined to its 
idolon in the infernal regions, which were for them situ- 
ated in the atmosphere, but they held that when it had 

es See above, Lecture V, p. 130. 
e* See above, Lecture II, p. 79. 


entirely freed itself from matter it rose towards the 
ether, and left only the idolon in the neighbourhood of the 
earth. 65 

This theory was to be variously transformed, but it is 
at the foundation of all the subsequent development of 
the doctrines as to the return of the soul to heaven. The 
triple division most usually adopted is not the one I have 
just cited but the division into reason (vovs or TrvevjAa), 
soul (\jjvxy) and body. What becomes in this case of the 
image ( ei&cokov ) ? The theologians assimilated it to the ir- 
rational soul or xjjvxv, as opposed to the higher understand- 
ing. This image thus became the seat not only of vegeta- 
tive and unconscious life — a theory which would be in 
conformity with the Homeric sense of the word — but also 
of sensitive and emotional life. This soul or shade at first 
remained united to the nous, which it surrounded with its 
vaporous envelope. Even after it had left the earthly 
body, reason was still imprisoned in an aerial body: the 
two dwelt in the infernal regions, that is, in sublunary 
space, until they had been purified by the elements. They 
then, as we have seen elsewhere, 66 left the atmospheric 
Hades in order to be admitted into the Elysian Fields, 
that is to say, into the moon. There the thin veils in which 
reason was still wrapped were dissolved. Reason, a sub- 
lime essence, rose again towards the sun and the higher 

So the shades of the old mythology had become a gar- 
ment of which reason rid itself, when it left this lower 
world to attain to its celestial home. But the theologians 
disputed at length on the origin of this psychic integu- 
ment. When it was admitted that the passions and emo- 
tions were due to the action of the planets, the eiSwW, 
being conceived, as we have said, to be the seat of sensi- 
tive life, had necessarily to be formed in the seven 
spheres, through which the soul passed as it descended 

65 Cf. Bevue de philologie, XLIV, 1920, p. 237 ss. 
ee See Lecture III, p. 103. 


to earth, and to be decomposed when it passed through 
them again in its ascension. 67 This is the doctrine sup- 
ported by the Neo-Platonists. They merely apply a new 
name to this cloak of reason, that of vehicle (ox^a), which 
is at first synonymous with eiScokov as this word was last 
accepted. Plato in his myths had several times spoken of 
the chariot (o'x^a) in which souls ascended, especially in 
the famous passage of the Phaedrus, where he depicted 
them as trying to follow the course of the gods towards 
the summit of heaven, 68 and above all in the Timaeus, 
where he says that God, having made men equal in num- 
ber to the stars, caused them to mount on these stars as 
on a chariot. 69 This vehicle was, according to the philoso- 
pher's late interpreters, an ethereal envelope, analogous 
to the "astral body" of modern theosophists, which grew 
thicker and thicker by the accession of new elements, as 
the soul was gradually lowered to the earth ; 70 and it was 
by the composition of these elements that the tempera- 
ment of the newly born child was determined. This lumi- 
nous body was attracted after death by stars of the same 
nature as those whence it derived its origin, and in par- 
ticular by the sun, and it thus acquired a force of ascen- 
sion which once again bore divine reason to the highest 
point of the heavens. We will not lay stress on the specu- 
lation of the last masters of the school, such as Jamblichus 
or Proclus, who imagined, on the subject of this subtle 
matter, yet more subtle distinctions and transformed the 
former conception of the "vehicle." It is enough that we 
have shown how the old belief in the shades who peopled 
Hades was modified, when it came to be thought that 
souls travelled in the air and among the constellations, 
until at last the Platonist theory of the psychic vehicle 
was reached. 

67 Cf. Lecture III, p. 107. 

es Plato, Pha-edr., 247 B; cf. Phaedo, p. 113 D. 

69 Timaeus, p. 41 D E. 

to See above, Lecture III, p. 106 s., and Introd., p. 41 ; cf. p. 24. 



HOW did belief in the sufferings of hell develop? 
of what elements was it formed! through what 
vicissitudes has it passed? — these are questions 
which it is difficult to answer precisely, for the reason 
that the pains reserved for the impious in the Beyond 
were in the Greco-Latin world taught especially by 
mystic sects, who placed them in contrast to the bliss 
granted to the initiate. It is possible, however, to note the 
genesis and general evolution of the opinions on this 
point which reigned in the Eoman Empire. 

Already in the Odyssey three who are surpassingly 
guilty detach themselves from the grey crowd of the 
shades who lead an uncertain life in Hades— Tityus, Tan- 
talus and Sisyphus. 1 All three committed grave assaults 
on the gods, who in revenge condemned them to eternal 
torture: the gigantic body of Tityus is unceasingly 
gnawed by vultures ; Tantalus is plunged in a pond the 
water of which flees from his eager lips, while above him 
is a tree of which the fruit escapes from his hand as he 
wishes to seize it ; Sisyphus unendingly rolls to the top of 
a hill a rock which always tumbles back down the slope. 
These souls, in order that their suffering may be more 
cruelly felt, have in Hades a vitality beyond that of the 
common run of the dead, who are pale, flimsy, half 
animate phantoms. 2 

To this Homeric triad of sufferers especially chastised 

i Odyssey, XI, 576 s. 

2 Cf. Kohde, Psyche, I*, p. 61 ss. 


by the divinity, further unhappy souls, whom an inex- 
piable crime had vowed to everlasting pains, were after- 
wards added : Ixion turning on the wheel to which he was 
fixed, Theseus and Pirithous enchained, the Danaides 
carrying water in a leaking vessel, and others. Thus was 
formed a group of legendary personalities whose crimes 
and punishments came to be the traditional themes of 
every description and representation of Tartarus in 
poetry and art until the downfall of paganism. 

But these convicted souls were no longer conceived, as 
they were by Homer, to be exceptional offenders on whom 
the gods avenged a personal insult. They had come to be 
the prototypes of men who, for like faults, would be simi- 
larly chastised, the terrible examples of the lot which 
divine wrath reserved for all who provoked it. They were 
explained as the incarnations of the different passions 
and vices, the representatives of the various classes of 
sinners on each of which a determined punishment was 

The first authors of this new conception seem to have 
been the Orphic and Pythagorean theologians. Homer 
names only one class of criminals whom the Erinyes tor- 
ture beneath the ground, the perjurers. But here again 
the motive of the punishment is a direct provocation of 
the gods ; by the formula of execration which ended their 
oath, the perjurers had surrendered themselves to divine 
vengeance, if they broke their faith; and this is why a 
place apart among the sufferers of the underworld was 
always kept for them. 

The Orphics, who were the first to separate in the un- 
derworld the region of Tartarus from the Elysian Fields, 
were also innovators as regarded the character of these 
contrasting dwelling-places. Notably, there was among 
their books a Descent into Hades (Kara/3acri9 ets "AiSou), 
which described its joys and pains. If the blessed were 
admitted to the flowery meadows where they enjoyed the 
delight of a perpetual feast, the profane, those who had 
not been purified by the rites of the sect, were plunged in 


darkness and mire, which was either intended to recall 
the moral nncleanness of all who had not taken part in the 
cathartic ceremonies, or else implied that these shades 
were figured like the penitents who, seated in the mud of 
the road, proclaimed their sins to passers-by. 3 

Orphism conceived the suffering undergone beyond the 
tomb as an expiation. The soul which had not been able on 
earth to keep itself from the pollution of matter and to 
escape from the passions, thus found again the qualities 
which it had lost. After a fixed term, it returned to 
another life wherein it had another chance to render itself 
worthy of the lot of the Blessed— we shall speak presently 
of this transmigration. Moreover, the intercession of the 
living in favour of the dead, the sacrifices offered up on 
their behalf, could, according to the Orphics, deliver them 
from their pains. 

But the Orphics taught also that side by side with those 
who thus purified themselves in infernal regions before 
returning to earth, there were others, more guilty, who 
were vowed to eternal punishment. The old Homeric 
belief was thus taken up and developed. The evil souls, 
whose ways nothing could mend, were immured for ever 
in the underground prison, where they became the com- 
panions of the great criminals whom mythology plunged 
in Tartarus. This capital distinction between the two 
classes of the inhabitants of hell, those condemned for a 
time and those condemned in perpetuity, was transmitted 
down to Virgil and appears distinctly in the Aeneid. 

Infernal justice is a court of appeal from earthly jus- 
tice. Like the City, 4 Hades has its tribunal, but the judges 
who sit there are infallible; it has its laws which are 
unremittingly applied to whoever has broken those of his 
country; it has its executioners, responsible for carrying 
out its sentences — the Furies, and later the demons. 
Similarly, the pains of Hades are always conceived as an 

3 Cf. Plut., Be superst, 7, p. 168 D. 

4 Cf. above, Lecture II, p. 75. 


imitation of those which were every day inflicted on crimi- 
nals. The guilty were bound in unbreakable chains, as in 
the prisons ; the Erinyes struck them with their whips, as 
they were flogged at the order of the magistrates ; fierce 
monsters bit them, as their bodies were thrown to the 
beasts or devoured by them in an infamous charnel-place. 
The old custom of retaliation continued to be followed in 
the other world, where the dead were treated as in life 
they had treated their victims. 5 Elsewhere we can recog- 
nise an imitation of the torments inflicted on the accused, 
who were subjected to torture to make them confess their 

Penal law enacted a determined punishment for every 
kind of offence ; the law which ruled in Hades had simi- 
larly to inflict particular pains for each kind of fault. 
This logical deduction led to a new development of penal- 
ties beyond the grave. As gradually the moralists and 
criminalists detailed and classified the breaches of divine 
and human law, so the authors of apocalypses multiplied 
the categories of those who suffered in the nether world. 
They imagined the most fearful tortures, in order to 
frighten sinners and drive them to seek in some religious 
purification a means of escape from so terrible a lot. In 
a myth which Plutarch has introduced into his book on 
the belated vengeance of the gods, 6 he shows us hypo- 
crites, who have hidden their wretchedness under the 
appearance of virtue, obliged to reverse their entrails so 
that the inner side of them may be seen, haters who 
devour each other, and misers plunged into and plucked 
out from lakes of burning gold, icy lead and jagged iron. 

The text which describes these sufferings of the other 
world in greatest detail is the fragment of the apocryphal 
apocalypse of Peter, which was found in Egypt some 
thirty years ago and dates at least from the second cen- 
tury of our era. The vision of hell here opposed to that of 
heaven is like a first sketch for the tragic picture of the 

s Cf. Dieterich, Nelcyia, p. 206 ss. 

6 Plut., De sera num. vind., p. 567 B. 


dwelling of the damned which Dante was to draw in his 
Inferno. The fragment enumerates a long series of crim- 
inals who are punished by black-robed angels and receive 
the treatment appropriate to the nature of their faults. 
Blasphemers are hanged by the tongue; the mouths of 
false witnesses are filled with fire ; the rich who have been 
merciless to the poor roll, clothed in rags, on sharp and 
burning pebbles. Other tortures are like the sports of 
macabre fancy: thus adulterers are hanged by the feet, 
their heads plunged in burning mud ; murderers are flung 
into a cave filled with serpents that bite them, the shades 
of their victims watching their anguish. 

A learned philologist 7 has undertaken to prove that 
this repulsive picture of the dwelling of the damned had 
its origin in the Orphic books. If, however, he refers to 
ancient, genuine Orphism, he is certainly mistaken. The 
light fantasy of the ancient Greeks never laid heavy 
stress on the horrors of Tartarus ; their luminous genius 
took no pleasure in describing these dark atrocities. 8 
There is no evidence that they ever formulated, point by 
point, a penal code which applied in the kingdom of Pluto. 
The Romans, whose legal mind might have led them to do 
so, were kept from such aberrations by their lack of 
imagination. Their infernal mythology remained rudi- 
mentary: even Virgil, who is the interpreter of the Hel- 
lenic tradition, never alluded except in passing to the 
infinitely diverse forms of crimes and their punishments. 9 
The Etruscans peopled the infernal regions with awful 
monsters: they gave Charon and the Erinyes a wild 
semblance which recalls the devils of the Middle Ages, 
but we never find them drawing up an inventory of the 
breaches of the moral law in order that a punishment 
might be applied to each of these. 

Everything points to the conclusion that this infernal 

7Dieterich, Nekyia, 1893 (2d e d. 1913). 

s Even the devout Plutarch rejects them as superstitious imaginations; 
cf. Be super st., 167 A. 
e Aen., VI, 625-628. 


theology developed in the East. The Egyptians described 
at length in the "Book of the Dead" the pains of those 
who despised the precepts of Osiris, and illustrated these 
sufferings with pictures. The only pagan writing in which 
we find a classification of sinners and of their torments, 
analogous to that contained in the revelation of the 
apocryphal gospel of Peter, is the Mazdean "Book of 
ArtaViraf," which, although of late date, has antecedents 
which certainly go back very far. The Persian religion, 
which more than any other brings the Spirit of Evil and 
his hordes of demons into relief, was certainly not uncon- 
nected with the development of infernal eschatology, 
even in the West, as is indicated by the fact that these 
demons succeeded the Furies as executors of the divine 
sentences. It was under the influence of these exotic reli- 
gions that the descriptions were propagated of refined 
tortures, terrifying to the adepts of the conventicles in 
which they were revealed. The mysteries which spread 
under the Koman Empire accentuated the contrast be- 
tween the delights of heaven and the sufferings of hell. 
These esoteric sects gave birth to the literature which 
was to be perpetuated through the Middle Ages, and 
inspire numbers of visionaries, poets and artists. Certain 
authors of treatises on demonology in antiquity must 
have revelled in inventing unheard-of atrocities, as later 
the hagiographers took pleasure in describing the incon- 
ceivable torments inflicted on martyrs. 

Among all the forms of punishment that by fire pre- 
dominates. The idea that the Erinyes burnt the damned 
with their torches is ancient, and the Pyriphlegethon is an 
igneous river surrounding Tartarus. Certain authors 
went beyond this. Lucian in his "True Histories" de- 
scribes the island of the impious as an immense brazier 
whence rise sulphurous and pitchy flames. Thus was born 
into the world in the Greco-Roman period a doctrine 
which was to survive its fall and last to modern times. The 
ancients certainly connected this infernal fire with the 
treatment inflicted on those condemned to be burnt alive ; 


but this exceptional punishment could not inspire an 
eschatological conception which included all the dead. The 
opinion has been advanced that the choice of fire was due 
to the belief that this element purifies. 10 Fire would have 
been at first the means of destroying, in the Beyond as in 
this world, the uncleanliness of souls, before it became the 
instrument of their eternal torture. But a scientific theory 
seems here to have influenced religious faith. The physi- 
cians admitted the existence of an incandescent mass in 
the interior of the earth, which produced volcanic erup- 
tions and hot springs. As Tartarus was situated in the 
uttermost depths of the underworld, it was conceived 
as a vast brazier in which the sulphur and bitumen 
vomited by the volcanoes were boiling for the punishment 
of sinners. 11 

But this adaptation of the pains of Tartarus to con- 
temporary physics could not save them from philosophi- 
cal criticism. While the pagan priests, to the terror of 
credulous minds, imagined more and more inhuman pun- 
ishments for the guilty souls, the reaction of reason 
against these cruel inventions necessarily gathered 
strength. We have seen elsewhere how the polemics of 
philosophers forcibly attacked these life-poisoning beliefs 
and succeeded in a great measure in destroying them. 12 
Even those who did not deny the future life rejected these 
fables of hell. There was an attempt to save the principle 
of posthumous retribution by replacing the doctrine of 
chastisement in Hades by that of the metempsychosis. 
We now will try, while considering this theory of trans- 
migration in its various aspects, to show how such sub- 
stitution was effected. 

10 Dieterich, op. cit., p. 197 ss. 

n Punishment by fire is mentioned for the first time in Philodemos, 
Hepl deG>i>, XIX, 16 ss. Philodemos being a Syrian, it is not unlikely that this 
tenet is of Oriental origin. Cf. Diels, Abhandl. Alcad. Berlin, 1916, p. 80, 
n. 3. 

12 See above, Introd., pp. 8, 17 s., and Lecture II, p. 83. 


The mind of savages does not, like our science, dis- 
tinguish between three kingdoms of nature. It supposes 
the same energy to animate all the beings who surround 
us, all of whom are taken to be like ourselves. The primi- 
tives often attribute human or even divine intelligence to 
beasts ; and the belief is found throughout the two hemi- 
spheres that the spirits of the dead can incarnate them- 
selves in animals and even lodge in plants. Men refrain 
from the slaughter or gathering of certain species, from 
eating their flesh or fruit, for fear of hurting a chief or 
relative who has gone to inhabit them. This animistic 
basis is common to a number of different peoples and is 
at the foundation of the system of metempsychosis. 

But that which makes the grandeur of this theory, 
which won countless adepts throughout the centuries and 
the world, is that it transformed this naive idea, which 
had no moral bearing, into a doctrine of retribution and 
liberation. To come back to the earth, to imprison itself 
in a body which soiled and tortured it, became a punish- 
ment inflicted on the guilty soul. The soul could not attain 
to supreme felicity until it had purified itself by long 
suffering and had gradually, through a cycle of rebirths, 
freed itself from carnal passions. 

It is infinitely probable that this doctrine of reincarna- 
tion in the bodies of animals was in Greece a foreign 
importation. Herodotus thought that it came from 
Egypt, 13 but it does not seem to have existed in that coun- 
try in ancient times in the form of a regular succession 
of transmigrations. On the other hand, Greek metempsy- 
chosis shows a resemblance, striking even in details, to 
one of the fundamental conceptions of the religious 
thought of India, that of samsara, which was accepted as 
a dogma there long before the birth of Buddhism. The 
most probable opinion is that this idea made its way 
across the Persian Empire and thus reached the Orphics 
and Pythagoreans. It is, however, not unlikely that, like 

is Herodotus, II, 123. 


Babylonian astrology, Hindu eschatology was propagated 
as far as Egypt at a comparatively recent date, that is, 
about the sixth century B. C, and that the information 
given by the father of history may be at least partly 
correct, Egypt having served as an intermediary between 
India and Greece. 

We have not, however, to discuss here this problem of 
the origins of metempsychosis, nor to follow the develop- 
ment of the doctrine in ancient Greek philosophy. In the 
period with which we are concerned, it had already long 
been traditional in the Pythagorean and Platonic schools, 
it was not only a philosophical theory but also a tenet 
admitted by several religions. We can leave unanswered 
the questions of whether, as the ancients affirm, the 
Druids believed in it, being in this particular disciples of 
Pythagoras, and of whether the Etruscans were per- 
suaded to it by the teaching of the philosopher of Croton. 
It is, however, certain that transmigration was in the 
East an article of widely held belief. We find it accepted 
by the mysteries of Mithras and by Manicheism, and it 
survives to our own day in Syria among the sects of the 
Druses, 14 the Yezidis and the Nosairis. 15 

What was its form in the Roman period, and how was it 
brought into harmony with traditional or acquired ideas 
as to the future life? 

The descent of the soul from heaven to earth is a fall; 
the body is a grave in which this soul is buried, a prison 
in which it is captive. These old Pythagorean doctrines 
were unceasingly renewed and repeated down to the end 
of antiquity. But the Orphic idea that this degradation 
was the chastisement for an original sin, the consequence 
of a crime committed by the Titans, who were the authors 
of our race, and that this hereditary taint of guilt had to 
be atoned for by their descendants, was either entirely 

i* The Druses have even preserved the ancient doctrine that the number of 
souls is always the same in the world. Cf. Silvestre de Sacy, Beligion- des 
Druses, 1838, II, p. 459. 

is Dussaud, Les Nosairis, Paris, 1900, p. 120 ss. 


forgotten or else, at the least, hardly regarded. The 
equally ancient conception that a bitter and cruel neces- 
sity constrained souls to incarnate themselves, was, on 
the contrary, emphasised in consequence of the spread of 
astrological fatalism. Their alternate descent and ascent 
was conceived as governed by a cosmic law, like the prog- 
ress and regress of the planets. 16 The cycle of eternal 
generation (kvkXos ye^ecrew?), which is eternal, like the 
revolutions of the heavenly bodies, causes mind to circu- 
late through matter which it animates. 

This transmigration could be conceived in various 
ways. A first theory, in which the influence of Stoic pan- 
theism can be recognised, lays stress on the identity of 
individual souls with the universal soul, of which they are 
particles. One single divine principle awakens life in all 
nature. It passes from being to being, quickening their 
various forms, and that which is said to be death is no 
more than a migration. The number of the souls that peo- 
ple the earth is determined from the beginning; they 
change their dwellings but not their essence. Hardly has 
the human soul left one body before it enters another. 
This continuous travelling causes it to go through all the 
degrees of the animal hierarchy. It will pass, successively, 
into a bird, a quadruped, a fish, a reptile, and then return 
to man. This is why it is impious to devour the flesh of 
our " lower brothers' ' and why the sage must practise 
vegetarianism. Some thinkers, however, drawing logical 
conclusions from the admitted premises, asserted that the 
life of the vegetable kingdom derived from the same 
migration as that of the animal kingdom and that the soul 
of man could enclose itself in plants. It was to this teach- 
ing that Seneca alluded when he gave the name of 
Apocolocyntosis, "Transformation to a Pumpkin," to 
his satire on the apotheosis of the emperor Claudius. 

This eschatological doctrine had in reality nothing in 
common with morality. If an uninterrupted chain unites 

I 6 See above, Lecture III, p. 101. 


the existence of all species, if life propagates itself fatally 
from man to the lower beings, this necessity seems to 
exclude all hope of posthumous reward. In order to bring 
the need of a retribution in after life into agreement with 
the belief in the fatal circle of migrations, it was stated 
that the good entered the souls of peaceful and tame 
animals, the wicked those of wild beasts. This is why 
Alexander of Abonotichos predicted to a devotee that he 
would be in after life first a camel, then a horse, and end 
by being a great prophet like himself . 17 Hermes Trismegis- 
tus even claimed to know that the just became eagles 
among birds, lions among quadrupeds, dragons among 
reptiles, dolphins among fish. 18 But the lot even of these 
privileged souls might not seem very enviable. The moral- 
ists, therefore, relaxed the rigour of the system and 
exempted noble spirits from bestial degradation. All souls 
were no longer condemned to dwell in the bodies of 
animals, but only those whose low inclinations had 
assimilated them to brutes. They inhabited the species 
which best conformed to their instincts. Thus debauchees 
became hogs in another life ; cowards and sluggards, fish ; 
the light-minded and frivolous, birds. 19 The pagan theolo- 
gians ingeniously and laboriously interpreted the story of 
Circe's changing the companions of Ulysses into beasts 
as an allegory of metempsychosis. Circe became the circle 
of the reincarnations which were undergone by those who 
emptied the magic cup of pleasure, and whence the wise 
Ulysses escaped, thanks to Hermes, that is, to reason 
which instructed him. 20 

Transmigration thus became less an inevitable law of 
nature than a punishment of the guilty. But this punish- 
ment did not overtake only those who were reborn in 
animal shape. All physical defects and moral taints, 

it Cf. Lucian, Alex., 43. 

is Hermes Trismeg. ap. Stob., Ed., I, 49, p. 398, 16 ss., Wachsmuth. 

19 Tim. Locr., p. 104 E. 

20 Ps.-Plut., Vita Eomeri, 126 ; Porph. ap. Stob., Eel, I, 49, 60, p. 445, 


which afflict man from his entry into the world, were the 
consequence of his crimes in an earlier life. The old 
Pythagoreans combined the doctrine of the metempsy- 
chosis with that of the pains reserved for the wicked in a 
hell beneath the earth. But we have seen how the belief in 
the tortures of Hades was combated until it yielded and 
was discredited. 21 Metempsychosis dared to do without 
these incredible subterranean tortures and thereby 
acquired a new importance. It supplied the means of 
maintaining the dogma of posthumous retribution with- 
out imposing a blind faith in the foolish fables of the 
poets : souls were held to pass immediately from one body 
to another without leaving the earth, rising or sinking 
in the scale of beings in accordance with their merits or 
demerits. Thus Hades becomes our corporeal life in 
which we expiate the faults of a previous life. The Furies 
are the passions which strike us with their whips and 
burn us with their torches. 22 The ingeniousness of the 
theologians found an explanation for each of the tortures 
described by the old mythology. Tantalus threatened by 
the rock is the man obsessed by the fear of heavenly 
wrath; Tityus, whose entrails are devoured by vultures, 
is the lover whose heart is gnawed by care; Sisyphus 
rolling his rock becomes the ambitious man who exhausts 
himself with vain efforts; the Danaides carrying water 
in a leaking vessel, which empties as it is filled, are the 
insatiable souls who give themselves up to pleasure and 
never have enough of enjoyment. Even the old precepts 
of the Pythagorean school were twisted from their ordi- 
nary meaning and became symbols of this eschatology. 
A popular tabu, admitted by the sect, was formulated in 
the sentence, ' ' If thou leave thy dwelling, turn not round 
lest the Erinyes pursue thee." The first meaning of this 
prohibition, which is known to the folk-lore of many 
places, is that to turn round as one leaves one's house is 

21 See above, p. 176. 

22 See above, Lecture II, p. 78. 


to run the risk of being assailed by the spirits who haunt 
the threshold. But the doctors of Neo-Pythagorism did 
not thus understand the saying. For them, the dwelling 
was the body, the Erinyes the passions : when souls left 
the body they must not return thither or the passions 
would attach themselves to them and make them their 
victims. 23 

Here, however, we touch on another form of metempsy- 
chosis. The ancients make a distinction between the doc- 
trine of reincarnation or "reincorporation" (translating 
exactly the Greek word /xeTe^crwjLtarwcrL?), and rebirth or 
palingenesis (Trakiyyeveaia). This latter word is not 
here taken in the Stoic sense of the eternal return of 
things, a series of cosmic cycles in which the same 
phenomena are exactly reproduced. 24 It is used to desig- 
nate a transmigration separated by intervals, a process 
which is not continuous. In the first kind of metempsycho- 
sis there is, properly speaking, no rebirth, for the soul 
does not leave the earth, but there unceasingly accom- 
plishes its circular journey through the living world. On 
the contrary, according to the second theory, it does not 
immediately resume possession of a body. It remains dis- 
incarnate for a long period of years — for Virgil as for 
Plato the number is one thousand — and thus leads a 
double existence of which its passages to this world take 
up only the lesser part. It is not even fatally constrained 
to redescend to the earth : if it has kept itself free from 
all corporeal defilement, it will soar to heaven and dwell 
there for ever. 

But if, during his sojourn on the earth, man has given 
himself up to the pleasures of the senses, his soul becomes 
attached to his body. At first it cannot separate itself 
from the corpse, around which it circles, plaintively 
regretting the joys it has lost. It desires again to enter 

23 Cf. Bevue de philologie, XLIV, 1921, p. 232 ss. 
* 24 Above, Introd., p. 13. 


the flesh which was the instrument of its voluptuous- 
ness ; it seeks a dwelling which will allow it to continue 
the sensual habits which have become its second nature. 
And so, when the time is accomplished, it is seized with 
an irresistible love for the body in which it is to enclose 
itself again; a fascination, like a magic charm, draws 
it to this object of its desires, which is to cause its misery. 
The fatality driving it to incarnation and suffering is not 
here an inevitable law of the universe but an inner neces- 
sity, a destiny which it has made for itself. The cosmic 
Ananke has become psychic. 

Thus every vicious tendency contracted by the soul 
during its abode in this world has for this soul conse- 
quences which their long duration makes more momen- 
tous. If virtue enables it to rise upward at each new birth 
and to acquire, as the ages revolve, an ever increasing 
perfection, perversion of character produces effects which 
are calamitous not only in this life but also in several 
other lives through the centuries. Moral laws are no less 
infallible than physical laws. Right or wrong, every act 
has to be paid for with harm or benefit in the long chain 
of incarnations. By his acquired disposition, man deter- 
mines his future throughout a sequence of generations; 
the evil he suffers is to be imputed not to the creator but 
to himself. A bust of Plato found at Tivoli and now pre- 
served in San Francisco 25 has graven on it the following 
sentence of the Master as to the lot of immortal souls : 
' 'The fault is the chooser's; God is without fault' ' — 
Alria eXo/xeVw, 6 #eo? avairios. 

The very fact of birth was a pain for the soul, since 
it tore it from its celestial home and plunged it into 
a soiled and troubled world; consequently it was not 
necessary for the soul's chastisement that it should 
descend into the body of animals. Indeed, certain thinkers 
rejected this kind of metempsychosis : a reasonable spirit 

25 Museum of the University of California; Kaibel, Inscr. Sicil. et Ital., 
12, 1196. The sentence is taken from Bepull, X, 617 C. 


could not, they held, dwell in a being deprived of reason. 
Transmigration occurred therefore exclusively from man 
to man and from beast to beast. Such was the opinion de- 
fended by Porphyry and Jamblichus, who, in order to 
dispose of the texts of Plato which were contrary to this 
theory, upheld that he spoke figuratively, and that his 
"asses," his "wolves" and his "lions" signified persons 
who resembled these beasts in ignorance or ferocity. 26 

It is seen that this metempsychosis was getting far 
away from that which had its origin in the primitive be- 
liefs. The "cycle of generation" was no longer conceived 
as a flux of life circulating throughout the variety of the 
animate beings peopling the earth, but as the descent and 
the ascent of a psychic essence, passing alternately from 
heaven to earth and from earth to heaven. 

It is to these doctrines that Virgil alludes when in the 
Aeneid he shows us, gathered in a remote place of the 
Elysian Fields, the shades whom after a thousand years 
a god calls to come in a great troop to the river Lethe, 
there to drink the forgetfulness of the past, whereby 
"they begin again to wish to return to the body." 27 

But the poet also gives us precious hints as to the lot 
reserved for the soul in the interval between its incarna- 
tions. For palingenesis, unlike the doctrine of perpetual 
reincorporation, left a place for chastisement in the infer- 
nal regions. These were however situated, as we have 
seen, for the Pythagoreans and Posidonius, whom Virgil 
interpreted, not on earth but in the air. It was there that 
the soul had to purify itself from the stains acquired while 

26 Porph., De regressu anim., f r. 11, Bidez=Aug., Civ. Dei, X, 30 ; Jam- 
blich. ap. Nemes., Be nat. horn., 2; cf. Zeller, Philos. Gr., V*, p. 713. 

27 "Has omnes, ubi mille rotam volvere per annos, 

Lethaeum ad fluvium deus evocat agmine magno, 
Scilicet immemores super ut convexa revisant, 
Rursus et incipiant in corpore velle reverti. " 

Aen., VI, 749-753. 


it was in touch with the flesh. This pollution, we know, 28 
was conceived in a very material form. The texts speak 
of a thickening of the subtle substance of which the soul 
is formed, of concretions encrusting it, of indelible marks 
with which the vices stain it. When the soul left the 
corpse, of which it kept the form, it first, as we have seen, 
floated in the ambient air. When it was not weighed down 
by the matter with which it had become impregnated, the 
breath of the atmosphere raised it gently and, gradually 
warming it, bore it to the heavens, and this is why the 
Winds are often represented on tombstones. 29 But these 
Winds, fierce divinities, could also cause the soul to expiate 
its faults bitterly. If it had lost its purity and lightness, 
the whirlwinds drew it into their vortex, the storms 
rolled and buffeted it, thus violently tearing away the 
crust which had become attached to it. The souls were 
thus freed from defilements contracted during life just as 
linen hung in the air is bleached and loses all odour. 

Their passage through the air did not complete their 
purification. In the East the idea was old that above the 
firmament was found the great reservoir of the waters 
which fell to the ground as rain. Beyond, a burning zone 
must extend, where the heavenly bodies were lit, and a 
river of fire, identified with the Pyriphlegethon of the 
Greeks, was imagined. These old mythological ideas were 
brought into relation with Stoic physics : above the region 
of the winds stretched that of the clouds, in which the rain, 
the snow and the hail were formed, and higher still there 
was the burning air, in which the lightning flashed and 
which touched the starry spheres. The souls must blaze a 
path through these obstacles. After being tossed and 
blown about by the winds, they were drenched by rain and 
plunged into the gulf of the upper waters. They reached 
at last the fires of heaven, of which the heat scorched 
them. Not till they had undergone this threefold trial, 

28 See above, Lecture VI, p. 162, and Introd., p. 29. 

29 Mudes syriennes, p. 70. 


in the course of which they had passed through countless 
years of expiation, did they at length find peace in the 
serenity of the luminous ether. 30 

Virgil, 31 in the passage already quoted, alludes to this 
doctrine when, in speaking of the souls, he says : 

" . . . Aliae panduntur inanes 
Suspensae ad ventos, aliis sub gurgite vasto 
Inf ectum eluitur scelus, aut exuritur igni. ' ' 

"Some are exposed, hung lightly to the winds; as to 
others, the crime infecting them is washed away in a deep 
gulf or burnt by fire. ' ' 

In an eschatological myth, which Plutarch 32 borrows 
from Demetrius of Tarsus, he shows us guilty souls who 
seek to reach the moon and who do not arrive thither, 
but are hunted and buffeted as by swelling billows, and 
others who have reached the goal, but are rejected and 
plunged from on high into the abyss. Similarly, Hermes 
Trismegistus depicts souls flung from the height of 
heaven into the depths of the atmosphere and delivered 
to the storms and whirlwinds of warring air, water and 
fire. Their eternal punishment is to be tossed and car- 
ried in different directions by the cosmic waves which 
roll unceasingly between earth and heaven. 33 

The passage of souls through the elements is repre- 
sented symbolically on a funeral monument almost 
contemporary with the verses of Virgil, which was dis- 
covered near Scarbantia in Pannonia. 34 Above the por- 
traits of the deceased, there appear first in the spandrels 
of this cippus two busts of the winds facing each other. 
Higher up, on the architrave, are two Tritons, and on 
each side of a trident two dolphins, which evidently repre- 
sent the idea of the watery element. Finally, at the top 

30 See Lecture VI, p. 161 ; cf. below, Lecture VIII, p. 196. 
3i Virg., Aen., VI, 740 ss. 

32 Plut., Be facie lunae, p. 943 B. 

33 Ps. Apul., Asclep., 28. 

34 Jahresh. Institut Wien, XII, 1910, p. 213. 


of the stone, in the pediment, we see two lions. The lion, 
for physical and astrological reasons, was considered as 
the symbol of fire, the igneous principle. 

"We have seen 35 that for the doctrine which placed the 
limit of the dwelling of the gods and the elect in the zone 
of the moon, another was substituted according to which 
the souls, in order to regain the purity of their original 
nature, had to traverse the spheres of the planets to reach 
the heaven of fixed stars. The trials of purgatory had to 
be prolonged up to the entry into the dwelling of the 
blessed. The idea was, therefore, conceived of attributing 
each of the planets to one of the elements. The moon was 
the ethereal earth, Mercury the water, Venus the air, the 
sun the fire : and inversely, Mars was the fire, Jupiter the 
air, Saturn the water, and the sphere of the stars the 
celestial earth, in which lay the Elysian Fields. Thus the 
soul, in order to be saved, had to be reborn three times in 
virtue of a triple passage through the four elements. 36 

This last doctrine, which is connected with astrological 
speculations, seems to have had only a limited vogue and 
to have been of ephemeral duration. On the other hand, 
the idea of a purgatory situated in the atmosphere be- 
tween our earth and the moon, a place in which souls were 
purified not only by fire but also by air and water, was 
long to survive the fall of paganism and to be propa- 
gated through the Middle Ages in the West as in the East. 
For Dante, purgatory still occupied a fiery zone stretched 
between the terrestrial and the celestial circles. 

Was the soul which, after a long expiation, had reached 
the Elysian Fields and the sphere of the stars, always to 
descend thence, seized with a blind love for the body, and 
to pass again through the trials of another earthly life? 
No, the ancient Orphics already flattered themselves 

35 See above, Lecture III, p. 107. 

seMacrob., Comm. Somn Scip., I, 11, 8; Proclus, In Tim., II, 48, 15 ss., 


that by their cathartic rites they obtained for the soul an 
escape from the fatal cycle of generation and regaining 
of heaven for ever. The Pythagoreans inherited this doc- 
trine, which they kept nntil the Roman period. In spite of 
the contrary opinion of certain thinkers, pagan philoso- 
phers and priests generally taught that after pilgrim- 
ages, more or less long, after a succession of deaths and 
rebirths, the purified spirits returned to dwell for ever in 
their celestial country. It was to this goal that the mys- 
teries promised to lead their initiate; this was the end 
which the sages flattered themselves that they attained 
by their virtue. 

It will be understood that such a hope, combined with 
the suppression of eternal damnation in Hades, led neces- 
sarily to the doctrine of the eventual salvation of all 
souls. We know this system especially through Origen, 
but he merely reproduced a theory to which the evolution 
of pagan ideas had led. 

We have seen that metempsychosis helped the philos- 
ophers to shake, if not to ruin, the belief in infernal pun- 
ishment. But this belief again had power towards the end 
of antiquity, when the dualist sects which were the out- 
come of Persian Mazdeism were propagated and when 
Plato became the supreme authority in philosophy. We 
touched on this point, in another lecture, 37 when we 
showed how the idea of a demons' prison in the bosom of 
the earth triumphed. 

Thus, when the Roman world was in its decline, men 
came back to the old threefold distinction of the Orphics 
and the Pythagoreans. The very guilty, who cannot be 
corrected, are hurled into Tartarus, where they suffer for 
ever the punishment of their incurable wickedness. Souls 
less corrupt are subjected to purification, either by pass- 
ing through the elements or by undergoing successive 
reincarnations, and thus they regain their original nature 
before they are readmitted to their first dwelling. 

37 Lecture II, p. 87 ss. 


Finally, the most perfect souls, those of the wise who 
have freed themselves from the domination of the body 
and have not let themselves be contaminated by matter, 
and those of the pious faithful, to whom religious lustra- 
tions have given back their purity or whom initiations to 
the mysteries have made equal to the gods, at once rise 
again to the celestial spheres. 

In the next lecture we shall speak of the rewards 
reserved for them in the dwelling of the blessed. 


WE have seen how the evolution of religions faith 
caused the dwelling-place of the dead to move 
from the tomb to the nether world and from the 
nether world to the heavens. When the abode of souls was 
changed, all the ideas attached to the future life had to be 
transposed. In this lecture we shall endeavour to make 
clear how the opinions which were held as to the felicity 
of the blessed were thus transformed. We shall take up 
again matter which we have already touched upon in 
another connection and try to show the successive changes 
undergone by three manners of conceiving happiness in 
after life : the repose of the dead, the repast of the dead, 
and the sight of God. 

The most ancient and originally the simplest of these 
conceptions was that of the repose of the dead. We know 1 
that the dead who had not been buried in accordance with 
the rites were believed to find no rest in the tomb. A 
corpse had to be committed to the earth with traditional 
ceremonies in order that the spirit which animated it 
might have quiet. If this spirit were not subsequently 
nourished by offerings and sacrifices, it left its burial 
place and roamed the earth's surface like an animal 
driven by hunger. The shades inhabiting the tombs could 
also be evoked by necromancers and such disturbance 
broke in upon their rest most unpleasantly. 

These archaic ideas were so deeply implanted in the 
popular mind that other beliefs never expelled them, 
but supervened and existed side by side with them with- 
out causing their disappearance. 

i See Lecture I, p. 64 ss. 


On tombs of the imperial period formulas like the fol- 
lowing are often read: "Hie requiescit," "Here rests, " 
"Quieti aeternae," "For eternal rest" — inscriptions 
which could be interpreted figuratively ; but other wishes 
can only be taken to have a material sense, such as: 
"Ossa quiescant," "May his bones rest," and "Molliter 
ossa cubent," "May the bones lie softly." Poetry has 
preserved a number of similar phrases. Tibullus ex- 
presses the following wish for a loved woman : "May thy 
slender form rest well beneath the soft earth." 2 

The rest which the exact accomplishment of the rites 
gave to the dead was not physical only but moral also. 
The dead were securi — the word is properly applied to 
them — that is, they were exempt from care. Doubtless the 
care from which they were delivered by the cult of the 
grave, was first that of suffering from hunger and thirst, 3 
but the "eternal security" (securitas aeternaY they 
enjoyed was also the absence of all the fears and anxieties 
which haunt humanity. 

When philosophy claimed to free souls from the super- 
stitions of the past, it did not destroy the old conception 
of rest in the tomb but cleansed it from all material alloy. 
If it be doubtful whether anything of man survives, it is 
at least certain that death marks the abolition of the 
pains of this world and the end of its troubles. Mors 
laborum et miseriarum quies, is Cicero's definition. 5 
Death restores us to that state of tranquillity in which we 
were before our birth. 6 The "eternal home" which shel- 
ters the remains of man is the silent temple in which he 
no longer has anything to fear from nature or from his 

The Epicureans who made ataraxia their ideal of life, 
the Stoics who found theirs in impassivity (a7ra#eia), 

2 Tibullus, II, 6, 30 : " Sic bene sub tenera parva quiescat humo. ' ' 

3 Tertull., Be testimonio animae, 4. 

* Securitati aeternae; cf. Dessau, Inscr. seh, 8025 ss., 8149. 
5Cic, Catil., IV, 7; cf. Tusc., I, 11, 25; 49, 118. 
6 Sen., Dial, VI, 19, 5. 


could see in the anaesthesia of death the supreme realisa- 
tion of such absence of emotion and passion. The corpse 
lies as softly on its last bed as a man plunged in a deep 
and quiet sleep. The burial place is indeed often conse- 
crated to Somno aeterno. 7 This idea is expressed in a 
thousand forms in literature and in epitaphs. A poor 
grammarian of Como, who doubtless had had little reason 
to congratulate himself on life, caused two lines of verse 
to be engraved on his tomb:* "I fled the miseries of sick- 
ness and the great ills of life ; I am now delivered from all 
its pains and enjoy a peaceful calm. ,, On an African 
grave there are the following words: "After bearing a 
heavy burden and after manifold toils, he speaks no 
more, content with the silent dwelling in which he rests." 9 
We read elsewhere, "Life was a pain, death prepared me 
rest." 10 The sentiment expressed by these inscriptions 
and many more like them is no mere reflection of the 
teaching of philosophers who denied the future life : it is 
profoundly human. The melodious but melancholy apos- 
trophe of Leconte de Lisle is well known : 

"Et toi, divine mort, ou tout rentre et s 'efface, 
Accueille tes enf ants dans ton sein etoile ; 
AfTranchis nous du temps, du nombre et de l'espace 
Et rends nous le repos que la vie a trouble." 

' ' Death divine, at whose recall, 
Returneth all 

To fade in thy embrace, 
Gather thy children to thy bosom starred, 

7 Dessau, Inscr. sel., 8024 and note; cf. Cic, Tusc, I, 41, 97; and Introd., 
p. 10. 

s Bucheler, Carm. epigr., 1274: 

"Morborum vitia et vitae mala maxima fugi. 
Nunc careo poenis, pace f ruor placida. ' ' 
9 Bucheler, Hid., 573 : 

' ' Qui post tantum onus, multos crebrosque labores 
Nunc silet et tacito contentus sede quiescit. " 
io Bucheler, Hid., 507: ''Poena fuit vita, requies mihi morte parata est. ,, 


Free us from time, from number and from space, 
And give us back the rest that life has marred." 11 

In the midst of all the tribulation of our tormented 
existence, to how many minds, even those which have the 
strongest religious conviction, have not the immobility 
and insensibility of those who are no more sometimes 
seemed like a deliverance 1 In antiquity also, this aspira- 
tion towards the moment when man will obtain remission 
of all his travail does not necessarily imply the belief 
that there is no hope beyond the cold sleep of the grave. 
This yearning mingles with faith in immortality and is 
transformed with it. 

When it was believed that the dead went down into the 
depths of the earth where lay the infernal kingdom, 
another meaning was given to their rest. The funeral 
eulogy of a noble woman who towards the end of the 
Eepublican period saved the life of her husband, who had 
been proscribed, ends with the naive words : "I pray that 
the gods thy Manes may grant thee rest and thus protect 
thee." 12 The shades of the kinsmen of the dead must 
receive their souls in the subterranean world 13 and thus 
ensure their welfare. The road which must be travelled 
before the abode of the elect was reached was long and 
beset with dangers. The Book of the Dead in Egypt, the 
Orphic tablets in Greece, were guides to the Beyond which 
taught the dead not to stray from the right path and to 
avoid the various dangers threatening them. 14 Many of 
them, the impious who had to expiate their misdeeds and 
the unfortunate to whom funeral duties had not been 
rendered, wandered wretchedly on the banks of the Styx, 
vainly longing to enter the "peaceful abode" of the Ely- 
sian Fields. 15 There, lying in the cool shade, the blessed 

11 Transl. by J. C. Anderson (in my Astrology and Religion, p. 171). 

12 Dessau, Inscr. sel., 8393, 79 : " Te di Manes tui ut quietam patiantur 
atque ita tueantur opto. " 

13 See above, Lecture I, p. 68; II, p. 86, n. 39; V, p. 134. 

14 See above, Lecture VI, p. 143. 

i5Virg., Aen., VI, 705: "Domos placidas. n 


enjoyed a felicity exempt from all care. Serene quiet in a 
sweet idleness cheered by joyous relaxation and wise con- 
versation—such was the ideal which some mysteries 16 
opposed to the weary agitations of earthly life and to the 
long sufferings of the sinful and vagabond soul. For the 
adepts of these doctrines the secura quies applied to the 
repose of the nether world, and this conception of beati- 
tude beyond the grave is found to persist until the end 
of paganism. 17 

But we have seen that another doctrine triumphed in 
the Roman period, the doctrine that souls rise to the skies 
to live there eternally among the stars. In this great 
metamorphosis of eschatological beliefs what became of 
the idea of the repose of the dead! The question deserves 
to be more closely investigated, for the transformation 
had lasting consequences of which the ultimate effects can 
be felt even today. 

The Pythagoreans were, as we have seen, 18 the first to 
promulgate the doctrine of celestial immortality in 
Greece and Italy. One of the allegories familiar to the 
teaching of the sect connected human destiny with the 
old myth of Hercules at the crossroads. The Greek letter 
Y, of which the stem divides midway into two, was in the 
school the symbol of this comparison — we have already 
alluded to it elsewhere. 19 When man reaches the age of 
reason two paths are open to him. One is smooth and easy 
but ends in an abyss: this is the way of pleasure. The 
other is at first rough and jagged — it is the hard road of 
virtue — but he who climbs to the summit of its slope can 
there rest deliciously from his weariness. Funeral reliefs 
represent this contrast naively : at the bottom of the stele 
the dead man is often seen accomplishing the labours of 
his career; at the top of the stone he is shown stretched 
at his ease on a couch. 

16 See Introd., p. 34 ss. 

17 Comptes rendus Acad. Inscr., 1912, p. 151 ss. ; cf. Biicheler, Carm. 
epigr., 513. 

is Lecture III, p. 95. i» Lecture VI, p. 150. 


The meaning of the allegory is immediately apparent : 
the quieta sedes in which deserving souls are received, 
has become the sky. How was this idea developed? 

Homer 20 had already described Olympus as "the im- 
movable seat of the gods which is neither shaken by the 
winds, nor wet by the rains, nor touched by the snow, but 
is bright with a cloudless light.' ' The Epicureans applied 
these lines of the poet to the serene dwelling where noth- 
ing occurred to modify the perpetual peace enjoyed by 
the gods. 21 And the founder of Stoicism had already 
taught that the pious souls, separated from the guilty, 
inhabited "tranquil and delectable' ' regions. 22 Both 
called this dwelling of the gods or the elect by the same 
name — sedes quietae. 

We must here remember the distinction, established 
by the philosophers and often repeated, between the sub- 
lunary circle and the celestial spheres. 23 Above, the world 
of the eternal gods; below, the world of generation and 
corruption. There the pure ether always kept the same 
serenity; here the struggle of the elements called forth 
unceasing agitation and transformation. On one side 
reigned peace and harmony, on the other war and discord. 
The zone of the moon was the boundary between the two 
contrasted parts of the world, and "the limit between 
life and death." 24 It was when they had crossed it, that 
the souls entered the quietae sedes of the Blessed. 

The very ancient idea of a fearful journey which the 
dead had to make in order to reach Pluto 's subterranean 
kingdom was transferred to the space lying between the 
earth and the moon, for this was the region of the uni- 
verse to which the name of nether world (Inferi) 25 was 

20 Odyssey, VI, 42 ss. 

21 Lucretius, III, 18 ss. 

22Zeno, fr. 147 (von Arnim, Fragm. Stoicorum, I, p. 40) : "Zeno docuit 
sedes piorum ab impiis esse discretas et illos quidem quietas ac delectabiles 
habitare regiones. " 

23 See Introd., p. 25 ; Lecture III, p. 96. 

24Macrob., Somn. Scip., I, 11, 6: "Vitae mortisque connnium. ,, 

25 See above, Lecture II, p. 81 s. 


henceforth applied. As we have seen in the previous lec- 
ture, 26 when the soul, escaping from the body, was laden 
with material dross, it was tossed about for many cen- 
turies before it could again win to the ether. Shaken by 
the winds, swept to and fro by the opposing elements of 
air, water and fire, it had to endure a long torture before 
it was cleansed of the sin which weighed it down. When at 
length it was freed of every fleshly taint, it escaped from 
inward trouble also, from the pains and the passions 
provoked by its union with the body. "Then," says 
Seneca, "it tends to return to the place whence it has 
been sent down; there eternal quiet awaits it when it 
passes from the confused and gross to the clear and 
pure." 27 In the same way certain Neo-Platonists taught 
that souls which had lived well, rose to the celestial 
heights and rested there amid the stars. Even in this life 
the ecstasy, which gave them anticipated enjoyment of 
the future bliss, is described by them as a transport in 
which reason attains to absolute stability or equipoise, 
escapes from all movement and rests in the Supreme 
Being. 28 Peace in the celestial light : such is the highest 
form which the repose of the dead assumed in paganism. 29 
The various ideas which we have just analysed — those 
of the repose in the grave, the repose in the infernal 
regions and the repose in heaven — followed parallel 
courses during the centuries and in part passed from 
antiquity to the Middle Ages. But the distinction between 
them is not always clear. Even in paganism they were 
intermingled and in the course of time they were grad- 
ually confused. In no class of beliefs is the force of tradi- 

26 See Lecture VII, p. 185 s. 

27 Sen., Consol. Marc, 24, 5: "(Animus) nititur illo unde demissus est; 
ibi ilium aeterna requies manet e confusis crassisque pura et liquida visen- 
tem. ' » 

28 Plotin., IX, 8, 9, p. 768 A; IX, 8, 11, p. 770 C. 

29 Cf. Aug., Serm., CCLX (P.L. XXXVIII, 1132, 38) : "Dixerunt Plato- 
nici . . . animas, ire ad superna caelorum et requiescere ibi in stellis et 
luminibus istis conspicuis. ' ' 


tion greater than in those which centre in death, and the 
Christian peoples clung tenaciously to articles of faith 
which Jews and pagans had shared before them. 

We have seen 30 that the masses did not easily give up 
their belief that the dead continued, in or about the 
tomb, a vegetating and uncertain life. Extreme impor- 
tance was still attached to burial because the more or 
less unconscious conviction persisted that the soul's rest 
depended on that of the body. The dread of ghosts was 
still the inspiration for some ceremonies performed over 
the remains of the dead. Nay, a new apprehension was 
added to this, namely, the fear lest the dead whose bodies 
were torn from the tomb should have no part in the 
resurrection of the flesh. 31 The formula, "Hie requiescit," 
"Here rests — ," was transferred from pagan to Chris- 
tian epigraphy, and the rest men wished to the departed 
was first the rest of the corpse, which was peacefully to 
await the Day of Judgment in its last dwelling. 

These were doubtless vulgar prejudices rather than 
dogmas recognised by orthodoxy, yet they did not remain 
without influence on the teaching of the doctors of the 
Church. For instance, Saint Ambrose 32 enlarges on the 
thought, probably borrowed from some philosopher, that 
death is good because in it the body, source of our uneasi- 
ness, our troubles and our vices, rests, calmed for ever, 
while the virtuous soul rises to heaven. After the travail 
of existence the dead rest as man rests on the Sabbath 
day, and this was, it was explained, the reason why the 
seventh day was the day of the commemoration of the 

The idea of rest in the infernal regions has left no deep 
traces on the Christian faith, for which the subterranean 
world became the abode of the wicked. It was, however, 
somewhere in the bowels of the earth that the dwelling 
of the righteous who lived before the Redemption was 

30 Lecture I, p. 45 ss. 

si Ibid., p. 69. 

32 St. Ambrose, Be bono mortis, 9; cf. Kaibel, Inscr. Sic. It., 2117. 


commonly placed, sometimes also that of children who 
died unbaptised. They found there according to the Pela- 
gians a " place of repose and salvation" outside the 
kingdom of heaven. 33 

But in Roman times the idea of peace in the celestial 
light was dominant among the Jews and Christians as 
among the pagans. Thus the Book of Enoch shows us the 
prophet carried off in a whirlwind to the heights whence 
he perceived "the beds where the just rest" amid the 
saints. 34 We can here point out exactly the most important 
of the literary intermediaries through whom this concep- 
tion was transmitted from paganism to Judaism and 
from Judaism to Christianity. Towards the end of the 
first century A. D., amid the desolation which followed 
on the destruction of the Temple, a pious Jew, somewhere 
in the East, composed and ascribed to the venerable 
authorship of Esdras an apocalypse which enjoyed sin- 
gular popularity until the time of its rejection by the 
Church as apocryphal. The visionary who set it down 
combines a number of pagan reminiscences with biblical 
ideas. He promises eternal felicity to the just, and asks 
himself what will be the lot of souls between the time of 
their death and the end of the world. Will they be at rest 
or will they be tortured ? And the angel who inspires him 
answers that when the vital breath has left the body to go 
again to adore the glory of the Most High, the soul which 
has violated the divine law will not enter the celestial 
dwellings but will "wander amidst torments, for ever 
suffering and saddened on seven paths." But the soul 
which has walked in the way of God "will rest in seven 
orders of rewards." 35 The sixth of these is the order in 
which its face begins to shine like the sun and in which it 
becomes incorruptible, like the stars ; the seventh is that 
in which it wins to the sight of God. 

33 Aug., De anima, II, 12. 

34 Boole of Enoch, 39. 

ss IV Esdr., VII, 91: " Eequiescent per septem ordines"; cf. VII, 95 

(p. 131 ss., Violet). 


These are conceptions and even expressions which be- 
long to astral immortality, and the Jewish anthor, like the 
pagans before him, everywhere contrasts the state of 
agitation filled with anguish reserved for the guilty with 
the blessed tranquillity which is the reward of a pious 
life. 36 The description of the celestial dwelling which Saint 
Ambrose borrowed from the pseudo-Esdras is singularly 
like that given by the philosophers of the earlier period : 
a place in which there is no cloud, no thunder, no light- 
ning, no violence of winds, neither darkness nor sunset, 
neither summer nor winter to vary the seasons, where no 
cold is met with, nor hail, nor rain. But the Christian 
doctor, like the Jewish visionary, adds a new feature: 
there will be no more sun nor moon nor stars ; the light of 
God will shine alone. 87 

The idea of repose in the eternal light was, thanks to 
the apocalypse of the supposed Esdras, to become one of 
those most frequently expressed by epitaphs and ritual. 
It was from this apocryphal work that the Roman liturgy 
borrowed the form of a prayer introduced into the office 
of the dead at least as early as the seventh century and 
still sung in the funeral service — Requiem aeternam dona 
eis Domine et lux perpetua luceat eis. "Lord, give them 
eternal rest and may perpetual light shine upon them." 

The idea of the repast of the dead evolved, like that of 
their repose, as the conception of life beyond the tomb 
was gradually transformed, and it finally assumed a far 
higher significance than that originally attributed to it. 

According to a belief found everywhere, the dead, as 
we know, 38 needed nourishment if they were not to suffer 
from hunger. Hence the obligation to make libations and 
sacrifices on the tomb and to deposit food and drink there. 

36 IV Esdr., VII, 36, 38 (p. 146, Violet). 

3T Ambrose, Be bono mortis, 12, $ 53 (P.L., XIV, 154) ; of. IV Esdr., VII, 

38 See Lecture I, p. 50. 


The neglect of these sacred duties entailed consequences 
fearful to him who failed to fulfil them, just as their exact 
observance ensured him the good will of the spirits of the 

The custom of holding banquets which united the mem- 
bers of a family beside a grave at a funeral or on certain 
consecrated days, was connected with this belief. This 
custom was no mere rendering of an honour to one who 
had gone, no unmixed manifestation of piety or affec- 
tion. The motive for these ceremonies was much more 
concrete. As we have stated elsewhere, 39 men were per- 
suaded that the spirit of him who lay beneath the ground 
was present at the meal, took its place beside its kin and 
rejoiced with them. Therefore its share was set aside for 
it, and by consecrated formulas it was invited to drink 
and eat. Moreover the guests themselves ate copiously 
and drank deeply, convinced that the noisy conviviality of 
the feast was a source of joy and refreshment to the shade 
in the gloom of its sepulchral existence. Sometimes the 
dinner took place in a room within the tomb, specially set 
aside for such meetings, sometimes in one of the gardens 
which men delighted to make around the "eternal house' ' 
of the dead 40 and to which inscriptions sometimes give the 
name of " paradise' ' (irapdSeLcros) . 41 

These are customs and ideas which are found every- 
where from the time when history had its origin, practices 
and ideas to which under the Roman Empire the people 
still clung, and which even partially survived the conver- 
sion of the masses to Christianity, although the Church 
condemned them as pagan. Until the end of antiquity and 
even in the Middle Ages, banquets, at which wine flowed 
abundantly, were still held on anniversaries by kinsfolk 
and friends near the remains of those they loved. 42 

When, however, the conception of survival in the tomb 

39 See Lecture I, p. 54. 

40 IUd., p. 57. 

4i Calder, Journal of 'Roman Studies, 1912, p. 254. 
42 See above, Lecture I, p. 55 ss. 


was superseded or overshadowed by that of survival in 
the nether world, the repast of the dead was also trans- 
ferred thither. Henceforth it was in the Elysian Fields 
that pious souls could take their place at the table of the 
Blessed. The Orphics were the first to introduce into 
Greece this new idea, which was, however, no more than 
the development of a pre-Hellenic belief, and it spread 
through the mysteries of Dionysos 43 to every part of the 
ancient world : the ritualistic repasts in which the initiate 
took part, the drunkenness which exalted their whole 
being, were for the adepts of this cult at once a foretaste 
and a warrant of the happiness reserved for them in that 
eternal feast of the subterranean world in which a sweet 
intoxication would rejoice their soul. That forgetfulness 
of all cares which the divine liquor gave was connected 
with Lethe, the water of which, according to mythology, 
souls drank that they might lose all memory of their 
former life. 

An immense number of reliefs, scattered throughout 
the whole extent of the Eoman Empire, bear witness to 
the popularity of the belief in this form of immortality. 
The dead man who has been made a hero and whose 
family comes to make sacrifices to him is stretched on a 
couch and lifts the rhyton which holds the heady drink 
of Bacchus, while before him, on a little table, dishes are 
placed. These banquets took place, as we have said, in the 
Elysian Fields, and the idea of the repast thus met and 
combined with the idea of rest. The Blessed were imag- 
ined as lying on a soft bed of flowered grass, taking part 
in a perpetual feast, to the accompaniment of music and 
songs. Lucian in his "True Histories" 44 describes, with 
ironical exaggeration, the joys of these guests who are 
stretched comfortably among the flowers of a fragrant 
meadow in the shade of leafy trees, and who gather, in- 
stead of fruit, crystal goblets, which fill with wine as soon 
as they are placed on the table. 

43 See Introd., p. 35; Lecture IV, p. 126. 

44 Lueian, Verae hist., II, 14. 


In spite of the mockery of sceptics these beliefs still 
had some faithful partisans even at the end of paganism. 
A picture discovered in the catacomb of Praetextatus 
shows us a priest of the Thraco-Phrygian god Sabazios 
celebrating a mystic banquet with six of his fellows, and 
another fresco represents the introduction of a veiled 
woman into the garden of delights, where she has been 
judged worthy of being received at the table of virtuous 
souls. 45 

Sometimes in the reliefs of the " funeral banquet" the 
dead are seen wearing on their head the bushel (modius) 
of Serapis, with whom, after a virtuous life, they have been 
identified. This indicates a confusion, to which much other 
testimony bears witness, between the Bacchic mysteries 
and the cult of the Alexandrian god. 46 Serapis is the great 
master of the feast (o-vfXTroo-iapxqs)? 1 the host who must 
in the nether world entertain those faithful to him. Thus 
the eschatological beliefs of the Nile Valley mingled with 
those of Greece. In the country of burning sun, where a 
straying traveller runs the risk of dying of thirst on the 
arid stretches of sand, the hope expressed above all others 
for him who accomplishes the great pilgrimage to the 
abode of the infernal divinities, is that he may find where- 
with to quench his consuming thirst. "May Osiris give 
thee fresh water" is a wish which the votaries of the 
Egyptian god often inscribed on their tombs. Thus the 
repast in the other world was to be above all a refresh- 
ment (refrigerium). The word passed into Christian lan- 
guage to denote both earthly "agape" or sacred meal and 
the bliss of the other world, and even today the Roman 
Church prays for the spiritual " refreshment" of the 
dead. 48 

We touch here on a question which is not yet completely 

45 Best reproduction, Wilpert, Pitture delle Catacombe Bomane, II, 132- 

46 See above, Introd., pp. 35, 37. 

47 Aelius Arist., XLV (VIII), 27 (p. 360, Keil). 

48 See my Oriental Beligions, Chap. IV, end. 


elucidated, that of the relation established between the 
funeral banquet and the salvation of those who took part 
in it. 

In Rome from the end of the Republic onwards this 
banquet, amid the general decline of faith in immortality, 
was increasingly detached from the tomb and became 
a guild or domestic ceremony. The tendency was to re- 
duce it to the repast of a family or confraternity, to the 
perpetuation among men of the memory of him whose 
features were preserved by a statue or picture. But the 
funeral cult acquired new meaning with the spread of 
Oriental religions. It did not cease to be useful to the dead 
who were its object, to whose subsistence in the beyond 
and safe arrival in the Elysian Fields it was still thought 
to be necessary. The offerings of the living sustained 
them on their dangerous and hard journey thither; the 
food and drink restored them on the long road they had 
to travel before they reached the place of everlasting 

But the funeral repast was also salutary to those who 
offered it, and not only because it ensured to them the 
good will of a spirit or demon capable of protecting them. 
This banquet, at which wine flowed profusely, was like 
the "orgies" of the Bacchic and Oriental mysteries, and 
the resemblance is partly explained by an identity of 

The ritual of the gods whose death and resurrection 
were commemorated — Bacchus, Osiris, Attis, Adonis — 
was probably a development of the funeral ritual, and the 
banquet of initiation was thus related to the banquet at 
the grave. On the one hand, it was believed that by amystic 
union with the god, men could share his blessed lot after 
the transient trial of a death like his. 49 On the other hand, 
it was with a dead man that a repast was taken, but with 
one who also, in some sort, had become a god, who had 
preceded the diners into the other world and awaited 

49 See Lecture IV, p. 122; Introd., p. 34. 


them there. "Live happy and pour out wine to our 
Manes,' ' says a Latin epitaph of Syria, engraved beneath 
a scene of libation, " recollecting that one day you will be 
withus. ,,5 ° 

According to an opinion which often found expression, 
the shades themselves rejected whoever did not deserve 
to enter the abode of the Blessed, but willingly received 
the pious soul which had always fulfilled its duty towards 
them. 51 For admission to this club of posthumous diners 
a members ' vote was necessary. Thus the funeral banquet 
took on the character of a mystic banquet ; that is, it came 
to be conceived as a prelibation of the banquet at which 
the elect feasted in the other world. The wish which the 
guests made to each other — " Drink and live!" — became 
an allusion, no more to this earthly life, but to that other 
existence in which they would participate in the felicity 
of him who had gone before them and who would help 
them to rejoin him therein. The following advice, 
repeated elsewhere in various forms, is found on the tomb 
of a priest of Sabazios : "Drink, eat, jest and come to me 
. . . that is what you will carry away with you" (hoc 
tecum feres). 52 This is not to be understood here as an 
Epicurean invitation to enjoy life because all else is 
vain, 53 but a veiled expression of faith in the efficacy for 
the salvation of the initiate attributed to the joyous ban- 
quets which gathered men about a tomb. 

The connection between the beliefs of the mysteries and 
the hopes attached to the funeral cult became more inti- 
mate as immortality brought the spirits of the dead 
nearer the celestial divinities. The idea that some few 
privileged mortals win admission to the banquet of the 
gods is very ancient. An inscription of Sendjerli in Syria, 
which goes back to the eighth century before our era, 
orders sacrifices to be made in order that the soul of King 

so CIL, III, 14165. 

5i See Lecture I, p. 68 ; II, p. 86 ; V, p. 134. 

52Bucheler, Carm. epigr., 1317=CIL, VI, 142; cf. Plato, Phaedo, p. 107 D. 

53 As it is elsewhere; cf. Introd., p. 11. 


Panamu "may eat and drink with the god Hadad," 54 
and Greek mythology told that certain heroes, such as 
Heracles, who had been carried off to heaven, had there 
become the table companions of the gods. Horace states 
that Augustus, borne to the ethereal summits, will there 
rest between Hercules and Pollux, "drinking nectar 
with his rosy lips." 55 But we have seen elsewhere that 
apotheosis, or deification, which was at first the privilege 
of an aristocracy, became the common lot of all pious 
souls, 56 and that the Elysian Fields were transferred from 
the depths of the infernal realm to the upper spheres of 
the world. The repast of the Blessed was thus transported 
to heaven. 57 This removal to the region of the stars seems 
to have been first made in the astral religion of Syria, but 
it was commonly accepted in western paganism. This is 
why in funeral reliefs of the Roman period, in which the 
dead are shown banqueting, such representations are 
placed in the upper part of the stele, above the scenes of 
earthly life which fill the lower portion of the stone. The 
emperor Julian is giving us a mocking picture of this 
repast of the heroes, when in one of his satires he shows 
us the shades of the Caesars at table immediately beneath 
the moon, in the highest zone of the atmospheres — in 
accordance with the ideas of the Stoics. 58 Men readily 
fashioned the heroes who tasted the joys of Olympus on 
the pattern of the celestial divinities — resplendent with 
light, clothed in garments of dazzling whiteness, their 
heads crowned with rays or surrounded by a luminous 
nimbus, singing, as in a Greek symposium, melodious 

The philosophers of course gave a symbolical interpre- 
tation of the intoxication of the souls which took part in 
the feast, explaining it as the ravishing of reason pene- 

64 Lagrange, Religions semitiquest, 1905, p. 493. 

55 Horace, Od., Ill, 3, 12. 

56 Lecture IV, p. 113 s., 116 ss. 

67 See, for instance, Kaibel, Epigr. Graeca, 312, 13. 

58 Julian, Caesares, p. 307 C; cf. IntrocL, p. 29; Lecture III, p. 98. 


trated by divine intelligence. We will return to their 
doctrines presently. 

The Jews of the Alexandrian period shared the belief 
in the celestial banquet with the Syrian paganism and 
transmitted it to the Christians. The Paradise of the 
elect was often conceived as a shady garden where tables 
were set out at which immortal guests passed their time 
in endless joy. Thus, not to mention better-known texts, 
Aphraates, a Syriac author of the first half of the fourth 
century, depicts the felicity of the Blessed, clothed in 
light, who are admitted to the divine table and are there 
fed with food which never fails. * ' There the air is pleas- 
ant and serene, a brilliant light shines, trees grow of 
which the fruit ripens perpetually, of which the leaves 
never fall, and beneath these shades, which give out a 
sweet fragrance, the souls eat this fruit and are never 
satiated." 59 

The representation of this feast of Paradise recurs 
several times in the paintings of the catacombs, but in 
them the wine is poured out by Peace (Eirene) and 
Charity (Agape). An allegorical explanation gave a 
spiritual meaning to the food and drink consumed by the 
elect. But the old idea which was at the root of all the 
later development, the idea of a material repast in which 
the dead participated, did not disappear from popular 
faith when the conception that souls rose to the sky was 
adopted, and in many countries it has not been obliterated 
even today. 60 

Even in the pagan period, as we have said, enlightened 
minds accepted the old descriptions of joyous feasts in 
fresh meadows only in a figurative sense. A less coarse 
conception of immortality suffered them to be looked 
upon only as symbols or metaphors. This conception of 
celestial beatitude originated not in the cult of the dead 

59 Patrologia Orientalis, I, p. 1014. 

60 See above, Lecture I, p. 55 s. 


but in the cult of the gods. It was at first as material as 
preceding conceptions, but it became purified as the idea 
of psychic survival was spiritualised. 

We have seen in another lecture 61 that the * ' sight of the 
god" who was adored was the highest degree of initia- 
tion. Theurgy flattered itself that it could evoke divine 
apparitions at will. These visions have been described to 
us by those who claimed to have been favoured with 
them. 62 Their character and their effects have moreover 
been analysed in detail in the treatise of Jamblichus, On 
the Mysteries. The impression most immediately pro- 
duced by these epiphanies was a boundless admiration for 
their splendour. The incomparable beauty with which the 
gods were radiant, the supernatural light in which they 
were wrapped, had such an effect on men that they could 
hardly bear the effulgence and nearly lost consciousness, 
but their souls were flooded with unspeakable joy and 
purified for ever. 

To this ineffable delight of a heart possessed of divine 
love there was added the highest revelation for the intel- 
ligence. 63 Must not the infallible " gnosis" be that which 
was the result of instruction received directly from the 
mouth of a celestial power which had come down to earth? 

The devotees who had obtained the signal favour of 
this resplendent vision, were thenceforth united to the 
deity who had manifested himself to them, and were 
certain to share his immortal life. The fugitive pleasure 
which they had felt on earth would become a bliss without 
end in the kingdom of the dead. There they would see face 
to face the god who protected them and learn from him 
all that had remained hidden from them in this life. 

These ideas, half religious, half magical, are very 
ancient, especially in Egypt, but they were transformed 
by astrolatry. Here the celestial powers had not to be 

6i Lecture IV, p. 121. 

62 For instance, by the physician Thessalus (under Nero); cf. Cat. codd. 
astrol., VIII, 3, p. 137; VIII, 4, p. 257. 

63 Cf. Lecture IV, pp. 121, 125 s. 


summoned by prayer or invoked by incantations in order 
that they might come and converse with the faithful, but 
were perpetually visible and offered themselves, day and 
night, to the veneration of humanity. 

Henceforth the knowledge of divine things was no 
longer to be communicated by the words which the ini- 
tiate believed that he heard in the silence of the sanctuary. 
It was revealed by a mysterious inspiration to him who 
had deserved it by a fervent observation of the heavens. 64 
Thus by an illumination of the intelligence the astral 
powers unveiled their will and the secrets of their move- 
ments to their attentive servants. Here below this knowl- 
edge was always imperfect and fragmentary, but it would 
be completed in another world, when reason once more 
would rise aloft to the starry spaces whence it had 

This eschatological doctrine, which made astronomy 
the source of virtue and of immortality, could only be 
developed by a clergy devoted to the study of that science. 
Its first authors were doubtless the " Chaldeans/ ' who 
transmitted it to Greece with their theories as to the divi- 
sions of the sky and the heavenly bodies. The most 
ancient writing in which this Oriental influence asserts 
itself clearly is the Epinomis, probably a work of the 
astronomer Philip of Opus, a disciple of Plato. Let us 
listen to his own words : 65 

"When man perceives the harmony of the sky and the 
immovable order of its revolutions, he is first filled with 
joy and struck with admiration. Then the passion is born 
in him to learn about them all that it is possible for his 
mortal nature to know, for he is persuaded that he will 
thus lead the best and happiest existence and will go after 
his death to the places suited to virtue. Then being veri- 
tably and really initiate, pure reason taking part in the 
only wisdom, he will spend the rest of his time in con- 

e* See above, Lecture IV, p. 126. 
ss P. 896 C; cf. p. 992 B. 


templation of what is most beautiful among all visible 
things. ' ' 

This passage shows clearly the manner in which 
astrolatry modified ancient ideas as to the sight of a god, 
the reverential wonder felt in his presence by the faith- 
ful, the truth communicated to them and the immortality 
which completed their initiation. The doctrine of an intel- 
lectual reward for the Blessed was to attract scholars who 
in this world gave themselves up to study. Spiritual 
activity, which emancipates from material care and gives 
man nobility and virtue, seemed to them to be the only 
occupation worthy of the elect. If the theory that the 
Blessed would after death find this activity in the midst 
of the divine stars, is probably of "Chaldean" origin, it 
was developed by the Greek philosophers and in particu- 
lar by Posidonius. It was also admitted into the Roman 
mysteries, which, being penetrated by the spirit of 
Oriental theologies, claimed to supply their adepts with a 
complete explanation of the universe. 

We have already alluded to this system in speaking of 
astral mysticism. 66 Nature herself has destined man to 
gaze upon the skies. Other animals are bent to the earth ; 
he proudly lifts his head to the stars. His eye, a tiny mir- 
ror in which immensity is reflected, the soul's door, open 
to the infinite, follows the evolutions of the heavenly 
bodies from here below. By their splendour they make 
men marvel and by their majesty compel them to venera- 
tion. Their complicated movements, ruled by an immova- 
ble rhythm, are inconceivable unless they are endowed 
with infallible reason. 

The observation of the sky is not only an inexhaustible 
source of aesthetic emotion. It also causes the soul, a 
detached parcel of the fires of the ether, to enter into 
communion with the gods which shine in the firmament. 
Possessed with the desire to know them, this soul receives 
their revelations. They instruct it as to their nature; 

go See above, Lecture IV, p. ] 26. 


thanks to them, it understands the phenomena produced 
in the cosmic organism. Thus scientific curiosity is also 
conceived as a yearning for God. The love of truth leads 
to holiness more surely than initiations and priests. 

Of the numerous passages in which these ideas are 
expressed I will recall one which is well known but is not 
always well understood. 67 Virgil in his Georgics tells us 
what he looks to receive from the sweet Muses whom he 
serves, being "struck with a great love for them." Not, 
as one would expect, poetic inspiration but physical 
science. The Muses are to point out to him the paths of 
the stars in the sky, to explain to him the reasons for 
eclipses, tides and earthquakes and the variations in the 
length of the day. "Happy is he," the poet concludes, 
"who can know the causes of things, who treads under- 
foot all fear and inexorable fate and vain rumours as to 
greedy Acheron." 68 There is, in spite of a reminiscence 
of Lucretius, nothing Epicurean in the idea here ex- 
pressed. The man who has won knowledge of Nature, 
which is divine, escapes the common lot and does not fear 
death because a glorious immortality is reserved for him. 

For these joys which the acquisition of wisdom gives 
here below, partially and intermittently, are in the other 
life bestowed with absolute fulness and prolonged for 
ever. Reason, set free from corporeal organs, attains to 
an infinite perceptive power and can satisfy the insatiable 
desire of knowledge which is innate within reason itself. 
The Blessed souls will thus be able at once to delight in 
the marvellous spectacle of the world and to obtain per- 
fect understanding thereof. They will not weary of fol- 
lowing the rhythmic evolutions of the chorus of stars of 
which they form part, of noting the causes and the rules 

67 The true interpretation has been given by Bevan, Stoics and Sceptics, 
1913, p. 112 s. 

es Georg., II, 489 ss. : 

" Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas, 
Atque metus omnis et inexorabile Fatum 
Subiecit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari. " 


which determine their movements. From the height of 
their celestial observatory they will also perceive the 
phenomena of our globe and the actions of men. Nothing 
which happens in nature or in human society will be 
hidden from them. This speculative life (£105 Oecop-qriKo^) 
is the only one on earth or in heaven which is worthy of 
the sage. 

To observe the course of the stars throughout eternity 
may appear to us a desperately monotonous occupation, 
a rather unenviable beatitude. For the stars, shorn of 
their divinity, are for us no more than gaseous or solid 
bodies circulating in space, and we analyse with the spec- 
troscope their chemical composition. But the ancients 
felt otherwise : they describe with singular eloquence the 
" cosmic emotion'' which seized them as they contem- 
plated their southern skies — their soul was ravished, 
borne on the wings of enthusiasm into the midst of the 
dazzling gods which from the earth had been descried 
throbbing in the radiance of the ether. These mystic 
transports were compared by them to Dionysiac intoxica- 
tion; an "abstemious drunkenness" 69 raised man to the 
stars and kindled in him an impassioned ardour for 
divine knowledge. And as the exaltation produced by the 
vapours of wine gave to the mystics of Bacchus a fore- 
taste of the joyous inebriation promised to them in the 
Elysian banquet, so the ecstasy which uplifted him who 
contemplated the celestial gods caused him to feel the 
happiness of another life while he was yet here below. 70 

"I know," says an epigram of Ptolemy himself, 71 "I 
know that I am mortal, born for a day, but when I follow 
the serried crowd of the stars in their circular course my 

69N?70dXto5 n^dy, Philo., probably after Posidonius. 
™ Cf. Lecture IV, p. 126. 
71 Anthol. Palatina, IX, 577 : 

015' 8ti dvarbs iy<b teal 4<pdp.epos, d\\' 8rav Aarpuv 

/xaarevo} wvKivas ap.<pi8p6p.ovs ZXikcls 
oi>K€T iirirpavu} yairjs iroclv, dXXd irap" 1 avrip 

Zavl deoTpecpios Trlpir\apai poal-qs. 


feet touch the earth no longer : I go to Zeus himself and 
sate myself with ambrosia, the food of the gods. ' ' 

In the same way the intoxication produced by music, 
the divine possession which purified man by detaching 
him from material cares, caused him to taste for an in- 
stant the felicity which would fill his whole being when he 
should harken to the sweet harmony produced by the 
rotation of the spheres, the celestial concert which the 
ears of mortals are incapable of hearing, as their eyes 
cannot bear the brilliance of the sun. Men's instruments 
could cause the perception of only a weak echo of these 
delightful chords, but they awoke in the soul a passionate 
desire for heaven, where the unspeakable joy produced by 
the cosmic symphony would be felt. 

The beatitude of the elect, as conceived by astral im- 
mortality, was a magnified projection to heaven of the 
joys which a religion of the erudite held to be most worthy 
of virtuous spirits. When pagan theology transported the 
abode of the most favoured souls outside the boundaries 
of the universe to a world beyond the senses, 72 the happi- 
ness of these souls could no longer consist solely in the 
sight and the hearing of the motion of the spheres. This 
entirely material conception of felicity in the Beyond had 
to be spiritualised. The ecstasy of Plotinus does not stop 
short at the visible gods of the firmament ; in it the soul 
is transported beyond even the world of ideas and 
reaches, in an upward rush of love, the divine unity in 
which it merges, ridding itself of all consciousness and all 
form. This is the supreme goal which none can attain 
after death save him who has conquered perfect purity. 
But the aristocratic intellectualism of this philosophy 
reserved this union with the first Principle for an elite 
of sages. Paganism in its decline believed in a hierarchy 
of souls ascending to the divinity, in a scale of merit 
corresponding to various degrees of rewards: the ma- 
jority lived among the stars and, divine like them, helped 

72 See Introd., p. 4. 


them to govern the earth— we already know their blessed 
lot; others who were more perfect entered the intelli- 
gible cosmos 73 and their happiness, as it was imagined, is 
but a more exalted counterpart of the joys attributed to 
the former class. They were plunged in immovable con- 
templation of pure Ideas ; forgetting earthly things, they 
were wholly absorbed by this intense activity of thought 
which was to them an inexpressible joy. Moreover, being 
set free from the bonds of their flesh and of their indi- 
viduality, they could embrace in a single glance all the 
separate intelligences which together formed the divine 
Nous, and thus had a simultaneous intuition of every- 
thing, the direct comprehension of the ultimate reason of 

Beatific vision of the splendour of God, immediate per- 
ception of all truth, mystic love for an ineffable Beauty — 
these were sublime speculations which were to be unend- 
ingly reproduced and developed after the fall of pagan- 
ism. Unavailing efforts to represent a state inconceivable 
to any human imagination, they expressed the ardent 
yearning of religious souls towards an ideal of perfection 
and felicity. But this high religious spirituality had grad- 
ually broken away from somewhat coarse beliefs which 
had little by little been purified. The rapture which trans- 
ported Plotinus to those summits where reason, bewil- 
dered as in a swoon, forsakes even thought in order to 
lose itself within a principle which is above all definition, 
is directly connected with the ecstasy which in the temples 
of Egypt came upon the devotee who, like the philoso- 
pher, conversed " alone with the lone god," 74 whom the 
priest had evoked, and believed that in this vision he 
found a guarantee of eternal happiness. 

73 See Lecture III, p. 108. 

74 MSvos irpbs fiSvif). The expression had been used by religion before being 
taken over by philosophy. Cf. Le culte egyptien et le mystidsme de Violin, 
in Monuments Piot, XXV, 1922, p. 78 ss. 


Ablutions, 118; cf. " Lustration ' ' 

Absorption in God, 36 s., 42, 122 

Acheron, 5, 8, 15, 27, 78, 80s., 
84 s., 149, 210 

Achilles, 74 

Adonis, 116, 203 

Aeacus, 10, 75 

Aeneid, 48, 82 s., 151 ; Aeneas, 74, 
128; cf. "Virgil" 

Africa, 93, 120, 139, 192 

Age of reason, 137 

Agricola, 18 

Agrippina, 131 

Ahriman, 89; cf. "Spirit of Evil" 

Air full of souls, 26, 59, 160— pu- 
rifies, 119, 143, 186; cf. Winds 
—Aerial bodies, 103, 168; cf. 

Alexander of Abonotichos, 9, 23, 

Alexander of Aphrodisias, 6 
Alexander the Great, 62 
Alexandria, 17, 20, 79, 96— «ults, 

36, 39; cf. "Isis," "Serapis" 
Allegorical interpretations, 12, 21, 

24, 42, 78 ss., 82, 86, 152, 180, 

195, 206 
Amorgos, 105 
Andromeda, 104 
Angels, 140 

Anima, 59, 167; cf. "Soul" 
Ante diem (death), 133 
Antinous, 105, 164 
Antipodes, 80s. 
Antonius Diogenes, 22 
Aphraates, 206 
Apocalypse of Peter, 173 
Apocolocyntosis, 179 

Apollo, 112, 123, 156— Musagetes, 

Apollonius of Tyana, 23, 164 
Apotheosis of heroes, 32, 205 — of 

emperors, 102, 112 s., 156, 164— 

of Claudius, 179 — of great men, 

114 s. — in mysteries, 118 ss. — of 

children, 138 ss. 
Appius Claudius Pulcher, 22 
Apuleius, 108, n. 41 
Aristarchus, 79 
Aristophanes, 95 
Aristotle, 6, 17, 77, 98, 131; cf. 

1 ' Peripatetic ' ' 
Armenia, 52 
Arnold (Matthew), 116 
Asia Minor, 112; cf. "Cybele" 
Astral body, 169 

Astrolatry, 123, 207; cf. "Stars" 
Astrology, 17, 28, 92 s., 96, 100, 

102, 117, 187 
Ataraxia, 8, 191 
Atargatis, 121 
Athribis, 93 
Atmosphere, 25, 81, 162, 168; cf. 

Attis, 35 ss., 39, 116, 203 
Augustus, 156 
Avernus, 74 
Axiochos, 79 

Babylonia, 94, 156; cf. "Chal- 
deans ' ' 

Bacchus, 52, 120, 138 s., 202, 211 
—Bacchantes, 62— cf. "Diony- 

Banquet; funeral, 53 ss., 200 ss — 
ritual, 120 ss., 203 s.— eternal, 



35, 151, 201 ss. — of the gods, 

Biothanati, 26, 129 ss., 141 ss. 
Bird (soul), 59, 157 s. 
Black hand, 135 
Black souls, 166 
Blood poured on tombs, 51 — seat 

of life, 51, 118 — in mysteries, 

113, 201 ss. 
Boats (sun and moon), 92, 113, 

154 s. — carry souls, 155; cf. 

Body carried to heaven, 159, 164; 

cf. 165, 167 — soul attached to 

body, 182 s.; cf. 44 ss.; cf. 

Book of the Dead, 148, 175, 193— 

of Enoch, 108, 198— of Arta 

Viraf, 175 
Boscoreale (goblets), 11 
Bread, 120 
Buddhism, 177 

Burial necessary, 64 ss., 197 — re- 
fused, 65, 143, 145 s.; cf. " In- 

Byzantines, 132, 146 

Caesar (Julius), 8, 51, 104 

Calendar, 102 

California, 148 

Caligula, 67, 131 

Callimachus, 17 

Cameo of Paris, 156 

Cancer and Capricorn, 153 

Carducci, 115 

Carneades, 6 

Castor and Pollux, 104, 113, 205; 

cf. ' ' Dioscuri ' ' 
Castor of Ehodes, 22, 97 
Catacombs, 202, 206 
Catasterism, 104, 113; cf. "Stars" 
Cato of Utica, 26, 144 
Catullus, 17 
Celsus, 88 

Celts, see "Druids," "Gaul" 
Cena novemdialis, 53 

Cenotaph, 65; cf. 48 
Cerberus, 10, 83, 87 
Chaldaic oracles, 38, 103 
Chaldeans, 28, 35, 37 s., 95, 100 ss., 
107 s., 160, 208 s.j cf. "Baby- 
lonia ' ' 

Chariot of the sun, 102, 113, 156 s. 

Charon, 85, 149, 174— Charon's 
boat, 10, 25, 66, 75, 80, 155 

Children sacrificed, 135 — games in 
other life, 138 s. — unbaptised, 
198; cf. "Untimely death," 
' ' Apotheosis ' ' 

Christians, pagan customs of, 52, 
55 s., 119, 145 s., 200— beliefs, 
68 s., 90, 92, 108, 140 s., 143, 
153, 187, 196 ss. — biothanati, 

Chrysippus, 13 

Church, see "Christians" 

Cicero, 19, 26 s., 31 ss., 44, 83, 
104 s., Ill, 113, 135, 152, 161, 

Circe, 74, 180 

Circumpotatio, 55 

Claudius, 152, 179 

Clean thes, 13 

Cocytus, 78 

Colleges (funeral), 67, 143 

Comet, 104; cf. "Star" 

Commodianus, 146 

Como, 192 

Conflagration of the world, 12 ss. 

Consus, 71 

Contemplation of stars, 209; cf. 
1 < Sight of God ' ' 

Copernicus, 28, 109 

Corinthians (Epistle to), 11, 106 

Cornutus, 14 

Corpse (life of), 45, 164; cf. 

Corstopitum, 156 

Crescent (symbol), 93, 97, 99 

Crown of life, 117 

Curse tablets, see "Defixiones" 

Cybele, 35 ss., 39 



Cynics, 65 
Cyprus, 135 

Danaides, 85, 87, 171, 181 

Dante, 43, 109, 174, 187 

Dead; food of, 50 — partake of ban- 
quets, 54 s. — communicate with 
living, 58 s. — feared, 47 — malev- 
olent, 63 s. — tutelary spirits, 
60 s. — keep character of living, 
73 — received by shades or not, 
68, 86, 193 — physical character 
of, 165 ss.; cf. "Ghosts," 
"Soul," "Spirits" 

Death, sleep, 10, 45, 192— not to 
be feared, 7 ss., 19 — second d., 
110 — untimely d., 128 ss. — rep- 
resented as a monster, 117 

Defixiones, 63, 68, 134 

Deification, 34, Ills.; cf. "Apo- 
theosis ' ' 

Demetrius of Tarsus, 186 

Democritus, 5, 7 

Demons, 26, 29, 60, 62, 80, 86 s., 
88 s., 133, 136, 145, 154, 162, 
172, 175 

Destiny, see "Fatalism" 

Devotio, 63 

Di animates, 149 

Dido, 59 

Didyma, 99 

Dio Cassius, 62 

Dionysos (mysteries), 35, 120, 123, 
201s., 211; cf. "Macchus" 

Dioscuri, 156; cf. "Castor" 

Dolphins, 180 

Domitian, 103 

Druids, 23, 94, 178 

Druses, 178 

Dualism, 24, 89, 117, 188 

Eagle carries souls, 102, 113, 157 

Earth (Mother), 36, 86; cf. 

"Cybele," "Moon" 
Eclecticism, 21, 27 

Ecstasy, 42, 121, 126, 196 
Egypt, 48 s., 54, 86, 112, 134, 
157, 173, 177 s— Egyptian reli- 
gion, 45, 76, 79, 94, 113, 122 s., 
148, 153, 167, 175, 202, 207, 213 
— in Eome, 36 ss. 
Elements purify the soul, 25, 81, 

119, 185 ss., 196, 201 
Eleusis, 34, 138; cf. "Mysteries" 
Elijah, 156 

Elysian fields, 34, 73, 76, 79, 84, 

120, 138 s., 151, 165, 171 ss., 
184, 193 s. — in the moon, 25, 
81 s., 97 — about the moon, 98 — 
among the stars, 104, 187 — rep- 
resented, 74; cf. "Hades" 

Emperors, divinity of, 112 s., cf. 
' ' Apotheosis ' ' — not subject to 
fate, 117; cf. "Kings" 

Ennius, 21, 79, 165 

Enoch, 108, 198 

Epictetus, 12, 14 

Epicurus, 7 ss., 20 — Epicureans, 
65, 77, 110, 195, 204, 210 

Epinomis, 208 

Epiphanies of gods, 121, 123 

Epoptism, 121; cf. "Sight of 

Erinyes, 26, 75, 78, 173 ss., 181 s.; 
cf. ' ' Furies ' ' 

Eros, 138 

Esdras, 198 

Eternal house (tomb), 3, 48 — eter- 
nal rest, 196, 199 — eternal pains, 
76, 88, 172 — eternal banquet, 
see ' ' Banquet ' ' 

Etruscans, 5, 53 s., 63, 71, 74 s., 
117, 149 s., 155, 174, 178. 

Eusebius of Alexandria, 92 

Evil eye, 154 

Evil, Spirit of, see "Spirit" 

Executed criminals, 145; cf. " Bio- 

Fatalism, 117, 133 s., 136, 179, 



Fates, 84, 134, 138 

Fatum, 133 

Faustina, 156 

Fire, stoic, 12 ss. — heavenly, 28, 
185; cf. " Stars ''—of hell, 175 
s — purifies, 119, 176, 185 ss.; 
cf. l l Pyriphlegeton " 

Fish, sacred, 121 

Food of the dead, 50 s., 56 

Fortunate islands, see "Islands" 

Freer collection, 154 

Funeral cult, 47 ss. — funeral ban- 
quet, see "Banquet," "Sculp- 

Galileo, 109 

Ganymede, 159 

Garden of tombs, 57, 200 

Gates, of Hades, 70, 80— of heaven, 
153, 162 s. 

Gaul, 23; cf. "Druids" 

Gello, 134 

Genii, 60, 142 

Germanicus, 156 

Ghosts, 4, 7, 62 s., 67 s., 83, 91, 
130 s., 134, 165, 197 

Gladiators, 51, 136 

Gnosis (sacred lore), 23, 111, 114, 
121 ss., 125, 207 ss. 

Goat Star, 105 

Gobryes, 79 

God immanent, 30; cf. "World" 
— transcendent, 41, — identifica- 
tion with g., 34, 107 s.; cf. 
"Soul"— sight of God, 121, 
207 — visible gods (stars), 31, 
104, 108; cf. "Epiphanies"— 
sage, god on earth, 14, 111 s. — 
evil god, 133 — god eaten in mys- 
teries, 120 

Greek beliefs, 5, 61, 69, 72 ss., 79, 
87, 95, 102, 105, 113, 115, 117, 
146 s., 155, 157, 174, 177— mys- 
teries, 34 s. ; cf. " Dionysos, ' ' 
' ' Eleusis ' ' — funeral cult, 53 s., 

Guide of souls, see "Psycho- 
pomp ' ' 

Hadad, 205 

Hades, Greek, 4 s., 72, 134, 148, 
170 — stoic, 14 — Pythagorean, 26, 
78, 81, 181— Neo-Platonic, 41, 
88 — mysteries, 37 — descent into 
H., 148 ss., 171— on earth, 78, 
181s.— in the air, 168; cf. "At- 
mosphere ' ' — between sun and 
moon, 103; cf. "Gate," "In- 
feri, " " Tartarus, " " Nether 
world ' ' 

Hadrian, 104, 157 

Hanged, 143 — rope amulet, 136 

Harmony of spheres, 25, 101, 115, 

Heavens, three, 106 — eight, 106 s.; 
cf. "Immortality," "Planets" 

Hecate, 92, 134 

Heliodorus of Emesa, 68, 86 

Helios, 123, 130; cf. "Sun" 

Hell dragon, 154; cf. "Hades" 

Hemispheres opposed, 80 s. 

Hercules, 104, 113, 123, 144, 167, 
205 — at cross-roads, 150, 194 

Hermes, 180 — soul-guide, 25, 85, 
105, 138, 163— (Thot), 122 

Hermes Trismegistus, 38, 114, 121, 
180, 186 

Herodotus, 177 

Heroes, 113 ss., 140, 142, 149, 167, 
204 s. 

Hesiod, 350 

Hie requiescit, 191, 197 

Hierapolis, 159 

Hipparchus, 96 

Honey, 52, 119 s. 

Horace, 12, 130, 142, 205 

Horse carries souls, 155 s. 

Hostanes, 136 

Hypsistos (Most High), 41, 104, 
108, 130 

Icaromenippus, 106 



Imago, 166 

Immortality, earthly, 19 s. — celes- 
tial, 25 ss., 29, 32, 37, 91 ss., 
138— lunar, 96 ss.; cf. "Moon" 
— solar, 100 ss.; cf. "Sun" — 
stellar, 103 ss.; cf. "Stars"— 
conception of i., 110 — privilege 
of divinity, 111 — i. of the few, 
see "Heroes" 

Incineration, 46 

India, 54, 93, 95, 177 

Infants (death of), 128 ss. 

Inferi, 4, 25, 71, 78, 81, 86, 166, 
195; cf. "Hades," "Nether 
world ' ' 

Innupti, 137 

Insepulti, 25, 64 ss., 145 — rejected 
by shades, 68, 86, 193 

Intoxication, 126, 205, 211s.; cf. 

Invicti (stars), 117 

Ion of Chios, 95 

Irish wake, 55 

Isis, 36 s., 121, 123, 154 

Islands of the Blessed, 25, 80 s., 
96, 155 — of impious, 175 

Ixion, 84 s., 171 

Jacob's ladder, 154 

Jamblichus, 40, 103, 169, 184, 207 

Jews, 35, 89, 108, 135, 142, 197 ss., 

206; cf. "Philo" 
John Climacus, 154 
Josephus, 142 
Journey to Hades, 148 ss. — to 

heaven, 152 ss. 
Judaism, see "Jews" 
Judgment of the dead, 76, 88, 151, 

172 s. 
Julian the Apostate, 9, 42, 98, 157, 

161, 164, 205 
Julius Caesar, see "Caesar" 
Jupiter, 106 — summits exsuperan- 

tissimus, 108 — star, 107, 187 

Katoptromanteia, 166, n. 62 

Kings immortal, 112 — anointing 

of k., 119; cf. "Emperors" 
Kiss (last), 59 

Lactantius, 153 

Ladder, 153 ss. 

Larvae, 63 

Lemur es, 4, 60, 72, 131— Lemuria, 

63, 71 
Lesbos, 134 
Lethe, 76, 184, 201 
Libations on tombs, 50 ss., 204 
Libri Acheruntici, 149 
Lion, 187 
Liternum, 47 

Livia, wife of Drusus, 135 
Lucan, 103 
Lucian of Samosata, 8, 23, 39, 49, 

54, 62, 67, 75, 97, 106, 175, 201 
Lucretius, 7, 45 s., 138, 210 
Lunula, 97 
Lustrations, 118 
Lysimachus, 65 

Maccabees, 142 

Macrobius, 132 s. 

Magi, 79, 95 

Magic, 22, 26, 52, 67, 118, 119, 
124, 130 s., 133 ss., 143, 154, 
158, 163, 166— magic papyri, 86, 
134 ss.; cf. "Necromancy" 

Manalis lapis, 71 

Manes, 4, 18, 32, 47, 54, 60 ss., 72, 
86, 93, passim 

Manicheans, 93, 103, 154, 178 

Manilius, 31, 112, 133 

Marcellus, 156 

Marcus Aurelius, 14, 39 

Mars, 123— star, 107, 131, 141, 

Marseilles, 163 

Martyrs, 143, 145 

Maximus of Tyre, 61 

Mazdeans, 89, 95, 175, 188; cf. 
1 ' Persia ' ' 

Meals, see ' ' Banquets ' ' 



Melihraton, 52 

Memoriae aeternae, 19 

Memory, Lake of, 148 

Menander, 141 

Mercury (star), 107, 187; of. 
1 1 Hermes ' ' 

Metempsychosis, 26, 41 s., 74, 78, 
82 s., 172, 177 ss. — in beasts, 
179 s., 183 — in plants, 179 — 
punishment, 180 

Miletus, 105 

Milk, 52 

Milky Way, 94, 104, 152 s. 

Minos, 75, 85 

Mirrors in magic, 166 

Mithras, 37 s., 89, 103, 106, 154, 
156, 164, 178; cf. 163 

Mojave Indians, 148 

Money (in mouth of dead), 84 

Monsters, see " Death,' ' " Souls' » 

Monteleone (chariot), 155, n. 23 

Moon, 28, 29, 86 — new moon, 91 — 
m. and resurrection, 91 s. — 
abode of souls, 25 s., 93 s., 96 s., 
186, 195 — dissolves souls, 168 — 
limit of heaven, 25, 98 s. — 
Olympic earth, 97; cf. 187— 
rules physical life, 102, 107; cf. 
< ' Boat ' ' 

Mother of gods, 35 ss. 

Mourning, 47, 51 

Muses, 101, 115, 210 

Music, 24, 132; cf. "Harmony of 
spheres ' ' 

Mussulman, 142 

Mysteries, Greek, 34 s., 138; cf. 
1 ' Dionysos, " ' ' Eleusis ' ' — orien- 
tal, 33 ss., 96, 116 ss., 138, 160— 
m. and philosophy, 38, 124 ss. — 
transformed, 38 s., 82 — children 
initiated, 138 

Mysticism, astral, 30, 126, 208 ss. 
— Neo -Platonic, 42, 125 

Naiads, 139 

Necromancy, 53, 62, 66, 68, 190 

Nectabis, 136 

NeTcyia, 82 

Nemesis, 130 

Neo-Platonists, 40, 87 s., 106, 110, 
124, 144, 163, 169, 196 

Neo -Pythagoreans, see "Pythago- 
reans ' ' 

Nereids, 139 

Nero, 103, 131 

Nether world, 70 ss. — imitation of 
city, 75, 172 s. — lower hemis- 
phere, 79 — in the air, 81 ; cf. 
1 ' Atmosphere " — scepticism 
about n.w., 18, 83 s. — faith in 
n.w. preserved, 36 s. ; cf. 
"Hades," "Inferi" 

New York (Museum), 155, n. 23 

Nigidius Figulus, 22, 32, 97 

Non nutriti, 137 

Nosai'ris, 178 

Nous, 103, 168, 213 

Numa, 21 

Number (Pythagorean), 132 

Numenius, 107 

Nymphs, 140 

Octavius, 51 

Oenoanda, 9 

Oil, 119 

Olympus, 80, 88, 104 s., 157, 163, 

195— Olympic earth, 97; cf. 187 
Omophagy, 120 
Orcus, 83; cf. "Hades" 
Oriental mysteries, 33 ss. ; cf. 

1 ' Mysteries ' ' — Or. religions, 117, 

203, 209 
Origen, 108 s., 140, 154, 188 
Orphism, 5, 21, 34 s., 73 s., 77, 138, 

148 s., 171 s., 174, 177 ss., 187 s., 

193, 201 
Oscilla, 143 
Osiris, 35, 113, 116, 122 s., 202 s.; 

cf. l ' Serapis ' ' 
Os resectum, 65 — ossa quiescant f 

Ovid, 22, 73, 104 



Pains of hell, 170 ss.; cf. "Fire," 
1 < Eternal ' ' 

Paintings, 93; cf. catacombs, 202, 

Palingenesis, 13, 182 ss. 

Panaetius, 13, 27 s. 

Panamu (king), 205 

Pannonia, 186 

Papyri, 157; cf. " Magic' ' 

Paradise, 200, 205 

Parcae, 84 

Parentalia, 63, 71 

Pascal, 2, 30 

Pausanias, 95 

Pegasus, 156 

Pericles, 1 

Periktione, 78 

Peripatetic school, 6, 77; cf. 
" Aristotle" 

Persia, 54, 89, 95 s., 107, 156, 175, 
177; cf. ' ' Mazdeans, ' ' "Mith- 

Pessimism, 24, 39, 41 

Petelia tablet, 148 

Peter, apocalypse of, 173 

Petosiris, 132 

Petronius, 49, 135 

Phantoms, see "Ghosts" 

Pharaohs, 113, 123; cf. "Egypt" 

Philadelphia, 151 

Philip of Opus, 208 

Philo the Jew, 31, 140, 154 

Philosophy, 5 ss. — and mysteries, 
38, 121 — philosophers immortal, 
114, 124 — priests of the world, 
125 — wonderworkers, 114; cf. 
1 ' Epicureans, " "Neo- Plato - 
nists," "Pythagoreans," "Sto- 

Phoebus, 157; cf. "Sun" 

Phosphorus, 159 

Phrygian cult, 35 s. ; cf. " Saba- 

Pindar, 73 

Pirithous, 171 

Planets, 28, 168, 179, 209— planet- 

ary spheres, 103, 106 ss., 154, 

Plato, 6, 7, 18, 23, 26, 28, 32, 39, 

42, 66, 77, 87 ss., 95, 99, 107, 

129, 136, 158, 169, 178, 182 ss., 

188— Plato's cavern, 23, 99— 

Phaedo, 49, 79, 144, 152, 163; 

cf. ' < Axiochos, " " Neo-Plato- 

nists ' ' 
Plautus, 5 
Pliny the Elder, 8, 83, 92, 96— the 

Younger, 67 
Plotinus, 23, 40 ss., 61, 125, 144, 

212 s. 
Plutarch, 39, 83, 87, 129, 173, 186 
Pluto, 75, 84s.; cf. "Hades" 
Pneuma, see ' 'HveOfia" 
Polybius, 5 
Pontiffs, 65; cf. 44 
Porch, see "Stoics" 
Porphyry, 40, 42, 87, 120, 125, 144, 

Posidonius of Apamea, 27 ss., 32, 

39, 43, 82, 98, 124, 136, 161, 184 
Praesens numen, 112 
Praetextatus (catacombs), 202 
Prayer (silent), 24, 122, 126 
Priests immortal, 114 — anointed, 

119; cf. "Philosophers" 
Proclus, 87 s., 169 
Prodicus, 150 
Propertius, 47 
Proserpina, 25, 75, 95, 97 
Psyche, 25, 59 

Psychopomp, 94, 163; cf. "Her- 
mes," "Sun" 
Ptolemies, 123; cf. "Alexandria" 
Ptolemy's system, 28, 43, 109— 

astrology, 132 — epigram, 211 
Punic cults, 93; cf. 59; cf. 

Purgatory, 26, 82, 161 s., 185 ss. 
Purification of the soul, 118; cf. 

"Purgatory," "Lustrations" 
Pyre, 49, 159 



Pyriphlegethon, 15, 76, 78, 81, 175, 

Pythagoras, 20 ss., 97 

Pythagoreans, 20 ss., 27, 32, 35, 
38 ss., 59, 66, 68, 74, 77 s., 81, 
95 s., 99 s., 104, 107, 121, 124, 
129, 132 ss., 136 s., 144, 149 ss., 
160, 167, 171, 177 ss., 181, 188, 

Quies aeterna, 191 
Quietae sedes, 195 

Ea, 94, 113, 154 

Eays of the sun, 160 ; cf. ' ' Sun ' ' 

Reason rises to the sun, 103, 168; 
cf. "Nous" 

Befrigerium, 202 

Eeinearnation, 26, 29; cf. "Me- 
tempsychosis ' ' 

Eepast, see ' ' Banquet ' ' 

Eepose of the dead, 190 ss. — in the 
Elysian Fields, 193 s. — in heaven, 
195 ss. 

Eest, see ' ' Eepose, ' ' ' ' Quies ' ' 

Eesurrection of the flesh, 197 

Eetaliation, 173 

Eetribution, 72, 172 ss., 177 ss.; 
cf. "Judgment" 

Eevelation, 207; cf. "Gnosis" 

Ehadamanthus, 75 

Ehine, 154 

Eight and left, 152 

Eites not needed, 125 ss. 

Eoads (two), 150 ss.; cf. "Milky 

Bosalia, 53; cf. 57 

Eoyal souls, 114; cf. "Kings" 

Sabazios, 35, 202, 204 

Sacrifices for the dead, 50 ss. 

Sage, god on earth, 14, 111 ss. 

Sallust, 8 

Salvation in mysteries, 34 ss. 

Samos, 1 

Sanctus, 111 

San Francisco (museum), 183 

Sarcophagi, 74, 85, 115, 149, 155; 
cf. "Sculpture" 

Saturn, 107, 131, 141, 187 

Satyrs, 138 

Scarbantia, 186 

Scepticism, 17 ss., 28, 31 

Science deifies, 208 ss. ; cf. " Gno- 

Scipio's tomb, 47 — Scipio's dream, 
32, 104 

Sculpture (funeral), 85, 86, 117, 
149, 151, 155 ss., 159, 165, 185 s., 
194, 201, 205; cf. "Paintings," 
' ' Sarcophagi ' ' 

Sea (death at), 129 

Seals, 163 

Securi (dead), 55, 191 — secura 
quies, 194 

Selene, 96s.; cf. "Moon" 

Semites, 48, 79, 93 s., 103, 123; 
cf. l ' Syrians ' ' 

Sendjerli, 204 

Seneca, 8, 14, 22, 31, 83, 152, 179, 

Serapis, 36 s., 39, 122 s., 202; cf. 
1 1 Osiris ' ' 

Servius, 60, passim 

Sextus Empiricus, 161 

Shade, 165 ss. — and soul, 79 — 
shades receive or reject dead, 68, 
86, n. 39, 134, 193, 204; of. 
"E?5wW," "Umbra" 

Shahid, 142 

Sheol, 4 

Ship, see "Boat" 

Sideribus recepti, 113 

Sight of god, 121, 207; c/. "Gno- 

Silicernium, 53 

Simulacrum, 166 s.; cf. "EtScSKov" 

Sisiphus, 78, 84, 170, 181 

Sit tibi terra levis, 46 

Sleep of death, 10, 45, 49, 192 

Smyrna, 140 

Socrates, 131 



Solar attraction, 160; cf. "Rays," 

Soldiers slain in battle, 142 
Somno aeterno, 192 
Soul a breath, 4, 7, 59, 164— burn- 
ing breath, 13 s., 24, 29, 87, 98, 
161 — number, 24 — circular, 98 — 
a bird, 59, 93, 157 s. — not im- 
material, 118, 162 — physical na- 
ture, 164 ss. — principle of move- 
ment, 110 — soul and shade, 79; 
cf. "E««Xov" — pollution, 29, 118, 
162, 185— division, 168— related 
to God, 12, 111 — union with 
God, 42, 122 s. — becomes star, 
92 s. — journey, 148 ss. — triple 
ascension, 106 — passage through 
planets, 107 — garments of s., 
106 ss.; — hierarchy of souls, 
108 s., 213 — how represented, 
165, 167; cf. '/Ghost,' » 
"Shade," "Spirit," "Stars" 
Spirit of Evil, 89, 175; cf. "Ahri- 

Spirits of the dead, 46 s., 56 s. — 

of murdered, 130; cf. "Soul" 
Stars and souls, 92 s., 94, 103 ss. — 
shooting s., 92 — invicti, 117; cf. 
Statius, 103 
Stele, see ' ' Sculpture ' ' 
Stoics, 12 ss., 21, 30 s., 33, 39, 46, 
65, 77, 82, 87, 96, 98 s., 103, 113, 
144, 179, 182, 195 
Styx, 25, 75 s., 78, 80 s., 83 s., 134, 

155, 193 
Sublunary world, see "World" 
Suetonius, 86, 130 
Suicide, 143 ss. 

Sun-god, 24, 86, 130; cf. "Helios," 
' ' Phoebus, " " Ra ' ' — and em- 
perors, 157 — and eagle, 158 — 
psychopomp, 164 — star, 28, 100 
S- — n ew sun, 91 — heart of the 
world, 100 — reason of the world, 

101, 107 — sun and souls, 94, 
156 ss; cf. "Boat," "Chariot" 
Suo die, 133 

Syncretism, see "Eclecticism" 
Syria, 28, 40, 52, 73, 86, 92, 112, 
131, 156 ss., 176, n. 11, 204 ss.— 
Syrian cults, 37, 93, 96, 120 s. 

Taciti (Manes), 165 

Tacitus, 18 

Tages, 149 

Tantalus, 9, 78, 84 s., 170, 181 

Tartarus, 26, 27, 34, 75 s., 77, 79 s., 
84 s., 171 ss., 175 s., 188; cf. 

Taurobolium, 119 

Tertullian, 55 

Theodore the Atheist, 65 

Theophanes, 146 

Theseus, 171 

Tiberius, 86 

Tibullus, 191 

Timaeus of Locri, 78 

Tiresias, 74 

Titans, 178 

Titus, 142 

Tityus, 9, 170, 181 

Tivoli, 183 

Tomb, a dwelling, 3, 46 ss., 56 — 
furniture, 49 s., 72— garden, 57, 
200 — placed on roads, 58 — ante- 
chamber of nether world, 70 — 
tombstone, see ' ' Sculpture, ' ' 
1 ' Sarcophagi ' ' 

Torre San Severo (sarcophagus), 

Trajan, 157 

Transmigration, see "Metempsy- 
chosis ' ' 

Tritons, 186 

Ulysses, 74, 180 

Vmhra, 79, 166 s. 

Unburied, 64; cf. "Inscpulti" 

Unctions, 119, 163 

Untimely death, 128 ss., 136 ss. 



Varro, 31 

Vatinius, 22 

Vegetarianism, 179 

Vehicle of souls, 61, 169 

Venus — star, 94, 107 — goddess, 

104, 123, 187 
Violation of tombs, 67 s. 
Virgil, 31, 59, 66, 73, 82 s., 128 s., 

139, 142, 152, 172, 174, 182, 184, 

186, 210 

Warriors, see ' ' Soldiers ' ' 
Washing, see ' ' Ablutions ' ' 
Water, heavenly, 185 — libation of 
w., 51; cf. 202 — purification by 

w., see ' ' Elements, " " Lustra- 
tion ' > 

Winds, 25, 60, 155, 161, 166, 185 

Wine, 35, 52, 120, 203 ss., 211 

Wizards, see "Magic" 

World— system of, 28, 99 s., 121 
—divine, 12, 29 s., 126— sublu- 
nary world, 99, 107, 117, 168, 
195; cf. "Moon" 

Y symbol, 26, 150 s., 194 
Yezidis, 178 

Zagreus, 138 

Zeno, 195 

Zeus, 112, 123; cf. "Jupiter" 


"Ayafioi, 137 

'Aycdfa, 123 

'Ayvela, 24 

''AyvuxrTos 0e6s, 41 

'AeiS^s, (= Hades), 79 

Atria £\o/a{pu}, 183 

'A»/a7w7eiJs, 101, 160 

'Avouptr-ns, 131 

'Aj'a/rios 6 0e6s, 183 

y Ap€fio$, 59 

'Avdo<t>6pos, 138 

'Avrldeos, 89 

'Av&wftoij 137 

'AiratfaMtTJfw, 116, 118 

'ATrd^ta, 191 

'Airo06wr«, 118; c/. "Apotheosis" 

''A7TO/30t T?7S TCMpTJS, 68 

'Aper^, 151 

''Apxorres, 162 

'AcajTe/a, 151 

1 Arapa^ia, 8 

''Atck/xu, 64; c/. "Iwepulti" 

"At P o<Pol, 132, 137 

"Awpot, 129, 136 s. 

Biato^dj/arot, 129, 141 ss. 
Bids 6eu}pr]Tu<6s, 211 

IVSc-is (roC 0eoO), 23, 121 ss., 125, 
207 ss. 

Ao|<£feti», 123 

ErSwXoj/, 7, 24, 79, 166 s. 
'JZnTrvpcocris, 13 S. 
'Eri^ai^s 0e6s, 112 
'ETTTdKTts 0e6s, 160 
Eu7r\o?, 155 
Etytfx«> 149 

'H7e / uovt/c6»', 30, 103 
"Ryep.d}v debs, 163 S. 

9e£flo«, 149 

Kard/focris er s "At5ou, 171; cf. "Hades' 
KikXos 7e^<rews, 179 

MeTej/<ra>/udTw<ris, 182 

Nous, 168; cf. 103, 213 
Nvp.<p6\r)iTToi, 139 

Sw^ara, 160 

'056s p.aKdpu)v, 152 
"Oxww, 41, 161, 169 

IIaXi77ej/eo-fa, 182 
Uapd8€i<ros, 200 
n»/eO/*a, 111, 168 
Uo\vdv8piov, 145 

S«<£, 166 s. 
2vyy4veia, 96, 111 
'Zvinrocnapx'')*, 202 
Sw/xa, 167 

SWT77P, 112 

TeXdwa, 163 
TpfoSos, 151 

T, 26, 150 8., 194 

"Xi/ao-Tos, 41; c/. "Hypsistos" 

"Tfovffdcu, 123 

*wWfw, 123 

^uxt7, 25, 59, 167; cf. "Psyche" 




— ~'"**^^^^^^**tj$tQ(£g*' 

OCT 2 7'B\l