Literary classic references

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Λόγος Ἀληθής
Κέλσος, Λόγος Ἀληθής

Celsus wrote his work The True Word as a polemic against the Christians in approximately AD 178, or generally between AD 170 and 180. Celsus divided the work into two sections, the one in which objections are put in the mouth of a Jewish interlocutor and the other in which Celsus speaks as the pagan philosopher that he is.

Celsus ridiculed Christians for what he perceived to be an advocacy of blind faith instead of reason. About 60 years after it was first published, the book written by Celsus inspired a massive refutation by Origen (Ὠριγένης) in Contra Celsum, which is our source of knowledge for Celsus, who was later condemned along with other critics such as Porphyry.

Flavius Claudius Julianus, ΣΥΜΠΟΣΙΟΝ Η ΚΡΟΝΙΑ

[336] «"As for you", Hermes said to me, "I have granted you the knowledge of your father Mithras. Keep his commandments, and thus secure for yourself a cable and sure anchorage throughout your life, and when you must depart from the world you can with good hopes adopt him as your guardian god."» (Trans. W. C. Wright, 1913)

Avesta: Khorda Avesta. Mihr Yasht (Yast 10)
Zaraθuštra, Avesta: Khorda Avesta. Mihr Yasht (Yast 10)

Comentaria in XIII epistolas Beati Pauli. Ad Romanos
Ambrosiaster, Comentaria in XIII epistolas Beati Pauli. Ad Romanos

De abstinentia ab esum animalum
Πορφύριος, De abstinentia ab esum animalum

[4,16] «Among the Persians, indeed, those who are wise in divine concerns, and worship divinity, are called Magi; for this is the signification of Magus, in the Persian tongue. But so great and so venerable are these men thought to be by the Persians, that Darius, the son of Hystaspes, had among other things this engraved on his tomb, that he had been the master of the Magi.

They are likewise divided into three genera, as we are informed by Eubulus, who wrote the history of Mithra, in a treatise consisting of many books. In this work he says, that the first and most learned class of the Magi neither eat nor slay any thing animated, but adhere to the ancient abstinence from animals. The second class use some animals indeed [for food], but do not slay any that are tame. Nor do those of the third class, similarly with other men, lay their hands on all animals.

For the dogma with all of them which ranks as the first is this, that there is a transmigration of souls; and this they also appear to indicate in the mysteries of Mithra. For in these mysteries, obscurely signifying our having something in common with brutes, they are accustomed to call us by the names of different animals. Thus they denominate the males who participate in the same mysteries lions, but the females lionesses, and those who are ministrant to these rites crows. With respect to their fathers also, they adopt the same mode.

For these are denominated by them eagles and hawks. And he who is initiated in the Leontic mysteries, is invested with all-various forms of animals; of which particulars, Pallas, in his treatise concerning Mithra, assigning the cause, says, that it is the common opinion that these things are to be referred to the circle of the zodiac, but that truly and accurately speaking, they obscurely signify some thing pertaining to human souls, which, according to the Persians, are invested with bodies of all-various forms.

For the Latins also, says Eubulus, call some men, in their tongue, boars and scorpions, lizards, and blackbirds. After the same manner likewise the Persians denominate the Gods the demiurgic causes of these: for they call Diana a she-wolf; but the sun, a bull, a lion, a dragon, and a hawk; and Hecate, a horse, a bull, a lioness, and a dog.»

De antro Nympharum
Πορφύριος, De antro Nympharum

[6] «For, as Eubulus says, Zoroaster was the first who consecrated in the neighbouring mountains of Persia, a spontaneously produced cave, florid, and having fountains, in honour of Mithra, the maker and father of all things; a cave, according to Zoroaster, bearing a resemblance of the world, which was fabricated by Mithra. But the things contained in the cavern being arranged according to commensurate intervals, were symbols of the mundane elements and climates.» (trans. Thomas Taylor, 1917)

De corona militis
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, De corona militis

[15] «Keep for God His own property untainted; He will crown it if He choose. Nay, then, He does even choose. He calls us to it. To him who conquers He says, "I will give a crown Of life". Be you, too, faithful unto death, and fight you, too, the good fight, whose crown the apostle feels so justly confident has been laid up for him. The angel also, as he goes forth on a white horse, conquering and to conquer, receives a crown of victory; and another is adorned with an encircling rainbow (as it were in its fair colours)—a celestial meadow. In like manner, the elders sit crowned around, crowned too with a crown of gold, and the Son of Man Himself flashes out above the clouds. If such are the appearances in the vision of the seer, of what sort will be the realities in the actual manifestation? Look at those crowns. Inhale those odours. Why condemn you to a little chaplet, or a twisted headband, the brow which has been destined for a diadem? For Christ Jesus has made us even kings to God and His Father. What have you in common with the flower which is to die? You have a flower in the Branch of Jesse, upon which the grace of the Divine Spirit in all its fulness rested—a flower undefiled, unfading, everlasting, by choosing which the good soldier, too, has got promotion in the heavenly ranks. Blush, ye fellow-soldiers of his, henceforth not to be condemned even by him, but by some soldier of Mithras, who, at his initiation in the gloomy cavern, in the camp, it may well be said, of darkness, when at the sword's point a crown is presented to him, as though in mimicry of martyrdom, and thereupon put upon his head, is admonished to resist and cast it off, and, if you like, transfer it to his shoulder, saying that Mithras is his crown. And thenceforth he is never crowned; and he has that for a mark to show who he is, if anywhere he be subjected to trial in respect of his religion; and he is at once believed to be a soldier of Mithras if he throws the crown away—if he say that in his god he has his crown. Let us take note of the devices of the devil, who is wont to ape some of God's things with no other design than, by the faithfulness of his servants, to put us to shame, and to condemn us.»

De errore profanarum religionum
Julius Firmicus Maternus, De errore profanarum religionum

[5] «The Persians and all the Magi who inhabit the borderlands of Persia reverence the fire, and give to it the primary place among all the elements. These then regard the fire as possessed of a double energy, assigning its character, to each sex, and expounding the essential substance of the fire under the figure of a man and woman. The woman they represent with three faces and girded with huge snakes... while in the worship of the hero who drove off the bulls they transfer his rites to the cult of the fire, as his poet has recorded for us when he wrote: "Mystic priest of the captured bulls, skilful son of a noble sire".    

To him they give the name Mithras, and celebrate his rites in secret caves, that shrouded in the dim obscurityof the darkness they may shun the touch of the pure and glorious light. Truly an ill-omened exaltation of a deity! a hateful recognition of a barbarian rite! to deify one whose criminal acts your confess. When you affirm therefore that in the temples the Magian rites are duly performed after the Persian ceremonial, why do you confine your approval to these Persian rites alone? If you think it not derogatory to the Roman name to adopt Persian cults and Persian laws.»

De Iside
Πλούταρχος, De Iside

[46] «The great majority and the wisest of men hold this opinion: they believe that there are two gods, rivals as it were, the one the Artificer of good and the other of evil. There are also those who call the better one a god and the other a daemon, eas, for example, Zoroaster the sage, who, they record, lived five thousand years before the time of the Trojan War. He called the one Oromazes and the other Areimanius; and he further declared that among all the things perceptible to the senses, Oromazes may best be compared to light, and Areimanius, conversely, to darkness and ignorance, and midway between the two is Mithras: for this reason the Persians give to Mithras the name of "Mediator." Zoroaster has also taught that men should make votive offerings and thank-offerings to Oromazes, and averting and mourning offerings to Areimanius. They pound up in a mortar a certain plant called omomi at the same time invoking Hades and Darkness; then they mix it with the blood of a wolf that has been sacrificed, and carry it out and cast it into a place where the sun never shines. In fact, they believe that some of the plants belong to the good god and others to the evil daemon; so also of the animals they think that dogs, fowls, and hedgehogs, for example, belong to the good god, but that water-rats belong to the evil one; therefore the man who has killed the most of these they hold to be fortunate.»

Hist. anc. de l'Arménie
Eznig de Goghp, Hist. anc. de l'Arménie

Ποσειδώνιος, Historia

Posidonius (135-51 B.C.) continued the World History of Polybius. He was a polymath who wrote on many topics, such as ethics, logic and science, as well as a history of the Greek and Roman world from 146 to about 86 B.C. None of his books survive, but many fragments from them have been preserved in quotations by other authors.

Publius Papinius Statius, Thebaid

The oldest reference to Mithraism.

[I, 696] «Phoebus, Sire! whether the copses of Patara and Lycia's snowy uplands keep thee busy, or thou delightest to bathe thy golden hair in Castalia's pure drew, or whether as Thymbra's lord thou dwellest in Troy, where they say thou didst willingly bear on thankless shoulders blocks of Phrygian stone, or whether Latonian Cynthus pleases thee, casting his shadow on the Aegean wave, and Delos, settled sure in the deep, nor needing now thy search, - thine are the arrows and the bending of bows against the savage enemy afar; to thee did celestial parents grant the cheeks' eternal bloom; thou art skilled to foreknow Fate's cruel handiwork, and the destiny that lies beyond, and high Jove's pleasure, to what peoples pestilence cometh or wars, what change of sceptres comets brings; thou makest the Phrygian subject to thy lyre, and for thy mother's honour dost stretch the earth-born Tityos on the Stygian sands; thee the green Python and the Theban mother horror-struck beheld triumphant with thy quiver, to avenge thee grim Megaera holds fast the starving Phlegyas, who lies ever pressed beneath cavernous rocks, and tortures him with the unholy feast, but mingled loathing defeats his hunger: be thou present to our succour, mindful of our hospitality, and shed on the fields of Juno the blessings of thy love, whether 'tis right to call thee rosy Titan, in the fashion of the Achaemenian race, or Osiris bringer of the harvest, or Mithras, that beneath the rocky Persean cave strains at the reluctant-following horns.» (trans. J. H. Mozley, 1928)

Vita Pompei
Πλούταρχος, Vita Pompei

Plutarch is the first to explain how the mithraic mysteria enters in contact with the Greek culture.

[24, 7] «They themselves [cilician corsairs] offered strange sacrifices upon Mount Olympus, and performed certain secret rites or religious mysteries, among which those of Mithras have been preserved to our own time having received their previous institution from them.» (Trans. John Dryden)