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Article

Wolfram Kinzig

Methodius, according to (an unreliable) tradition, bishop of Olympus in *Lycia and martyr (3rd cent.), author of the Greek treatises The Banquet, or On Virginity (Symposium; in praise of chastity, modelled on *Plato (1)), Aglaophon, or On the Resurrection (against *Origen (1); fragments), On the Freedom of the Will (against *Gnosticism; fragments), On the Life and the Reasonable Action (in Old Slavonic translation), and of several other writings.

Article

Francis Redding Walton and David Potter

Lit. ‘beggar of the Mother’, a mendicant servitor of *Cybele. Mētragyrtai travelled in bands, begging, dancing, and prophesying. They are attested in 5th-cent. bce Athens (Arist. Rh. 1405a20), and Cicero (Leg. 2. 22, 40; cf. Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 2. 19) implies that these famuli were tolerated at Rome. They were generally *eunuchs, the Galli. Similar agyrtai (‘beggars’) existed in other cults (Pl. Resp. 364b), chiefly oriental, and*Apuleius (Met.8–9) gives a lively picture of those of the Dea Syria (see Atargatis). An inscription from Syria (BCH 1897, 59, no. 68) records the collections made on his travels by one such slave (δοῦλος) of Atargatis (cf. SEG 7. 358, 801).

Article

Minerva  

Herbert Jennings Rose and John Scheid

Minerva (archaic Menerva), an Italian goddess of handicrafts, widely worshipped and regularly identified with *Athena. Altheim (RE ‘Minerva’; cf. Hist. Rom. Rel. 235 and n. 34; Griechische Götter (1930), 142 n. 4) believes her actually to be Athena, borrowed early through Etruria (see Etruscans); but most scholars think her indigenous, and connect her name with the root of meminisse (‘to remember’) etc. At all events there is no trace of her cult in Rome before the introduction of the Capitoline Triad, where she appears with *Jupiter and *Juno in an Etruscan grouping. Apart from this she was worshipped in a (possibly) very ancient shrine on mons Caelius (see Caelius mons), which was called Minerva Capta by *Ovid, from the taking of Falerii in 241 bce (Ov. Fast. 3. 835 ff.). But it seems that this name was derived from a statue captured in Falerii (see Faliscans) and offered to the Caelian Minerva (see Ziolkowski, Temples 112 ff.

Article

Minucius Felix, Marcus fl. 200–40 ce, author of a dialogue in elegant, ironic Latin between a Christian, Octavius, and a *pagan, Caecilius Natalis of *Cirta (perhaps identical with a Caecilius Natalis mentioned in Cirta inscriptions of c.210–17). The pagan case uses M. *Cornelius Fronto's discourse against *Christianity. The Christian rejoinder uses Stoic matter (see stoicism) from *Cicero and L. Annaeus Seneca (2), and has a long-disputed relation to Tertullian'sApologeticum which must be one of dependence. The target of the dialogue is philosophical scepticism that lacks the sinceritas to abandon paganism. See apologists, christian.

Article

H. S. Versnel

Stories of the power of the gods were common throughout antiquity, many of them rooted in personal devotion, as appears, for instance, from votive inscriptions expressing gratitude for a miraculous recovery. A large group is linked with particular cults and cult places allegedly founded following miraculous deeds by the deity involved, who thus showed his/her divine power. Early instances can be found in the Homeric*hymns, for example those to *Dionysus, *Demeter, and *Apollo. From the 4th cent. bce onwards there is a rapid increase in miracle-stories, and the connection with *epiphany receives ever more emphasis. Under the title Epiphaneiai collections of miracles abounded, the term ἐπιφάνεια signifying both the appearance and the miraculous deeds of the god; see epiphany. Among the epigraphic evidence the miracles performed by *Asclepius in Epidaurus (4th cent. bce) are particularly significant. Slightly earlier, literature reveals a new impetus in the Bacchae of *Euripides.

Article

Mithras  

Roger Beck

An ancient Indo-Iranian god adopted in the Roman empire as the principal deity of a mystery cult which flourished in the 2nd and 3rd cents. ce. Iranian Mithra was a god of compact (the literal meaning of his name), cattle-herding, and the dawn light, aspects of which survive (or were re-created) in his western manifestation, since Roman Mithras was a sun-god (‘deus sol invictus Mithras’, ‘invincible sun god Mithras’), a ‘bull-killer’, and ‘cattle-thief’, and the saviour of the sworn brothers of his cult.

The cult is known primarily from its archaeological remains. Over 400 find-spots are recorded, many of them excavated meeting-places. These and the c. 1,000 dedicatory inscriptions give a good idea of cult life and membership. Some 1,150 pieces of sculpture (and a few frescos) carry an extraordinarily rich sacred art, although the iconography remains frustratingly elusive in default of the explicatory sacred texts. Literary references to Mithras and Mithraism are as scarce as the material remains are abundant.

Article

mundus  

J. Linderski

Mundus (etymology uncertain), the world, the ornament (cf. Gk. kosmos), also a round pit at Rome, mundus Cereris (Festus, Gloss. Lat.261; CIL 10. 3926 from Capua, sacerdos Cerialis mundalis), with its upper part vaulted, and the lower (inferior) giving access to the Underworld. It was open (mundus patet) on 24 August, 5 October, and 8 November. On these days (dies religiosi) no public business (unless necessary) or marriages could be transacted (Ateius Capito and Cato Licinianus in Festus, Gloss. Lat.273; Varro in Macrob. Sat. 1. 16. 18). It is unlikely that this mundus was identical with the foundation pit *Romulus excavated in the *Comitium (or the *Palatine) to deposit clods of earth and first-fruits (Plut.Rom.11; Ov. Fast. 4. 821 ff.). See also pits, cult.

Article

Herbert Jennings Rose

Both in Greece and Italy *music, vocal and instrumental, formed an important part of worship at all periods. To begin with *Homer, the embassy sent to Chryse in Iliad 1. 472–4 spend the whole day after their arrival singing a hymn (παιήων) to *Apollo, who is pleased with it. This *Paean remained typical of his worship, and the quintuple rhythm characteristic of it was named after it. In like manner the *dithyramb was appropriated to *Dionysus. Neither of these, however, was exclusively the property of Apollo or Dionysus; e.g. paeans were composed to *Asclepius (see Powell, Coll. Alex. 133 ff.). The singing of some kind of *hymn appears regularly to have accompanied any formal act of worship, and instrumental music (strings and wind) also is commonly mentioned: see sacrifice, Greek.Much the same is true for Italy. Hymns are continually met with, some traditional, as those of the *Salii (see Mars) and arval brothers (W.

Article

Richard Gordon

For much of the 20th cent. the term ‘mystery religions’ has been current, denoting a special form of personal religion linking the fate of a god of Frazer's ‘dying-rising’ type with the individual believer. The two scholars whose authority made soteriology the central issue were Fr. Cumont (1906) and R. Reitzenstein (1910). The concealed agendum was the question of the uniqueness, and by implication, validity, of Christianity; at the same time, it was the model of that religion which provided the agreed terms of discussion. In this perspective, the earliest and most influential Greek mystery cult, of *Demeter and Kore (see Persephone) at *Eleusis, appeared a crude forerunner of more developed mystery religions from the near east, which in the Hellenistic period filled a spiritual vacuum left by the etiolation of Archaic and Classical civic cult. ‘Mystery’ was taken to be the essence of oriental religiosity.

Article

Fritz Graf

Mystery cults of Dionysos are attested to in Greece from the late Archaic epoch and expanded to Rome in Hellenistic times. They appear in two forms, the group (thíasos) of ecstatic women (mainádes) who celebrate their rituals in the wilderness outside the city and in opposition to the restrictive female city life; and the thíasos of both men and women that constitutes itself as a cultic association and celebrates inside the cities but preserves the ideology of a performance outside the city. The main goal in both types of cult groups was the extraordinary experience of loss of self through drinking wine and dancing; the mixed-gender groups often added eschatological hopes. The purely female thiasoi were led by a priestess of Dionysos, whereas the mixed-gender groups were often led by a male professional initiator. The most conspicuous trace of these initiations are the so-called Orphic gold tablets that attest to the expectations for a better afterlife.

Article

J. N. Bremmer

Mythology is the field of scholarship dealing with myth but also a particular body of myths. Myth goes back to the Greek word mythos, which originally meant ‘word, speech, message’ but in the 5th cent. bce started to acquire the meaning ‘entertaining, if not necessarily trustworthy, tale’. The Romans used the word fabula, which was also used in modern discussions until c.1760, when the Göttingen classicist C. G. Heyne (1729–1812) coined the word mythus in order to stress the inner veracity of myth. No universally accepted definition of myth exists, but Walter Burkert's statement that ‘myth is a traditional tale with secondary, partial reference to something of collective importance’ gives a good idea of the main characteristics of myth.Let us start with the problem of tradition. *Homer already mentions the *Argonauts, the Theban Cycle, and the deeds of *Heracles. The presence in Linear B texts (see Mycenaean language) of the formulae ‘Mother of the Gods’ and ‘Drimius, son of *Zeus’ suggests a divine genealogy, and the myths of *Achilles, *Helen, and the cattle-raiding Heracles all seem to go back to *Indo-European times (and Heracles maybe further back than that).

Article

Herbert Jennings Rose and Antony Spawforth

Narcissus (1), in mythology, a beautiful youth, son of *Cephissus (the *Boeotian river) and Liriope, a *nymph. He loved no one till he saw his own reflection in water and fell in love with that; finally he pined away, died, and was turned into the flower of like name. *Ovid offers the fullest version, probably recast for a Roman audience, and gives a philosophical sub-text. He claims that Narcissus was punished for his cruelty to *Echo: he repulsed her and she so wasted away with grief that there was nothing left of her but her voice (Ov.Met. 3. 342 ff.). Other ancient explanations, Paus. 9. 31. 7–8; *Conon (3), 24. The story appealed to Roman taste: it is depicted in nearly 50 paintings from *Pompeii alone; it was also the subject of a rhetorical description (*ekphrasis) by one of the *Philostrati (Philostr.

Article

Neōkoros (‘temple warden’), originally a temple official; from the late 1st cent. ce formalized as a title for a city which held a provincial temple to the Roman emperor. Ambitious cities could claim by the 3rd cent. ce to be ‘thrice neōkoros’, e.g. Ephesus. See temple officials.

Article

Herbert Jennings Rose and John Scheid

Italic god of *water. He extended his protection to watercourses and to expanses of water threatened by evaporation in the heat of summer as well as to human activities linked with water; hence, under the influence of *Poseidon, he could become patron of journeys on water. During *sacrifice (Roman), the cooked exta (‘entrails’) were thrown into water (Livy 29. 27. 5); it is in virtue of this capacity that the absurd identification of *Consus with ‘Neptunus Equester’, i.e. Poseidon Hippios, takes place, Livy 1. 9. 6. The etymology of his name is quite uncertain; in Etruscan it is NeθU (u)s. His festival is of the oldest series (Neptunalia, 23 July); about its ritual, we only know that arbours, umbrae, of boughs were commonly erected (FestusGloss. Lat. 465), but it may be conjectured that the purpose was to obtain sufficient water at this hot and dry time of year. Neptune is attested at Rome before the first lectisternium (399 bce); his association there with *Mercurius seems to refer to the circulation of merchandise (Livy 5.

Article

nimbus  

George M. A. Hanfmann and Roger Ling

A circular cloud of light which surrounds the heads of gods or emperors (Serv. on Aen. 2. 616, 3. 587) and heroes. The belief that light radiates from a sacred or divine person is a common one and the nimbus only a special form which was developed in classical religion and art. Assyrian art, for instance, represents some gods with rays around their shoulders, and Greek art shows deities of light, such as *Helios, with a radiate crown. Greek vases and Etruscan mirrors of the 5th cent. bce afford the earliest examples of nimbus, often combined with the crown of rays. This hybrid form is also found at *Palmyra in the 1st cent. ad. Under the Roman empire the plain, smooth form tends to prevail. In Pompeian wall-paintings (see pompeii) it is still associated primarily with the deities of light, such as *Apollo-Helios and *Diana, but almost all pagan gods of any importance are occasionally represented with a nimbus; in the 2nd and 3rd cents.

Article

Stephen J. Harrison

Nisus (2), Trojan hero in Virgil's Aeneid, son of Hyrtacus, sympathetically presented as the devoted older lover of the young and headstrong Euryalus. He helps Euryalus to victory in the foot-race at Aen. 5. 286–361, and dies avenging him in the night-episode at Aen. 9. 176–502.

Article

Nortia  

J. Linderski

Nortia, an *Etruscan goddess (the Etruscan name-form is uncertain). In her temple at *Volsinii each year a nail was affixed; Livy 7. 3. 7 compares the old Roman custom of the praetor maximus affixing on the Ides of September a nail in Jupiter's temple, and interprets these yearly nails (clavi annales) as markers of years (cf. Festus, Gloss. Lat.161). They could serve that purpose, but the goal of the rite (as with Mesopotamian and Hittite parallels) was rather to fix the fates for the coming year. Nortia was identified with *Fortuna (schol. Juv. 10. 74) and *Nemesis (Martianus Capella, 1. 88). Necessitas (Hor. Carm. 1. 35. 17–20, 3. 24. 5–8) and the Etruscan Athrpa appear with nails of destiny. Akin to this rite was the practice of driving nails to ward off disaster or pestilence.

Article

John Scheid

Novensides, a group of Roman deities of totally unknown function. In Wissowa's system this group was supposed to embrace, in contrast to the di*indigetes, divinities newly installed at Rome (nov-en-sides, ‘newly settled-in’. H. Wagenvoort (Roman Dynamism (1947), 83), in view of the spelling novensiles, attested in the literary sources, derived their name from nuere: hence ‘mobile, active’ deities. More recently these two interpretations have been dropped in favour of a connection with novem, ‘nine’, already made in antiquity (Arn. Adv. nat. 3. 381; Marius Victorinus, Gloss. Lat. 6. 25. 5 ff. Keil). The epigraphic testimony from the land of the *Marsi (esos novesede, R. S. Conway, The Italic Dialects (1897), 261), along with the literary references to their Sabine origin (Varr. Ling. 5. 74; Calpurnius Piso fr. 45 Peter), suggests that these ‘nine gods’ were originally from central Italy and were introduced fairly early to Rome, a colony of which, Pisaurum, mentions them (deiv.

Article

David Potter

Sacred numbers, certain numbers taken to represent or control divine actions. The derivation of such numbers can be extremely complex: at times from natural phenomena, at times from linguistic coincidence. The latter results from the use of letters for counting in a majority of ancient societies, which in turn resulted in the practice of numerology, or the representation of a person or concept by the sum of the letters in a word. Thus in *Aramaic, the name of Nero Caesar, written as nrwn ksr, is 666 (100+60+200+50+200+6+50), and in the Sibylline Oracles emperors are often represented by the sum of the letters in their names.Interest in the number seven seems to derive from the belief that there were seven planets, in five from the number of fingers on a hand (and, possibly, ten for similar reasons), in three, possibly from the tripartite division of the cosmos into air, land, and sea, and twelve from the numbers of signs in the zodiac. Multiples of these numbers may also be regarded as significant (e.g. nine), as could numbers that exceeded a significant number by one (e.g. 13). After the adoption of the Julian calendar (see calendar, roman), the number 365 seems also to have attracted considerable attention.

Article

numen  

John Scheid

Numen, the ‘expressed will of a divinity’, a term generating much modern debate. Basing themselves on the pre-deist theories of the beginning of this century, W. W. Fowler and J. Frazer, followed by H. J. Rose, H. Wagenvoort, and K. Latte, supposed that by numen the Romans meant an impersonal divine force. This conception has been challenged by W. Pötscher and G. Dumézil (see bibliog. below), in particular on grammatical grounds. In fact, until the beginning of our era (and later), numen is always construed with the genitive of the name of a divinity (a term like deus, or with the adjective divinus), and can only mean ‘the expressed will of a divinity’. This assent was indicated notably by the nutus, an inclination of the head. Such at any rate was the interpretation of the ancient grammarians (Festus Gloss. Lat.289; Varro, Ling. 7. 85). The concept of numen, which without doubt was very old, serves to represent the action of both mortals and immortals.