The Latin word paganus means literally “one who inhabits a *pagus”: see Festus, 247Lindsay, and *Servius's comment on *Virgil's phrase pagos et compita circum (G. 2. 382). By imperial times (e.g. Tac.Hist. 3. 24. 3, Plin.Ep. 10. 86b), the term was applied to one who stayed at home or lived a civilian life. Christian reference implied one who was not a miles Christi (hence fides pagana and paganus fidelis in Tert. De corona 11. 4 f. and numerous examples thereafter). Paganismus was first used in the 4th century by Marius Victorinus (Ep. ad Galatios 2. 4. 9) and *Augustine (Div. quaest. 83. 83). Traditional usage nevertheless persisted (Prudent.Cath. 11. 87, Macrob.Sat. 1. 16. 6).Both expressions, in the Christian era, may have been colloquial (see Cod. Theod. 16. 5. 46 of 409ce and AugustineEp.
Corinne Ondine Pache
That a human being might become possessed by a supernatural power was a fairly common ancient belief. The effect might be a sudden change in behavior, the altered state of consciousness associated with Dionysiac ritual, or a prophetic frenzy as in the case of a divinely inspired trance (see Delphic oracle). Plato (Phaedr. 244a ff., esp. 265a-c) distinguishes between prophetic (mantikê, inspired by Apollo), mystical (telestikê, inspired by Dionysus), poetic (inspired by the Muses), and erotic (inspired by Aphrodite and Eros) possession. Sources also differentiate between unprompted possession and possession sought through ritual, as in the case of the Pythia at Delphi who became ἔνθεος (“inspired” or “filled with a god”) and whose body became a medium for the god’s voice.Words such as θεόληπτος, θεοφόρητος, or κάτοχος (expressing the notion “possessed by (a) god”), carried an ambivalent meaning. On the one hand, they referred to terrifying pathological experiences, such as epileptic strokes or various types of insanity. On the other hand, possession involved direct contact with a god and thus could effect a kind of sacralization. Socrates mentions the possibility of becoming “seized by the nymphs” (νυμφόληπτος) while conversing in a sanctuary dedicated to nymphs (Phaedr.