"The ancient mysteries have remained all too mysterious because of the lack of ready access to them. . . . Now we have in one volume a fine collection of the sources that have survived. . . . This will be for many students the lifting of the veil for which they have been looking."—James Robinson, Institute of Antiquity and Christianity, The Claremont Graduate SchoolZeus and the other gods of shining Olympus were in reality divine only by popular consent. Over the course of time Olympian luster diminished in favor of religious experiences more immediate to the concerns of people living in an increasingly cosmopolitan ancient world. These experiences were provided by the mysteries, religions that flourished particularly during the Hellenistic period and were secretly practiced by groups of adherents who decided, through personal choice, to be initiated into the profound realities of one deity or another. Unlike the official state religions, in which people were expected to make an outward show of allegiance to the local gods, the mysteries emphasized an inwardness and privacy of worship within a closed band of initiates.
"The Ancient Mysteries contains a very balanced selection of sources for the study of the ancient so-called mystery religions, starting with Eleusis and ending with mysteries in Judaism and Christianity. . . . No other modern sourcebook exists in this field. Therefore this book fills a gap not only in the area of late antiquity and early Christianity, but also in the field of history of religions in general."—Kurt Rudolph, Philipps-Universitat Marburg, Germany
"Unlike most books on 'ancient mysteries,' this one is based on careful reading of the original texts in their original languages. It is a competent, intelligent, and sympathetic study of which the original conclusions deserve careful consideration."—Morton Smith, author of Jesus the Magician and The Secret Gospel
In this book, Marvin W. Meyer explores the sacrifices and prayers, the public celebrations and secret ceremonies, the theatrical performances and literary works, the gods and goddesses that were a part of the mystery religions of Greece in the seventh century B.C. to the Judaism and Christianity of the Roman world of the seventh century A.D.
Marvin W. Meyer is Professor of Religious Studies at Chapman University. He has written and edited several books, including The Unknown Sayings of Jesus and Ancient Magic and Ritual Power. He is a research project director at the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, Claremont Graduate School, and codirector of the Albert Schweitzer Institute.