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172 of 177 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2001
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
A powerful book for serious students. You'll discover the evidence firsthand, right from the pens of ancient authors.
The Mysteries (the term comes from the Greek word for "initiation") were a group of Pagan religions, dating from roughly 600 BC, that were distinct from the more familiar Pagan temple worship. The Gods of the Mystery religions had differing names and myths, but the faiths themselves had features in common: their Gods died and came back to life; they were personal religions entered into voluntarily via initiation ceremonies that reenacted the God's death and rebirth and were often described as giving salvation and even eternal life; they had ritual celebrations including food and drink that reenacted a holy meal established by the God; their teachings brought the faithful closer to an understanding of God.
Although you don't hear about them in Sunday School, mystery religions are an established part of modern religious scholarship. This book, complied by a mainstream scholar, is made up of a concise introduction to the Mysteries, followed by extended excerpts from ancient sources. You'll read about: the pagan god "incognito, disguised as a man"; pagan Gods dying and being reborn with the meaning that "the God is saved, and we shall have salvation."; initiation ceremonies described as "a voluntary death"; sacred meals; ceremonial washing; pagan miracles; the pagan god who changed water into wine; the pagan version of the great flood. And much more.
Not always easy reading, but a powerful book for serious students. Highly recommended.
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80 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Marvin W. Meyer's "The Ancient Mysteries: A sourcebook of Sacred Texts" is a splendid resource for original texts pertaining to the ancient Greco-Roman mystery cults. Meyer covers the full range of mystery cults, from the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone, through the mysteries of Dionysos, the Great Mother, Isis, Osiris, and Mithras, finishing with the mysteries within Judaism and Christianity. The texts span a wide spectrum of viewpoints and sources, from relatively objective accounts by period historians, to manuals from within the cults governing discipline and worship, to actual hymns and stories by initiates such as Apuleius's "The Golden Ass." My favorite selection was his excerpts from the Orphic Hymns, reproduced from the incomparable translation by Apostolos Athanassakis, which inspired me to obtain and read the entire book.

Meyer provides a brief introduction to each form of the mysteries that he discusses, along with brief introductions to the excerpts he provides. This book is an excellent introduction to what the mysteries were, and how they were seen and experienced by initiates, dramatists and historians during the period when they flourished.
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85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is one of my most cherished books in my home library. It has given me an understanding of the various Mystery Religions in the ancient Mediterranean World. Author Marvin Meyer has collected stories, verse, history, and magical tracts from an abundance of sources within the ancient world. Though my favorite is the Greek Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone, due to Meyer's work, I now have the context within which I can place their Mysteries. From the Mysteries of Dionysus and Isis and Osiris, to those of Judiasm and Christianity, and more, I have gained a sense of how the ancients might have related one type of Mystery to another. My deepest appreciation to this wonderful author.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2006
Format: Paperback
As Marvin M. Meyer explains in his excellent introduction, the Mysteries (from the Greek myein = to close) were associations of individuals: 'The Mysteries were secret religious groups composed of individuals who decided, through personal choice, to be initiated into the profound realities of one deity or another. They joined an association of people united in their quest for personal salvation.'

Unlike the Catholic Church or State religions, the Mysteries had no power base and no organized structure. They were an easy target for those who considered them as enemies or serious rivals in their power search. The Catholic Church attacked them fanatically in speech, picture and scripture. After becoming the official religion under Constantine the Great, the Roman Church convinced emperor Theodosius the Great to commit one of the most savage crimes against humanity: he ordered in A.D. 391 the abolition of all pagan mysteries and the destruction of their sanctuaries, giving at the same time a religious monopoly to the Pope.

This book contains excerpts of very well known works like 'Bakchai' by Euripides or 'The Golden Ass' by Apulejus, but also texts which are difficult to find.

The editor wrote a small introduction for each of the mysteries considered together with excellent bibliographies.

Not to be missed by all those interested in Ancient history.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This is an extremely well-written book. The translations of ancient texts are excellent and easy to read. Together with the explanations they enable the reader to get a deeper understanding and insight into religious beliefs in the ancient Mediterranean world.
Various religious practices from rituals and sacrifice to holy myths are well documented and explained.
Unfortunately most of these texts have only come down to us fragmented and secret teachings are mostly lost. As the only holy book (besides the Bible) that has survived intact from antiquity I would recommend The Life of Apollonius of Tyana.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2006
Format: Paperback
A very useful source book, I use it often. The division of the book into specific religions/cults makes it easy to use.

The only thing lacking are images/diagrams to supplement the texts.

The chapters on Isis, Osiris and Mithras are excellent.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book contains various translations of ancient works relating to mystery cults. A great deal of focus is placed on Greek and Roman works. This is therefore a nice reference to the topic.

I found the translations to be, for the most part, clear, accessible, and to preserve a great deal of emotional power that these original sources had. This is an extremely important work on the subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2006
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The book is informative and well presented. It was required reading for a Masters Class, and it augmented the other required reading, as well as the classroom information. The author writes commentary on the background of the mystery, and then the sacred text.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
As a devotee of the Greek Gods, I must say that this book explained the Eleusinian Mysteries, as well as the Mysteries of Dionysus pretty well, something I did not expect.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Very well presented. The seeds of many of today's practicing religions can be found in the precepts of these early religions, but like another reviewer surmised, you won't find THESE stories taught in church! However, at that time in history, these tales and beliefs were just as engrained in the populace as are the "religions" practiced today. The things we call myths today weren't considered myths at all in antiquity, and I wonder if the things we are being taught today in churches won't be viewed as myths in the future. Warning! This book is only for the intelligent, open minded person.
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