The Ancient Mysteries
edited by Marvin W. Meyer
Study Questions on the Introduction
1. What political and social changes occurred in the Greek world during the Hellenistic period? How do you think these changes might encourage the rise of mystery cults?
2. For what reasons does Meyer suggest the Olympian gods began to "fall from their glory"?
3. What is Meyer's definition of an ancient mystery? (see pg. 4). How does it compare to Burkert's?
4. How does the word "mystery" relate to the idea of closing? In what ways does Meyer interpret the "closed" nature of the ancient mysteries?
5. How is seeing important in an ancient mystery?
6. What is the relationship between ancient mysteries and agrarian festivals/fertility cults?
7. Which ancient mystery religions exhibit concern for the feminine? Which do not?
8. What is the relationship between ancient mysteries and the cycle of nature (birth and death)?
9. To what does Plutarch compare the experience of death in the quote at the top of pg. 9?
10. For what reasons does Meyer suggest people were initiated into the ancient mysteries (pg. 9)?
11. What sorts of events often accompanies mystery rites (pg. 10)?
12. What is known about the mystery rites themselves (pp. 10-11)? What sorts of things were said, shown, and done?
13. What is known about sacred meals in the mystery rites (pg. 12)?
14. What does Aristotle say abut mystery rites (pg. 12)? What does this suggest about the ancient cults?
This material has been published on the web by Prof. Tom Sienkewicz for his students at Monmouth College. If you have any questions, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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