Study Questions
on Burkert's Ancient Mystery Cults, Chapters 1-3

Chapter 1. "Personal Needs in This Life and after Death"

1. Burkert suggests that there is a connection between votive religion and mystery religion? What is votive religion and how might a mystery religion be similar to it?

2. What personal needs in this life and after death did the ancient mystery religions satisfy? How does this compare with modern religion?

Chapter 2 "Organizations and Identities"

3. In the first paragraph, Burkert suggests that "knowlege about ultimate reality" and "constructing worlds of meaning" are two meanings of religion. What do these definitions mean? Can you give examples of each from your own religious experience? Does Burkert think that the ancient mystery religions fit these definitions? Why or why not?

4. What were the three major forms of organization in ancient mysteries? Can you think of modern examples of each?

Chapter 3 "Theologia and Mysteries. Myth, Allegory, and Platonism"

5. What are three kinds of indirect written ancient evidence for the mystery religions?

6. What evidence is there for the existence of religious texts for the mystery religions? How does this compare to modern religions like Christianity, Islam, and Judaism?

7. What are the three types of stories (logoi) which were used for the mystery religions

8. What is the "suffering god sequence" and how may it relate to ancient mystery religions? Are there any modern parallels?

9. What observations can be made about the relationship between allegory and mysteries?

10. What is "Mystic Metaphysics"? How do metaphysical dualism, transmigration of souls (metempsychosis) and astrology relate to the ancient mystery religions and to modern religions?

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

Return to Course Syllabus for ISSI402 Classical Mythology and Religion
Return to Monmouth College Department of Classics Homepage