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Ancient Theologies and Modern Times

S.C. Humphreys
p. 149-161


L’Aglaophamus de Lobeck (1829) a été lu comme les prémices de la recherche moderne sur l’orphisme et la « théologique antique ». En le replaçant dans son contexte historique particulier, on ouvre de nouvelles perspectives.

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1D.P. Walker’s The Ancient Theology (1972) has not made as much impact as Frances Yates’ Art of Memory (1966), but is based on the same strategy of identifying an influential complex of ideas and tracking its effects and transformations. For the history of the classical tradition Walker’s book is particularly important because it deals with major ingredients in recurrent efforts to reconcile pagan classical thought with Christianity, from the Renaissance to the eighteenth century.

  • 1  See Walker (1953), (1972); Mitter (1977), p. 49.

2The basis for this reconciliation was the claim that God had originally given his revelation to all mankind; for the most part it had been distorted by priests, either because abstract truths had to be veiled in symbolic imagery to persuade simple minds, or merely to increase their own wealth and/or power. However, the revelation had been secretly preserved and handed down by wise men, the ‘ancient theologians’. The list of these sages varied: in addition to Orpheus, Hermes Trismegistus, Moses, Pythagoras, and Plato, it might include Zoroaster, the Chaldaean oracles, the Eleusinian Mysteries, Confucius, and Indian brahmans (‘gymnosophists’).1

3Walker’s story ends in the early eighteenth century, with the influence of Neoplatonism on science (Kepler and Newton), deism, comparative religion, missionary activities (the Jesuits in China), and freemasonry. This note offers a continuation.

  • 2 Parker (2011), p. 31-2 traces this idea back to the 17th c.
  • 3  Hermes Trismegistus had already been dealt with by Casaubon in 1614: Grafton (1983).

4In the nineteenth century key elements in the ‘ancient theology’ complex were repositioned. It no longer seemed appropriate explicitly to Christianise Plato; instead, he was to be read purely as a philosopher (the Timaeus, earlier considered his supreme work, became an embarrassment). It was firmly asserted that Greek religion was a matter of ritual practice without dogma or theology.2 Orpheus was not a historical figure, or at least had left no writings.3 On the other hand, the task of accounting for non-classical pagan traditions was being greatly increased and complicated by more intensive contact with China, decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs and of cuneiform, the expansion of British power in India, and a rise in missionary activities around the globe.

  • 4  Cf. Raychaudhuri (1988), p. 146-151.
  • 5  There was a strong input from Protestant anti-Catholic discourse (see now Walsham [2011]), also ta (...)
  • 6  See e.g. the maps of diffusion of myths in Görres (1810).

5Missionaries were still interested in the idea of an original, universal revelation, emphasising either traces of ethical monotheism (Confucius, Islam, Indian bhakti cults4) or encouragement of polytheism and idolatry by priests.5 Others, however, were transforming the idea of original revelation into a historicist concern with chronological priority, and hence into theories of diffusion – from Egypt to India, or from India to the West.6

6The ancient theology and diffusionism were combined in the climate that provoked Lobeck’s Aglaophamus. Today, Christian August Lobeck (1781-1860) figures in histories of comparative philology as a traditionalist who failed to recognise the epochal significance of Bopp’s demonstration of the common origin of the Indo-European languages, including Sanskrit, and in histories of classical philology as having conclusively shown that all texts attributed to Orpheus were late, and as one of the main critics of Creuzer’s Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Völker (1810-1812).

  • 7  See Jamme (1991); Shaffer (1975); Sassi (1984), Graf (1993) on Heyne.

7A closer look at the historical context may suggest more sympathy for Lobeck’s attitude to Sanskrit, and a more nuanced assessment of his place in the history of the study of Greek religion. Sanskrit at first seemed exciting mainly because it offered new evidence on myth, religion, and early poetry.7 Bopp himself was a student of Karl Joseph Windischmann, whose interests were in these fields; Bopp published an edition with Latin translation and commentary of parts of the Mahabharata in 1819. As the appendix to this paper shows, many of those boldly rushing into this field had no idea that there might be criteria for valid comparison in either philology or religion. If Lobeck (like G.F. Herrmann) had a low opinion of Sanskritists, he had some justification.

  • 8  Satire on such topics was not a European prerogative; Indians too ridiculed diffusionist theories (...)
  • 9  See Assmann (1997) on eighteenth-century Neoplatonism; Humphreys (2001) on Creuzer and his critics

8Aglaophamus does not attack Creuzer by name (though it has a warm reference to his critic J.H. Voss). We do not know how Lobeck framed his mischievous suggestion that the Eleusinian mysteries taught initiates the higher refinements of Indian cookery (see appendix); Creuzer did derive Orphic mysteries from India.8 Creuzer, in any case, was not the only target, even if he was conspicuous among German classicists of the period. Creuzer was, indeed, an adherent of the ‘ancient theology’, but he was not alone.9 Each of the three sections of Aglaophamus deals with a mystery cult – Eleusinian, Orphic, Samothracian – and in each case the issue was whether secret mystical wisdom, concerned especially with the afterlife, was revealed to initiates. The connection of such mystical teaching to Greek philosophy and to belief in the immortality of the soul passed through the eponymous figure of Aglaophamus – ‘proclaimer of the sublime’ – who supposedly transmitted Orpheus’ theological teachings to Pythagoras.

  • 10  See appendix; Müller (1830) attributes it to Boeckh. Herrmann (1805) had already cast doubt on th (...)

9Lobeck was not the first to question the antiquity of the texts attributed to Orpheus, or even the first to propose the correct explanation of the ‘mystical’ term konxompax.10 But he made a more systematic attempt than earlier editors to collect, arrange, and date Orphic fragments concerned with ‘theogony’; it was this argument that (for some readers) removed the last grounds for belief in ‘genuine’ Orphic poetry.

  • 11  See e.g. Rohde (1890), p. 222, and (1893), Appendix IX, on the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Orphic (...)
  • 12  In the case of Orpheus, ‘Thracian’ or more exotically ‘shamanic’ – an idea that still has its attr (...)

10Aglaophamus – probably more often cited than read in its entirety (it is not an easy read) – was constructed in later research as marking a rupture, a decisive turn away from earlier, less philologically scientific discussions.11 This construction then justified not only reduction of the history of research (when it figured at all) to the post-Lobeck era, but also a selective treatment that often ignores issues outside this reductive framework. Its questions were framed by historicism and by nineteenth century classical philology’s conception of its disciplinary skills and tasks: how were stages in the development of the Mysteries and versions of the Orphic texts to be dated? Could ancestors of the later texts be reconstructed? They were also framed, less explicitly, by equally modern presuppositions about what was essentially ‘Greek’ or must be non-Greek,12 by unexamined complexes of ideas about ‘religion’, and by often timid curiosity about the possible influence of Greek religious beliefs and rituals on early Christianity.

11These two latter preoccupations are well illustrated by two publications of the 1890s, Erwin Rohde’s Psyche (1890, 1893) and Ernst Maass’s Orpheus (1895). Rohde claims to be analysing Greek ideas about the afterlife objectively, without allowing Christian conceptions to distort his account, but does not explain why he chose the ‘cult of souls’ as the focus of his work on Greek religion. Maass explicitly cites Lobeck (along with Dörpfeld’s excavations in Athens) as the inspiration for his work; but what impressed him in Lobeck was the emphasis on historical change and development in religion. This is a valid reading; Lobeck is nicely ironical about scholars who assume that religion never changes. But the scope of Maass’s historical narrative is very different, beginning with Orpheus as an early Greek god and tracing later stages of Orphic practices, beliefs, and texts, to end with questions about their influence on early Christianity.

  • 13 Dieterich (1891), (1893); Graf (2007).

12Maass does not mention the gold tablets found in graves in southern Italy and Sicily and edited by Domenico Comparetti from 1879 on, but they appear in later editions of Rohde’s Psyche and in Albrecht Dieterich’s study of the Orphic hymns (1891) and in his Nekuia (1893). As Graf’s account of the history of research on the tablets (2007) shows, their publication strengthened the belief that ‘orphism’ promised its initiates a blessed afterlife, and hence it could be seen as an individualistic religion of salvation – and as such, perhaps, comparable with Christianity.13

  • 14  See Graf (2007). Some of the claims made for ‘orphism’ – for example by Macchioro (1920), (1930) – (...)
  • 15 Reitzenstein (1910), Norden (1912).

13The turn of the century was a favourable period for work on Christianity’s historical background. The topic could still be controversial,14 but it was respectable enough to think that St Paul had introduced Greek elements into Christian thought; and there were philologists superbly equipped with discipli­nary skills who had also been brought up on the New Testament. The expertise used by Lobeck in dating Orphic texts was developed in brilliant studies of both language and genre – Formgeschichte – by Richard Reitzenstein and Eduard Norden.15 From the viewpoint of the history of the study of Greek religion, interest in the Hellenistic background was a valuable counterweight in a period otherwise heavily influenced by evolutionist anthropology.

  • 16 West (1983), Laks and Most (1997), Betegh (2004), Bernabé Pajares (2005), Kouremenos a.o. (2006).
  • 17 West (1997); cf. West (1983), p. 29, ‘Dabbling in religion’. In the Neue Pauly’s Rezeptionsgeschich (...)
  • 18 Masaracchio (1993), Laks and Most (1997), Bernabé and Casadesus (2008), Edmonds (2011).

14There were still attempts to insist that ‘Orphism’ was not a religion, that there were no orphic sects, and that ‘Orpheus’ was just a label attached (for reasons that were left unclear) to a variety of texts. The position was somewhat changed, however, by reports and eventual publication of the ‘Derveni papyrus’, found in the remains of a funeral pyre dated before 300 B.C.E. near Thessaloniki. It proved to be a commentary on a theogonic poem with ‘Orphic’ characteristics.16 This shifted attention back to philological attempts to reconstruct classical or preclassical Orphic theogonies, with other interests centering mainly on the identity or social role of the commentator. Research is still haunted by the idea that ‘real’ Orphism must be preclassical and probably non-Greek, either ‘oriental’ or ‘shamanic’; hence classical and postclassical developments in Greece can be characterized as ‘hocus pocus’ 17 – a confession that scholars do not know what questions to ask. This absence of serious critical questions is both fostered and disguised by the production of collective volumes in which various specialists pursue their own interests.18

  • 19  Even the recently founded International Journal of the Classical Tradition has relatively few pape (...)

15The history of the classical tradition is too often seen as a specialized interest that is not essential to the study of the ancient world, and is particularly important for the middle ages and the Renaissance.19 A critical historical perspective on the places of ancient societies in the global imaginaire must however deal with ruptures as well as continuities. The modern attempt to break with the classical tradition produced massive reconfigurations. The relevant points for this paper are that there were major changes in the concept of ‘religion’ (driving most classical scholars into an untheorized phenomenology that simply allows them not to examine their ideas), and that Greek and Roman ‘religion’ were constructed as ‘dogma without theology’ (all theology being reclassified as ‘philosophy’), religious practice (before Christianity) being treated as ‘traditional’ – perhaps with exotic origins – or as ‘failure of nerve’, ‘syncretism’, and/or ‘oriental influence’.

  • 20 Fowden (1986), p. 29, citing Foucault (1980). Cf. Gagné (2007) on the Orphic Physika.
  • 21 Rudhardt (1991); cf. Riedweg (1993); Sourvinou-Inwood (2005), p. 173-79. See also Graf (2009).
  • 22  Eleusis: Sourvinou-Inwood (2003), p. 29; Iobacchoi, IG II2 1368 (cf. Humphreys [2004], p. 266-267) (...)

16There are some signs now that the categories that shape research on the ancient world are being critically reexamined. Garth Fowden pointed out already in 1986, discussing the ‘Hermetica’, that we need to move on from Casaubon’s questions about the historicity of Hermes Trismegistus and the date of the texts to think about the ‘author functions’ of Hermes (how was he imagined as an author? what did it mean to attribute texts to him?),20 and the same is true of Orpheus. Jean Rudhardt has asked new questions about the theology of the Orphic hymns.21 We have evidence that at least in Attica in the second century C.E. ‘mystery plays’ were performed and watched both by initiates at Eleusis and by a city-based Dionysian group, the Iobacchoi.22

  • 23 Sourvinou-Inwood (2003) thinks that the Eleusinian ritual was fixed in the 6th century; it is rathe (...)

17While elements of the Eleusinian ‘sacred drama’ may go back to the archaic or classical period, we are not entitled to assume that there were no changes over the course of the centuries, still less that there were no changes in the ways the audience experienced what they saw.23

  • 24  See Chadwick (1980) on Gnosticism.
  • 25 Luhrmann (1989) provides a model analysis of how this ‘making sense’ process works.

18In a way, perhaps, research interest has now returned full circle to the period and milieu in which the ‘Ancient Theology’ was elaborated, i.e. late antique Neoplatonism. But we now see it as a period of many theologies, with varying cosmological, dramatic, gnostic, and philosophical tendencies. 24 Perhaps even, as we come to know more about the movements of goods, people, and ideas around the Mediterranean and further into Asia during late Antiquity and on into the ‘middle ages’, cross-fertilization between the ‘ancient world’ and India may not seem a laughable suggestion. But it would no longer be seen as a movement from primitive and exotic sources into a more civilized world. Everywhere, thinkers were trying to make sense of the universe and of history with a mixture of local and exogenous materials.25

Appendix 1: Calcutta meets Königsberg

  • 26  Several of Lobeck’s notes are omitted.

19Christian Lobeck, Aglaophamus (1829), p. 773-783.26

20One further topic remains to be explained; the meaning of the names Orpheus gave to the gatekeepers of the winds. If I were to think that the first, Amalcides, came from malacia (softness), or taking another reading (Hamaclides) conjecture that this name and the rest denoted some of the first-born, first speaking beings, I greatly fear that it would seem to most men passé and unworthy of our century. Style, and the taste of the reader, have changed. Other arts, though – no doubt due to lack of cultivation – still cling modestly to their ancient roots; but mythology has always been very like Libya, which according to the Greek proverb each year brings forth some new monstrosity, and our own age has made a degree of progress that the old sages could hardly suspect or even imagine.

21For since the most learned president of the Calcutta Academy, Jones, has announced that the sacred tales of India are marvellously in accord with Greek mythology in Lilius Gyraldus’ collection [1548], this quasi heaven-sent message has so converted and revolutionalized scholarship that everyone at all in the know has given up reading Greek and Latin texts and seeks help in interpreting the ancients only from the pundits and their mouthpieces. Once this track had been opened up, so many and such incredible things have been brought to light in just a few years that if we only wait a little there will be nothing unknown in this whole field of scholarship. So we may hope that it will soon become clear what these Orphic terms mean. They do seem Sanskrit to me. For, in the first place, it is clearly to be understood that Orpheus’ phrase in Hymn VIII, addressed to the moon,

Ἐλθὲ μάϰαιρ’, εὔϕρων, εὐάστερε, ϕέγγεϊ τῷ σῷ
λαμπομένη, σώζουσα τεοὺς ἱκέτας ἐς Λοκούρη.

22is Sanskrit. The leading philologists have been completely deluded in their treatment of this passage – Julius Scaliger, who decided it was corrupt, Ruhnken, who emended it (ἱκέτας σέο, κούρη), and finally Hermann who even dared print this conjecture in his text. What need of further words? Orpheus wrote just what the old editions reproduce:

… ϕέγγεϊ τῷ σῷ
λαμπομένη σώζουσα τεοὺς ἱκέτας ἐς Λοκούρη.

23And if anyone asserts that this line does not conform to the laws of metre – well, those laws were written by philologists and not mythographers. The meaning is excellent: ‘Shining with thine own light, shelter in Locure those who humbly call on thee’, as Wilford translates in his ‘Essay on the Sacred Isles in the West’, Asiatic Researches XI, 43. Locure, in case you didn’t know, is the Sanskrit name for the lunar paradise, originally denoting amber, from which derive many place-names both ancient and modern: Liguria, Laceria, Loire, Leicester.

  • 27  By the same trick Drummond (who recently proved that the twelve patriarchs, and the twelve emperor (...)

24Furthermore, in the Eleusinian mysteries, which we know were founded by Orpheus’ fellow-student Eumolpus, the sacred officials spoke Sanskrit. Everyone who has used Meursius knows that at the end of this ritual, when the congregation was dismissed, the words Κόγξ Ὄμπαξ were proclaimed as they left. What they meant, no one before the present age had an inkling. Some – impiously altering the genuine reading – thought it should be emended to κόγξ, βόμβαξ. But now this same Wilford, the darling of the symbolists, in his note, ‘Remarks on the names of the Cabirian deities’ (Asiatic Researches V, 297) has taught us that these words are perfectly sound and Samscredanic: ‘At the conclusion of the mysteries of Eleusis the congregation was dismissed in these words: Κόγξ, Ὄμ, Πάξ. These mysterious words have been considered hitherto as inexplicable; but they are pure Sanskrit and used to this day by Brahmens at the conclusion of religious rites. They are written in the language of the Gods, as the Hindus call the language of their sacred books, Candscha, Om, Pacsha. Canscha signifies the object of our most ardent wishes. Om is the famous monosyllaba used both at the beginning and conclusion of a prayer or any religious rite, like Amen. Pacsha exactly answers to the obsolete Latin word vix; it signifies change, course, stead, place, turn of work, dury, fortune, etc.’ (p. 300).27 This interpretation has been embraced by Fr. Muenter (‘Erklärung einer griechischen Inschrift’, p. 18), Fr. Creuzer (Symbolica IV, 573), the famous Uvarov (Essai sur les mystères d’Eleusis, 26 f.), Schelling (Ueber die Gottheiten von Samothrake, 91), and others too. But this shows how valuable even a slight knowledge, or no knowledge at all, of Sanskrit literature is for classical scholarship. For what Greek scholar could ever have suspected this? Hesychius’ text is: Κόγξ Ὄμπαξ· ἐπιφώνημα τετελεσμένοις. Καὶ τῆς δικαστικῆς ψήφου ἦχος, ὡς ὁ τῆς κλεψύδρας. παρὰ δ’ Ἀττικοὶς βλόψ. Now consult any of those who call themselves philogists; he will get juice out of a pumice-stone before he will get from this passage that Κόγξ Ὄμ Πάξ was said to initiates. First he will say that κόγξ ὄμπαξ are not parts of a single phrase, but one is an interpretation of the other, as in the similar glosses Εἶα δὴ ἄγε δή, Ἔχε δὴ ἄγε δή, and that κόγξ ὄμπαξ could no more be pronounced in the same breath than Εἴπερ γὰρ ἐὰν γάρ and other phrases linked in the same manner by glossographers. Then he will claim that neither hide nor hair of the Eleusinian mysteries appears here, and that he could not even tell whether the term τῶν τετελεσμένων would refer to the mysteries of Demeter and Proserpine, or Hecate, or the Cabiri, or Mithras, or even the sacraments of Christianity. Bolder still, he will assert that no initiates are to be read into this passage, but that τετελεσμένοις is the neuter dative of τετελεσμένα, which means the same as ἐξειργασμένα: a job done, concluded, finished. So ἐπὶ τετελεσμένοις means the same as ἐπ᾽ ἐξειργασμένοις: when a job is done. Finally he will go right on to explain Hesychius as saying, Κόγξ ὄμπαξ is an artificial term used when something is over, to mean ‘enough of that, finished’; and he will note that Latin pax or pax periit ilico means the same, and that Hesychius gives the same meaning to the Greek term Πάξ, τέλος ἔχει – which is the same as if he had written πάξ ἐπιφώνημα τετελεσμένοις. Thus, perhaps, will someone speak – one of those philologists. But before we let Wilford’s splendid discovery be torn from our hands, let us take a final careful look at the words, to see if there is any way of saving them from the quibblers.

25First, then, Κόγξ, which Hesychius says means the sound of a waterclock or a juror’s voting-pebble, the term being obviously created in imitation of the splash of a drop falling from on high into water or the sharp sound of a pebble being dropped into an urn. All languages have such words, although they seldom agree with each other (examples…), or with the terms we use ourselves. So we can easily be persuaded that Hesychius is right about κόγξ, even if we would use another sound. And indeed βλόψ, which seems to be related to scloppo, sounds highly naturalistic. Πάξ, then (derived from πήσσω, pacio, like tax from tagô and evax from εὐάζω) means the noise of other colliding bodies, and perhaps especially of clapping hands or a hand rapping the table – actions which even our fellow-countrymen, not much given to gesticulation, use to mean ‘approved’!, ‘enough’!, or ‘stop!’. So κόγξ may mean various things but never – as Wilford claims – ‘the object of our most ardent wishes’.

26Having lost the support of κόγξ we must take refuge, as if in an ark, in Ὸμ, which since it resembles no Greek word may easily be Sanskrit. But I very much doubt if it will provide shelter for long. What will we say, I ask, if someone says this monstrous ὂμ is an abbreviation of the adverb ὁμοίως? – which Hesychius often uses when putting together words of the same meaning (examples...). And let no one wonder how ὂμ could come from ὁμοίως. For scribes generally reduce words like this, which appear on every page, to a few initial letters... And this is not the only substitute we could propose for our brahminical whatnot; there is also οἷον, even shorter, which Hesychius uses when explaining words, as in Ἐλέπουν, οἷον ἐλέπιζον. But having admitted this we can hardly object to taking Hesychius’ gloss – κόγξ ὁμοίως or οἷον πάξ – as follows: both are words ‘invented’ as rhetoricians say, to imitate the sounds of smashing, hitting, clapping, and hence transferred to something smashed, broken off, decided and settled. I see no hope left. For the only remaining word, πάξ, we must willy-nilly concede is the ἐπιφθεγματικόν written with the same letters in Latin. Moreover, this type of word is restricted to the narrow range of vulgar and familiar speech, like evax, tax, pax, κνάξ, πύπαξ, πάπαξ, βομβάξ, παπαιάξ, ἰατταταιάξ. What a calamity! For it this is the case, what could be less appropriate to the status of a hierophant than this absurd word pax? It would have been received by hearers with as much laughter as if today some preacher in the pulpit, instead of the ‘Amen’ with which a sermon usually ends, were to say ‘Basta!’. ‘Different affairs are conducted in different ways’, the same ending is not appropriate for all (examples...); a minister of the church, sending away the congregation, says ite, missa est. No one would say pax except in a place and on an occasion where today one could say ‘Basta’.

  • 28  This is splendidly confirmed by Hesychius: Titan – Antichrist, the two names being arithmetically (...)
  • 29  [Lobeck says ephemeridae, a dig at the ephemeral life of ‘journals’.]

27What are we to do? Shall we then conclude that Hesychius was not talking about mystery rites, either Eleusinian or any others? that the words he explains, konx and pax, are not Sanskrit? that Wilford’s explanation is completely invented, futile, and false? Surely not; we will stick faithfully to our Mumpsimus, and not allow the authority of any philologist’s arguments to prevent us from believing that the Eleusinian hierophants in their ritual pronouncements were speaking Sanskrit. And we will defend our cause with the same weapons if anyone suggests that another formula, in the Eleusinian hymn, ὗιε τοκυῖε – which indeed has not yet been explained by Wilford, but which in Muenter’s view derives from very ancient and foreign sources, can be transformed into the imperatives ὕε and κύε. However, when Wilford claims that the hierophant’s phrase of dismissal had never previously been explained, I can no longer agree with him. For ‘many strong men lived before Agamemnon’, and even in philology every age has produced its own Mercurial spirits, who have tried to scuttle faster up the road to fame by impressing their readers with marvels. One of the members of this golden race, about a century ago, was the Frenchman Legrand, who writes (Diss.philos. et crit. 173), ‘various semibarbarous names of gods are found in the Greek mysteries, for example Titan, and Λελιούρη at the end of the hymn to the moon (the Aldine and Étienne editions should be emended to ἐς Λοκούρη). Titan is Satan, as Jean Dorat says in his manuscript notes on Hesiod. The most ancient Orpheus included Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldaic and even magical terms in his poems.28 Similarly Jean Leclerc, a famous theologian and (until he met a real one in Bentley) philologist, asserts that our konx ompax is Punic and means, ‘Be watchful and abstain from all sin’ (Bibl. univers. VI 86). And indeed, if anyone considers the number and the ingenuity of the older etymologists, he can scarcely doubt that one or another will have proposed a Chinese or Cimbrian or for all I know Mexican origin; yet they are all now buried, unwept and unknown, in age-long night, for want of a poet ready to splash their praises around in the dailies.29

Appendix 2: Friedländer (1861), p. 11-12.

28Throughout Aglaophamus Lobeck maintains a tone of calm superiority, even allowing himself to jest. The bombastic exuberance and pomposity of the ‘symbolists’ invited parody; Lobeck linked one of his skits to Königsberg. Older residents will remember an eccentric named Andreas Duncker who adorned his house on the Tragheim with an art collection, and built an observatory on his roof. He also printed at his own expense 200 emendations to Virgil’s Georgics (1806), attributed to a manuscript allegedly owned by a monastery on the Tragheim (monachium Traghemense). The book must by now be extremely rare, if indeed it still exists at all. Lobeck claimed to have found in the same monastic collection an unpublished fragment of Goropius Becanus, the Dutch scholar who in the 16th century demonstrated that the names of the Greek gods were Dutch. This text (said Lobeck) explained that Greek religion was nothing but a culinary system wrapped in symbolism and allegory. Missionaries from India, finding the Greeks living on raw food like wild animals, had to start by changing their crude eating habits into a civilised diet, and thus began their work of conversion with cookery lessons. To implant this education more fixedly in savage minds they proclaimed that well-made meals of the approved type, and their preparers, were to be considered holy and addressed by prayers; they set up kitchens and hearths everywhere – this was the real meaning of temples and altars; the gods were named after cuisines, foods, or herbs; worship took the form of meals and feasting; finally, the Mysteries were founded to support and spread knowledge of the higher gastronomy.

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1  See Walker (1953), (1972); Mitter (1977), p. 49.

2 Parker (2011), p. 31-2 traces this idea back to the 17th c.

3  Hermes Trismegistus had already been dealt with by Casaubon in 1614: Grafton (1983).

4  Cf. Raychaudhuri (1988), p. 146-151.

5  There was a strong input from Protestant anti-Catholic discourse (see now Walsham [2011]), also taken up by anticlerical milieux in France (see Judet de la Combe [1998], p. 287 on Benjamin Constant).

6  See e.g. the maps of diffusion of myths in Görres (1810).

7  See Jamme (1991); Shaffer (1975); Sassi (1984), Graf (1993) on Heyne.

8  Satire on such topics was not a European prerogative; Indians too ridiculed diffusionist theories and the assumption that Indians needed European influences to make them civilised. In one of the satires of Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay (1838-1894) a white parrot who has come to India to find food and ‘civilise’ Indians by urging them to imitate it explains that it began life as a pig near the Black Sea (theories of the origin of Indo-European?) and was transformed through being eaten by fierce two-legged animals called humans who mistook it for an eel (Chatterjee [1986], p. 60; cf. Raychaudhuri [1988], p. 162). On Wilford see Bayly (2000).

9  See Assmann (1997) on eighteenth-century Neoplatonism; Humphreys (2001) on Creuzer and his critics.

10  See appendix; Müller (1830) attributes it to Boeckh. Herrmann (1805) had already cast doubt on the Orphic texts.

11  See e.g. Rohde (1890), p. 222, and (1893), Appendix IX, on the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Orphic theogony.

12  In the case of Orpheus, ‘Thracian’ or more exotically ‘shamanic’ – an idea that still has its attraction. See Humphreys (2001) on Preller.

13 Dieterich (1891), (1893); Graf (2007).

14  See Graf (2007). Some of the claims made for ‘orphism’ – for example by Macchioro (1920), (1930) – were indeed wild.

15 Reitzenstein (1910), Norden (1912).

16 West (1983), Laks and Most (1997), Betegh (2004), Bernabé Pajares (2005), Kouremenos a.o. (2006).

17 West (1997); cf. West (1983), p. 29, ‘Dabbling in religion’. In the Neue Pauly’s Rezeptionsgeschichte section orphism appears under “Okkultismus”, Stuckrad (2001).

18 Masaracchio (1993), Laks and Most (1997), Bernabé and Casadesus (2008), Edmonds (2011).

19  Even the recently founded International Journal of the Classical Tradition has relatively few papers on the history of scholarship.

20 Fowden (1986), p. 29, citing Foucault (1980). Cf. Gagné (2007) on the Orphic Physika.

21 Rudhardt (1991); cf. Riedweg (1993); Sourvinou-Inwood (2005), p. 173-79. See also Graf (2009).

22  Eleusis: Sourvinou-Inwood (2003), p. 29; Iobacchoi, IG II2 1368 (cf. Humphreys [2004], p. 266-267). Maass (1895) thought the Iobacchoi were Orphic, identifying the dramatic character Proteurhythmos as Orpheus (Harrison [1903], p. 475-477, 655-659, suggested Eros Protogonos). It seems likely that the Iobacchoi were influenced by the Orphic creator-figure Protogonos (see West [1983]; Sourvinou-Inwood [2005], p. 174-75), but shifted it to emphasize Dionysus’ links with dance and theatre. See also Calame (1991), p. 200-201, on the history of the terms drân and drômenon.

23 Sourvinou-Inwood (2003) thinks that the Eleusinian ritual was fixed in the 6th century; it is rather tempting to assume that in Aristophanes’ Frogs the context between Aeschylus and Euripides takes the place of the secret ‘sacred drama’. Sourvinou-Inwood (2005) shows more interest in tracing changes.

24  See Chadwick (1980) on Gnosticism.

25 Luhrmann (1989) provides a model analysis of how this ‘making sense’ process works.

26  Several of Lobeck’s notes are omitted.

27  By the same trick Drummond (who recently proved that the twelve patriarchs, and the twelve emperors of Suetonius, were neither patriarchs nor emperors but the signs of the Zodiac) has thrown light on a passage in Euripides’ Bacchae. In line 581 we read the deeply obscure words σέβομεν ὦ, which Hermann and Elmsley leave unremarked, presumably because they did not understand them; but this great master in Classical Journal 18, 1814, 363 shows that they really mean ‘Let us worship O’, O or On or Hou or Houa being the name of a Supreme Being invoked by Arabs and other oriental peoples. Doubtless many thousand such words are to be found in Greek and Latin writers, which idiot critics have classed as copyists’ errors.

28  This is splendidly confirmed by Hesychius: Titan – Antichrist, the two names being arithmetically equivalent and both equal to the number of the Beast of the Apocalypse.

29  [Lobeck says ephemeridae, a dig at the ephemeral life of ‘journals’.]

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S.C. Humphreys, « Ancient Theologies and Modern Times », Kernos [En ligne], 25 | 2012, mis en ligne le 20 novembre 2012, consulté le 22 décembre 2014. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/kernos.2111

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