The study of antiquity offers nothing more interesting nor more obscure than the mysteries in use among the ancients. This subject has long exercised the saga- city of various critics, and the ingenuity of many learned men. It is, in fact, evident, that a profound knowledge, not of the ceremonies, but of the source and spirit of the mysteries, considered as the true depository of religious ideas as they existed among the ancients, would cast alight altogether new upon antiquity. From Meursius to Ste Croix and Meiners, numerous men of letters have examined the question under different aspects; some endeavouring to ascertain the origin and design of the mysteries ; others to fix the epoch of their introduction into Greece, and to collect jail the testimonies which the ancients have left respecting the ceremonies practised during their celebration. We must allow that learned researches have already been made ; all that could illustrate the subject, whether in the writings of ancient authors or in the monuments of art, has been brought together and examined with considerable attention; yet the most important of these researches, that of the religious and philosophical relations subsisting between the mysteries and polytheism, does not appear to have been hitherto made with all the care of which it is susceptible. By various writers it has been totally neglected ; many have only treated of it incidentally ; some have regarded the mysteries as ceremonies merely designed to deceive the vulgar; others have exalted them into schools of philosophy.

 

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Essay on the Mysteries of Eleusis - M. Ouvaroff

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