Height about 5½ inches.
THIS curious bronze, from the Borgia museum, represents a votive phallus under the form of a winged lion, bearing two other phalluses, of which one, serves as a tail. The hind part is terminated by two feet, one of which is lifted to the belly. On the back of the bronze we remark a ring, which was used to suspend it. We have also on this phallus four little bells attached to the same number of small chains.
We have here the symbols of force, rapidity, and triumph, which were characteristic among the ancients of the worship of the phallus. The same attributes belonged to certain other divinities, whose worship consisted chiefly in mysterious and symbolical practices: such were Bacchus, the Sun, Apollo, Osiris, so often and perhaps so justly confounded, Eros, Vesta, the Eleusinian Ceres, &c.! Such was also the god Mythra, for this divinity was no other than that of Eleusis. 1
We are indebted for some curious notions concerning the worship of Mythra to the important researches of M. Felix Lajard and of M. von Hammer. We will take this opportunity to give a few details respecting the god Mythra, for the origin of his worship, and of those we have mentioned above--however different they may appear--unite in the one principle of generation.
According to Herodotus, Mythra is no other than the celestial Venus, or Love, the principle of generation and fecundity. In several eastern dialects Mythra signifies both light and love. The Persians received this worship from the Indians, and transmitted it to the people of Cilicia. Plutarch informs us that some pirates from that coast introduced it into Rome sixty-eight years before Christ.
According to Von Hammer, Mythra was not the Sun itself, but he was the genius of it, the ized. The name of this genius, which the Greeks wrote Mythras, is Mihr, and this word, adds the learned Orientalist, still signifies in modern Persian the ized, the sun, and love.
The worship of Mythra was free from the orgies which sullied at Rome even that of Isis and Eleusis.
"The mysteries of Mythra," says Von Hammer, "like the mysteries of Eleusis and others, afforded paganism a last retreat, in which it took shelter to defend itself against the ever-growing power of the Christian religion. The most enlightened and skilful defenders of paganism opposed to the Christian doctrine the mysteries of Isis and Eleusis, and especially those of Mythra, as a religious system superior to Christianity, of which the latter contained in their opinion only false or partial revelations; the mysteries of Mythra were, in this respect, infinitely superior weapons to those of the other mysteries, since they were connected immediately with the
religion of Zoroaster, which in so many points presents the nearest approach to the dogmas and rites of Christianity."
"The resemblance between the practices and ceremonies of the mysteries of Mythra and those of the Christian religion is admitted by the fathers of the Church, such as Justin and Tertullian; and the manner in which others, such as Gregory of Nazianzen and Jerome, expressed themselves concerning the mysteries of Mythra, sufficiently shows the importance they attached to this rivalry of practices and ceremonies. The establishment of Christianity was therefore doubtless one of the principal causes -of the success and development of the worship of Mythra in the Roman empire, until it succumbed before the triumph of the Christian religion."
We see, then, from the above remarks, that the religion of Zoroaster, of which the Zendavesta, the living fire, is the Bible, gave birth to the mysteries of Mythra and to the ceremonies of Christianity; but in the latter case the rites have been sanctified, and, after the example of Tertullian and Saint Augustine, the admission may fearlessly be made.
Returning now to the plate which forms the subject of this explanation, we would remark that this figure has a direct relation with Mythra, the emblem and the genius of the Sun. An eagle and a lion, the Sun darts forth from the East, bears down all obstacles, hovers under the vault of the heavens, and descends to the horizon again, after receiving the homage of men. With the Egyptians the griffin was the emblem of the Sun and of Osiris.
Thus the fecundating principle is the divinity that presides over all the forms of worship in antiquity, so often modified according to the genius and the passions of the legislators who are so numerous in Eastern annals.
If Love was adored as the principle of generation, Mythra was also worshipped for the same reason: and indeed Porphyry calls him Demiurgus, the maker of peoples, the lord of generation.
50:1 See Les Mythriaques, a treatise by M. von Hammer, with notes by Mr. Spencer Smith. See also an excellent dissertation by M. Denne-Baron, printed in La France Litteraire, vol. 9, p. 5.