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Additional resources for After Life in Roman Paganism: Lectures Delivered at Yale University on the Silliman Foundation
It would certainly be a mistake to look upon Pythagorism as a pure philosophy, like Epicureanism and Stoicism. Its sectaries formed a church rather than a school, a religious order, not an academy of sciences. *55 A foundation sacrifice, that of a dog and a young pig, was made before this basilica was constructed. Its stucco decora tion is borrowed almost entirely from Greek mythology or the ceremonies of the mysteries. Secret rites and varied purifications had to be accomplished in it; hymns accompanied by sacred music were sung; and from a chair within the apse the doctors gave esoteric teaching to the faithful.
But it did not lack enemies. Public malignity did not spare these mysterious theosophists who met in subterranean crypts. They were blamed for neglecting the national cult, which had ensured the greatness of the city, in order to indulge in con demned practices or even to commit abominable crimes. I t was a more serious matter that their secret gatherings also excited the suspicion of the authorities, and that the partakers were prosecuted as persons who dealt in magic, which was punishable by law.
The terrestrial globe was held to be suspended, motionless, in the centre of the universe, sur rounded by an atmosphere formed of the three other elements and reaching to the moon. That part of the atmosphere which wras near the earth was thickened and darkened by heavy vapours rising from the soil and the waters. Above, there moved a purer and lighter air which, as it neared the sky, was warmed by con tact with the higher fires. Still higher were ranged the con centric spheres of the seven planets, wrapped in ether, a subtle and ardent fluid—first the moon, which still received and gave back the exhalations of the earth,™ then Mercury and Venus, the two companions of the sun in his daily course.