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TAUROBO´LIUM This rite was introduced at Rome when the worship of Syrian and Persian deities was established or extended there under the Antonines (Capitol. M. Ant. Phil. 13; Gibbon, Rom. Emp. 2.265), and especially that of Mithras, the Persian sun-god, which lasted down to the end of the third century (Lamprid. Comm. 9; Hieronym. Ep. 57, vol. 4.2, p. 591), and of Cybele in its later development [compare MEGALESIA]. A temple of the Magna Mater where these rites of taurobolium were celebrated stood on the Vatican, and a portion of St. Peter's is built over its site (C. I. L. 6.494-564): a Mithraeum or temple of Mithras stood in the Campus on the edge of the seventh region and the Via lata (ib. 749-754); another on the Esquiline (ib. 748); others in different parts of Italy, as Ostia (Burn, Rome and Campagna, 371). Priesthoods were established with elaborate grades and strange titles, κόρακες, κρύφιοι, leones, leaenae, ἡλιοδρόμοι, patres (Hieronym. l.c.; Tertull. de Cor. 15). Whether this worship was coloured by an engrafting of a perverted Christianity, it is not our purpose here to inquire (see Tertull. de Praescr. Haeret. 40; Matern. 27, 8; Pressensé, Hist. des Trois Premiers Siècles, 2.2, pp. 12-20). A special feature of [p. 2.763]these mysteries was the baptism of blood from a slaughtered bull or ram (taurobolium or criobolium), which was supposed to regenerate those who were so sprinkled. In the reign of Julian persons of the highest rank and the great priesthoods of the state participated [SACERDOS p. 576]. We find a description of the ceremonies in Prudent. Peristeph. 10.1011-1050: the persons who were to be so consecrated to regeneration, wearing the mitra with a golden circlet and the cinctus Gabinus, were placed beneath a platform upon which a bull or ram decked with garlands and having gilded horns was slain: the blood flowing through the chinks in the platform streamed over those beneath, each of whom was supposed to return home “taurobolio in aeternum renatus” (C. I. L. 6.510). Numerous ancient reliefs represent these rites (see cut under ACINACES; Zoega, Bassirel. 1.59, 103; Baumeister, Denkm. p. 925). The votive altars have symbols on them: e.g., on one found on the Vatican and dedicated to Cybele by a xv. vir Julius Italicus, A.D. 305, is engraved a pine-tree with a syrinx, pedum, tympana, and the heads of a bull and ram and the words “taurobolium percepi” (C. I. L. 6.497): on an altar to Mithras of the year A.D. 376, two pine-trees, under which respectively are bound a ram and a bull, in the branches hang pedum, fistulae, and sistra. This is dedicated by Ulpius Faventinus: “Augur, pater et hieroceryx Dei solis invicti Mithrae, archibucolus Dei Liberi, hierophanta Hecatae, sacerdos Isidis,” and the inscription concludes with the lines--
Vota Faventinus bis deni suscipit orbis
Ut mactet repetens aurata fronte bicornes,
which probably means that the ceremony is to be renewed in twenty years (ib. 504). Especially un-Roman in its phraseology is one which a praefectus urbis dedicates, A.D. 374, to Mater Magna, Hermes, and Attis Menotyrannus, “diis animae suae mentisque custodibus” (ib. 499). The taurobolium was introduced not only in the rites of Mithras and Cybele, but also in those of Venus Caelestis (C. I. L. 10.1546). For further details, see Marquardt, Staatsverw. 3.87 ff.; Pressensé, l.c.; Lanciani, Ancient Rome, pp. 166, 192.


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