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Ancient Mystery Cults

Ancient Mystery Cults

Walter Burkert

ISBN 9780674033870

Publication date: 10/15/1989

The foremost historian of Greek religion provides the first comprehensive, comparative study of a little-known aspect of ancient religious beliefs and practices. Secret mystery cults flourished within the larger culture of the public religion of Greece and Rome for roughly a thousand years. This book is neither a history nor a survey but a comparative phenomenology, concentrating on five major cults. In defining the mysteries and describing their rituals, membership, organization, and dissemination, Walter Burkert displays the remarkable erudition we have come to expect of him; he also shows great sensitivity and sympathy in interpreting the experiences and motivations of the devotees.


  • Walter Burkert’s publication of his 1982 Jackson Lectures at Harvard University is another of his important contributions to our understanding of the religions of Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern cultures. Everything from his pen is welcome and an education… His knowledge of the sources is encyclopedic, his judgment in combining them original, illuminating, and persuasive… This study is bound to become a standard text in the history of religion and in the interpretation of individual experiences in antiquity… This slender but packed volume is another powerful document in intellectual history.

    —Emily Vermeule, American Historical Review


  • Walter Burkert was Professor Emeritus of Classics, University of Zurich.

Book Details

  • 192 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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