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animals is a crime that can only be expiated by the instant death of the offender. There is a beautiful engraving taken from an antient sculpture in marble, and inserted in the curioys and yaluable collection of Montfaucon,* which is so highly illustrative of the Gomedha sacrifice, that I cannot retrain from presenting the reader with a short description of a part of it, as well as of another or two, in Dr Hyde's very learned work on the Religion of the Antient Persians, which will still more immediately elucidate the present obscure subject, The reader, who may not have read Dr Hyde's book, nor be acquainted with the profound and stupendous mysteries of the antient worship of MITHRA, concerning which I shall have occasion to treat so largely hereafter, will, perhaps, be astonished to hear that the Persians, who were of all nations the most addicted to this species of superstition, chose to perform their adorations to that deity in deep caverns and gloomy recesses. The deeper those cayerns, the more gloomy those recesses, to a sublimer point of elevation mounted the zeal
* See Montfaucon, l'Antiquité expliquée, tome i. p. 373, edit.. Paris, 1719. See also a similar sculpture, engraved in Dr Hyde's first plate, with other curious astronomical'appendages, which will be noticed hereafter,
of their devotion, and more ferrently glowed the never-dying flame of the sacrifis: One reason for adopting a conduct, siis ntly incongruous, seems to be, that all the r ysteries of religion, celebrated in the antient world, were performed, as I have expressed myself in another part of this Dissertation, εν σκοτω και VUXTi, in the bosom of darkness and in the dead silence of the night. Another reason for performing this worship in caves is given by Lactantius, who, after affirming that the Persians were the first people who worshipped the sun in dens and caves, adds, that they did so to denote the eclipses of that luminary. Around these caverns, as will be more extensively explained hereafter, when I come to describe the
mysterious rites, probably celebrated in Sal1 sette and Elephanta, were arranged various sym;
bols of the sun and planetary train, with sculptures of the animals that composed the signs of the zodiac, engraved on the lofty walls, and decorating the embossed roof. In this artificial planisphere conspicuously was portrayed the constellation of TAURUS, or the bull, and the bas-relief, of which the above-mentioned antiquary has given an engraving, represents a person in the full vigour of youth, adosned with a kind of tiara, such as were worn by
the Mithratic priests in the sacrifices, and with a loose tunic floating in the air, pressing to the ground with his knee a struggling bull, extended beneath him, and, while he holds him muzzled with the left hand, with his right he is in the act of plunging a dagger into his throat. “ But why,”.exclaims the Abbé Banier, * whom Warburton (for once just to merit) calls the best interpreter of the mythology of the antients, why is MITHRA, under the figure of an active robust young man, represented in the attitude of slaying a BULL, as he appears on all the monuments of the antients?" In the Abbé's opinion, it is a forcible figurative emblem of the renovated warmth and vigour of the sun, who, having passed without heat and strength the cold wintry signs, when the spring approaches, and he enters into TAURUS, one of the vernal signs, shines forthi in a highly-increased degree of strength and splendour, shadowed out under the emblem of cutting the throat of the BULL, one of the strongest and fiercest of animals. The Abbé contends, f that this symbolical sculpture is not a representation of a sacrifice to the sun, but
• See Banier's Mythology, vol. ii. p. 104.
only intended as an image of his power in triat
PERSEI sub rupibus ANTRI,
The general meaning of Statius, with the
In Persia's hallow'd caves, the LORD OF DAY
Although I profess to give the description only of the principal figure in this sculpture, yet it ought by no means to be omitted, that, on the right side of this monument, stand two youths, with similar, habits and tiaras, -holding each a torch; the one raised aloft and blazing in full splendour; the other, with the lighted end directed downwards to the earth, and faintly glimmering. These expressive figures, as seems to be universally agreed among antiquaries, represent, the former the rising; the latter the setting, sun; though, since it was the object of the sculptor to portray Mithra in his full splendour only, I should conceive they were rather intended for symbols of the morning and the evening star.
There is another forcible reason that inclines me to think this action of cutting the throat of the bull allusive to a real sacrifice, which is, that, in one of the other bas-reliefs, I mean that of the VILLA-BORGHESA, (and all of these antique sculptures, dug up in Italy, are, doubtless, only imitations of those found in Persia and Media by the Romans, who originally introduced into Italy the mysterious rites of Mithra,) upon the thigh of the slaughtered aninial there is this inscription, Soli DEO INVICTO MITHRÆ; which seems indisputably