Although Rome, above all else, was a warlike republic, and religion
principally a State cult, that allowed but slight opportunity for the
outer expression of spirituality, none the less did it inherit the
beliefs of Egypt, Greece, and Persia; the Bacchic mysteries, previous
to their degradation, were a copy of the Orphic and Eleusinian
mysteries. In the reign of Pompey, Mithraism, a cult borrowed from
Persia, was spread throughout the empire. Consequently, we need not be
surprised at finding the doctrine of Rebirth mentioned by the great
We will quote only from Virgil and Ovid.
In the speech addressed by Anchises to AEneas, his son, the Trojan
prince deals with the life beyond death, the tortures endured by souls
in expiation of their misdeeds, their purification, their passing into
Tartarus, into the Elysian Fields, then their return to
earth after having drunk of the river of forgetfulness. In Book VI. of
the AEneid, we find AEneas visiting the lower regions:
"After having for a thousand years turned the wheel (of existence),
these souls come forth in a mighty troop to the Lethean stream to
which God calls them that they may lose the memory of the past, see
the higher regions, and begin to wish to return into bodies."
Ovid, in his Metamorphoses also deals with the teaching of
Pythagoras, his master, on the subject of palingenesis:
"Then Death, so-called, is but old matter drest
In some new figure, and a varied vest;
Thus all things are but alter'd, nothing dies,
And here and there th' embodied spirit flies,
By time, or force, or sickness dispossest,
And lodges, when it lights, in man or beast.
Th' immortal soul flies out in empty space
To seek her fortune in some other place."
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