Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Origen/Origen Against Celsus/Book VI/Chapter XXII

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Chapter XXII.

After this, Celsus, desiring to exhibit his learning in his treatise against us, quotes also certain Persian mysteries, where he says:  “These things are obscurely hinted at in the accounts of the Persians, and especially in the mysteries of Mithras, which are celebrated amongst them.  For in the latter there is a representation of the two heavenly revolutions,—of the movement, viz., of the fixed[1] stars, and of that which take place among the planets, and of the passage of the soul through these.  The representation is of the following nature:  There is a ladder with lofty gates,[2] and on the top of it an eighth gate.  The first gate consists of lead, the second of tin, the third of copper, the fourth of iron, the fifth of a mixture of metals,[3] the sixth of silver, and the seventh of gold.  The first gate they assign to Saturn, indicating by the ‘lead’ the slowness of this star; the second to Venus, comparing her to the splendour and softness of tin; the third to Jupiter, being firm[4] and solid; the fourth to Mercury, for both Mercury and iron are fit to endure all things, and are money-making and laborious;[5] the fifth to Mars, because, being composed of a mixture of metals, it is varied and unequal; the sixth, of silver, to the Moon; the seventh, of gold, to the Sun,—thus imitating the different colours of the two latter.”  He next proceeds to examine the reason of the stars being arranged in this order, which is symbolized by the names of the rest of matter.[6]  Musical reasons, moreover, are added or quoted by the Persian theology; and to these, again, he strives to add a second explanation, connected also with musical considerations.  But it seems to me, that to quote the language of Celsus upon these matters would be absurd, and similar to what he himself has done, when, in his accusations against Christians and Jews, he quoted, most inappropriately, not only the words of Plato; but, dissatisfied even with these,[7] he adduced in addition the mysteries of the Persian Mithras, and the explanation of them.  Now, whatever be the case with regard to these,—whether the Persians and those who conduct the mysteries of Mithras give false or true accounts regarding them,—why did he select these for quotation, rather than some of the other mysteries, with the explanation of them?  For the mysteries of Mithras do not appear to be more famous among the Greeks than those of Eleusis, or than those in Ægina, where individuals are initiated in the rites of Hecate.  But if he must introduce barbarian mysteries with their explanation, why not rather those of the Egyptians, which are highly regarded by many,[8] or those of the Cappadocians regarding the Comanian Diana, or those of the Thracians, or even those of the Romans themselves, who initiate the noblest members of their senate?[9]  But if he deemed it inappropriate to institute a comparison with any of these, because they furnished no aid in the way of accusing Jews or Christians, why did it not also appear to him inappropriate to adduce the instance of the mysteries of Mithras?


  1. τῆς τε ἀπλανοῦς.
  2. κλίμαξ ἱψίπυλος.  Boherellus conjectures ἑπτάπυλος.
  3. κεραστοῦ νομίσματος.
  4. τὴν χαλκοβάτην καὶ στεῤῥάν.
  5. τλήμονα γὰρ ἔργων ἁπάντων, καὶ χρηματιστὴν, καὶ πολύκμητον εἶναι, τόν τε σίδηρον καὶ τὸν ῾Ερμῆν.
  6. τῆς λοιπῆς ὕλης.  For ὕλης, another reading is πύλης.
  7. For ὡς ἐκείνοις ἀρκεῖσθαι, Spencer introduced into his text, οὐδ᾽ ἐκείνοις ἀρκεῖσθαι, which has been adopted in the translation.
  8. ἐν οἷς πολλοὶ σεμνύνονται.
  9. ἀπὸ τῆς συγκλήτου βουλῆς.