Scandal of the Orgies
The Scandale of the Orgies is a business to Rome in 186 av. J. - C. It is well-known thanks to the detailed account that makes of it the historian Roman Tite-Live in its book XXXIX and by the text even of the Sénatus-consulte De Bacchanalibus engraved on a bronze plate and found in the Bruttium in 1640. Tite-Live devotes a particular place to him because it occupies twelve of the fifteen chapters devoted to year 186, which is exceptional. But in spite of the richness of the sources, our information concerning this business remains dubious and not very reliable because of the partiality of the account of Tite Live which presents only the official version of the facts and does not hide besides its hostility towards the dionysiaque sect.
The scandal of the Orgies finds its origin in a history with the various paces in fact. A young knight, Aebutius, are intended by his mother and his father-in-law for initiation for the mysteries of Bacchus, in payment of a wish formulated for his cure at the time of a disease. It maintains a connection with a famous courtesan, Hispala, and announces to him that it découchera a few nights to respect the period of abstinence preceding its initiation. Hispala reveals its sharp concern then to him: before its stamping, it accompanied its Master with the sanctuary by Bacchus and it attended rapes to with it. By love for Aebutius, it thus chooses to break its initiatory oath in order to protect her lover from the criminal intentions of his tutors who seek to injure it of his paternal heritage. Aebutius reveals that with the Consul Postumius which, considering its testimony worthy of faith, decides to meet the Hispala courtesan to know some more about the bacchic movement. Its revelations are edifying: the mysteries dionysiaques are the pretext with orgies leading at worst the crimes.
In fact, the major reasons of the repression which follows this discovery are primarily of a political nature and it seems that the Sénat carefully assembled a business ready to cause the scandal and to justify the judgment of the initiates. It uses for that of the elements belonging to the worship bacchic and known of the opinion but so demystified and canted of their nature which they become the components of an odious criminal organization. In 186, the Senate is already with the current of this business and it confers deliberately on the investigation " on associations secrètes" an exceptional character by diverting the two consuls of their ordinary functions.
However the cultural elements that one foresees through the testimony of Tite-Live do not have anything revolutionists compared to what one knows of the mysteries hellenistic. Thus the charges of spurious wills or illicit financial profits are attached to the constitution of common cases by bacchic associations. At the time of the worship, the bacchants consume the raw flesh of the victims, the model of the sacrifices in the dyonysism being the omophagie, and of great quantities of wine. They thus seek to arrive in a state of fright, being had by the divinity and being identified with it during some time.
The Orgies cause the reprobation of the Romans because of the too exotic character and " non-conformiste" ceremonies of this sect Eastern, but also because they into practice put an inversion of the social order considered to be dangereous because of the authorities which endeavor to make religion an element of cohesion. Moreover, the pertaining to worship rules of these private associations are opposed to those of the public religion: the main part of the sacerdotal functions are occupied by women, the members undergo an initiation followed by the service of an oath, the worship promises survival after death and individual happiness whereas the public religion aims only the interest of the community.
In fact, the Senate fears especially that the movement of the Orgies does not shelter a dangerous conspiracy established in the middle same of Rome and linking in the fight against the Roman domination on Italy various groups bound by the practice of the same worship. The presence with the head of the sect of an Etruscan soothsayer and a priestess campanienne has indeed what to worry the senatorial aristocracy the shortly after the defections which have occurred in Étrurie and Campanie during the Second Punic War. The Senate thus mobilizes the whole of the magistrates in a terrible repression, the city is put in state of alert and squared by the police force which stops the initiates of which much prefers the suicide with the mysteric rupture of the secrecy. The launched call to the denouncement makes it possible to quickly stop the main leaders of the conspiracy who for the majority are carried out at once. The celebration of the bacchic worship becomes narrowly supervised by the authorities but, in spite of the exceptional severity of which the Senate made proof, he does not seek to remove it.
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