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Artemis priestess- prostitute or prom queen?

Discussion in 'Christian History' started by mindlight, Apr 28, 2019.

  1. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Reading the bible recently with a focus on Ephesus in Ephesians and the letters to Timothy the significance of Artemis worship as a challenge to Christianity seemed quite apparent. There are some verses in these Pauline texts that also get him in trouble with modern feminists saying that a,woman should submit to her husband and shut up and listen rather than assume to teach in a church. This got me thinking about the character of Ephesian females and why Paul felt it necessary to put them down like that. At the heart of the old religious influence on female identity would have been the priestesses of Artemis.

    Until recently there was talk of cult prostitution in association with Artemis and her temple, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

    But recent commentators have suggested that the chaste goddess of the hunt always felt herself too good for a man and may have required virginal priestesses also. That these priestesses were probably drawn from rich aristocratic Ephesian families who paid for the privilege of having their daughters serve in this way as a sort of rite of passage. Since the mythology of Ephesus included the notion that the fierce female dominated tribe of the Amazonians may have founded the city this female dominance may have been deeply entrenched in its culture. So rich , entitled females may have been quite bossy in this context but lacking all Christian substance had no intrinsic right to be. So the priestess by this reading was more like a highly esteemed and desired prom queen who could pick and choose her man rather than a cultic prostitute who would be used by men to commune with the goddess on their own terms. Both would be decorated to entice men but one
    In a sensual way and the other in a way that demanded a kind of adoration. Either way it was an unhealthy focus in a church.

    Which kind of female identity was Paul challenging in Ephesus?
     
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  2. Brightmoon

    Brightmoon Apes and humans are all in family Hominidae.

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    That was interesting. It still implies that Paul thought women should be second class citizens .
     
  3. SoldierOfTheKing

    SoldierOfTheKing Christian Spenglerian

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    My understanding was that since Artemis was a virgin goddess, her priestesses would have been required to be celibate. In the opening scene of Midsummernight's Dream, Theseus offers Hermia precisely that option as an alternative to marrying Demetrius:

    "Take time to pause; and, by the nest new moon—
    The sealing-day betwixt my love and me,
    For everlasting bond of fellowship—
    Upon that day either prepare to die
    For disobedience to your father's will,
    Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would;
    Or on Diana's altar to protest
    For aye austerity and single life
    .
     
  4. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Surely Paul is challenging the idea of female dominance or enticement as a distraction to worship and true teaching. This rather than suggesting men are superior per see. He refers to the curse on Eve for instance in this context rather than speaking of the equality of salvation that appears elsewhere in his writings. The greater power of judgment, stronger than that of all witchcraft, elevating women above men , was that of female oppression as a consequence of misleading men to sin also. So women who think and act like pagans must submit.
     
  5. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    The temple of Artemis was big business. Business is better served by young attractive females. Maybe some of the priestesses were permanent but in such a large temple I doubt if all were. I would tend to agree with chastity rather than licence. But I doubt if rich aristocratic Ephesian families would not want to marry their daughters off after their time was done
     
  6. Brightmoon

    Brightmoon Apes and humans are all in family Hominidae.

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    . Yeah we know , we’ve been dealing with the consequences of female oppression for the last 2000 years. IMHO this insistence on ‘womanly submission’ has changed our species DNA slightly . The rates of depression in women is very high
     
  7. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Female oppression is older than 2000 years, it goes back to the fall. But in Ephesus it appears this was not the issue and that men were the ones browbeaten by dominating wives. This contrasted with a very patriarchal Roman society and a clear gender division in the case of Jews also
     
  8. David Kent

    David Kent Well-Known Member

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    Sound like nuns today.
     
  9. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It might be due to lack of testosterone coupled with socialization, probably not genetic selection. People have never taken Christianity quite that seriously, IMO.
     
  10. FireDragon76

    FireDragon76 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Please, that old meme? Can't you baptists find any new material?
     
  11. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    For some perspective:

    There isn't one Artemis, but multiple cults of Artemis that often differed. Often 'Artemis' was not the Greek Artemis, but an Asiatic one - a foreign goddess, equated to Artemis via Interpretatio Graeca, like was done with Roman Diana.

    The Artemis at Ephesus was one such 'foreign' Artemis. She is clearly related to concepts of a Mother Goddess, and has some relation to concepts like Cybele of Phrygia. She had Megabyzoi, or eunich priests akin to the Galli of Cybele, and was attended by young girls. Her equation to Artemis followed in that she was a fertility goddess and a goddess of youth - usually taken up till childbirth, which she looked over. This is why she was depicted perhaps with multiple breasts, though there is some dispute over this. I am not aware of recorded temple prostitution at Ephesus, but other goddesses equated to Artemis certainly practiced it - these were usually Syriac forms, probably equations of Asherah with Artemis in origin.

    Regardless, Greek mythology of Artemis does not necessarily apply to the Artemis of Ephesus. Fertility goddesses are often supported by eunuch priests or virgin priestesses, as a form of sympathetic magic - their 'lost' fertility is thus transferable to the worshipper, but the goddesses themselves may be conceived as virgins or not as well. In other places, fertility goddesses are associated with sympathetic sexual magic, such as Min or Isis in Egypt, or Astarte or Asherah or Ishtar.

    Trying to make some kind of Feminist icon of this is foolish, I think. For instance, Roman matrons had lots of power and prestige in their society - for instance Livia, or Coriolanus turning away at the entreaties of his mother - but they also had the highly prestigious Vestal Virgins, whose dress was a mixture of a marriage stolae and a young girl's habitual dress. Even in Anatolia, we see figures called 'mothers of the city' or such, that represented a similar idea perhaps of revered matrons.

    This says more of the opinions of the people saying this, than shedding any light of any sort on ancient practice and the status of women in such societies. Whether Paul was addressing Temple Prostitution (unrecorded and unlikely, I think) or a selection of young girls as priestesses prior to marriage (supportable from other Ionian practice), I don't think it changes the context much. In our modern context, we miss a lot of his meaning I think, and are often too quick to jump on a gender related High-Horse, as in his time there was not such an oppositional relation as we read into it today. Families were considered as Unities, hence entire families were baptised if one came to faith, and in many cultures even adult children remained under the power or Potentas of a 'Pater Familias' that acted as the father of the whole. This underlies the corporatist ethos here, of woman revering their husband and the husband looking after their bride as Christ the Church. The real point is harmony and mutuality, not opposition and power-politics and gender theory.
     
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  12. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    A lot of useful insight there, thanks. Yes there is a disconnect with other versions of Artemis/Diana worship and indeed from its standard forms. Magic was something that was also woven into worship practices in Ephesus, hence the burning of so many magic books when people turned to Christ, though I do not know if Artemis Priestesses practiced witchcraft. The Mother goddess theme was something I missed. It does not sound like Artemis worship had any kind of cult prostitution associated with it and had eunuch or virgin priests as you suggest.

    The significance of the whole feminist conversation gets exaggerated in discussion of Pauline passages in Ephesus for the reason that they stand out as quite harsh. So I wondered if there was a connection with the local pagan narratives in which context women formed their sense of identity. That Paul might have been addressing a gender imbalance with a view to restoring the more equal, balanced and mutual cooexistence of stable Christian communities and families which he articulated in Ephesians for example. I postulated Artemis worship at the heart of this challenge to identity cause it was the dominant religion in Ephesus before Christianity.

    Your anecdotal examples from literature or letters of female persuasion in Roman society reminded me of the similar power of matriarcial figures in otherwise sexist societies like those spawned by Islam for instance. Women get treated like second class citizens until they have had kids and established their own presence in families at which point they may actually be agents of the oppression of younger females and more dominant over men also. But overall Rome was as macho a society as any with women regarded as property or as slaves or prostitutes a bought commodity.

    You echoed the view I held that being an Artemis priestess might not have been a permanent assignment because of the requirement of youth associated with the goddess. So it is also possible that Artemis worship was woven into the social structure with the daughters of privileged families serving their life apprenticeship there before returning to society to marry and perhaps with the added status of having been in the local equivalent of the elite finishing school. I should imagine the emergence of Christianity angered a lot of the locals not only cause they made money out of the temple and selling idols but also because the temple was so deeply woven into the notions of aristocratic privilege and entitlement that prevailed in the city.
     
  13. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    Rome certainly did not regard women as property. You clearly know little of the rights of Roman women, which was substantially better than other ancient cultures.

    Roman women remained under the control of their Pater Familias, the head of the family, even when married. This is not odd, as sons also remained under the Pater Familias, who they had to consult before important decisions. They were certainly not property, and weren't even substantially under the control of their own husbands - in all liklihood the Pater Familias would be her father or grandfather. But this control wasn't absolute, and a remarkable degree of levity was there. For instance, Cicero failed to stop his daughter Tullia's marriage to Dolabella.

    Further, women owned property in their own right and engaged in business and loaning money as well. Three of Julius Caesar's earliest creditors were women, so that his enemies said he merely seduced old ladies. It was common for women to own and run trades and manufacturing in their own right, especially as legally they fell within their father's patrimony, though their own property would pass to her children. Caesar's wife Calpurnia was a noted businesswoman.

    There were noted patrons of the arts and poets amongst them too, like Clodia. They were also legal entities who could bring suit in their own right and act as witnesses.

    A freeborn Roman citizen who happened to be a women couldn't vote or stand for office, but other than that, not that different from a man legally. Obviously Rome had no problem with slaves, and had many prostitutes, but that is fairly universal human trait. The Greeks were far more closed off, often locking their women away, but that was not Roman practice at all. A daughter was not in such a dissimilar position as a son, beholden to the Pater Familias for their entire life, though their expectations and careers differed. The Pater Familias had extensive powers over his family, but that was not specific to his daughters - they arranged marriages, but this was done to sons as much as daughters, as for instance Tiberius forced to divorce his beloved Vipsania to wed Julia, where Augustus acted fully in his rights as Pater Familias after adopting Tiberius from the Claudii.

    The Vestal Virgins or matrons were especially prised, it is true. Highborn Roman women often accrued substantial power, like Livia, Julia Maesa, Julia Domna, or Agrippina the Elder and Younger. Rome was a militaristic macho state, but it had a soft spot for its mothers and daughters. Almost as if those Italians cannot escape being mamma's boys, perhaps.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2019
  14. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    You are probably right about the way Romans treated their own women, you sound very knowledgeable. But there are innumerable stories of rapes by Roman soldiers of enemies. At the same time I have also heard of a Spanish consul executing an entire cohort for a single rape to make a big point about discipline. The story of Neros mother Agrippina who probably murdered Commodus being an example of a strong albeit completely misguided woman.

    There had been serious revolts in Ephesus against Roman rule the previous century to the Pauline era finally crushed by Pompey. Do you have any thoughts about how the Roman military occupation forces would have treated Greek women in Ephesus and could they have raped without consequence or forcibly secured or even arranged marriages against the will of the women involved?
     
  15. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    Just a few corrections firstly: Nero's mother Agrippina the Younger, has nothing whatsoever to do with Commodus, who lived about a century later. Are you thinking of Claudius, her husband that Suetonius reports she had poisoned? Or Corbulo?

    Further, there is no such thing as a 'Spanish consul'. There were Proconsuls of the three provinces that make up modern Spain, and there were Romans born in the Hispanian provinces that eventually became consuls under the Principate (or Emperor, like Trajan and Hadrian). Killing an entire cohort does not sound like Roman practice. The supreme punishment of a legion was decimation - where every tenth man was selected by lot and bludgeoned to death by his fellows.
    This sounds like a garbled account of Scipio Aemilianus re-establishing discipline in the legions, via decimation, prior to the siege of Numantia, after they had alienated much of the Celtiberian populace in the previous campaign, through foraging and rapine.

    So the Revolt in the Roman province of Asia you mentioned, has to do with the Mithradatic Wars. This was an engineered uprising by Mithradates VI of Pontus, in which he had the inhabitants murder resident Romans and Publicani, in order that they were all complicit and thus less likely to try and side with Rome again, having Roman blood on their hands. It was a cool and calculated massacre of Romans to force the provincials to actively side with Pontus, when Mithradates tried to claim Eumenes' former territories (that he had bequethed to Rome to stop them being so absorbed in the first place, or descend into civil war).
    Rome was very cruel if you crossed her, so the suppression here was perhaps severe. It is not known as an especially heavy handed Roman response, like when she destroyed Carthage or Corinth or Jerusalem. Pompey was quite magnanimous in victory though, and the Eastern Settlement that he spent so much of his time in Rome forcing through (forming the First Triumvirate in fact, to do so), was fair. In fact, many towns in the Roman East adopted the so-called Pompeiian era in gratitude, starting their civil calenders from the Settlement. By the time of Paul, the East was fairly quiescent to Roman Rule, so except for the major Jewish revolts, no further major revolts occured in the East and trouble there was invariably something to do with Parthia or theclient states like Armenia. By Paul's day, Roman Asia was a prosperous and peaceful part of the Empire, in fact given to Senatorial governors and lacking sizeable Roman military presence.

    So while Pompey obviously took slaves and the soldiers spoils from conquered towns, Pompey became well-loved in the East afterwards for his even-handed treatment of them - hence he fled east during the Civil Wars, expecting and receiving warm support.

    It is possible Paul's Roman citizenship derives from Pompey's grant of Municipium status to Tarsus in 63 BC in fact (though using the nomen Paulus instead of Pompeius or such, makes other consulships or Lepidus' brother perhaps more likely as the origin of his citizenship). Certainly though, Paul was not scared of using that distinction. Serious disorder against Rome by Paul's day was a thing of the past in Roman Asia, so even if the wars had resulted in many female slaves taken, this was more than 50 years since Actium and the last major warfare in the vicinity. There was a major slave depot at Delos and slavery was quite common, but I don't see this as especially more egregious at Ephesus then elsewhere.

    Rome was mostly a fairly benign mistress, provided you kept the peace and paid your taxes. Times it behaved badly, like Prasutagus' will and the rape of Boudicca's daughters, or Verres in Sicily, are few. Rome was brutal in anger, but mostly prefered leaving locals to themselves.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2019
  16. mindlight

    mindlight See in the dark Supporter

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    Yes it was Claudius , thanks for the correction

    That makes more sense and sounds more informed than the link I read.

    So the historical enmity had been resolved long before the Pauline era and Ephesus at the time of Paul was NOT revolutionary NOR a recipient of Roman governors seeking to create order by any means necessary.

    I would assume then that a Roman soldier or officer who raped a local woman or mistreated a woman of class would be punished by Roman military law quite severely. That a Greek aristocratic woman or a high priestess of Artemis would respect Roman authority but have no undue reason to fear it. In such circumstances the local gender balance would have been according to local rules and religious attitudes.

    Maybe also there were more women in the early church and they had a disproportionate weight in the Ephesus church because of sheer numbers. But since many were probably uneducated, and quite delusional about the things they thought they knew or just illiterate Paul was worried about church discipline and order when he wrote 1 Tim 2:8-15.

    He seems to be challenging a tendency to express status through adornment and expensive clothes and to talk too much during services. Also a tendency to boss men around.

    Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
    11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2019
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