The Castrated Origen

Taurobolium, or Consecration of the Priests of Cybele under Antoninus Pius. Engraving by Bernhard Rode (undated, ca. 1780):


From where do we learn of Origen of Alexandria?

"Eusebius, our chief witness to Origen's life..." (Origen, Early Years)

In which regard: Eusebius of Caesarea as Myth

This character, this particular Eusebius (for there is another, Eusebius of Nicomedia) is, in short, not just unlikely, but impossible.

Which leaves this Origen (for there is another, a Platonic philosopher named Origen the Pagan) without the proverbial leg.

The literary Origen, the work of fiction, is said by the equally fictional Eusebius to have literally castrated himself. Though some scholars think this unlikely, the thought came from somewhere.

Maybe the idea came from Phrygia (the home of Chrestianity in the 3rd century),

"Cybele (/ˈsɪbl/PhrygianMatar Kubileya/Kubeleya "Kubeleyan Mother", perhaps "Mountain Mother"; Lydian KuvavaGreekΚυβέλη KybeleΚυβήβη KybebeΚύβελις Kybelis) is an Anatolian mother goddess; she has a possible precursor in the earliest neolithic at Çatalhöyük, where the statue of a pregnant, seated goddess was found in a granary. She is Phrygia's only known goddess, and was probably its state deity. Her Phrygian cult was adopted and adapted by Greek colonists of Asia Minor and spread to mainland Greece and its more distant western colonies around the 6th century BCE.

"In Rome, Cybele was known as Magna Mater ("Great Mother"). The Roman State adopted and developed a particular form of her cult after the Sibylline oracle recommended her conscription as a key religious component in Rome's second war against CarthageRoman mythographers reinvented her as a Trojan goddess, and thus an ancestral goddess of the Roman people by way of the Trojan prince Aeneas. With Rome's eventual hegemony over the Mediterranean world, Romanised forms of Cybele's cults spread throughout the Roman Empire."

Cybele enthroned, with lion, cornucopia and Mural crown. Roman marble, c. 50 CE. Getty Museum:



"Rome's strictures against castration and citizen participation in Magna Mater's cult limited both the number and kind of her initiates. From the 160's CE, citizens who sought initiation to her mysteries could offer either of two forms of bloody animal sacrifice - and sometimes both - as lawful substitutes for self-castration. The Taurobolium sacrificed a bull, the most potent and costly victim in Roman religion; the Criobolium used a lesser victim, usually a ram."

The Phrygian ritual of self-castration was illegal in Roman law. This is probably the inspiration for Origen breaking with the Roman Church on the issue.

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