ZAMOLXIS, THE GOD OF THE GETAE

Posted: 30 Aprilie 2011 in Dacia, Istorie, Zamolxis
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(Herodotus,THE PERSIAN WARSBook 4, MELPOMENE, 93-96)Zamolxis (Saitnoxis) was the Supreme God of the Getae (or Dacians), a Thracian people inhabiting a territory including today’s Romania, but also extending farther cast and northeast. Our only important information concerning this rather enigmatic deity is the text of Herodotus quoted below. The scholars have interpreted Zamolxis as a Sky-god, a god of the dead, a Mystery-god, etc.

[4.93]. But before he came to the Ister, he first subdued the Getae, who pretend to be immortal. The Thracians of Salmydessus and of the country above the towns of Appolonia and Mesambria, who are called Cyrmaianae and Nipsaei, surrendered themselves unresisting to Darius; but the Getae, who are the bravest and most law-abiding of all Thracians, resisted with obstinacy, and were enslaved forthwith.

[4. 94]. As to their claim to be immortal, this is how they show it: they believe that they do not die, but that he who perishes goes to the god Zamolxis of Gebelezis, as some of them call him. Once in every five years they choose by lot one of their people and send him as a messenger to Zamolxis, charged to tell of their needs; and this is their manner of sending: Three lances are held by men thereto appointed; others seize the messenger to Zamolxis by his hands and feet, and swing and hurl him aloft on to the spear-point. If he be killed by the cast, they believe that the gods regard them with favour; but if he be not killed, they blame the messenger himself, deeming him a bad man, and send another messenger in place of him whom they blame. It is while the man yet lives that they charge him with the message. Moreover when there is thunder and lightning these same Thracians shoot arrows skyward as a threat to the god, believing in no other god but their own.

[4. 95]. For myself, I have been told by the Greeks who dwell beside the Hellespont and Pontus that this Zamolxis was a man who was once a slave in Samos, his master being Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchus; presently, after being freed and gaining great wealth, he returned to his own country. Now the Thracians were a meanly-living and simple witted folk, but this Zamolxis knew Ionian usages and a fuller way of life than the Thracian; for he had consorted with Greeks, and moreover with one of the greatest Greek teachers, Pythagoras; wherefore he made himself a hall, where he entertained and feasted the chief among his countrymen, and taught them that neither he nor his guests nor any of their descendants should ever die, but that they should go to a place where they would live for ever and have all good things. While he was doing as I have said and teaching this doctrine, he was all the while making him an underground chamber. When this was finished, he vanished from the sight of the Thracians, and descended into the underground chamber, where he lived for three years, the Thracians wishing him back and mourning him for dead; then in the fourth year he appeared to the Thracians, and thus they came to believe what Zamolxis had told them. Such is the Greek story about him.

[4.96] I for my part neither put entire faith in this story of Zamolxis and his underground chamber, nor do I altogether discredit it: but I believe Zamolxis to have lived long before the time of Pythagoras. Whether there was ever really a man of the name, or whether Zamolxis is nothing but a native god of the Getae, I now bid him farewell. As for the Getae themselves, the people who observe the practices described above, they were now reduced by the Persians, and accompanied the army of Darius.

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