The taurobolium, a rite of uncertain origin often occurring in the cult of cybele, first appears in the 2d century a.d. The most detailed literary account is that by prudentius (Peristeph. 10:1106–50), and many inscriptions bear witness to the rite. The recipient descended into a pit, over which a bull (taurobolium or goat (kriobolium ) was sacrificed, drenching him in its blood. The rite is attested for many parts of the Roman Empire, especially in Gaul and in Rome itself, where it became part of the official cult, until the suppression of paganism under Theodosius the Great. It was performed both pro salute imperatoris or imperii and for individuals. Moreover, it became associated, especially in the 4th century, with the idea of rebirth, probably in connection with the belief—which may have come from Christianity—that blood washes away sin. It was sometimes repeated after 20 years, perhaps because the recipient was regarded as born anew in the first initiation (see resurrection, greco-oriental) and therefore free from sin during his second infancy and youth of 20 years.
See Also: mystery religions, greco-oriental.
Bibliography: h. graillot, Le Culte de Cybéle (Paris 1912). g. wissowa, Religion und Kultus der Römer (2d ed. Munich 1912) 322–325. h. oppermann, Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa, et al. RE 5A. 1 (1934) 16–22. m. p. nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion, 2 v. (2d ed. Munich 1955–61) 2:624–627.
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