Journal of Theological Studies 28 (1927), pp. 289-90.



   TERTULLIAN is concerned in the early part of the De baptismo to
shew the appropriateness of water. He refers, therefore, to its pagan
use, ch. v: 'nam et sacris quibusdam per lauacrum initiantur, Isidis
alicuius aut Mithrae ; ipsos etiam deos suos . lauationibus efferunt.
ceterum uillas domos templa totasque urbes aspergine circumlatae aquae
expiant passim . certe ludis Apollinaribus et Pelusiis tinguuntur idque
se in regenerationem et impunitatem periuriorum suorum agere prae-
sumunt . item penes ueteres quisque se homicidio infecerat purgatrices
aquas explorabat.'

   Pelusiis is given to us by the Clairvaux MS as corrected (Pelasiis
first hand) by Gelenius, and by Mesnart. The proposal of Ursinus to
substitute Eleusiniis has commonly been accepted. Professor Souter
in a note in his translation remarked on the uncritical nature of this
proceeding. It remains to explain the reference. Pelusiis refers to
a festival called the Pelusia, mentioned in the Calendar of Philocalus
as celebrated at Rome on March 20.1  Joannes Lydus tells us that
a daemon called Pelusitis proclaimed to the Egyptians that the Nile had
risen, and then fell into the waters. At first they disbelieved, but when
facts bore him out they established a festival called Phlou&sion among
them and among the Greeks. Of the nature of this festival we know
nothing more. The idea that it contained some ceremonial bathing is
slightly confirmed by Ammianus Marcellinus xxii 6, § 3, 'in Augustam-
nica Pelusium est oppidum nobile, quod Peleus Achillis pater dicitur
condidisse, lustrari deorum monitu iussus in lacu quod eiusdem ciuitatis
adluit moenia cum post interfectum fratrem nomine Focum horrendis
Furiarum imaginibus raptaretur'. By Pelusium there was a lake, which
was thought by some to have been used for a mythical lustration, and
in which actual lustrations may have taken place. The transference of
its rites to other cities was natural ; Pelusium was a famous seat
of excited popular worship.2

   1. Joannes Lydus De mensibus iv 57, p, 112. 18. Wünsch says pro_ dekatessa&rwn
Kalendw~n 'Aprili/wn
. This should probably be emended to dekatriw~n (a change of
id/ to ig&), to bring it into harmony with Philocalus and Silvius.

   2. Cult of Isis (Auien. Arat. 282) ; of Zeus Kasios (Sext. Empir. Pyrrh. hypotop.
iii 224). On the interesting reference in Hist. Aug. V. M. Anton. 23 to the purg-
ing of the cult of Sarapis from Pelusian vulgarity, cf U. Wilcken Klio ix 131 sqq. ;
P. Oslo i 107 speaks of Min as o( a)nafanei\j e)n Phlousi/w| (cp. S. Eitrem ad loc. p. 56).
For the transference cf. that of the Syrian Maioumas festival (which certainly
included bathing) from Antioch to Ostia.



   The localization of the rite is not certain. We know of its celebration
at Rome, and we know of ludi Apollinares at Rome, held from July 5
to 13. and it is natural to think of the Roman festival in each case. At
the same time we know of no ceremonial bathing at ludi, and it is
possible that Tertullian is here, as elsewhere, naming a non-Roman
festival by a Roman name.1  He may have had before him some Greek
source which said e)n toi=j Puqi/oij gou~n kai\ Phlousi/oij bapti/zontai.2 In
any case, certe seems to contrast public and visible ritual with the
mysteries of Isis and of Mithras, concerning which anyone not initiated
would speak with less knowledge.

   In conclusion, it may be remarked that efferunt which J. M. .Lupton
translates as 'exalt, extol' may rather be taken literally as 'carry out',
with lauationibus either as dative ('for washings') or as ablative ('in
washing ceremonies'). The reference is to processions carrying an
image out of a temple to a stream for a solemn annual bath; so for
instance Cybele was at Rome carried to the Almo for a ceremony called


   1. So De spect. 11 ' Olympia . . . quae sunt Romae Capitolia'. The reference may
be to Alexandria, where games were held in honour of Apollo (J. Vogt Die alexan-
drinischen Münzen i 89), and Pelusia would be in place.

   2. The source might be some cynically coloured treatise directed against popular
belief in the efficacy of a rite as an opus operatum. The thought is developed by
Ovid Fasti ii 35-46, which is perhaps based on a similar source, and discusses
methods of purification, in particular from the guilt of murder, ending ' nimium
faciles, qui tristia crimina caedis | fluminea tolli posse putetis aqua'. bapti/zontai
need not imply immersion ; it can mean as little as 'wash', cf. P. Oxy. 840. 15 tw~n
maqhtw~n tou_j po&daj baptisqe&vtwn.

   On ancient lustrations I may be allowed to refer to ch. iii § 2 of my forthcoming
essay in Studies in the Doctrine of the Trinity and of the Incarnation, edited by
K. E. Kirk.

   3. I wish to thank Professor H. J. Rose and Professor A. E. Souter for their kind
help with this note.

Transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2001.
Greek text uses SPIonic font.

This page has been online since 6th January 2001.

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