Tzifopoulos, Yannis. 2010. Paradise Earned: The Bacchic-Orphic Gold Lamellae of Crete. Hellenic Studies Series 23. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_TzifopoulosY.Paradise_Earned_The_Bacchic-Orphic_Gold_Lamellae.2010.
3: The Cretan Epistomia in Context
The Corpus of the Epistomia: Nature and Classification
All of the lamellae, regardless of shape, placement, and text, are σύμβολα, or συνθήματα, the word employed in two of the lamellae in reference to their own texts (D3, B11).  This self-definition as “signs or tokens by which one infers a thing” (LSJ) is by far the most apt one to start making some sense of these objects. These performative and metaphorical signifiers challenge interpretations and defy classification and they will continue to do so for as long as the non-material signifieds/referents, the ritual teletai, fail to appear in the archaeological record.
Be that as it may, it cannot be stressed enough that these categories should not be understood as airtight, as their texts are interrelated and complement one another. The above classification constitutes one important objective in the study of these texts, which is based primarily on their strong similarities (the stemmatological approach). Another objective, equally worth the effort as the next chapter (“The Cretan Context”) will show, is to shift the emphasis from similarities to divergences, and, instead of one central document behind these texts, to entertain the possibility that within the same Bacchic-Orphic discourse on afterlife and even within the same group of texts existed simultaneously dominant and peripheral ideas and texts (in Crete, twelve texts that belong to three different groups), for which local or even individual cultic and religious considerations may be accountable.
The Cretan Texts in the Context of a Ritual and a Hieros Logos
Figure 42. Apulian volute-krater by the Darius Painter. Toledo, OH, Toledo Museum of Art, 1994.19. (a. obverse, Underworld scene with Dionysiac figures; b. obverse, detail, Hades and Persephone in their palace; c. reverse, youth in nai skos)
Zuntz further proposed that the Cretan texts contain the absolute minimum form (what he termed “the cardinal words”) of the longer, expanded versions, but concluded: 
And yet, only a few pages earlier, in his discussion of the ‘rhythmical prose’ in the announcement of the deceased’s deification (a quality he denied line 3 of the Cretan texts), he adduces two analogies: Philostratos’ narrative of the visit of Apollonius of Tyana in Diktynna’s temple in Crete, and Lucian’s legend about the suicide of Peregrinus Proteus during the Olympic games of 166 CE. In drawing these analogies, Zuntz awards the dialect a distinct importance: “The Doric dialect in both these legends is remarkable. It seems to have conveyed, in this late period, an aura of archaic sanctity.” 
This is a conceivable reconstruction of a ritual which may lie behind the texts of all groups, and which implies a hieros logos. The ritual may have been either an initiation rite during which the mystes’ Underworld journey was reenacted, the persona loquens thereby being the hierophant; or the ritual may have been a rite following the mystes’ death over the grave, in which case the speaker is an ‘omniscient author’ directing the deceased mystes in order to effect his passage into the Underworld. Either ritual may have re-enacted and rehearsed the actual journey the mystes would make when in the Underworld.
The mystes, after the guards get permission from Persephone, drinks from the spring, and moves on to encounter Persephone and Plouton:
If lines 5–7 of B12 are not mistakes by the engraver, it is possible that the dialogue between Persephone and the deceased was longer (see also the texts in group D which present a variety of responses):
These deviant readings in the symbola of B6 and B12 do not create any serious obstacles in understanding the gist of what was intended. They may present different choices of text for incision on the epistomia of the kind we encounter in Macedonia, Thessaly, the Peloponnese, and Rome, where only the name, or the word mystes anonymously, or a few words are chosen to be incised.
In Search of a Context: Rhapsodizing and ‘Prophesying’ the Afterlife
Orphic literature, Pythagorean philosophy, and Dionysiac cult(s) and ritual(s) are different contexts in which the texts on the lamellae may be placed (in some more readily than in others). Much depends on whether we emphasize the similarities or the differences among the texts.  Even Burkert’s careful formulation of the interactive yet independent nature of these contexts needs modification. For example, the ‘Athenian-Eleusinian school’ has not as yet produced an incised gold lamella, unless the initiates were employing perishable material, and some certainly did, like the deceased of grave A at Derveni.  Italy,  Crete, the northwest Peloponnese,  Thessaly, and Macedonia also appear as other ‘schools’ which partake one way or another in Orphic, Pythagorean, and Bacchic ideas about personal needs in this life and in the hereafter, but with distinct characteristics.  If the northwest Peloponnese, and to some extent also Crete (see the section “A Cretan Context”), presents a rather homogeneous picture, at least so far, the five texts on Thessalian lamellae are astonishing in their diversity (B2, B9, D2, D3, D5). Likewise, the twelve Macedonian lamellae are not the only evidence concerning views on the afterlife in Macedonia,  as testify a number of discoveries: the theo-/cosmogonic commentary on PDerveni;  the outstanding paintings in the Judgment Tomb at Leukadia,  and at the Tomb of Persephone at Vergina;  the cist-tomb at Agios Athanassios, in which there was discovered a silver-plated cypress-larnax with the pregnant mother’s bones wrapped in purple gold inside, as well as ivory fragments from the bier’s decoration (a bier which, at least in one of its zones, was of a Dionysiac character), and a painting on one of the walls portraying a wooden box with two scrolls of papyri on top;  the discovery of a number of clay figurines in rooms of a house in Pella, dated to the second century BCE, representing snakes, grapes, eggs, and a horseman, and finally, fragments of clay statuettes of Dionysos, Persephone, Aphrodite, and the Mother of Gods, all probably associated with the cult(s) of Dionysos, aimed at both the living and dead.  All of these discoveries offer yet more examples of other ‘schools’ within Macedonia, independent or interrelated with the ‘school(s)’ manifest in the texts on the lamellae and epistomia. Lastly, Olbia, the only area that has offered concrete evidence for the existence of a group of people calling themselves Orphics, is probably yet another, different ‘school’: the famous bone-plaques were not found inside a grave, but in the area of the eastern temenos, and their graffiti imply views on the afterlife (even if the graffiti are not connected stricto sensu with the afterlife). 
Herodotus employs geographical criteria and the various metals in order to imply that the Hesiodic races, distinguished by their use of metals and presented by Hesiod in chronological succession, actually exist synchronically in different parts of the known world. In Herodotus, the metals are symbolic vehicles reflecting the various races’ customs and habits, which, according to the historian, are the actual differentiating factors, but which betray characteristics similar to the Hesiodic races. Hesiod opts for one of the two views on afterlife: he removes the golden race from the hic et nunc and relegates it to a time forever lost, allowing no possibility of the golden period’s return, not even in the Underworld. Herodotus opts for none or for both views on afterlife (in book 2 Egypt presents a different challenge): he ‘harmonizes’ them by changing Hesiod’s criteria of chronological succession and genealogy into those of geographical distribution and recontextualizes in his narrative all the human races as existing contemporaneously in different parts of the known world.
Whereas in epic the epithet’s symbolism of immortality conforms to the overall strategy for kleos, in the group B-texts, the epithet evokes the epic immortality but rejects the human limits set in the epic. The heroization/divinization process of humans does not require the subtlety of epic poetry and its kleos. The same formula that Hesiod employs for the divine genealogy becomes in the group B-texts the mortal initiate’s symbolon for attaining immortality the ‘Orphic’ way: through Eukles (‘beautiful kleos’), Hades’ euphemistic epithet, and through Eubouleus (‘beautiful boule’), a euphemism for Zeus/Dionysos (and perhaps also Hades),  a way which transforms the epic symbols of immortal kleos into a more concrete immortality: the mystes is reborn and acquires the status of a hero/god in the afterlife.
Similar characteristics may also be observed in some of the oracles that have survived from antiquity, all of which have been collected and examined on strict methodological grounds by Joseph Fontenrose, who concluded that none of them can be accepted as genuine. Six oracles have been chosen (four of which come from Herodotus’ narrative  ) which may illustrate their conventional techniques of composition. The reference to Fontenrose’s collection includes page and oracle numbers with capital letters indicating the category of the oracle: H for Historical and Q for Quasi-historical.  The expressions underlined betray the points of contact between the oracles and the texts on the lamellae and epistomia mentioned above:
καὶ τότε, Λυδὲ ποδαβρέ, πολυψήφιδα παρ᾽ Ἕρμον
φεύγειν μηδὲ μένειν, μηδ᾽ αἰδεῖσθαι κακὸς εἶναι.
But when the Medes have a mule as king,
just then, tender-footed Lydian, by the stone-strewn Hermus
flee and do not stay, and do not be ashamed to be a coward.
ἔνθ’ ἄνεμοι πνείουσι δύω κρατερῆς ὑπ᾽ ἀνάγκης,
καὶ τύπος ἀντίτυπος, καὶ πῆμ᾽ ἐπὶ πήματι κεῖται.
ἔνθ’ Ἀγαμεμνονίδην κατέχει φυσίζοος αἶα·
τὸν σὺ κομισσάμενος Τεγέης ἐπιτάρροθος ἔσσῃ.
There is a place Tegea in the smooth plain of Arcadia,
where two winds blow under strong compulsion;
blow lies upon blow, woe upon woe.
There the life-giving earth covers the son of Agamemnon;
bring him back, and you shall be lord of Tegea.
Κύψελος Ἠετίδης, βασιλεὺς κλειτοῖο Κορίνθου,
αὐτὸς καὶ παῖδες, παίδων γε μὲν οὐκέτι παῖδες.
That man is fortunate who steps into my house,
Cypselus, son of Eetion, the king of noble Corinth,
he himself and his children, but not the sons of his sons.
Delphians, pray to the winds, and it will be/become better.
ἔστιν σοὶ παρ᾽ ἄκρας πόλεως παρὰ [τὸν Προπύλαιον],
οὗ λαὸς σύμπας κλήιζει γλαυκώ[πιδα Ἀθήνην],
Δήμητρος Χλοίης ἱερὸν Κούρη[ς τε μακαίρας],
οὗ πρῶτον στάχυς εὔξη[ται – – – – – -]
ς πρότεροι πατ[έρες – – – – – – – – -]
ἱδρυσα[- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -]
[- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -]ν
[- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -] ἀπαρχάς
[- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -]ς ἁγνοῦ
[- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – τ]έχναισιν
[- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – ] ἀνιούσης
[- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – θ]ρεπτά
[- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – λώι]ον ἔσται
[- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -].
ναίετε καὶ πατρίοισι νόμοις ἰθύνεθ᾽ ἑορτάς,
μεμνῆσθαι Βάκχοιο, καὶ εὐρυχόρους κατ᾽ ἀγυιὰς
ἱστάναι ὡραίων Βρομίῳ χάριν ἄμμιγα πάντας,
καὶ κνισᾶν βωμοῖσι κάρη στεφάνοις πυκάσαντας.
The structure and composition of these six oracles is mainly based on five themes, themes which are presented either independently or in combination: 
According to Fontenrose (1981):
The similarities in form, structure, and compositional technique between the texts of the six oracles and the texts on the lamellae are obvious enough.  That the majority of oracles were composed in verse (more specifically, in dactylic hexameter, with a few in iambic trimeter) does not bear on the issue of their authenticity, nor does it imply that they were poetic compositions from the beginning, since there were many responses in prose as well. On this issue, Fontenrose is following Plutarch, who devoted a treatise on The Oracles at Delphi No Longer Given in Verse (402d–e):
If the Chaironeian is to be trusted,  then the poetic composition of oracles was due to the shrine of the Muses and to their cult established near the spring. Hypothesis A to Pindar’s Pythians (Drachmann, page 2, see below, pages 141–142) adds further that Dionysos was responsible for the dactylic meter in the Delphic nomos. Thus, the Greek perception that the Pythia spoke in verses, or that the hexameter was an invention by the Pythia is only that, a perception.  The Greeks thought that the hexameter was the meter of oracles and oracular poetry, and this conception must have been cultivated through Delphic propaganda. It may have been only natural to follow in the path of Homer, Hesiod, and epic poetry and to adopt their well-established techniques and methods of structure and composition. More importantly, Homer’s and Hesiod’s precedents would have been more than influential, as the case of the Presocratic philosophers (who employed the same medium for their works in terms of form) amply illustrates. The dactylic hexameter, once sanctioned by Delphi as the oracular medium which led to the oracles’ wide circulation and prestige, was, so it seems, also adopted by the composers of the texts on the lamellae and epistomia, together with the techniques and methods of structure and composition, found in oracular poetry.
Hypothesis A to Pindar’s Pythians (Drachmann, page 2) relates an interesting version of the successive occupants at Delphi, not very different from the catalogue of the gods of Delphi the Pythia presents in the parodos of Aeschylus’ Eumenides (lines 1–29): before Apollo, Nyx, Themis, Dionysos, and then Pytho gave oracles at the site.  There seems to be an orderly transfer of prophetic power from Nyx, to Themis  (who sang oracles), and then to Dionysos, who began giving themistes (according to Themis?) from the tripod, although no reason is given for the necessity of this succession. Python took over the tripod from Dionysos violently, and in turn, the serpentine prophet was killed by Apollo who celebrated the Pythian Games and restored the order. The new Apolline order, according to Hypothesis A, took into consideration all previous occupants and created epithets and nouns which recalled the oracle’s history: iambos, because of Python’s abuse of Apollo; daktylon, because Dionysos is believed to have prophesied from the tripod first; Cretan from Zeus; and Metroon, because Delphi is Earth’s oracle.
ΤΕI. μάντις δ᾽ ὁ δαίμων ὅδε· τὸ γὰρ βακχεύσιμον
καὶ τὸ μανιῶδες μαντικὴν πολλὴν ἔχει·
ὅταν γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἐς τὸ σῶμ᾽ ἔλθηι πολύς,
λέγειν τὸ μέλλον τοὺς μεμηνότας ποιεῖ.
ΤΕI. Πενθεὺς δ᾽ ὅπως μὴ πένθος εἰσοίσει δόμοις
τοῖς σοῖσι, Κάδμε· μαντικῆι μὲν οὐ λέγω,
τοῖς πράγμασι δέ.
Kadmos, in order to characterize himself, and the Chorus, referring to the promoters or preachers of Dionysos’ teletai, both employ the term prophetes (Bacchae 210–211, 550–552):
ΚΑ. ἐπεὶ σὺ φέγγος, Τειρεσία, τόδ᾽ οὐχ ὁρᾶις,
ἐγὼ προφήτης σοι λόγων γενήσομαι.
ΧΟ. ἐσορᾶις τάδ᾽, ὦ Διὸς παῖ
Διόνυσε, σοὺς προφήτας
ἐν ἁμίλλαισιν ἀνάγκας;
In the discourse of the Bacchae, it appears that mantis is the god-inspired person and prophetes the interpreter, the intermediary, the preacher of what the god is divining through the mantis. 
According to Plato’s discussion, a mantis is someone possessed by god, who has god inside, and therefore speaks from an altered or special mental state, a state of mania, which explains the mantis’ failure to remember his own words. The prophetes and the chresmologos on the other hand, is an interpreter, a preacher, a judge of the divinely inspired mantic pronouncements. Yet divine mania is not of one kind, but rather, as Plato explains, there are four types: mantic, telestic, poetic, and erotic, represented by Apollo, Dionysos, the Muses, and Aphrodite/Eros respectively (Phaedrus 265b; compare also 244a–245a). This clear definition of the semantics of the two words has led Gregory Nagy to infer that, at Delphi, the mantis-Pythia would have been in control of the content, the sacred medium, whereas the prophetai would turn the divinely inspired content of the Pythia into the oracular medium of poetic form, as described above.  Although this “division of labour” is not evident in the sources, as Lisa Maurizio has argued,  the role of the male priests at Delphi cannot have been very different from the picture Plato presents, that is, as interpreters of the cryptic and enigmatic divine language of the Pythia. To what extent (if any) this process of interpreting involved tampering with the form, is anybody’s guess.
This passage is usually read as representing a negative critique against itinerant priests, or charismatics,  be they magoi, agyrtai, orpheotelestai, manteis, chresmologoi, or prophetai (some of whom may indeed have been local or Panhellenic jokes). The distinctions usually drawn among these religious practitioners are abolished by Plato so as to emphasize the message. Interestingly, however, Plato refers to two kinds of needs that peoples and cities have, and then addresses the way in which these false religious practitioners accommodate their preaching to suit those needs. The first need involves an interest in this life: people want assurances and blessings during their lifetime. The second need of people is what happens to them after death. This kind of itinerant preaching by self-appointed magoi, agyrtai, orpheotelestai, manteis, prophetai is not difficult to imagine, regardless of the validity of their teachings. At least this much is evident also in PDerveni whose author presents a critical attitude similar to Plato’s. In PDerveni columns V–VII, XI and XIII, the subject also appears to be eschatology, but its interpretation is far from certain due to the fragmentary preservation. The didactic posture of the person speaking is evident, but the attitude towards the magoi, whether positive or negative, is not. However one understands the author of PDerveni, a telestes, mantis, or philosopher-poet,  what needs to be emphasized is that mantike, as everything else, had both true and false interpreters and practitioners, who catered people’s needs. Perceptions are difficult to grasp, but a bad poet does not make poetry bad, just as a bad mantis, prophetes, orpheotelestes, agyrtes, magos does not make these arts bad by definition. Both Plato and the PDerveni author, although their views cannot be taken as representative or mainstream, try to distinguish between true and false religious practitioners.  Graf and Johnston propose that the authors of the texts on the lamellae and epistomia may have been local or itinerant orpheotelestai, a term which combines all (or almost all) the religious activities mentioned by Plato. According to Andrei Lebedev’s hypothesis, Pharnabazos, the diviner of Hermes, and Aristoteles were two such individuals, both magicians and orpheotelestai, at work in Olbia, and, because of competition, they were writing curse-tablets against one another. In a parallel case, Emmanuel Voutiras has proposed that Timarete from Corinth most probably was an itinerant female magician active in fourth century BCE Pella.