Who is Zalmoxis?

Zalmoxis was a god worshiped by the ancient Thracians.

Respected Dacian man statue on the Arch of Constantine in Rome

Respected Dacian man statue on the Arch of Constantine in Rome.

Dacians were part of the Thracian tribes. They inhabited Dacia, located in the area in and around the Carpathian Mountains and west of the Black Sea.

A holistic physician

Plato says in the Charmides dialogue 156 D – 157 B that Zalmoxis was also a great physician who took a holistic approach to healing body and soul (psyche), being thus used by Platon for his own philosophical conceptions.

“Such, Charmides, I (Socrates) said, is the nature of the charm, which I learned when serving with the army from one of the physicians of the Thracian king Zamolxis, who are to be so skilful that they can even give immortality. This Thracian told me that in these notions of theirs, which I was just now mentioning, the Greek physicians are quite right as far as they go; but Zamolxis, he added, our king, who is also a god, says further, “that as you ought not to attempt to cure the eyes without the head, or the head without the body, so neither ought you to attempt to cure the body without the soul; and this,” he said, “is the reason why the cure of many diseases is unknown to the physicians of Hellas, because they are ignorant of the whole, which ought to be studied also; for the part can never be well unless the whole is well.” For all good and evil, whether in the body or in human nature, originates, as he declared, in the soul, and overflows from thence, as if from the head into the eyes. And therefore if the head and body are to be well, you must begin by curing the soul; that is the first thing. And the cure, my dear youth, has to be effected by the use of certain charms, and these charms are fair words; and by them temperance is implanted in the soul, and where temperance is, there health is speedily imparted, not only to the head, but to the whole body. And he who taught me the cure and the charm at the same time added a special direction: “Let no one,” he said, “persuade you to cure the head, until he has first given you his soul to be cured by the charm. For this,” he said, “is the great error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians separate the soul from the body.” And he added with emphasis, at the same time making me swear to his words, “Let no one, however rich, or noble, or fair, persuade you to give him the cure, without the charm.” Now I have sworn, and I must keep my oath, and therefore if you will allow me to apply the Thracian charm first to your soul, as the stranger directed, I will afterwards proceed to apply the cure to your head. But if not, I do not know what I am to do with you, my dear Charmides.”

A divine being

Herodotus writes about Zalmoxis in book 4 of his Histories:
“…the Getae are the bravest of the Thracians and the most just. 94. They believe they are immortal in the following sense: they think they do not die and that the one who dies joins Zalmoxis, a divine being; some call this same divine being Gebeleizis. …The same Thracians, on other occasions, when he thunders and lightens, shoot with arrows up in the air against the sky and menace the divinity because they think there is no god other than their own.”
Herodotus asserts that Zalmoxis was originally a human being. Building a banquet hall, he received the chiefs and his fellow countrymen at a banquet, he taught that neither his guests nor their descendants would ever die, but instead they would go to a place where they would live forever in a complete happiness. He then dug an underground residence and, once finished, he disappeared from the Thracians going down to his underground residence, where he lived for three years. The Thracians missed him and wept fearing him dead. The fourth year, he came back amongst them and thus they believed what Zalmoxis had told them.

A Christ figure

There are different theories about the disappearance and return of Zalmoxis:
Some see in Zalmoxis a Christ figure who dies and resurrects; this position was also defended by Jean (Ioan) Coman, a professor of patristics and an orthodox priest, who was a friend of Mircea Eliade and published in Eliade’s journal “Zalmoxis,” which appeared in the 1930s.
This belief precisely parallels the belief about the universal king Frode given in both Ynglingsaga and Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danorum; particularly, Ynglingsaga 12 and Saxo 5.16.3, in which Frode disappears into the earth for three years after his death.

A Law giver

The belagines were written laws which, according to Jordanes, were given to the Goths by Dicineus / Dekaineos, the Dacian-Getic legislator,  Zalmoxian priest at the time of Burebista.

These belagines laws entered in the tradition of the Ostrogoths but it doesn’t exclude similar Visigothic traditions, since the Dicineu / Dekaineos tradition no matter how literary it may be, points to Dacia.

How long ago?

It is difficult to define the time when a cult to Zalmoxis may have existed. It is just sure that it antecedes Herodotus’ work. It seems that some people have considered that the archaism of Zalmoxis’s doctrine points out to an heritage from before the times of Indo-Europeans

Dacian (Thracian) sacred space

Sarmizegetusa Regia

Sarmizegetusa Regia – Dacian (Thracian) sacred space

 

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