A Gateway to Mind in the Ancient World


  • Roger Beck University of Toronto




ancient world, astral symbols, language-signs, Sperber, stars


In my book, The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire (2006), I postulated as the idiom of the Mysteries of Mithras the language of contemporaneous astronomy and astrology, “star-talk” for short. Star-talk, so conceived, was not only an actually existing language spoken/written by ancient astronomers and astrologers (this part of it is also a specialist discourse in Greek and Latin) but also an imagined language thought to be spoken by its own signs. For the latter, imagined dimension of star-talk (stars understood as both signs and speakers, the heavens as texted book) there is much evidence in ancient literature, which I discussed in my book and do not need to repeat here. Instead, I shall start to explore something of star-talk’s implied structure and grammar.

Author Biography

Roger Beck, University of Toronto

Roger Beck is Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto. He is a classicist who has specialized in the study of ancient polytheistic religions, especially the Mithras cult, and in ancient astronomy and astrology. He is a student of the cognitive study of religion, some of the approaches of which he used in his book The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire (2006).


Beck, Roger. 2006. The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire: Mysteries of the Unconquered Sun. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lawson, E. Thomas, and Robert N. McCauley. 1990. Rethinking Religion: Connecting Cognition and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sperber, Dan. 1975. Rethinking Symbolism. Translated by Alice D. Morton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



How to Cite

Beck, R. (2014). “Star-Talk”: A Gateway to Mind in the Ancient World. Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 1(1), 90–97. https://doi.org/10.1558/jch.v1i1.90