Yesterday I returned to working on my site about the Roman deity Mithras. To my surprise and delight, I found that the code was stable enough to allow me to enter content, and I started doing so, using as a baseline the last reliable version of the Wikipedia Mithras article.
I’ve been looking today at the material which supposedly shows a link between Mithras and the Orphic deity Phanes. This consists of a couple of literary testimonies, which are fair enough, and also some relief sculptures. I thought that I would look at this critically, and try to find images of the reliefs.
The more that I burrow into this, the less convinced I am. It all seemed so simple, when I wrote a couple of paragraphs on it for Wikipedia, based on some perfectly reliable modern sources. And yet … trying to verify the facts, by looking at the inscriptional evidence, I find myself very much less than convinced.
Still it was lots of fun, tracking down images of the relevant reliefs online (and they all were online!), and reworking the text as I gradually came to grips with the issues. I actually enjoyed working away on this, and I will do more. I need to understand just why Phanes is invoked at all. I did some more work on the site this evening.
While entering the data, it was interesting, amusing or mildly depressing to see that the footnote data that I had added to the Wikipedia article had become partially scrambled, even before the troll attack that wrecked the whole thing. For I have been looking at each footnote as I enter it, and I check whether it looks OK or not. Evidently I am pretty much the only person who ever does look. For I found obvious typos, even missing words. Worse I found that references had been changed to fit some standard format, by someone who didn’t know what the reference was and so corrupted it. In one case the fool had presumed that “IX.6″ was a page number, rather than a book and chapter reference, although why is hard to imagine. The damage wasn’t bad; but it was all unnecessary.
I am deeply grateful that I didn’t spend any more time adding stuff to Wikipedia. It was an exercise in futility.