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Encyclopedia > Mithraism
Mithras and the Bull: This fresco from the mithraeum at Marino, Italy (third century) shows the tauroctony and the celestial lining of Mithras' cape
Mithras and the Bull: This fresco from the mithraeum at Marino, Italy (third century) shows the tauroctony and the celestial lining of Mithras' cape

Mithraism was a mystery religion practiced throughout the Roman Empire. Image File history File links Information. ... Shortcut: WP:-( Vandalism is indisputable bad-faith addition, deletion, or change to content, made in a deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia. ... Image File history File links Circle-contradict. ... Image File history File links Fresque_Mithra_Doura_Europos. ... Image File history File links Fresque_Mithra_Doura_Europos. ... A mithraeum found in the ruins of Ostia Antica, Italy. ... A tauroctony was the depiction of Mithras ritually slaying a bull, that is a taurobolium. ... This does not cite any references or sources. ... Motto Senatus Populusque Romanus (SPQR) The Roman Empire at its greatest extent. ...

Contents

Introduction

The term "Mithraism" is modern. In antiquity, texts refer to "the mysteries of Mithras", and to its adherents, as "the mysteries of the Persians."[1] This latter epithet is significant, not for whether the Mithraists considered the object of their devotion a Persian divinity, but for the fact that the devotees were convinced that their religion was founded by Zoroaster.[1] Mithras and the Bull: fresco from the mithraeum at Marino, Italy, (3rd century AD) Mithras was the central god of Mithraism, a syncretic Hellenistic mystery religion of male initiates that developed in the Eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC and was practiced in the Roman Empire from... Greater Iran (in Persian: ایران بزرگ pron: Iran-e Bozorg, also ایران‌زمین pron: Iran-zameen) is a term for the Iranian plateau in addition to the entire region where Iranian languages are today spoken as a first language, or as a second language by a significant minority. ... Look up Persian in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ...


The term 'mysteries' does not imply that the religion was mystical or mysterious, but rather, that members had been formally initiated into the order. As also for other mystery religions, the expression 'mystery' derives from Koine Greek 'μυστήρια' (mysteria) meaning "initiation", which distinguishes such religions from others where affiliation is a matter of inheritance. This does not cite any references or sources. ... Koine redirects here. ...


It is not possible to state with certainty when "the mysteries of Mithras" developed. Plutarch[2] suggests that some prototypical form of the Mithraic initiation rites existed among the pirates of Cilicia in 1st century BC. Clauss asserts[3] "the mysteries" were not practiced until a century later. Mithraism reached the apogee of its popularity around the 3rd through 4th centuries, when it was particularly popular among the soldiers of the Roman Empire. Mithraism disappeared from overt practice after the Theodosian decree of 391 banned all pagan rites, and it apparently became extinct thereafter. The Cilician pirates dominated the Mediterranean Sea from the 2nd century BC up until their speedy suppression by Pompey (67-66 BC). ... (2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC - 1st millennium) The 1st century BC started on January 1, 100 BC and ended on December 31, 1 BC. An alternative name for this century is the last century BC. The AD/BC notation does not use a year zero. ... // Overview Events 212: Constitutio Antoniniana grants citizenship to all free Roman men 212-216: Baths of Caracalla 230-232: Sassanid dynasty of Persia launches a war to reconquer lost lands in the Roman east 235-284: Crisis of the Third Century shakes Roman Empire 250-538: Kofun era, the first... As a means of recording the passage of time, the 4th century was that century which lasted from 301 to 400. ... An engraving depicting what Theodosius may have looked like, ca. ... Events All non-Christian temples in the Roman Empire are closed Quintus Aurelius Symmachus is urban prefect in Rome, and petitions Theodosius I to re-open the pagan temples. ...


Although scholars are in agreement with the classical sources that state that the Romans borrowed the name of Mithras from Avestan[4] Mithra, the origins of the Roman religion itself remain unclear and there is yet no scholarly consensus concerning this issue (for a summary of the various theories, see history, below). Further compounding the problem is the non-academic understanding of what "Persian" means, which, in a classical context is not a specific reference to the Iranian province Pars, but to the Persian (i.e. Achaemenid) Empire and speakers of Iranian languages in general. Mithras and the Bull: fresco from the mithraeum at Marino, Italy, (3rd century AD) Mithras was the central god of Mithraism, a syncretic Hellenistic mystery religion of male initiates that developed in the Eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC and was practiced in the Roman Empire from... Avestan is an Eastern Old Iranian language that was used to compose the sacred hymns and canon of the Zoroastrian Avesta. ... Mithra (Avestan Miθra, modern Persian مهر Mihr, Mehr, Meher) is an important deity or divine concept (so called Yazata) in Zoroastrianism and later Persian mythology and culture. ... Fars (Persian: فارس) is one of the 30 provinces of Iran. ... Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Dynasty was a dynasty in the ancient Persian Empire, including Cyrus II the Great, Darius I and Xerxes I. At the height of their power, the Achaemenid rulers of Persia ruled over territories roughly emcompassing some parts of todays Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon... The Iranian languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family. ...


Mithraism is only documented in the form it had acquired in the Roman Empire, where it was evidently a syncretic development that drew from the practices of a number of different cultures. It was an initiatory order, passed from initiate to initiate, like the Eleusinian Mysteries. It was not based on a supernaturally-revealed body of scripture, and hence very little written documentary evidence survives. Soldiers and the lower nobility appeared to be the most plentiful followers of Mithraism, although it's possible higher nobility practiced in private. Women were not allowed to join. Motto Senatus Populusque Romanus (SPQR) The Roman Empire at its greatest extent. ... The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every five years for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. ...


Rituals and worship

Tauroctony of Mithras at the British Museum London
Detail of above showing dog and serpent drinking bull's blood
Detail of above showing scorpion attacking bull's testicles

Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 522 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (1321 × 1517 pixel, file size: 246 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Photo taken at British Museum by Mike Young I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 522 × 599 pixelsFull resolution (1321 × 1517 pixel, file size: 246 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Photo taken at British Museum by Mike Young I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... A tauroctony was the depiction of Mithras ritually slaying a bull, that is a taurobolium. ... The British Museum in London is one of the worlds greatest museums of human history and culture. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (2048 × 1536 pixel, file size: 482 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Taken at the British Museum by Mike Young (by the way, pages DO like here!) I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (2048 × 1536 pixel, file size: 482 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Taken at the British Museum by Mike Young (by the way, pages DO like here!) I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (2048 × 1536 pixel, file size: 434 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Taken in British Museum by Mike Young I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (2048 × 1536 pixel, file size: 434 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Taken in British Museum by Mike Young I, the creator of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. ...

The mithraeum

It is difficult for scholars to reconstruct the daily workings and beliefs of Mithraism, as the rituals were highly secret and limited to initiated men.


Religious practice was centered around the mithraeum (Latin, from Greek mithraion), either an adapted natural cave or cavern or an artificial building imitating a cavern. Mithraea were dark and windowless, even if they were not actually in a subterranean space or in a natural cave. When possible, the mithraeum was constructed within or below an existing building. The site of a mithraeum may also be identified by its separate entrance or vestibule, its "cave", called the spelaeum or spelunca, with raised benches along the side walls for the ritual meal, and its sanctuary at the far end, often in a recess, before which the pedestal-like altar stood. Many mithraea that follow this basic plan are scattered over much of the Empire's former area, particularly where the legions were stationed along the frontiers (such as Britain). Others may be recognized by their characteristic layout, even though converted as crypts beneath Christian churches.


In every Mithraic temple, the place of honor was occupied by a representation of Mithras killing a sacred bull which was associated with spring, called a tauroctony. In the depiction, Mithras, wearing a Phrygian cap and pants, slays the bull from above while looking away. A serpent that symbolizes the earth and a dog seems to drink from the bull's open wound (which often spills blood but occasionally grain), and a scorpion (sign for autumn) attacks the bull's testicles sapping the bull for strength. Sometimes, a raven or crow is also present, and sometimes also a goblet and small lion. Cautes and Cautopates, the celestial twins of light and darkness, are torch-bearers, standing on either side with their legs crossed, Cautes with his brand pointing up and Cautopates with his turned down. Above Mithras, the symbols for Sol and Luna are present in the starry night sky. Temple of Hephaestus, an Doric Greek temple in Athens with the original entrance facing east, 449 BC (western face depicted) For other uses, see Temple (disambiguation). ... A tauroctony was the depiction of Mithras ritually slaying a bull, that is a taurobolium. ... A Phrygian cap The Phrygian cap or Bonnet Phrygien is a soft, red, conical cap with the top pulled forward, worn in antiquity by the inhabitants of Phrygia, a region of central Anatolia. ... Serpent is a word of Latin origin (serpens, serpentis) which is ultimately derived from the Sanskrit term serp, that is normally substituted for snake in a specifically mythic or religious context, in order to distinguish such creatures from the field of biology. ... Standards Of Learning SOL stands for The Standards Of Learning. ... This page is on the Greek goddess. ...


The scene seems to be astrological in nature. It has been proposed by David Ulansey that the tauroctony is a symbolic representation of the constellations rather than an originally Iranian animal sacrifice scene with Iranian precedents.[5] The bull is Taurus, the snake Hydra, the dog Canis Major or Minor, the crow or raven Corvus, the goblet Crater, the lion Leo, and the wheat-blood for the star Spica. The torch-bearers may represent the two equinoxes, although this is less clear. Mithras himself could also be associated with Perseus, whose constellation is above that of the bull. This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... Hydra (IPA: ) is the largest of the 88 modern constellations, and was also one of the 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy. ... Canis Major (IPA: , Latin: ) is one of the 88 modern constellations, and was also in Ptolemys list of 48 constellations. ... Canis Minor (IPA: , Latin: ) is one of the 88 modern constellations, and was also in Ptolemys list of 48 constellations. ... Corvus (Latin for Raven/Crow) is a small southern constellation with only 11 stars visible to the naked eye (brighter than magnitude 5. ... Crater (Latin for cup) is one of the 88 modern constellations and was also one of the 48 listed by Ptolemy. ... Leo (IPA: , Latin: , symbol , ) is a constellation of the zodiac. ... Spica (α Vir / α Virginis / Alpha Virginis) is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, and one of the brightest stars in the nighttime sky. ... Illumination of the Earth by the Sun on the day of equinox, (ignoring twilight). ... Perseus with the head of Medusa, by Antonio Canova, completed 1801 (Vatican Museums) Perseus, Perseos, or Perseas (Greek: Περσεύς, Περσέως, Περσέας), the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits helped establish the hegemony of Zeus and the Twelve...


From the structure of the mithraea it is possible to surmise that worshippers would have gathered for a common meal along the reclining couches lining the walls. It is worth noting that most temples could hold only thirty or forty individuals.


The mithraeum itself was arranged as an 'image of the universe'. It is noticed by some researchers that this movement, especially in the context of mithraic soterism, seems to stem from the neoplatonic concept that the 'running' of the sun from solstice to solstice is a parallel for the movement of the soul through the universe, from pre-existence, into the body, and then beyond the physical body into an afterlife.


Reliefs on a cup found in Mainz,[6] appear to depict a Mithraic initiation. On the cup, the initiate is depicted as led into a location where a Pater (see Mithraic ranks below) would be seated in the guise of Mithras with a drawn bow. Accompanying the initiate is a mystagogue, who explains the symbolism and theology to the initiate. The Rite is thought to re-enact what has come to be called the 'Water Miracle', in which Mithras fires a bolt into a rock, and from the rock now spouts water. Mainz is a city in Germany and the capital of the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. ... A mystagogue is a person who initiates others into mystic beliefs, an educator or person who has knowledge of the mystic arts. ...


Mithraic ranks

The members of a mithraeum were divided into seven ranks. All members were expected to progress through the first four ranks, while only a few would go on to the three higher ranks. The first four ranks represent spiritual progress—the new initiate became a Corax, while the Leo was an adept—the other three have been specialized offices. The seven ranks were: The adept masters the highest of esoterical knowledge. ...

  • Corax (raven)
  • Nymphus (bridegroom)
  • Miles (soldier)
  • Leo (lion)
  • Perses (Persian)
  • Heliodromus (sun-courier)
  • Pater (father)

The titles of the first four ranks suggest the possibility that advancement through the ranks was based on introspection and spiritual growth.


The iconography of Mithraism

In the absence of any Mithraist scripture, all we know about Mithras is what can be deduced from his images in the mithraea that have survived. Mithras and the Bull: fresco from the mithraeum at Marino, Italy, (3rd century AD) Mithras was the central god of Mithraism, a syncretic Hellenistic mystery religion of male initiates that developed in the Eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC and was practiced in the Roman Empire from...

A statue of the tauroctony in the Vatican Museum. Note that Mithras is looking toward the bull instead of away, a stance rarely seen in the tauroctony.
A statue of the tauroctony in the Vatican Museum. Note that Mithras is looking toward the bull instead of away, a stance rarely seen in the tauroctony.

Depictions show Mithras wearing a cape, that in some examples, has the starry sky as its inside lining. A bronze image of Mithras emerging from an egg-shaped zodiac ring was found associated with a mithraeum along Hadrian's Wall (now at the University of Newcastle). An inscription from the city of Rome suggests that Mithras may have been seen as the Orphic creator-god Phanes who emerged from the world egg at the beginning of time, bringing the universe into existence. This view is reinforced by a bas-relief at the Estense Museum in Modena, Italy, which shows Phanes coming from an egg, surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac, in an image very similar to that at Newcastle. Image File history File linksMetadata MithraWeb. ... Image File history File linksMetadata MithraWeb. ... Categories: Stub | Vatican City ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Newcastle University is a British university located in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of England. ... The head of Orpheus, from an 1865 painting by Gustave Moreau. ... Phanes is a Greek deity, hatched from the World-Egg by Kronos and Ananke, and is the primeval deity of procreation and the generation of new life. ... Mythology A world egg or cosmic egg is a mythological motif used in the creation myths of many cultures and civilizations. ... Modena (Mòdna in Modenese dialect) is a city and a province on the south side of the Po valley, in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. ...


He is sometimes depicted as a man being born or reborn from a rock (the petra genetrix[citation needed]), typically with the snake Oroboros wrapped around it. As described above, it is commonly believed that the cave in Mithraism imagery represents the cosmos, and the rock is the cosmos seen from the outside. The Ouroboros Alternate spelling: Uroboros / Uroborus The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a snake or dragon swallowing its tail, constrastingly creating itself and forming a circle. ...


Some commentators surmise that the Mithraists worshipped Mithras as the mediator between Man and the supreme God of the upper and nether world. Other commentators, inspired by James Frazer's theories, have additionally labeled Mithraism as a mystery religion with a life-death-rebirth deity, comparable to Isis, the resurrected Jesus, or the Persephone/Demeter, the cult of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Sir James George Frazer (January 1, 1854, Glasgow, Scotland – May 7, 1941), was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. ... The category life-death-rebirth deity also known as a dying-and-rising god is a convenient means of classifying the many divinities in world mythology who are born, suffer death or an eclipse or other death-like experience, pass a phase in the underworld among the dead, and are... Isis is a goddess in Egyptian mythology. ... This article is about Jesus of Nazareth. ... Proserpine by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1874) (Tate Gallery, London In Greek mythology, Persephone (Greek Περσεφόνη, Persephónē) was the Queen of the Underworld of epic literature. ... Ceres (Demeter), allegory of August: detail of a fresco by Cosimo Tura, Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara, 1469-70. ... The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every five years for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. ...


Another more widely accepted interpretation takes its clue from the writer Porphyry,[citation needed] who recorded that the cave pictured in the tauroctony was intended to be "an image of the cosmos." According to this view, the cave depicted in that image may represent the "great cave" of the sky. This interpretation was supported by research by K. B. Stark in 1869, with astronomical support by Roger Beck (1984 and 1988), David Ulansey (1989) and Noel Swerdlow (1991). This interpretation is reinforced by the constant presence in Mithraic imagery of heavenly objects such as stars, the moon, and the sun and symbols for the signs of the Zodiac. Porphyry (Greek: , c. ... 1869 (MDCCCLXIX) is a common year starting on Friday (link will take you to calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a common year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... Year 1984 (MCMLXXXIV) was a leap year starting on Sunday (link displays the 1984 Gregorian calendar). ... Year 1988 (MCMLXXXVIII) was a leap year starting on Friday (link displays 1988 Gregorian calendar). ... Year 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link displays 1989 Gregorian calendar). ... Year 1991 (MCMXCI) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the 1991 Gregorian calendar). ... This article is about the astrological concept. ...


Tauroctony

One of the central motifs of Mithraism is the tauroctony, the myth of the slaying of a sacred bull. In the Graeco-Roman myth, Ahura Mazda sent a crow, which instructed Mithras to stab the animal for the sacrifice. As construed, details of this myth indicate that Graeco-Roman Mithras may not be solely from Zoroastrian Mithra; since in later Zoroastrianism texts (Vendidad 21; Rivayat 386) and in Persian mythology it is Angra Mainyu (Ahriman in later Persian) who slays Gavyokdat, the primeval bull created by Ahura Mazda (cf: bas-relief from the Apadana Hall, Persepolis). In the Graeco-Roman myth, from the body of the dying bull spring plants, animals, and all the beneficial things of the earth. In contrast, in the Persian myth, Mah (the moon) rescues the essence of the dying primeval bull, and from it springs all animal creation. See similar Enkidu tauroctony seal. A tauroctony was the depiction of Mithras ritually slaying a bull, that is a taurobolium. ... A tauroctony was the depiction of Mithras ritually slaying a bull, that is a taurobolium. ... Ahura Mazda is the Avestan language name for an exalted divinity of ancient proto-Indo-Iranian religion that was subsequently declared by Zarathustra (Zoroaster) to be the one uncreated creator of all (God). ... Zoroastrianism was adapted from an earlier, polytheistic faith by Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) in Persia very roughly around 1000 BC (although, in the absence of written records, some scholars estimates are as late as 600 BC). ... Zoroastrianism is the religion and philosophy based on the teachings ascribed to the prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra, Zartosht). ... The beliefs and practices of the culturally and linguistically related group of ancient peoples who inhabited the Iranian Plateau and its borderlands, as well as areas of Central Asia from the Black Sea to Khotan (modern Ho-tien, China), form Persian mythology. ... Angra Mainyu (Avestan) or Ahriman (Middle Persian اهريمن) is the evil counterpart of the deity Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism. ... Ahura Mazda is the Avestan language name for an exalted divinity of ancient proto-Indo-Iranian religion that was subsequently declared by Zarathustra (Zoroaster) to be the one uncreated creator of all (God). ... See Apadāna for the Pali texts. ... Apadana Hall, Persepolis: Angra Mainyu kills the primeval bull, whose seed is rescued by Mah, the moon, as the source for all other animals. ... Enkidu and Gilgamesh, cylinder seal from Ur III Enkidu (𒂗𒆠𒆕 EN.KI.DU3 Enkis creation) appears in Sumerian mythology as a mythical wild-person raised by animals; his beast-like ways are finally tamed by a courtesan named Shamhat. ...


It is thought that the bull represents the constellation of Taurus. However, in the period we are considering, the sun at the Vernal Equinox had left Taurus two thousand years before, and was in the process of moving from Aries to Pisces. In light of this interpretation, it has been suggested in recent times that the Mithraic religion is somehow connected to the end of the astrological "age of Taurus," and the beginning of the "age of Aries," which took place about the year 2000 BCE. It has even been speculated that the religion may have originated at that time, although that is unlikely; there is no record of it until the second century BCE. Hand-coloured version of the anonymous Flammarion woodcut (1888). ... Taurus (IPA: , Latin: , symbol , ) is one of the constellations of the zodiac. ... Aries (IPA: , Latin: , symbol , ) is one of the constellations of the zodiac. ... (Redirected from 2000 BC) (21st century BC - 20th century BC - 19th century BC - other centuries) (3rd millennium BC - 2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC) Events 2064 - 1986 BC -- Twin Dynasty wars in Egypt 2000 BC -- Farmers and herders travel south from Ethiopia and settle in Kenya. ... (2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC - 1st millennium) The 2nd century BC started on January 1, 200 BC and ended on December 31, 101 BC. // Coin of Antiochus IV. Reverse shows Apollo seated on an omphalos. ...

The identification of an "age" with a particular zodiac constellation is based on the sun's position during the vernal equinox. Before 2000 BCE, the Sun could have been seen against the stars of the constellation of Taurus at the time of vernal equinox [had there been an eclipse]. Due to the precession of the equinoxes, on average every 2,160 years the Sun appears against the stars of a new constellation at vernal equinox. The current astrological age started when the equinox precessed into the constellation of Pisces, in about the year 150 BCE, with the "Age of Aquarius" starting in the year 2000.[citation needed] The exact date of the start of the ages is in question. Astrologer Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet holds that the Age of Pisces began in 234 BCE and the age of Aquarius started in 1926.[citation needed] Precession of the equinoxes refers to the precession of the Earths axis of rotation. ... Illumination of Earth by Sun on the day of equinox The vernal equinox (or spring equinox) marks the beginning of astronomical spring. ... (Redirected from 2000 BC) (21st century BC - 20th century BC - 19th century BC - other centuries) (3rd millennium BC - 2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC) Events 2064 - 1986 BC -- Twin Dynasty wars in Egypt 2000 BC -- Farmers and herders travel south from Ethiopia and settle in Kenya. ... Taurus (IPA: , Latin: , symbol , ) is one of the constellations of the zodiac. ... Illumination of Earth by Sun on the day of equinox The vernal equinox (or spring equinox) marks the beginning of astronomical spring. ... Precession of the equinoxes refers to the precession of the Earths axis of rotation. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Illumination of Earth by Sun on the day of equinox The vernal equinox (or spring equinox) marks the beginning of astronomical spring. ... Position of vernal equinox occurring in Pisces after leaving Aries constellation (through the precession of the equinoxes backward motion). ... For other uses, see Pisces. ... The Age of Aquarius (starting around the 27th century) is one of the twelve astrological ages. ... Year 1926 (MCMXXVI) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Indeed, the constellations common in the sky from about 4000 BCE to 2000 BCE were Taurus the Bull, Canis Minor the Dog, Hydra the Snake, Corvus the Raven, and Scorpio the Scorpion, all of which may be identified in the fresco from Marino, a standard Hellenistic iconography (illustration, above right). Further support for this theory is the presence of a lion and a cup in some depictions of the tauroctony: indeed Leo (a lion) and Aquarius ("the cup-bearer") were the constellations seen as the northernmost (summer solstice) and southernmost (winter solstice) positions in the sky during the age of Taurus. (5th millennium BC – 4th millennium BC – 3rd millennium BC - other millennia) Events City of Ur in Mesopotamia (40th century BC). ... (Redirected from 2000 BC) (21st century BC - 20th century BC - 19th century BC - other centuries) (3rd millennium BC - 2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC) Events 2064 - 1986 BC -- Twin Dynasty wars in Egypt 2000 BC -- Farmers and herders travel south from Ethiopia and settle in Kenya. ... Taurus (IPA: , Latin: , symbol , ) is one of the constellations of the zodiac. ... Canis Minor (IPA: , Latin: ) is one of the 88 modern constellations, and was also in Ptolemys list of 48 constellations. ... Hydra (IPA: ) is the largest of the 88 modern constellations, and was also one of the 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy. ... Corvus (Latin for Raven/Crow) is a small southern constellation with only 11 stars visible to the naked eye (brighter than magnitude 5. ... Scorpius (Latin for scorpion, symbol , Unicode ♏) is one of the constellations of the zodiac. ... Marino (postcode 5049) is a suburb in the south of Adelaide, South Australia. ... Leo (IPA: , Latin: , symbol , ) is a constellation of the zodiac. ... Aquarius (IPA: , Latin: ) is the eleventh sign of the zodiac, situated between Capricornus and Pisces. ...


The precession of the equinoxes was discovered, or at least publicized, by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus in the second century BCE. (See Discovery of precession for more information.) Whether the phenomenon was known by Mithraists previously is unknown. In any case, Mithras was presumed to be very powerful if he was able to rotate the heavens, and thus 'kill the bull' or displacing Taurus as the reigning image in the heavens. For the Athenian tyrant, see Hipparchus (son of Pisistratus). ... (2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC - 1st millennium) The 2nd century BC started on January 1, 200 BC and ended on December 31, 101 BC. // Coin of Antiochus IV. Reverse shows Apollo seated on an omphalos. ... Precession of the equinoxes is caused by a polar motion, a change in the orientation of the Earths axis. ...


Archaeological remains

  • Italy: The Basilica of San Clemente in Rome has a preserved mithraeum with the altarpiece still intact in the excavations under the modern church.
  • Italy: The Castra Peregrinorum mithraeum in Rome, under the basilica of Santo Stefano Rotondo was excavated in the 20th century.
  • Italy: Ostia Antica, the port of Rome, where the remains of 17 mithraea have been found so far; one of them is substantial.
  • Germany: The museum of Dieburg displays finds from a mithraeum, including ceramics used in the service.
  • Germany: The museum of Hanau displays a reconstruction of a mithraeum.
  • England: The museum at the University of Newcastle displays findings from the three sites along Hadrian's Wall and recreates a mithraeum.
  • Switzerland: The city of Martigny (ancient Octodurus), in the Alps, displays a reconstructed Mithraeum [1]
  • Slovenia: The museum of Ptuj and town Hajdina near Ptuj.
  • United States: The Cincinnati Art Museum displays a relief from a mithraeum in Rome itself depicting Mithras slaying a bull.

The Basilica of San Clemente is a complex of buildings in Rome, Italy centered around a 12th century Roman Catholic church dedicated to Pope Clement I. The site is notable as being an archeological record of Roman architectural, political and religious history from the early Christian era to the Middle... Nickname: Motto: SPQR: Senatus Populusque Romanus Location of the city of Rome (yellow) within the Province of Rome (red) and region of Lazio (grey) Coordinates: Region Lazio Province Province of Rome Founded 21 April 753 BC Government  - Mayor Walter Veltroni Area  - City 1,285 km²  (580 sq mi)  - Urban 5... Nickname: Motto: SPQR: Senatus Populusque Romanus Location of the city of Rome (yellow) within the Province of Rome (red) and region of Lazio (grey) Coordinates: Region Lazio Province Province of Rome Founded 21 April 753 BC Government  - Mayor Walter Veltroni Area  - City 1,285 km²  (580 sq mi)  - Urban 5... Santo Stefano Rotondo is the most ancient example of central plan church in Rome. ... Ostia Antica was the harbor of ancient Rome and perhaps its first colonia. ... Dieburg is a town in Hesse, Germany. ... , ) Hanau is a town in Hessen, Germany with 89,000 inhabitants. ... Newcastle University is a British university located in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of England. ... Martigny is the capital of the district of Martigny in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. ... Ptuj Area: 66. ... Area: 21,6 km² Population  - males  - females 3. ... History The Cincinnati Art Museum was founded in 1881 and opened in 1886. ...

History and development

Origin theories

Cumont's hypothesis

Mithras was little more than a name until the massive documentation of Franz Cumont's Texts and Illustrated Monuments Relating to the Mysteries of Mithra was published in 1894-1900, with the first English translation in 1903. Cumont's hypothesis, as the author summarizes it in the first 32 pages of his book, was that the Roman religion was a development of a Zoroastrian cult of Mithra (itself a development from an Indo-Iranian one of *mitra), that through state sponsorship and syncretic influences was disseminated throughout the Near- and Middle East, ultimately being absorbed by the Greeks, and through them eventually by the Romans. Franz-Valéry-Marie Cumont (Aalst, Belgium, January 3, 1868 - Brussels, August 25, 1947) was a Belgian archaeologist and historian, a philologist and student of epigraphy, who brought these often isolated specialties to bear on the syncretic mystery religions of Late Antiquity, notably Mithraism. ... Mithra (Avestan Miθra, modern Persian مهر Mihr, Mehr, Meher) is an important deity or divine concept (so called Yazata) in Zoroastrianism and later Persian mythology and culture. ...


Cumont's theory was a hit in its day, particularly since it was addressed to a general, non-academic readership that was at the time fascinated by the orient and its hitherto (relatively) uncharted culture. This was the age when great steps were being taken in Egyptology and Indology, preceded as it was by Max Müller's "Sacred Books of the East" series that for the first time demonstrated that civilization did not begin and end with Rome and Greece, or even with Assyria and Babylon, which until then were widely considered to be the cradle of humanity. Cumont's book was a product of its time, and influenced generations of academics such that the effect of Cumont's syncretism theories are felt even a century later.


Cumont's ideas, though in many respects valid, had however one serious problem with respect to the author's theory on the origins of Mithraism: If the Roman religion was an outgrowth of an Iranian one, there would have to be evidence of Mithraic-like practices attested in Greater Iran. However, that is not the case: No mithraea have been found there, and the Mithraic myth of the tauroctony does not conclusively match the Zoroastrian legend of the slaying of Gayomart, in which Mithra does not play any role at all. The historians of antiquity, otherwise expansive in their descriptions of Iranian religious practices, hardly mention Mithra at all (one notable exception is Herodotus i.131, which confuses Mithra with Aredvi Sura Anahita). Greater Iran (in Persian: ایران بزرگ pron: Iran-e Bozorg, also ایران‌زمین pron: Iran-zameen) is a term for the Iranian plateau in addition to the entire region where Iranian languages are today spoken as a first language, or as a second language by a significant minority. ... Aredvi Sura Anahita is the Avestan language name of an (Indo-)Iranian cosmological figure, venerated as the divinity of the Waters (Aban) and hence associated with fertility and increase. ...


Further, no distinct religion of Mithra or *mitra had ever (and has not since) been established. As Boyce put it, "no satisfactory evidence has yet been adduced to show that, before Zoroaster, the concept of a supreme god existed among the Iranians, or that among them Mithra - or any other divinity - ever enjoyed a separate cult of his or her own outside either their ancient or their Zoroastrian pantheons."[7] Professor Nora Elizabeth Mary Boyce (2 August 1920 - 4 April 2006) was the worlds leading doyenne of Zoroastrian studies. ...


Other theories

Other theories propose that Mithraism originated in Asia Minor, which though once within the sphere of Zoroastrian influence, by the second century BCE were more influenced by Hellenism than by Zoroastrianism. It was there, at Pergamum on the Aegean Sea, in the second century BCE, that Greek sculptors started to produce the highly standardized bas-relief imagery of Mithra Tauroctonos "Mithra the bull-slayer." Pergamon or Pergamum (modern day Bergama in Turkey) was a Greek city, in northwestern Anatolia, 16 miles from the Aegean Sea, located on a promontory on the north side of the river Caicus (modern day Bakir), that became an important kingdom during the Hellenistic period, under the Attalid dynasty, 282... Look up Aegean Sea in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... (2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC - 1st millennium) The 2nd century BC started on January 1, 200 BC and ended on December 31, 101 BC. // Coin of Antiochus IV. Reverse shows Apollo seated on an omphalos. ...


The Greek historian Plutarch wrote[8] about pirates of Cilicia, the coastal province in the southeast of Anatolia, who practiced Mithraic "secret rites" around 67 BCE: "They likewise offered strange sacrifices; those of Olympus I mean; and they celebrated certain secret mysteries, among which those of Mithras continue to this day, being originally instituted by them". Plutarch was convinced that the Cilician pirates had originated the Mithraic rituals that were being practiced in Rome by his day. Mestrius Plutarchus (Greek: Πλούταρχος; 46 - 127), better known in English as Plutarch, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist. ... Cilicia as Roman province, 120 AD In Antiquity, Cilicia (Κιλικία) was the name of a region, now known as Çukurova, and often a political unit, on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey), north of Cyprus. ... Anatolia and Europe Anatolia (Turkish: from Greek: Ανατολία - Anatolia) is a peninsula of Western Asia which forms the greater part of the Asian portion of Turkey, as opposed to the European portion (Thrace, or traditionally Rumelia). ... Centuries: 2nd century BC - 1st century BC - 1st century Decades: 110s BC 100s BC 90s BC 80s BC 70s BC - 60s BC - 50s BC 40s BC 30s BC 20s BC 10s BC Years: 72 BC 71 BC 70 BC 69 BC 68 BC 67 BC 66 BC 65 BC 64...


Beck suggests a connection through the Hellenistic kingdoms (as Cumont had already intimated) was quite possible: "Mithras — moreover, a Mithras who was identified with the Greek Sun god, Helios, which was one of the deities of the syncretic Graeco-Iranian royal cult founded by Antiochus I, king of the small, but prosperous "buffer" state of Commagene, in the mid first century BCE."[1] In Greek mythology the sun was personified as Helius (Greek Ἥλιος / ἥλιος). Homer often calls him Titan and Hyperion. ... Roman province of Commagene, 120 CE Commagene (Greek Kομμαγηνη Kommagênê) was a small sometime kingdom, located in modern south-central Turkey, with its capital at Samosata (modern Samsat, near the Euphrates). ...


Another possible connection between a Mithra and Mithras, though one not proposed by Cumont, is from a Manichean context. According to Sundermann, the Manicheans adopted the name Mithra to designate one of their own deities. Sundermann determined that the Zoroastrian Mithra, which in Middle Persian is Mihr, is not a variant of the Parthian and Sogdian Mytr or Mytrg; though a homonym of Mithra, those names denote Maitreya. In Parthian and Sogdian however Mihr was taken as the sun and consequently identified as the Third Messenger. This Third Messenger was the helper and redeemer of mankind, and identified with another Zoroastrian divinity Narisaf.[9] Citing Boyce,[10] Sundermann remarks, "It was among the Parthian Manicheans that Mithra as a sun god surpassed the importance of Narisaf as the common Iranian image of the Third Messenger; among the Parthians the dominance of Mithra was such that his identification with the Third Messenger led to cultic emphasis on the Mithraic traits in the Manichaean god."[11] Manichaeism was one of the major ancient religions. ... Pahlavi is a term that refers: (1) to a script used in Iran derived from the Aramaic script, and (2) more broadly, to Middle Persian, the Middle Iranian language written in this script. ... The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language spoken in Sogdiana (Zarafshan River Valley) in the modern day republics of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (chief cities: Samarkand, Panjikent, Ferghana). ... Maitreya Bodhisattva (Sanskrit) or Metteyya Bodhisatta (Pāli) is the future Buddha of this world in Buddhist eschatology. ...


The early period

Double-faced Mithraic relief. Rome, second to third century CE. Louvre Museum. Front:Mithras killing the bull, being looked over by the Sun god and the Moon god. Back: Mithras banquetting with the Sun god, to celebrate his victory over the dark forces of the Universe.
Double-faced Mithraic relief. Rome, second to third century CE. Louvre Museum.
Front:Mithras killing the bull, being looked over by the Sun god and the Moon god.
Back: Mithras banquetting with the Sun god, to celebrate his victory over the dark forces of the Universe.

Mithraism began to attract attention in Rome around the end of the first century. Statius mentions the typical Mithraic relief in his Thebaid (Book i. 719,720), around 80 CE. The earliest material evidence for the Roman worship of Mithras dates from that period, in a record of Roman soldiers who came from the military garrison at Carnuntum in the Roman province of Upper Pannonia (near the Danube River in modern Austria, near the Hungarian border). Other legionaries fought the Parthians and were involved in the suppression of the revolts in Jerusalem from 60 CE to about 70 CE When they returned home, they made Mithraic dedications, probably in the year 71 or 72. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2066x959, 2189 KB) Summary Double-faced Mithraic relief. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high resolution version (2066x959, 2189 KB) Summary Double-faced Mithraic relief. ... The 1st century was that century which lasted from 1 to 100 according the Gregorian calendar. ... Publius Papinius Statius, (c. ... The Thebaid is the region of ancient Egypt containing the thirteen southernmost nomes of Upper Egypt, from Abydos to Aswan. ... Events By place Roman Empire The Emperor Titus inaugurates the Flavian Amphitheatre with 100 days of games. ... // Heidentor (pagan gate). ... Position of the Roman province of Pannonia Pannonia is an ancient country bounded north and east by the Danube, conterminous westward with Noricum and upper Italy, and southward with Dalmatia and upper Moesia. ... Events Boudicca sacks London (approximate date). ... This article is about the year 70. ... Centuries: 1st century BC - 1st century - 2nd century Decades: 20s 30s 40s 50s 60s - 70s - 80s 90s 100s 110s 120s Years: 66 67 68 69 70 - 71 - 72 73 74 75 76 Events The Romans establish a fortress at York (Eboracum), as a base for their northern forces. ... For other uses, see number 72. ...


By the year 200, Mithraism had spread widely through the army, and also among traders and slaves. During festivals all initiates were equals including slaves. The German frontiers have yielded most of the archaeological evidence of its prosperity: small cult objects connected with Mithras turn up in archaeological digs from Romania to Hadrian's Wall. For other uses, see number 200. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...


Expansion throughout the empire

Sol Invictus on the reverse of this coin by usurper Victorinus. Mithras (as well as Elagabalus and Sol) was at times referred to as Sol Invictus.

By the third century, Mithraism was officially sanctioned by the Roman emperors.[citation needed] According to the fourth century Historia Augusta, Commodus participated in its mysteries: Sacra Mithriaca homicidio vero polluit, cum illic aliquid ad speciem timoris vel dici vel fingi soleat "He desecrated the rites of Mithras with actual murder, although it was customary in them merely to say or pretend something that would produce an impression of terror".[12] Victorinus AE Antoninianus. ... Victorinus AE Antoninianus. ... Marcus Piav(v)onius Victorinus was emperor of the successionist Gallic Empire from 268 to 270 or 271, following the brief reign of Marius. ... Elagabalus Sol Invictus, was a Roman sun god, introduced in Rome, during the Severan dynasty, by the Roman emperor Elagabalus (also called Heliogabalus), who was the hereditary high priest of the god, Baal (lord) of Emesa (in ancient Syria), or El-Gabal, latinised as Elagabalus. ... Standards Of Learning SOL stands for The Standards Of Learning. ... Coin of Emperor Probus, circa 280, with Sol Invictus riding a quadriga, with legend SOLI INVICTO, to the undefeated Sun. Note how the Emperor (on the left) wears a radiated solar crown, worn also by the god (to the right). ... // Overview Events 212: Constitutio Antoniniana grants citizenship to all free Roman men 212-216: Baths of Caracalla 230-232: Sassanid dynasty of Persia launches a war to reconquer lost lands in the Roman east 235-284: Crisis of the Third Century shakes Roman Empire 250-538: Kofun era, the first... Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (August 31, 161 – December 31, 192) was a Roman Emperor who ruled from 180 to 192. ...


Concentrations of Mithraic temples are found on the outskirts of the Roman empire: along Hadrian's wall in northern England three mithraea have been identified, at Housesteads, Carrawburgh and Rudchester. The discoveries are in the University of Newcastle's Museum of Antiquities, where a mithraeum has been recreated. Recent excavations in London have uncovered the remains of a Mithraic temple near to the center of the once walled Roman settlement, on the bank of the Walbrook stream. Mithraea have also been found along the Danube and Rhine river frontier, in the province of Dacia (where in 2003 a temple was found in Alba-Iulia) and as far afield as Numidia in North Africa. This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Motto (French) God and my right Anthem No official anthem - the  United Kingdom anthem God Save the Queen is commonly used England() – on the European continent() – in the United Kingdom() Capital (and largest city) London (de facto) Official languages English (de facto) Unified  -  by Athelstan 927 AD  Area  -  Total 130... Newcastle University is a British university located in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north of England. ... This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. ... The present day location of the temple foundations. ... The Walbrook river played a key role in the Roman settlement of Londinium, the city now known as London. ... The Danube (ancient Danuvius, Iranian *dānu, meaning river or stream, ancient Greek Istros) is the longest river in the European Union and Europes second longest river. ... The Rhine (German: ; Dutch: ; French: ; Italian: ; Romansh: ) is one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe at 1,320 kilometres (820 miles), with an average discharge of more than 2,000 cubic meters per second. ... Dacia, in ancient geography the land of the Daci, named by the ancient Greeks Getae, was a large district of Southeastern Europe, bounded on the north by the Carpathians, on the south by the Danube, on the west by the Tisa, on the east by the Tyras or Nistru, now... County Alba County Status County capital Mayor Mircea Hava, Democratic Party, since 2000 Area 103. ... Numidia was an ancient Berber kingdom in North Africa that later alternated between a Roman province and a Roman client state, and is no longer in existence today. ... A world map showing the continent of Africa Africa is the worlds second-largest and second most-populous continent, after Asia. ...


As would be expected, Mithraic ruins are also found in the port city of Ostia, and in Rome the capital, where as many as seven hundred mithraea may have existed (a dozen have been identified). Its importance at Rome may be judged from the abundance of monumental remains: more than 75 pieces of sculpture, 100 Mithraic inscriptions, and ruins of temples and shrines in all parts of the city and its suburbs. A well-preserved late second-century mithraeum, with its altar and built-in stone benches, originally built beneath a Roman house (as was a common practice), survives in the crypt over which has been built the Basilica of San Clemente, Rome. Ostia Antica was the harbor of ancient Rome and perhaps its first colonia. ... Nickname: Motto: SPQR: Senatus Populusque Romanus Location of the city of Rome (yellow) within the Province of Rome (red) and region of Lazio (grey) Coordinates: Region Lazio Province Province of Rome Founded 21 April 753 BC Government  - Mayor Walter Veltroni Area  - City 1,285 km²  (580 sq mi)  - Urban 5... The Basilica of San Clemente is a complex of buildings in Rome, Italy centered around a 12th century Roman Catholic church dedicated to Pope Clement I. The site is notable as being an archeological record of Roman architectural, political and religious history from the early Christian era to the Middle...


Decline and demise

There is very little information about the decline of the religion. The edict of Theodosius I in 394 made paganism illegal. Official recognition of Mithras in the army stopped at this time, but we have no information on what other effect the edict had. Mithraism may have survived in certain remote cantons of the Alps and Vosges into the fifth century.[13] An engraving depicting what Theodosius may have looked like, ca. ... Events September 6 - Battle of the Frigidus: The christian Roman Emperor Theodosius I defeats and kills the pagan usurper Eugenius and his Frankish magister militum Arbogast. ... Europe in 450 The 5th century is the period from 401 - 500 in accordance with the Julian calendar in the Christian Era. ...


Christianity and Mithraism

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A debated legacy

Mithraism is most famous for its mythical and iconographic similarities to Christianity, and the theory that it is the origin of much of today's Christian doctrine.


That Christianity is largely a re-branded version of Mithraism is a controversial claim. Ernest Renan, in The Origins of Christianity, claims that Mithraism was the prime competitor to Christianity in the second through the fourth centuries, although some scholars[attribution needed] feel his claims that the emperors Nero, Commodus, Septimius Severus, Caracalla, and the Tetrarchs were initiates are dubious as there is little evidence that Mithraic worship was accorded official status as a Roman cult. Ernest Renan (February 28, 1823–October 12, 1892) was a French philosopher and writer. ... The 2nd century is the period from 101 - 200 in accordance with the Julian calendar in the Christian Era. ... As a means of recording the passage of time, the 4th century was that century which lasted from 301 to 400. ... Nero[1] Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (December 15, 37 – June 9, 68)[2], born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, also called Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus, was the fifth and last Roman Emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. ... Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (August 31, 161 – December 31, 192) was a Roman Emperor who ruled from 180 to 192. ... Lucius Septimius Severus (b. ... Caracalla (April 4, 186 – April 8, 217) was Roman Emperor from 211 – 217. ... The Tetrarchs, a porphyry sculpture sacked from a Byzantine palace in 1204 CE, Treasury of St. ...


However there are also strong similarities between core doctrines in Christianity and Mithraism. That Christianity adopted some imagery, icons or festivals is generally accepted (such as the adoption by Christendom of winter solstice or Saturnalia festivals as Christmas) but this doesnt' necessarily reflect basic religious tenets. Similarly, Gnostic cults such as the Marcionites and Valentinians adopted the personage of Jesus or the concept of a Savior, without adopting underlying doctrinal elements held by the Roman Church. Saturnalia is the feast at which the Romans commemorated the dedication of the temple of the god Saturn, which took place on 17 December. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ... Marcionism is a sect founded in A.D. 144 at Rome by Marcion of Sinope. ... Valentinius more usually called Valentinus (c. ...


Key similarities

Mithras was born from a virgin on the December 25, a date later co-opted by Christians as Christ's birthday in 320 AD. A traveling teacher and master, Mithras also performed miracles. He had twelve companions as Jesus had twelve disciples. Mithras died for man’s sins and was resurrected on the following Sunday. The crucifix, water baptism and the breaking of bread and wine are also shared by both religions.[14]


Bull and cave themes are found in Christian shrines dedicated to the archangel Michael, who, after the legalization of Christianity, became the patron Saint of soldiers. Many of those shrines were converted Mithraea, for instance the sacred cavern at Monte Gargano in Apulia, refounded in 493. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mithraism was transferred to the previously unvenerated archangel. Guido Renis archangel Michael (in the Capuchin church of Sta. ... In traditional Christian iconography, Saints are often depicted as having halos. ... Monte SantAngelo sul Gargano or Monte Gargano, located at 20°58′ N 72°54′ E on Mount Gargano, Italy, is the site of the oldest shrine in Western Europe dedicated to the archangel Michael, the militant Christian transformation of Mithras. ... This article is about the Italian region. ... Events February 25 - Odoacer agrees to a mediated peace with Theodoric the Great, and is later killed by him personally. ...


Bull and crypt are linked in the Catholic saint Saturnin (frequently "Sernin" or "Saturninus") of Toulouse, France. The Mithraeum is retained as a crypt under his earliest church, evocatively named "Notre-Dame du Taur." Saint Saturnin (in Latin Saturninus, now Sernin in France and in Navarra Cernin), with a feast day entered for November 29, was one of the apostles to the Gauls sent out (probably under the direction of Pope Fabian, 236 - 250) during the consulate of Decius and Gratus (250-251 AD... New city flag (Occitan cross) Traditional coat of arms Motto: (Occitan: For Toulouse, always more) Location Coordinates Time Zone CET (GMT +1) Administration Country Region Midi-Pyrénées Department Haute-Garonne (31) Intercommunality Community of Agglomeration of Greater Toulouse Mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc  (UMP) (since 2004) City Statistics Land... The worship of the Sacred Bull throughout the ancient world is most familiar in the episode of the idol of the Golden Calf made by Aaron and worshipped by the Hebrews in the wilderness of Sinai (Exodus). ...


"The resemblances between the two hostile churches were so striking as to impress even the minds of antiquity."[15] Like Origen (an early Christian writer and in this respect a peculiarity among the other patristic writers), Mithraism held that all souls pre-existed in the ethereal regions with God, and inhabited a body upon birth. Similar to Pythagorean, Jewish, and Pauline theology, life then becomes the great struggle between good and evil, spirit and body, ending in judgment, with the elect being saved. "They both admitted to the existence of a heaven inhabited by beautiful ones ... and a hell peopled by demons situate in the bowels of earth."[15]. Origen Origen (Greek: Ōrigénēs, 185–ca. ...


Both religions used the rite of baptism, and each participated in an outwardly similar type of sacrament, bread and wine. Both Mithra and Christ were supposedly visited by shepherds and Magi. It has been claimed that both Mithraism and Christianity considered Sunday their holy day, though for different reasons, although the evidence that Mithraists practiced weekly worship, any more than any other pagan religion of the time, is lacking. Many[attribution needed] have noted that the title of "Pope" (father) is found in Mithraic doctrine and seemingly prohibited in Christian doctrine. The words "Peter" (rock) and "mass" (sacrament) have significance in Mithraism. In Christian belief and practice, a sacrament is a rite that mediates divine grace, constituting a sacred mystery. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ...


Mithraism and early Christianity considered abstinence, celibacy, and self-control to be among their highest virtues. Both had similar beliefs about the world, destiny, heaven and hell, and the immortality of the soul. Their conceptions of the battles between good and evil were similar (though Mithraism was more dualistic[16]), including a great and final battle at the end of times, similar to Zoroastrianism. Mithraism's flood at the beginning of history was deemed necessary because what began in water would end in fire, according to Mithraic eschatology. Both religions believed in revelation as key to their doctrine. Both awaited the last judgment and resurrection of the dead. The term dualism is the state of being dual, or having a twofold division. ... For the book by Pope Benedict XVI, see Eschatology (book). ...


"When inducted into the degree of Leo, he was purified with honey, and baptised, not with water, but with fire, as John the Baptist declared that his successor would baptise. After this second baptism, initiates were considered 'participants,' and they received the sacrament of bread and wine commemorating Mithra's banquet at the conclusion of his labors."[17] For the hip-hop producer with the same name, see John the Baptist (producer). ...


Both Christianity and Mithraism were popular amongst soldiers. Mithraism was largely a soldiers' cult, and under emperors like Julian and Commodus, Mithra became the patron of Roman armies.[citation needed] Christianity also developed a huge following in the military, and even civilian Christians began to refer to themselves as milites ("soldiers"), in reference to the disciplined life they felt called to, while those less disciplined outside the faith were called pagani, borrowing the Roman military slang for "civilians".


Mithras had no mother, but was miraculously born of a rock, or the petra genetix.[18] His worshipers partook of a sacramental meal of bread marked with a cross.[citation needed] This was one of seven Mithraic ritual meals.[citation needed]


Some writers have said that a mithraeum on the Vatican Hill was seized by Christians in 376 AD. Among them John Holland Smith wrote that "Gracchus suppressed the worship of Mithras at the cave on the Vatican hill,"[19] however he cites no evidence. No Mithraeum is known on the Vatican hill[20] and the actions of Furius Maenius Gracchus are described only by Jerome,[21] who does not mention the location, which suggests it was a private shrine instead. The Vatican Hill (in Latin, Vaticanus Mons) is the name given, long before the founding of Christianity, to one of the hills on the side of the Tiber opposite the traditional seven hills of Rome. ... “Saint Jerome” redirects here. ...


The Mithraic festival of Epiphany, marking the arrival of sun-priests ("Magi") at the Savior's birthplace, was adopted by the Christian church only as late as 813 CE.[22] The Wise Men (Magi) adoring the infant Jesus. ...


Christianity may have emphasized common features that attracted Mithras followers. Perhaps the crucifix appealed to those Mithras followers who had crosses already branded on their foreheads.[citation needed] In art, Mithras, a sun god, was normally depicted with a halo representing the sun.[citation needed]


Justin Martyr (100-165), in a discussion with the Jewish apologist Trypho, wrote: "'And when those who record the mysteries of Mithras say that he was begotten of a rock, and call the place where those who believe in him are initiated a cave, do I not perceive here that the utterance of Daniel, that a stone without hands was cut out of a great mountain, has been imitated by them, and that they have attempted likewise to imitate the whole of Isaiah's words? For they contrived that the words of righteousness be quoted also by them. ... And when I hear, Trypho,' said I, 'that Perseus was begotten of a virgin, I understand that the deceiving serpent counterfeited also this.'" (Dialogue with Trypho, LXXVIII). Tertullian gives a similar account. Justin Martyr (Justin the Martyr, also known as Justin of Caesarea) (100 – 165) was an early Christian apologist. ... Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian, (ca. ...


According to Martin A. Larson, in The Story of Christian Origins (1977), the first example of the mythological concept of the savior god which is present in many faiths including Christianity and Mithraism is Osiris. Larson concluded that the general concept of savior must have originated from the savior cult of Osiris. He also believed that the Essenes were Jewish Pythagoreans, whose members not only gave birth to Christianity as Essenes, but were directly influenced by Zoroastrian doctrine as Pythagoreans.[23] Mithraism, in Larson's view, was an established but exclusive sect devoted to social justice, and was assimilated by state-sponsored Christianity before being disposed of in name. Martin A. Larson (March 2, 1897 – January 15, 1994) was an American populist freethinker and religion scholar specializing in theological history and the Essenes. ... Typical depiction of Osiris Osiris (Greek language, also Usiris; the Egyptian language name is variously transliterated Asar, Aser, Ausar, Wesir, or Ausare) is the Egyptian god of life, death, and fertility. ... Typical depiction of Osiris Osiris (Greek language, also Usiris; the Egyptian language name is variously transliterated Asar, Aser, Ausar, Wesir, or Ausare) is the Egyptian god of life, death, and fertility. ... The Essenes (sg. ... The Pythagoreans were a Hellenic organization of astronomers, musicians, mathematicians, and philosophers who believed that all things are, essentially, numeric. ...


J. R. R. Tolkien explained the fact that there are some Mithraistic beliefs which predate similar/identical Christian ones by arguing that the similarities between the Christ story and pagan myths, such as Mithraism, can be explained by portraying the myths as imperfect reflections of divine truth.[24] John Ronald Reuel Tolkien CBE (January 3, 1892 – September 2, 1973) was an English philologist, writer and university professor, best known as the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. ...


Other iconographical similarities

Franz Cumont was the first scholar to identify the similarities between Christianity and Mithraism. Cumont argues that the two religions shared an attraction to nature that made it quite easy for Christian artists to borrow iconographical references from Mithraism. So, when one looks at Christian sarcophagi, mosaics, and miniatures from the third to the fifth centuries, one can see images of the Heavens, the Earth, the Ocean, the Sun, the Moon, the Planets, signs of the Zodiac, the Winds, the Seasons, and the Elements. However, Cumont continues by arguing that even though the church was opposed to the pagan practice of worshipping the cosmic cycle, these images nonetheless made onto Christian artistic impressions. This occurred, he continues, because the Christian artists made “a few alterations in costume and attitude transformed a pagan scene into a Christian picture”. Cumont cites the images of Moses as an example of this phenomenon. For instance, when early Christian artists depicted their rendition of Moses striking Mount Horeb (Sinai) with his staff to release drinking water from the mountain, their inspiration was an earlier Mithraic reference to Mithras shooting arrows at rocks to cause the waters to shoot up. [25] Franz-Valéry-Marie Cumont (Aalst, Belgium, January 3, 1868 - Brussels, August 25, 1947) was a Belgian archaeologist and historian, a philologist and student of epigraphy, who brought these often isolated specialties to bear on the syncretic mystery religions of Late Antiquity, notably Mithraism. ...


Another example of Mithraic iconography that was incorporated into Christian art is the scene of Mithras ascending into the heavens. This allusion is identified by M.J. Vermaseren. He writes that in Mithraism, it was believed that when Mithras had accomplished a series of miraculous deeds, he was carried into the heavens by a chariot. In various Mithraic depictions, the chariot is being drawn by horses being controlled by Helios-Sol, the pagan sun god. In other instances, a chariot of fire belonging to Helios is being led into the water and is surrounded by the pagan god Oceanus and sea nymphs. Vermaseren then argues that when Christian artists wanted to use imagery to portray the soul’s ascension into heaven on sarcophagi, they used the biblical scene of Elijah being led into heaven by chariots and horses that were on fire. The inspiration for this image, however, came from the representations of Mithras ascent into the heavens by Helios’ chariot. The sun god provided inspiration for the flames on Elijah’s chariot and the Jordan River is personified by a figure resembling the god Oceanus. [26]


Scholar A. Deman offers a different interpretation on the relationship between similarities of Christian and Mithraic iconography. Deman writes that rather than looking at Christian art and trying to find individual references from Mithraic art, as Cumont does when looking merely at the presence of the Sun or the Moon, for instance, it is better to look for larger patterns of comparison. Thus, he writes, “with this method, pure coincidences can no longer be used and so the recognition of Mithras as the privileged pagan inspirer of medieval Christian iconography is forced upon us.” This approach is certainly different than what had been used by Cumont or Vermaseren, but it seems that it is useful, particularly because it allows one to compare artistic themes, rather than looking at specific pieces and trying to make connections that that may or may not be accurate. But, by examining themes on the whole, it is evident that similarities can be easily identified by using these overall themes as templates and then applying them to specific pieces. To illustrate this, an examination of what Deman calls, the 'creative sacrifice' of Mithras and the creative sacrifice of Christ ‘iconographically’, is in order. In both scenes, the vernal sacrifice appears at the centre of the image. Above it, the sun and the moon appear symmetrically disposed from one another. Under the sacrifice, there are another two figures that appear symmetrically apart from one another. In the Mithraic scenes, the attendants of Mithras, Cautes and Cautopates, appear. One has a raised torch, while the other holds a lowered torch. In the Christian crucifixion scenes, which were created from the fourth century onward, the two figures underneath Jesus are typically Mary and John. In other instances, two characters will carry a raised and lowered object that is reminiscent of Cautes and Cautopates. This can manifest itself either as two Roman soldiers armed with lances, or Longinus holding a spear and Stephaton offering Jesus sour wine off of a sponge. Sometimes, the two characters depicted will are wearing similar clothes to what Cautes and Cautopates are wearing in the earlier Mithraic depictions. Other features that are typical of the depictions of Mithras’ death that can be found in Christian crucifixion scenes include references to the twelve apostles being represented by the signs of the zodiac, serpents, bear and leafy trees that surround central figure, and characters with their legs crossed. [27]


Theories regarding the origin of similarities

The similarities (particularly the iconographical ones) occur between Christianity and Mithraism are due to a number of different factors. Perhaps the best examination of the complexity of trying to identify these factors can be found in the article, “Christ and Mithra”, which was written by Samuel Laeuchli. Laeuchli offers four potential explanations as to the nature of these similarities. Laeuchli writes that it is important to distinguish that the four explanations must be constantly weighed against one another because more than one possible connection could be involved. It is therefore impossible to consider any of the following ideas as being one more ‘correct’ than another. In addition, there is a lack of information on Mithraism that scholars could access, compared to what is known about Christianity. It is also important to remember that Mithraism was neither static nor homogeneous. Therefore, Mithraism from the second century is quite different than Mithraism from the third century. Likewise, just as Christianity varied from one region of the Roman Empire to the other, so too did Mithraism. [28]


The first theory is that there was: “A direct influence of Mithraism upon Christianity. To anyone studying the material on Mithra, the possibility of Mithraic influence appears in many instances.” [28] Franz Cumont agrees with this view and writes that if any collusion of ideas did take place between the two groups, it occurred because the two groups were struggling against each other to become the moral leader within the Roman Empire. [25] This, however, would imply that Christian artists and architects conscientiously incorporated iconographical elements into their artwork intentionally. For instance, the Christian artists incorporated Mithraic themes to appeal to Mithraists so that they would convert to Christianity. Manfred Clauss, on the other hand, would disagree with this last argument. This issue, Clauss argues, is unhistorical for many reasons. Firstly, it exaggerates the missionary aspects of Mithraism as a mystery religion. Unlike Christianity, mystery religions, like Mithraism, did not intend to become the only religion of the Roman Empire. Their goals were to offer people the chance for a unique, individual and personal salvation. Clauss also recognizes the fact that there was undoubtedly an interaction between the two groups. [3] Scholar Martin H. Luther, for instance, also notes that in some instances, abandoned mithraeums (the places in which Mithraic cult ceremonies occurred) were taken over by Christians and turned into church houses. If there was any competition between Christians and Mithraists, Luther notes, it was merely for real estate, as the two groups both grew to the same level by about the year 300. [29] Therefore, any similarity, whether intentional or not, occurred because of an exchange of ideas and not because of a malicious plan on the part of Christians to try to destroy Mithraism or lure its believers over to Christianity. Furthermore, the proximity of the two institutions to one another suggests that a transfusion of ideas likely occurred.


The second theory was that there was: “A direct influence of Christianity upon Mithraism”. [28] If one is to accept the first of Laeuchli’s points as valid, then it is not unreasonable to conclude that Mithraists also borrowed ideas from Christians. According to Clauss, as Mithraism grew and spread throughout the Empire, it was influenced by the political, social, and economic realities of the day. At times, the movement developed in reaction to what was occurring in the Empire. Moreover, those who belonged to the Mithraic movement came from all walks of life. Their experiences and relationships to other people and institutions within Roman society also impacted the practice of Mithraism. [3] Luther also examines this point and reaches the same conclusion. Luther’s paper examines recent archaeological discoveries and draws similar conclusions about Mithraism. Luther estimates that at the beginning of the fourth century, there were roughly as many Mithraists in Rome as there were Christians, approximately 50 000 people belonging to each group. Likewise, as a result of the excavations in the ancient Roman town of Ostia, archaeologists discovered that the privately-owned mithraeums, dated to the second century, were located near public spaces such as barracks and bath houses. [29] This means that Mithraism by this point was a public movement. Therefore, an interaction between Mithraists and Christians was probable.


The third theory that Laeuchli identifies is: “A common root for Christian and Mithraic phenomena”. [28] According to some scholars in this area of research, the iconographical similarities between Mithraism and Christianity can be explained by the fact that the two movements shared a common origin in the Hellenistic part of the Roman Empire. Franz Cumont writes: “The propagation of the two religions had been almost contemporaneously conducted, and their diffusion had taken place under analogous conditions. Both from the Orient, they had spread because of the same general reasons…” [25] Therefore, because the two movements started out from Asia Minor (what Cumont calls the Orient), it is reasonable to conclude that a lot of the iconographical similarities come from this shared root. The implication is that some of the similarities are nothing more than coincidences from the part of Christian and Mithraic artists. Clauss too agrees with Cumont in this regard, and writes that some parallels can be traced, “to the common currency of all mystery cults or can be traced back to common origins in the Graeco-oriental culture of the Hellenistic world.” [3]


Laeuchli’s fourth theory is a combination of the three arguments, listed above. He identifies that there may also be another factor that is important to consider. Laeuchli writes that the two could have developed:

A common contemporaneousness resulting directly from [the root] source. Two religions could have spoken to a Roman condition, a social need, and a theological question without having learned from each other or even without having known of each other’s existence. As in so many other instances…parallel thoughts and social patterns can appear independently of one another as “new” elements with the authentic consciousness of such newness…if a religion moved into the Roman sphere, the soil would have altered the content of different religions, thereby creating striking parallels. [28]

Clauss too believes in this theory because, as he writes, Mithraism was a relatively isolated movement in its infancy, with unique origins. It grew independently from the both the religious traditions of ancient Greece and independent from the other mystery religions in the Roman Empire. [3] This is the reason why, for instance, water imagery is important to both groups. Christian artists depicted Moses using his staff to get water from a rock and the reason why Mithras used his arrows to achieve the same goal. [3]


A fifth option would be to regard the similarities as largely due to what might be termed 'evolutionary convergence'. Samuel Sandmel famously warned scholars of Biblical studies about the dangers of 'parallelomania', or the assumption that every parallel requires explanation in terms of direct influence. It is possible that similar ideas arose because they address similar human concerns, or that similar ideas are found because they draw on a common wider heritage of symbols and cultural ideas.


Mithraic studies

The First International Congress of Mithraic Studies was held in 1971 at Manchester, England.


Franz Cumont (1868 - 1947) was the main proponent of the theory that Mithraism was an offshoot of Zoroastrianism as it had been practiced throughout Greater Iran ("Persia" in 19th century vocabulary). Cumont's student, Maarten J. Vermaseren, author of Mithras, the Secret God (1963), was very active in translating Mithraic inscriptions. Franz-Valéry-Marie Cumont (Aalst, Belgium, January 3, 1868 - Brussels, August 25, 1947) was a Belgian archaeologist and historian, a philologist and student of epigraphy, who brought these often isolated specialties to bear on the syncretic mystery religions of Late Antiquity, notably Mithraism. ... Greater Iran (in Persian: ایران بزرگ pron: Iran-e Bozorg, also ایران‌زمین pron: Iran-zameen) is a term for the Iranian plateau in addition to the entire region where Iranian languages are today spoken as a first language, or as a second language by a significant minority. ... Year 1963 (MCMLXIII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Walter Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults, Harvard University Press, 1987. A book, based on his Jackson Lectures at Harvard University in 1982, dispels some misconceptions and stereotypes. Walter Burkert (born Neuendettelsau (Bavaria), February 2, 1931), the most eminent living scholar of Greek myth and cult, is an emeritus professor of classics at the University of Zurich, Switzerland who has also taught in the United Kingdom and the United States. ...


Bibliography

  1. ^ a b c Beck, Roger (2002). "Mithraism". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Cosa Mesa: Mazda Pub. 
  2. ^ Plutarch, Life of Pompey 24
  3. ^ a b c d e f Clauss, Manfred (2001). in Gordon, Richard (trans.): The Roman cult of Mithras. Routledge. 
  4. ^ Ware, James R.; Kent, Roland G. (1924). "The Old Persian Cuneiform Inscriptions of Artaxerxs II and Artaxerxs III". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 55.  pp. 52-61.
  5. ^ Ulansey, David (1989). The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. Oxford University Press.  (1991 revised edition)
  6. ^ Beck, Roger (2000). "Ritual, Myth, Doctrine, and Initiation in the Mysteries of Mithras: New Evidence from a Cult Vessel". The Journal of Roman Studies (90): 145-180. 
  7. ^ Boyce, Mary (2001). "Mithra the King and Varuna the Master". Festschrift für Helmut Humbach zum 80.  pp. 243,n.18
  8. ^ Plutarch, Life of Pompey.
  9. ^ Sundermann, Werner (1979). "The Five Sons of the Manichaean God Mithra". Mysteria Mithrae: Proceedings of the International Seminar on the Religio-Historical Character of Roman Mithraism. Ed. Bianchi, Ugo. Leiden: Brill. 
  10. ^ Boyce, Mary. (1962) On Mithra in the Manichaean Pantheon. In Henning, Walter B. and Yarshater, Ehsan (eds.). A Locust's Leg: Studies in Honour of S. H. Taqizadeh. 
  11. ^ Sundermann, Werner (2002). "Mithra in Manicheism". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Cosa Mesa: Mazda Pub. 
  12. ^ Loeb (1932). Scriptores Historiae Augustae: Commodus.  pp. IX.6.
  13. ^ Cumont, Franz (1903). in McCormack, Thomas J. (trans.): The Mysteries of Mithra. Chicago: Open Court.  pp. 206.
  14. ^ Leahey, T-H (2004). A History of Psychology: Main Currents in Psychological Thought, 6th, Pearson Prentice Hall.  pp. 77
  15. ^ a b Cumont, Franz (1911). Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism.  pp. 191, 193
  16. ^ http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Periods/Roman/Topics/Religion/Mithraism/David_Fingrut**.html
  17. ^ Larson, Martin A. (1977). The Story of Christian Origins.  pp. 190.
  18. ^ de Riencourt, Amaury (1974). Sex and Power in History.  pp. 135.
  19. ^ Smith, John Holland (1976). The Death of Classical Paganism.  pp. 146.
  20. ^ Platner (1929). Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. 
  21. ^ Jerome, Letter 107 (To Laeta) -- see discussion at Internet Infidels
  22. ^ Brewster, H. Pomeroy (1904). Saints and Festivals of the Christian Church.  pp. 55.
  23. ^ Taylor, J.. Pythagoreans and Essenes: Structural Parallels (Collection de la Revue des Études Juives, 32). Leuven: Peeters. ISBN 90-429-1482-3. 
  24. ^ Wood, Ralph C.. Biography of J. R. R. Tolkien. 
  25. ^ a b c Cumont, Franz (1956). in McCormack, Thomas K. (trans.): The Mysteries of Mithras. Dover Publications.  pp. 227-8.
  26. ^ Vermaseren, M.J (1963). Mithras: The Secret God. Chatto & Windus.  pp. 104-6.
  27. ^ Derman, A. (1971). in Hinnells, John R.: “Mithras and Christ: Some Iconographical Similarities,” in Mithraic Studies, vol. 2. Manchester University Press.  pp. 510-7.
  28. ^ a b c d e Laeuchli, Samuel (1967). in Laeuchli, Samuel: “Christ and Mithra”, in Mithraism in Ostia: Mystery Religion and Christianity in the Ancient Port of Rome. Northwestern University Press.  pp. 88.
  29. ^ a b Luther, Martin H. (1989). “Roman Mithraism and Christianity”, in Numen, 36 no. 1 (June, 1989). Numen.  pp. 3-5.

External links


  Results from FactBites:
 
Mithraism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (4948 words)
Mithra was worshiped as a god by proto aryan Indo-Iranians and Mithraism is generally considered to be of Persian origins, specifically an outgrowth of Zoroastrian culture, though not of Zoroaster's teachings.
Mithra’s triumph and ascension to heaven were celebrated during the spring equinox, as during Easter, when the sun rises toward its apogee.
Mithraism: Zorostrian Gnosticism According to David Livingstone, an early variation of Mithraism was practiced by Zoroastrian heretics, falsely called "Magi", and influenced the Greek Mysteries of Dionysus.
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Mithraism (3058 words)
Mithraism was emphatically a soldier religion: Mithra, its hero, was especially a divinity of fidelity, manliness, and bravery; the stress it laid on good fellowship and brotherliness, its exclusion of women, and the secret bond amongst its members have suggested the idea that Mithraism was Masonry amongst the Roman soldiery.
Mithra was born of a mother-rock by a river under a tree.
Mithraism had a Eucharist, but the idea of a sacred banquet is as old as the human race and existed at all ages and amongst all peoples.
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