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Double-faced Mithraic relief. Rome, second to third century AD. Louvre Museum

The Mithraic Mysteries or Mysteries of Mithras (also Mithraism) was a mystery religion which became popular among the military in the Roman Empire, from the 1st to 4th centuries AD. Information on the cult is based mainly on interpretations of the many surviving monuments. The most characteristic of these are depictions Mithras as being born from a rock, and as sacrificing a bull. His worshippers had a complex system of seven grades of initiation, with ritual meals. They met in underground temples, which temples survive in large numbers. Little else is known for certain.


Summary of the cult myth

Mithras born from the rock (petra genetrix), Marble, 180-192 CE. From the area of S. Stefano Rotondo, Rome.

Mithras is born from a rock.[1] He is depicted in his temples slaying a bull in the tauroctony (see section below). Little is known about the beliefs associated with this.[2] The ancient histories of the cult by Euboulos and Pallas have perished.[3] The name of the god was certainly given as Mithras (with an 's') in Latin monuments, although Mithra may have been used in Greek.[4]

History and development



In antiquity, texts refer to "the mysteries of Mithras", and to its adherents, as "the mysteries of the Persians."[5] But there is great dispute about whether there is really any link with Persia, and its origins are quite obscure.[6]

The mysteries of Mithras were not practiced until the 1st century AD.[7] The unique underground temples or Mithraea appear suddenly in the archaeology in the last quarter of the first century AD.[8]

Earliest cult locations

The attested locations of the cult in the earliest phase (c. 80–120 AD) are as follows:[9]

Mithraea datable from pottery

  • Nida/Heddemheim III (Germania Sup.)
  • Mogontiacum (Germania Sup.)
  • Pons Aeni (Noricum)
  • Caesarea (Judaea)

Datable dedications

  • Nida/Heddernheim I (Germania Sup.) (CIMRM 1091/2, 1098)
  • Carnuntum III (Pannonia Sup.) (CIMRM 1718)
  • Novae (Moesia Inf.) (CIMRM 2268/9)
  • Oescus(Moesia Inf.)(CIMRM 2250)
  • Rome(CIMRM 362, 593/4)

Datable literary reference

  • Rome (Statius, Theb. 1.719-20)

Earliest archaeology

The earliest Mithraic monument showing Mithras slaying the bull is thought to be CIMRM 593. This is a depiction of Mithras killing the bull, found in Rome. There is no date, but the inscription tells us that it was dedicated by a certain Alcimus, steward of T. Claudius Livianus. Vermaseren and Gordon believe that this Livianus is a certain Livianus who was commander of the Praetorian guard in 101 AD, which would give an earliest date of 98-99 AD.[10]

An altar or block from near SS. Pietro e Marcellino on the Esquiline in Rome was inscribed with a bilingual inscription by an Imperial freedman named T. Flavius Hyginus, probably between 80-100 AD. It is dedicated to Sol Invictus Mithras.[11]

CIMRM 2268 is a broken base or altar from Novae/Steklen in Moesia Inferior, dated 100 AD, showing Cautes and Cautopates.

Other early archaeology includes the Greek inscription from Venosia by Sagaris actor probably from 100–150 AD; the Sidon cippus dedicated by Theodotus priest of Mithras to Asclepius, 140-141 AD; and the earliest military inscription, by C. Sacidius Barbarus, centurion of XV Apollinaris, from the bank of the Danube at Carnuntum, probably before 114 AD.[12]

The last is the earliest archaeological evidence outside Rome for the Roman worship of Mithras, a record of Roman soldiers who came from the military garrison at Carnuntum.[13] The earliest dateable Mithraeum outside Rome dates from 148 AD.[14] The Mithraeum at Caesarea Maritima is the only one in Palestine and the date is inferred.[15]

Vermaseren notes that no Mithraic monument can be certainly dated earlier than the end of the first century AD.[16]

Five small terracotta plaques of a figure holding a knife over a bull have been excavated near Kerch in the Crimea, dated by Beskow and Clauss to the second half of the first century BC,[17] and by Beck to 50 BC-50 AD, which might be a depiction of Mithras. [18] The bull-slaying figure wears a Phrygian cap, but is described by Beck and Beskow as otherwise unlike standard depictions of the tauroctony.[19]

Earliest literary references

The earliest surviving ancient literary text that can be associated with the Mysteries of Mithras is in Statius c. 80 AD, who makes an enigmatic reference, possibly to the tauroctony.[20] Dio Cassius, describing the visit of Tiridates to the emperor Nero in 63 AD, refers to his worshipping Mithras; but the context suggests that the Persian Mitra is intended.[21]

Possible origins of the mysteries of Mithras

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


The Greek biographer Plutarch (46 - 127) says that the pirates of Cilicia, the coastal province in the southeast of Anatolia, were the origin of the Mithraic rituals that were being practiced in Rome in his day: "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." (Life of Pompey 24, referring to events c. 68 BC). The 4th century commentary on Vergil by Servius says that Pompey settled some of these pirates in Calabria.[22] But whether any of this relates to the origins of the mysteries is unclear.[23]


According to 3-4th century AD philosopher Porphyry, Mithraists considered that their cult was founded by Zoroaster.[24] But Porphyry is writing close to the demise of the cult, and modern scholar Robert Turcan has challenged the idea that Porphyry's statements about Mithraism are accurate. His case is that far from representing what Mithraists believed, they are merely representations by the neo-platonists of what it suited them in the late 4th century to read into the mysteries.[25] Merkelbach and Beck believe that Porphyry's work "is in fact thoroughly coloured with the doctrines of the Mysteries."[26]

Cumont's hypothesis: possible origins in Persian Zoroastrianism

Scholarship on Mithras begins with Franz Cumont, who published a two volume collection of source texts and images of monuments in French in 1894–1900. Cumont's hypothesis, as the author summarizes it in the first 32 pages of his book, was that the Roman religion was "the Roman form of Mazdaism",[27] the Persian state religion, disseminated from the East.

Cumont's theories were examined and largely rejected at the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies held in 1971. John Hinnells was unwilling to reject entirely the idea of Iranian origin,[28] but wrote: "we must now conclude that his reconstruction simply will not stand. It receives no support from the Iranian material and is in fact in conflict with the ideas of that tradition as they are represented in the extant texts. Above all, it is a theoretical reconstruction which does not accord with the actual Roman iconography."[29] He discussed Cumont's reconstruction of the bull-slaying scene and stated "that the portrayal of Mithras given by Cumont is not merely unsupported by Iranian texts but is actually in serious conflict with known Iranian theology."[30] Another paper by R. L. Gordon argued that Cumont severely distorted the available evidence by forcing the material to conform to his predetermined model of Zoroastrian origins. Gordon suggested that the theory of Persian origins was completely invalid and that the Mithraic mysteries in the West was an entirely new creation.[31]

Boyce states that "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."[32]

Beck tells us that since the 1970s scholars have generally rejected Cumont, but adds that recent theories about how Zoroastrianism was during the period BC now makes some new form of Cumont's east-west transfer possible.[33] "Apart from the name of the god himself, in other words, Mithraism seems to have developed largely in and is, therefore, best understood from the context of Roman culture."[34]

Modern theories

Bas-relief depicting the tauroctony. Mithras is here named Sol Invictus. Sol and Luna appear at the top of the relief

Beck believes that the cult was created in Rome, by a single founder who had some knowledge of both Greek and Oriental religion, but suggests that some of the ideas used may have passed through the Hellenistic kingdoms: "Mithras — moreover, a Mithras who was identified with the Greek Sun god, Helios, ... 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 BC.[5]

Merkelbach suggests that its mysteries were essentially created by a particular person or persons[35] and created in a specific place, the city of Rome, by someone from an eastern province or border state who knew the Iranian myths in detail, which he wove into his new grades of initiation; but that he must have been Greek and Greek-speaking because he incorporated elements of Greek platonism into it. The myths, he suggests, were probably created in the milieu of the imperial bureaucracy, and for its members.[36] Clauss tends to agree. Beck calls this "the most likely scenario" and states "Till now, Mithraism has generally been treated as if it somehow evolved Topsy-like from its Iranian precursor -- a most implausible scenario once it is stated explicitly."[37]

Archaeologist Lewis M. Hopfe notes that there are only three Mithraea in Roman Syria, in contrast to further west. He writes: "archaeology indicates that Roman Mithraism had its epicenter in Rome... the fully developed religion known as Mithraism seems to have begun in Rome and been carried to Syria by soldiers and merchants."[38]

Taking a different view from most modern scholars, Ulansey argues that the Mithraic mysteries began in the Greco-Roman world as a religious response to the discovery by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus of the astronomical phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes — a discovery that amounted to discovering that the entire cosmos was moving in a hitherto unknown way. This new cosmic motion, he suggests, was seen by the founders of Mithraism as indicating the existence of a powerful new god capable of shifting the cosmic spheres and thereby controlling the universe.[39]

Ware asserted that the Romans who founded the cult borrowed the name "Mithras" from Avestan Mithra.[40]

Later History

The first important expansion of the mysteries in the Empire seems to have happened quite quickly, late in the reign of Antoninus Pius and under Marcus Aurelius. By this time all the key elements of the mysteries were in place.[41]

Mithraism reached the apogee of its popularity during the 2nd and 3rd centuries, spreading at an "astonishing" rate at the same period when Sol Invictus became part of the state cult.[42] At this period a certain Pallas devoted a monograph to Mithras, and a little later Euboulus wrote a History of Mithras, although both works are now lost.[43] According to the possibly spurious fourth century Historia Augusta, the emperor Commodus participated in its mysteries.[44] But it never became one of the state cults.[45]

The end of Mithraism

It is difficult to trace when the religion of Mithras came to an end. Beck states that "Quite early in the [fourth] century the religion was as good as dead throughout the empire."[46] Inscriptions from the fourth century are few. There is evidence for an attempt to revive Mithraism in mid fourth century Rome - especially during the reign of Julian the Apostate - as part of deliberate attempt by certain leading senatorial families to promote pagan alternatives to Christianity.[47] There is, however, virtually no evidence for the continuance of the cult of Mithras into the fifth century. In particular large numbers of votive coins deposited by worshippers have been recovered at the the Mithraeum at Pons Sarravi (Sarrebourg) in Gallia Belgica, in a series that runs from Gallienus (253-68) to Theodosius I (379-395). These were scattered over the floor when the Mithraeum was destroyed, as Christians apparently regarded the coins as polluted; and they therefore provide a reliable dates for the functioning of the Mithreaum.[48] It cannot be shown that any Mithraeum continued in use in the fifth century. The coin series in all Mithraea end at the end of the fourth century at the latest. The cult disappeared earlier than that of Isis. Isis was still remembered in the middle ages as a pagan deity, but Mithras was already forgotten in late antiquity.[49]

Cumont stated in the English edition of his book that Mithraism may have survived in certain remote cantons of the Alps and Vosges into the fifth century, but the reference was only given in the French text, and was to the date of the coins in the Mithraeum at Pons Sarravi, none of which are in fact fifth century.[50]

Rituals and worship

Little is known about the beliefs of the cult of Mithras. Modern accounts rely primarily on modern interpretation of the reliefs.[2]

No Mithraic scripture or first-hand account of its highly secret rituals survives, with the possible exception of a liturgy recorded in a 4th century papyrus, which may not be Mithraic at all.[51] The walls of Mithraea were commonly whitewashed, and where this survives it tends to carry extensive repositories of graffiti; and these, together with inscriptions on Mithraic monuments, form the main source for Mithraic texts [52] .

Nevertheless, it is clear from the archeology of numerous Mithraea that most rituals were associated with feasting - as eating utensils and food residues are almost invariably found. These tend to include both animal bones and also very large quantities of fruit residues [53] . The presence of large amounts of cherry-stones in particular would tend to confirm mid-summer (late June, early July) as a season especially associated with Mithraic festivities. The Virunum album, in the form of an inscribed bronze placque, records a Mithraic festival of commemoration as taking place on 26th June 184. Beck argues that religious celebrations on this date are indicative of special significance being given to the Summer solstice; but equally it may well be noted that, in northern and central Europe, reclining on a masonry plinth in an unheated cave was likely to be a predominantly summertime activity. For their feasts, Mithraic initiates reclined on stone benches arranged along the longer sides of the Mithraeum - typically there might be room for 15-30 diners, but very rarely many more than 40 [54] . Counterpart dining rooms, or triclinia were to be found above ground in the precints of almost any temple or relgious sanctuary in the Roman empire, and such rooms were commonly used for their regular feasts by Roman 'clubs', or collegia. Mithraic feasts probably performed a very similar function for Mithraists as the collegia did for those entitled to join them; indeed, since qualification for Roman collegia tended to be restricted to particular families, localities or traditional trades, Mithraism may have functioned in part as providing clubs for the unclubbed [55].

Each Mithraeum invariably had several altars at the further end, underneath the representation of the tauroctony; and also commonly contained considerable numbers of subsiduary altars, both in the main Mithraeum chamber, and in the ante-chamber or narthax [56] . These altars, which are of the standard Roman pattern, each carry a named dedicatory inscription from a particular initiate, who dedicated the altar to Mithras "in fulflment of his vow", in gratitude for favours received. Burned residues of animal entrails are commonly found on the main altars indicating regular sacrificial use. However, Mithraea do not commonly appear to have been provided with facilites for ritual slaughter of sacrificial animals (a highly specialised function in Roman religion), and it may be presumed that a Mithraeum would have made arrangements for this service to be provided for them in co-operation with the professional victimarius [57] of the civic cult.

Mithraic beliefs appear not to have been internally consistent and monolithic,[58] but rather, varied from location to location.[59] Mithraism had no predominant sanctuary or cultic centre; and, although each Mithraeum had its own officers and functionaries, there was no central supervisory authority. In some Mithraea, such as that at Dura Europos wall paintings depict prophets carrying scrolls .[60] , but no named Mithraic sages are known, nor does any reference give the title of any Mithraic scripture or teaching. It is known that intitates could transfer with their grades from one Mithraeum to another [61] , but we do not know how a Mithraeum could tell who was properly an initiate (or indeed whether this was ever an issue; as it most certainly was in contemporary Christianity).

The mithraeum

A mithraeum found in the ruins of Ostia Antica, Italy.

Temples of Mithras are sunk below ground, windowless, and very distinctive. In cities, the basement of an apartment block might be converted; elsewhere they might be excavated and vaulted over, or converted from a natural cave. Mithraic temples are common in the empire; although very unevenly distributed, with considerable numbers found in Rome, Ostia, Numidia, Dalmatia, Britain and along the Rhine/Danube frontier; while being much less common in Greece, Egypt, and Syria [62] . Mithriac rituals being secret, Mithraism could only be practiced within a Mithraeum [63]; and consequently it may be safely concluded that areas without Mithraea were also without Mithraists. More than 420 Mithraic sites have now been identified [64]. By their nature Mithraea tend to survive when other forms of religious structures do not; and consequently the relative prevalence of Mithraism in the population may well tend to be over-estimated. For the most part, Mithraea tend to be small, externally undistinguished, and cheaply constructed; the cult generally preferring to create a new centre rather than expand an existing one. The Mithraeum represented the cave in which Mithras carried and then killed the bull; and where stone vaulting could not be afforded, the effect would be imitated with lath and plaster. They are commonly located close to springs or streams; fresh water appears to have been required for some Mithraic rituals, and a basin is often incorporated into the structure [65] . There is usually a narthax or ante-chamber at the entrance, and often other ancillary rooms for storage and the preparation of food. The term mithraeum is modern; in Italy inscriptions usually call it a spelaeum; outside Italy it is referred to as templum.

In their basic form, Mithraea were entirely different from the temples and shrines of other cults. In standard pattern Roman religious precincts, the temple building functioned as a house for the God; who was intended to be able to view through the opened doors and columnar portico, sacrificial worship being offered on an altar set in an open courtyard; potentially accessible not only to initiates of the cult, but also to colitores or non-initiated worshippers [66]. Mithraea were the antithesis of this [67]; being entirely inward-focussed with altars set within the building, and with no sacred precinct, or indeed any provision for worshippers other than initates. .

Degrees of initiation

In the Suda under the entry "Mithras", it states that "no one was permitted to be initiated into them the mysteries of Mithras), until he should show himself holy and steadfast by undergoing several graduated tests."[68] Gregory Nazianzen refers to the "tests in the mysteries of Mithras".[69]

There were seven grades of initiation into the mysteries of Mithras, which are listed by St. Jerome[70]. Manfred Clauss states that the number of grades, seven, must be connected to the planets. A mosaic in the Ostia Mithraeum of Felicissimus depicts these grades, with heraldic emblems that are connected either to the grades or are just symbols of the planets. The grades also have an inscription besides them commending each grade into the protection of the different planetary gods. [71] In ascending order of importance the initiatory grades were:[72]

Grade Symbols Associated planet/Protecting deity
Corax (raven) beaker, caduceus Mercury
Nymphus (bridegroom, or male bride) lamp, diadem Venus
Miles (soldier) pouch, helmet, lance Mars
Leo (lion) batillum, sistrum, thunderbolts Jupiter
Perses (Persian) akinakes, scythe, moon and the stars Luna
Heliodromus (sun-runner) torch, radiated crown, whip Sol
Pater (father) patera (or ring?), staff, Phrygian cap, sickle Saturn

Elsewhere, as at Dura Europos Mithraic graffiti survive giving membership lists, in which initiates of a Mithraeum are named with their Mithraic grades. At Virunum, the membership list or album sacratorum was maintained as an inscribed plaque, updated year by year as new members were initiated. By cross-referencing these lists it is sometimes possible to track initiates from one Mithraeum to another; and also speculatively to identify Mithraic initiates with persons on other contemporary lists - such as military service rolls, of lists of devotees of non-Mithraic religious sanctuaries. Names of initiates are also found in the dedication inscriptions of altars and other cult objects. Clauss noted in 1990 that overall, only about 14% of Mithriac names inscribed before 250 identify the initiates grade - and hence questioned that the traditional view that all initiates belonged to one of the seven grades [73]. Clauss argues that the grades represented a distinct class of priests, sacerdotes. Gordon maintains the former theory of Merkelbach and others, especially noting such examples as Dura where all names are associated with a Mithraic grade. Some scholars maintain that practice may have differed over time, or from one Mithraea to another.

The highest grade, pater, is far the most common found on dedications and inscriptions - and it would appear not to have been unusual for a Mithraeum to have several persons with this grade. The form pater patrum (father of fathers) is often found, which appears to indicate the pater with primary status. There are several examples of persons, commonly those of higher social status, joining a Mithraeum with the status pater - especially in Rome during the 'pagan revival' of the fourth century. It has been suggested that some Mithraea may have awarded honorary pater status to sympathetic dignitaries [74].

The initiate into each grade appears to have required to undertake a specific ordeal or test [75] , involving exposure to heat, cold or threatened peril. An 'ordeal pit', dating to the early 3rd century, has been identified in the Mithraeum at Carrawburgh. Accounts of the cruelty of the emperor Commodus describes his amusing himself by enacting Mithriac initiation ordeals in homicidal form. By the later 3rd century, the enacted trials appear to have been abated in rigor, as 'ordeal pits' were floored over.

Admission into the community was completed with a handshake with the pater, just as Mithras and Sol shook hands. The initiates were thus referred to as syndexioi, those "united by the handshake". The term is used in an inscription by Proficentius [76] and derided by Firmicus Maternus [77]

Ritual imitations

Reconstruction of a mithraeum with a mosaic depicting the grades of initiation.

Activities of the most prominent deities in Mithraic scenes, Sol and Mithras, were imitated in rituals by the two most senior officers in the cult's hierarchy, the Pater and the Heliodromus.[78]. The initiates held a sacramental banquet, replicating the feast of Mithras and Sol. [78]

Reliefs on a cup found in Mainz,[79][80] appear to depict a Mithraic initiation. On the cup, the initiate is depicted as led into a location where a Pater 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.

Roger Beck has hypothesized a third processional Mithraic ritual, based on the Mainz cup and Porphyrys. This so-called Procession of the Sun-Runner features the Heliodromus, escorted by two figures representing Cautes and Cautopates (see below) and preceded by an initiate of the grade Miles leading a ritual enactment of the solar journey around the mithraeum, which was intended to represent the cosmos. [81]

Consequently it has been argued that most Mithraic rituals involved a re-enactment by the initiates of episodes in the Mithras narrative [82],, a narrative whose main elements were; birth from the rock, striking water from stone with an arrow shot, the killiing of the bull, Sol's submission to Mithras, Mithras and Sol feasting on the bull, the ascent of Mithras to heaven in a chariot. A noticeable feature of this narrative (and of its regular depiction in surviving sets of relief carvings) is the complete absence of female personages [83]. Mithras has no mother, consort or children. As a form of mutual religious courtesy Mithraea commonly also hosted statues to non-Mithraic divinities, and feminine gods were not excluded from this, but in the main Mithraic iconographic sequence only the figure of Luna is presented as feminine, and she is not depicted as interacting with Mithras or participating in the action of the narrative in any way.

From this, and from the evidence of membership lists, it is generally believed that cult was for men only. It has recently been suggested by one scholar that "women were involved with Mithraic groups in at least some locations of the empire."[84] Soldiers were strongly represented amongst Mithraists; and also merchants, customs officials and minor bureaucrats. Few, if any, initiates came from leading aristocratic or senatorial families until the 'pagan revival' of the mid 4th century; but there were always considerable numbers of freedmen and slaves .[85].

Mithraic Ethics

Clauss suggests that a statement by Porphyry that people initiated into the Lion grade must keep their hands pure from everything that brings pain and harm and is impure means that moral demands were made upon members of congregations.[86]. A passage in the Caesares of Julian the Apostate refers to "commandments of Mithras".[87]Tertullian, in his treatise 'On the Military Crown' records that Mithraists in the army were officially excused from wearing celebratory coronets; on the basis that the Mithraic initiation ritual included refusing a proffered crown, because "their only crown was Mithras" [88].

Mithras and other gods

Syncretism was a feature of Roman paganism, and the cult of Mithras was part of this. Almost all Mithraea contain statues dedicated to gods of other cults, and it is common to find inscriptions dedicated to Mithras in other sanctuaries, especially those of Jupiter Dolichenus [89] . Mithraism was not an alternative to other pagan religions, but rather a particular way of practising pagan worship; and many Mithraic initiates can also be found worshipping in the civic religion, and as initiates of other mystery cults [90]. Although modern scholarship refers to Mithraic initiates as Mithraists, no equivalent term is found in antique Mithraic texts; Mithraic congregations appear to have needed no general term to distinguish their own members.

Mithras and Phanes

Orphic speculation influenced the cult of Mithras at times.[91] In Orphism, Phanes emerged from the world egg at the beginning of time, bringing the universe into existence.

There is some literary evidence of the syncretism of Mithras and Phanes. A list of the eight elements of creation appears in Zenobius and Theon of Smyrna; most of the elements are the same, but in Zenobius the seventh element is 'Mithras', in Theon it is 'Phanes'.[92].

A Greek inscription on a statue base from a Mithraeum in Rome reads "to Deus Sol Mithras Phanes". A relief from Vercovium (Housesteads) on Hadrian's Wall shows Mithras emerging from the cosmic egg, which is represented both as such and by the shape of the zodiacal ring.[93] Ulansey adds:

"The identification between Mithras and Phanes indicated by CIMRM 860 is also explicitly attested by an inscription found in Rome dedicated to 'Zeus-Helios-Mithras-Phanes' and another inscription dedicated to 'Helios-Mithras-Phanes'."[94]

Another syncretistic relief is in Modena. This shows Phanes coming from an egg with flames shooting out around him, surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac, in an image very similar to that at Newcastle.[95]. Further references also exist.[96]

Mithras Sol Invictus

Mithras is given the title "deus sol invictus" (unconquered sun god) in several inscriptions. The vagueness of the term invictus means that it was widely used. Mithraism never became a state cult, however, unlike the official late Roman Sol Invictus cult.[97]

Mithras and Jupiter Dolichenus

The Mithraea at Carnuntum appear to have been constructed in close association with contemporary temple of Jupiter Dolichenus [98] , and there seem to have been considerable similarities between the two cults; both being mystery cults with secret liturgies, both being popular in the military, and having similar names for their officials and intitiates. Two large Mithrea have been discovered in Doliche itself (modern Gaziantep in Turkey), which have been proposed as being unusually early.

Mithras and Helios/Sol

Although Mithras himself is Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, he and Sol appear in several scenes as separate persons, with the banquet scene (see below) being the most prominent example [99]. Other scenes feature Mithras ascending behind Sol in the latter's chariot, the deities shaking hands and the two gods at an altar with pieces of meat on a spit or spits.[99]. One peculiar scene shows Sol kneeling before Mithras, who holds an object, interpreted either as a Persian cap or the haunch of the bull, in his hand. [99].


Much about Mithraism is only known from reliefs and sculptures. There have been many attempts to interpret this material.

The tauroctony

tauroctony in Kunsthistorisches Museum

In every Mithraeum the centrepiece was a representation of Mithras killing a sacred bull; the so-called tauroctony.[100]

The image may be a relief, or free-standing, and side details may be present or omitted. The centre-piece is Mithras clothed in Anatolian costume and wearing a Phrygian cap; who is kneeling on the exhausted [101] bull, holding it by the nostrils [102] with his left hand, and stabbing it with his right. As he does so, he looks over his shoulder towards the figure of Sol. A dog and a snake reach up towards the blood. A scorpion seizes the bull's genitals. The two torch-bearers are on either side, dressed like Mithras, Cautes with his torch pointing up and Cautopates with his torch pointing down.[103]

The event takes place in a cavern, into which Mithras has carried bull, after having hunted it, ridden it and overwhelmed its strength [104] . Sometimes the cavern is surrounded by a circle, on which the twelve signs of the zodiac appear. Outside the cavern, top left, is Sol the sun, with his flaming crown, often driving a quadriga. A ray of light often reaches down to touch Mithras. Top right is Luna, with her crescent moon, who may be depicted driving a biga.

In some depictions, the central tauroctony is framed by a series of subsiduary scenes to the left, top and right, illustrating events in the Mithras narrative; Mithras being born from the rock, the water miracle, the hunting and riding of the bull, meeting Sol who kneels to him, shaking hands with Sol and sharing a meal of bull-parts with him, and ascending to the heavens in a chariot.

Tauroctony from Neuenheim near Heidelberg, with subsiduary framing panels depicting the life of Mithras

Sometimes Cautes and Cautopates carry shepherds' crooks instead.[105].

Theories of the meaning of the tauroctony

Franz Cumont hypothesized that the imagery of the tauroctony was a Graeco-Roman representation of an event in Zoroastrian cosmogony described in a 9th century AD Zoroastrian text, the Bundahishn. In this text the evil spirit Ahriman (not Mithras) slays the primordial creature Gavaevodata which is represented as a bovine. [106] Cumont speculated that a version of the myth must have existed in which Mithras, not Ahriman, killed the bovine. But Hinnells points out that no such variant of the myth is known, and that this is merely speculation: "In no known Iranian text [either Zoroastrian or otherwise] does Mithra slay a bull" [107]

David Ulansey finds astronomical evidence from the mithraeum itself. [108] He reminds us that the Platonic writer Porphyry wrote in the 3rd century AD that the cave-like temple Mithraea depicted "an image of the world"[109] and that Zoroaster consecrated a cave resembling the world fabricated by Mithras[110] The ceiling of the Caesarea Maritima Mithraeum retains traces of blue paint, which may mean the ceiling was painted to depict the sky and the stars..[111]

Unusual Tauroctony of Mithras at the Brukenthal National Museum

Beck has given the following celestial anatomy of the Tauroctony:[112]

Component of Tauroctony Celestial Counterpart
Bull Taurus
Dog Canis Minor, Canis Major
Snake Hydra, Serpens, Draco
Raven Corvus
Scorpion Scorpius
Wheat's ear (on bull's tail) Spica
Twins Cautes and Cautopates Gemini
Lion Leo
Crater Crater
Sol Sun
Luna Moon
Cave Universe

Several celestial identities for the Tauroctonous Mithras (TM) himself have been proposed. Beck summarizes them in the table below.[113]

Scholar Identification
Bausani, A. (1979) TM associated with Leo, in that the tauroctony is a type of the ancient lion-bull (Leo-Taurus) combat motif.
Beck, R.L. (1994) TM = Sun in Leo
Insler, S. (1978) bull-killing = heliacal setting of Taurus
Jacobs, B. (1999) bull-killing = heliacal setting of Taurus
North, J.D. (1990) TM = Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis) setting, his knife = Triangulum setting, his mantle = Capella (Alpha Aurigae) setting.
Rutgers, A.J. (1970) TM = Sun, Bull = Moon
Sandelin, K.-G. (1988) TM = Auriga
Speidel, M.P. (1980) TM = Orion
Ulansey, D. (1989) TM = Perseus
Weiss, M. (1994, 1998) TM = the Night Sky

Ulansey has proposed that Mithras seems to have been derived from the constellation of Perseus, which is positioned just above Taurus in the night sky. He sees iconographic and mythological parallels between the two figures: both are young heroes, carry a dagger and wear a Phrygian cap. He also mentions the similarity of the image of Perseus killing the Gorgon and the tauroctony, both figures being associated with underground caverns and both having connections to Persia as further evidence. [114]

Michael Speidel associates Mithras with the constellation of Orion because of the proximity to Taurus, and the consistent nature of the depiction of the figure as having wide shoulders, a garment flared at the hem, and narrowed at the waist with a belt, thus taking on the form of the constellation.[115]

Beck has criticized Speidel and Ulansey of adherence to a literal cartographic logic, describing their theories as a "will-o'-the-whisp" which "lured them down a false trail."[116] He argues that a literal reading of the tauroctony as a star chart raises two major problems: it is difficult to find a constellation counterpart for Mithras himself (despite efforts by Speidel and Ulansey) and that unlike in a star chart, each feature of the tauroctony might have more than a single counterpart. Rather than seeing Mithras as a constellation, Beck argues that Mithras is the prime traveller on the celestial stage (represented by the other symbols of the scene), the Unconquered Sun moving through the constellations.[116]

The banquet

Sol and Mithras banqueting with Luna and the twin divinities Cautes and Cautopates, his attendants. Marble, side B of a two-faced Roman relief, 2nd or 3rd century AD.

The second most important scene after the tauroctony in Mithraic art is the so-called banquet scene. [99] The two scenes are sometimes sculpted on the opposite sides of the same relief. The banquet scene features Mithras and the Sun god banqueting on the hide of the slaughtered bull [99]. On the specific banquet scene on the Fiano Romano relief (see image on the right), one of the torchbearers points a caduceus towards the base of an altar, where flames appear to spring up. Robert Turcan has argued that since the caduceus is an attribute of Mercury, and in mythology Mercury is depicted as a psychopompos, the eliciting of flames in this scene is referring to the dispatch of human souls and expressing the Mithraic doctrine on this matter. [117] Turcan also connects this event to the tauroctony: the blood of the slayed bull has soaked the ground at the base of the altar, and from the blood the souls are elicited in flames by the caduceus. [117]

Leontocephaline of the Mithraic Mysteries. Line drawing of the figure found at the mithraeum of C. Valerius Heracles and sons (dedicated 190 AD) at Ostia Antica, Italy. CIMRM 312


One of the most characteristic features of the Mysteries is the naked lion-headed figure often found in Mithraic temples. He is entwined by a serpent, with the snake's head often resting on the lion's head. The lion's mouth is often open, giving a horrifying impression. He is usually represented having four wings, two keys (sometimes a single key) and a scepter in his hand. Sometimes the figure is standing on a globe inscribed with with a diagonal cross. A more scarcely represented variant of the figure with a human head is also found. [118]

Although animal-headed figures are prevalent in contemporary Egyptian and Gnostic mythological representations, the Leontocephaline is entirely restricted to Mithraic art. [118]

The name of the figure has been deciphered from dedicatory inscriptions to be Arimanius (though the archeological evidence is not very strong), which is nominally the equivalent of Ahriman, a demon figure in the Zoroastrian pantheon. Arimanius is known from inscriptions to have been a deus in the Mithraic cult (CIMRM 222 from Ostia, 369 from Rome, 1773 and 1775 from Pannonia) [119]

Although the exact identity of the lion-headed figure is debated by scholars, it is largely agreed that the god is associated with time and seasonal change. [120]

Mithraism and Christianity

Mithras riding bull

The idea of a relationship between early Christianity and Mithraism is based on a remark in the 2nd century Christian writer Justin Martyr, who accused the Mithraists of diabolically imitating the Christian communion rite.[121] Based upon this, Ernest Renan in 1882 set forth a vivid depiction of two rival religions: "if the growth of Christianity had been arrested by some mortal malady, the world would have been Mithraic,"[122] Edwin M. Yamauchi comments on Renan's work which, "published nearly 150 years ago, has no value as a source. He [Renan] knew very little about Mithraism..."[123]

The philosopher Celsus in the second century provides some evidence that Ophite gnostic ideas were influencing the mysteries of Mithras.[124]

Mithras and the Virgin Birth

It is sometimes said that the birth of Mithras was a virgin birth, like that of Jesus. But no ancient source gives such a birth myth for Mithras. In Mithraic Studies it is stated that Mithras was born as an adult from solid rock, "wearing his Phrygian cap, issues forth from the rocky mass. As yet only his bare torso is visible. In each hand he raises aloft a lighted torch and, as an unusual detail, red flames shoot out all around him from the petra genetrix."[125]

David Ulansey speculates that this was a belief derived from the Perseus' myths which held he was born from an underground cavern.[126]

Mithras and 25th December

It is often stated that Mithras was thought to have been born on December 25. But Beck states that this is not the case. In fact he calls this assertion 'that hoariest of "facts"'. He continues: "In truth, the only evidence for it is the celebration of the birthday of Invictus on that date in Calendar of Philocalus. 'Invictus' is of course Sol Invictus, Aurelian's sun god. It does not follow that a different, earlier, and unofficial sun god, Sol Invictus Mithras, was necessarily or even probably, born on that day too."[127]

Unusually amongst Roman mystery cults, the mysteries of Mithras had no 'public' face; worship of Mithras was confined to initiates, and they could only undertake such worship in the secrecy of the Mithraeum [128] Clauss states; "the Mithraic Mysteries had no public ceremonies of its own. The festival of natalis Invicti [Birth of the Unconquerable (Sun)], held on 25 December, was a general festival of the Sun, and by no means specific to the Mysteries of Mithras."[129]

Steven Hijmans has discussed in detail the question of whether the general "natalis Invicti" festival was related to Christmas but does not give Mithras as a possible source.[130]

Mithras and Salvation

A painted text on the wall of the St. Prisca Mithraeum in Rome contains the words: et nos servasti . . . sanguine fuso (and you have saved us ... in the shed blood). The meaning of this is unclear, although presumably refers to the bull killed by Mithras, as no other source refers to a Mithraic salvation. According to Robert Turcan,[131] Mithraic salvation had little to do with the other-worldly destiny of individual souls, but was on the Zoroastrian pattern of man's participation in the cosmic struggle of the good creation against the forces of evil [132]

Mithras and the Taurobolium

No ancient source associates Mithras with the Taurobolium. The only monument to do so, CIL VI, 736, is a forgery.[133]

The Water Miracle and the Water of Life

Monuments in the Danube area depict Mithras firing a bow at a rock in the presence of the torch-bearers, apparently to encourage water to come forth. [134] Clauss states that, after the ritual meal, this offers 'the clearest parallel with Christianity'. [135]

Mithras and the Sign of the Cross

Tertullian states that followers of Mithras were marked on their forehead in an unspecified manner.[136] There is no indication that this is a cross, or a branding, or a tattoo, or a permanent mark of any kind.[137] The symbol of a circle with a diagonal cross inscribed within it is commonly found in Mithraea, especially in association with the Leontocephaline figure; and also appears to have been inscised onto Mithraic sacramental loaves. It has been suggested that this functions as an astrological symbol.

Mithraic art-motifs in medieval Christian art?

From the end of the 18th century some authors have suggested that some elements in medieval Christian art reflect images found in Mithraic reliefs.[138] Franz Cumont was among these, although he studied each motif in isolation rather than the combination of several elements and whether they were combined in Christian art in the same way.[139] Cumont said that after the triumph of the church over paganism, artists continued to make use of stock images originally devised for Mithras in order to depict the new and unfamiliar stories of the bible. The "stranglehold of the workshop" meant that the first Christian artworks were heavily based on pagan art, and "a few alterations in costume and attitude transformed a pagan scene into a Christian picture".[140]

A series of scholars have since discussed possible similarities with Mithraic reliefs in medieval Romanesque art.[141] Vermaseren stated that the only certain example of such influence was an image of Elijah drawn up to heaven in a chariot drawn by fiery horses.[142] Deman stated that to compare isolated elements was not useful, and that combinations should be studied. He also pointed out that a similarity of image does not tell us whether this implies an ideological influence, or merely a tradition of craftmanship. He then gave a list of medieval reliefs that parallel Mithraic images, but refused to draw conclusions from this, as these would be subjective.[143]

Mithraea re-used in Christian worship

Several of the best preserved Mithraea, especially those in Rome such as at San Clemente and Santa Prisca, are now to be found underneath Christian churches. It has been suggested that these might indicate a tendency for Christians to adopt Mithraea for Christian worship, in a similar manner to the undoubted conversion into churches of temples and shrines of civic paganism. such as the Pantheon. However, in these Roman instances, the Mithraeum appears to have been filled with rubble prior to the erection of a church over the top; and hence cannot be considered demonstrable examples of deliberate re-use. A study of early Christian churches in Britain concluded that, if anything, the evidence there suggested a tendency to avoid locating churches on the sites of former Mithraea [144].

On the other hand, there is at least one known example of a Mithraic carved relief being re-used on a Christian church; in the early 11th Century tower added to the church of St Peter at Gowts in Lincoln, England. A much-weathered Mithraic lion-headed figure carrying keys, (presumably from a ruined Mithraeum in Roman Lincoln) was incorporated into the church tower, apparently in the mistaken belief that it was an ancient reprentation of the Apostle Peter[145]. Elsewhere, as in one of the Mithraea in Doliche, there are instances where the tauroctony of a cave Mithraeum has been replaced by a cross, which suggests later use as a church; but again the date of re-use cannot be determined, and hence it is by no means certain how far the Christian occupiers were aware of their cave's Mithraic past.


  1. ^ Commodian, Instructiones 1.13: "The unconquered one was born from a rock, if he is regarded as a god."
  2. ^ a b Clauss, M. The Roman cult of Mithras, p. xxi: "we possess virtually no theological statements either by Mithraists themselves or by other writers."
  3. ^ Porphyry, De Antro Nympharum tells us of both writers.
  4. ^ Gordon, Richard L. (1978). "The date and significance of CIMRM 593 (British Museum, Townley Collection". Journal of Mithraic Studies II: 148–174. . p. 160: "The usual western nominative form of Hithras' name in the mysteries ended in -s, as we can see from the one authentic dedication in the nominative, recut over a dedication to Sarapis (463, Terme de Caracalla), and from occasional grammatical errors such as deo inviato Metras (1443). But it is probable that Euboulus and Pallas at least used the name Mithra as an indeclinable (ap. Porphyry, De abstinentia II.56 and IV.16)."
  5. ^ a b Beck, Roger (2002). "Mithraism". Encyclopædia Iranica. Costa Mesa: Mazda Pub. Retrieved 2007-10-28. 
  6. ^ See detailed discussion of possible origins below.
  7. ^ Clauss, Manfred (2000). Gordon, Richard (trans.). ed. The Roman cult of Mithras. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 074861396X. 
  8. ^ Beck, R., “The Mysteries of Mithras: A New Account of their Genesis”, Journal of Roman Studies, 1998, 115-128. p. 118.
  9. ^ "Beck on Mithraism", pp. 34–35. Online here.
  10. ^ Gordon, Richard L. (1978). "The date and significance of CIMRM 593 (British Museum, Townley Collection". Journal of Mithraic Studies II: 148–174. . Online here.
  11. ^ Gordon, Richard L. (1978). "The date and significance of CIMRM 593 (British Museum, Townley Collection". Journal of Mithraic Studies II: 148–174. . Online here CIMRM 362 a , b = el l, VI 732 = Moretti, lGUR I 179: "Soli | Invicto Mithrae | T . Flavius Aug. lib. Hyginus | Ephebianus | d . d." - but the Greek title is just "`Hliwi Mithrai". The name "Flavius" for an imperial freedman dates it between 70-136 AD. The Greek section refers to a pater of the cult named Lollius Rufus, evidence of the existence of the rank system at this early date.
  12. ^ Gordon, Richard L. (1978). "The date and significance of CIMRM 593 (British Museum, Townley Collection". Journal of Mithraic Studies II: 148–174.  p. 150.
  13. ^ C. M. Daniels, "The Roman army and the spread of Mithraism" in John R. Hinnels, Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies, vol. 2, 1975, Manchester UP, pp.249-274. "The considerable movement [of civil servants and military] throughout the empire was of great importance to Mithraism, and even with the very fragmentary and inadequate evidence that we have it is clear that the movement of troops was a major factor in the spread of the cult. Traditionally there are two geographical regions where Mithraism first struck root: Italy and the Danube. Italy I propose to omit, as the subject needs considerable discussion, and the introduction of the cult there, as witnessed by its early dedicators, seems not to have been military. Before we turn to the Danube, however, there is one early event (rather than geographical location) which should perhaps be mentioned briefly in passing. This is the supposed arrival of the cult in Italy as a result of Pompey the Great's defeat of Cicilian pirates, who practiced 'strange sacrifices of their own... and celebrated certain secret rites, amongst which those of Mithras continue to the present time, have been first instituted by them'. (ref Plutarch, "Pompey" 24-25) Suffice it to say that there is neither archaelogical nor allied evidence for the arrival of Mithraism in the west at that time, nor is there any ancient literary reference, either contemporary or later. If anything, Plutarch's mention carefully omits making the point that the cult was introduced into Italy at that time or by the pirates. Turning to the Danube, the earliest dedication from that region is an altar to Mitrhe (sic) set up by C. Sacidus Barbarus, a centurion of XV Appolinaris, stationed at the time at Carnuntum in Pannonia (Deutsch-Altenburg, Austria). The movements of this legion are particularly informative." The article then goes on to say that XV Appolinaris was originally based at Carnuntum, but between 62-71 transferred to the east, first in the Armenian campaign, and then to put down the Jewish uprising. Then 71- 86 back in Carnuntum, then 86-105 intermittently in the Dacian wars, then 105-114 back in Carnuntum, and finally moved to Cappadocia in 114.
  14. ^ C. M. Daniels, "The Roman army and the spread of Mithraism" in John R. Hinnels, Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies, vol. 2, 1975, Manchester UP, p. 263. The first dateable Mithraeum outside italy is from Böckingen on the Neckar, where a centurion of the legion VIII Augustus dedicated two altars, one to Mithras and the other (dated 148) to Apollo.
  15. ^ Lewis M. Hopfe, "Archaeological indications on the origins of Roman Mithraism", in Lewis M. Hopfe (ed). Uncovering ancient stones: essays in memory of H. Neil Richardson, Eisenbrauns (1994), pp. 147-158. p.153: "At present this is the only Mithraeum known in Roman Palestine." p. 154: "It is difficult to assign an exact date to the founding of the Caesarea Maritima Mithraeum. No dedicatory plaques have been discovered that might aid in the dating. The lamps found with the taurectone medallion are from the end of the first century to the late third century A.D. Other pottery and coins from the vault are also from this era. Therefore it is speculated that this Mithraeum developed toward the end of the first century and remained active until the late third century. This matches the dates assigned to the Dura-Europos and the Sidon Mithraea."
  16. ^ Vermaseren, M.J., Mithras: the Secret God, p. 29: "One other point of note is that no Mithraic monument can be dated earlier than the end of the first century AD, and even the more extensive investigations at Pompeii, buried beneath the ashes of Vesuvius in AD 79, have not produced a single image of the god."
  17. ^ Beskow, Per, The routes of early Mithraism, in Études mithriaques Ed.Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin. p.14: "Another possible piece of evidence is offered by five terracotta plaques with a tauroctone, found in Crimea and taken into the records of Mithraic monuments by Cumont and Vermaseren. If they are Mithraic, they are certainly the oldest known representations of Mithras tauroctone; the somewhat varying dates given by Russian archaeologists will set the beginning of the first century C.E. as a terminus ad quem, which is also said to have been confirmed by the stratigraphic conditions." Note 20 gives the publication as W. Blawatsky / G. Kolchelenko, Le culte de Mithra sur la cote spetentrionale de la Mer Noire, Leiden 1966, p.14f. See also Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.156-7 which merely mentions the date and presumes that the deity is Mithras-Attis.
  18. ^ ...the area [the Crimea] is of interest mainly because of the terracotta plaques from Kerch (five, of which two are in CIMRM as nos 11 and 12). These show a bull-killing figure and their probable date (second half of first-century BC to first half of first AD) would make them the earliest tauroctonies -- if it is Mithras that they portray. Their iconography is significantly different from that of the standard tauroctony (e.g. in the Attis-like exposure of the god's genitals). Roger Beck, Mithraism since Franz Cumont, Aufsteig und Niedergang der romischen Welt II 17.4 (1984), p. 2019
  19. ^ Beskow continues: "The plaques are typical Bosporan terracottas... At the same time it must be admitted that the plaques have some strange features which make it debateable if this is really Mithra(s). Most striking is the fact that his genitals are visible as they are in the iconography of Attis, which is accentuated by a high anaxyrides. Instead of the tunic and flowing cloak he wears a kind of jacket, buttoned over the breast with only one button, perhaps the attempt of a not so skillful artist to depict a cloak. The bull is small and has a hump and the tauroctone does not plunge his knife into the flank of the bull but holds it lifted. The nudity gives it the character of a fertility god and if we want to connect it directly with the Mithraic mysteries it is indeed embarrassing that the first one of these plaques was found in a woman's tomb." Roger Beck, Mithraism since Franz Cumont, Aufsteig und Niedergang der romischen Welt II 17.4 (1984), p. 2019: "Their iconography is significantly different from that of the standard tauroctony (e.g. in the Attis-like exposure of the god's genitals)." Clauss, p.156: "He is grasping one of the bull's horns with his left hand, and wrenching back its head; the right arm is raised to deliver the death-blow. So far, this god must be Mithras. But in sharp contrast with the usual representations, he is dressed in a jacket-like garment, fastened at the chest with a brooch, which leaves his genitals exposed - the iconography typical of Attis."
  20. ^ Statius, Thebaid (Book i. 719,720): "Mithras twists the unruly horns beneath the rocks of a Persian cave."
  21. ^ Dio, Cassius, Epitome of Book 63, 5:2.
  22. ^ Pearse, Roger, Reference to Mithras in the Commentary of Servius? gives the sources and references.
  23. ^ C.M.Daniels, "The role of the Roman army in the spread and practice of Mithraism" in John R. Hinnells (ed) Mithraic Studies: proceedings of the first International congress of Mithraic Studies Manchester university press (1975), vol. 2, p. 250: "Traditionally there are two geographical regions where Mithraism first struck root in the Roman empire: Italy and the Danube. Italy I propose to omit, as the subject needs considerable discussion, and the introduction of the cult there, as witnessed by its early dedicators, seems not to have been military. Before we turn to the Danube, however, there is one early event (rather than geographical location) which should perhaps be mentioned briefly in passing. This is the supposed arrival of the cult in Italy as a result of Pompey the Great's defeat of the Cilician pirates, who practised 'strange sacrifices of their own ... and celebrated certain secret rites, amongst which those of Mithra continue to the present time, having been first instituted by them'. Suffice it to say that there is neither archaeological nor allied evidence for the arrival of Mithraism in the West at that time, nor is there any ancient literary reference, either contemporary or later. If anything, Plutarch's mention carefully omits making the point that the cult was introduced into Italy at that time or by the pirates."
  24. ^ Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs, 6: "For according to Eubulus, Zoroaster first of all among the neighbouring mountains of Persia, consecrated a natural cave, florid and watered with fountains, in honour of Mithras the father of all things: a cave in the opinion of Zoroaster bearing a resemblance of the world fabricated by Mithras. But the things contained in the cavern, being disposed by certain intervals, according to symmetry and order, were symbols of the elements and climates of the world."
  25. ^ Turcan, Robert, Mithras Platonicus, Leiden, 1975, via Beck, R. Merkelbach's Mithras p. 301-2.
  26. ^ Beck, R. Merkelbach's Mithras p. 308 n. 37.
  27. ^ Beck, R. "Merkelbach's Mithras" in Phoenix 41.3 (1987) p. 298.
  28. ^ John R. Hinnells, "Reflections on the bull-slaying scene" in Mithraic studies, vol. 2, p. 303-4: "Nevertheless we would not be justified in swinging to the opposite extreme from Cumont and Campbell and denying all connection between Mithraism and Iran."
  29. ^ John R. Hinnells, "Reflections on the bull-slaying scene" in Mithraic studies, vol. 2, p. 303-4: "Since Cumont's reconstruction of the theology underlying the reliefs in terms of the Zoroastrian myth of creation depends upon the symbolic expression of the conflict of good and evil, we must now conclude that his reconstruction simply will not stand. It receives no support from the Iranian material and is in fact in conflict with the ideas of that tradition as they are represented in the extant texts. Above all, it is a theoretical reconstruction which does not accord with the actual Roman iconography. What, then, do the reliefs depict? And how can we proceed in any study of Mithraism? I would accept with R. Gordon that Mithraic scholars must in future start with the Roman evidence, not by outlining Zoroastrian myths and then making the Roman iconography fit that scheme. ... Unless we discover Euboulus' history of Mithraism we are never likely to have conclusive proof for any theory. Perhaps all that can be hoped for is a theory which is in accordance with the evidence and commends itself by (mere) plausibility."
  30. ^ John R. Hinnells, "Reflections on the bull-slaying scene" in Mithraic studies, vol. 2, p. 292: "Indeed, one can go further and say that the portrayal of Mithras given by Cumont is not merely unsupported by Iranian texts but is actually in serious conflict with known Iranian theology. Cumont reconstructs a primordial life of the god on earth, but such a concept is unthinkable in terms of known, specifically Zoroastrian, Iranian thought where the gods never, and apparently never could, live on earth. To interpret Roman Mithraism in terms of Zoroastrian thought and to argue for an earthly life of the god is to combine irreconcilables. If it is believed that Mithras had a primordial life on earth, then the concept of the god has changed so fundamentally that the Iranian background has become virtually irrelevant."
  31. ^ R.L.Gordon, "Franz Cumont and the doctrines of Mithraism" in John R. Hinnells, Mithraic studies, vol. 1, p. 215 f
  32. ^ Boyce, Mary (2001). "Mithra the King and Varuna the Master". Festschrift für Helmut Humbach zum 80 (Trier: WWT).  pp. 243,n.18
  33. ^ Beck, Roger B. (2004). Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works With New Essays. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 0754640817. , p. 28: "Since the 1970s scholars of western Mithraism have generally agreed that Cumont's master narrative of east-west transfer is unsustainable;" although he adds that "recent trends in the scholarship on Iranian religion, by modifying the picture of that religion prior to the birth of the western mysteries, now render a revised Cumontian scenario of east-west transfer and continuities now viable."
  34. ^ Martin, Luther H. (2004). "Foreword".  in Beck, Roger B. (2004). Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works With New Essays. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 0754640817. , p. xiv.
  35. ^ Beck, R., 2002: "Discontinuity’s weaker form of argument postulates re-invention among and for the denizens of the Roman empire (or certain sections thereof), but re-invention by a person or persons of some familiarity with Iranian religion in a form current on its western margins in the first century CE. Merkelbach (1984: pp. 75-7), expanding on a suggestion of M.P. Nilsson, proposes such a founder from eastern Anatolia, working in court circles in Rome. So does Beck 1998, with special focus on the dynasty of Commagene (see above). Jakobs 1999 proposes a similar scenario."
  36. ^ Reinhold Merkelbach, Mithras, Konigstein, 1984, ch. 75-7
  37. ^ Beck, R., "Merkelbach's Mithras", p. 304, 306.
  38. ^ Lewis M. Hopfe, "Archaeological indications on the origins of Roman Mithraism", in Lewis M. Hopfe (ed). Uncovering ancient stones: essays in memory of H. Neil Richardson, Eisenbrauns (1994), pp. 147-158. p.156:"Beyond these three Mithraea [in Syria and Palestine], there are only a handful of objects from Syria that may be identified with Mithraism. Archaeological evidence of Mithraism in Syria is therefore in marked contrast to the abundance of Mithraea and materials that have been located in the rest of the Roman Empire. Both the frequency and the quality of Mith-raic materials is greater in the rest of the empire. Even on the western frontier in Britain, archaeology has produced rich Mithraic materials, such as those found at Walbrook. If one accepts Cumont's theory that Mithraism began in Iran, moved west through Babylon to Asia Minor, and then to Rome, one would expect that the religion left its traces in those locations. Instead, archaeology indicates that Roman Mithraism had its epicenter in Rome. Wherever its ultimate place of origin may have been, the fully developed religion known as Mithraism seems to have begun in Rome and been carried to Syria by soldiers and merchants. None of the Mithraic materials or temples in Roman Syria except the Commagene sculpture bears any date earlier than the late first or early second century. [30. Mithras, identified with a Phrygian cap and the nimbus about his head, is depicted in colossal statuary erected by King Antiochus I of Commagene, 69-34 B.C.. (see Vermaseren, CIMRM 1.53-56). However, there are no other literary or archaeological evidences to indicate that the cult of Mithras as it was known among the Romans in the second to fourth centuries A.D. was practiced in Commagene]. While little can be proved from silence, it seems that the relative lack of archaeological evidence from Roman Syria would argue against the traditional theories for the origins of Mithraism."
  39. ^ Ulansey, D., The origins of the Mithraic mysteries", p. 77f.
  40. ^ Ware, James R.; Kent, Roland G. (1924). "The Old Persian Cuneiform Inscriptions of Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 55: 52. doi:10.2307/283007.  pp. 52–61.
  41. ^ Gordon, Richard L. (1978). "The date and significance of CIMRM 593 (British Museum, Townley Collection". Journal of Mithraic Studies II: 148–174. . pp.150-151: "The first important expansion of the mysteries in the Empire seems to have occurred relatively rapidly late in the reign of Antoninus Pius and under Marcus Aurelius (9) . By that date, it is clear, the mysteries were fully institutionalised and capable of relatively stereotyped self-reproduction through the medium of an agreed, and highly complex, symbolic system reduced in iconography and architecture to a readable set of 'signs'. Yet we have good reason to believe that the establishment of at least some of those signs is to be dated at least as early as the Flavian period or in the very earliest years of the second century. Beyond that we cannot go..."
  42. ^ Beck, R., Merkelbach's Mithras, p.299; Clauss, R., The Roman cult of Mithras, p. 25: "... the astonishing spread of the cult in the later second and early third centuries AD ... This extraordinary expansion, documented by the archaeological monuments..."
  43. ^ Clauss, R., The Roman cult of Mithras, p. 25, referring to Porphyry, De Abstinentia, 2.56 and 4.16.3 (for Pallas) and De antro nympharum 6 (for Euboulus and his history).
  44. ^ Loeb, D. Magie (1932). Scriptores Historiae Augustae: Commodus.  pp. IX.6: 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".
  45. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p. 24: "The cult of Mithras never became one of those supported by the state with public funds, and was never admitted to the official list of festivals celebrated by the state and army - at any rate as far as the latter is known to us from the Feriale Duranum, the religious calendar of the units at Dura-Europos in Coele Syria;" [where there was a Mithraeum] "the same is true of all the other mystery cults too." He adds that at the individual level, various individuals did hold roles both in the state cults and the priesthood of Mithras.
  46. ^ Beck, R., Merkelbach's Mithras, p. 299.
  47. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p. 29.
  48. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, pp. 31-32.
  49. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.171.
  50. ^ Cumont, Franz (1903). McCormack, Thomas J. (trans.). ed. The Mysteries of Mithra. Chicago: Open Court. ISBN 0486203239.  pp. 206: "A few clandestine conventicles may, with stubborn persistence, have been held in the subterranean retreats of the palaces. The cult of the Persian god possibly existed as late as the fifth century in certain remote cantons of the Alps and the Vosges. For example, devotion to the Mithraic rites long persisted in the tribe of the Anauni, masters of a flourishing valley, of which a narrow defile closed the mouth." This is unreferenced; but the French text in Textes et monuments figurés relatifs aux mystères de Mithra tom. 1, p. 348 has a footnote. The French text is referenced and discussed by Roger Pearse, Cumont on the end of the cult of Mithras which translates it and discusses the sources which are too long to include here.
  51. ^ Meyer, Marvin W. (1976) The "Mithras Liturgy".
  52. ^ Francis, E.D. (1971). Hinnells, John R.. ed. “Mithraic graffiti from Dura-Europos,” in Mithraic Studies, vol. 2. Manchester University Press. p. 424-445. 
  53. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.115.
  54. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.43.
  55. ^ Burkert, Walter (1987). Ancient Mystery Cults. Harvard University Press. p. 41. ISBN 0674033876. 
  56. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.49.
  57. ^ Price S & Kearns E, Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, p.568.
  58. ^ Beck, Roger (2007). The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199216134. , p. 85-87.
  59. ^ "Beck on Mithraism", p. 16
  60. ^ Hinnells, John R., ed (1971). “Mithraic Studies, vol. 2. Manchester University Press.  plate 25
  61. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.139.
  62. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, pages 26 and 27.
  63. ^ Burkert, Walter (1987). Ancient Mystery Cults. Harvard University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0674033876. 
  64. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.xxi.
  65. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.73.
  66. ^ Price S & Kearns E, Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, p.493.
  67. ^ Price S & Kearns E, Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, p.355.
  68. ^ Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.102. The Suda reference given is 3: 394, M 1045 Adler.
  69. ^ Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.102. The Gregory reference given is to Oratio 4. 70.
  70. ^ Jerome, Letters 107, ch. 2 (To Laeta}
  71. ^ M.Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.132-133
  72. ^ M.Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.133-138
  73. ^ Clauss, Manfred (1990). "Die sieben Grade des Mithras-Kultes". ZPE 82: 183-194. 
  74. ^ Griffiths, Alison. "Mithraism in the private and public lives of 4th-c. senators in Rome". EJMS.
  75. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.103.
  76. ^ M. Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p. 42: "That the hand-shaken might make their vows joyfully forever"
  77. ^ M. Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p. 105: "the followers of Mithras were the 'initiates of the theft of the bull, united by the handshake of the illustrious father." (Err. prof. relig. 5.2)
  78. ^ a b "Beck on Mithraism", pp. 288-289
  79. ^ 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 (90): 145–180. doi:10.2307/300205. 
  80. ^ Merkelbach, Reinhold (1995). "Das Mainzer Mithrasgefäß". Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (108): 1–6. 
  81. ^ Martin, Luther H. (2004). "Ritual Competence and Mithraic Ritual".  in Wilson, Brian C. (2004). Religion as a human capacity: a festschrift in honor of E. Thomas Lawson. BRILL. , p. 257
  82. ^ Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.62-101.
  83. ^ Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.33.
  84. ^ David, Jonathan (2000). "The Exclusion of Women in the Mithraic Mysteries: Ancient or Modern?". Numen 47 (2): 121–141. doi:10.1163/156852700511469. , at p. 121.
  85. ^ Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.39.
  86. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.144-145: "Justin's charge does at least make clear that Mithraic commandments did exist."
  87. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.144, referencing Caesares 336C in the translation of W.C.Wright. Hermes addresses Julian: "As for you . . . , I have granted you to know Mithras the Father. Keep his commandments, thus securing for yourself an anchor-cable and safe mooring all through your life, and, when you must leave the world, having every confidence that the god who guides you will be kindly disposed."
  88. ^ Tertullian, De Corona Militis, 15.3
  89. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.158.
  90. ^ Burkert, Walter (1987). Ancient Mystery Cults. Harvard University Press. p. 49. ISBN 0674033876. 
  91. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p. 70
  92. ^ Zenobius Proverbia 5.78 (in Corpus paroemiographorum Graecorum vol. 1, p.151) (Clauss, p.70 n.84). Theon of Smyrna gives the same list but substitutes Phanes. See Albert de Jong, Traditions of the Magi: Zoroastrianism in Greek and Latin literature, p.309 on this; quoted on Pearse, Roger Zenobius on Mithras and Who is Theon of Smyrna?.
  93. ^ Clauss, M. The Roman cult of Mithras, p. 70, photo p.71. The relief (Vermaseren 860) is now at the University of Newcastle.
  94. ^ Ulansey, David, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, pp.120-1. Excerpts here.
  95. ^ Vermaseren, M., The miraculous birth of Mithras, p.287 n.10. The relief is in the Estense Museum in Modena, Italy. See also F. Cumont, "Mithra et l'Orphisme", RHR CIX, 1934, 63 ff; M. P. Nilsson, "The Syncretistic Relief at Modena", Symb. Osi. XXIV, 1945, 1 ff.
  96. ^ Vermaseren 695: marble relief from Mutina or Rome; V 475: Greek inscription from Rome, dedication by a Father and priest to Zeus-Helios-Mithras-Phanes
  97. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.23-4. "Invictus" became a standard part of imperial titulature under Commodus, adopted from Hercules Invictus, but had been used for Mithras well before then.
  98. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.44.
  99. ^ a b c d e Beck, Roger, "In the Place of the Lion: Mithras in the Tauroctony" in Beck on Mithraism: collected works with new essays" (2004), p. 286-287].
  100. ^ David Ulansey, The origins of the Mithraic mysteries, p. 6: "Although the iconography of the cult varied a great deal from temple to temple, there is one element of the cult's iconography which was present in essentially the same form in every mithraeum and which, moreover, was clearly of the utmost importance to the cult's ideology; namely the so-called tauroctony, or bull-slaying scene, in which the god Mithras, accompanied by a series of other figures, is depicted in the act of killing the bull."
  101. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.77.
  102. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.77.
  103. ^ Clauss, M. The Roman cult of Mithras, p.98-9. An image search for "tauroctony" will show many examples of the variations.
  104. ^ Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.74.
  105. ^ J. R. Hinnells, "The Iconography of Cautes and Cautopates: the Data," Journal of Mithraic Studies 1, 1976, pp. 36-67. See also William W. Malandra, Cautes and Cautopates Encyclopedia Iranica article
  106. ^ The Greater [Bundahishn] IV.19-20: "19. He let loose Greed, Needfulness, [Pestilence,] Disease, Hunger, Illness, Vice and Lethargy on the body of , Gav' and Gayomard. 20. Before his coming to the 'Gav', Ohrmazd gave the healing Cannabis, which is what one calls 'banj', to the' Gav' to eat, and rubbed it before her eyes, so that her discomfort, owing to smiting, [sin] and injury, might decrease; she immediately became feeble and ill, her milk dried up, and she passed away."
  107. ^ Hinnels, John R.. "Reflections on the bull-slaying scene". Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Mithraic Studies. Manchester UP. pp. II.290–312. , p. 291
  108. ^ Ulansey, David (1989). The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195054024.  (1991 revised edition)
  109. ^ Porphyry, De Antro nympharum 10: "Since, however, a cavern is an image and symbol of the world..."
  110. ^ Porphyry, De antro nympharum 2: "For, as Eubulus says, Zoroaster was the first who consecrated in the neighbouring mountains of Persia, a spontaneously produced cave, florid, and having fountains, in honour of Mithra, the maker and father of all things; |12 a cave, according to Zoroaster, bearing a resemblance of the world, which was fabricated by Mithra. But the things contained in the cavern being arranged according to commensurate intervals, were symbols of the mundane elements and climates.
  111. ^ Lewis M. Hopfe, "Archaeological indications on the origins of Roman Mithraism", in Lewis M. Hopfe (ed). Uncovering ancient stones: essays in memory of H. Neil Richardson, Eisenbrauns (1994), pp. 147-158, p.154
  112. ^ Beck, Roger, "Astral Symbolism in the Tauroctony: A statistical demonstration of the Extreme Improbability of Unintended Coincidence in the Selection of Elements in the Composition" in Beck on Mithraism: collected works with new essays" (2004), p. 257].
  113. ^ Beck, Roger, "The Rise and Fall of Astral Identifications of the Tauroctonous Mithras" in Beck on Mithraism: collected works with new essays" (2004), p. 236].
  114. ^ Ulansey, D., The origins of the Mithraic mysteries", p. 25-39.
  115. ^ Michael P. Speidel, Mithras-Orion: Greek Hero and Roman Army God, Brill Academic Publishers (August 1997), ISBN 109004060553
  116. ^ a b Beck, Roger, "In the place of the lion: Mithras in the tauroctony" in Beck on Mithraism: collected works with new essays" (2004), p. 270-276.
  117. ^ a b Beck, Roger (2007). The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199216134. , p. 27-28.
  118. ^ a b von Gall, Hubertus, "The Lion-headed and the Human-headed God in the Mithraic Mysteries," in Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin ed. Études mithriaques, 1978, pp. 511
  119. ^ Jackson, Howard M., "The Meaning and Function of the Leontocephaline in Roman Mithraism" in Numen, Vol. 32, Fasc. 1 (Jul., 1985), pp. 17-45
  120. ^ Beck, R, Beck on Mithraism, pp. 194
  121. ^ Justin Martyr, First Apology, ch. 66: "For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body; "and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood; "and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn."
  122. ^ Renan, E., Marc-Aurele et la fin du monde antique. Paris, 1882, p. 579: "On peut dire que, si le christianisme eût été arrêté dans sa croissance par quelque maladie mortelle, le monde eût été mithriaste."
  123. ^ Edwin M. Yamauchi cited in Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007, p.175
  124. ^ Clauss, M. The Roman Cult of Mithras, p.17, referencing Origen, Contra Celsum book 6, cc.22-24 where a ladder of seven steps is described, similar to one used by the Ophites. Clauss states that the borrowing was by the Mithraists, but nothing in Contra Celsum seems to say so.
  125. ^ Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies. Manchester U. Press, 1975, p. 173
  126. ^ Ulansey, David. The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World. New York: Oxford U. Press, 1989
  127. ^ Beck, Roger (1987). "Merkelbach's Mithras". Phoenix 41 (3): 296–316. doi:10.2307/1088197. , p. 299, n. 12.
  128. ^ Burkert, Walter (1987). Ancient Mystery Cults. Harvard University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0674033876. 
  129. ^ Clauss, Manfred. Mithras: Kult und Mysterien. München: Beck, 1990, p. 70.
  130. ^ Hijmans, Steven (2003). "Sol Invictus, the Winter Solstice, and the Origins of Christmas". Mouseion 3 (3): 377–398. 
  131. ^ Turcan, Robert, "Salut Mithriaque et soteriologie neoplatonicienne," La soteriologiea dei culti orientali nell'impero romano,eds. U. Bianchia nd M. J. Vermaseren, Leiden 1982. pp. 173-191
  132. ^ Beck, Roger, Merkelbach's Mithras, p.301-2
  133. ^ J. Lebegue, "Une inscription mithriaque du musée de Pesaro", Revue archaeologique, 3rd series, t. 14, pp. 64-9, 1889. See also blog post with inscription, translation, and summary of Lebegue's argument.
  134. ^ Clauss, M. The Roman Cult of Mithras, p.71-2: "The theme of the water-miracle is elaborated mainly in the Rhine-Danube area. Mithras is usually represented sitting on a stone and aiming a flexed bow at a rockface, in front of which there kneels a figure. Another figure sometimes grasps Mithras' knees in supplication, or stands behind him with his hand on his shoulder. The scene is particularly striking on the large altar from Poetovio I ... Mithras here is aiming his bow at a rockface, from which water will shortly gush forth - a person is standing in front of it ready to catch the water in his cupped hands. ... We may note that the figures who are generally shown taking part in this scene with Mithras are clothed just like the god. They must be the torch-bearers, present here just as they are at the rock-birth and the killing of the bull. This scene can thus be connected with one of the lines in the mithraeum under S. Prisca in Rome, which is addressed to a spring enclosed in the rock: 'You who have fed the twin brothers with nectar'.8 6 The spring is Mithras; the twins to whom he has given heavenly nourishment are the torch-bearers."
  135. ^ Clauss, M. The Roman Cult of Mithras, p.72 continues: "Apart from the cult-meal, the water-miracle offers the clearest parallel with Christianity, spreading through the Empire at the same period as the mysteries of Mithras. The thinking that underlies these features of each cult is naturally rooted in the same traditions. The water-miracle is one of the wide-spread myths that originate from regions plagued by drought, and where the prosperity of humans and nature depends upon rain. Each in his own manner, Mithras and Christ embody water, initially as a concrete necessity, and then, very soon, as a symbol. Christ is referred to in the New Testament as the water of life. Many Christian sarcophagi depict the miracle of Moses striking the rock with his staff and causing water to flow (Exodus 17.3-6), as a symbol of immortality."
  136. ^ Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum 40: "if my memory still serves me, Mithra there, (in the kingdom of Satan, ) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown."
  137. ^ Per Beskow, "Branding in the Mysteries of Mithras?", in Mysteria Mithrae, ed. Ugo Bianchi (Leyden 1979), 487-501. He describes the entire idea as a "scholarly myth". See also FAQ by Dr. Richard Gordon.
  138. ^ Deman, A. (1971). Hinnells, John R.. ed. “Mithras and Christ: Some Iconographical Similarities,” in Mithraic Studies, vol. 2. Manchester University Press.  pp. 507–17. p.507
  139. ^ Deman, A. (1971). Hinnells, John R.. ed. “Mithras and Christ: Some Iconographical Similarities,” in Mithraic Studies, vol. 2. Manchester University Press.  pp. 507–17. p.508
  140. ^ Cumont, Franz (1956). McCormack, Thomas K. (trans.). ed. The Mysteries of Mithras. Dover Publications.  pp. 227–8.
  141. ^ Deman, A. (1971). Hinnells, John R.. ed. “Mithras and Christ: Some Iconographical Similarities,” in Mithraic Studies, vol. 2. Manchester University Press.  pp. 507–17. p.509
  142. ^ Vermaseren, M.J (1963). Mithras: The Secret God. Chatto & Windus.  pp. 104–6.
  143. ^ Deman, A. (1971). Hinnells, John R.. ed. “Mithras and Christ: Some Iconographical Similarities,” in Mithraic Studies, vol. 2. Manchester University Press.  pp. 507–17. p.510
  144. ^ Hutton, Ronald (1991). The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles;their nature and legacy. Blackwell. p. 260. ISBN 0631189467. 
  145. ^ Stocker, David (1998). "A Hitherto Unidentified Image of the Mithraic God Arimanius at Lincoln?". Britannia 29: 359-363. 

Further reading

  • Beck, Roger, "The Mysteries of Mithras: A New Account of Their Genesis," Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 88, 1998 (1998) , pp. 115–128.
  • Beck, Roger, "Mithraism since Franz Cumont," Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, II.17.4, 1984, pp. 2002-115. Important summary of the changes to Mithras scholarship.
  • Clauss, Manfred, The Roman cult of Mithras: the god and his mysteries, Translated by Richard Gordon. New York: Routledge, 2000. Pp. 198. ISBN 0-415-92977-6 here. An excellent concise view of the current consensus.
  • Cumont, Franz, Textes et monuments figurés relatifs aux Mystères de Mithra : pub. avec une introduction critique, 2 vols. 1894-6. Vol. 1 is an introduction, now obsolete. Vol. 2 is a collection of primary data, online at here, and still of some value.
  • Gordon, Richard, Frequently asked questions about the cult of Mithras. Some common misconceptions, and the comments of a professional Mithras scholar.
  • Hinnells, John (ed.), Proceedings of The First International Congress of Mithraic Studies, Manchester University Press (1975).
  • Turcan, Robert, Mithra et le mithriacisme, Paris, 2000. Academic study.
  • Ulansey, David, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World, Oxford University Press, 1989. An influential but non-mainstream account.
  • Vermaseren, M.J., Corpus Inscriptionum et Monumentorum Religionis Mithriacae, The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1956, 2 vols. The standard collection of Mithraic reliefs.

See also

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MITHRAS, a Persian god of light, whose worship, the latest one of importance to be brought from the Orient to Rome, spread throughout the empire and became the greatest antagonist of Christianity.

I. History and Distribution. - The cult goes back to a period before the separation of the Persians from the Hindus, as is shown by references in the literatures of both stocks, the Avesta and the Vedas. Though but faintly pictured in the Vedic hymns, he is there invoked with Ormazd, or Ahuramazda, the god of the sky, and is clearly a divinity of light, the protector of truth and the enemy of error and falsehood. In the Avesta, after the separation of the Iranian stock from the Hindu and the rise of Zoroastrianism, which elevated Ormazd to the summit of the Persian theological system, his role was more distinct, though less important; between Ormazd, who reigned in eternal brightness, and Ahriman, whose realm was eternal darkness, he occupied an intermediate position as the greatest of the yazatas, beings created by Ormazd to aid in the destruction of evil and the administration of the world. He was thus a deity of the realms of air and light, and, by transfer to the moral realm, the god of truth and loyalty. Because light is accompanied by heat, he was the god of vegetation and increase; he sent prosperity to the good, and annihilated the bad; he was the god of armies and the champion of heroes; as the enemy of darkness and of all evil spirits, he protected souls, accompanying them on the way to paradise, and was thus a redeemer. Animals and birds were sacrificed and libations poured to him, and prayers were addressed to him by devotees who had purified themselves by ablution and repeated flagellation. As a god who gave victory, he was prominent in the official cult of Persia, the seventh month and the sixteenth day of other months being sacred to him. His worship spread with the empire of the Persians throughout Asia Minor, and Babylon was an important centre. Its popularity remained unimpaired after the fall of Persia, and it was during the ferment following the conquests of Alexander that the characteristics which mark it during the Roman period were firmly fixed. Mithraism was at full maturity on its arrival at Rome, the only modifications it ever suffered having been experienced during its younger days in Asia.

Modified though never essentially changed, (1) by contact with the star-worship of the Chaldaeans, who identified Mithras with Shamash, god of the sun,(2) by the indigenous Armenian religion and other local Asiatic faiths and (3) by the Greeks of Asia Minor, who identified Mithras with Helios, and contributed to the success of his cult by equipping it for the first time with artistic representations (the famous Mithras relief originated in the Pergamene school towards the 2nd century B.C.), Mithraism was first transmitted to the Roman world during the 1st century B.C. by the Cilician pirates captured by Pompey. It attained no importance, however, for nearly two centuries. The lateness of its arrival in the West was due to the fact that its centres of influence were not in immediate contact with Greek and Roman civilization. It never became popular in Greek lands, and was regarded by Hellenized nations as a barbarous worship. It was at rivalry with the Egyptian religion. As late as the time of Augustus it was but little known in Roman territory, and gained a firm foothold in Italy only gradually, as a result of the intercourse between Rome and Asia consequent upon the erection of the Eastern provinces and the submission and colonization of Mesopotamia. It seems at first to have had relations with the cult of the Great Mother of the Gods at Rome, whose influence served to protect it and facilitate its growth. The cult of Mithras began to attract attention at Rome about the end of the ist century A.D. Statius (c. A.D. 80) mentions the typical Mithraic relief in his Thebaid (i. 719,720); from .Plutarch's (A.D. 46-125) Vita Pompei (24) it is apparent that the worship was well known; and the first Roman reliefs show the characteristics of about the same time.

Towards the close of the 2nd century the cult had begun to spread rapidly through the army, the mercantile class, slaves and actual propagandists, all of which classes were largely composed of Asiatics. It throve especially among military posts, and in the track of trade, where its monuments have been discovered in greatest abundance. The German frontiers afford most evidence of its prosperity. Rome itself was a favourite seat of the religion. From the end of the 2nd century the emperors encouraged Mithraism, because of the support which it afforded to the divine right of monarchs. The Persian belief that the legitimate sovereign reigned by the grace of Ormazd, whose favour was made manifest by the sending of the Hvareno, a kind of celestial aureole of fire, resulted in the doctrine that the sun was the giver of the Hvareno. Mithras, identified with Sol Invictus at Rome, thus became the giver of authority and victory to the imperial house. From the time of Commodus, who participated in its mysteries, its supporters were to be found in all classes. Its importance at Rome may be judged from the abundance of monumental remains - more than 75 pieces of sculpture, loo inscriptions, and ruins of temples and chapels in all parts of the city and suburbs.

Finally, philosophy as well as politics contributed to the success of Mithraism, for the outcome of the attempt to recognize in the Graeco-Roman gods only forces of nature was to make the Sun the most important of deities; and it was the Sun with whom Mithras was identified.

The beginning of the downfall of Mithraism dates from A.D. 275, when Dacia was lost to the empire, and the invasions of the northern peoples resulted in the destruction of temples along a great stretch of frontier, the natural stronghold of the cult. The aggression of Christianity also was now more effective. The emperors, however, favoured the cult, which was the army's favourite until Constantine destroyed its hopes. The reign of Julian and the usurpation of Eugenius renewed the hopes of its devotees, but the victory of Theodosius (394) may be considered the end of its existence. It still survived in certain cantons of the Alps in the 5th century, and clung to life with more tenacity in its Eastern home. Its legitimate successor was Manichaeism, which afforded a refuge to those mystics who had been shaken in faith, but not converted, by the polemics of the Church against their religion.

II. Sources, Remains, Ritual. - The sources of present knowledge regarding Mithraism consist of the Vedas, the Avesta, the Pahlevi writings, Greek and Latin literature and inscriptions,. and the cult monuments. The monuments comprise the remains of nearly a score of temples and about 400 statues and bas reliefs. The Mithraic temples of Roman times were artificial grottoes (spelaea) wholly or partially underground, in imitation of the original selcuded mountain caverns of Asia. The Mithraeum hewn in the tufa quarries of the Capitoline Hill at Rome, still in existence during the Renaissance, is an example. The main room of the ordinary temple was rectangular, with an elevated apsidal arrangement, like a choir, containing the sacred relief on its wall, at the end opposite the entrance, and with continuous benches (podia) of masonry, about 5 ft. wide and inclining slightly towards the floor, built against the wall on its long sides. The ceiling was made to symbolize the firmament. There were arrangements for the brilliant illumination of the choir and its relief, which was sometimes sculptured on both sides and reversible, while the podia were intentionally more obscure. The choir and the long space between the podia were for ministrants, the podia themselves for kneeling worshippers. Two altars, to the Sun and the Moon, stood before the former, and cult statues along the latter. The approach to the grotto lay through a portico on the level with and fronting the street, and a pronaos, in communication with which was a kind of sacristy. Steps led to the lower level of the sanctuary. The simplicity and smallness of the Mithraic temples are to be accounted for by structural and financial reasons; an underground temple was difficult to construct on a large scale, and the worshippers of Mithras were usually from the humbler classes. The average grotto held from fifty to a hundred persons. The size of the sanctuaries, however, was compensated for by their number; in Ostia alone there were five.

The typical bas relief, which is found in great abundance in the museums of Europe, invariably represents Mithras, under the form of a youth with conical cap and flying drapery, slaying the sacred bull, the scorpion attacking the genitals of the animal, the serpent drinking its blood, the dog springing towards the wound in its side, and frequently, in addition, the Sun-god, his messenger the raven, a fig-tree, a lion, a ewer, and torch-bearers. The relief is in some instances enclosed in a frame of figures and scenes in relief. The best example is the monument of Osterburken (Cumont, Textes et monuments figures, No. 246). With this monument as a basis, Franz Cumont has arranged the small Mithraic reliefs into two groups, one illustrating the legend of the origin of the gods, and the other the legend of Mithras. In the first group are found Infinite Time, or Cronus; Tellus and Atlas supporting the globe, representing the union of Earth and Heaven; Oceanus; the Fates; Infinite Time giving into the hand of his successor Ormazd the thunderbolt, the symbol of authority; Ormazd struggling with a giant of evil - the Mithraic gigantomachy. The second group represents, first, the birth of Mithras; then the god nude, cutting fruit and leaves from a fig-tree in which is the bust of a deity, and before which one of the winds is blowing upon Mithras; the god discharging an arrow against a rock from which springs a fountain whose water a figure is kneeling to receive in his palms; the bull in a small boat, near which again occurs the figure of the animal under a roof about to be set on fire by two figures; the bull in flight, with Mithras in pursuit; Mithras bearing the bull on his shoulders; Helios kneeling before Mithras; Helios and Mithras clasping hands over an altar; Mithras with drawn bow on a running horse; Mithras and Helios banqueting; Mithras and Helios mounting the chariot of the latter and rising in full course over the ocean. Few of the Mithraic reliefs are of even mediocre art. Among the best is the relief from the Capitoline grotto, now in the Louvre.

Cumont's interpretation of the main relief and its smaller companions involves the reconstruction of a Mithraic theology, a Mithraic legend, and a Mithraic symbolism. Paucity of evidence makes the first difficult. The head of the divine hierarchy of Mithras was Infinite Time - Cronus, Saturn; Heaven and Earth were his offspring, and begat Ocean, who formed with them a trinity corresponding to Jupiter, Juno, and Neptune. From Heaven and Earth sprang the remaining members of a circle analogous to the Olympic gods. Ahriman, also the son of Time, was the Persian Pluto. Owing to Semitic influence every Persian god had in Roman times come to possess a twofold significance - astrological and natural, Semitic and Iranian - the earlier and deeper Iranian significance being imparted by the clergy to the few intelligent elect, the more attractive and :superficial Chaldaean symbolism being presented to the multitude. Mithras was the most important member of the circle. He was regarded as the mediator between suffering humanity and the unknowable and inaccessible god of all being, who reigned in the ether.

The Mithras legend has been lost, and can be reconstructed only from the scenes on the above described relief. Mithras was born of a rock, the marvel being seen only by certain shepherds, who brought gifts and adored him. Chilled by the wind, the new-born god went to a fig-tree, partook of its fruit, and clothed himself in its leaves. He then undertook to vanquish the beings already in the world, and rendered subject to him first the Sun, with whom he concluded a treaty of friendship. The most wonderful of his adventures, however, was that with the sacred bull which had been created by Ormazd. The hero seized it by the horns and was borne headlong in the flight of the animal, which he finally subdued and dragged into a cavern.

The bull escaped, but was overtaken, and by order of the Sun, who sent his messenger the raven, was reluctantly sacrificed by Mithras. From the dying animal sprang the life of the earth, although Ahriman sent his emissaries to prevent it. The soul of the bull rose to the celestial spheres and became the guardian of herds and flocks under the name of Silvanus. Mithras was through his deed the creator of life. Meanwhile Ahriman sent a terrible drought upon the land. Mithras defeated his purpose by discharging an arrow against a rock and miraculously drawing the water from it. Next Ahriman sent a deluge, from which one man escaped in a boat with his cattle. Finally a fire desolated the earth, and only the creatures of Ormazd escaped. Mithras, his work accomplished, banqueted with the Sun for the last time, and was taken by him in his chariot to the habitation of the immortals, whence he continued to protect the faithful.

The symbolism employed by Mithraism finds its best illustration in the large central relief, which represents Mithras in the act of slaying the bull as a sacrifice to bring about terrestrial life, and thus portrays the concluding scenes in the legend of the sacred animal. The scorpion, attacking the genitals of the bull, is sent by Ahriman from the lower world to defeat the purpose of the sacrifice; the dog, springing towards the wound in the bull's side, was venerated by the Persians as the companion of Mithras; the serpent is the symbol of the earth being made fertile by drinking the blood of the sacrificial bull; the raven, towards which Mithras turns his face as if for direction, is the herald of the Sun-god, whose bust is near by, and who has ordered the sacrifice; various plants near the bull, and heads of wheat springing from his tail, symbolize the result of the sacrifice; the cypress is perhaps the tree of immortality. There was also an astrological symbolism, but it was superficial, and of secondary importance. The torch-bearers sometimes seen on the relief represent one being in three aspects - the morning, noon and evening sun, or the vernal, summer and autumn sun.

Owing to the almost absolute disappearance of documentary evidence, it is impossible to know otherwise than very imperfectly the inner life of Mithraism. Jerome (Epist. cvii.) and inscriptions preserve the knowledge that the mystic, sacratus, passed through seven degrees, which probably corresponded to the seven planetary spheres traversed by the soul in its progress to wisdom, perfect purity, and the abode of the blest: Corax, Raven, so named because the raven in Mithraic mythology was the servant of the Sun; Cryphius, Occult, a degree in the taking of which the mystic was perhaps hidden from others in the sanctuary by a veil, the removal of which was a solemn ceremonial; Miles, Soldier, signifying the holy warfare against evil in the service of the god; Leo, Lion, symbolic of the element of fire; Perses, Persian, clad in Asiatic costume, a reminiscence of the ancient origin of the religion; Heliodromus, Courier of the Sun, with whom Mithras was identified; Pater, Father, a degree bringing the mystic among those who had the general direction of the cult for the rest of their lives. One relief (Cumont, vol. i. p. 175, fig. To) shows figures masked and costumed to represent Corax, Perses, Miles and Leo, indicating the practice on occasion of rites involving the use of sacred disguise, a custom probably reminiscent of the primitive time when men represented their deities under the form of animals, and believed themselves in closer communion with them when disguised to impersonate them. Of the seven degrees, those mystics not yet beyond the third, Miles, were not in full communion, and were called inrnpETOUVTES (servants); while the fourth degree, Leo, admitted them into the class of the fully initiate, the (participants). No women were in any way connected with the cult, though the male sex could be admitted even in childhood. The time requisite for the several degrees is unknown, and may have been determined by the Patres, who conferred them in a solemn ceremony called Sacramentum, in which the initial step was an oath never to divulge what should be revealed, and for which the mystic had been specially prepared by lustral purification, prolonged abstinence, and severe deprivations. Special ceremonies accompanied the diverse degrees: Tertullian speaks of "marking the forehead of a Miles," which may have been the branding of a Mithraic sign; honey was applied to the tongue and hands of the Leo and the Perses. A sacred communion of bread, water and possibly wine, compared by the Christian apologists to the Eucharist, was administered to the mystic who was entering upon one of the advanced degrees, perhaps Leo. The ceremony was probably commemorative of the banquet of Mithras and Helios before the former's ascension, and its effect strength of body, wisdom, prosperity, power to resist evil, and participation in the immortality enjoyed by the god himself. Other features reminiscent of the original barbarous rites in the primitive caverns of the East, no doubt also occupied a place in the cult; bandaging of eyes, binding of hands with the intestines of a fowl, leaping over a ditch filled with water, witnessing a simulated murder, are mentioned by the Pseudo-Augustine; and the manipulation of lights in the crypt, the administration of oaths, and the repetition of the sacred formulae, all contributed toward inducing a state of ecstatic exaltation. What in the opinion of Albrecht Dieterich (Eine Mithrasliturgie, Leipzig, 1903) is a Mithras liturgy is preserved in a Greek MS. of Egyptian origin of about A.D. 300. It is the ritual of a magician, imbedded in which, and alternating with magic formulae and other occult matter, are a number of invocations and prayers which Dieterich reconstructs as a liturgy in use by the clergy of Mithras between A.D. l oo and 300, and adapted to this new use about the latter date.

The Mithraic priest, sacerdos or antistes, was sometimes also of the degree of pater. Tertullian (De praescr. haeret. 40) calls the chief priest summits pontifex, probably the pater patrum who had general supervision of all the initiates in one city, and states that he could marry but once. According to the same author, there were Mithraic, as well as Christian, virgines et continentes. Besides the administration of sacraments and the celebration of offices on special occasions, the priest kept alight the eternal fire on the altar, addressed prayers to the Sun at dawn, midday and twilight, turning towards east, south and west respectively. Clad in Eastern paraphernalia, he officiated at the numerous sacrifices indicated by the remains of iron and bronze knives, hatchets, chains, ashes and bones of oxen, sheep, goats, swine, fowl, &c. There was pouring of libations, chanting and music, and bells and candles were employed in the service. Each day of the week was marked by the adoration of a special planet, the sun being the most sacred of all, and certain dates, perhaps the sixteenth of each month and the equinoxes, in conformity with the character of Mithras as mediator, were set aside for special festivals.

The Mithraic community of worshippers, besides being a spiritual fraternity, was a legal corporation enjoying the right of holding property, with temporal officials at its head, like any other sodalitas: there were the decuriones and decem primi, governing councils resembling assembly and senate in cities; magistri, annually elected presidents; curatores, financial agents; defensores, advocates; and patroni, protectors among the influential. It may be that a single temple was the resort of several small associations of worshippers which were subdivisions of the whole community. The cult was supported mainly by voluntary contribution. An abundance of epigraphic evidence testifies to the devotion of rich and poor alike.

III. Moral Influence. - The rapid advance of Mithraism was due to its human qualities. Its communities were bound together by a sense of close fraternal relation. Its democracy obliterated the distinctions between rich and poor; slave and senator became subject to the same rule, eligible for the same honours, partook of the same communion, and were interred in the same type of sepulchre, to await the same resurrection. The reward of title and degree and the consequent rise in the esteem of his fellows and himself was also a strong incentive; but the Mithraic faith itself was the greatest factor. The impressiveness and the stimulating power of the mystic ceremonies, the consciousness of being the privileged possessor of the secret wisdom of the ancients, the sense of purification from sin, and the expectation of a better life where there was to be compensation for the sufferings of this world - were all strong appeals to human nature. The necessity of moral rectitude was itself an incentive. Courage, watchfulness, striving for purity, were all necessary in the incessant combat with the forces of evil. Resistance to sensuality was one aspect of the struggle, and asceticism was not unknown. Mithras was ever on the side of the faithful, who were certain to triumph both in this world and the next. The worthy soul ascended to its former home in the skies by seven gates or degrees, while the unworthy soul descended to the realms of Ahriman. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul was accompanied by that of the resurrection of the flesh; the struggle between good and evil was one day to cease, and the divine bull was to appear on earth, Mithras was to descend to call all men from their tombs and to separate the good from the bad. The bull was to be sacrificed to Mithras, who was to mingle its fat with consecrated wine and give to drink of it to the just, rendering them immortal, while the unjust, together with Ahriman and his spirits, were to be destroyed by a fire sent from Heaven by Ormazd. The universe, renewed, was to enjoy eternal happiness.

IV. Relation to Christianity. - The most interesting aspect of Mithraism is its antagonism to Christianity. Both religions were of Oriental origin; they were propagated about the same time, and spread with equal rapidity on account of the same causes, viz. the unity of the political world and the debasement of its moral life. At the end of the 2nd century each had advanced to the farthest limits of the empire, though the one possessed greatest strength on the frontiers of the Teutonic countries, along the Danube and the Rhine, while the other throve especially in Asia and Africa. The points of collision were especially at Rome, in Africa, and in the Rhone Valley, and the struggle was the more obstinate because of the resemblances between the two religions, which were so numerous and so close as to be the subject of remark as early as the 2nd century, and the cause of mutual recrimination. The fraternal and democratic spirit of the first communities, and their humble origin; the identification of the object of adoration with light and the Sun; the legends of the shepherds with their gifts and adoration, the flood, and the ark; the representation in art of the fiery chariot, the drawing of water from the rock; the use of bell and candle, holy water and the communion; the sanctification of Sunday and of the 25th of December; the insistence on moral conduct, the emphasis placed upon abstinence and self-control; the doctrine of heaven and hell, of primitive revelation, of the mediation of the Logos emanating from the divine, the atoning sacrifice, the constant warfare between good and evil and the final triumph of the former, the immortality of the soul, the last judgment, the resurrection of the flesh and the fiery destruction of the universe - are some of the resemblances which, whether real or only apparent, enabled Mithraism to prolong its resistance to Christianity. At their root lay a common Eastern origin rather than any borrowing.

On the other hand, there were important contrasts between the two. Mithraism courted the favour of Roman paganism and combined monotheism with polytheism, while Christianity was uncompromising. The former as a consequence won large numbers of supporters who were drawn by the possibility it afforded of adopting an attractive faith which did not involve a rupture with the religion of Roman society, and consequently with the state. In the middle of the 3rd century Mithraism seemed on the verge of becoming the universal religion. Its eminence, however, was so largely based upon dalliance with Roman society, its weakness so great in having only a mythical character, instead of a personality, as an object of adoration, and in excluding women from its privileges, that it fell rapidly before the assaults of Christianity. Manichaeism, which combined the adoration of Zoroaster and Christ, became the refuge of those supporters of Mithraism who were inclined to compromise, while many found the transition to orthodox Christianity easy because of its very resemblance to their old faith.

See Franz Cumont, Textes et monuments figures relatifs aux mysteres de Mithra (Brussels, 1896, 1899), which has superseded all publications on the subject; Albrecht Dieterich, Eine Mithrasliturgie (Leipzig, 1903). See also the translation of Cumont's Conclusions (the second part of vol. i. of the above work, published separately 1902, under the title Les Mysteres de Mithra), by T: J. McCormack (Chicago and London, 1903). Extended bibliography in Roscher's Lexicon der Mythologie. (G. SN.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




From Latin Mithras.

Proper noun




  1. A Roman god, cult figure of the 2nd-4th century Roman mystery religion known as the "Mysteries of Mithras" (now colloquially Mithraism)



Probably via Ancient Greek Μίθρας (Mithras), via some unattested Old Iranian intermediary, ultimately from vocative Avestan 𐬨𐬌𐬚𐬭𐬀 (Miθra).


Proper noun

Mithrās (genitive Mithrae); m, first declension

  1. A Roman god, cult figure of the 2nd-4th century Roman mystery religion known as the "Mysteries of Mithras" (now colloquially Mithraism)


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Protostomia
Cladus: Ecdysozoa
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Classis: Insecta
Cladus: Dicondylia
Cladus: Pterygota
Cladus: Metapterygota
Cladus: Neoptera
Cladus: Eumetabola
Cladus: Endopterygota
Superordo: Panorpida
Cladus: Amphiesmenoptera
Ordo: Lepidoptera
Subordo: Glossata
Infraordo: Heteroneura
Divisio: Ditrysia
Sectio: Cossina
Subsection: Bombycina
Superfamilia: Papilionoidea
Series: Papilioniformes
Familia: Lycaenidae
Subfamilia: Theclinae
Tribus: Eumaeini
Genus: Mithras
Species: M. catrea - M. colombiensis - M. elis - M. hannelore - M. nautes - M. oroanna - M. orobia - M. orobiana - M. orocana - M. villaanna - M. vossoroca


Mithras Hübner, 1819

Type species: Papilio nautes Cramer, 1779



  • Bálint, Z. & A. Moser, 2001: Notes on the genus Paraspiculatus (Insecta: Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae: Eumaeini) with a synopsis of the taxa occuring in southern Brazil. Ann. Naturhist. Mus. Wien 103B: 249-262. Full article: [1]
  • Lamas, Gerardo, 2004, Atlas of Neotropical Lepidoptera; Checklist: 4A; Hesperioidea-Papilionoidea


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