The Mithraic Mysteries were a mystery religion practised in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to 4th centuries AD. Romans also called them Mysteries of Mithras or Mysteries of the Persians; modern historians refer to them as Mithraism, or sometimes Roman Mithraism. The mysteries were centered on the god Mithras, and were popular in the Roman military.
Worshippers of Mithras had a complex system of seven grades of initiation, with ritual meals. Initiates called themselves syndexioi, those "united by the handshake". They met in underground temples (called a mithraeum), which survive in large numbers. The cult appears to have had its epicentre in Rome.
Numerous archeological finds, including meeting places, monuments, and artifacts, have contributed to modern knowledge about Mithraism throughout the Roman Empire. The iconic scenes of Mithras show him being born from a rock, slaughtering a bull, and sharing a banquet with the god Sol (the Sun). About 420 sites have yielded materials related to the cult. Among the items found are about 1000 inscriptions, 700 examples of the bull-killing scene (tauroctony), and about 400 other monuments. It has been estimated that there would have been at least 680-690 Mithraea in Rome. No written narratives or theology from the religion survive, although there are brief or passing references in Greek and Latin literature, and information to be derived from the inscriptions is minimal. Interpretation of the physical evidence remains problematic and contested.
The Romans themselves regarded the mysteries as having Persian or Zoroastrian sources, a view sometimes argued by modern-era scholars. Since the early 1970s, however, the dominant scholarship has cast this origin in doubt, and regarded the mysteries of Mithras as a distinct product of the Roman Imperial religious world. In this context, Mithraism has sometimes been viewed as a rival of early Christianity.
- 1 The name Mithras
- 2 Iconography
- 3 Rituals and worship
- 4 History and development
- 4.1 Mithras before the Mysteries
- 4.2 Beginnings of Roman Mithraism
- 4.3 Classical literature about the Mysteries
- 4.4 Modern debate about origins
- 4.5 Later history
- 4.6 The end of Roman Mithraism
- 5 Mithras and other gods
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
The name Mithras
The name Mithras (Latin, equivalent to Greek "Μίθρας",) is a form of Mithra, the name of an Iranian god, a point acknowledged by Mithras scholars since the days of Franz Cumont. An early example of the Greek form of the name is in a fourth century BC work by Xenophon, the Cyropaedia, which is a biography of the Persian king Cyrus the Great.
Related deity-names in other languages include
- Sanskrit Mitra (मित्रः), found in the Rig Veda.  In Sanskrit, "mitra" means "friend" or "friendship".
- the form mi-it-ra-, found in an inscribed peace treaty between Hittites and Hurrians, from about 1400 BC. 
Modern historians have different conceptions about whether these names refer to the same god or not. John R. Hinnells has written of Mitra/Mithra/Mithras as a single deity worshipped in several different religions.  On the other hand, David Ulansey considers the bull-slaying Mithras to be a new god who began to be worshipped in the first century BC, and to whom an old name was applied. 
Much about the cult of Mithras is only known from reliefs and sculptures. There have been many attempts to interpret this material.
Mithras-worship in the Roman Empire was characterized by images of the god slaughtering a bull. Other images of Mithras are found in the Roman temples, for instance Mithras banqueting with Sol, and depictions of the birth of Mithras from a rock. But the image of bull-slaying (tauroctony) is always in the central niche. Little is known about the associated beliefs. (See section #Interpretations of the bull-slaying scene below.)
The practice of depicting the god slaying a bull seems to be specific to Roman Mithraism. According to David Ulansey, this is "perhaps the most important example" of evident difference between Iranian and Roman traditions: "... there is no evidence that the Iranian god Mithra ever had anything to do with killing a bull." 
The bull-slaying scene
In every Mithraeum the centrepiece was a representation of Mithras killing a sacred bull; the so-called tauroctony.
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  bull, holding it by the nostrils  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. Sometimes Cautes and Cautopates carry shepherds' crooks instead of torches.
The event takes place in a cavern, into which Mithras has carried the bull, after having hunted it, ridden it and overwhelmed its strength. 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 subsidiary 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. Some of these reliefs were constructed so that they could be turned on an axis. On the back side was another, more elaborate feasting scene. This indicates that the bull killing scene was used in the first part of the celebration, then the relief was turned, and the second scene was used in the second part of the celebration.
The second most important scene after the tauroctony in Mithraic art is the so-called banquet scene. 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. 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 psychopomp, the eliciting of flames in this scene is referring to the dispatch of human souls and expressing the Mithraic doctrine on this matter. 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.
Birth from a Rock
Mithras is depicted as being born from a rock. He is shown as emerging from a rock, already in his youth, with a dagger in one hand and a torch in the other. He is nude, is wearing a Phrygian cap and is holding his legs together.
However, there are variations and sometimes he is shown as coming out of the rock as a child and in one instance he has a globe in one hand, sometimes a thunderbolt is seen. There are also depictions in which flames are shooting from the rock and also from Mithras' phrygian cap. One statue had its base perforated so that it could serve as a fountain and the base of another has the mask of the water god. Sometimes he also has other weapons like bows and arrows and there are also animals like dog, serpant, dolphin, eagle, some other birds, a lion, crocodile, lobster and snail around. On some reliefs, there is a bearded figure identified as Oceanus, the water god, and on some there are the four wind gods. In these reliefs, the four elements could be invoked together. Sometimes Victoria, Luna, Sol and Saturn also seem to play a role. Saturn particularly appears to hand over the dagger to Mithras so that he could perform his mighty deeds.
In some depictions Cautes and Cautopates are also present and sometimes they become shepherds.
On some occasions, an amphora is seen, and a few instances show variations like an egg birth or a tree birth. Some interpretations show that the birth of Mithras was celebrated by lighting torches or candles.
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 a diagonal cross. A more scarcely represented variant of the figure with a human head is also found.
Although animal-headed figures are prevalent in contemporary Egyptian and Gnostic mythological representations, the Leontocephaline is entirely restricted to Mithraic art.
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).
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.
Rituals and worship
According to M.J.Vermaseren, the Mithraic New Year and the birthday of Mithras was on December 25. However, Beck disagrees strongly. 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."
No Mithraic scripture or first-hand account of its highly secret rituals survives; with the possible exception of the document known as the Mithras Liturgy, from fourth century Egypt, whose status as a Mithraist text has been questioned by scholars including Franz Cumont. 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.
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. 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 plaque, records a Mithraic festival of commemoration as taking place on 26 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. Counterpart dining rooms, or triclinia were to be found above ground in the precincts of almost any temple or religious 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.
Each Mithraeum had several altars at the further end, underneath the representation of the tauroctony; and also commonly contained considerable numbers of subsidiary altars, both in the main Mithraeum chamber, and in the ante-chamber or narthex. 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 fulfillment 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 facilities 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 of the civic cult.
It is doubtful whether Mithraism had a monolithic and internally consistent doctrine. It may have varied from location to location. However, the iconography is relatively coherent. It 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, 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.
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. According to Walter Burkert, the secret character of Mithriac rituals meant that Mithraism could only be practiced within a Mithraeum. More than 420 Mithraic sites have now been identified.
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. There is usually a narthex or ante-chamber at the entrance, and often other ancillary rooms for storage and the preparation of food. The extant mithraea present us with actual physical remains of the architectural structures of the sacred spaces of the Mithraic cult. Mithraeum is a modern coinage and mithraists referred to their sacred structures as speleum or antrum (cave), crypta (underground hallway or corridor), fanum (sacred or holy place), or even templum (a temple or a sacred space).
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. Mithraea were the antithesis of this.
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." Gregory Nazianzen refers to the "tests in the mysteries of Mithras".
There were seven grades of initiation into the mysteries of Mithras, which are listed by St. Jerome. 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. In ascending order of importance the initiatory grades were:
|Grade||Symbols||Associated planet/Protecting deity|
|Corax, Corux or Corvex (raven or crow)||beaker, caduceus||Mercury|
|Nymphus, Nymphobus (male bride)||lamp, bell, veil, circlet/crown (diadem)||Venus|
|Miles (soldier)||pouch, helmet, lance, drum, belt, breast plate||Mars|
|Leo (lion)||batillum, sistrum, laurel wreath, thunderbolts||Jupiter|
|Perses (Persian)||akinakes Phyrgian cap, sickle, sickle moon and stars, sling pouch||Luna|
|Heliodromus (sun-runner)||torch, images of Helios the Sun, whip, robes||Sol|
|Pater (father)||patera Mitre, crozier/shepherd's staff, garnet or ruby ring, chasuble, elaborate robes jewel encrusted with metallic threads||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. 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 4th century. It has been suggested that some Mithraea may have awarded honorary pater status to sympathetic dignitaries.
The initiate into each grade appears to have required to undertake a specific ordeal or test, 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 and derided by Firmicus Maternus in De errore profanarum religionum, a fourth century Christian work attacking paganism. Taking the right hand is the old Iranian form of signifying a promise of allegiance, or conclusion of a treaty.
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. The initiates held a sacramental banquet, replicating the feast of Mithras and Sol.
Reliefs on a cup found in Mainz, 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.
Consequently it has been argued that most Mithraic rituals involved a re-enactment by the initiates of episodes in the Mithras narrative, a narrative whose main elements were; birth from the rock, striking water from stone with an arrow shot, the killing 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. 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.
Membership of the Cult
Due to the complete absence of women in membership lists, it is generally believed that the cult was for men only. The ancient scholar Porphyry seems to refer to female mithraists, but the early twentieth century historian A.S. Geden writes that this may be due to a misunderstanding. According to Geden, while the participation of women in the ritual was not unknown in the Eastern cults, the predominant military influence in Mithraism seems to render it unlikely in this instance. It has recently been suggested by David Jonathan that "women were involved with Mithraic groups in at least some locations of the empire." 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 .
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. A passage in the Caesares of Julian the Apostate refers to "commandments of Mithras".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".
History and development
Mithras before the Mysteries
According to the archaeologist Maarten Vermaseren, first century BC evidence from Commagene demonstrates the "reverence paid to Mithras" but does not refer to "the mysteries". In the colossal statuary erected by King Antiochus I (69-34 BC) at Mount Nemrut, Mithras is shown wearing a Phrygian cap, and is seated on a throne alongside other deities and the king himself. On the back of the thrones there is an inscription in Greek, which includes the name Apollo Mithras Helios in the genitive case (Ἀπόλ/λωνος Μίθρου Ἡλίου).
Beginnings of Roman Mithraism
The origins and spread of the Mysteries are matters of perennial debate among scholars of the cult. According to Clauss mysteries of Mithras were not practiced until the 1st century AD. According to Ulansey, the earliest evidence for the Mithraic mysteries places their appearance in the middle of the first century BC: the historian Plutarch says that in 67 BC the pirates of Cilicia (a province on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor) were practicing "secret rites" of Mithras. However, according to Daniels, whether any of this relates to the origins of the mysteries is unclear. The unique underground temples or Mithraea appear suddenly in the archaeology in the last quarter of the 1st century AD.
Inscriptions and monuments related to the Mithraic Mysteries are catalogued in a two volume work by Maarten J. Vermaseren, the Corpus Inscriptionum et Monumentorum Religionis Mithriacae (or CIMRM). The earliest monument showing Mithras slaying the bull is thought to be CIMRM 593, 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.
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 1st century BC, and by Beck to 50 BC-50 AD. These may be the earliest tauroctonies, if they are accepted to be a depiction of Mithras. The bull-slaying figure wears a Phrygian cap, but is described by Beck and Beskow as otherwise unlike standard depictions of the tauroctony. Another reason for not connecting these artifacts with the Mithraic Mysteries is that the first of these plaques was found in a woman's tomb.
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.
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.
According to C.M.Daniels, the Carnuntum inscription is the earliest Mithraic dedication from the Danube region, which along with Italy is one of the two regions where Mithraism first struck root. The earliest dateable Mithraeum outside Rome dates from 148 AD. The Mithraeum at Caesarea Maritima is the only one in Palestine and the date is inferred.
Earliest cult locations
According to Roger Beck, the attested locations of the Roman cult in the earliest phase (c. 80–120 AD) are as follows:
Mithraea datable from pottery
- Nida/Heddemheim III (Germania Sup.)
- Mogontiacum (Germania Sup.)
- Pons Aeni (Noricum)
- Caesarea (Judaea)
- 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)
Classical literature about the Mysteries
According to Boyce, the earliest literary references to the mysteries are by the Latin poet Statius, about 80 AD, and Plutarch (c. 100 AD).
The Thebaid (c.80 AD ) an epic poem by Statius, pictures Mithras in a cave, wrestling with something that has horns. The context is a prayer to the god Phoebus. The cave is described as persei, which in this context is usually translated "Persian", however according to the translator J.H.Mozley it literally means "Persean", referring to Perses the son of Persius and Andromeda; this Perses being the ancestor of the Persians according to Greek legend.
The Greek biographer Plutarch (46 - 127 AD) says that "secret mysteries... of Mithras" were practiced by the pirates of Cilicia, the coastal province in the southeast of Anatolia, who were active in the first century BC: "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."  He mentions that the pirates were especially active during the Mithridatic wars (between the Roman Republic and King Mithridates VI of Pontus) in which they supported the king. The association between Mithridates and the pirates is also mentioned by the ancient historian Appian. The 4th century commentary on Vergil by Servius says that Pompey settled some of these pirates in Calabria in southern Italy.
The philosopher Porphyry (3rd-4th century AD) gives an account of the origins of the Mysteries in his work De antro nympharum (The Cave of the Nymphs). Citing Eubulus as his source, Porphyry writes that the original temple of Mithras was a natural cave, containing fountains, which Zoroaster found in the mountains of Persia. To Zoroaster, this cave was an image of the whole world, so he consecrated it to Mithras, the creator of the world. Later in the same work, Porphyry links Mithras and the bull with planets and star-signs: Mithras himself is associated with the sign of Aries and the planet Mars, while the bull is associated with Venus.
Porphyry is writing close to the demise of the cult, and 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 Neoplatonists of what it suited them in the late 4th century to read into the mysteries. However, Merkelbach and Beck believe that Porphyry's work "is in fact thoroughly coloured with the doctrines of the Mysteries." Beck holds that classical scholars have neglected Porphyry's evidence and have taken an unnecessarily skeptical view of Porphyry. According to Beck, Porphyry's De antro is the only clear text from antiquity which tells us about the intent of the Mithriac Mysteries and how that intent was realized. David Ulansey finds it important that Porphyry "confirms... that astral conceptions played an important role in Mithraism." 
Modern debate about origins
Cumont's hypothesis: from Persian state religion
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, Textes et monuments figurés relatifs aux mystères de Mithra [french: "Texts and Illustrated Monuments Relating to the Mysteries of Mithra"]. An English translation of part of this work was published in 1903, with the title The Mysteries of Mithra. 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", the Persian state religion, disseminated from the East. He identified the ancient Aryan deity who appears in Persian literature as Mithras with the Hindu god Mitra of the Vedic hymns. According to Cumont, the god Mithra came to Rome "accompanied by a large representation of the Mazdean Pantheon". Cumont considers that while the tradition "underwent some modification in the Occident... the alterations that it suffered were largely superficial".
Criticisms and reassessments of Cumont
Cumont's theories were 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, 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." 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." 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.
Reporting on the Second International Congress of Mithraic Studies, 1975, Ugo Bianchi welcomed the "post-Cumontian" trend at the conference to question the link with Persia, but argued for retaining the idea of Mithras as a "Persian" god because the Romans themselves saw him as such.
Luther H. Martin suggests that:"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."
Hopfe states that all theories of the origin of Mithraism acknowledge a connection, however vague, to the Mithra/Mitra figure of ancient Aryan religion, that all of them see the starting place of Roman Mithraism as Tarsus, and that archeology shows Rome to have been its epicenter.
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." She says that recent studies have greatly reduced the believed Iranian content of this "self conciously 'Persian' religion", but the use of a Persian name indicates some connection. She also says that the Persian affiliation of the Mysteries is acknowledged in the earliest literary references to them.
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.
Beck theorizes 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. He observes that "Mithras — moreover, a Mithras who was identified with the Greek Sun god Helios" was among the gods of the syncretic Graeco-Iranian royal cult founded by Antiochus I of Commagene in the mid 1st century BC". While proposing the theory, Beck says that his scenario may be regarded as Cumontian in two ways. Firstly, because it looks again at Anatolia and Anatolians, and more importantly, because it hews back to the methodology first used by Cumont.
Merkelbach suggests that its mysteries were essentially created by a particular person or persons 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. 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."
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." 
Taking a different view from other 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.
Interpretations of the bull-slaying scene
According to Franz Cumont, 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. Cumont held that a version of the myth must have existed in which Mithras, not Ahriman, killed the bovine. But according to Hinnells, 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"
David Ulansey finds astronomical evidence from the mithraeum itself. 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" and that Zoroaster consecrated a cave resembling the world fabricated by Mithras 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.
Beck has given the following celestial anatomy of the Tauroctony:
|Component of Tauroctony||Celestial Counterpart|
|Dog||Canis Minor, Canis Major|
|Snake||Hydra, Serpens, Draco|
|Wheat's ear (on bull's tail)||Spica|
|Twins Cautes and Cautopates||Gemini|
Several celestial identities for the Tauroctonous Mithras (TM) himself have been proposed. Beck summarizes them in the table below.
|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.
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.
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." 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. But again, Meyer holds that the Mithras Liturgy reflects the world of Mithraism and may be a confirmation for Ulansey's theory of Mithras being held responsible for the precession of equinoxes.
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.
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. 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. According to the 4th century Historia Augusta, the emperor Commodus participated in its mysteries. But it never became one of the state cults.
The end of Roman Mithraism
It is difficult to trace when the cult 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." Inscriptions from the 4th century are few. Clauss states that inscriptions show Mithras as one of the cults listed on inscriptions by Roman senators who had not converted to Christianity, as part of the "pagan revival" among the elite. According to Ulansey, Mithraism declined with the rise to power of Christianity, until the beginning of the fifth century, when Christianity became strong enough to exterminate by force rival religions such as Mithraism. According to Speidel, Christian apologetics fought fiercely with the cult they feared. During the late fourth century A.D., as a victim of the Judaeo-Christian spirit of intolerance, Roman Mithraism was suppressed, its sanctuaries destroyed together with the last vestiges of religious freedom in the empire. According to Luther H. Martin, Roman Mithraism came to an end with the anti-pagan decrees of the Christian emperor Theodosius during the last decade of the fourth century.
At some of the mithraeums which have been found below churches, for example the Santa Prisca mithraeum and the San Clemente mithraeum, the ground plan of the church above was made in a way to symbolize Christianity's domination of Mithraism. According to Mark Humphries, the deliberate concealment of Mithraic cult objects in some areas suggests that precautions were being taken against Christian attacks. However, in areas like the Rhine frontier, purely religious considerations cannot explain the end of Mithraism and barbarian invasions may also have played a role.
There is virtually no evidence for the continuance of the cult of Mithras into the 5th century. In particular large numbers of votive coins deposited by worshippers have been recovered at 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 reliable dates for the functioning of the Mithraeum. It cannot be shown that any Mithraeum continued in use in the 5th century. The coin series in all Mithraea end at the end of the 4th 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.
Mithras and other gods
The cult of Mithras was part of the syncretic nature of ancient Roman religion. 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. Mithraism was not an alternative to Rome's other traditional religions, but was one of many forms of religious practice; and many Mithraic initiates can also be found participating in the civic religion, and as initiates of other mystery cults.
Mithraism and Christianity
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," However, this theory has been contested by modern scholars: Leonard Boyle wrote in 1987 that "too much ... has been made of the 'threat' of Mithraism to Christianity," pointing out that there are only fifty known mithraea in the entire city of Rome. J. A. Ezquerra holds that since the two religions did not share similar aims, there was never any real threat of Mithraism taking over the Roman world. However, Boyce states that for a time, Mithraism posed a formidable challange to Christianity in the west. But Mithraism's penetration of the east is unclear. Although a Mithraeum has been found at the Parthian fortress town of Dura-Europos on the Euphrates, the influence of Zoroastrianism may have prevented Mithraism from making significant inroads there. Coarelli (1979) lists forty actual or possible mithraea, and from comparisons of size and population with Ostia, calculates that there would have been in Rome "not less than 680-690" mithraea in all. Lewis M. Hopfe states that more than four hundred Mithraic sites have been found. These sites are spread all over the Roman empire from places as far as Dura Europas in the east and England in the west. He too says that Mithraism may have been a rival of Christianity.
Marvin Meyer argues that "early Christianity ... in general, resembles Mithraism in a number of respects—enough to make Christian apologists scramble to invent creative theological explanations to account for the similarities." The Christian apologist Justin Martyr had written,
Wherefore also the evil demons in mimicry have handed down that the same thing should be done in the Mysteries of Mithras. For that bread and a cup of water are in these mysteries set before the initiate with certain speeches you either know or can learn.
David Ulansey thinks Renan's statement "somewhat exaggerated", but does consider Mithraism "one of Christianity's major competitors in the Roman Empire". Ulansey sees study of Mithraism as important for understanding "the cultural matrix out of which the Christian religion came to birth". Moreover, on the basis of his astronomical interpretation of Mithraism, Ulansey argues for a "profound kinship between Mithraism and Christianity", in that Mithras, like Jesus Christ, was considered to be "a being from beyond the universe". Ulansey suggests that these two figures, Mithras and Jesus, "are to some extent both manifestations of a single deep longing in the human spirit".
- London Mithraeum
- Santo Stefano Rotondo
- Beck, Roger (20-07-2002). "Mithraism". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition,. http://www.iranica.com/articles/mithraism. Retrieved 2011-03-24. "The term “Mithraism” is of course a modern coinage. In antiquity the cult was known as “the mysteries of Mithras”; alternatively, as “the mysteries of the Persians.”…The Mithraists, who were manifestly not Persians in any ethnic sense, thought of themselves as cultic “Persians.” …the ancient Roman Mithraists themselves were convinced that their cult was founded by none other than Zoroaster, who “dedicated to Mithras, the creator and father of all, a cave in the mountains bordering Persia,” an idyllic setting “abounding in flowers and springs of water” (Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs 6)."
- "Electronic Journal of Mithraic Studies". http://www.uhu.es/ejms/. Retrieved 2011-03-28. "The Electronic Journal of Mithraic Studies (EJMS) is a revival of the Journal of Mithraic Studies edited by Dr. Richard Gordon. It is a place where researchers on Roman Mithraism can publish the product of their research and make it freely available for other interested people."
- Beck, Roger (2002- 7 -20). "Mithraism". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition,. http://www.iranica.com/articles/mithraism. Retrieved 2011-03-28. "For most of the twentieth century the major problem addressed by scholarship on both Roman Mithraism and the Iranian god Mithra was the question of continuity."
- Geden, A. S. (15 October 2004). Select Passages Illustrating Mithraism 1925. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 51–. ISBN 9781417982295. http://books.google.com/books?id=z4sQkWdh-7oC&pg=PA51. Retrieved 28 March 2011. "Porphyry moreover seems to be the only writer who makes reference to women initiates into the service and rites of Mithra, and his allusion is perhaps due to a misunderstanding.....The participation of women in the ritual was not unknown in the Eastern cults, but the predominant military influence in Mithraism seems to render it unlikely in this instance."
- M. Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p. 42: "That the hand-shaken might make their vows joyfully forever"
- 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 Mithraic 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 cult 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. [footnote in cited text: 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 religion 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."
- Beck, Roger (17-02-2011). "The Pagan Shadow of Christ?". BBC-History. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/paganshadowchrist_article_01.shtml. Retrieved 06-04-2011. "We know a good deal about them because archaeology has disinterred many meeting places together with numerous artifacts and representations of the cult myth, mostly in the form of relief sculpture."
- Clauss, Manfred. The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and his Mysteries. pp. xxi. ISBN 0415929776.
- Coarelli; Beck, Roger; Haase, Wolfgang (1984). Aufstieg und niedergang der römischen welt [The Rise and Decline of the Roman World]. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 2026–. ISBN 9783110102130. http://books.google.com/books?id=wFceDNFgVowC&pg=PA2026. Retrieved 20 March 2011. "A useful topographic survey, with map, by F. Coarelli (1979) lists 40 actual or possible mithraea (the latter inferred from find-spots, with the sensible proviso that a mithraeum will not necessarily correspond to every find). Principally from comparisons of size and population with Ostia, Coarelli calculates that there will have been in Rome "not less than 680-690" mithraea in all...."
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 3. ISBN 0-19-506788-6. "However, in the absence of any ancient explanations of its meaning, Mithraic iconography has proven to be exceptionally difficult to decipher."
- Hopfe, Lewis M.; Richardson, Henry Neil (September 1994). "Archaeological Indications on the Origins of Roman Mithraism". in Lewis M. Hopfe. Uncovering ancient stones: essays in memory of H. Neil Richardson. Eisenbrauns. pp. 147–. ISBN 9780931464737. http://books.google.com/books?id=QRfhSBLmAK8C&pg=PA147. Retrieved 19 March 2011. "Today more than four hundred locations of Mithraic worship have been identified in every area of the Roman Empire. Mithraea have been found as far west as England and as far east as Dura Europas. Between the second and fourth centuries C.E. Mithraism may have vied with Christianity for domination of the Roman world."
- Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 90. ISBN 0-19-506788-6. "It is therefore highly likely that it was in the context of Mithridates' alliance with the Cilician pirates that there arose the synchretistic link between Perseus and Mithra which led to the name Mithras (a Greek form of the name Mithra) being given to the god of the new cult."
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 8. ISBN 0-19-506788-6. "Cumont's... argument was straightforward and may be summarized succinctly: the name of the god of the cult, Mithras, is the Latin (and Greek) form of the name of an ancient Iranian god, Mithra; in addition, the Romans believed that their cult was connected with Persia (as the Romans called Iran); therefore we may assume that Roman Mithraism is nothing other than the Iranian cult of Mithra transplanted into the Roman Empire."
- Xenophon, Cyropaedia 7.5.53. Cited in Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon
- E.g. in Rig Veda 3, Hymn 59
- Michael Speidel (1980). Mithras-Orion: Greek hero and Roman army god. Brill. pp. 1–. ISBN 9789004060555. http://books.google.com/books?id=7-YUAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1. "India's sacred literature refers to him since the hymns of the Rig Veda. But it was in Iran where Mithras rose to the greatest prominence: rebounding after the reforms of Zarathustra, Mithras became one of the great gods of the Achaemenian emperors and to this very day he is worshipped in India and Iran by Parsees and Zarathustrians."
- Hopfe, Lewis M.; Richardson, Henry Neil (September 1994). "Archaeological Indications on the Origins of Roman Mithraism". in Lewis M. Hopfe. Uncovering ancient stones: essays in memory of H. Neil Richardson. Eisenbrauns. pp. 150–. ISBN 9780931464737. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=QRfhSBLmAK8C&lpg=PA147&dq=Archaelogical%20Indications%20on%20the%20Origins%20of%20Roman%20Mithraism&pg=PA150#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 19 March 2011. "All theories of the origin of Mithraism acknowledge a connection, however vague, to the Mithra/Mitra figure of ancient Aryan religion." Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "RichardsonHopfe1994-4" defined multiple times with different content
- Turcan, Robert (1996). The cults of the Roman Empire. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 196–. ISBN 9780631200475. http://books.google.com/books?id=Q6sSsAR0ZO8C&pg=PA196. Retrieved 19 March 2011. "The name Mithras comes from a root mei- (which implies the idea of exchange), accompanied by an instrumental suffix. It was therefore a means of exchange, the 'contract' which rules human relations and is the basis of social life. In Sanskrit, mitra means 'friend' or 'friendship', like mihr in Persian. In Zend, mithra means precisely the 'contract', which eventually became deified following the same procedure as Venus, the 'charm' for the Romans. We find him invoked with Varuna in an agreement concluded c. 1380 BC between the king of the Hittites, Subbiluliuma, and the king of Mitanni, Mativaza....It is the earliest evidence of Mithras in Asia Minor."
- Thieme, Paul (1960), "The 'Aryan' Gods of the Mitanni Treaties", Journal of the American Oriental Society 80.4. pp. 301-317.
- Schmidt, Hans-Peter (2006), "Mithra i: Mithra in Old Indian and Mithra in Old Iranian", Encyclopaedia Iranica, New York: iranica.com, http://www.iranica.com/articles/mithra-i (accessed April 2011)
- Hinnells, John R. (1990), "Introduction: the questions asked and to be asked", in Hinnells, John R., Studies in Mithraism, Rome: L'Erma di Bretschneider, p. 11, "The god is unique in being worshipped in four distinct religions: Hinduism (as Mitra), in Iranian Zoroastrianism and Manicheism (as Mithra), and in the Roman Empire (as Mithras)."
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 94. ISBN 0-19-506788-6. "the intimate alliance between the pirates and Mithridates Eupator, named after Mithra and mythically descended from Perseus, led to the pirates adopting the name Mithras for the new god."
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 6. ISBN 0-19-506788-6.
- Clauss, M. The Roman cult of Mithras, p. xxi: "we possess virtually no theological statements either by Mithraists themselves or by other writers."
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 8. ISBN 0-19-506788-6.
- 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."
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.77.
- Clauss, M. The Roman cult of Mithras, p.98-9. An image search for "tauroctony" will show many examples of the variations.
- Näsström, Britt-Marie. "The sacrifi ces of Mithras". http://www.isvroma.it/public/pecus/nasstrom.pdf. Retrieved 04-04-2011. "He is wearing a Phrygian cap and a wind-filled cloak, and, most remarkable of all, his head is turned in the other direction as if he would not look at his own deed. Still, this sacrifice is a guarantee of salvation for the participants."
- 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
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.74.
- L'Ecole Initiative: Alison Griffith, 1996. "Mithraism"
- Klauck, Hans-Josef; McNeil, Brian (December 2003). The religious context of early Christianity: a guide to Graeco-Roman religions. T & T Clark Ltd.. pp. 146–. ISBN 9780567089434. http://books.google.com/books?id=XEuddWHIqaYC&pg=PA146. Retrieved 09-04-2011.
- 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].
- Beck, Roger (2007). The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199216134. , p. 27-28.
- Vermaseren, M. J.. "The miraculous Birth of Mithras". in László Gerevich. Studia Archaeologica. Brill. pp. 93–109. http://books.google.com/books?id=HQ0VAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA93. Retrieved 10-04-2011.
- Commodian, Instructiones 1.13: "The unconquered one was born from a rock, if he is regarded as a god." See also image of "Mithras petra genetrix Terme" inset above.
- 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
- Jackson, Howard M., "The Meaning and Function of the Leontocephaline in Roman Mithraism" in Numen, Vol. 32, Fasc. 1 (Jul., 1985), pp. 17-45
- Beck, R, Beck on Mithraism, pp. 194
- Vermaseren, M. J.. The Excavations in the Mithraeum of the Church of Santa Pricsa in Rome. Brill. pp. 238–. http://books.google.com/books?id=iskUAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA238. Retrieved 3 April 2011. "One should bear in mind that the Mithraic New Year began on Natalis Invicti, the birthday of their invincible god, i.e. December 25th, when the new light ...... appears from the vault of heaven."
- "Roman Religion". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/507866/Roman-religion. Retrieved 07-04-2011. "For a time, coins and other monuments continued to link Christian doctrines with the worship of the Sun, to which Constantine had been addicted previously. But even when this phase came to an end, Roman paganism continued to exert other, permanent influences, great and small....The ecclesiastical calendar retains numerous remnants of pre-Christian festivals—notably Christmas, which blends elements including both the feast of the Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra.".
- Beck, Roger (1987). "Merkelbach's Mithras". Phoenix 41 (3): 296–316. doi:10.2307/1088197. , p. 299, n. 12.
- Clauss, Manfred. Mithras: Kult und Mysterien. München: Beck, 1990, p. 70.
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 105. ISBN 0-19-506788-6. "The original editor of the text, Albrecht Dieterich, claimed that it recorded an authentic Mithraic ritual, but this claim was rejected by Cumont, who felt that the references to Mithras in the text were merely the result of an extravagant syncretism evident in magical traditions. Until recently, most scholars followed Cumont in refusing to see any authentic Mithraic doctrine in the Mithras Liturgy."
- Meyer, Marvin W. (1976) The "Mithras Liturgy".
- Francis, E.D. (1971). Hinnells, John R.. ed. "Mithraic graffiti from Dura-Europos," in Mithraic Studies, vol. 2. Manchester University Press. pp. 424–445.
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.115.
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.43.
- Burkert, Walter (1987). Ancient Mystery Cults. Harvard University Press. p. 41. ISBN 0674033876.
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.49.
- Price S & Kearns E, Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, p.568.
- Beck, Roger (2007). The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199216134. "Nevertheless, the fact that Porphyry and/or his sources would have had no scruples about adapting or even inventing Mithraic data to suit their arguments does not necessarily mean that they actually did so. It is far more likely that Mithraic doctrine (in the weak sense of the term!) really was what the philosophers said it was... there are no insuperable discrepancies between Mithraic practice and theory as attested in Porphyry and Mithraic practice and theory as archaeology has allowed us to recover them. Even if there were major discrepancies, they would matter only in the context of the old model of an internally consistent and monolithic Mithraic doctrine." , p.87.
- "Beck on Mithraism", p. 16
- Hinnells, John R., ed (1971). Mithraic Studies, vol. 2. Manchester University Press. plate 25
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.139.
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, pages 26 and 27.
- Burkert, Walter (1987). Ancient Mystery Cults. Harvard University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0674033876.
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.xxi.
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.73.
- Bjørnebye, Jonas (2007). "The mithraea as buildings". Hic locus est felix, sanctus, piusque benignus: The cult of Mithras in fourth century Rome,Dissertation for the degree of philosophiae doctor (PhD). "The extant mithraea present us with actual physical remains of the architectural structures of the sacred spaces of the Mithraic cult. While the Mithraists themselves never used the word mithraeum as far as we know, but preferred words like speleum or antrum (cave), crypta (underground hallway or corridor), fanum (sacred or holy place), or even templum (a temple or a sacred space), the word mithraeum is the common appellation in Mithraic scholarship and is used throughout this study"
- Price S & Kearns E, Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, p.493.
- Price S & Kearns E, Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, p.355.
- Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.102. The Suda reference given is 3: 394, M 1045 Adler.
- Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.102. The Gregory reference given is to Oratio 4. 70.
- Jerome, Letters 107, ch. 2 (To Laeta)
- M.Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.132-133
- M.Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.133-138
- Clauss, Manfred (1990). "Die sieben Grade des Mithras-Kultes". ZPE 82: 183–194.
- Griffith, Alison. "Mithraism in the private and public lives of 4th-c. senators in Rome". EJMS. http://www.uhu.es/ejms/Papers/Volume1Papers/ABGMS.DOC
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.103.
- 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)
- Catholic Encyclopedia, Patrick J. Healy, 1909 Edition
- Burkert, Walter (1987). Ancient mystery cults. Harvard University Press. pp. 16–. ISBN 9780674033870. http://books.google.com/books?id=qCvlvqCXF8UC&pg=PA16. Retrieved 11-04-2011. "Taking the right hand is the old Iranian form of a promise of allegiance,..."
- "Beck on Mithraism", pp. 288-289
- 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. http://jstor.org/stable/300205.
- Merkelbach, Reinhold (1995). "Das Mainzer Mithrasgefäß". Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik (108): 1–6.
- 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
- Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.62-101.
- Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.33.
- Richard Gordon (2005). "Mithraism". in Lindsay Jones. Encyclopedia Of Religion. 9 (Second edition ed.). Thomas Gale, Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 6090. "...Moreover, not a single woman is listed: the repeated attempts to show that women might belong to the cult are wishful thinking (Piccottini, 1994).".
- 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.
- Clauss, The Roman cult of Mithras, p.39.
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.144-145: "Justin's charge does at least make clear that Mithraic commandments did exist."
- 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."
- Tertullian, De Corona Militis, 15.3
- Vermaseren, M. J. (1963), Mithras: the Secret God, London: Chatto and Windus, p. 29, "Other early evidence of the first decades B.C. refers only to the reverence paid to Mithras without mentioning the mysteries: examples which may be quoted are the tomb inscriptions of King Antiochus I of Commagene at Nemrud Dagh, and of his father Mithridates at Arsameia on the Orontes. Both the kings had erected on vast terraces a number of colossal statues seated on thrones to the honour of their ancestral gods. At Nemrud we find in their midst King Antiochus (69 - 34 B.C.) and in the inscription Mithras is mentioned..."
- Vermaseren, M. J. (1956), Corpus inscriptionum et monumentorum religionis mithriacae, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, CIMRM 29, "Head of a beardless Mithras in Phrygian cap, point of which is missing."
- Vermaseren, M. J. (1956), Corpus inscriptionum et monumentorum religionis mithriacae, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, CIMRM 28, "The gods are represented in a sitting position on a throne and are: Apollo-Mithras (see below); Tyche-Commagene; Zeus-Ahura-Mazda; Antiochus himself and finally Ares-Artagnes."
- Vermaseren, M. J. (1956), Corpus inscriptionum et monumentorum religionis mithriacae, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, CIMRM 32, verse 55
- Beck, Roger. "On Becoming a Mithraist New Evidence for the Propagation of the Mysteries". in Leif E. Vaage, et al. Religious Rivalries in the Early Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity. pp. 182. "The origins and spread of the Mysteries are matters of perennial debate among scholars of the cult."
- Clauss, Manfred (2000). Gordon, Richard (trans.). ed. The Roman cult of Mithras. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 074861396X.
- Ulansey, David. "The Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras". http://www.well.com/user/davidu/mithras.html. Retrieved 2011-03-20. "Our earliest evidence for the Mithraic mysteries places their appearance in the middle of the first century B.C.: the historian Plutarch says that in 67 B.C. a large band of pirates based in Cilicia (a province on the southeastern coast of Asia Minor) were practicing "secret rites" of Mithras. The earliest physical remains of the cult date from around the end of the first century A.D., and Mithraism reached its height of popularity in the third century."
- 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."
- Beck, R., "The Mysteries of Mithras: A New Account of their Genesis", Journal of Roman Studies, 1998, 115-128. p. 118.
- Vermaseren, M. J. (1956, 1960), Corpus inscriptionum et monumentorum religionis mithriacae, 2 vols., The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff
- Gordon, Richard L. (1978). "The date and significance of CIMRM 593 (British Museum, Townley Collection". Journal of Mithraic Studies II: 148–174. . Online here.
- 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.
- ...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
- 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."
- 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.
- Gordon, Richard L. (1978). "The date and significance of CIMRM 593 (British Museum, Townley Collection". Journal of Mithraic Studies II: 148–174. p. 150.
- 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 Cilician 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- "Beck on Mithraism", pp. 34–35. Online here.
- Boyce, Mary; Grenet, Frantz (1975). Zoroastrianism under Macedonian and Roman rule, Part 1. Brill. pp. 468, 469. ISBN 9004092714. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=MWiMV6llZesC&lpg=PA472&dq=inauthor%3Amary%20inauthor%3Aboyce%20mithra&pg=PA468#v=onepage&q=inauthor:mary%20inauthor:boyce%20mithra&f=true. Retrieved 2011-03-16. "...the Persian affiliation of the Mysteries is acknowledged in the earliest literary reference to them. This is by the Latin poet Statius who, writing about 80 A.C., described Mithras as one who "twists the unruly horns beneath the rocks of a Persian cave". Only a little later (c. 100 A.C.) Plutarch attributed an Anatolian origin to the Mysteries, for according to him the Cilician pirates whom Pompey defeated in 67 B.C. "celebrated certain secret rites, amongst which those of Mithras continue to the present time, having been first instituted by them"."
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 29. ISBN 0-19-506788-6.
- Statius: Thebaid 1.719 to 720 J.H.Mozey's translation at Classical E-Text Latin text at The Latin Library
- The prayer begins at Statius Thebaid 1.696 J.H.Mozey's translation at Classical E-Text Latin text at The Latin Library
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 27 to 29. ISBN 0-19-506788-6.
- (Life of Pompey 24, referring to events c. 68 BC).
- App. Mith 14.92 cited in Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 89. ISBN 0-19-506788-6.
- E.D.Francis "Plutarch's Mithraic pirates". Appendix to Franz Cummont "The Dura Mithraeum". In the book: John R. Hinnells Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the first international congress. Manchester University Press 1975. Vol 1, p 207 to 210. (reference to Servius is in a lengthy footnote to page 208) Google books link
- 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."
- Porphyry, De antro nympharum 11: "Hence, a place near to the equinoctial circle was assigned to Mithra as an appropriate seat. And on this account he bears the sword of Aries, which is a martial sign. He is likewise carried in the Bull, which is the sign of Venus. For Mithra. as well as the Bull, is the Demiurgus and lord of generation."
- Turcan, Robert, Mithras Platonicus, Leiden, 1975, via Beck, R. Merkelbach's Mithras p. 301-2.
- Beck, R. Merkelbach's Mithras p. 308 n. 37.
- Roger Beck; Luther H. Martin; Harvey Whitehouse (2004). Theorizing religions past: archaeology, history, and cognition. Rowman Altamira. pp. 101–. ISBN 9780759106215. http://books.google.com/books?id=m3Hu5icpP1AC&pg=PA101. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
- Beck, Roger (2006). The Religion of the Mithras cult in the Roman empire. Great Britain: Oxford University Press. pp. 17. "De antro 6 is actually the sole explicit testimony from antiquity as to the intent of Mithraism’s mysteries and the means by which that intent was realized. Porphyry, moreover, was an intelligent and well-placed theoretician of contemporary religion, with access to predecessors’ studies, now lost."
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 18. ISBN 0-19-506788-6.
- Cumont, Franz (1894-1900). Textes et monuments figurés relatifs aux mystères de Mithra. Brussels: H. Lamertin.
- Cumont, Franz (1903). The Mysteries of Mithra. Translated by Thomas J. McCormack. Chicago: Open Court. Accessible online at Internet Sacred Text Archive: The Mysteries of Mithra Index (accessed Feb 13, 2011)
- Beck, R. "Merkelbach's Mithras" in Phoenix 41.3 (1987) p. 298.
- Hopfe, Lewis M.; Richardson, Henry Neil (September 1994). "Archaeological Indications on the Origins of Roman Mithraism". in Lewis M. Hopfe. Uncovering ancient stones: essays in memory of H. Neil Richardson. Eisenbrauns. pp. 148–. ISBN 9780931464737. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=QRfhSBLmAK8C&lpg=PA147&dq=Archaelogical%20Indications%20on%20the%20Origins%20of%20Roman%20Mithraism&pg=PA148#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 19 March 2011. "Franz Cumont, one of the greatest students of Mithraism, theorized that the roots of the Roman mystery religion were in ancient Iran. He identified the ancient Aryan deity who appears in Persian literature as Mithras with the Hindu god Mitra of the Vedic hymns."
- Cumont, Franz (1903). The Mysteries of Mithra. p 107. (accessed Feb 13, 2011)
- Cumont, Franz (1903). The Mysteries of Mithra. p 104. (accessed Feb 13, 2011)
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. p. 10. ISBN 0-19-506788-6. "In the course of the First International Congress, two scholar in particular presented devastating critiques of Cumont's Iranian hypothesis... One, John Hinnells, was the organizer of the conference... Of more importance in the long run, however, was the even more radical paper presented by R.L.Gordon..."
- 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."
- 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."
- 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."
- R.L.Gordon, "Franz Cumont and the doctrines of Mithraism" in John R. Hinnells, Mithraic studies, vol. 1, p. 215 f
- Bianchi, Ugo. "The Second International Congress of Mithraic Studies, Tehran, September 1975". http://www.hums.canterbury.ac.nz/clas/ejms/out_of_print/JMSv1n1/JMSv1n1Bianchi.pdf. Retrieved 2011-03-20. "I welcome the present tendency to question in historical terms the relations between Eastern and Western Mithraism, which should not mean obliterating what was clear to the Romans themselves, that Mithras was a 'Persian' (in wider perspective: an Indo-Iranian) god."
- Martin, Luther H. (2004). "Foreword". in Beck, Roger B. (2004). Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works With New Essays. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 0754640817. , p. xiv.
- Boyce, Mary (2001). "Mithra the King and Varuna the Master". Festschrift für Helmut Humbach zum 80 (Trier: WWT). pp. 243,n.18
- Boyce, Mary; Grenet, Frantz (1975). Zoroastrianism under Macedonian and Roman rule, Part 1. Brill. pp. 468, 469. ISBN 9004092714. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=MWiMV6llZesC&lpg=PA472&dq=inauthor%3Amary%20inauthor%3Aboyce%20mithra&pg=PA468#v=onepage&q=inauthor:mary%20inauthor:boyce%20mithra&f=true. Retrieved 2011-03-16. "The theory that the complex iconography of the characteristic monuments (of which the oldest belong to the second century A.C.) could be interpreted by direct reference to Iranian religion is now widely rejected; and recent studies have tended greatly to reduce what appears to be the actual Iranian content of this "self conciously 'Persian' religion", at least in the form which it attained under the Roman empire. Nevertheless, as the name Mithras alone shows, this content was of some importance; and the Persian affiliation of the Mysteries is acknowledged in the earliest literary reference to them."
- Beck, Roger B. (2004). Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works With New Essays. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 0754640817. , p. 28
- Beck, Roger (2002). "Mithraism". Encyclopædia Iranica. Costa Mesa: Mazda Pub. http://www.iranica.com/articles/mithraism. Retrieved 2007-10-28. "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 (q.v.), king of the small but prosperous buffer state of Commagene (q.v.) in the mid first century BCE.".
- Beck, Roger. "The mysteries of Mithras: A new account of their genesis". http://azargoshnasp.net/Din/mysteriesofmithra.pdf. Retrieved 2011-03-23. "...It may properly be called a 'Cumontian scenario' for two reasons: first, because it looks again to Anatolia and Anatolians; secondly, and more importantly, because it hews to the methodological line first set by Cumont."
- 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 AD. Merkelbach (1984: pp. 75-77), 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."
- Reinhold Merkelbach, Mithras, Konigstein, 1984, ch. 75-7
- Beck, R., "Merkelbach's Mithras", p. 304, 306.
- Ulansey, D., The origins of the Mithraic mysteries", p. 77f.
- 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."
- 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
- Ulansey, David (1989). The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195054024. (1991 revised edition)
- Porphyry, De Antro nympharum 10: "Since, however, a cavern is an image and symbol of the world..."
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Ulansey, D., The origins of the Mithraic mysteries", p. 25-39.
- Michael P. Speidel, Mithras-Orion: Greek Hero and Roman Army God, Brill Academic Publishers (August 1997), ISBN 109004060553
- 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.
- Meyer, Marvin (2006). "The Mithras Liturgy". in A.J. Levine, Dale C. Allison, Jr., and John Dominic Crossan. The historical Jesus in context. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. pp. 179–180. ISBN 0-691-00991-0. "...The Mithras Liturgy reflects the world of Mithraism, but precisely how it relates to other expressions of the mysteries of Mithras is unclear....With the leg of the bull, interpreted astronomically, the Mithraic god, or Mithras, turns the sphere of heaven around, and if the text suggests that Mithras "moves heaven and turns it back (antistrephousa)," Mithras may be responsible for the astronomical precession of the equinoxes, the progressive change in the earth’s orientation in space caused by a wobble in the earth’s rotation (so Ulansey)."
- 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..."
- 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..."
- 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).
- 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".
- 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.
- Beck, R., Merkelbach's Mithras, p. 299.
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p. 29-30: "Mithras also found a place in the 'pagan revival' that occurred, particularly in the western empire, in the latter half of the fourth century AD. For a brief period, especially in Rome, the cult enjoyed, along with others, a last efflorescence, for which we have evidence from among the highest circles of the senatorial order. One of these senators was Rufius Caeionius Sabinus, who in 377 dedicated an altar" to a long list of gods including Mithras.
- Ulansey, David. "The Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras". http://www.well.com/user/davidu/mithras.html. Retrieved 2011-03-20. "Mithraism declined with the rise to power of Christianity, until the beginning of the fifth century, when Christianity became strong enough to exterminate by force rival religions such as Mithraism."
- Michael Speidel (1980). Mithras-Orion: Greek hero and Roman army god. Brill. pp. 1–. ISBN 9789004060555. http://books.google.com/books?id=7-YUAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA1. Retrieved 27 March 2011. "As a mystery religion it engulfed the Roman empire during the first four centuries of our era. Mithraic sanctuaries are found from Roman Arabia to Britain, from the Danube to the Sahara, wherever the Roman soldier went. Christian apologetics fiercely fought the cult they feared., and during the late fourth century A.D., as a victim of the Judaeo-Christian spirit of intolerance, Roman Mithraism was suppressed, its sanctuaries destroyed together with the last vestiges of religious freedom in the empire."
- Martin, Luther H.; Beck, Roger (December 30). "Foreward". Beck on Mithraism: Collected Works With New Essays. Ashgate Publishing. pp. xiii. ISBN 978-0754640813. "However, the cult was vigorously opposed by Christian polemicists, especially by Justin and Tertullian, because of perceived similarities between it and early Christianity. And with the anti-pagan decrees of the Christian emperor Theodosius during the final decade of the fourth century, Mithraism disappeared from the history of religions as a viable religious practice."
- Vermaseren, M. J.. The Excavations in the Mithraeum of the Church of Santa Pricsa in Rome. Brill. pp. 115. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=iskUAAAAIAAJ&lpg=PP1&dq=%22The%20Excavations%20in%20the%20Mithraeum%20of%20the%20Church%20of%20Santa%20Pricsa%20in%20Rome%22&pg=PA115#v=onepage&q&f=true. Retrieved 3 April 2011. "The ground-plan..... shows clearly that the presbytery of the Church lies over the ante_Room V of the Mithraeum and that the apse covers the first part of the main hall W, including the niches of Cautes and Cautopates. One cannot fail to see the symbolism of this arrangement, which expresses in concrete terms that Christ keeps Mithras "under". The same also applies at S. Clemente."
- humphries, mark (10 December 2008). Susan Ashbrook Harvey, David G. Hunter. ed. The Oxford handbook of early Christian studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 95–. ISBN 9780199271566. http://books.google.com/books?id=0-ovhYLJkRYC&pg=PA95. Retrieved 3 April 2011. "In some instances, the deliberate concealment of Mithraic cult objects could suggest precautions were being taken against Christian attacks; but elsewhere, such as along the Rhine frontier, coin sequences suggest that Mithraic shrines were abandoned in the context of upheavals resulting from barbarian invasions, and that purely religious considerations cannot explain the end of Mithraism in that region (Sauer 1996)."
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, pp. 31-32.
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.171.
- Clauss, M., The Roman cult of Mithras, p.158.
- Burkert, Walter (1987). Ancient Mystery Cults. Harvard University Press. p. 49. ISBN 0674033876.
- 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."
- Ernest Renan (October 2004). The Hibbert Lectures 1880: Lectures on the Influence of the Institutions, Thought and Culture of Rome on Christianity and the Development of the Catholic Church 1898. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 35–. ISBN 9781417982424. http://books.google.com/books?id=DTR0dNVAvUgC&pg=PA35. Retrieved 22 March 2011. "I sometimes permit myself to say that, if Christianity had not carried the day, Mithraicism would have become the religion of the world. It had its mysterious meetings: its chapels, which bore a strong resemblance to little churches. It forged a very lasting bond of brotherhood between its initiates: it had a Eucharist, a Supper..."
- Leonard Boyle, A short guide to St. Clement's, Rome (Rome: Collegio San Clemente, 1987), p. 71
- J.A.Ezquerra, Translated by R. Gordon, Romanising oriental Gods: myth, salvation and ethics in the cults of Cybele, Isis and Mithras. Brill, 2008, p.202-3: "Many people have erroneously supposed that all religions have a sort of universalist tendency or ambition. In the case of Mithraism, such an ambition has often been taken for granted and linked to a no less questionable assumption, that there was a rivalry between Mithras and Christ for imperial favour. ... If Christianity had failed, the Roman empire would never have become Mithraist." Google books preview here.
- Boyce, Mary (2001) . Zoroastrians: their religious beliefs and practices. Routledge. pp. 99. ISBN 9780415239028. http://books.google.com/books?id=a6gbxVfjtUEC&pg=PA99. Retrieved 17 March 2011. "Mithraism proselytized energetically to the west, and for a time presented a formidable challange to Christianity; but it is not yet known how far, or how effectively, it penetrated eastward. A Mithraeum has been uncovered at the Parthian fortress-town of Dura-Europos on the Euphrates; but Zoroastrianism itself may well have been a barrier to its spread into Iran proper."
- Vermaseren, M. J.. The Excavations in the Mithraeum of the Church of Santa Pricsa in Rome. Brill. pp. 9–. http://books.google.com/books?id=iskUAAAAIAAJ&pg=PR9. Retrieved 09-04-2011. "This Mithraeum was discovered in 1934...they found a sanctuary of one of the most formidable antagonists of Christianity."
- "Mithra". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/386025/Mithra. Retrieved 2011-04-09. "Mithra, also spelled Mithras, Sanskrit Mitra, ... In the 3rd and 4th centuries ad, the cult of Mithra, carried and supported by the soldiers of the Roman Empire, was the chief rival to the newly developing religion of Christianity.".
- Meyer, Marvin (2006). "The Mithras Liturgy". in A.J. Levine, Dale C. Allison, Jr., and John Dominic Crossan. The historical Jesus in context. New Jersey. pp. 179 publisher = Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00991-0. http://books.google.com/books?id=wMbEyeDSQQgC&printsec=frontcover&rview=1#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2011-01-20.
- Francis Legge (1950). Forerunners and rivals of Christianity: being studies in religious history from 330 B.C. to 330 A.D. http://books.google.com/books?id=FjQ9AAAAIAAJ&pg=PA260. Retrieved 12 April 2011. "Wherefore also the evil demons in mimicry have handed down that the same thing should be done in the Mysteries of Mithras. For that bread and a cup of water are in these mysteries set before the initiate with certain speeches you either know or can learn."
- Hopfe, Lewis M.; Richardson, Henry Neil (September 1994). "Archaeological Indications on the Origins of Roman Mithraism". in Lewis M. Hopfe. Uncovering ancient stones: essays in memory of H. Neil Richardson. Eisenbrauns. pp. 147–. ISBN 9780931464737. http://books.google.com/books?id=QRfhSBLmAK8C&pg=PA147. Retrieved 19 March 2011. "...The Christian's view of this rival religion is extremely negative, because they regarded it as a domonic mockery of their own faith."
- Gordon, Richard. "FAQ". http://www.hums.canterbury.ac.nz/clas/ejms/faq.htm. Retrieved 2011-03-22. "In general, in studying Mithras, and the other Greco-oriental mystery cults, it is good practice to steer clear of all information provided by Christian writers: they are not "sources", they are violent apologists, and one does best not to believe a word they say, however tempting it is to supplement our ignorance with such stuff."
- Ulansey, David (1991). Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. New York: Oxford UP. pp. 3 to 4. ISBN 0-19-506788-6. "... the study of Mithraism is also of great important for our understanding of what Arnold Toynbee has called the 'Crucible of Christianity,' the cultural matrix in which the Christian religion came to birth out of the civilization of the ancient Mediterranean. For Mithraism was one of Christianity's major competitors in the Roman Empire... No doubt Renan's statement is somewhat exaggerated."
- Ulansey, David. "The Cosmic Mysteries of Mithras". http://www.well.com/user/davidu/mithras.html. Retrieved 2011-03-30. "Here in the end we may sense a profound kinship between Mithraism and Christianity... Just as Mithras is revealed as a being from beyond the universe capable of altering the cosmic spheres, so... we find Jesus linked with a rupture of the heavens... Perhaps, then, the figures of Jesus and Mithras are to some extent both manifestations of a single deep longing in the human spirit for a sense of contact with the ultimate mystery."
- 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 Archive.org 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).
- Jitărel, Alin (2005). "Social Aspects of Mithraic Cult in Dacia" (in Romanian, partially in English) (PDF). Analele Banatului, seria Arheologie-Istorie (The Annals of Banat) (Timişoara, Romania: Editura Grafite). ISSN 1221-678X. Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. http://www.webcitation.org/5vQdN4oYk.
- 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Mithras|
- Mithraeum A website with a collection of monuments and bibliography about Mithraism.
- L'Ecole Initiative: Alison Griffith, 1996. "Mithraism" A brief overview with bibliography.
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- Mithras: all the passages in ancient texts that refer to the cult
- Google Maps: Map of the locations of Mithraea
- Archaeology magazine A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
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