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Bull-Killer, Sun Lord

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Archaeology Magazine has an interesting article on the Cult of Mithras


Of the religions that expanded rapidly in the 1st-century Roman Empire, worship of Mithras was particularly popular among Roman soldiers, who spread his cult during their far-flung travels. But no written evidence from the Mithraists themselves survives, and the literay evidence we have is mostly by Christian detractors. Mithras's temples, called Mithraea, are the best archaeological evidence of the god's worship, and most of them featured a characteristic depiction of Mithras slaying a bull, a scene called the tauroctony. Sifting through this imperfect record, scholars have ben able to conjecture about many aspects of this once widely practiced religion.


Greco-Roman religious scholar Luther Martin says that Mithraism remained de-centralized throughout the Empire. Its contemporary, Christianity, got its central administration from St. Paul, who derived it from Judaism. Both it and Mithraism "were...pretty much locally controlled affairs," he says, though Christian communities did "come together as a coherent institution...after Constantine."


In later years, Christian commentators recognized similarities between Mithraic and Christian rites and were quick to condemn them. In Chapter 70 of Dialogue with Trypho, the 2nd-century Christian author Justin Martyr writes that Mithras's worship in a cave and his "rock birth"--a frequent depiction of the god, emerging from a stone--is taken from Daniel 2:34 and Isaiah 33. The Mithraists "have no understanding" of these Scriptures, says Justin.




The article ends with a summary of recent discoveries of Mithraea from several sites across the Roman Empire.

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