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Mithras Sacrificing a Bull

Mithras Sacrificing a Bull

Mithras' sacrifice of the bull

In the case of Zagreus, we saw that the bull is identical with the god and that the bull-sacrifice is a divine sacrifice. But the animal is, as it were, only a part of the hero he sacrifices only his animal attribute, and thus symbolically gives up his instinctaulity:

But the animal is, as it were, only a part of the hero he sacrifices only his animal attribute, and thus symbolically gives up his instinctuality

His inner participation in the sacrificial act is perfectly expressed in the anguished and ecstatic countenance of the bull-slaying Mithras. He slays it willingly and unwillingly at once, hence the rather pathetic expression on certain monuments, which is not unlike the somewhat mawkish face of Christ in Guido Reni's Crucifixion. Benndorf says of Mithras:

The features, whichespecially in the upper portion have an absolutely ideal character, wear an extremely sickly expression ( Benndorf and Schöne, Bildwerke des Lateranischen Museums, No. 547 )

Cumont likewise stresses the facial expression of the Tauroctonous, he says:

The face, which can be seen in the best reproductions, is that of a young man of almost feminine beauty a mass of curly hair rising up from the forehead surrounds it as with an aureole the head is slightly tilted backwards, so that his glance is directed towards the heavens, and the contraction of the brows and lips gives a strange expression of sorrow to the face ( Cumont, Textes, I, p. 182 )


Cumont supposed that “The head from Ostia” (fig. 000), (cf. frontispiece, CW5 ), was that of Mithras Tauroctonous. The face certainly wears an expression which we know all too well from our patients as one of sentimental resignation. It is a fact worth noting that the spiritual transformation that took place in the first centuries of Christianity was accompanied by an extraordinary release of feeling, which expressed itself not only in the lofty form of charity and love of God, but in sentimentality and infantilism. The lamb allegories of early Christian art fall in this category

Mithra sacrificing a bull

Dates / Origin Date Issued: 1890 Library locations The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection Shelf locator: PC WON RELI-Anc Topics Bulls -- Religious aspects Sacrifices Phrygians -- To 499 Mithras (Zoroastrian deity) Gods, Zoroastrian Mythology, Iranian Rome -- Religion Bas-reliefs Notes Content: "Bas-relief in the Louvre. This is the most important monument remaining to us of the Persian worship of Mithra in the Roman Empire. Mithra in his cavern (spelaeum) sacrifices to Jupiter Sabazius the bull whose blood will give regeneration. Around the prostrate bull are a scorpion, a serpent, and a dog. To the right and left the Genius of the day, with lighted torch, and of the night with torch extinguished. Overhead is the earth with its productions higher still, Aurora about to disappear, and the sun ascending from the horizon. Upon the bull the inscription: 'To Mithra, the invincible Sun-God.' This bas-relief was consecrated at Rome in a vault beneath the Capitol." -- printed note to caption on bottom of sheet. Source note: History of Rome and of the Roman people from its origin to the invasion of the barbarians : containing over three thousand engravings, one hundred maps and plans and numerous chromolithographs. (Boston : Estes and Lauriat, 1890) Duruy, Victor (1811-1894), Author. Mahaffy, John Pentland, Sir (1839-1919), Editor. Physical Description Line photoengravings Extent: Image 10 x 12 cm (sheet 24.2 x 15.6 cm) Type of Resource Still image Identifiers Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 8c11e770-c5bf-012f-80b7-58d385a7bc34 Rights Statement The New York Public Library believes that this item is in the public domain under the laws of the United States, but did not make a determination as to its copyright status under the copyright laws of other countries. This item may not be in the public domain under the laws of other countries. Though not required, if you want to credit us as the source, please use the following statement, "From The New York Public Library," and provide a link back to the item on our Digital Collections site. Doing so helps us track how our collection is used and helps justify freely releasing even more content in the future.

Slaughtered Bulls and Bloodied Priests

Nestled among bath complexes and small residences in the western corner of Ostia Antica is an unassuming slope that conceals one of the ancient world’s mysteries. A shallow opening in the hill reveals a long corridor flanked by stone benches which immediately draw your eyes to the statue centered in the back of the tunnel. The statue, illuminated by a small skylight above it, shows a man standing over a kneeling bull. The bull’s neck is contorted, exposed, and ready to be slit by the knife that presumably would have been in the man’s raised hand. The dramatic scene is perhaps the best preserved of its kind, but such iconography would have graced all eighteen of the similar sites in Ostia and the hundreds scattered throughout the rest of the empire. This combination of a narrow hall lined by benches, featuring depictions of the man and bull, define the mithraea, the temples of the cult of Mithras.

While very little is actually known about the cult’s history and practices, the first attestation of the existence of the deity Mithras can be found in a treaty between the Mittani and Hittites that calls upon the god to bear witness to the agreement. This evidence, in addition to the Phrygian costume Mithras is frequently depicted wearing, suggests an ancient eastern origin to the myth, which is supported by its concentration in cosmopolitan trade and military centers in the empire. The cult was open only to men, and it is likely that the initiation/worship process involved some sort of banquet, as archaeologists frequently find food scrap remains and eating utensils in mithraea. However, aside from these meager facts, most of what we know about the Mithraic cult is mere supposition. In large part, this unfortunate fact is due to the near complete dearth of literary attestations to the cult, and the nature of the few that do exist. Part of the fascination and mystery with these mithraea, like the one shown here in Ostia Antica, is the surplus of material evidence coupled with the absence of literary remains from which such material can be evaluated and interpreted.

One of the greatest challenges to understanding the significance of the mithraeum is the fact that no sources from inside the cult exist. While we have a few scattered external sources, nobody who would have had a front row seat to the cult initiation and practices left behind any written description of what happened. This dynamic leaves us with the unfortunate task of untangling what from the descriptions we have is accurate and what is mere supposition on the part of an outsider as befuddled as we are. One such description comes from Prudentius’ Peristephanon:

“Respondit his Romanus: ‘eccum, praesto sum:
meus iste sanguis verus est, non bubulus.
agnoscis illum quem loquor, miserrime
pagane, vestri sanguinem sacrum bovis,
cuius litata caede permadescitis? …
huc taurus ingens fronte torva et hispida
sertis revinctus aut per armos floreis
aut inpeditis cornibus deducitur,
nec non et auro frons coruscat hostiae,
saetasque fulgor brattealis inficit.
hic ut statuta est inmolanda belua,
pectus sacrato dividunt venabulo
eructat amplum vulnus undam sanguinis
ferventis, inque texta pontis subditi
fundit vaporum flumen et late aestuat.
tum per frequentes mille rimarum vias
inlapsus imber tabidum rorem pluit,
defossus intus quem sacerdos excipit
guttas ad omnes turpe subiectans caput
et veste et omni putrefactus corpore.
quin os supinat, obvias offert genas,
supponit aures, labra, nares obicit,
oculos et ipsos perluit liquoribus,
nec iam palato parcit et linguam rigat,
donec cruorem totus atrum conbibat.
postquam cadaver sanguine egesto rigens
conpage ab illa flamines retraxerint
procedit inde pontifex visu horridus,
ostentat udum verticem, barbam gravem,
vittas madentes atque amictus ebrios.”

Prudentius Peristephanon 10.1006–1010, 1021–1045

“To this Romanus responded: ‘Behold, here I am: that blood is really mine, not a bull’s. Do you not know that of which I speak, miserable pagan, the detestable blood of your bull, in whose sacrificed gore you soak yourselves? … Hither is led a huge bull with grim and shaggy forehead, wreathed with garlands or flowers on its shoulders or encumbered horns, the victim’s brow glitters with gold, and a metallic gleam is in its mane. Here when the sacrificial beast has been set up, they slash his breast with a sacred spear the wound spews forth a current full with burning blood, and on the planks of a bridge set under the steaming river it pours and foams widely. Then through the frequent paths of the thousand cracks the fallen shower rains a splashing fluid, among which the priest, hidden, follows subjecting his vile head to all the stains putrefied in all his clothes and body. In fact he tilts back his mouth, he offers his cheeks, he places his ears, lips, under, he offers his nostrils, he bathes even his eyes themselves in the fluids, nor even sparing his palate he even wets his tongue, until he totally imbibes the bloody gore. Afterwards the priests drag away from that structure the body rigid with discharged blood thence the priest, horrifying to see, proceeds, shows his wetted hands, matted beard, his soggy fillets and soaked cloaks.”

In this passage, St. Romanus confronts the pagan Aristo about just one of the rites that took place in the cult of Mithras: the taurobolium. He describes in horrifying and gory detail the ritual bathing in the blood of a sacrificed bull in which the cultic priests engaged and emphasizes the madness and frenzy which formed the foundation of the ritual. He reinforces how disgusting the sacrifice would have been by using vivid descriptions of the blood and gore spilling over and soaking the priests, ensuring that we as the readers understand how bizarre this cult was and are primed to experience a visceral reaction towards it. This description would lead us to believe that some very weird stuff went down in the mithraea. However, before we wholesale accept the description that Prudentius gives us in his text, we have to remember its context. Prudentius’ Peristephanon was a series of lyric poems describing various martyrdoms, written from a Christian context for a Christian audience. Given the outsider perspective both of the author and audience, then, we have to consider just how much author and audience could have understood about a cult known specifically for its secretiveness, and what biases could have impacted their interpretations of the limited information at their disposal.

The chances that Prudentius would have such intimate knowledge of the secret rites of the Mithraic cult are slight at best, and the incentives for him to exaggerate what little information he did have were high. Early Christian writers attest to conflict between Christianity and Mithraism, sourced from the superficial similarities between the two religions. Justin Martyr claimed that the cult of Mithras deliberately mocked the communion supper in its own feasting rituals, and the confusion between the Mithraic bathing in bull’s blood and the Christian doctrine of being washed spiritually clean by the blood of Christ was common amongst outsiders to both groups. As such, Prudentius had good reason to make the Mithraic cult sound especially strange and foreign. If he could communicate to his audience how utterly bizarre the Mithraic cult and its practices were, he would have an easier time normalizing his own religion and placing Christianity in a desirable light. The stranger he made the Mithraic cult sound, the more distinct from Christianity it became.

So what does it mean for our interpretation of the cult of Mithras and its archaeological evidence in the physical mithraea scattered throughout the Roman empire that our literary evidence is primarily coming from biased sources? It means, if nothing else, that we should proceed with caution when re-imagining these eerie, cryptic sites. We shouldn’t walk into the mithraea and necessarily imagine rivers of frothing blood rushing through the corridor and frantic priests hurrying to get as much gore on their faces as they can before the blood runs out. But to the contrary, we also shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss such imaginations. Try as hard as we might, we can’t entirely shed the associations with gory bull sacrifices and blood soaked priests as we try to understand what exactly took place in these long, dark corridors, but neither could the ancient Romans. The nature of a cult ensures that outsiders are always left in part to their imaginations to understand what happens within, and in the case of the cult of Mithras, the dearth of literary evidence ensures that our imaginations are well primed to start filling in the story from the few, albeit possibly spurious accounts that we do have. And besides, as you walk into a low-ceilinged, dark, hole in the ground and see a perfectly preserved statue of a bull-sacrifice lit by a single skylight, it’s a lot more fun to let your mind run wild with imaginations of what possibly could have taken place in such a setting.

Amanda Reeves is a 2017–18 Paideia Rome Fellow.

The Bull-Slaying (Tauroctony)

The central image of Mithraism is that of the god Mithras slaying a bull, which is the focal point of each mithraeum. Scholars refer to this characteristic Mithraic image as the tauroctony. We do know that the bull is sacrificial because some of the depictions show it dressed in a conventional Roman sacrificial blanket. The relief shown here depicts Marcus Aurelius presiding at the ritual sacrifice of a bull, although it probably pertains to one of the conventional state cults of Rome. There’s no evidence that real bull-sacrifice actually formed part of Mithraism. As far as we know the bull-slaying in Mithraism was purely symbolic.

The image of the bull was also very important to Stoicism. It can be found in the Stoic writings of Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, used as a metaphor for the good man. The Republic of Zeno, perhaps the founding text of Stoicism, apparently described the ideal society as like a herd of cattle feeding in a common pasture and later Stoics frequently refer to the image of the Stoic hero as a mighty bull protecting the rest of his herd. Marcus refers to himself as emperor, as a bull set over the herd. The bull was also the sacred animal of the eastern city of Tarsus, which was the home of many famous Stoics and reputedly also the home of Mithraism. Some scholars believe there are links between the Stoics of Tarsus and the cult of Mithras.

Mithras Sacrificing a Bull - History

This last article in that part will give you the keys to understand a ritual which is still significant today in all cultures with European blood: the bullfighting or similar. Whether it is cows and bulls in prehistoric caves, the sacred ancient bulls in Egypt, the cows sacrificed on the graves in northern Europe and the primeval cow, or the bull sacrificed at the coronation of king in the Celtic culture, the mysterious cult of Mithras, the sacred cows of India ans the buffaloes bled out when choosing the child-goddess Kumari in Nepal (we will tell more about that ritual later), the mythical buffaloes among native Americans, the modern bullfighting, or many other rituals, the meaning of these sacrifices can be explained in only one way.

Buffalo sacrifice during Dasain, Kot Square.
Richard I’Anson Lonely Planet Photographer
© Copyright Lonely Planet Images 2011

Each of the ten kings in his own division and in his own city had the absolute control of the citizens, and, in most cases, of the laws, punishing and slaying whomsoever he would. Now the order of precedence among them and their mutual relations were regulated by the commands of Poseidon which the law had handed down. These were inscribed by the first kings on a pillar of orichalcum, which was
situated in the middle of the island, at the temple of Poseidon, whither the kings were gathered together every fifth and every sixth year alternately, thus giving equal honour to the odd and to the even number.

Regarding the ritual dedicated to the bull, we have to know several things. Today, many bovine animals have estrous cycle which are independent of the seasons, without doubt because of the domestication and breeding between different races. The cow has obtained estrous cycle similar to that of the woman, which is renewed every 21 days. However, the rustic breeds still have an estrous cycle which is dependent of the seasons. The breeding season is late spring or early summer, and the cow make an ovule only at that time. Like most European mammals, the cow, and probably his ancestor the auroch, had a seasonal anoestrus.

Or, about the Highland cow, a rustic breed:

“En règle générale, la saison des amours a lieu à la fin du printemps. En effet, ce n’est qu’une fois que la vache aura reconstitué ses réserves après l’hiver qu’elle retombera en chaleur. Les naissances s’étalent donc à partir du mois de mars jusqu’à fin juin.
La gestation des vaches dure neuf mois (de 280 à 290 jours). “

“In general, the mating season takes place in late spring. Indeed, it is only when the cow has replenished its reserves after the winter it will ovulate. Births therefore spread from March until late June.

Gestation for cows lasts nine months (280-290 days). “

The comparison with the human cycle not stop there. Indeed, the gestation period of a cow is nine months, just like the woman. We understand why the breeding season is early summer: so that the calves are born in spring and have time to develop before the next winter.

This nine-month gestation is unique in the animal world, most mammals have a much shorter gestation. Only the deer comes close with a gestation period of eight months (and that is therefore the mating season, which is well known, is in the autumn, the babies will be born in the spring/summer too). The cow and the bull are powerful symbols, and they are particularly powerfull because of the the bull fights with a rare strength … in summer. This makes him a solar symbol, image of the sun in all its power. Whoever wins will be the image of the protective sun for the year. The bull is the sun at its zenith, the second stage of three in the race the sun. The bull, is the one who brings the sun between its horns, with which he fought. Obviously the sun of the year has to be the strongest and the weakest must bleed, as the dying sun. The midday sun is the successor to the red sun of the dawn, it is the winner.

In ancient Egypt, the three bulls, probably representing at the origin three phases of the sun are Bukhis, Mnevis and Apis.

Apis, bringing the sun between its horns (!):

The cult of the bull has been known since ancient times in Europe, including manifestations such as the cult of Mithras or in Norse mythology at Halloween. It is almost impossible to mention all the European rituals, ancient or modern, related to bulls / cows, without forgetting several.

The bull sacrifice deserves to be explained in details.

The sun is a particular star in the solar system. It looks like the fire, but it feeds with itself. No need to feed it as the fire, it destroys itself to burn again. This is of course that symbol which is essential. As the Phoenix, it is reborn from its own ashes, both as we can see on Earth, but also as a star. It is for this reason that the bull is slaughtered, he gives food to himself (or, in a bull fight to the other -symbolic or not- bull), by his own blood he is reborn.

Mithras sacrificing the bull

-There were bulls who had the range of the temple of Poseidon and the ten kings, being left alone in the temple, after they had offered prayers to the god that they might capture the victim which was acceptable to him, hunted the bulls, without weapons but with staves and nooses and the bull which they caught they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of it so that the blood fell upon the sacred inscription. Now on the pillar, besides the laws, there was inscribed an oath invoking mighty curses on the disobedient. When therefore, after slaying the bull in the accustomed manner, they had burnt its limbs, they filled a bowl of wine and cast in a clot of blood for each of them the rest of the victim they put in the fire, after having purified the column all round. Then they drew from the bowl in golden cups and pouring a libation on the fire, they swore that they would judge according to the laws on the pillar, and would punish him who in any point had already transgressed them, and that for the future they would not, if they could help, offend against the writing on the pillar, and would neither command others, nor obey any ruler who commanded them, to act otherwise than according to the laws of their father Poseidon. This was the prayer which each of them-offered up for himself and for his descendants, at the same time drinking and dedicating the cup out of which he drank in the temple of the god

About the cult of Mithra:

According to a story reconstructed from the images and some written evidence, the god Mithra was born from a rock (petra the generatrix) at the 25th of december around a sacred spring, under a sacred tree. At the time of his birth he wears the Phrygian cap, a torch and a knife. Adored by pastors from birth, he drinks water from the sacred spring. With his knife, he cut the fruit of the sacred tree, and the leaves of this tree makes clothes. He met the primary bull when it grazed in the mountains. He grabbed him by the horns and rises him, but in his wild gallop, the beast made him fall.

However, Mithra continued to cling to the horns of the animal, and the bull dragged him for a long time, until the animal is too tired. The god then fastened him by its hind legs and placed him on his shoulders. This journey of Mithra with the bull on his shoulders is called the Transitus.

When Mithras came into the cave, a raven sent by the Sun told him he had to make a sacrifice, and the god, subduing the bull, jabs the knife into the side. From the spine of the bull came out wheat, and from his blood flowed wine. His seed has been collected by the moon, which produced with it useful animals to humans.

Then come the dog that eats the grain, the scorpion which grips the testicles of the bull with his claws, and the snake.

If you have a trained eye, you can already recognize the history of the film Forebears, but we will explain further more of that myth.

Blood is given to the fire because it symbolically represents the fire of the sun, which feeds himself with his own blood. Blood flows to the Law which is nothing other than the Law of gravity that governs the solar system. As long as the sun burn, that Law will be, and the sun will (literally) carrie the Earth and the planets surrounding it, and this law itself, our earliest ancestors know it. This was the essential Law. The sun was so important not only because of the heat and light it brought or because it fertilized the fields as we hear so often, but because it is the only one which carries the Earth and every living thing and every human as he is. The sun is the real and only father/mother.

The list of evidences is endless, and you can now check yourself as this interpretation explains all the mystical elements of these previously complicated cults. In the description of the mysterious cult of Mithra (Mitra in Sanskrit means “Contract”, id est the law of gravity) on Wikipedia, I was stopped by something I did not know, but which I must naturally add here:

« Certaines peintures montrent Mithra transportant un rocher sur son dos, comme Atlas dans la mythologie grecque, et/ou vêtu d’une cape dont le côté intérieur représente le ciel étoilé. Près d’un mithræum proche du Mur d’Hadrien, a été mise au jour une statue de Mithra en bronze sortant d’un anneau zodiacal en forme d’œuf, elle est aujourd’hui conservée à l’Université de Newcastle. »

“Some paintings show Mithras carrying a rock on his back like Atlas in Greek mythology, and / or wearing a cape with the starry sky inside. Nearly a mithraeum near Hadrian’s Wall was unearthed a bronze statue of Mithras emerging from a zodiac ring egg-shaped, it is now preserved at the University of Newcastle. “

The fact that the bull carries Mithra (or that Mithra rises on the bull) in the myth is of course derived from the same image.

It is also said:

The role of the statue tauroctony in the rites is not very clear: in some Mithraea was discovered rotating pedestals that can alternately show and hide the image of the God to the faithful. At some point in the evolution of Mithraism, the ritual of “taurobolium” or the baptism of the faithful with the blood of a bull, has been practiced in the same way than other Eastern religions.

On the 25th of December (which roughly coincides with the winter solstice), they commemorate the birth of Mithra. The 16th of each month is sacred. Sunday, the day of the Sun, is also sacred to the followers of Mithra.

So why did they not understand?

In Christianity, as in the story of Perceval, the rite of the gift of bread and wine is none other than the same ritual, which dates from the dawn of time, and that is the constant rebirth of the sun, the sacred fire which consumes its own substance (blood), introduction to the human reincarnation, which will follow this article, and that will make sense with the description of the cult of the bear and the flood affecting the island of Atlantis.
What about the primeval cow Audhumbla (Norse mythology) licking ice and giving so birth to Búri the sky? the meaning of these words is now clear: the sun melts the ice and allows the material to move, and life as we know it to hatch. Milk is water, flowing from the ice that melts when the cow licks it constantly.

Búri itself will engender Odin, Vili and Ve.

Mithra and his starry cape

Finally, concerning the starry cape, or rotating pedestals that can show and hide the divine image, it is of course the night, and the planets which are turning back to the sun. They want us to think that our ancestors saw the Earth flat, but this is completely wrong. They have always understood the composition of the universe and the laws that inhabit it. When the planet (remember, one of the ten kings of Atlantis, that is to say, of the solar system) takes its starry blue cape, it just turned.

Magicians such as Merlin or other sorcerers represent the knowledge of the laws of the universe and time (this is why they are always very old). The sorcerer is one of the ten kings of Atlantis, that means one of the nine planets plus the Sun (for the ninth, you can choose between Pluto, which is probably not a planet in the strict sense and Tyche, four times more massive than Jupiter). The pointy hat, sometimes decorated with a model based on the phases of the moon calendar, is a representation of time.

when darkness came on, and the fire about the sacrifice was cool, all of them put on most beautiful azure robes, and, sitting on the ground, at night, over the embers of the sacrifices by which they had sworn, and extinguishing all the fire about the temple, they received and gave judgment, if any of them had an accusation to bring against any one and when they given judgment, at daybreak they wrote down their sentences on a golden tablet, and dedicated it together with their robes to be a memorial.
There were many special laws affecting the several kings inscribed about the temples, but the most important was the following: They were not to take up arms against one another, and they were all to come to the rescue if any one in any of their cities attempted to overthrow the royal house like their ancestors, they were to deliberate in common about war and other matters, giving the supremacy to the descendants of Atlas. And the king was not to have the power of life and death over any of his kinsmen unless he had the assent of the majority of the ten.

To conclude this first part, and to introduce the following, let us write about Heracles, which had to replace the Titan Atlas and carrie the world for him. This constant reincarnation of the sun will be a model for human reincarnation, based on honor, a law given by Zeus as a result of the transformation of the Atlas race:

Such was the vast power which the god settled in the lost island of Atlantis and this he afterwards directed against our land for the following reasons, as tradition tells: For many generations, as long as the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, and well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were for they possessed true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the various chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another. They despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them neither were they intoxicated by luxury nor did wealth deprive them of their self- control but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship with them. By such reflections and by the continuance in them of a divine nature, the qualities which we have described grew and increased among them but when the divine portion began to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power. Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according to law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable race was in a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the centre of the world, beholds all created things. And when he had called them together, he spake as follows-
* The Dialogue of Critias ends with these words.

Thus, the “war” which will oppose Athens to the Atlanteans who will surge on them, is a symbolic war, as the Trojan War. The people of Atlantis, that is to say, the dying ancestors, will surge on the still young Athenians (see the Timaeus by Plato), which will have to fight, that is to say, to choose to revive the best, the most honorable, the most divine humans: their ancestors from Atlantis.

Lascaux. The cow giving birth (this explanation has never been given (!): sometimes it is explained that a calf stands behind her):

5. Constantine Dissolved Mithraism, Created a New Religion, and made himself the Head.

As a political strategy, Emperor Constantine sought to unite his empire by merging the Christian faction of his empire with local Pagan worship and Mithraic secret societies. Pagans could keep their traditional celebration dates while the Christians got to keep their names and idols. So, Paganism and Mithraism got dressed up in Christian clothing. It was a compromise by all parties that allowed Constantine to expand his empire and secure his throne, with him as the undisputed sacred dynastic ruler.

To be clear, there were myriad types of Paganism, which simply means a “countrified religion”. Besides Christ, Mary, and Mithras, there were deities aplenty: Apollo, Diana, Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, Balder, Attis, and Dionysus, the Divine Mother Cybele, Hercules, and Perseus. Virtually every pagan religion was suppressed to incorporate the spread of Christianity across Europe and the world.

In 325 AD, Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea which was designed to unify the doctrines of this new state religion of “Pagan, Sun God-Christianity. Thus, began a great change and codification of the Bible. Christianity joined the Roman Empire in its customs and practices in the worship of the God. Many issues were decided at this council such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the calendar, the Sabbath day, Christmas, and Easter. But the end result was to eliminate most of the mystical teachings, effectively gutting the ascension capacity and watering down the Christian faith. That is unfortunate. Some wonderful Christian mystical writings are found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic Bible, and Book of Enoch, which were left out of the Bible (perhaps because they were discovered much later).

Christianity represents a morphing of the Western World into Monotheism.
Constantine was smart. He incorporated ritual elements of many other ancient sacred traditions into a persuasive new faith. As the Roman Empire grew weaker, the new Christian church rose in power. They called the new religion Catholic from the Greek katholikos, meaning universaland trueto the central Roman church.

Constantine Created a Legacy that Endured 2000 years.

And the rest is history. The Emperor constructed the first Christian basilica in 326 CE on the present-day Vatican site. Yep. Turns out the current Vatican City is built over three other ancient temples: to Cybele – the original Roman Great Mother Goddess, Apollo, and Mithra the Sun God.

Constantine’s mother Helena became a Christian in 312 CE at the age of 63. He asked her to supervise a journey to Jerusalem to find Christian relics to sanctify the new basilica. Helena went to the holy land and returned with pieces of the crucifixion cross, nails, a holy tunic, and rope fragments. On her death she was sanctified as Saint Helena.

In 392 CE Emperor Theodosius declared Christianity the official and sole religion of the Roman Empire. Pagan temples were converted or destroyed. Mithraism, Sun worship and all other religions were prohibited on penalty of confiscation of property, torture, slavery, or death. The ancient library of Alexandria, Egypt was destroyed and heretic book burned. Temples to the Pagan gods became Catholic churches. Rebirth and reincarnation were removed from the teachings. Astrology was removed from the schools and ridiculed as heretical. Cosmic knowledge was reserved for secret societies and the Emperor.

Roman rulers adopted Christianity as the state religion, while continuing to create its doctrines and practices. The Roman Empire became the Holy Roman Church. The Catholic Church had no competitors for 1600 years until the protestant reformation. If you opposed the church, you were a heretic. Women were permitted to worship and to be nuns in a subservient position. This was deserved and righteous denigration due to Eve’s error in the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man. Original Sin was loosely interpreted from the Hebrew texts, as Eve’s transgression. As a result, the church declared all of mankind was born in a state of shame, which could only be cleared by state baptism and strict adherence to the tenants of the new church.

6. Romans Created a New Calendar to Count Years from 1 CE. This was done in order to Stop the Rapture and Postpone the End of the World!

I couldn’t resist sharing this little tidbit with you! It turns out that there was a good reason to begin counting years from the birth of Jesus Christ. Dionysius Exiguus, a 6th century monk, was heavily influenced by the Great Year Cycle of 26,000 years, Precession of the Equinoxes and astrological ages. Dionysius wanted to begin counting from Christ’s birth, because people had been told the great Resurrection (Rapture?) and the End of the World would occur 500 years after the birth of Jesus. Yup.

A Roman Calendar from January through June

At that time, the world calendar began from Creation in the Old Testament, in which it was believed that Jesus was born in the year 5500 BCE, and that in the year 6000 they would see the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world. Oh dear! Since this date had already passed, Dionysius, looked for a NEW end of the world in the future. Heavily influenced by cosmology, the Great Year, and planetary conjunctions, the doctrine says that when all the planets are in conjunction that this cosmic event would mark the end of the world. Dionysius calculated that this conjunction would occur in May CE 2000. He then applied another astronomical timing based on Precession of the Equinoxes. (Although incorrect, since some astronomers at the time believed the Precession cycle was 24,000 years where it is probably closer to 25,920 years), he calculated twelve astrological ages of 2,000 years each.

Dionysius reasoned if the planetary alignment marked the end of an age, then the birth of Jesus Christ marked the beginning of the Age of Pisces. He therefore deducted 2,000 years from the May 2000 CE conjunction to produce AD year 1 for the new date of Christ’s birth That’s what I’m told. Hmmm… Something might be going on here. What does this mean for us now? I’m not sure. Can you please explain this to me? (Like I’m a child).

7. The Roman Empire never fell. It was transformed into the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican became fabulously wealthy, guiding our lives, our money, and our reality for two thousand years.

In the 4th and 5th centuries Rome was brutally sacked and defeated by warriors from the north. The Roman Empire declined slowly. At the same time, and the newly inspired church rose into power. Roman bishops adopted Mithraic high priestly titles, secret rituals, titles, robes, and elegant hats. The highest initiation level of Pater Patrum, soon became the Papa, or Pope. The similarities are many.

As Rome declined in political power, Roman Catholic rulers rose in power. Beginning in 491 CE, all emperors were required to sign a declaration of Catholic faith and allegiance before their coronation. Perhaps the Roman Empire did not fall – it simply morphed into the Roman Catholic Church and took up residence in the Vatican, built over the underground Mithraic ritual temple.

During recent centuries, the Christian faithful continue to uncover more actual relics, ancient scriptures, vast wealth, and stories of Jesus. Soon the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church was incalculable. Bishops and Popes advised royalty to the world, including the Kings and Queens of England, Spain, and the Doge of Venice. A linchpin in the global network of power, the church manages uncountable wealth. Between the church’s priceless art, land, gold, donations, indulgences, bequeathed valuables, and investments across the globe, the church became one of the wealthiest institutions on Earth. Church leaders translated the Bible from Hebrew to every language of the world. And it has interpreted the word of God for the masses according to its best interests. That is power.

Question: When does a thought form become real? Answer: Every day. Anytime. If we believe it, then it becomes real. That’s the power of the human collective mind. A thought form as powerful as a God, Mary, Jesus, becomes real. It can be a force for good or evil. When many people share a thought form, that makes it a reality.

As the Roman Empire fell, it became a planetary church infusing every part of our lives in the Western world, and to the colonies. While the Bible is a sacred document, and it is real, the scriptures have also been carefully edited for purposes of consistency and control. There have been some translation errors and many original scriptures were omitted. Christianity was created essentially as an entirely new religion, all the elements neatly assembled from existing folk traditions and other religions.

8. Hint: The Moral of the Story is to know God within yourself.

Now is not the time to reject the church or to denounce anyone. The story of Mithra is just one more confirmation that we’re in the Shift of the Ages. We’re on the right track!

“Mitha taught the only truth, the secret to life: It’s time to buckle up, take responsibility, claim our own divinity, and know God within ourselves without depending on outside authority to do it for us.”
Sri Jana

Mithras generating life through sacrificing a bull, Rome circa 100 - 200 AD [2616x2516]

I was torn between posting this one and the tauroctony located in the Vatican Museum. I think the latter is better sculpted, but the former is framed better and has many important elements (Cautes/Cautopates, the crow, Sol Invictus/Luna etc).

Cautes? Are these guys these origin of the word cauterize?

Goddamnit Cautopates will you get your shit together

Are the human figures left and right recessed behind the figure of Mithra, or on an equal plane, but sculpted smaller? I feel like when I see this, the effect of the smaller figures makes me perceive them as farther off, and I feel like that effect of perspective and scale would be hard to achieve in sculpture, and that impresses me a lot (obviously the entire piece is impressive, but that goes without saying).

Good question! Those figures are known as Cautes and Cautopates, and are generally referred to as smaller duplicates of Mithras. The earliest-known tauroctony scene also shows the figures on the same plane as Mithras and the bull, supporting the latter's tail. With this, i am inclined to say they are on the same plane as Mithras, however there are other depictions which simply show them floating in space. It should be noted that the tauroctony is regarded as having astrological implications, rendering Cautopates and Cautes in some interpretations as the Summer and Winter solstices through which souls were believed to enter and exit mortality. In some respects, the tauroctony is not one simple plane at all.

Mithras sacrificing the sacred bull - Art by Grace Palmer

If it makes you feel better we have no archeological or textual evidence that supports any real bull sacrifice in the Greco-Roman cult of Mithraism.

The Tauroctony seems to be purely symbolic, relating to either the Zoroastrian cosmic bull/the Bull of Heaven/the astrological sign of Taurus.

Lol Ikr? Makes me glad animal sacrifice went out of style.

It seems there's not a lot of information regarding why Mithras slays the bull, or what it symbolises. I've thought about it a lot and I think the tauroctony here is similar to the Ying yang. A binary structure of opposites that runs through everything. Black and white, civilisation and nature, fire and water, the rational (conscious) and body(unconscious).

With that said, Mithras is a symbol for humans conquering and overcoming nature. Sorry for the tandrant, but I've been wanting to tell that to someone for a long time.

It's funny, I was just telling my partner this morning that I've always felt incredibly attuned to the spiritual aura in Mithraeae. I've never understood it, and I've never felt particularly drawn to any of the surviving symbolism, but those places of worship feel very special to me.

Somehow less violent than modern slaughterhouses

Mithras has this look as if to say “don’t mind me, I’m sacrificing a cow”

A great depiction. It never hurts to be reminded that the past is often less clean and less kind than we tend to think of it as being.

Any good sources on mithraism

Myself and others post and discuss sources over at r/Mithras. It may be a good starting point. This site is also a great resource: http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/mithras/display.php?page=main

Anyone feel like they're looking at a god?

It's a good question. Mithras is certainly a god, and while this artwork is great, it doesn't necessarily capture the atmosphere of the tauroctony or the impact of Mithras as well as contemporary Roman examples do (like this one: https://www.reddit.com/r/Mithras/comments/atrk8k/mithras_tauroctony_marino_italy/)

I have a theory about animal sacrifice. I was thinking that is was more like . Giving thanks to the animals for their life and what they would provide. Like a ceremony. Maybe they present it in a darker way in movies and shows then what it was. (Just a theory)

Unlike the animal factories we have today, that give no respect for the lives they take. What do you guys think?

Nice idea, but not really supported by the evidence we have available. The focus of animal sacrifice is very much offering up a life to attract the good graces of the gods.

That said, certainly in the later writing of the Graeco-Roman world there seems to have been a lot of effort to spare the animals pain and fear at the moment of sacrifice. Feeding them mash with alcohol in it to dope them and cutting their throats gently and cleanly to let them bleed out without a struggle.

I've seen traditional halal butchers do something similar to this and I suspect the techniques they use are directly related to sacrificial procedures from the pre-Islamic world. But there's only so much you can do to reduce the brutality of an inherently brutal act.

Mithras Sacrificing a Bull - History

What was this ancient cult?

Editor's Note: While some people may be shocked to learn that Christianity's Jesus was not born on December 25th, historians have long known that this date was chosen because of the birthdate of another famous individual called Mithras. Not surprising then, we learn that Mithras' birth was signalled by a shining star in the night sky and that he was born to a virgin in a cave. Before he died, Mithras had a "Last supper" and later came back from the dead. But the historical "facts" that Christianity borrowed from Mithras go much deeper. In this article, author and historian Flavio Barbiero traces the cult of Mithras through recent times and shows how the power and influence of this mysterious and secret society endures even today.

On 384 AD Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, the last "papa" (acronym of the words Pater Patrum = Fathers' Father) of the so called Cult of Mithras, died in Rome. His name, and his religious and political appointments, are written on the basement of St Peters' Basilica, together with the names of a long list of other Roman senators, spanning a period from 305 to 390. The one thing that they have in common is that they all are "patres" of Mithras.

As many as nine amongst them have the supreme title of Pater Patrum, clear evidence that it was here, inside the Vatican, that the supreme leader of the mithraic organization resided, at the side of the most sacred Basilica of Christianity, erected by Constantine the Great in 320 AD.

For at least 70 years the supreme leaders of two "religions" that were always supposed to be competitors, if not sworn enemies, lived peacefully and in perfect harmony side by side. It was the same Praetextatus, as prefect of the town, who defended Damasus against his opponents, on 367, and confirmed him as bishop of Rome.

Praetextatus often declared that he willingly had accepted to be baptized, if the see of St. Peter was offered to him. Following his death, however, the opposite happened. The title of Pater Patrum fell (today we would say by default) upon Damasus' successor, the bishop Siricius, who was the first in the Church’s history, to assume the title of "papa" (pope). Together with it he took also upon himself a long series of other prerogatives, titles, symbols, objects and possessions, that passed en masse from Mithraism to Christianity.

It was a true handover from the Mithraic pope to the Christian one, that we can understand only in the light of what had happened the year before, in 383.

On that date, the senate almost unanimously voted for the abolition of paganism and all its symbols in Rome and throughout the Western empire. A vote that always puzzled the historians, because in their opinion the majority of the senators were pagans and represented the last stronghold of paganism against the irresistible advance of Christianity. This opinion, however, is utterly in disagreement with what, during those same years, Ambrose -- the bishop of Milan --used to declare that the Christians had the "majority" in the senate. Who is right, Ambrose or modern historians?

The bishop of Milan [right] was a member of a great senatorial family and closely followed the Roman events so it is unlikely that he could be wrong on a matter of that kind. On the other hand, we cannot give the lie to the historians, because written and archaeological evidence confirm that the majority of the Roman senators were at that time "patres" of the Sol Invictus Mithras (the Invincible Sun Mithras), and therefore, according to common opinion, definitely pagans.

What nobody seems to have understood, however, is that the two conditions, of affiliate of Mithras and of Christian, were all but compatible. There is no lack of historical evidence proving it.

The most significant of many possible examples is emperor Constantine the Great. He was an affiliate of Sol Invictus Mithras and never disowned it, not even when he openly embraced Christianity and declared himself to be "God's servant" and a sort of "universal bishop". His biographer Eusebius hails him as the "new Moses", but Constantine was baptized only on his death bed, and he never stopped minting coins with mithraic symbols on one side and Christian on the opposite [above] he even erected in Constantinople a colossal statue of himself wrapped up in mithraic symbols.

As for the Roman senators, several contemporary sources, starting from St. Jerome, affirm that most of their wives and daughters were Christian. An extant example is St. Ambrose, himself a pagan and the son of a mithraic pagan (the prefect of Gaul Ambrose), according to historians, although there is no doubt that his family was Christian and lived in a profoundly Christian environment.

Indeed, from his childhood Ambrose loved to play the part of a bishop, and in the year 353, in St. Peter's, his sister Marcellina, still a young girl, received the veil of the consecrated virgins from Pope Liberius in person. Formally, however, he remained a pagan until he was designated bishop of Milan. He was actually baptized only fifteen days before being consecrated bishop.

The fact is that in that period, Christians destined for a public career were baptized only at the point of death, or else when, for one reason or another, they decided to embrace the ecclesiastic career. This was normal practice. The senator Nectarius, who was designated bishop of Antioch by the council of Constantinople in 381, was forced to postpone the consecration ceremony because first he had to arrange his own baptism.

After the abolition of paganism all Roman senators became Christian overnight, starting from that Symmachus who went down in History for his stern defence of "pagan" traditions in front of emperor Valentinian. A few years later, in fact, emperor Teodosius, the most fanatic persecutor of heretics and pagans, appointed him as a consul, the highest position in the Roman bureaucracy.

How is it possible, one might ask, that people could follow two different religions at the same time?

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

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.

This is the essential point. There is an enormous and incredible misunderstanding (that in some way might be deliberate) about the so called "cult" of the Sol Invictus Mithras, which is always presented as a "religion", arisen in parallel with Christianity and in competition with it. Some historians go so far as to maintain that this religion was so popular and deeply rooted in Roman society that it very nearly won the race with Christianity.

Yet there is absolute evidence that the so called "cult" of Mithras, in Rome, was not a religion, but an esoteric organization, with several levels of initiation, which from the oriental religion had borrowed only the name and a few exterior symbols.

For what concerns contents, scope and operative procedures, however, the Roman Mithras had nothing in common with the Persian god.

The Roman mithraic institution can in no way be defined as a religion devoted to the worship of the Sun -- no more than modern Freemasonry can be defined a religion devoted to the worship of the Great Architect of the Universe (G:.A:.O:.T:.U:.). The comparison with modern Freemasonry is quite appropriate and very helpful for understanding what kind of organization we are talking about. Actually, the two institutions are quite similar in their essential characteristic.

Freemasonry's adepts are not requested to profess any particular creed, but only to believe in the existence of a supreme Being, however defined. This Entity is represented in all masonic temples as the Sun, inserted in a triangle, and with a name (Great Architect of the Universe) which is the same given by the Pythagoreans to the Sun [right]. In these temples ceremonies of various kind and rituals are performed that never have a religious character. Religion is explicitly banned from the masonic temples, but in his private life every adept is free to follow whatever creed he likes.

A link between the mithraic and the masonic institutions is far from improbable, as there are profound similarities in the architecture and decoration of the respective temples, symbols, rituals and so on but it's a theme outside the scope of this article.

The comparison has been made only with the purpose of stressing the point that mithraism was not a religion dedicated to the worship of a specific divinity, but a secret association of mutual assistance, whose members were free, in their public life, to worship whatever god they liked.

And yet all the adepts of Mithras apparently shared a common attitude towards religion. This is a well known fact. It is the same Praetextatus who exposes in an exhaustive way the philosophy of his organisation in the book "Saturnalia", written by Macrobius around 430 A.D. (well after the abolition of paganism). In a long conversation with other great mithraic senators, like Symmachus and Flavianus, Praetextatus affirms that all the different gods of the pagan religion are only different manifestations (or even different names) of a unique supreme Entity, represented by the Sun, the Great Architect of the Universe. This syncretistic vision has been defined, with full reason, as "monotheistic paganism".

Most historians agree that the followers of Mithras were monotheists what they fail to underline is the fact that their particular syncretistic vision allowed them to "infiltrate" and get hold of the cult (and revenues) of all pagan divinities. In fact all mithraic grottos harboured (exactly as the masonic temples of today) a host of pagans gods like Saturn, Athena, Venus, Hercules and so on, and the adepts of Mithras in their public life were priests at the service not only of the Sun (who was worshipped in public temples which had nothing to do with the mithraic grottos), but also of all the other Roman gods.

In fact, all the senators who figure in the inscriptions at the base of St Peters' Basilica, alongside the titles of vir clarissimus (senator), pater, or pater patrum in the cult of Sol Invictus Mithras, also held a long series of other religious positions: sacerdos, hierophanta, archibucolus of Brontes or of Hecate, Isis, and Liberius maior augur, quindecimvir sacris faciundis and even pontifex of various pagan cults.

They were also in charge of the college of the Vestal Virgins and of the sacred fire of Vesta. In the senate, there was no manifestation of cult connected to the pagan tradition that was not celebrated by a senator adhering to the Sol Invictus Mithras. That same senator most of the time was backed by a Christian family.

So, what were they, pagan or Christian? The available evidence on this point is ambiguous. Also the character of Mithras himself, as he is depicted by Christian writers, is absolutely ambiguous.

A long series of analogies exists between him [Mithras] and Jesus. Mithras was born on December 25 in a stable to a virgin, surrounded by shepherds who brought gifts. He was venerated on the day of the sun (Sunday). He bore a halo around his head. He celebrated a last supper with his faithful followers before returning to his father. He was said not to have died, but to have ascended to heaven from where he would return in the last days to raise the dead and judge them, sending the good to Paradise and the evil to Hell. He guaranteed his followers immortality after baptism.

Furthermore, the followers of Mithras believed in the immortality of the soul, the last judgment, and the resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. They celebrated the atoning death of a saviour who had risen on a Sunday. They celebrated a ceremony corresponding to the Catholic Mass during which they consumed consecrated bread and wine in memory of the last supper of Mithras --and during the ceremony they used hymns, bells, candles, and holy water. Indeed, they shared with Christians a long series of other beliefs and ritual practices, to the point that they were practically indistinguishable from each other in the eyes of the pagans and also of many Christians.

The existence of a connection between Christianity and the sun cult from the earliest times is recognized by the church fathers, too. Tertullian writes that the pagans ". believe that the Christian God is the Sun, because it is a well-known fact that we pray turning towards the rising Sun, and that on the Sun's day we give ourselves to jubilation." (Tertullian, Ad Nationes 1, 13). He attempts to justify this substantial commonality to the eyes of the Christian faithful, attributing it to Satan's plagiarism of the most sacred rites and beliefs of the Christian religion.

Constantine believed that Jesus Christ and Sol Invictus Mithras were both aspects of the same Superior Divinity. He was certainly not the only one to have this conviction.

Neoplatonism contended that the religion of the sun represented a "bridge" between paganism and Christianity. Jesus was often called by the name Sol Justitiae (Sun of Justice) and was represented by statues that were similar to the young Apollo.

Clement of Alexandria describes Jesus driving the chariot of the sun across the sky, and a mosaic of the fourth century shows him on the chariot [right] while he ascends to heaven, represented by the sun. On some coins of the fourth century, the Christian banner at the top reads "Sol Invictus." A large part of the Roman population believed that Christianity and the worship of the sun were closely connected, if not the same.

For a very long time the Romans kept on worshipping both the Sun and Christ. In 410, pope Innocentius authorized the resumption of ceremonies in honour of the Sun, hoping with that to save Rome from the Visigoths. And in 460 pope Leo the Great wrote: "most Christians, before entering the Basilica of St Peter, turn towards the sun and bow in its honour."

The bishop of Troy openly continued to profess his worship of the sun even during his episcopate.

Another important example in this sense is that of Synesius of Cyrene, a disciple of the famous Neoplatonic philosopher Apathias, who was killed by the mob in Alexandria in 415. Synesius, not yet baptized, was elected bishop of Ptolemais and metropolitan bishop of Cyrenaica, but he accepted the position only on condition that he did not have to retract his Neoplatonic ideas or renounce his worship of the Sun.

In the light of all of this, how should we consider the position of Mithraists towards Christianity? Competitors or cooperators? Friends or enemies? Perhaps the best indication is given by the coins minted by emperor Constantine until 320 a.D., with Christian symbols on one side, mithraic symbols on the other.

Were Jesus and Mithras two faces of the same coin?

The origins of Mithraism and Christianity

In order to explain the strict relation between Christianity and Mithraism we have to go back to their origins.

Christianity, as we know it, by universal recognition is a creation of St Paul, the Pharisee who was sent to Rome around 61 AD, where he founded the first Christian community of the capital.

The religion imposed by Paul in Rome was quite different from that preached by Jesus in Palestine and put into practice by James the Just, who was subsequently the leader of the Christian community of Jerusalem. Jesus' preaching was in line with the way of living and thinking of the sect known as the Essenes. The doctrinal contents of Christianity as it emerged in Rome, at the end of the 1st century, instead, are extraordinarily close to those of the sect of the Pharisees, to which Paul belonged.

Paul was executed probably in 67 by Nero, together with most of his followers. The Roman Christian community was virtually wiped out by Nero's persecution. We do not have the slightest information about what happened in this community during the following 30 years a very disturbing blackout of news, because something very important happened in Rome at that period. In fact, some of the most eminent citizens of the capital were converted, like the consul Flavius Clemens, cousin of emperor Domitian besides the Roman Church assumed a monarchic structure and imposed its leadership on all the Christian communities of the empire, which had to adjust their structure and their doctrine accordingly. This is proved by a long letter of pope Clemens to the Corinthians, written towards the end of Domitian's reign, where his leadership is clearly stated.

This means that during the years of the blackout, somebody who had access to the imperial house had revived the Roman Christian community to such a point that it could impose its authority upon all the other Christian communities. And it was "somebody" who perfectly knew the doctrine and thinking of Paul, 100% Pharisaic.

The mithraic organization also was born in that same period and in that same environment.

Given the scarcity of written documents on the subject, the origin and the spread of the cult of Mithras are known to us almost exclusively from archaeological evidence (remains of mithraea, dedicatory inscriptions, iconography and statues of the god, reliefs, paintings, and mosaics) that survived in large quantities throughout the Roman empire. These archaeological testimonies prove conclusively that, apart from their common name, there was no relationship at all between the Roman cult of Mithras and the oriental religion from which it is supposed to derive.

In the whole of the Persian world, in fact, there is nothing that can be compared to a Roman mithraeum. Almost all the mithraic monuments can be dated with relative precision and bear dedicatory inscriptions. As a result, the times and the circumstances of the spread of the Sol Invictus Mithras (these three names are indissolubly linked in all inscriptions, so there is no doubt that they refer to the same and only institution) are known to us with reasonable certainty. Also known are the names, professions, and responsibilities of a large number of people connected to it.

The first mithraeum [above: an example] discovered was set up in Rome at the time of Domitian, and there are precise indications that it was attended by people close to the imperial family, in particular Jewish freedmen. The mithraeum, in fact, was dedicated by a certain Titus Flavius Iginus Ephebianus, a freedman of emperor Titus Flavius, and therefore almost certainly a Romanised Jew. From Rome the mithraic organization spread, during the following century, all over the western empire.

There is a third event, that happened in that same period, connected somehow to the imperial family and to the Jewish environment, to which no particular attention was ever given by the historians: the arrival in Rome of an important group of persons, 15 Jewish high priests, with their families and relatives. They belonged to a priestly class that had ruled Jerusalem for half a millennium, since the return from the Babylonian exile, when 24 priestly lines had stipulated a covenant amongst them and created a secret organization with the scope of securing the families' fortunes, through the exclusive ownership of the Temple and the exclusive administration of the priesthood.

The Roman domination of Judea had been marked by passionate tensions on the religious level, which had provoked a series of revolts, the last of which, in AD 66, was fatal for the Jewish nation and for the priestly family. With the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Flavius in AD 70, the Temple, the instrument of the family's power, was razed to the ground, never to be rebuilt, and the priests were killed by the thousands.

There were survivors, of course, in particular a group of 15 high priests, who had sided with the Romans, surrendering to Titus the treasure of the Temple, and for that reason they had kept in their properties and were given Roman citizenship. They then followed Titus to Rome, where they apparently disappeared from the stage of history, never again to play a visible role -- apart from the one who undoubtedly was the leader of that group, Josephus Flavius.

Josephus [right] was a priest who belonged to the first of the 24 priestly family lines. At the time of the revolt against Rome, he had played a leading role in the events that tormented Palestine.

Sent by the Jerusalem Sanhedrin to be governor of Galilee, Jesephus had been the first to fight against the legions of the Roman general Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who had been ordered by Nero to quell the revolt. Barricaded inside the fortress of Jotapata, he bravely withstood the Roman troops’ siege. When the city finally capitulated, he surrendered, asking to be granted a personal audience with Vespasian (The Jewish War, III, 8,9).

Their meeting led to an upturn in the fortunes of Vespasian, as well as in those of Josephus: the former was shortly to become emperor in Rome, while the latter not only had his life spared, but not long afterward, he was "adopted" into the emperor's family and assumed the name Flavius. He then received Roman citizenship, a patrician villa in Rome, a life income and an enormous estate. The prize of his treason.

The priests of this group had one thing in common: they were all traitors of their people and therefore certainly banished from the Jewish community. But they all belonged to a millenarian family line, bound together by the secret organization created by Ezra, and possessing a unique specialisation and experience in running a religion and a country through it. The scattered remnants of the Roman Christian community offered them a wonderful opportunity to profit their millennial experience.

We don't know anything about their activity in Rome, but we have clear hints of it through the writings of Josephus Flavius.

After a few years Josephus started to write down the history of the events of which he had been a protagonist, with the aim, apparently, of justifying his betrayal and that of his companions. It was God's will, he claims, who called him to build a Spiritual Temple, instead of the material one destroyed by Titus.

These words certainly were not addressed to Jewish ears, but to Christian ones.

Most historians are sceptical about the fact that Josephus was a Christian, and yet the evidence in his writings is compelling. In a famous passage (the so called Testimonium Flavianum) in his book Jewish Antiquities, he reveals his acceptance of two fundamental points, the resurrection of Jesus, and his identification with the Messiah of prophecies, which are necessary and sufficient condition for a Jew of that time to be considered a Christian. The Christian sympathies of Josephus also clearly emanate from other passages of the same work, where he speaks with great admiration of John the Baptist as well as of James, the brother of Jesus.

Josephus Flavius and St. Paul

The arguments used by Josephus Flavius to justify his own betrayal and that of his brethren seem to echo the words of St. Paul. The two seem to be perfectly in agreement with regard to their attitude toward the Roman world. Paul, for example, considered it his task to free the church of Jesus from the narrowness of Judaism and from the land of Judaea and to make it universal, linking it to Rome.

They are also in agreement on other significant points: for example, both of them declare their belief in the doctrines of the Pharisees, which were those that were wholly received by the Roman church.

There are sufficient historical indications to lead us to consider it certain that the two knew each other and were linked by a strong friendship. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that after reaching Jerusalem, Paul was brought before the high priests and the Sanhedrin to be judged (Acts 22:30). He defended himself:

"Brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question."

And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees' part arose, and strove, saying, "We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.

And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them."

Josephus was a high-ranking priest and he was in Jerusalem at that time he certainly was present at that assembly. He had joined the sect of the Pharisees at the age of nineteen and so he must have been among those priests who stood up to defend Paul.

The apostle was then handed over to the Roman governor, Felix, who kept him under arrest for some time, until he was sent to Rome, together with some other prisoners (Acts 27:1), to be judged by the emperor, to whom, as a Roman citizen, Paul had appealed. In Rome, he spent two years in prison (Acts 28:39) before being set free in AD 63 or 64.

In his autobiography (Life, 3.13), Josephus says:

Somehow, Josephus succeeded in reaching Rome, where he made friends with Aliturus, a Jewish mime who was appreciated by Nero. Thanks to Aliturus, he was introduced to Poppaea, the wife of the emperor, and through her agency, he succeeded in freeing the priests (Life, 3.16).

The correspondence of dates, facts, and people involved is so perfect that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Josephus went to Rome, at his own personal risk and expense, specifically to free Paul and his companions, and that it was due to his intervention that the apostle was released.

This presupposes that the relationship between the two was much closer than that of a simple occasional acquaintance. Thus Josephus must have known much more about Christianity than is evident from his works, and his knowledge came directly from the teaching of Paul, of whom, in all likelihood, he was a disciple.

When Josepus returned to Rome in AD 70, his master had been executed, together with most of the Christians he had converted. His fatherland had been annihilated, the Temple destroyed, the priestly family exterminated, and his reputation tarnished by the stain of treachery. He must have been animated by very strong desires for redemption and revenge. Besides he probably felt responsible for the destinies of the humiliated remnants of one of the greatest families in the world, the 15 high priests who shared his same condition.

There is information about a meeting presided over by Josephus Flavius, unquestionably the strongest and most important character in that group of people, during the course of which the priests examined the situation of the their family and decided on a strategy to improve its fortunes. Josephus lucidly conceived a plan that in those circumstances would have appeared to anybody else to be the utmost folly. This man, sitting amid the smoking ruins of what had been his fatherland, surrounded by a few humiliated, disconsolate survivors rejected by their fellow countrymen, aspired to no less than conquering that enormous, powerful Empire that had defeated him, and establishing his descendants and those of the men around him as the ruling class of that Empire.

The first step in that strategy was taking control of the newborn Christian religion and transforming it into a solid basis of power for the priestly family.

Having come to Rome in the entourage of Titus, and thus strong in the emperor's protection and well supplied from an economic point of view, these priests could not have encountered great problems in taking over the leadership of the tiny group of Christians who had survived Nero's persecution, legitimated as they were by the relationship of Josephus Flavius with Paul.

Only six years had passed since he sought Paul's freedom from Roman imprisonment. The apostle of the nations must have died at least three years before. Josephus must have felt a moral obligation to continue the deeds of his ancient master whose doctrine he knew perfectly, and, sensing its potential for propagation in the Roman world, he dedicated himself and his organization of priests to its practical implementation. Once he had created a strong Christian community in the capital, it could not have been difficult for the priests also to impose its authority on the other Christian communities scattered around the Empire—first of all, on those that had been created or catechized by Paul himself.

Josephus Flavius and the Sol Invictus Mithras

Josephus Flavius knew all too well that no religion has a future unless it is an integral part of a system of political power. It was a concept innate in the DNA, so to speak, of the priests of Judah that religion and political power should live together in symbiosis, mutually sustaining each other. It is unimaginable that he could think that the new religion would spread throughout the Empire independently, or even in contrast to political power.

His first aim was, therefore, seizing power. Thanks not only to the millennial experience of his family, but also to his own experience of life, Josephus knew all too well that political power, especially in an elephantine organism such as the Roman Empire, was based on military power, and military power was based on economic power, and economic power on the ability to influence and control the financial leverage of the country. His plan must have envisaged that the priestly family would sooner or later take control of these levers. Then the Empire would be in his hands, and the new religion would be the main instrument to maintain control of it.

What was Josephus' plan to achieve this ambitious project? He didn't have to invent anything the model was there: the secret organization created by Ezra a few centuries earlier, which had assured power and prosperity to the priestly families for half a millennium. He only had to make a few changes, in order to disguise this institution in the pagan world as a mystery religion, dedicated to the Greek god Helios, the Sun, for his undoubted assonance with the Jewish god El Elyon. He was represented as invincible, the Sol Invictus, to spur the morale of his adepts, and at his side was put, as an inseparable companion, a solar divinity of that same Mesopotamia from where the Jews had originated, Mithras, the Sun's envoy on Earth to redeem humanity and all around them, in the mithraea, the statues of various divinities, Athena, Hercules, Venus and so on. A clear reference to God Father, and his envoy on earth Jesus, surrounded by their attributes of wisdom, strength, beauty and so on, that was well understood by the Christians, but was perfectly pagan to a pagan's eye.

This organization didn't have any religious purpose: his scope was to preserve union between the priestly families and assure their security and wealth, through mutual support and a common strategy, aimed at infiltrating all the positions of power in the Roman society.

It was secret. In spite of the fact that it lasted for three centuries and it had thousands of members, most of them very cultured men, there isn't a single word written by a member about what was going on during the meetings of the mithraic institution, what decisions were taken and so on. This means that absolute secrecy was always maintained about the works that were held in a mithraeum.

The access was evidently reserved for the descendants of priestly families, at least at the operative level, from the third grade up (occasionally people of different origin could be accepted in the first two grades, as in the case of emperor Commodus). This system of recruitment is perfectly in line with the historical and archaeological evidence.

Even at the peak of its power and diffusion, the Sol Invictus Mithras appears to be an elitist institution, with a very limited number of members. Most mithraea were very small in size and could not harbour more than 20 people. It was definitely not a mass religion, but an organisation to which only the top leaders of the army and of the imperial bureaucracy were admitted. Yet, we don’t know anything about the enlisting policy of the Sol Invictus Mithras.

Did it recruit its members amongst the high ranks of Roman society, or was opposite true -- that it was the members of this organization who "infiltrated" all the positions of power of that society? Historical evidence favours the hypothesis that membership in the institution was reserved on a ethnic basis. Access to it, at least at the operative level, was most likely reserved for descendants of the group of the Jewish priests who came to Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem.

The Sol Invictus Mithras conquers the Roman empire

Written sources and the archaeological testimonies give evidence that from Domitian on Rome always remained the most important centre of the Sol Invictus Mithras institution, which had become firmly entrenched at the very heart of the imperial administration, both in the palace and among the Praetorian Guard.

From Rome very soon the organization spread to the nearby Ostia, the port with the greatest volume of trading in the world, as goods and foodstuffs from every part of the Empire arrived to delight the insatiable appetite of the capital. In the course of the second and third centuries, almost forty mithraea were built there, clear evidence that the members of the institution had taken control of trading activities, source of incomparable incomes and economic power.

Subsequently, it spread to the rest of the Empire. The first Mithraea to arise outside the Roman circle were built, shortly before AD 110, in Pannonia, at Poetovium, the main customs centre of the region, then in the military garrison of Carnuntum, and soon after in all the Danubian provinces (Rhaetia, Noricum, Pannonia, Mesia, and Dacia).

The followers of the cult of Mithras included the customs officers, who collected a tax on every kind of transport dispatched from Italy toward central Europe and vice versa the imperial functionaries who controlled transport, the post, the administration of finance and mines and last, the military troops of the garrisons scattered along the border. Almost in the same period as in the Danubian region, the cult of Mithras started to appear in the basin of the Rhine, at Bonn and Treves. This was followed by Britannia, Spain, and North Africa, where mithraea appeared in the early decades of the second century, always associated with administrative centres and military garrisons.

Archaeological evidence, therefore, conclusively demonstrates that throughout the second century AD, the members of Sol Invictus Mithras occupied the main positions in the public administration, becoming the dominant class in the outlying provinces of the Empire -- especially in central and northern Europe. We have seen that the members of Sol Invictus Mithras had infiltrated also the pagan religion, taking control of the cult of the main divinities, starting with the Sun.

The winning move, however, which made irresistible the success of the Mithraic institution, was that of seizing control of the army. Josephus Flavius knew, from direct experience, that the army could become the arbiter of the imperial throne. Whoever controlled the army controlled the Empire. The main aim fixed by him for the Mithraic organization, therefore, must have been infiltrating the army and taking control of it.

Soon, mithraea sprang up in all the places where Roman garrisons were stationed. Within a century, the cult of Mithras, had succeeded in controlling all the Roman legions stationed in the provinces and along the borders, at a point that the worship of Sol Invictus Mithras is often considered by historians to be the "religion" typical of Roman soldiers.

Even before the army, however, the attention of Sol Invictus had been concentrated on the Praetorian Guard, the emperor's personal guard. It is not by chance that the second known dedicatory inscription of a Mithraic character regards a commander of the Praetorium, and that the concentration of mithraea was particularly high in the area surrounding the Praetorian barracks. The infiltration of this body must have started under the Flavian emperors. They could count on the unconditional loyalty of many Jewish freedmen who owed them everything -- their lives, their safety, and their well-being. The Roman emperors were somewhat reluctant to entrust their personal safety to officers who came from the ranks of the Roman senate, their main political adversary, and so the ranks of their personal guard were mainly filled with freedmen and members of the equestrian class. This must have favoured the Sol Invictus, which made the Praetorium its unchallenged fief from the beginning of the second century on.

Once it achieved control of the Praetorium and the army, the Sol Invictus Mithras was able to put its hands also on the imperial office. This actually happened on 193 a.D., when Septimius Severus was proclaimed emperor by the army. Born in Leptis Magna, in North Africa, to an equestrian family of high-ranking bureaucrats, he was certainly an affiliate of the Mithraic organization, having married Julia Domna, sister of Bassianus, a high priest of Sol Invictus. From then on, the imperial office was prerogative of the Sol Invictus Mithras, as all emperors were proclaimed and/or removed by the army or by the praetorian guard.

As far as we can judge with hindsight, the final objective of the strategy devised by Josephus Flavius was the complete substitution of the ruling class of the Roman Empire with members of Sol Invictus Mithras. This result was achieved in less than two centuries, thanks to the policy enforced by the Mitharaic emperors.

The backbone of the Roman imperial administration was formed by new families of unknown origin, that had emerged at the end of the first century and the beginning of the second, in antagonism to the senatorial aristocracy, traditionally opposed to the imperial power. They formed the so called "equestrian" order which soon became the undisputed fiefdom of the Sol Invictus Mithras. For sure most of the families of the 15 Jewish priests of Josephus Flavius' entourage, rich, well connected and enjoying the imperial favour, ended up belonging to this order.

The Sol Invictus emperors all belonged to the equestrian order and governed in open opposition to the senate, humiliating it, depriving it of its prerogatives and wealth, and striking it physically with the exile and execution of a great number of its high-profile members. At the same time they started introducing equestrian families into the senate. This policy had been initiated by Septimius Severus and developed by Gallienus (who, we must remember, was also the author of the first Edict of Tolerance toward Christianity) who established by decree that all those who had held the position of provincial governors or prefects of the Praetorian Guard, both appointments reserved for the equestrian order, would enter by right into the senatorial ranks.

This right was later extended to other categories of functionary, great bureaucrats and high-ranking army officers (all members of the mithraic institution). As a result, within a few decades, virtually the whole equestrian class passed into the ranks of the senate, outnumbering the families of the original Italic and Roman aristocracy.

In the meantime the spread of Christianity throughout the empire proceeded at a steady pace. Wherever the representatives of Mithras arrived, there a Christian community immediately sprang up. By the end of the second century, there were already at least four bishop's sees in Britannia, sixteen in Gaul, sixteen in Spain, and one in practically every big city in North Africa and the Middle East. In 261 Christianity was recognized as lawful religion by the mithraic Gallienus and was proclaimed the official religion of the empire by the mithraic Constantine at the beginning of the fourth century, although it was still in a minority in Roman society. It was then gradually enforced upon the population of the empire, with a series of measures that culminated at the end of the fourth century with the abolition of the pagan religions and the mass "conversion" of the Roman senate.

The final situation regarding the ruling class of the Western Empire was the following: the ancient nobility of pagan origin had virtually disappeared and the new great nobility, that identified itself with the senatorial class of the landowners, was made up by former members of the Sol Invictus Mitras. On the religious level, paganism had been eliminated and Christianity had become the religion of all the inhabitants of the Empire it was controlled by ecclesiastical hierarchies, coming entirely from the senatorial class, endowed with immense landed properties and quasi-royal powers within their sees.

The priestly families had become the absolute master of that same Empire that had destroyed Israel and the Temple of Jerusalem. All its high offices, both civil and religious, and all its wealth were in their hands, and supreme power had been entrusted in perpetuity, by divine right, to the most illustrious of the priestly tribes, the "Gens Flavia" (starting from Constantine all Roman emperors bore the name of Flavius), in all likelihood descendants of Josephus Flavius. Three centuries earlier, Josephus had written with pride: "My family is not obscure, on the contrary, it is of priestly descent: as in all peoples there is a different foundation of the nobility, so with us the excellence of the line is confirmed by its belonging to the priestly order" (Life 1.1). By the end of the fourth century his descendants had every right to apply those same words to the Roman Empire.

At that point the institution of the Sol Invictus Mithras was no more necessary to boost the fortunes of the priestly family and it was disposed of. It had been the instrument of the most successful conspiracy in History.

Excellent article on Mithraism.

It explains a lot I was having trouble to understand, but I have a few differences that I'd like to share. First of all, ever since Cumont, the study of Mithraism has gone sideways. Scholars of our time do not share his breadth of knowledge, and fail to understand the basis of his conclusions.

So, modern scholarship believes that Mithraism was entirely an invention of the Roman period. However, what Cumont would have suggested is that Mithraism underwent several stages of evolution. At the earliest, Mithraism belonged to an occult tradition that drifted away from orthodox Zoroastrianism, mixing with it Babylonian astrology and magic, and likely developed in the 6th century BC.

These so-called "Magi" dispersed with the expansions of the Persian Empire. This explains why Heraclitus in the 6th century BC describes the "infernal" rites of the Magi, which the Dionysiacs imitated.

By contributing to Orphism, this early Magian cult of Mithras influenced the thought of Pythagoras and finally Plato. It is likely for this reason that beginning with Aristobulus in the third century BC, as with all the leading Jewish Kabbalists over the centuries, Plato was regarded as the godfather of their mysteries, and to have been a student of the Jews.

This Greco-Judaic philosophy laid the basis for the theology that eventually emerged as the Mysteries. One particular point of influence was the Mysteries of Merkabah, which became the basis of all the leading pagan mysteries, including Mithraism and Hermeticism, but also Gnosticism.

And the first clear instance of the worship of Mithras was with Antiochus I of Commagene, where he was equated with Apollo and Helios.

Interestingly, the House of Commagene formed a curious dynastic network with several other important families. Namely, the Priest-Kings of Emesa in Syria, a traditional priesthood of Elagabalus, later known as Sol Invictus. The other family was the Claudio-Julia line that included Caesar, claiming descent from Aeneas. And finally, the House of Herod.

Curiously, these families would continue to intermarry over the centuries, and would produce a line of Emperors that would persist in attempts to impose the Elagabalus/Sol Invictus cult on the Empire, but failing to until the rise of Constantine.

What you have brought forward in your article clearly points out a hidden agenda, where these Mithraists appropriated the emerging Christian movement.

This is a common strategy that follows the occult all the way back to Plato. He put forward the notion of the "Noble Lie", suggesting that the masses were too intellectually feeble to handle the truth, and therefore instead needed myths to be steered right.

Typical to all the leading occultists of the centuries, the same strategy has held true. That is, the need to infiltrate religions to undermine them from within. There, they usually preach that all exoteric religions share a single underlying esoteric "truth". This is what was popularized during the Renaissance as the "Prisca Theologia", or "Ancient Wisdom", and continues to be the underlying basis of the ecumenical and one-world-relgion movements.