Mithraism: a forgotten religion. A Roman religion with mysterious ways | by usmi | March 2022

A Roman religion with mysterious ways

Interior of a Cathedral, 1783–1852 by Samuel Prout Photo credit Birmingham Museums Trust

World history is full of various mysterious stories about different religions arising as a result of cultural interaction and many other relevant manifestations.

as Bertrand Russel wrote in the history of Western philosophy;

The evolution of religion and other related concepts is as old as human civilization. Many new religions and cults evolved and made their way into the annals of history as a result of rivalry or rebellion against existing religions at that time.

Few of these cults and religions were practiced in mysteries largely due to the ritual vision and perceptions of peoples of later ages. Few of these cults have remained indelible in the annals of history as they originated in the main civilizations or empires.

This is the short story of Mithraism, a mysterious Roman religion.

Mithraism, also called Mithraic Mysteries, was a Roman mystery religion. Mithraism has also been recorded under different names like Mithras, Varuna, Indra and the celestial twins in history. The whole structure of Mithraism was based on the god Mithras. Historians believe that the first inspiration of Mithraism was the Zoroastrian deity (yazata) Mithra.

The Iranian people were strong supporters and worshipers of the Yazata. The concept of Roman Mithras was an entirely new imagery that continued and maintained a link between Persian and Greco-Roman rituals of militarism. The Roman imperial army was the first source of information on the mysteries of Mithraism, especially in the periods from the 1st to the 4th century CE.

Devotees of Mithraism were divided according to a ranking system mainly distributed in a complex system of seven grades. These grades defined the status of the faithful. The very first rank of the faithful was syndexioi. The followers of Mithraism kept the secret which they generally called the term “united by the handshake”. They used to gather in underground temples

Mithraism was a religion or cult that encountered massive rivalry and persecution from Christianity. With the rise of Christianity, the popularity of Mithraism began to decline, especially in the 4th century.

Until the end of the 4th century, Christianity as a religion enjoyed a popularity that was once associated with Mithraism.

The archaeological sites of Mithraism throughout the Roman Empire are the main sources of information on this religion. Meeting places, monuments and artifacts related to Mithraism have helped historians learn about systems and rituals.

The archaeological finds of Mithraism are of great importance as there is no written theology of the religion available. Thus, these discoveries have largely contributed to knowing the bases of this religion.

Martin Luther King, Jr. in his research titled “A Study of Mithraism” also stated:

Unfortunately, there is virtually no literary evidence for the inner story of Mithraism.

420 archaeological sites related to Mithraism have been discovered with different materials illustrating the cult. about 1000 inscriptions, 700 bull-killing scenes (tauroctony) and 400 other monuments are the only source that reveals the various processes and aspects of Mithraism.

During the evolution of human civilization, many religions have come and gone. Indeed religion remained very vital to society and in fact society largely sought its foundation in religion. People continued to follow different natural phenomena and various other manifestations as their creed. Mithraism was one of the ancient Roman religions. The archaeological sites of Mithraism are the only source of information on this worship or this religion.

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