|Doctrines|| ||No texts written by any
Mithraists have survived, so facts have to be gleaned from outside
observers, usually Christian, who were often biased or ignorant; however,
archaeology and inscriptions do give some clue to the beliefs of the cult.
Mithra (or Mithras) was the ancient Indian and Persian god of law and
justice, a supporter of Ahura Mazda, the great god of order and light.
The small Mithraic temples were generally small, built to resemble the
cave to reflect the world cave which Mithras had created, with the sky
spanning the earth. |
Each community of believers was divided into seven degrees of initiation - Raven, Bride, Soldier, Lion, Persian, Runner of the Sun, and Father. Progression through these grades was thought to reflect the spiritual ascent of the soul away from the material world. They believed that Mithras saved his followers through the shedding of eternal blood, and to celebrate this Mithraists shared a feast in imitation of a meal shared by Mithras and Sol (the sun) over the body of the slain bull. Women were excluded from the cult.
|History|| ||The god Mithra was
worshipped in Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, but it is as a
Roman cult that Mithraism is most well known. The earliest reference to
the Roman Mithras is by the poet Statius, who died in CE96; the earliest
known temples were built in the mid-2nd century, and building continued
until the fifth century. The Roman Empire facilitated the spread of the
Mithraism as a mystery cult throughout Europe, and temples have been found
as far apart as Wales and Egypt, though the greatest concentration of
temples is in Rome itself and along the Danube and Rhine valleys. The
soldiers of the Roman army made up the greatest number of followers,
although traders and officials were also members of the cult. |
Mithraism died out in the 4th century, largely because of the spread of Christianity; Christians saw Mithraism as a devilish imitation of what they believed to be the one true religion, and they frequently broke into and destroyed Mithraic temples.
|Symbols|| ||The most common symbol
found in the temples was a relief of Mithras slaying a bull, with plants
springing from the blood pouring from the bull's wounds. The symbol
suggests regeneration through sacrifice.|
|Adherents|| ||Not known|
| ||Headquarters for the cult were located in Rome,
London, and other important cities of the Roman Empire.|