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Mithraism and Roman Society (1/2)

Panel Chair: Attilio Mastrocinque | Monday, August 24, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

The panel is aimed at discussing some topics of Mithraism and at focussing on interrelationship between cults in the mithraea and the life out of the sacred caves during the first 4 centuries CE.

Mithraic congregations appear to the contemporary scholarship quite integrated with the local communities (for example, cities, military camps) and with Roman traditions. Some insights are thus possible in order to focus better on some cases, namely 1) that of Mithraic and non-Mithraic eating of meat, 2) that of interaction between Mithraea and both legionary units and provincial governors in Spain, 3) that of beliefs concerning Eros and salvation of human souls both within the Mithraea and in other religious traditions, and 4) that of relationships between a group of Roman late-antique senators and the latest Mithraea in Rome.

Giovanna Bastianelli

Late Antique Mithraism in Rome

Ernest Renan wrote that the world would have worshipped Mithras if the Christian religion was stopped. The reality was totally different, and especially in the 4th century CE, when the Mithraic proselitism was further limited. The adepts were then a restricted number of Roman aristocrats, who entered the Senate thanks to the Costantinian reform, which upgraded them from perfectissimi to clarissimi. In order to consolidate the new privileges all of them took their seat in Rome, where they worshipped their ancient protector god and restored his statues and his sanctuaries. Mithraism, which only apparently disappeared for about 40 years, survived in Rome until its final fate.

Only in a few cases a pious closure was provided to some small family mithraea, which were preserved having their entrances walled, while usually the devastation of these holy places was inevitable: statues of gods were deprived of their head and arms, and altars, furniture, and frescoes were destroyed. The famous praefectus urbi Gracchus, to deserve his baptism, tore into pieces an entire mithraeum of Rome, as St. Jerome and Prudentius report.

Massimiliano David

A new mithraeum of the multicoloured marbles from ancient Ostia

In 2014, during the archaeological investigations conducted by the University of Bologna (Dipartimento of History and Civilizations - Sect. Archaeology), in collaboration with the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Roma, within the Ostia Marina Project, in the suburban neighborhood out of porta Marina (block IV, IX), a new building has been found with outstanding mithraic features. It has a major cultic niche, a single bench, a ritual well and a flowerbed for a sacred plant. The building, for the special features of the marble floor, has been conventionally called mithraeum “of the multicoloured marbles”. It differs clearly both in form and size from the typical planimetric patterns of the mithraea discovered in ancient Ostia until now. The excavation is not yet finished, but – on the basis of the currently available data – the building can be dated within the advanced 4th century AD. It is abutting some rooms which originally belonged to a ‘caupona’ of the half of the 3rd century AD.

Jaan Lahe

Hat der römische Mithraskult etwas mit dem Iran zu tun? Überlegungen zu den Beziehungen zwischen dem römischen Mithras-Kult und der iranischen religiösen Überlieferung

Der Autor des vorliegenden Vortrags hat alle postulierten Gemeinsamkeiten zwischen dem iranischen und römischen Mithras-Kult analysiert und kommt zu dem Ergebnis, dass die Unterschiedeso grundlegend sind, sodass man hier von unterschiedlichen Kulten für unterschiedliche Gottheiten sprechen muss. Entgegen der Ansicht, dass der römische Mithras-Kult nichts mit der iranischen religiösen Überlieferung zu tun habe, behauptet der Autor, dass man zwischen den römischen und iranischen Kulten dennoch Gemeinsamkeiten in einigen Details nachweisen kann, die zwar teilweise peripher sind, teilweise allerdings eine sehr wichtige bzw. zentrale Rolle spielen. Der römische Mithras-Kult ist folglich sowohl ein gutes Beispiel für die große Anpassungsfähigkeit der Religion der Römer, als auch für ein Miteinander von Tradition und Innovation innerhalb ein und desselben Kultes.


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