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6.7.7 Painting of Mithras and Sol from the Middle Mithraeum

ca. 210 CE

Mithras was originally a Persian god who became very popular in the Roman Empire during the second and third centuries CE, especially among soldiers. Only men were allowed to join Mithraism, and its ceremonies and rituals were supposed to be secret, which is why we do not have many written sources about it. Mithraism was a religion that promised salvation after death. Mithras was often painted banqueting with Sol, the god of the sun and patron of soldiers. Another important scene in religious art is Mithras killing a sacred bull, which then became the moon symbolizing the victory of light over darkness. You can recognize Mithras by his special conical cap, called a Phrygian cap.

Mithraism was a religion especially popular among soldiers, as only men could join. The god

 

Mithras originally came from Persia, but his cult changed significantly as the Roman army spread it throughout the empire. It was a mystery cult, and worshippers initiated into the cult were forbidden to tell anyone about its rituals. Worshippers went through seven levels of initiation, with the promise of salvation after death. Due to the secretive and exclusive nature of the cult, there is not much information about its rituals. Mithras was often painted banqueting with Sol, the god of the sun and patron of soldiers. Another important scene in religious art is Mithras killing a sacred bull, which symbolized the victory of light over darkness, because the bull then became the moon. Mithraism declined in Rome in the fourth century, which coincides with the official recognition of Christianity.