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The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and His Mysteries Paperback – July 27, 2000
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The entire data base then known was published in the early 20th century by Franz Cumont. (An English language version of his conclusions is still available). He believed Mithras to be an importation of the ancient Persian deity Mitra, doubtless influenced by descriptions of Mithras as Persian. His work remained standard until the 1970's. Since then many theories have been published -- those of David Ulansey perhaps have attracted much attention.
This book by Manfred Clauss is a careful piece of scholarship, that will be of great use to the newcomer to Mithras studies. He believes the cult was invented in Rome itself, and points out that the 3 earliest inscriptions and the first literary mention, all ca. AD90, are indisputably by people with close links to the city of Rome. The story is taken through various aspects of the cult, as illustrated from the monuments and whatever literary information is available. Parallels with Christian practise are mentioned, but Clauss dismisses the idea of influence in either direction, preferring to point out the shared heritage of oriental religion in classical times. He highlights the close relation of Mithraism with other mystery religions, and rightly is sceptical about the idea that Mithraism always involved believing the same things. Regional and temporal variants are documented.Read more ›
Note I said, "the Roman cult" of Mithras. While Clauss respects the giants leaps of scholarship and knowledge represented by Franz Cumont's books (over 100 years back, but still available in reprints), he rejects the idea that the Roman god Mithras is a direct carry-over from the Persian Mitra, and is careful to distinguish clearly between the two early in the book. Instead, Clauss develops the idea that Mithras was essentially a purely Roman invention, in fact originating in the city of Rome itself, and carried out to the provinces by soldiers and government clerks, officials, and the like. He makes a convincing argument, so far as this reader is concerned.
While Clauss does mention the idea in passing, he is also not presenting Ulansey's 'star-map' argument over the meaning of the Mithras cult. Instead, Clauss' focus is centered on the general worship of an all-powerful Mithras, in league with/identified with/conjoined with Sol (the sun), with the myths of Mithras' birth, his attributes and function as the creator and sustainer of all life, his achievements and their symbolic significance. The major themes are systematically explained and so far as possible analyzed; the various personalities involved in the myths are discussed, and the general worship patterns covered.
Clauss does most of this through a close examination of the mithraea discovered around the Roman world.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I very much appreciate the work done buy Clauss to bring all of this together. Those who write history books are doomed to criticism by those who don't. Very worthwhile book.Published on May 10, 2014 by Paul V. Beyerl
When I used this for a project I wrote about Mithraism, I was thoroughly impressed by the sheer depth of the information in the book. Read morePublished on April 25, 2012 by Alexander Z. Miller