The author addresses the question as to why they chose the Bull sacrifice as a symbol of the Mystery Cult. . As interesting as the subject itself is the light that it sheds, by analogy, on Christianity's contemporaneous metamorphosis from a tiny Judean apocalyptic cult into a thriving Greek religion. In this groundbreaking work, David Ulansey offers a radically different theory. This information was then married to the astrology of the zodiac and to the symbolism of popular Tarsian myths surrounding Perseus to create the fabric of the religion. Culianu, University of Chicago, The Journal of Religion -. Most experts have been content with a vague hypothesis that the iconography somehow derived from ancient Iranian religion.
As his investigation proceeds, Ulansey penetrates step by step the mysteries concealed in Mithraic iconography, until finally he is able to reveal the central secret of the cult: a secret consisting of an ancient vision of the ultimate nature of the universe. The Minds of Mithraists: Historical and Cognitive Studies in the Roman Cult of Mithras addresses these questions as well as the relationship of Mithraism to Christianity, explanations of the significance of the tauroctony and of the rituals enacted in the mithraea, and explanations for the spread of Mithraism and for its resistance in a few places. It is that about 2000 years previously that the spring equinox would have occurred in Taurus and the autumnal equinox in Scorpio. If we accept that ideas and faiths evolve and change, then we have no basis to dismiss Cumont's ideas - Mithraism may well have been Iranian in origin and if after several centuries of evolution the imagery employed in temples in the Roman Empire doesn't harmonise with its Persian origins we have no reason to be surprised - it is simply that the faith evolved over time. He adds a disclaimer in the last few words: The Mithraic mysteries ended as a religion of soldiers, based on an ideology of power and hierarchy.
As its membership was largely drawn from the ranks of the military, its spread, but not its popularity is attributable largely to military deployments and re-deployments. Mithras was recognized as the greatest rival of Christianity, a greater threat even than the religion of Isis. Even though his claims are open to challenge, they present an extremely important milestone in the gradual reconstruction of ancient cosmology. Both have wings and serpents and can be construed as leonine. This is comparable to modern stereotypes of all Germans wearing leather pants, or all Americans wearing cowboy hats. However, the writing and organization of this book is just off. Brimming with the excitement of discovery--and reading like an intellectual detective story--Ulansey's compelling book will intrigue scholars and general readers alike.
That's not to say Ulansey is wrong, his argument may be correct in part or completely, it just feels cheesey. He makes a convincing argument that the unifying mythological tauroctony scene of Mithras slaying the bull represents a star map from a previous procession of the equinoxes. When he has to evade something as fundamental as the sexes of the two creatures? David Ulansey's book breaks new scholastic ground by arguing that the Roman cult of Mithras did not originate in Persia, as previously thought. He finishes with an apt quotation from R. First, as mentioned earlier, the cult supported the emperor, unlike other cults, such as the Bacchanalia. In recent years, a radical new theory has been established which says that the Mithraic Mysteries did not originate in the east, but in Italy. It completes a cycle once every 25,920 years.
Why would a Roman soldier, or anyone, go through these troubles to become a member of a Mithras Mystery? He then introduces the work of Michael Spiedel, who identifies Mithras with Orion. During the expensive wars tha the Romans fought in the middle East, some of the nobles emigrated to Rome and they brought their beliefs with them. As interesting as t This is a fascinating analysis that connects the iconography of Mithraism with an astounding astronomical discovery made by Greeks in the late 2nd century B. But it would be silly to argue, say, that a depiction of Pegasus on a wall must mean that the wall has cosmic significance. During the expensive wars tha the Romans fought in the middle East, some of the nobles emigrated to Rome and they brought their beliefs with them. Ulansey, then, recognises that on the face of it his explanation is absurd.
Although mithraists left behind no written archival evidence, there is an abundance of iconographic finds. Indeed we could go further and mention the 6th grade, the heliodromus or sun-runner, which may be associated with Phaethon depicted in some Mithraea , and so perhaps might be an intermediate step between child and adult. He argues that Mithraic iconography was actually an astronomical code, and that the cult began as a religious response to a startling scientific discovery. Until now, all attempts to decipher this iconography have proven fruitless. Thereafter for me everything went downhill.
Well, so they may; but evidence of this there is none, and Ulansey doesn't try to offer any. His theory that Mithras is really Perseus in disguise is very interesting, and it could be so. It was remarkable to me how much overlap those beliefs have with orthodox Christianity. How were these two features so faithfully transmitted through the Empire by a non-centralized, non-hierarchical religious movement? The remainder of the chapter consists of further speculation of the same kind, and has no particular interest to us. Perseus was born to Danae, who was kept captive in one.
Mithraism was a religion popular among ancient Roman men around the time of Christ, but its beliefs were secret, and almost nothing is known of its doctrines. This linking force he used to explain the mechanism behind things like divination. But the problem is that there seems to be no pressing reason actually to believe any of this. Alternatively, the same might be the galaxy, and the different could be the zodiac, with the shifting positions of the planets indicating change. Ulansey winds up this very useful chapter on work in the field with the following summary: Nevertheless, in spite of the failures of their theories, there is clearly a wide area of agreement among these scholars concerning the basic astral nature of the tauroctony. It did spread, not just in Rome but in its provinces, reaching even Britain.
We've heard this tale before, but nobody expected that this one god would have caused such an impact. The Perseus cult of Tarsus If Mithras is really Perseus, then when did Perseus become Mithras? Next we come to the predominance of the Stoic philosophers of Tarsus. Most experts have been content with a vague hypothesis that the iconography somehow derived from ancient Iranian religion. In typical Stoic fashion, they then personified this new cosmic being in the form of their own native god, Perseus, the hero both of Tarsus and the heavens owing to his being a constellation. Ulansey comments rightly that an astronomical aspect to the mysteries of Mithras had always been known.