Rome was one of the most important empires in history, which managed to influence even modern times through the structures and institutions it created. Many of the structures, concepts, and practices we still use, from art to sports, from politics to architecture, emerged in the Roman Empire. However, some imperial citizens organized some secret organizations, the mystery of which has not been fully clarified until today, and developed interesting and dark beliefs. The belief called Mithra or the cult of Mitra was one of them. Members of the Mithras cult worshiped an interesting deity named Mithra and performed unusual rituals among themselves. So much so that this mysterious cult was the biggest competitor to Christianity in the early stages of Christianity. Here’s what you need to know about the mysterious cult of the Roman Empire, the cult of Mithras…
1. The cult of Mithras appeared in Rome in the first century AD
However, this mysterious cult spread throughout Rome over the centuries. However, the cult of Mithras was most popular among the soldiers, merchants, and ruling class of Rome. Accordingly, only men could join this mysterious sect.
2. Mithra was a deity of Persian and Middle Eastern origin
He was among the important figures in the Zoroastrian religion, especially in the Middle East. It is believed that Mithras, and thus the cult, was adopted among the Roman soldiers who campaigned to the East, and entered the borders of Rome with the soldiers returning from the expedition.
3. “Mithras of Rome,” who is usually depicted killing a sacred bull
However, in the Middle East he was the god of the sun, contracts and friendship. For this reason, these concepts were associated from time to time in Roman times.
4. Members of the cult of Mithras gathered in secret underground temples in Rome
These temples, called “mithraeum”, were dark, mysterious and sheltered places, mostly chosen among the underground caves. In these temples, cult members re-enacted the scene in which Mithras killed the sacred bull or in some way acted out that scene.
However, the slaying of bulls, a central element of the Mithraic depiction of Rome, was absent from the original accounts of the Mithraic. In other words, the incident of Mithras killing a sacred bull was attributed to Mithras by members of the cult in Rome.
5. The cult of Mithra or Mithra was a very mysterious structure
Of course, he also had some very strict rules. For this reason, very little was known about the Temple even at the height of the cult. Accordingly, there are very few written documents about the order or sect that have survived to this day.
6. To join the cult of Mithra, it was necessary to pass a series of trainings and examinations
The Romans who wanted to join this mysterious cult had to fulfill some obligations and take on some responsibilities. These exercises and examinations, which were conducted under the supervision of the sect’s leading figures, were also very important for ascension within the sect.
Those who wanted to rise in the cult had to successfully complete 7 different tasks. However, it was believed that those who successfully completed the tasks would be protected by various deities.
7. Although archaeological excavations have not been reflected in written sources, they have revealed dozens of different things related to the cult.
To date, dozens of different artifacts related to the cult of Mithras have been found at many different excavation sites. For example, during excavations, 700 different images of the scene of killing bulls were discovered in Mithras. Apart from this, dozens of monuments have been found that speak of different teachings or belief systems about worship.
8. The cult of Mithras spread over a wide geographical area from Rome to London
A fragment of a statue was found during excavations carried out in London, the capital of England, in 1954. When the fragment was examined, it was understood that it was part of the statue of Mithras. Thus, excavations in the area were expanded, and a hidden temple of Mithras was discovered nearby, apparently built in the 3rd century AD.
9. December 25th was a momentous date for the followers of the Mithras cult.
Although unconfirmed, many scholars believe that members of the line performed some very special rituals on December 25th. This is because Mithra is also associated with seasons and climates from time to time. However, due to the very mysterious nature of the cult, there is no detailed information on how the rituals were performed.
10. The cult of Mithras was a major rival to early Christianity
In the fourth century, the cult of Mithras became an important threat to Christians. After that, Christians suppressed the cult of Mithra, and soon this mysterious structure took its place among the dusty pages of history.
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