Origins of the mitheras cult

Dec 2012
373
So does anyone know how did the mitheras cult that was popluar in the early Roman Empire came to be? What did the mitheras in this cult have to do with the one mentioned in info Iranian myth? Also does anyone know anything about it s decline? Because even though several Roman emperors tried banning all non Christian religions with out meaningful effect it seems there is no more record of this said cult after the late 4th century does anyone have any theories on that?
 

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,930
Yötebory Sveriya
The answer is more shallow than you’d think. In short: it rose up in the first century BC because it was hip, and it fell out of fashion in the third century because it was old and lame.

Longer answer:

Being a mystery religion, they were so secretetive about things (they dodn’t really write much) that we don’t really know how it all began; we only have theories based on speculation of the evidence and incomplete deductive reasoning (it’s open to a wide variety of possibilities).

My thoughts: The Romans, particularly the upper class, could be a pretentious bunch. As with today, poorly understood interpretation of foreign cultures/religions were popular. By the same stroke, things would fall out of fashion if they were deemed “for stupid people” or “for bumpkins” and that is why Paganism fell out of fashion with much of the upper echelon of society long before it did with the common folk. Christianity was the most popular of the new “hip” cultures - but there was also Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, the Cult of Sol Invictus (which was related to Mithraism, but a separate thing).

Basically, by the second or third century, if a culture got associated as “pagan” most of the upper class wanted nothing to do with it. Some people attempted pagan revivals, and that’s mostly why we even have 4th century inscriptions of Mithras at all, but these were hardly a continuation of a 400 year old tradition - more like an attempt to start up something dead again - like the whole Swing music thing in 1999 - none of these bands and singers were part of an old tradition; and imitators attempting to start it up again - and after a short period of success they failed.

While true there were various persecutions against religions (some against Christianity, and others by Christians); these were far from the norm, and generally frowned on by society at large. It had little to do with the shifting of religious culture in the Roman Empire. The only major persecutions that I can think of that would have had a notable lasting negative impact were against the Jews in the first and second centuries where hundreds of thousands were put to death or killed by soldiers.

To sum it up, it’s rise was not at all some kind of divinely inspired missionary work from Persia; it was more like “Hey, that thing the Persians worship is cool, wouldn’t it be cool if we did something like that?” and its fall was less like the holocause and more akin to the fall of disco.
 
Last edited:
Feb 2012
566
I have read that the Romans believed they found the gauyauti of Mithras when they invaded the Banat (Dacia) and you can see the pen of Mithras on Trajan's column.
Read that years ago. Cannot imagine where.

Considering the golden helmet with Mithras on it found in Romania it was not a totally silly idea I suppose.
 
Dec 2012
373
The answer is more shallow than you’d think. In short: it rose up in the first century BC because it was hip, and it fell out of fashion in the third century because it was old and lame.

Longer answer:

Being a mystery religion, they were so secretetive about things (they dodn’t really write much) that we don’t really know how it all began; we only have theories based on speculation of the evidence and incomplete deductive reasoning (it’s open to a wide variety of possibilities).

My thoughts: The Romans, particularly the upper class, could be a pretentious bunch. As with today, poorly understood interpretation of foreign cultures/religions were popular. By the same stroke, things would fall out of fashion if they were deemed “for stupid people” or “for bumpkins” and that is why Paganism fell out of fashion with much of the upper echelon of society long before it did with the common folk. Christianity was the most popular of the new “hip” cultures - but there was also Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, the Cult of Sol Invictus (which was related to Mithraism, but a separate thing).

Basically, by the second or third century, if a culture got associated as “pagan” most of the upper class wanted nothing to do with it. Some people attempted pagan revivals, and that’s mostly why we even have 4th century inscriptions of Mithras at all, but these were hardly a continuation of a 400 year old tradition - more like an attempt to start up something dead again - like the whole Swing music thing in 1999 - none of these bands and singers were part of an old tradition; and imitators attempting to start it up again - and after a short period of success they failed.

While true there were various persecutions against religions (some against Christianity, and others by Christians); these were far from the norm, and generally frowned on by society at large. It had little to do with the shifting of religious culture in the Roman Empire. The only major persecutions that I can think of that would have had a notable lasting negative impact were against the Jews in the first and second centuries where hundreds of thousands were put to death or killed by soldiers.

To sum it up, it’s rise was not at all some kind of divinely inspired missionary work from Persia; it was more like “Hey, that thing the Persians worship is cool, wouldn’t it be cool if we did something like that?” and its fall was less like the holocause and more akin to the fall of disco.
but the cult of sol invictus seemed to have lasted a lot longer, if I remember correctly the Christian bishop Augustine spoke against that god quite abit in the early 5th century, why would that be? would it be because of the "mainstream" nature of the cult? As well wasn't Christianity considered unpopular amongst upper class until Constantine was actively supporting them. The application of "pagan" for ethnic polytheists didn't become popluar until there was much more Christians in the Roman Empire
 
Last edited:
Dec 2012
373
The answer is more shallow than you’d think. In short: it rose up in the first century BC because it was hip, and it fell out of fashion in the third century because it was old and lame.

Longer answer:

Being a mystery religion, they were so secretetive about things (they dodn’t really write much) that we don’t really know how it all began; we only have theories based on speculation of the evidence and incomplete deductive reasoning (it’s open to a wide variety of possibilities).

My thoughts: The Romans, particularly the upper class, could be a pretentious bunch. As with today, poorly understood interpretation of foreign cultures/religions were popular. By the same stroke, things would fall out of fashion if they were deemed “for stupid people” or “for bumpkins” and that is why Paganism fell out of fashion with much of the upper echelon of society long before it did with the common folk. Christianity was the most popular of the new “hip” cultures - but there was also Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, the Cult of Sol Invictus (which was related to Mithraism, but a separate thing).

Basically, by the second or third century, if a culture got associated as “pagan” most of the upper class wanted nothing to do with it. Some people attempted pagan revivals, and that’s mostly why we even have 4th century inscriptions of Mithras at all, but these were hardly a continuation of a 400 year old tradition - more like an attempt to start up something dead again - like the whole Swing music thing in 1999 - none of these bands and singers were part of an old tradition; and imitators attempting to start it up again - and after a short period of success they failed.

While true there were various persecutions against religions (some against Christianity, and others by Christians); these were far from the norm, and generally frowned on by society at large. It had little to do with the shifting of religious culture in the Roman Empire. The only major persecutions that I can think of that would have had a notable lasting negative impact were against the Jews in the first and second centuries where hundreds of thousands were put to death or killed by soldiers.

To sum it up, it’s rise was not at all some kind of divinely inspired missionary work from Persia; it was more like “Hey, that thing the Persians worship is cool, wouldn’t it be cool if we did something like that?” and its fall was less like the holocause and more akin to the fall of disco.
Also if I remember correctly wasn't there still a lot of upper class pagans even in the Byzantine era like with the neo-platonic sun cult philosophers?