Cumont), the wide diffusion of the Mithraic religion and the close analogies between its doctrines and those of Christianity.
80) mentions the typical Mithraic relief in his Thebaid (i.
The Mithraic temples of Roman times were artificial grottoes (spelaea) wholly or partially underground, in imitation of the original selcuded mountain caverns of Asia.
The simplicity and smallness of the Mithraic temples are to be accounted for by structural and financial reasons; an underground temple was difficult to construct on a large scale, and the worshippers of Mithras were usually from the humbler classes.
With this monument as a basis, Franz Cumont has arranged the small Mithraic reliefs into two groups, one illustrating the legend of the origin of the gods, and the other the legend of Mithras.
In the first group are found Infinite Time, or Cronus; Tellus and Atlas supporting the globe, representing the union of Earth and Heaven; Oceanus; the Fates; Infinite Time giving into the hand of his successor Ormazd the thunderbolt, the symbol of authority; Ormazd struggling with a giant of evil - the Mithraic gigantomachy.
Few of the Mithraic reliefs are of even mediocre art.
Cumont's interpretation of the main relief and its smaller companions involves the reconstruction of a Mithraic theology, a Mithraic legend, and a Mithraic symbolism.
Cvii.) and inscriptions preserve the knowledge that the mystic, sacratus, passed through seven degrees, which probably corresponded to the seven planetary spheres traversed by the soul in its progress to wisdom, perfect purity, and the abode of the blest: Corax, Raven, so named because the raven in Mithraic mythology was the servant of the Sun; Cryphius, Occult, a degree in the taking of which the mystic was perhaps hidden from others in the sanctuary by a veil, the removal of which was a solemn ceremonial; Miles, Soldier, signifying the holy warfare against evil in the service of the god; Leo, Lion, symbolic of the element of fire; Perses, Persian, clad in Asiatic costume, a reminiscence of the ancient origin of the religion; Heliodromus, Courier of the Sun, with whom Mithras was identified; Pater, Father, a degree bringing the mystic among those who had the general direction of the cult for the rest of their lives.
Special ceremonies accompanied the diverse degrees: Tertullian speaks of "marking the forehead of a Miles," which may have been the branding of a Mithraic sign; honey was applied to the tongue and hands of the Leo and the Perses.
The Mithraic priest, sacerdos or antistes, was sometimes also of the degree of pater.
According to the same author, there were Mithraic, as well as Christian, virgines et continentes.
The Mithraic community of worshippers, besides being a spiritual fraternity, was a legal corporation enjoying the right of holding property, with temporal officials at its head, like any other sodalitas: there were the decuriones and decem primi, governing councils resembling assembly and senate in cities; magistri, annually elected presidents; curatores, financial agents; defensores, advocates; and patroni, protectors among the influential.
The reward of title and degree and the consequent rise in the esteem of his fellows and himself was also a strong incentive; but the Mithraic faith itself was the greatest factor.
Numerous indications accordingly point to a corresponding primitive zodiac. Setting aside as doubtful evidence derived from interpretations of cuneiform inscriptions, we meet, in connexion with Mithraic and Mylittic legends, reminiscences of a zodiac and religious calendar in which the Bull led the way.'
The hieroglyph of Leo, for instance, occurs among the symbols of the Mithraic worship."
The legend of the Omophorus and Splenditeneus, rival giants who sustain earth and luminous heavens on their respective shoulders, even if it already figures in the cuneiform texts of Assyria, is yet to be traced in Mithraic bas-reliefs.
As regards rival Isiac and Mithraic baptisms, he asserts that their waters are destitute of divine power; nay, are rather tenanted by the devil who in this matter sets himself to rival God.