Mithriaca I: The Mithraeum at S. Maria Capua Vetere

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This occurence is prevented by Mithras with his dagger. The apparent celestial path of the Sun, i. The Gemini are also intersected by the path right in the middle; the 23 See Porphyrios, De antro Nympharum What is located on the left of the celestial path of the Sun, is mostly positioned on the left side of the cult image, hence what is on the right, again is depicted on the right side of the relief. Those figures, which have their counterpart constellation is intersected by the celestial path of the Sun the Celestial Equator, or Ecliptica are also placed centerwise on the relief, some have their center point slightly shifted to either side.

The Gemini is intersected exactly at midpoint, accordingly on the image they arranged at the same distance from the center to the right and left. The Milky Way or Galaxias is also in the middle of the frame, captured in the moment of depic- tion along the north-south axis. The representations of the cult image are arranged in correct order, perpendicu- lar to the horizontal projection of the Celestial Equator. The structure of the cult image complies with the several other compositional aspects of philosophical origin, as well.

In contrast, Mithras sacrifices the bull in an underworldly manner. At the same time, in this system the cult image divides the mithraic universe up into northern and southern portions.


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BECK n. At most, it appears on painted variations of the scene, in the form of a dark-toned background.

The Mithraeum at S. Maria Capua Vetere (Hardcover)

The Tauroc- tony prevents the specifically represented Underworld and its principles to manifest cf. In other words, the soul can avoid the Underworld, the place that, ac- cording to earlier tradition, is inevitable. Contrarily, the person can be part of the world of gods and heroes represented in forms of the planets and constellations, and in the meantime can also remain within the world of the living, where earthly life takes place.

This world however was available only for those who passed initiations. To obtain the knowledge that prepared them for the afterlife, they needed to learn the Mithraic narratives and doctrines well. Excluding the Underworld from the possible spheres of life-cycle was not an option before.

For the people in the Greco-Roman world, passing to the Underworld represented a very real and sorrow- ful reality, even though they mostly came across scarce information from mythologi- cal depictions. Nobody could share their real-life experience of it. The average per- son descended into the Underworld after their life ended, to be reduced to the exact opposite of their earthly existence.

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This descension implied not only the death of the body, but also the decease of the soul. The Underworld did not allow for any con- tinuation of earthly life, it meant total and memory-free passing. To be lib- erated from the possibility of total death was the main aim of the mystery religions.

In the Roman period, numerous similar religions offered their systems and within them, different kinds of possibilities, or at least hopes of avoiding death, ranging from rebirth to resurrection. Therefore, for the mystes of the mysteries, the Underworld ceased to exist completely. The occurence has been well illustrated by the top right side-scene of the cult fresco from Marino: Mithras carried the corpse, standing before the south entrance of the shrine i. The birth in this case represents the rebirth through initiation. These Mithraic spheres are represented in a spe- cific way e.

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The alineation of the new coordinates are perpendicular to the previously discovered orientations. This dimension is relevant only in earthly circumstances, since in the Universe there is no up or down, or left and right. March [EPRO 80]. In Mysteria Mithrae —, here Eranos Jahrbuch 34 — In Mysteria Mithrae n. Mithras carried the killed bull, Mithraeum I.

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Poetovio Ptuj, Slovenia; cf. Backside of the relief from Konjic Bosnia-Hercegovina. Mari- no, Santa Maria Capua Vetere, see figs 2, 5 or sometimes on carved reliefs e. Dura Europos It is possible, that a real curtain was mounted above the statue rep- resentations of the Tauroctony, which was possibly let down and pulled up in front of the Tauroctony during certain rituals, for fixed amounts of time. Veiling and unveiling the central relief could be related to the the day of the Tauroctony in March, and the picture of the Underworld at the southern entrance of the cave.

Throughout the major part of the year, the cult relief was probably veiled by the curtain, representing phyisically the closed state of the entrance of the Under- world. Lifting the courtain up was reasonable and safe only on the feast-day of the Tauroctony through adequate rituals. The two side images represented a specific and very rarely used alternative for the curtains, attested in cult images for example in Konjic Bosnia 35 fig.

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The backrounds depict feast and banquet scenes, providing a proper setting for the regular assemblies of the worshippers. Other rituals and activities of the mysteries 34 Cf. Muzeja u Bosni i Hercegovini]. The belief system of the Mithraic mysteries fits perfectly into the other, more or less known religious currents of that era.

Not only with its main aim, but by using articulate symbols and ritual techniques in the confines of its own interpretation, sym- bols and rituals well known in that period and easily recognizable among the religious practice of other contemporary religions and cults as well.


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Berlin—Boston , — Related Papers. By Levente Nagy. The material evidence of the Roman Cult of Mithras in Dacia. In: Acta Ant. By Lucinda Dirven.

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Journal of the American Oriental Society, 80 4 , Jump to Page. Search inside document. The eastern side shows. The western and northern sides are still in the process of study.

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