Since its publication in Germany, Manfred Clauss's introduction to the Roman Mithras cult has become widely accepted as the most reliable, as well as the most readable, account of its elusive and fascinating subject. For the English edition the author has revised the work to take account of recent research and new archaeological discoveries. The mystery cult of Mithras first became evident in Rome towards the end of the first century AD. During the next two centuries, carried by its soldier and merchant devotees, it spread to the frontier of the western empire from Britain to Bosnia. Perhaps because of odd similarities between the cult and their own religion the early Christians energetically suppressed it, frequently constructing churches over the caves (Mithraea) in which its rituals took place. By the end of the fourth century the cult was extinct. Professor Clauss draws on the archaeological evidence from over 400 temples and their contents including over a thousand representations of ritual in sculpure and painting to seek an understanding of the nature and purpose of the cult, and what its mysteries and secret rites of initiation and sacrifice meant to its devotees.
In doing so he introduces the reader to the nature of the polytheistic societies of the Roman Empire, in which relations and distinctions between gods and mortals now seem strangely close and blurred. He also considers the connections of Mithraicism with astrology, and examines how far it can be seen as a direct descendant of the ancient cult of Mitra, the Persian god of contract, cattle and light. The book combines imaginative insight with coherent argument. It is well-structured, accessibly written and extensively illustrated. Richard Gordon, the translator and himself a distinguished scholar of the subject, has provided a bibliography of further reading for anglophone readers.
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(234mm x 156mm x 24mm)
Edinburgh University Press
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
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Author Biography - Manfred Clauss
Manfred Clauss is Professor of Ancient History at the Free University of Berlin.