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Mithras slaying a bull
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The cult of mithras originated in Persia but spread throughout the Roman empire during the first three centuries AD. In this marble statue the god Mithras is depicted killing a bull, the spilling of whose blood was believed to bring about the rebirth of light and life. The dog and the snake trying to lick the blood feature prominently in Persian religious imagery, as does the scorpion attacking the bull's genitals.

After a secret initiation, devotees of the cult of Mithras would rise through ranks such as 'soldier', 'raven' and ultimately 'father'. They ate bread and water, representing the meat and blood of the bull, at communal meals. This, combined with the cult's emphasis on regeneration, earned them the particular enmity of the Christians. Mithraism's popularity lay partly in its appeal to the army, but like all mystery religions (including Christianity) it benefited from the move towards monotheism in the Late Empire.

Mithras slaying a bull


From Rome, 2nd century AD
Ht 133 cm




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