First published in 2001. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa company.
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The Roman cult of Mithras is known to us from a large collection of its cave-temples, known as Mithraea, a certain number of inscriptions from a Mithraeum, and some sculpture. In addition there are scanty references to the cult in the Christian fathers, and a handful of other references. The cult was a mystery religion, and its beliefs and rituals must be inferred from this scanty base. Wild theorisings are unfortunately common.
The entire data base then known was published in the early 20th century by Franz Cumont. (An English language version of his conclusions is still available). He believed Mithras to be an importation of the ancient Persian deity Mitra, doubtless influenced by descriptions of Mithras as Persian. His work remained standard until the 1970's. Since then many theories have been published -- those of David Ulansey perhaps have attracted much attention.
This book by Manfred Clauss is a careful piece of scholarship, that will be of great...
This is the best currently available introduction to the Roman cult of Mithras you can read. It is completely up to date, lavishly illustrated, very well organized and written, and thoroughly engrossing from cover to cover.
Note I said, "the Roman cult" of Mithras. While Clauss respects the giants leaps of scholarship and knowledge represented by Franz Cumont's books (over 100 years back, but still available in reprints), he rejects the idea that the Roman god Mithras is a direct carry-over from the Persian Mitra, and is careful to distinguish clearly between the two early in the book. Instead, Clauss develops the idea that Mithras was essentially a purely Roman invention, in fact originating in the city of Rome itself, and carried out to the provinces by soldiers and government clerks, officials, and the like. He makes a convincing argument, so far as this reader is concerned.
While Clauss does mention the idea in passing, he is also not presenting Ulansey's...
The headline pretty much sums this book up. It's the most concise yet packed history of the Roman Mithras Cult I've come across. It doesn't descend into the pitfalls of assumtions and fanciful history, Mr. Clauss gives us the facts in a clear manner, making sure to distinguish between what is historically accepted and what is just assumed.
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