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The Oriental cult of Mithras has its roots in a discovery of natural history. In 128 BC the Greek astronomer Hipparchos (c. 190-126 BC) wrote "About the shifting of the tropical and equinoctial points" which describes the phenomenon of precession. The shifting of the equinoxes was a major discovery that could not yet be explained by the astronomy of the time with the rotation of the earth. Hipparch believed precession involved the movement of the cosmos.

The end of the "Age of Taurus" is symbolised by the killing of a bull. Mithras, the Persian god of light appears as the ruler of the cosmos. Images depict the zodiac. With the expansion of the Imperium Romanum to the east in the 1st century AD the Mithraic cult was able to spread to Rome.

The cult did not worship in public, but rather in closed rooms or caves, the mithraeums. The mystics - women were not allowed to join - went through a set of seven tests to reach the highest level. It is assumed that the cult believed in an afterlife.

Beginning with Emperor Trajan's reign (98-117 AD), the Mithraic cult spread quickly and was especially popular in the military. In the province Germania superior a large number of inscriptions and mithraeums have been found. The same is true for Hadrians Wall and the Danube provinces. The cult's particular characteristics were developed in the west.

Dedications on stone monuments, interpretations of the comprehensive collection of images, and the evaluation of the archaeological features form the basis of research on the cult, whose existence can be determined until 400 AD.

Ulansey 1998.

Reconstructed Mithras relief, Museum Großkrotzenburg
1 Reconstructed Mithras relief, Museum Großkrotzenburg © Museum Großkrotzenburg

Bavarian State Conservation Office Landesstelle für die nichtstaatlichen Museen & Bavarian State Archaeological Collection with the support of the Bayerische Sparkassenstiftung