Mithras – Miθra – Mitra

Lahe, Jaan. 2019. Mithras – Miθra – Mitra. Der römische Gott Mithras aus der Perspektive der vergleichenden Religionsgeschichte (Kasion 3). München: Zaphon.

The Roman Mithras cult is one of the so-called “oriental cults” that spread throughout the Roman Empire. Although ancient tradition regards it as a Persian cult, Franz Cumont (the “father of modem Mithraic-study”), and many scholars have been convinced of its Iranian origin. All the information presently available to us opposes this view and suggests that the Roman Mithras cult was not an imported cult from Iran, but a cult that developed within the borders of the Roman Empire and grew there after the end of the first century A.D. It is certain that this cult would not have originated among the Romans if the Iranian god Mithra had been unknown to them. We know that Graeco-Roman authors diseminated infor­mation about the god Mithra. Since the regions of the East, where the deity Mithra was worshiped prior to the Roman Mithraic cult ( especially in Asia Minor), belonged to the Roman Empire, it is very likely that the Romans saw visual representations of this god and thus became familiar with Mithraic iconography.

The author of the present book assumes that the Roman cult of Mithras is not identical with the cult of Mithra/Mithras/Mithres in the Hellenistic East or even in Iranian religion, but must be regarded as an independent cult in the context of Roman religion. At the same time, the author is convinced that an important link existed between the three cults mentioned above. It is not only the name of the god, which goes back to an Indo-Iranian appellative mitra (Neutr.), but also the figure or personality of the god, who in the Roman Empire was called Mithras, in the Hellenistic Orient Mithra or Mithres and in Iran Miθra/Mithra (later Mihr). The author, on the basis of the literary, epigraphic and nunmismatic sources and other representations of the god, compares the personality of “Mithra” ( used here as the summary meta-name for different deities).