Hidden Rome: The Ancient Cult of Mithras
The cult of Mithras, who was an ancient deity of Persian origin, spread throughout almost all of the Roman Empire beginning in the first century AD.
A “mystery cult” reserved for a select circle of followers, it provided for seven degrees of initiation. Due to the its secret nature, there is very little information about Mithraism that has come down to us in written sources, and we must derive most of our information from archaeological discoveries.
The ceremonies took place in mithraea (singular: mithraeum), rooms which were often underground, and made to recall the mythical cave where Mithras, god of light and sun, was born.
Over the course of a three hour journey, we will relate the tale of this cult while we hunt for hidden traces still visible in the center of the city of Rome. Going down into the levels below certain structures, we will visit exceptionally well-preserved mithraea. The visit will be accompanied by an archaeologist with expertise in Mithraism, who has conducted excavations and research on the subject.
- The Emperor Commodus was a devotee of Mithras.
- The deity is often represented together with two other characters:Cautes and Cautopates.
- Ostia Antica (Rome’s harbor) preserves the largest number of mithraea in the world (16!).
- It is possible to reconstruct the seven degrees of initiation of the cult thanks to only a few archaeological discoveries, two of which are located in Rome and Ostia.
Questions we will answer
- What did they call the worshippers of Mithras?
- Why are mithraea sometimes found beneath Christian churches?
- What role did water play in the rituals?
- Why is Mithras almost always represented in the act of killing a bull?
Duration: 3 hours
Pick up: Your preference
Departure time: Flexible
When: Daily (Monday to Sunday); Year round
Means of transport: Car with private driver
Languages: English, French, Italian
Suitable for children? Yes
Suitable for people with mobility problems? No
Walking distance: 500 meters
Extras not included: Possible entrance ticket to archaeological sites (maximum 15 euros per person; to be agreed later by e-mail)