For over three hundred years the rulers of the Roman Empire worshipped the God Mithras. A God known throughout Europe and Asia as Mithra, Mitra, Meirtros, Mihr, Mehr and Meher.
The veneration of this god began 4,000 years ago in Persia, where it was imbedded in Babylonian doctrines. It spread through India and China. Mithraneum’s have been found in Britian, Italy, Romania, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Perisa, Armenia, Syria, Israel and North Africa.
In Rome, more than 100 inscriptions have been found in addition to 75 sculptures and several Mithraic Temples (Mithraneum’s) throught out the city. One of the largest Mithraic Temples lies underneath the present site of St Clemente’s Church, near the Colosseum. The popularity and appeal of Mithraism was discussed by the Greek historian Herodotus, the Greek biographer Plutarch, the neoplatonic philsopher Porphyry, the gnostic heretic Origen (you may remember him from a previous blog ‘The Origins of the Holy Babble’) which makes for an interesting thought, as Origen was the originator of the Bible Christians follow today ;-)…) and St Jerome. For further reading, may i suggest:-
- Plutarch – Life of Pompey 24
- Porphyry – On the Cave of Nymphs 6, 15-16,17-18,24-25
- Porphyry – On Abstinence from Animal Foods 4.16
- Origen – Against Celsus 6.22
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN MITHRAISM AND CHRISTIANITY
- A belief in heaven and hell
- Born of a virgin mother (Anahita) in a cave
- A great flood at the beginning of the history
- Ritualistic baptism
- A ceremony in which they drank wine and ate bread (symbolising the body and blood of Mithra)
- Sundays were sacred.
- Birth of Mithras celebrated on 25th December
- After Mithras’ earthly mission was completed he took part in the ‘Last Supper’
- Ascended to heaven to protect the faithful from above (Mithras died in 206 BC at the age of 64)
- Followers were marked on their foreheads
- Mithra was viewed as ‘the good shepherd’ and was associated with both the lion and the lamb
There are, in fact, many more similarities and I encourage you to check them out as they are quite staggering. At a time when Christianity was only one of a dozen foreign cults struggling for recognition in Rome, the religious dualism and dogmatic moral teaching of Mithraism set it apart from other sects. There were seven rights of passage:- MITHRAS – EXCLUSIVELY MALE
Whilst Mithras was worshipped almost exclusivley by men, most of the wives and daughters of the Mithraists took part in the worship of Magna Mater, Ma-Bellona, Anahita, Cybele and Artemis. These goddesses practiced a regeneration ritual known as Taurobolium, a practice soon adopted by Mithraists.
Constantine converted from Mithraism to Christianity in 312 AD.
As one of the final pagan religions of the Roman Empire, Mithraism paved a smooth path for Christianity, by transferring the better elements of paganism to this new religion.
In 325 AD, Constantine organised the Council of Nicea, which affirmed ‘Catholic’ Christianity as the state religion. Despite the council’s ruling there were still several cults that promoted alternative Christology.
It is interesting to see how Constantine perpetuated his older beliefs in Mithraism and incorporated them into his new religious text that most Christians follow today. It is also interesting to note that no Christian celebrated Sunday as a sacred day until the 4th Century when it was started by Constantine from his old Mithraist religion.
On 27th February 380 AD , together with Gratian and Valentinian ll, Theodosius issued the decree “cunctos populos” the so called “Edict of Thessalonica” which declared Christianity as the only imperial religion.
The Christian persecution of the Roman religion began after the first few years of his reign. All other religions were prohibited on pain of death.
Until the end of his reign he ordered, authorised or failed to punish the closure or destruction of many temples, holy sites, images or objects of piety of alternative religions. In 393 AD, he issued a law banning all non-christian religious customs. He is also likely to have disbanded the “Ancient Olympic Games” from 393 AD, due to their links with pagan custom.
Mithras is still worshipped today by the Parsis, the descendants of Zoroastrianism now living mainly in India. Their temples are now called ‘dar-i-mihr’ (The Court of Mithras). A scholar living among the Parsis in Karachi, mentioned a Parsi mother, on finding one of her children fighting with another, told him that ‘Mithras was watching and would know the truth.’
In Iran, up until 1979 traditional Mithraic holidays and customs continued to be practiced. The Iranian New Year would take place in the Spring and continued for 13 days. During this time Mithras was extolled as ‘God of the Sun’. The Mithragan festival in honour of Mithras (Judge of Iran) ran for 5 days with much reverence and celebration.
These holidays were encouraged by the culteral liberalsm of the Revolution of the Shah, until exiled Islamic fundamentalist, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran in 1979. He imposed strict sharia law with all that entailed.
Finally, all traditional Mithraic rituals were suppressed in the land once known as Persia, birthplace of the religion of Mithras. We watch the destruction caused by ISIS in Palymra and other historical sites and the destruction and eradication continues to this day.
In light of the tremendous volume of evidence that is there for anyone interested in taking the time to study, the question of whether or not Christianity is simply the heir of mythological beliefs prevalent a the time of its development is not a question easily ignored by any Christian pondering the origins of their faith.
The original ‘Christian’ faith became a mix of Pagan, Mithramic and Judeo-Christian teaching. This led to the confusing mix of theology we have in the Christian community today.
It is no wonder the Pagan Emperor Constantine, who believed in the ‘Sun God Mithras’, designated a certain day of the week to him, Sunday, which means ‘day of the sun’
The question isn’t whether all Christians would now be Mithraist’s if Constantine had chosen it as the state religion, the reality is quite simply your religion was bought and paid for you; period! it is quite by chance ‘Christianity’ was the one chosen for you. You are simply perpetuating a myth your ancestors were literally forced to adopt.
Every Pagan religious practice and festivity that couldn’t be surpressed or driven underground was eventually incorporated into Christianity to keep the populace in check, be it Roman or in fact the people of each country conquered by Rome.
What we can ultimately say is, time and again, every religion today in effect stems from the beginnings of evolutionary religion in as much as our ancestor’s worshipped ‘the Sun God’. All that has changed is you have evolved the basic man made premise to fit your social religious requirements today.
Think about that the next time you go to church on Sunday, celebrate Easter or Christmas; they all predate Christianity and are the real remnants of the religions your ancestors believed in…
Here endeth the lesson for today 😉