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  • 1 Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
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Iconographic analogies between the Mithraic torchbearers, Cautes and Cautopates, and the Greek Dioscuri encourage a comparative analysis of these figures in context. Previous studies have emphasized the potential for the divine twins to be the origins of the torchbearers: a closer examination of the Dioscuri as they functioned within another mystery cult, the rites of the Great Gods of Samothrace, offers light on both the phenomenology of initiation and the cultural context common to both the Greek and the Roman rituals. Among the numerous visual and conceptual parallels, the strongest commonality between the two sets of youths is a cultural appetite for astral mysticism, which connects the late Republican Roman voices on Samothrace and the later world of the Mithraic caves. The two mysteries served, however, profoundly different functions with respect to Roman identity – a dynamic which the parallel presence of twinned, framing shining lights reveals.

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