The highest number of mithraea in urban context of the ancient world come from Ostia. Although we do not know the whole city, mithraea have been found in all districts of the town. The spread and fortune of the Mithraic worship are also attested by the plenteous epigraphic and sculptural materials. This research deals with the Mithraism at Ostia, focusing on the particular case of monograms, just mentioned by Giovanni Becatti in his seminal work about mithraea at Ostia, dating back to more than sixty years ago. After the recent discovery of the Mithraeum of colored marbles by the archaeologists of the Ostia Marina Project (University of Bologna), it seems necessary to examine and contextualize the phenomenology of Mithraic monograms at Ostia, as is done in relation to similar processes which involve the Christian world.
A mithraeum always has long benches, which were called praesepiae, “places where cattle are fed in a stall” (CIMRM 233). The name is inappropriate for a dining room, which was usually called, instead, triclinium. Mithraeum is the current modern name, whereas the ancients called it spelaeum, antrum, templum. Another important name was Leonteum, which was not a separate cultic place for Leones only, because Porphyry states that the members of a Mithraic community were the Leones and the servants were called Korakes, the Ravens (Porphyr. de abst. 4. 16). The Mithraic menu apparently consisted of meat rather than of vegetables, even though one should take into account the fact that bones are better preserved than vegetables in an archaeological site, and therefore they are often published, whereas vegetal remains had never been investigated by means of chemical analyses. Lions are notoriously carnivorous and the praesepiae had to be filled with meat for the Leones.
The initiation of Leones was supposed to be dry and fiery (Tert. Adv. Marcionem I 13), and we are also told that the Mithraic Leones avoided water for their purifications and washed their hands with honey (Porph. De antro 15–16). Moreover, a lion and a snake are often depicted on Mithraic reliefs as going to drink from a crater. It is possible to get some information from those facts about what Leones were used to drinking during their symposia: they were thirsty but their drink could not be water, but eventually, wine was permitted. Iustin. Apol. I 66 speaks of a cup of water, but only to mention some ritual acts during initiations and not during symposia.
The presence of Mithras in Regio VI, Umbria, is documented by materials (some inscriptions, two arae, two reliefs, two tauroctonies: one of them fragmentary, the other one almost complete) which were either fortuitously unearthed between the 18th and the 19th century without any further research following, or discovered during unsystematic excavations – in both cases, they ended up lost (or simply forgotten) among the other pieces of family collections. This is how Marquis Eroli and Count Valenti bought, respectively, a relief now kept at the Museo Archelogico in Terni and a fragmentary tauroctony, still visible today in the hall of his ancestral palace in Trevi; Count Ramelli retrieved a tauroctony and some inscriptions in Sentinum: the tauroctony was then walled in the hall of his palace in Fabriano and the inscriptions were collected in the lapidarium of the palace. Finally, Count Marignoli promoted the excavation of the Mithraeum in Spoleto, dug up by Fabio Gori and documented in drawings and watercolors by the architect Silvestri; currently that Mithraeum has been reduced to a shapeless heap of rubble and its materials are not to be found anywhere.
This is definitely a distressing situation which, however, allows us to outline at least a Mithraic geography in Umbria made up of places along the Via Flaminia, east and west, where initiates to the Mithraic cult used to live, from Ocriculum to Interamna Nahars, Montoro, Spoletium, Trebiae, Carsulae and Sentinum, on the junction of the road coming from Helvillum. As for the cultores Mithrae in Regio VI, the few surviving inscriptions speak about them. There are freemen and freedmen, few slaves, some artisans, maybe some landowners or administrators of private and public estates who live and work at in-between towns and villae. They participate in the cult by covering various functions and supporting it financially: the leones in Carsulae collect money to build their leonteum; Sextus Egnatius Primitivus pays out of pocket to rebuild a spelaeum destroyed by an earthquake, while the thirty-five patroni of Sentinum contribute in different ways to the needs of their community.
de arta provinciala romana în Muzeul din Lugoj . Banatica 2 ( 1973 ) 120 – 123 .
Király 1886 P. Király : A sarmizegetusai mithraeum [Das Mithraeum von Sarmizegetusa] . Budapest 1886 .
Medelet 1993 Fl. Medelet : Profesorul Marius Moga
In 2014 the discovery of a Mithras' statue at Tarquinia occurred. This was due to the Comando Tutela Patrimonio Culturale dell'Arma dei Carabinieri, which informed the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell'Etruria Meridionale about clandestine activities in May 2014 on the poggio della Civita – where the ancient city of Tarquinia stood – in a zone close to the Etruscan temple of the Ara della Regina (fig. 1).
As soon as possible, the Soprintendenza carried out an archaeological excavation, focusing the effort on the need to find evidence for the place of origin of the magnificent sculptural group (fig. 2), which represents Mithras Tauroctonus. This sculpture was recovered by the Carabinieri after investigation by the police, directed by the Procura della Repubblica of the law court of Rome.
Archaeological research since then has led to the discovery of another marble part of the same sculpture (fig. 3), i.e., the dog leaning on the knee of the bull and perfectly dovetailing with the Mithraic Tauroctony. The discovery of another fragment pertaining to the same sculpture is an irrefutable proof that the Mithras' statue came from the domus of the Civita of Tarquinia, which represents an important and new scientific result.
The only other sculptural group depicting Mithras in Southern Etruria was one previously found in Vulci, discovered in 1975 after a clandestine excavation close to the domus del Criptoportico. This new finding proves the spread of this cult in Tarquinia, as well, and the style of the new sculpture suggests a chronological priority of the Tarquinian Mithraeum in respect to that in Vulci.
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Gordon 1976 = R.L. Gordon : The sacred geography of a mithraeum . Journal of Mithraic Studies 2 ( 1976 ) 119 – 165 .
Gordon 2007 = R.L. Gordon : Institutionalised religious options: Mithraism . In: A Companion of
iconographiques de «Venus Victrix» du musée á Aquincum) . BudRég 20 ( 1963 ) 71 – 83 .
Király 1886 P. Király : A sarmizegetusai mithraeum [Mithraeum in Sarmizegetusa] . Budapest 1886 .
Király 1894 P. Király : Dacia Provincia Augusti. II
Authors:J. L. Perez-Rodriguez, A. Duran, and L. A. Perez-Maqueda
, Durán , A , Jiménez de Haro , MC , Pérez-Rodríguez , JL . Roman ceramics of hydraulic mortars used to build the Mithraeum House of Merida (Spain) . J Therm Anal Calorim . 2008 ; 92 : 331 – 335 . 10.1007/s10973