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Mithras in Etruria

Characteristics of a Mystery Cult in the Roman Regio VII

Author: Nicola Luciani

Summary

The aim of this article is to cast a light on the nature of the mysteries of Mithras in central Italy, focusing on the administrative division of Roman Etruria. The Regio VII in fact, despite not being the richest Italian area in terms of Mithraic findings, has nevertheless emerged as a privileged territory to observe different aspects of the cult, due to the great variety of its artefacts.

Hence, starting from the material evidence and from its distribution across the region, the social classes that took part in the worship of Mithras are identified. Consequently, the active role played by public officials in promoting the spread of the mysteries is discussed, as well as the cult diffusion among the lower classes, and the interest demonstrated by the aristocratic elites from the Middle/Late Empire.

The conclusion will examine the last phases of the cult in Etruria, showing how the Mithraic mysteries ended following diverse modalities during the first decades of the 5th century AD, sometimes because of violent acts of destruction, and sometimes in a peaceful manner.

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