The Origins of Mithraism Origins of Mithraism in the Light of a Network Analysis of Mithraic Archaeological Evidence



Year of publication 2016
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The origins of Mithraism remain an unsolved puzzle for modern scholarship. Since the Cumontian scenario, which holds that the Mithraic cult spread from ancient Persia to the Roman Empire, was abandoned due to increasing criticism, various alternative hypotheses have been presented. Some of these still assume that the formation of the cult took place in Asia Minor (e.g. Will, Turcan, Gordon, Beck), others can be seen as a more radical departure from the Cumontian views and offer candidate regions more distant from ancient Persia, e.g. Bosporan Kingdom (Beskow), Balkan Peninsula (Wikander) or Rome/Ostia (Clauss). However, the oldest archaeological evidence for the cult's existence does not unequivocally support any of these hypotheses and consequently, we cannot easily decide which of these scenarios of the origins of the Mithraic cult should be accepted as historically more likely. This paper argues that the analysis of the diffusion of Mithraic communities over the Mithraic network might possibly shed some light on the formation process of Mithraism and lead to the identification of a geographic region from where the cult probably began to spread, given its late distribution across the Roman Empire. The results of such an analysis might help scholars to evaluate competing scenarios of the Mithraic origins and to partly overcome the problem of the lack of relevant evidence.
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