Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Mithraeum at Rome's Baths of Caracalla

I was recently very excited to hear that a mithraeum underneath the Baths of Caracalla in Rome has been restored and reopened to the public.

A mithraeum is an underground temple used by worshippers of the Persian deity Mithras.  The male-only cult became popular in Rome in the 1st Century AD, particularly with soldiers, and mithraea have been found across the Empire, including in Britain.  One feature of the cult is that it was very secretive about its initiation rites and practices.  A famous and distinctive image found in numerous mithraea is the 'tauroctony' - the bull slaying scene.  The images below, of a tauroctony and the head of Mithras, are from the Walbrook mithraeum in London and can be seen in the Museum of London.

The example at the Baths of Caracalla is exciting because it is linked to such an important and prominent public structure.  I very much hope to see it at some point, but in the meantime I have been waiting for someone who has visited it to post some good images on the web.  I'm pleased to say that the 'Leaping Without a Net' blog has just done such a thing, so head over there now to see them.

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