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The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and His Mysteries [Paperback]

By Manfred Clauss, Richard Gordon (Translator), Stefano Mainetti (Contributor), Aude Henin, Jane N. Kogan, Michael Wilcox & S. Cao (Contributor)
Our Price $ 37.39  
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Item Number 157521  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.18" Width: 6.16" Height: 0.47"
Weight:   0.9 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 31, 2001
Publisher   Routledge
ISBN  0415929784  
EAN  9780415929783  

Availability  116 units.
Availability accurate as of Jan 22, 2018 10:56.
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Item Description...
The Mithras cult first became evident in Rome towards the end of the first century AD. During the next two centuries, it spread to the frontiers of the Western empire. Energetically suppressed by the early Christians, who frequently constructed their churches over the caves in which Mithraic rituals took place, the cult was extinct by the end of the fourth century. Since its publication in Germany, Manfred Clauss's introduction to the Roman Mithras cult has become widely accepted as the most reliable and readable account of this fascinating subject. For the English edition, Clauss has updated the book to reflect recent research and new archaeological discoveries.

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More About Manfred Clauss, Richard Gordon, Stefano Mainetti, Aude Henin, Jane N. Kogan, Michael Wilcox & S. Cao

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Manfred Clauss is Professor of Ancient History at the Free University of Berlin. His many books include histories of Sparta and ancient Israel, as well as a concise biography of Cleopatra.

Manfred Clauss was born in 1945.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > History > Ancient > General   [3788  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Concise clear and well researched  Mar 10, 2008
This is the best currently available introduction to the Roman cult of Mithras you can read. It is completely up to date, lavishly illustrated, very well organized and written, and thoroughly engrossing from cover to cover.

Note I said, "the Roman cult" of Mithras. While Clauss respects the giants leaps of scholarship and knowledge represented by Franz Cumont's books (over 100 years back, but still available in reprints), he rejects the idea that the Roman god Mithras is a direct carry-over from the Persian Mitra, and is careful to distinguish clearly between the two early in the book. Instead, Clauss develops the idea that Mithras was essentially a purely Roman invention, in fact originating in the city of Rome itself, and carried out to the provinces by soldiers and government clerks, officials, and the like. He makes a convincing argument, so far as this reader is concerned.

While Clauss does mention the idea in passing, he is also not presenting Ulansey's 'star-map' argument over the meaning of the Mithras cult. Instead, Clauss' focus is centered on the general worship of an all-powerful Mithras, in league with/identified with/conjoined with Sol (the sun), with the myths of Mithras' birth, his attributes and function as the creator and sustainer of all life, his achievements and their symbolic significance. The major themes are systematically explained and so far as possible analyzed; the various personalities involved in the myths are discussed, and the general worship patterns covered.

Clauss does most of this through a close examination of the mithraea discovered around the Roman world. There are dozens and dozens of photos illustrating and illuminating his discussion; further illustrations show details, or implements, or variations in iconography as occurred around the Roman Empire and over the approximately 350 years or so of active worship. Finally, Clauss covers the comparison of Mithras worship to Christianity, the degree to which the worshippers of Mithras also included the worship of various Roman and Greek gods, and how finally the Christians suppressed and extinguished the cult of Mithras. Photos of dozens of sculptures, reliefs, and votive-reliefs show how statues were decapitated, defaced, destroyed, and temples ruined.

For those interested in a relatively short, but well well written book on the Roman aspects of Mithras worship, there is no better out there now.
Mithras - why everyone should know him  Apr 25, 2007
This is a truly wonderful work, and an absolute must for anyone with an interest in the pagan mystery religions. It is such a refreshing change to read an academically rigorous work that also manages to be a riveting read.
This book provides the most reliable and informative information available on Mithras and his cult, updated to reflect recent archaeological discoveries. Widely illustrated with 124 pictures, the book covers all aspects of what is known about Mithraism, and includes chapters on The growth of the cult, The Mithraeum, Sacred Narrative, Initiation, Utensils, the , and Mithras and Other Gods, Priestly Grades, Mithras and Christ, as well as chapters setting the context for all the material. This book is an essential for every bookshelf, that rare occurrence of material presented beautifully by an expert that leaves you wiser and hungry for more.
If you have any interest whatsoever in Mithras or the development of pagan religions ... there is no hesitation when I say ...Buy it!
Difficult  Jan 4, 2007
Please do not be put off by the title of this review. I did enjoy this book. It is somewhat of a difficult read since it deals with a religion and culture which can be considered radically different from any in the present era (my opinion).

The prevailing wisdom is that Mithraism is nearly identical to Christianity.
After reading this work of Professor Manfred Clauss, you will think otherwise.

Mithraism has very little in common with Christianity. The reader will find interesting the sacred rites of Mithraism and the seven levels of it's priesthood. Mithraism has a curious history. In the second and third centuries AD it was a competitor for adherents with the various pagan religions along with Christianity. Mithraism was a religion open only to men and the elect. An adherent had to endure several initiation rites. Mithraism could also be considered an ancient secret society (in my opinion).

If you enjoy reading about the early Christian era or The Roman Empire, this book is a valuable resource.
Best on the subject - without a doubt.  Apr 15, 2006
If you are interested in Roman Gods and Goddesses, if you are interested in Mithras and his worship, if you want to read a bit of good history.... then what are you waiting for?

Clauss' writing style is academic, but not boring. A great plus ++++ His research is great and indepth, bringing together so much great information in one volume, that this book is a must read for anyone with an interest on the subject. No need to say very much more, just read the book and get on with it!
An excellent overview  Jan 8, 2004
The Roman cult of Mithras is known to us from a large collection of its cave-temples, known as Mithraea, a certain number of inscriptions from a Mithraeum, and some sculpture. In addition there are scanty references to the cult in the Christian fathers, and a handful of other references. The cult was a mystery religion, and its beliefs and rituals must be inferred from this scanty base. Wild theorisings are unfortunately common.

The entire data base was published in the early 20th century by Franz Cumont. (An English language version of his conclusions is still available). He believed Mithras to be an importation of the ancient Persian deity Mitra, doubtless influenced by descriptions of Mithras as Persian. His work remained standard until the 1970's. Since then many theories have been published -- those of David Ulansey perhaps have attracted much attention.

This book by Manfred Clauss is a careful piece of scholarship, that will be of great use to the newcomer to Mithras studies. He believes the cult was invented in Rome itself, and points out that the 3 earliest inscriptions and the first literary mention, all ca. AD90, are indisputably by people with close links to the city of Rome. The story is taken through various aspects of the cult, as illustrated from the monuments and whatever literary information is available. Parallels with Christian practise are mentioned, but Clauss dismisses the idea of influence in either direction, preferring to point out the shared heritage of oriental religion in classical times. He highlights the close relation of Mithraism with other mystery religions, and rightly is sceptical about the idea that Mithraism always involved believing the same things. Regional and temporal variants are documented.

In short, no better introduction to the subject could be devised. Richard Gordon's translation is excellent -- no hint of another language underlying it comes through --, and his choice of translations for ancient texts likewise.

The only thing that I missed was a list of all the ancient literary sources, or indication of where to find these. The illustrations are far better chosen than those of Cumont. In short, the book is a gem.


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