Mithraism - Etruscan-Tamil-Vedic Connections (Mithra, a Vedic God)


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Well , I'm conscious that my comment about the name Augustus , the month of August and their origin being from sage Agastya , may have seemed bizarre or even far-fetched to some...so , I just wanted to share a fascinating fact about the Roman Empire...

You see , the Roman Empire had it's own "state religion" and for the first 80% of it's roughly 500 year existence , the Romans followed the religion called "Mithraism" . It was only around the 4th century A.D. (about the time of the Council of Nicaea) that the Roman Empire changed it's official religion to Christianity .

Now a simple Google search will show anybody that Mithra was a Vedic God...not just that , sage Agastya is traditionally believed to be one of the illustrious sons of the Vedic God Mithra !

Regards

Sidhartha,

Well, this means that Mithra was worshipped from Italy to India, because I know that Mithra was much worshipped in Persia. And worship is the Sun God. Amazing.

Rama was well known in Rome, and there was a temple dedicated to Mars, where the spears of Mars were located on the altar.

Chers!

Yes , sure @deandddd , the Etruscan civilisation of Italy that preceded the Roman empire had some intriguing artworks related to the Ramayan epic...as for the Solar deity Mithra , even the world famous Spanish tradition of Bullfighting is derived from the cult of Mithra slaying the bull or "Tauroctony". This was of course symbolic , where the bull represented the Zodiac sign for Taurus & the Matador represented Mithra himself . Ancient Bullfighting arenas were invariably located near to subterranean Mithraeums or underground temples that were dedicated to the Vedic (also Persian) God Mithra . Such Mithraeums have even been found underground in London . One of the former French Presidents had the name of Francois "Mitterand" :-

The Ancient Roman Cult That Continues to Vex Scholars

The Mithraic Mysteries worshipped a pagan god from subterranean temples buried throughout the empire.

BY KERRY WOLFENOVEMBER 13, 2017

PLACE

Mithraeum at Santa Maria Capua Vetere

](https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/mithraeum-at-santa-maria-capua-vetere)

[

PLACE

Temple of Mithras

](https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/temple-of-mithras)

[

PLACE

The Mithraeum at Circus Maximus

](https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-mithraeum-at-circus-maximus-rome-italy)

The tauroctony in the Mithraeum at Santa Maria Capua Vetere. DOM DE FELICE/CC BY-SA 3.0

A FADED PAINTING, STILL SHOWING hints of its once-vivid hues, fills the entire back wall of an otherwise grim underground cavern in Santa Maria Capua Vetere, Italy. Sculptures and frescoes of ancient gods and cryptic celestial symbols are scattered throughout the interior. A stagnant darkness lurks within the corridor, as the lack of windows forbids any stray sunlight to penetrate the ancient cave.

This subterranean temple is just one of more than 400 such structures that have been uncovered within the vast territory once overseen by the Roman Empire. It, like the others, is a relic from a mysterious ancient religion that continues to pose a challenge to most modern scholars.

Ruins of a Mithraeum in Carrawburgh, an English settlement that once held a Roman fort along Hadrian’s Wall. JERZY KOCIATKIEWICZ/CC BY-SA 2.0

Mithraism was an underground Roman religious group that worshipped a pagan deity called Mithras. All Mithraea featured a tauroctony, an image of the god Mithras slaying a sacred bull, as its centerpiece. Though the covert religion was once so widespread some historians considered it an early rival and “sister religion” to Christianity, little is actually known for certain about it.

](https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/nine-places-to-see-the-ruins-of-ancient-religious-cults)

The secretive cosmology of Mithraism has baffled people for nearly 2,000 years. Members of the cult-like religion don’t appear to have left behind any reputable written accounts of their inner workings, and if they did, the documents have joined the many other primary historical sources lost to time. So scholars, spanning from ancient Greek and Roman writers up to modern-day academics, have been left to decode the mystery religion with the clues they’ve uncovered within the Mithraea, their underground temples. As David Ulansey writes in his book The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvatio in the Ancient World, the unexplained artwork “constitutes one of the great unsolved puzzles of classical and religious scholarship.”

But Ulasney thinks he may have solved the puzzle. According to his theory, the cult’s central iconography is a star map. The bull Mithras kills in the tauroctony is actually the zodiac Taurus. By slaying Taurus, the god is therefore responsible for shifting the precession of the equinoxes. This cosmic movement was secret knowledge shared among indoctrinated members of the ancient cult during a time when the universe was still seen as a stagnant entity.

A Mithraeum in Israel, one of over 400 scattered throughout the former Roman Empire. DENNIS JARVIS/CC BY-SA 2.0

His hypothesis is one of the few relatively recent attempts to explain the core secrets of the mysterious cult. Even the namesake of the religion is shrouded in mystery. Ancient Romans believed Mithras was based on a Persian god, though most modern scholars have since debunked this theory.

According to Ulansey, he’s actually Perseus, the Greek hero, hidden in a realm beyond the cosmos. But according to Michael Speidel, he’s actually Orion. Roger Beck argues viewers shouldn’t read the tauroctony as a star map, as there may not actually be a constellation to match Mithras. Abolala Soudavar is one of the few minds to believe Mithraism actually has Persian roots.

Yet despite these theories, modern historians and archaeologists who’ve attempted to piece together tidbits of information from Mithraic artifacts are no closer to revealing the cult’s secrets with absolute finality than the Romans were millennia ago when they dubbed the cult the “Mithraic Mysteries.” As Manfred Clauss concedes in his book The Roman Cult of Mithras: The God and His Mysteries, attempting to decipher these celestial clues, “cannot be done without making assumptions that are themselves highly speculative.”

Mithraism was originally understood as a “star cult” with strong ties to astrology and astrotheology. The zodiac symbols hint heavily at the cult’s connections with the celestial world, though what exactly those connections entailed is still a conundrum. As scholars seem to agree, cracking the code of the iconic tauroctony would likely reveal the core of the cult’s theology. But as of yet, it’s all still an educated guess.

What is known for certain is that Mithraism arose sometime during the first century, and continued spreading throughout the Empire until it eventually disbanded toward the end of the fourth century. Though archaeologists believe its epicenter was in Rome, the cult’s followers were scattered across the continent. Remains of Mithraea have been unearthed in what would have then been far-flung places including Turkey and England.

Visiting the uncovered Mithraea is the closest historians and curious travelers can get to witnessing what the long-gone initiates once experienced while hunkered within their dark, dank temples. At the London Mithraeum, which opens to the public on November 14, there’s an immersive, multi-sensory exhibit that attempts to recreate what may have happened within the temples. The curators use a blend of visual and auditory special effects to show visitors their best guess as to what a Mithraic ritual may have looked like.

After the cult disappeared, its temples were shuttered and buried, and the religion was largely forgotten until excavations in recent centuries unearthed it once more, giving modern academics a chance to piece together a puzzle ancient scholars failed to solve.

Inside the Mithraeum in Vulci, Italy. MARARIE/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Mysteries were a secretive group, its members only fully welcomed after completing seven harrowing levels of initiation which have since been linked to the planets. According to a poem written by an ancient Roman poet named Proficentius, initiates were called syndexioi, which loosely translated from Latin means they had been “united by the handshake.” Meetings were, literally, underground operations. Members gathered in dark, subterranean temples, sometimes built inside caves, to feast and worship within windowless walls adorned with religious artwork.

Most scholars believe the Mysteries were an all-male secret society. However, others, including the ancient Roman philosopher Porphyry, have proposed there may have been a few female initiates as well. The religion was popular among Roman soldiers, which could potentially explain why it became so widespread, and would also lend credence to the theory it was some sort of super secret boys’ club. In addition to soldiers, merchants, bureaucrats, and slaves all found sanctuary in the temples, brought together by a shared theology and structured social hierarchy.

A mosaic with a sword, a moon crescent, Hesperos/Phosphoros, and a pruning knife that was found within a second-century Mithraeum. MARIE-LAN NGUYEN/CC BY 2.5

The artwork that adorned the inside of the Mithraea, as well as the scrawls of graffiti etched onto the walls, provide the largest pool of information for scholars to wade through while attempting to decipher this enigmatic cult. The paintings, frescoes, and sculptures show that though Mithraism was dispersing throughout the Roman Empire during the same time period Christianity gained traction, its focus on a singular god is different from the now-prominent monotheistic religion. Unlike Christians, the mysteries didn’t look to the Heavens. Instead, they sought out the stars.

Each Mithraeum mirrors a common image of the cosmos, with Mithras at the center of it all. As Roger Beck describes in his book The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire: Mysteries of the Unconquered Sun, “The stars spill out over Mithras’ tunic, giving the god a peculiar transparency, as if he belongs both in the universe of the painted cave and in the universe of stars and planets framed by the cloak—which of course he does because the universe at all levels is his.”

In the central tauroctony, found in a Mithraeum, Mithras pins the beast to the ground, one hand firmly clutching its nostrils, the other plunging a blade into its flesh. The man and slaughtered bovine are usually accompanied by an assortment of other creatures, typically a dog, scorpion, snake, and raven, as well stars and other figures from the zodiac. Sol (god of the Sun) and Luna (goddess of the Moon) are frequently present as well.

Each tauroctony shows Mithras slaying the sacred bull. CAROLE RADDATO/CC BY-SA 2.0

The dark caverns usually contained additional scenes from Mithras’s story, such as the god feasting upon the dead bull or a youthful Mithras being born from a rock. Celestial images are abundant: they line the god’s cape on the tauroctony, surround him as he slays the bull, and may have even adorned the ceilings.

But what, exactly, does all this star-studded decor actually mean? That is, perhaps, the biggest mystery the Mysteries left behind.

Regards

Sidhartha,

One thing I'll say is that the constellation Orion is supposedd to be Rudra, Shiva, in his form as The Hunter. His celestial abode is the star Betelguese, in the stellar constellatiion Aridra, in Gemini, of which Betelguese forms a part.

He points his arrow towards Taurus the bull, so how is it that a solar deity, Mithra, is the one pointing the arrow towards the bull? These archaeologists speculate, but they have no idea about the celestial personalities or the symbolisms.

Orion is depicted in the Vedic literature as a gateway through which the souls descend to begin their earthly life and is thus called "the giver of life".

But why were these Mithreums underground? Every time something new is discovered, I get flummoxed!

When Plato spoke to the Greeks on Atlantis, he depicted the bull fighting in such a way as being synonomous with the degradation of Atlantis. The Bull was so much revered in the Vedic literature.

And I wouldn't put too much stock in the western interpretation of bull fighting. Even by the time of our known history of the Greeks, the Greeks had deviated much from their root culture, they had mixed up the celestial personalities, and the folklore.

Cheers!

@deandddd , here is where things become really fascinating....the phrase "Bull's Eye" or "Eye of the Bull" has very deep esoteric meaning and refers to the highly mysterious star "Aldebaran" hmmm....and guess where it is located ??!! In the Taurus constellation , of course - where else ?!

So , the Tauroctony of Mithra slaying the bull is all based on profound cosmic symbolism , it was NOT meant to be interpreted literally , as such a violent act :))

Regards

Regarding Etruscan, did you previously see Harry Hubbard's and Paul Schaffranke's video on this?:
(YouTube Video Link)

It's a shame they never made part 2. Apparently they felt it was too difficult or involved for most people to follow. So terribly sad.

Very interesting , @Soretna , thanks for sharing . Also , here is a view of how the ancient Etruscan civilisation of Italy depicted scenes from the Ramayan epic :-

THE RAMAYANA AND THE ROOTS OF PRE-CHRISTIAN CIVILIZATION OF ITALY

Long before the days of the rise of the Roman Empire, Italy was home to the Etruscans - a people far more advanced in civilization than the later Romans.

Scholars are of the opinion that the Etruscans were a seafaring people from Asia Minor. As early as 1200 B.C. they were living in Italy covering an area equivalent to modern Tuscany. They later embraced a large part of western Italy, including Rome. They were the forebearers of the Romans and lived in this region up to the beginning of their Roman conquest in 300 B.C.

The Romans intentionally obliterated the memories of this great civilization. The Etruscans vanished from recorded history, leaving behind them a vast treasure of sculpture with largely un-deciphered inscriptions, paintings and artifacts.

Legend states that at the beginning of the Etruscan Age, the city of Rome was founded by the twin sons of the war God Mars. Their names were Romulus and Remus. The boys had been abandoned by their divine father and Etruscan mother and were reared in the forest by a she-wolf. This is a slightly different version of the story of the Hindu epic Ramayana where the divine king Sri Rama abandons Sita and his twin sons, Luva and Kusha. The two boy were reared by their mother and Rishi Valmiki in his forest ashram.

In the Etruscan legend, the twins are raised by a she-wolf in the forest, but that probably emerges from a confusion between the Sanskrit terms 'rishi' (ऋषि) which means a 'sage' and the Sanskrit 'vriki' (वृकी) which means a 'she-wolf'. The fame of Sri Rama had already traversed west from India by the time of the Etruscans. A treasure trove of Etrsucan paintings bears out this argument.

Here is a look at the Etruscan paintings, artefacts and sketches. First a look at this sketch which has had historians baffled. If ever a picture spoke a thousand words, this is the one:

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An Etruscan sketch that has baffled western historians...

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.. and the Ramayana painting that
decodes the Etruscan sketch....

In one shot the Etruscan sketch, which for sure depicts Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana establishes that the fame and influence of Sri Rama was powerful enough to have reached the Western horizon. Throughout the Ramayana, Sri Rama is addressed as 'arya' (आर्य) , Sanskrit for 'the noble one'. There never was an 'Aryan' race. It was the aryan culture and customs, that travelled from India towards the West as it did towards the Far-east, along with the emigrants.

Sri Rama was born in Ayodhya in India not a year later than 5118 BC. The exact planetary positions at the time of his birth, recorded in the Valmiki Ramayana, have not occurred in the skies since 5118 BC - as proven by the Nasa Planetarium Software. For more on this subject click here.

There is more evidence that proves that the influence of Sri Rama and Indian ethos and culture had reached Etruria. The following painting of the Etruscan God 'Typhon' looks like another representation of Hanuman flying down Mount Rishabha from the Himalayas, on which grew the wonderful life restoring herb - the 'sanjivini bhuti'.

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Etruscan Typhon

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Sri Hanuma of Ramayana flies
down Mt. Rishabha

An Etruscan artefact depicts the scene of Sugreeva and Bali, the two vanara or monkey- chiefs, with Tara who was the wife of Bali:

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An ancient Etruscan vase depicts Sugreeva
and Bali, the monkey-chiefs vie for Tara

Another Etruscan artefact seems to depict the scene of the aswamedha yagya where Luv and Kush capture the yagya horse. In the Etruscan mythology Luva and Kusha were known as Romulus and Remus. It was common for some one to have his father's (or mother's) name reflected in his or her name, for example Sri Rama was addressed as Dasarath Putra, Sri Krishna was known as Devaki Nandan, the examples are numerous. It is therefore obvious that Luv and Kush were also addressed as the sons of Rama - hence Romulus and Remus.

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The twins Luv and Kush and
the 'asvamedha yagya' horse
of the Ramayana

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This Etruscan sketch has been interpreted with the
help of Ramayana. Kaushalya and Kaikeyi,
the two queens of King Dasratha share the

payasam or potion with Sumitra.

The features of the Etruscan men and women, especially their large eyes, and the attire were distinctly Asian as is evident from the many paintings and sculpture artifacts of the time.

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The large eyes are a feature of
Hindu Gods and Goddesses

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The covered head and the sari like garment
has Hindu influence

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Notice the sari like attire in this Etruscan painting


Could this Etruscan sketch be a depiction of the abduction of Sita by Ravana. Centre: Notice the dead deer 'Marich' and a tussle between Ravana and Sita. On the right Ravana takes Sita to Lanka via the aerial-route depicted by the winged-horse. Left: Is the bird 'Jatayu' who is slain by Ravana?

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In this Etruscan sculpture the attire is Indian
and so is the posture of the dancer/performer

Etruscan jewellery too seems to have borrowed from and much influenced by the Indian civilization.

As was common to most ancient civilizations, cremation of the dead was the accepted form of the disposal of the body. It was post the advent of Christianity that cremation was rejected along with other Pagan customs.

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Notice the Garuda like winged-creature on the right. In Vedic scriptures Garuda's father was Rishi Kashyapa who had two wives Vinata and Kadru. In Etruscan mythology Charu or Karun was the guide of the souls of underworld often portrayed along with the winged goddess Vanth. In the Hindu tradition Garuda had the powers to remove all evils from the body. This sketch seems to portray the cremation
ceremony. Notice the priest at the funeral pyre.

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Sri Garuda, the winged Hindu God.
The garuda Purana describes the funeral
ceremony and the after world.

The ancient Etruscan houses were built around a central courtyard, much as the houses in India were. Etruscan temples were always elevated and had to be entered by climbing steps which is exactly as it was in India.

Regards

1 Like

Sidhartha,

This last article on the Etruscans is so good, you can post one like that everyday!

Cheers!

@deandddd , great to know you liked it !

I truly believe such stories need to be told , else given the nature of the times we live in , they maybe lost forever - that would be very sad for humanity .

Regards

1 Like

Sidhartha,

Well, there are some details that I would take issue with, although the raw data, so to speak, is incredible.

For example, I don't think that Vedic society stretched itself over to the Etrusccans and implated itself so deeply. Atlantis was founded by the celestial Varuna, Poseidon, and had a colony in southern Spain, Tartesseos, according to Plato. And Plato tellls that when there were these tremors in the Atlantis region, many made their way north to the Maediterranean shores, North and South, which in fact, reinforced that Atlantean population. Thit puts an Atlantean population, descendant of Varuna/Poseidon, next door to the Etruscans. According to Plato, these Atlanteans that that escaped Atlantis, made it way along the northern Mediterranean shores as far as what we know as eastern Turkey. And the Etruscans occupied northern Italy. The Etruscans were probably a drop-off population that stayed at that point.

Cheers!

By "Vedic Society" I mean the Hindus from India. The video tells it like that. But the influence of the Vedic culture, the culture of the celestials, reached southern Europe from Atlantis.

But there were pockets all around. For example, Plato tells that the Goddess Athena founded Athens in Greece. (She was Saraswati of the Hindus) So that was another pocket of celestial culture. Atlantis by Poseidon, Athens by Saraswati. And there were others.

But the Etruscans had much Atlantean influence.

Cheers!

You know @deandddd , absolutely concrete proof for such theories , may actually reside in the secret underground vaults of the Smithsonian Institution , or the basement of the Vatican...we have only limited access to the "hard evidence" , so my attempt is to "triangulate" basis of the scraps of information that can be accessed , about ancient history .

**Quite strangely , the Roman empire prospered and grew as long as they were following Mithraism (for about the first 400 years) , it declined very rapidly afterwards . Finally , it was the Hun invasions of the 5th century A.D. , which dealt a death blow to that great empire .

By the way , here is a good look at the underground London Mithraeum (now a Museum) , which goes to show just how widespread the Pagan cult of Mithraism was in ancient Europe . It also explains why exactly Mithraeums were built underground - Mithra , "The God of Light" , was himself supposed to have been born in a dark , subterranean cave...hmm !

Visiting the London Mithraeum - Going Underground in Ancient Londinium

London, the proud capital of the United Kingdom, is visited by millions of tourists every year and is famous for its rich history and historical landmarks. Magnificent castles, medieval prisons, art and history museums as well as countless opportunities for shopping and good food make visitors feel that there is always something new to explore - even if you stay for weeks. For many visitors to London, and the UK in general, the history of medieval kings and queens are of particular interest, and the Tower of London is a must-visit for every first-timer in London. However, the city of London has a much more ancient origin, stretching back centuries before Henry VIII and his six wives, and traces of this forgotten world can still be seen in several places in the city. In this article, we will explore the ancient underground temple known as the London Mithraeum.

London Tauroctony
London Tauroctony
Carole Raddato (CC BY-NC-SA)

Londinium, as the city was called in ancient times, was founded by the Romans after they conquered the island in 43 CE and became one of the most important towns in Roman Britain. One of the best-preserved sites from this time is the London Mithraeum, an underground temple dedicated to Mithras, a divinity brought to Britain through the Roman world from the easternmost part of the empire. The Temple of Mithras is located in the heart of the City of London, in a museum called Bloomberg SPACE, which is in the building housing Bloomberg’s European headquarters.

Londinium & Mithraism

After the Roman emperor Claudius (r. 41- 54 CE) and his legions conquered the part of the British Isles now known as England, a settlement called Londinium was established along the shores of the River Thames, as well as a bridge giving access from the land to the south of the river. The settlement expanded rapidly from the late part of the 1st century CE and became the biggest city in Roman Britain and an important commercial port. During the Roman period (up to the 5th century CE) a lot of changes took place in British society and culture including engineering and architecture, politics, trade and religion and spiritual practice. The change in religious practice included adaptations of new gods and goddesses included in the Roman pantheon, but also other divinities from other parts of the empire. Of these, archaeologists have found remains of a temple dedicated to Isis, the Egyptian goddess and Mithras the Persian sun God and “Lord of Light”.

THE MITHRAEUM IN LONDON WAS BUILT AROUND 240 CE ON THE SITE WHERE THE MUSEUM NOW IS, ON THE BANKS OF THE WALBROOK RIVER.

The cult of Mithras first appeared in Rome during the 1st century CE and spread throughout the empire. To modern scholars, the cult is still steeped in mystery as very few written records of the faith and procedures are available. What is known is a patchwork of archaeological finds and some writings by Christian writers.

The cult of Mithras was the most prominent of the new oriental religious movements to be established in Britain during the Roman era, and Mithraea (sanctuaries to Mithras) have been found in London, Carrawburgh, Inveresk, Caerleon, and Segontium. The cult, for males only, originated in Persia and involved the worship of the sun-god Mithras. Mithraism was an exclusive cult where the members had to possess the same qualities as Mithras of physical stamina and endurance, and it seems also that the members were mainly from the higher ranks of society; army officers and rich merchants. It is also believed that the members of the cult were concerned with astrology, and idols and figures of the different zodiac signs are found in the mithraeums. Mithras legacy was that he wrestled the great divine bull. He was sent by the Iranian creator-god Ahura Mazada to slay the bull in a cave, and succeeding in doing so Mithras, with the help of the bull’s blood, revitalized the earth and humankind.

London Mithraeum
London Mithraeum
Carole Raddato (CC BY-NC-SA)

In the first centuries CE Mithraism was, by Roman Christians, seen as a dangerous competitor, as they were both monotheistic religions celebrating the sun/son sent by the creator God to bring salvation and guide and teach people the right path. However, there was one distinct difference - Mithraism was a dualistic religion, and while some Christian sects, such as the Gnostics, were also dualistic, the Roman church that triumphed as the “victorious” church was strictly monotheistic where no evil god was equally powerful and independent as the creator god. Mithras was the god of light, but he also encompassed some of the darkness of the universe in him.

THE TAUROCTONY DEPICTS THE SCENE WHERE MITHRAS SLAYS THE BULL - THIS IS THE CENTRAL ICON OF THE CULT

Mithras was, for example, born in a dark subterranean cave, which is symbolized in many of the Mithraea that were sunken into the ground. In these subterranean temples, the sacred rites were held in darkness only lit by candlelight. The Mithraeum in London was built on the site where the museum now is, on the banks of the Walbrook river around 240 CE – and was abandoned sometime during the fall of the Roman Empire (5th century CE)

A Sacred Site Under the Bloomberg Building

The temple to Mithras in London is amongst the best-preserved in Britain, and the site is finally open to visitors after many years of conservation and research. The site was first discovered in the 1954 CE during digging and conservation work done on a building bombed during WWII. Parts of the temple and artefacts have been on display previously, but now the majority of the remains and objects are back in the original place and can be experienced as close as possible to how it must have been almost 2000 years ago.

Artifacts from the London Mithraeum
Artifacts from the London Mithraeum
Wanda Marcussen (CC BY-NC-SA)

The museum is an inspirational concept where the owners of the overlying building have taken it upon them to preserve the site and make it accessible to the general public. This has led to the museum having free entry (although you have to book a time slot for entry) and a modern museum with the newest from visualization technology. A surprisingly well-working combination of ancient history, business and technology!

You enter the museum on the ground floor of the tall office building, and it feels more like you are about to enter a business meeting than a site buried in the ground for millennia. After entering the museum space, the first thing you can study is a wall exhibiting several Roman artefacts found on the site. Amongst these are pots, writing tablets - some of the oldest found in Britain, mosaics, coins and so on. You can learn more about the specific items and their history by making use of one of the many tablets available to visitors. Worksheets are also available for children, making this museum a fun experience for the whole family!

London Mithraeum Museum
London Mithraeum Museum
Wanda Marcussen (CC BY-NC-SA)

When you have studied the objects and learned a bit more about life in Roman Londinium, you walk down the steps and descend to the mid-level of the museum. Here you can learn more about the cult of Mithras by studying the reconstruction of three central objects from the site; a model of the Mithraeum ruins, the tauroctony and the head of Mithras.

The tauroctony depicts the scene where Mithras slays the bull and this is the central icon of the cult. In the scene, Mithras is turning his head away as he slays the bull, and scholars still debate whether the scene depicts a battle or a sacrifice. This scene and icon would have been an important part of the main altar of the Mithraeum - the original sculpture is now on display at the Museum of London.

Head of Mithras
Head of Mithras
Carole Raddato (CC BY-SA)

The reconstruction of the head of Mithras is based on a sculpture found on the site in 1954 CE (now on display at the Museum of London). The head of the young god is believed to have been part of a larger sculpture depicting the bull-slaying scene. As in most imagery, Mithras wears his soft conical 'Phrygian cap', which originated in Phrygia (now Turkey).

Well at the London Mithraeum
Well at the London Mithraeum
Wanda Marcussen (CC BY-NC-SA)

Studying the model of the temple (the original is also at the Museum of London) created by an archaeologist during the excavation also brings more insight into the mystical site. The temple consisted of a central nave and side aisles, separated by seven pairs of columns. Some have suggested that the columns represent the seven grades of initiation into the cult: Raven, Male Bride, Soldier, Lion, Persian, Courier of the Sun and Father. At the end of the nave was the altar with the tauroctony icon. You can also see the outline of a well that was located in one of the side aisles. The well provided water for rituals and ceremonies and is one of the few surviving ceremonial features at the site.

LITTLE IS KNOWN ABOUT THE ACTUAL RELIGIOUS PRACTICE IN THE TEMPLE, BUT IT MOST LIKELY INCLUDED VOTIVE OFFERING, FEASTS & PURIFYING RITUALS.

Finally, it is time to visit the temple. When you are ready, the museum hosts will let you in in smaller groups every 20 minutes. Entering the temple, it is complete darkness. Then an interactive sequence begins to play, meant to stimulate your different senses to feel as though you have travelled 1800 years back in time. As the sequence begins the ritual greeting between the pater (father) and the cult members can be heard, while the light is gradually being turned on. In front of you, the ruins of the temple become increasingly more visible as you are left with the feeling of truly visiting a subterranean sacred temple.

The Mithraeum in London
The Mithraeum in London
Wanda Marcussen (CC BY-NC-SA)

When the sequence is finished you are free to walk around and explore the site and study the features you learned about previously in the museum. Little is known about the actual religious practice in the temple, but it most likely included votive offering, feasts, and purifying rituals. It is believed that the feasts and rituals were elaborate and some of the members might have worn special clothing and possibly masks. When standing in the temple only the imagination limits the visions of what rituals might have taken place here underground almost 2000 years ago.

London Stone
London Stone
Wanda Marcussen (CC BY-NC-SA)

The London Stone

After visiting the London Mithraeum, on your way to lunch or maybe a visit to the Tower of London, there is one more mysterious artefact you should see before leaving the area and one not so often visited by tourists. Just around the corner from the Bloomberg building, on Cannon Street, you can see the London Stone. The stone’s origin is unknown, but its importance as a landmark throughout London’s long history is almost incomparable, especially when thinking about the simplicity of the stone. Historians and scientists alike have failed to trace the stone's original purpose, but a myriad of legends are connected with this oolitic limestone - amongst others that its “survival” and protection is crucial for the continued existence of the city itself.

Regards

Folks , for those who maybe interested in exploring it further , this ancient mystery only deepens further because the ancients believed Mithra had a virgin birth on the winter Solstice , 25th December...I get a sense that some of the secret societies of the Western world have retained certain elements of the Mithraic mysteries , as even referenced in the Da Vinci Code :-

Mithra, god of the sun, was born on December 25, day of the winter solstice

On the night of 24 to 25 December it is celebrated in the West the birth of Christ. But it was not always so and today it is not in the whole Christian world; until the fourth century it was celebrated on January 6 and it continues so in the east, among the Orthodox.

The winter solstice occurs on December 25th; It is the time when in the northern hemisphere the days are shorter and the nights are longest. But from this moment the day begins to grow and "dies natalis solis invicti"the birthday of the unconquered sun", is celebrated on this day .

That invincible sun is the god Mithra, whose worship and devotion competed with Christianity with which has certain similarities.

I have dedicated an article to this issue in this blog: http://www.antiquitatem.com/en/christ-was-born-before

I also spent another comment on some aspects of ritual and celebration of our Christmas, including the episode called "Three Kings".

Mithraism and Christianity have many similarities and many differences. This is demonstrated by some Christian parents and polemicists, who curiously give us often many details of these secret or semi-secret religions of salvation . Otherwise Christianity also takes elements from religion and worship of Isis and Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, Attis, Dionysus.

To explain the coexistence of similarities and differences we must imagine the spiritual and religious environment of imperial Rome in which there are all religions and rites with which they are encountered in their imperial progress and also the popular atmosphere is very conducive to the development of religions and inimical to atheistic positions.

Reference may be able the current environment of some American cities where all kinds of religions and sects, mixture of rites and various ideas, emerge.

Note: syncretism is called the phenomenon of mixing, assimilation, fusion of diverse elements into one. The word comes from the Greek συγκρητισμός, synkretismos, consisting of συν- prefix syn, with, together, at once, and perhaps the κεραννυμι, kerannymi, verb, meaning to mix. Or maybe, as Plutarch explains in his Moralia, on Brotherly love ( De amore fraterno), 19, relates to Crete and its practice of joining all Cretans against the common enemy. This is an interesting etymology I will try in an exclusive article.

Mithra Is a Persian god at least 4,000 years old. Its existence has to be before the separation of Hindus and Persians, because this god exists in the Vedic pantheon of India and exists in the Medo-Persian religion, then developing a different evolution. In India he diluted, he was accentuated in Persia and he was prominent in the mysteries of Roman times. His primitive holy book is the Avesta.

It is characteristic of this religion the existence of an absolute dualism: there were two opposing gods, Ahura-Mazda, the god of good and heaven, and Ahriman, god of darkness and hell. In between there is a mediator, Mithra, benefactor and protector of men.

The Mithra of Persia is many centuries later spread throughout the Roman Empire, first accompanying the Roman legions, also led by officials and merchants, among whose members will quickly settled.
But to get here it underwent many changes and contamination. First the original Persian religion and primitive rites were reformed by Zarathustra, whom the Greeks called Zoroaster, leading to Zoroastrianism. It was very also affected by the religion of Babylon and the various peoples of Mesopotamia, and impregnated with astrology, it is also spread throughout Asia Minor, it came into contact with Jews and other Semitic peoples, it influenced and in turn it was affected by Greek philosophy, taking helena form, etc.

In many cases their gods were identified with Asian or Greek gods: Ormazd or Ahuramazda with Zeus, Hades with Ahriman, etc. Mithra remains as such because he has no equivalent in the Greek pantheon. That is, Mazdeism is also an example of syncretimus.

Mithraism spread throughout the empire in the early centuries of the Empire accompanying especially the soldiers. Precisely the religious life of the devotee of Mithras is conceived as a militia and way of perfection. It is no wonder that it had remarkable success among the legionaries. An essential factor, of course, was the favor of the emperors, whose tendencies to deification and justification of power by divinity, grew stronger the Oriental Mithraic beliefs.

Testing the extension and development of this cult it is for example the existence of many kings of the area called Mithridates: Pontus, Parthia, Cappadocia, Armenia.

The mithraea or temples of Mitra appear throughout the empire, particularly associated with Roman legions camps. In Rome there were several, perhaps the greatest it is under the church of San Clemente near the Colosseum.

Mithraism disappeared, but their beliefs into two antagonistic powers that dominate the universe, good and evil, light and darkness, remained in Manichaeism and other beliefs as bogomilism, in the Cathars or Albigensians.

Even the Zoroastrianism still occurs in the small community of Parsis, ancient Persians who migrated to the India. See you: http://www.antiquitatem.com/en/exposure-of-corpses-burial-cremation-

Between Mithraism and Christianity there are great similarities in the doctrinal aspect and in the ritual and consequently there was a strong rivalry, which triumphantly came out Christianity from the fourth century, but as at the time the French philologist, philosopher and writer Renan (1823-1892) said in his book "Marcus Aurelius", 579,:

If Christianity had been checked in its growth by some deadly disease, the world would have become Mithraic.”

It is impossible to make a detailed study of the multiple similarities and therefore I will only to point out the most important.

In the doctrinal aspect, both are religions of salvation and mystery because they promise an eternal life of happiness after death to believer; only initiates participate of the rites, which are secret. Mithra is the intermediary between heaven and hell, between the realms of good and evil. He is the representative of Ahura-Mazda on earth who protects us men from demonic forces of Ahriman. Mithra is the "light of the world", symbol of truth, justice, loyalty. He is also called the "judge of souls" which purified ascend to heaven. Mithra is the heavenly father who receive them in their heavenly mansion. They firmly believe in heaven and hell, survival and resurrection of the body after death, punishment and reward; benevolent God will do justice to the righteous who will grant eternal salvation day of reckoning, when the triumph of light over darkness will definitely occur.

It is also a religion with great moral content, self-control, resistance to sensuality, in which the devotee has to travel a path of purification of seven degrees, until the Father, which is perfect as Mithra, and must to fight the forces of evil. In this struggle he will have the help of Mithra.

This type of religion in which there are no one god but several, though only one of them is superior to the other and the only worthy of worship, it is technically called henotheism them, from the Greek εἷς, ἕν, heis, hen one, and θεός, god, theos, and –ism, one god.

The similarities of the rites of both religions are very striking.

The cult of Mithras is made in natural or manufactured caves but with some element to remember the cave origin, called mithraea, indicating that its origin is very primitive. In Latin it it is called spelaeum, specus, spelunca (Speleology or study of caves derives from this word), antrum. Precisely the birth of Christ, which the popular devotion placed in a "portal" in the West, in the East it is often presented in a cave. In them the image of Mithra taurocton or “slaughtering bulls” ( after the Greek word tauroktonos (ταυροκτόνος; from Latin taurus, bull and Greek κτείνω, kteino, slaughter, kill) appears as the central iconographic motif.

The great feast of the birth of Mithra is celebrated, of course, the day of the winter solstice, December 25.
The centerpiece is the sacrifice, without that implies that a bull was sacrificed really. Alfred Loisy in his book “The pagan Mysteries and the Christian mystery” tells us: "What is shown is the sacrifice of the bull as the beginning of the blessed life promised to initiate and of virtue that is in the sacred banquet for obtaining that immortality "

Within Mithraic iconography, the image certainly the best known is the taurocton Mitra who presided certainly the sacred space of mithraeum.

I take the exact words of Alfred Loisy to describe it, in a good example of ekphrasis.

Note: écfrasis or ekphrasis, from Greek ἔκφρασις, 'to explain to the end. An ekphrasis, according to rhetoric and classical tradition, is a verbal description, in words, of a work of visual art, a painting or a sculpture):

"… The bull is in a cave, brought down, lying on the ground, the front legs bent over the body, the rear extended; Mithra is on the animal, left knee bent, right leg extended on the right hind leg of the bull; with the left hand lifts the snout of the animal, whose head turns toward the sky, and with his right hand a large knife stabs at birth neck. Mitra himself has his head turned, as if looking behind him, and often with a singular expression of sadness. Generally a crow, left, leans toward him; often in the left corner there is the figure of the sun, to the right of the moon; Below there is a dog which sheds on the blood gushing from the wound, and also a serpent; a scorpion takes the testicles of the expiring beast with its claws and it bites them with its tail; sometimes an ant I also involved; or below the bull there is a crater with a lion which seems to look or drink in it, while on the other side, the snake seems to do the same. On each side there is a young, one, Cautes, with a raised torch; and the other, Cautopatés, with a given torch back, both dresses and hairstyles as Mithra. One last thing that should not be the least important: the bull's tail, raised, ends in a bunch of spikes; There are also monuments in which from wound of bull ears instead of blood spring. These ears are what give meaning to the scene, or it is superfluous look for it. (Alfred Loisy: Los misterios paganos y el misterio cristiano, pág. 139. Ed.Paidos. Barcelona, 1990)

Tout le monde connaît le type de Cette représentation : dans une caverne, le taureau dompté, tombé à terre, les jambes de devant pliées sous lui, celles de derrière étôndiies; Mithra sur la bête, lé genou gauche plié, la jambe droite allongée sut la cuisse droite du taureau; de la main gâuche il soulevé les
naseaux de l'animal, dont la tête se tourne vers le ciel, et de la main droite il lui enfonce, au défaut de l'épaule, un long Coutelas; Mithra lui-même a la tête tournée, comme regardant derrière lui, et souvent avec une singulière expression de tristesse; ordinairement un corbeau, à gauche. Se penche dé sôft côté; souvent, dans l'angle à gauéhe est la flgute du Soléil, a droite celle de la Lune; en bas, se jetant vers le sang qui jaillît de la blessure, est un chien, aussi un serpent; un scorpion pince les testicules de la bêté expifànte et les pique dé sa queue; une fourmi quelquefois se met aussi de la fête; ou bien, au-dessous du laureau, un cratère est représenté, un lion a l'air de le garder ou d'y boire, tandis que d'autre part, lé serpent a mine d'en faire autant; de chaque côté, un Jéune homme, l'un, Caulès, avec une torche levée, l'autré, Càutopatès, avec une torche renversée, tous deux vêtus et coiffés comme Mithra; dernier détail, qui ne doit pas être le moins important, la queue du taureau, relevée, se terminé en toufle d'épis ; on signale même dés monuments où ce sont des épis qui jaillissent, au lieu de sang, dé là blèsssure du taureau’. Ce sont ces épis-là qui donnent le mot de la scène, ou bien il est superflu de le chercher.
(Alfred Loisy: Les mystères paíens et le mystère chrétien)

In this iconographic ensemble there is represented the Avestan myth of the slain at the origin bull, from whose wound the plants emerged and from their offspring the species of farm animals born; Mithra killed the bull.

The representation of the sacrifice of the bull is a symbol and remembrance of the sacrifice of the primeval animal (it was the first living creature that was created by Ahura-Mazda) and cosmic animal that gave rise to life to men. The death of the bull is a symbol of the new year and salvation in the hereafter. So on the mithraeum of Aventine in Rome man reads " You saved men by the shedding of eternal blood."

Another essential element of Mithraic ritual is the celebration of the banquet or Eucharist, where they ate the bread and drank the holy water, which at one point was wine, substitute of the original drink fruit of the poisonous plant of homa, equivalent to "soma "or Hindu sacred drink.

Also an essential element in the rite is baptism or purification by water that the devotee must to perform in one of the seven steps, and the signal (signatio) in front in the so-called step "Soldier".

There are many other similarities in theology and ritual we can not comment on this article, such as the clothing of the priests, the initiation ceremony called "sacramentum" because it is a similar sort of oath to the military oath soldiers, the touch of chimes at some point of religious service and so on.

These similarities drew wide attention of the early church fathers, who polemicise sharply with the Mithraists. Indeed most of the details of these rituals we know from the description which the Christian parents make .

Tertullian is the son of a centurion and he is connoisseur of the Mithraists rites. Certainly he, impressed by the similarities, only finds an explanation for the many coincidences: these rites and this religion is the work of the devil who is interested in discrediting and extinguish the Christian religion.

Read what he says in his work:

TERTULLIAN's PRESCRIPTION AGAINST HERETICKS, 40

But lastly, from whence (I pray) comes that Interpretation which is the immediate cause of Heresies ? From the devil most certainly, whose grand affair it is to corrupt the truth; and who in his idolatrous mysteries pretends to imitate the sacred rites of the true Religion. He in his turn too baptizes some, namely his own disciples and followers; by washing he promises a purgation from sin, and if I yet remember, Mithra signs his soldiers in their foreheads; he makes an oblation of bread, puts on the form of the resurrection, and withal he crowns them with a mimick martyrdom. To this also may be added, that his chief priest is the husband of one wife, that he hath his virgins and his continentes. But if we look back upon the superstitions of Numa Pompilius; if we take a view of the sacerdotal offices, the marks of honour, and the privileges; if we reflect upon the sacrifical performances, the Instruments and vessels for sacrifices, the variety of vows, and the numerous expiations, we shall manifestly see, that the devil hath had in his eye throughout the whole Institution the scrupulous nicety of imitating the Jewish Law. It is he who hath affected so exactly to express the rites wherewith the Christian sacraments are administered; It is he (I say) that makes use of the same artifice in corrupting the instruments of divine truth and of Christianity, by drawing one sense from another, taking words from words, parables from parables, and adapting all to a profane faith, which bears some faint, some languid resemblance to the true. And therefore no one has any reason to doubt, but that these spiritual wickednesses, from whence Heresies proceed, have sprung from the devil, and that they differ not from idolatry, feeing they both have their rise from the same author, and are both of a like nature. For either heretics feign another od in opposition to the Creator, or if they confess and acknowledge one Creator, they do not allow him these perfections which are truly and properly his; and therefore every lye they tell of god is a species of idolatry. (Translated by Joseph Betty. 1722)

De praescriptione haereticorum, 40

XL. [1] Sed quaeritur, a quo intellectus interuertatur eorum quae ad haereses faciant? [2] A diabolo scilicet, cuius sunt partes interuertendi ueritatem qui ipsas quoque res sacramentorum diuinorum idolorum mysteriis aemulatur. [3] Tingit et ipse quosdam utique credentes et fideles suos;
expositionem delictorum de lauacro repromittit, [4] et si adhuc memini Mithrae, signat illic in frontibus milites suos. Celebrat et panis oblationem et imaginem resurrectionis inducit et sub gladio redimit coronam. [5] Quid, quod et summum pontificem in unis nuptiis statuit? Habet et uirgines, habet et continentes. [6] Ceterum si Numae Pompilii superstitiones reuoluamus, si sacerdotalia officia et insignia et priuilegia, si sacrificantium ministeria et instrumenta et uasa,
ipsorum sacrificiorum
ac piaculorum et uotorum curiositates consideremus, nonne manifeste diabolus morositatem illam Iudaicae legis imitatus est? [7] Qui ergo ipsas res de quibus sacramenta Christi administrantur, tam aemulanter adfectauit exprimere in negotiis idololatriae, utique et idem et eodem ingenio gestiit et potuit instrumenta quoque diuinarum rerum et sanctorum christianorum, sensum de sensibus, uerba
de uerbis, parabolas de parabolis, profanae et aemulae fidei attemperare. [8] Et ideo neque a diabolo inmissa esse spiritalia nequitiae, ex quibus etiam haereses ueniunt, dubitare quis debet, neque ab idololatria distare haereses cum et auctoris et operis eiusdem sint, cuius et idololatria.
[9] Deum aut fingunt alium aduersus creatorem aut si unicum creatorem confitentur, aliter eum disserunt quam
in uero est. [10] Itaque omne mendacium quod de Deo dicunt, quoddammodo genus est idololatriae.

Similarly Justin expressed himself , also impressed by the similarities of the Christian Eucharist with the Mithraic, including the formulas of consecration, for which, as Tertullian, no other explanation is that the intervention of the devil. So after explaining what the Eucharist is, tells us in Apologia, 1. 66:

CHAP. LXVI.—Of the Eucharist.

For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of me,[136] this is my body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is my blood;" and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn. (Translated by Marcus Dods)

In short, as Loisy says: "The Mysteries of Mithra were a great religion"

All these historical issues have been extensively studied since the late nineteenth century and they are known, but generally they do not reach the public because the authorities and the responsible religious or not know or do not want to know, and much less to transmit to the faithful, whom they should consider not ready to know the historical truth.

So it causes so much commotion and distress the statements of hierarchy as simple as that performed by Pope John Paul II on December 21, 1993, when he acknowledged that Christmas Day replaced the pagan festival of the Invincible Sun, which coincided with the solstice Winter. The media news were echo of that and we can easily locate it in anywhere hemeroteca.

Note: hemeroteca, from Greek hemera (Ἡμέρα), day and theke (θήκη), wardrobe, safe deposit, in which news data and magazines are stored.

The declaration of the successor of John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI caused no less surprise and dismay among the faithful devotees, when in November of 2012 he published the book “The childhood of Jesus”, which he recognizes the error of the calendar to set the date of birth of Jesus or he claims that the iconographic elements of birth of Jesus, as the accompaniment of the mule and ox, are mere ornaments of tradition and they have nothing to do with historical reality. This suppression of these animals disoriented many citizens practicing religion with apparent naivete.

Well, back to the topic of Mithraism, I will say that Franz Cumont (1868-1947), historian and philologist Belgian, put the basis of historical studies about this religion. He published a huge documentary work about that. He, having been a teacher university for several years, was rejected as a professor at the University of Ghent by Catholic education minister. The fact caused a huge media and student campaign to reject the interference of religion in college.

Another great specialist in the study of the history of the mystery religions was Alfred Loisy (1857-1940), theologian and French priest, contemporary of Cumont. He is considered the founder of modern biblical studies. He soon came into conflict with the Vatican, which excommunicated him in 1908 and his books were being included each year in the index. The Second Vatican Council rehabilitated him implicitly and partially . His work “Les païens Mystères and the chrétien Mystère” was published in 1919, but in Spanish it was not until 1967, outside of Spain, of course, entitled The pagan mysteries and the Christian mystery; in Spain was reprinted in 1990. In 1909 he was appointed professor at the prestigious French College (Collège de France) where he taught and researched for many years.

They are really exciting few paragraphs of the preface to the first edition in which we can discover the consciousness of a man who using the method of history has discovered what he believes to be the truth, but whose publication must certainly cause novelty; he, fearing an unexpected death, believes it is his duty to publish the historical truth that he has found, but it is aware of the need to keep expanding and showing that information.

I transcribe these paragraphs as an example of the difficulties that not long ago and even today, the historians find, but they they should only serve historical truth that the texts transmitted to them:

Life is short, and when man feels the yours as eminently fragile, man has, perhaps, the right to say without much delay what he has been believed grasp of truth. An in-depth and thorough of all testimony concerning the pagan mysteries and Christian origins discussion could absorb many stocks, and man is not required at all, no doubt, to be silent about it, waiting for a generation of scholars have thoroughly scrutinized all details.

It is also possible to ask whether it is absolutely essential to have exhausted the question to know what to expect on essential points. Moreover, as it relates to Christian origins, knowledge of the texts is not all and the total independence of judgment is important. The texts are known and studied from a long time, but criticism hardly differs from the faith, whose oldest documents are those texts. Addressing them without theological or polemical interest is undoubtedly condition to understand them well from the standpoint of the history. Well, this condition can still to be, at present, a great novelty.

La vie est courte, et, lorsqu'on sent la sienne éminemment fragile, on a peut-être le droit de dire sans trop de retard ce que Von a cru saisir de vérité. Une discussion approfondie et minutieuse de tous les témoignages concernant les mystères païens et les origines chrétiennes pourrait absorber plusieurs existences, et Von n'est point sans doute obligé de se taire sur le sujet en attendant qu'une génération d'érudits en ait minutieusement scruté tous les détails . Il est permis aussi de se demander s'il
est absolument indispensable d'avoir épuisé la question pour savoir à quoi s'en tenir sur les points essentiels. D'ailleurs, en ce qui regarde les origines chrétiennes, la connaissance des textes
n'est pas tout, et tindépendance entière du jugement a son importance. Les textes sont connus et étudiés depuis longtemps, mais la critique est à peine dégagée de la foi dont ces textes sont les plus anciens documents. Les aborder sans aucun intérêt théologique ou polémiqua est sans doute une condition indispensable pour les bien entendre au point de vue de l'histoire. Or cette condition peut encore, à t heure actuelle, passer pour une grande nouveauté.

Regards

This thread has kinda gone off track. I think it's great to share these things, but I might end up splitting this up so we get focus back on the original point and give this topic the focus it deserves.