The Cult of Mithras in Late Antiquity

Development, Decline and Demise ca. A.D. 270-430


Author: David Walsh
In The Cult of Mithras in Late Antiquity David Walsh explores how the cult of Mithras developed across the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. and why by the early 5th century the cult had completely disappeared. Contrary to the traditional narrative that the cult was violently persecuted out of existence by Christians, Walsh demonstrates that the cult’s decline was a far more gradual process that resulted from a variety of factors. He also challenges the popular image of the cult as a monolithic entity, highlighting how by the 4th century Mithras had come to mean different things to different people in different places.

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David Walsh, Ph.D. (2016), University of Kent, is a lecturer in Classical and Archaeological Studies at that university. He has published articles on the cult of Mithras and on the fate of temples in the Roman provinces of Noricum and Pannonia.
'Scholars and excavators will have a much richer set of causal mechanisms that they can explore and test thanks to Walsh’s work. His book charts new directions in the study of Mithras-worship, and subsequent work on the cult will benefit mightily from engaging with Walsh’s novel framework and ideas.'
Matthew M. McCarty, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2019.08.23. Date accessed: 13 August 2019. Click here.

''Walsh has performed a considerable service in charting the archaeological information, such as it is, relating to the decline after 275 ce of what we may call the institutionalised Roman cult of mithras, in trying to align the discussion of mithraic “decline” and “fate” with developments relating to such topics in related fields, in emphasising alternative narratives, and in pointing out the role of pre-conception and parti-pris in the traditional scenarios''. Richard Gordon in Arys, 17 (2019).

NL:"Het verdwijnen van de Mithras-cultus en de sluiting van elk Mithras-heiligdom kunnen niet langer zonder meer worden toegeschreven aan de opkomst van het christendom. In plaats daarvan zullen geleerden en archeologen een veel rijkere reeks causale mechanismen hebben die ze dankzij Walsh’s werk kunnen verkennen en testen. Zijn boek brengt nieuwe richtingen in de studie van de aanbidding van Mithras, en het daaropvolgende werk aan de cultus zal veel baat hebben bij de interactie met Walsh’s nieuwe raamwerk en ideeën".
EN: "The end of the Mithras cult and the disappearance of every Mithras shrine can no longer simply be ascribed to the emergence of Christianity. Instead, scholars and archaeologists now have much richer causal mechanisms to explore and test, thanks to Walsh’s work. His book brings new directions to the study of Mithras worship, and future work will significantly benefit from interaction with Walsh’s new framework and ideas". Mark Beumer, in KLEIO-HISTORIA, Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 2020 (11).
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

 Religious Change in Late Antiquity: Changing Scholarly Views
 The Cult of Mithras: A Brief Introduction
 The Cult of Mithras in Late Antiquity: Changing Scholarly Views
 The Structure of This Volume
 Selecting the Evidence
 A Note on Terminology

1 The Development of the Cult of Mithras in Late Antiquity
 The Location of Mithraea
 Mithraic Architecture
 Mithraic Iconography
 Patronage and Membership
 Mithraic Hierarchies
 Ritual Practice

 Variations of the Name ‘Mithras’

2 The Decline of the Cult I: The Evidence
 The Decline in Construction/Restoration of Mithraea
 Mithraea and Wider Patterns of Construction and Repair in Late Antiquity
 Charting the Declining Use of Individual Mithraea

3 The Decline of the Cult Part 2: Explaining the Decline
 Declining Populations
 Changing Social Networks
 Changes in Mithraic Rituals
 Coercion by the Imperial Government

4 The Fate of Mithraea
 Geographical and Chronological Variation in the Fate of Mithraea
 Factors Contributing to the Fate of Mithraea

Appendix A: Gazetteer of Mithraea Active in the 4th c. and Those That Exhibit Evidence of Christian Iconoclasm
 A Britain
 B. Germany
 C. Noricum
 D. Pannonia
 E. Dalmatia
 F. Italy (Excluding Rome and Ostia)
 G. Gaul
 H. Spain
 I. North Africa
 J. The Eastern Mediterranean
Appendix B: Mithraea Constructed and Repaired ca. AD 201–400
Late Antique Archaeology
All interested in religion in Roman Empire and late antique archaeology, and anyone concerned with early Christianity.