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Culture: Mythology Themes - Gods in Ancient Rome Part 2: The Cult of Mithras When I was studying the history of Ancient Britain, I found it curious that there was a cult of Mithras which had been brought to Britain sometime in the late Pre-Christian era. The Romans were responsible for this new exotic cult. I say exotic because Mithras is a Persian deity and it is curious that he also appears in Roman mythology. Here are some interesting facts about it: Mithras as a Roman deity appeared somewhere in the Anno Domini era, from 1st century to 4th century, when it completely disappeared. Though there are few mythological sources about it, there are many depictions in caves. They mostly illustrate Mithras as a “bull-slayer.” In antiquity, the text usually refer to the “mysteries of Mithras” and it is often linked with the Persian deity. Many do not believe this, but we still have to note that sometimes Mithras appears with another figure, a mysterious lion-headed figure, who may have been the Arimanius (Avestan god of Zoroastrism, the evil spirit) himself. The temples for Mithras were often built in caves (this is why the depictions are found in caves as well). These underground temples have been built in the 1st century AD when the cult of Mithras is believed to have appeared in Ancient Rome. This cult, though not very long lasting, was still influential, considering that it had gone as far as Ancient Britain (which was, at that point in history, a part of the Roman empire). This is why it should be mentioned, considering that it is a part of the Ancient Roman pantheon.
Culture: Mythology Themes - Gods in Ancient Rome Part 1: Basic Outline & Dii Consentes It is important to mention that Ancient Romans were polytheists, i.e. they believed in many gods. In the beginning, these Roman gods were considered as faceless and extremely powerful. It is only later on that they became anthropomorphised beings, i.e. Ancient Romans started imagining them as humans. These beliefs primarily came from Ancient Greece. This is also why many of Roman gods have their corresponding Greek counterpart. The entire collection of all these gods is called Pantheon. Although there are far too many gods to be listed, we still have to note the magnificent twelve: the twelve great gods and goddesses also known as “Dii Consentes” (this is the name that Varro gave to these deities) whose statues stand in the Forum. There are six gods and six goddesses, namely: Roman Greek Apollo Apollo Ceres Demeter Diana Artemis Juno Hera Jupiter Zeus Mars Ares Mercury Hermes Minerva Athena Neptune Poseidon Venus Aphrodite Vesta Hestia Vulcan Hephaestus Other notable gods are: Roman Greek Bacchus Dionysus Cupid Eros Pluto Hades Proserpina Persephone Saturn Cronus You will note that many of these Roman gods are actually the names of the planets. This is because our culture had always had access to the Roman culture. However, this was unfortunately not the case with the Greek culture, primarily because of the alphabet. Thus, for many years, the influence of the Greek culture could only be felt through Latin translations of Greek works.