Wed. 6th April: evidence of Mithraicism in Scotland.

As many of you may know, Mithras and his followers feature heavily in The Silver Eagle. It’s a religion that has fascinated me from the time that I first heard about it. It’s known that it was a secretive sect, with underground temples, arcane rituals and was favoured by Roman soldiers, who, it is thought, first came in contact with it in Asia Minor in the 70s or 60s BC. But the religion was far older than that and from further east as well. The Parthians quite possibly worshipped Mithras, and he may even have been venerated as far east as India.

Mithraic temples are found all over the former Roman Empire. There’s one in the crypt of a church not five minutes from the Colosseum that is well worth a visit, and an amazing mosaic path in Ostia details the seven levels of initiation. There are several temples in Britain, most notably at Carrawburgh on Hadrian’s Wall. But no evidence of devotion to Mithras has ever been found in Scotland before. Until now! Read about this amazing find here.

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  1. Posted 6 April 2011 at 21:54 | Permalink

    Ben great story, im the same regarding Mithras, its fascinating that there are so many similarities between Mithraic religion and Christianity.

    Among the recorded possible similarities between Christianity and Mithraism are the following:
    •Virgin birth
    •Twelve followers
    •Killing and resurrection
    •Birthdate on December 25
    •Mankind’s saviour
    •Known as the Light of the world

    There must have been some absorption of the religion at some point.

    Im not into religion, but i do find its creation interesting, the way politics and expediency has formed it over the years.

    I have some photos somewhere from my trip to rome, some great statues to Mithras.

  2. Fabitaromunass
    Posted 7 April 2011 at 12:42 | Permalink

    Isn’t there a theory that christanity and mithraicism were merged in the 4th century or something?

  3. benkane
    Posted 7 April 2011 at 13:38 | Permalink

    @Fabitaromunass: I’ve not heard that. Certainly, Mithraicism was vigorously suppressed in the fourth century AD. Who really knows, I’d say? So much of what we know has been garbled/misquoted by the passage of time…

  4. Posted 7 April 2011 at 14:13 | Permalink

    it is interesting though isnt it…what better way to launch and propagate your religion, you build your chuch on top of the sites of old temples (its already viewed as holy ground) you take on aspects of the old religions so the new one does not seem so much of a shock, it all blurs and blends, and then when you have the suckers…sorry converts hooked you can then start building your own doctrine.

  5. John Salter
    Posted 7 April 2011 at 16:08 | Permalink

    Interesting story. Doesn’t Marcus Aquila pray to Mithras in The Eagle when he’s asking for strength and to not dishonour his legion? He (or his character) mentions it quite often in the BBC CD Audio version.

  6. benkane
    Posted 7 April 2011 at 16:15 | Permalink

    @John: he does indeed.

  7. annis
    Posted 8 April 2011 at 06:36 | Permalink

    Hope you guys don’t mind me jumping in here – usually I just lurk now and then 🙂

    Fascinating discovery, Ben! As you mention, mithraea have been identified around Hadrian’s Wall at Housesteads, Carrawburgh and Rudchester. Finds from these sites are in the University of Newcastle’s Museum of Antiquities, where a mithraeum has been recreated. There’s been speculation for some time (as far as I know unfounded) that the Celts living around and north of the Wall may have picked up Mithraism from the Roman soldiers based there. Some of the more out-there theories even link Scottish Mithraism with the Knights Templar and Freemasonry!

    This bit is intriguing:
    “It may be possible to identify the name of the person who dedicated the altars and to trace their career as a Roman officer. The inscription beneath the four seasons suggests that he may have been a centurion in the army. It may also be possible to trace where the stones were quarried based upon geological analysis of the stones themselves. It is possible that the stone was transported from a considerable distance to Inveresk as a rough cut, with the detail added locally”.

    One reason why Christianity flourished was its ability to adapt existing practices and absorb them. It’s certainly interesting that Mithra’s birthday (25 December- the Summer Solstice) was adopted as Christ’s official birthday.

  8. benkane
    Posted 8 April 2011 at 07:27 | Permalink

    Hi Annis – nice to see you here! Thanks for de-lurking yourself.

  9. annis
    Posted 8 April 2011 at 20:02 | Permalink

    Cheers, Ben.

  10. Bonovox
    Posted 9 April 2011 at 10:01 | Permalink

    Hey Ben! I just got my hands on The Road To Rome, after waiting an agonizing long time!! My local bookstore just got it in March 29th. Why does it take longer to be released here in the states? Anyways,I just stopped at where Romulus is about to be “crucified” after the battle at Pontus, looked at the clock, and its 2am YIKES! I have to work in a few hours! Well worth the wait!(and lack of sleep!)Please keep the novels coming!!

  11. benkane
    Posted 9 April 2011 at 10:13 | Permalink

    @Bonovox: Wow! Sorry to have kept you up half the night, but I’m glad you couldn’t stop reading!

    The delay in publishing times is simply the differences between publishing houses. The company that publishes me here in the UK is not the same as the one which publishes me in the USA, so there are two different publishing schedules. Sorry!

    If you can’t wait until 2012 for a new book, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome, the first part of my Rome/Carthage trilogy, is out here on June 9th. Buy it from, a website that charges NO postage and packing to anywhere in the world. Their prices are similar to Amazon’s too. They’re great!

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