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Christmas, Christianity and Mithras
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Mithras
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Traces of Mithras in Malta

Last week, the Archaeological Society of Malta organised a lecture by Dr Claudia Sagona, Honorary Senior Fellow, University of Melbourne (Australia), entitled Looking for Mithra in Malta. Dr Sagona is the author of The Archaeology of Punic Malta and her latest publication is Looking for Mithra in Malta. (The name of the god was certainly given as "Mithras" (with an 's') on Latin monuments, although "Mithra" may have been used in Greek.)
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Mithra
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On December 25th, 272 BCE, a man named Mithra was born in Eastern Iran who was hailed as the expected saviour or Saoshyant.
It is said that the Saoshyant was born on a Sunday from an Immaculate (Anahid) Virgin (Xosidhag) in Sistan. He lived for 64 years among men before ascending to his Father Ahura Mazda in 208 BCE.
Mithraism was a universal religion in the ancient world with pillars founded on the Kingdom of God on earth and the brotherhood of man.
Known throughout Europe and Asia by the names Mithra, Mitra, Meitros, Mihr, Mehr, and Meher, the religion founded by him was the official religion of the two rival powers of the ancient world, the Parthian and the Roman empires.
Mithra, the Persian divinity of light who saves creation from the threat of darkness and clasps the right hand of the Sun, is a divinity of salvation. The Persians called Mithra 'The Mediator' since he was believed to stand between the light of Ahura-Mazda and the darkness of Ahriman.
While the religion of Mithra was essentially Persian, it flourished in the Roman Empire. Its concept of the life of the soul and its ascension through the seven planetary spheres was what made the religion attractive for Romans.
Many scholars of religion believe that the religion of Mithra was absorbed into Christianity and that the new religion was modelled after the ancient one.

In support of their theory they cite
1- The virgin birth of Mithra.
2- The annual celebration of his birthday on December 25th.
3- Sunday, the day of the sun, was considered a sacred day by Mithraists
4- The ritualistic baptism which was required of the faithful, who had a special wine and bread after the ceremony.
5- After his earthly mission had been completed, Mithra had his last supper with his 12 companions (after the 12 zodiac signs), where after he ascended to heaven to watch over his followers for all time.
6- The body of Mithra was laid to rest in a rock tomb.


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Mithras
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The Mithraic Mysteries or Mysteries of Mithras (also Mithraism) was a mystery religion practised in the Roman Empire (1st to 4th centuries CE), best attested in Rome and Ostia, Mauretania, Britain and in the provinces along the Rhine and Danube frontier.

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Kangelu monument
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A team of archaeologists working on the Kangelu monument in northern Iran’s Mazandaran Province has found evidence suggesting that it might have been a Mithraist temple during the Sassanid era, the Persian service of CHN reported on Wednesday.

The team recently discovered engravings depicting ibex and cypress trees, an inscription written in Pahlavi, and some structures with Mithraist architectural elements at Kangelu, which experts believed was a Sassanid fortress before the discoveries.

"Mithraist temples were usually built in caves or in lower places. A hole was made facing the sun in such structures. In initial studies, the archaeologists have identified a hole facing west in the lower part of Kangelu’s tower, which shows that a room lies beneath the tower" -Saman Surtiji, team director.

Covering an area of 50 square meters, Kangelu has been constructed in three stories with stones and “saruj”, a mortar of cement and gypsum used in Sassanid era architecture. The ruins also indicate that it had arches, transept-like extensions, and a tower protecting it against landslides.
The archaeologists have also unearthed a Sassanid burial along with silver rings with agate gems bearing engravings, which raises the possibility that the monument is a Mithraist temple. One of the gems bears an engraving of the sun with six rays of light emanating from it, symbolizing the sun or the chariot of the goddess Anahita (Anahid).
The other ring has a skillfully engraved picture of a cypress, which was respected in Mithraism.
According to Surtiji, the gem of one of the rings has engraving of an ibex, which symbolizes beneficial nature in Mithraism. Another ring has an inscription bearing the word “farakhi” or “farahi” in Pahlavi letters in an unspaced script style. Such a style dates back to the 3rd century CE when Mithraism was at its zenith in Iran and Europe.

Mithraism is the worship of Mithra, the Iranian god of the sun, justice, contract, and war in pre-Zoroastrian Iran. Known as Mithras in the Roman Empire during the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, this deity was honored as the patron of loyalty to the emperor. After the acceptance of Christianity by the emperor Constantine in the early 4th century, Mithraism rapidly declined.

The team is searching for more evidence in order to prove their theory that the structure is a Mithraist temple. If this turns out to be the case, it would be the first Sassanid era temple discovered in Mazandaran.

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