- Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
- Format: Paperback | 168 pages
- Dimensions: 140mm x 208mm x 12mm | 240g
- Publication date: 11 July 1991
- Publication City/Country: New York
- ISBN 10: 0195067886
- ISBN 13: 9780195067880
- Edition statement: Revised ed.
- Illustrations note: halftones, line drawings
- Sales rank: 544,638
David Ulansey's book breaks new scholastic ground by arguing that the Roman cult of Mithras did not originate in Persia, as previously thought. Instead, Ulansey suggests, the cult was triggered by the reaction of a group of Tarsian intellectuals to the discovery in 128 BCE, of the Precession of the Spheres. To these fatalistic Stoics the only possible explanation for this phenomenon was the existence of a divinity powerful enough to shift the heavens, and this was to become the revelation at the heart of the Mithraic mysteries. This information was then married to the astrology of the zodiac and to the symbolism of popular Tarsian myths surrounding Perseus to create the fabric of the religion. David Ulansey's study is an absorbing, carefully researched, and frequently beautiful description of an ancient cult which long fascinated scholars by virtue of the lack of written evidence concerning it and the paradoxical wealth of artefacts and iconography uncovered by archaeologists.
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'Ulansey contributes important new ideas and presents them in clear and well punctuated stages, avoiding the abstruse technicalities which might have deterred non-astronomers.' Classical Review 'Dr Ulansey's extremely interesting book throws a completely new light on the origin of the Mithras religion.' B.L. van der Werden, University of Zurich '(Puts) the development of western Mithraism in an utterly new perspective.' Martin Schwartz, University of California, Berkeley 'the first new attempt to find a global explanation for the mysteries of the god Mithra ... For this exceedingly difficult endeavor, the scholar of Boston University should be commended ... major contribution to this new trend of research.' Ioan P. Culianu, University of Chicago, The Journal of Religion
Back cover copy
The teachings of the ancient Roman 'mystery religion' of Mithraism--one of the most important competitors of early Christianity--were guarded with the utmost secrecy, reveled only to select initiates. While the Mithraists never wrote down their secret doctrines, they did leave a key to them in the arcane iconography which filled the walls of their underground temples. Until now, all attempts to decipher this iconography have proven fruitless. Most experts have been content with a vague hypothesis that these images somehow derived from ancient Iranian religion.