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Attendant of Mithras with Signs of the Zodiac
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Attendant of Mithras with Signs of the Zodiac

Description Conservation Provenance Credit
Description Mithras was a Persian creation god, as well as the god of light. Mithraism, the mystery religion associated with him, spread throughout the Roman Empire. Initiation into Mithraism was restricted to men and was especially popular with soldiers in Rome and on the northern frontier during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. According to the Persian myth, the sun god sent his messenger, the raven, to Mithras and ordered him to sacrifice the primeval white bull. At the moment of its death, the bull became the moon, and Mithras's cloak became the sky, stars, and planets. From the bull also came the first ears of grain and all the other creatures on earth. This scene of sacrifice, central to Mithraism, is called the Tauroctony and is represented as taking place in a cave, observed by Luna, the moon god, and Sol, the invincible Sun god, with whom he became associated in Roman times. Mithras is generally depicted flanked by his two attendants, Cautes and Cautopates, and accompanied by a dog, raven, snake, and scorpion. This is a fragment of a relief that depicted Mithras standing between his two attendants and surrounded by a circular band that included the twelve signs of the zodiac. Partial images of Capricorn, Sagittarius, and Scorpio are preserved here, as well as Mithras's torch-bearing attendant Cautopates. Astrology was central to the Mithraic religion.

Examined in preparation for case retro-fit and reinstallation.

Date Description Narrative
1/01/1992Technical Reportx-ray diffraction; other
Provenance Max Falk, New York; Walters Art Museum, 1984, by gift.
Credit Gift of Mr. Max Falk, 1984

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1st-2nd century (Roman Imperial)
Pentelic marble
Accession Number
H: 19 13/16 x W: 11 1/16 x D: 5 5/16 in. (50.4 x 28.1 x 13.5 cm)


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