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 central medallion from a floor mosaic depicts the birth of Mithras. Emerging from a dark cave, he is flanked by his two attendants, Cautes and Cautopates. Above him flies the raven, associated with the creation myth and with the first level of initiation into his cult.
Examined in the course of case retro-fit and re-installation.
Provenance P. Philip et divers amateurs, Sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 1905 [no. 583]. Haas Bing, Paris, [date and mode of purchase unknown]; Joseph Brummer, Paris and New York, 1922, by purchase [Brummer inv. no. N575]; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1922, by purchase; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1921
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