Mysteries of Mithras

On the Hadrian’s Wall route, just before Housesteads Roman Fort (if you are heading west) is a very interesting complex. It is a temple to Mithras that once served the occupants of the Roman Fort of Carrawburgh, one of the 16 Forts along Hadrian’s Wall

This temple is called Brocolitia and in truth it’s not overly elaborate, however still quite interesting just to have a look. More info can be found here on the English Heritage site.

There is only one information board supplied, so I did some of my own research to find out a bit more about Mithras:

  • The cult of Mithras originated in Ancient Persia, probably spread to the rest of the Roman Empire by soldiers during the 1st Century AD.
  • It was a sort of men’s only club, complete with secret handshake (apparently).
  • There were 7 levels of initiation, each one involved an ordeal requiring mental and physical strength to react to a realistic scenario.
  • It was very popular with soldiers, probably because of the points above!
  • There was feasting. (Who doesn’t like a good feast?). This was probably to replicate the story that Mithras was said to have killed a sacred bull and feasted with Sol, god of the sun.
  • The cult of Mithras was seen as direct competition to Christianity which the Emperor Constantine had advocated as the primary religion of the Roman Empire.
  • Interestingly the main feast day for Mithras was 25 December. (I’ll leave you to make your own conclusions about that one)
  • The cult disappeared during the 4th Century AD.

Very little is actually known about the cult of Mithras, other than what archaeologists have theorised from their finds, so it will probably continue to remain a mystery for some time to come.

Today, these secrets are protected by the sheep who have infiltrated the Brocolitia temple ruins.

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