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Culture Archaeology Archaeological Sights Altars Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Prefecture of Xanthi Commune of Thermes

Carved representation of Mithra
(Photo: PAMTH 1994)

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Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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Aikaterinh Balla
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
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The representation of god Mithras, carved on a large rock near the village of Thermes is one of the most important monuments in Thrace. It dates from the late 2nd to the early 3rd centuries AD and bears witness to the spread of Mithraism throughout mountainous Rodopi during the last years of the Roman Empire.

God Mithras is depicted in a frame in relief sacrificing the cosmic bull, accompanied by his attendants, Cautes, on the right, and Cautopates, on the left. At the bottom, a snake is waiting to drink the bullís blood. Under the representation of the bullís sacrifice, there are smaller illustrations of what probably were the different stages of initiation ceremonies of Mithraists or the benefactions of the god.

Mithras was an ancient Persian god of wisdom and of the sun. In the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism (Avesta), he is represented as the ruler and governor of the world. The predominant feature in all representations of Mithras is the sacrifice of the sacred bull. According to the myth, the bull is transformed into the moon during the sacrifice, and Mithrasí cloak becomes the celestial sphere with the planets and the stars. The first ears of wheat and the grape grew from the bullís blood and tail. The first human beings were formed from the bullís seed; day started to alternate with night. The Moonís monthly cycle began and time was created. The creatures of the dark emerged from the earth: a snake licked the bullís blood and a scorpion tried to suck the holy seed. Battle between evil and good had begun. In the representations of Mithras the raven symbolizes the air, the lion is the fire, the snake is the earth and the mixing bowl symbolizes the water.

Mithraism is one of the main cults of the Roman Empire and it was widespread throughout Europe. During the early post-Christian centuries, Mithraism was antagonistic to Christianity. Mithras Tauroctonus, or bull-slayer of Thermes bear witness to the spread of eastern cults during the times of Roman Empire, even throughout the remote areas where the mountainous Thracian tribes lived.