This book is the first full cognitive history of an ancient religious practice. In this ground-breaking study on one of the most intriguing and mysterious cults, Olympia Panagiotidou, with contributions from Roger Beck, shows how cognitive historiography can supplement our historical knowledge and deepen our understanding of past cultural phenomena.
The cult of the sun god Mithras, which spread widely across the Graeco-Roman world at the same time as other 'mystery cults', offered its devotees certain images and assumptions about reality. Initiation into the mysteries of Mithras and participation in the life of the cult significantly affected and transformed the ways in which the initiated perceived themselves, the world, and their position within it. The cult's major ideas were conveyed mainly through its symbolic complexes. The ancient written testimonies and other records are not adequate to establish a definitive reconstruction of Mithraic theologies and the meaning of its complex symbolic structures.
The Roman Mithras Cult identifies the cognitive and psychological processes which would have taken place in the minds and bodies of the Mithraists during their initiation and participation in the mysteries, enabling the perception, apprehension, and integration of the essential images and assumptions of the cult in its worldview system.