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A Mithraeum found in the ruins of Ostia Antica, Italy
Mithraeum in Jajce renowned as one of the best preserved in-situ in Europe
How a modern history theme park imagines a Mithraeum: Museum Orientalis in the Netherlands
Finds from a Mithraeum in Stockstadt, Germany
A Mithraeum found in the German city of Saarbrücken

A Mithraeum (Latin pl.Mithraea), sometimes spelled Mithreum and Mithraion (Ancient Greek: Μιθραίον), is a Mithraic temple, erected in classical antiquity by the worshippers of Mithras. Most Mithraea can be dated between 100 BC and 300 AD, mostly in the Roman Empire.

The Mithraeum was either an adapted natural cave or cavern, or a building imitating a cave. Where possible, the Mithraeum was constructed within or below an existing building, such as the Mithraeum found beneath the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome. While most Mithraea are underground, some feature openings in the ceiling to allow light to enter, a reminder of the connection to the universe and the passage of time. The site of a Mithraeum may also be identified by its singular entrance or vestibule, which stands across from an apse at the back of which stands an altar on a pedestal, often in a recess, and its "cave", called the Spelaeum or Spelunca, with raised benches along the side walls for the ritual meal. Many mithraea that follow this basic plan are scattered over much of the Roman Empire's former territory, particularly where the legions were stationed along the frontiers (such as Britain). Others may be recognized by their characteristic layout, even though converted into crypts beneath Christian churches.

From the structure of the Mithraea it is possible to surmise that worshippers would have gathered for a common meal seated on the benches lining the walls.

Finally, the ubiquity of the Mithraeums’ distinctive banqueting benches implies the ubiquity of the cult meal as the liturgie ordinaire.[1]

The Mithraeum primarily functioned as an area for initiation, into which the soul descends and exits. The Mithraeum itself was arranged as an "image of the universe". It is noticed by some researchers that this movement, especially in the context of mithraic iconography (see below), seems to stem from the neoplatonic concept that the "running" of the sun from solstice to solstice is a parallel for the movement of the soul through the universe, from pre-existence, into the body, and then beyond the physical body into an afterlife.

Similarly, the Persians call the place a cave where they introduce an initiate to the Mysteries, revealing to him the path by which souls descend and go back again. For Eubulus tells us that Zoroaster was the first to dedicate a natural cave in honour of Mithras, the creator and father of all… this cave bore for him the image of the cosmos which Mithras had created, and the things which the cave contained, by their proportionate arrangement, provided him with symbols of the elements and climates of the cosmos [trans. Arethusa edition][1]

Notable mithraea[edit]




  • Alexandria, Memphis, Oxyrhenchus (papyri evidence) , Hermopolis, and other cities[2]



Polychrome reproduction of the Mithraic banquet scene featuring Mithras and the Sun god banqueting on the hide of the slaughtered bull, dating to 130 AD, Lobdengau-Museum, Ladenburg, Germany





Mithraeum in the lowest floor in the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome





  • Martigny (ancient Octodurus) - a reconstructed Mithraeum [2]


United Kingdom


  1. ^ a b Roger Beck, "Ritual, Myth, Doctrine, and Initiation in the Mysteries of Mithras: New Evidence from a Cult Vessel", The Journal of Roman Studies, 90 (2000), pp. 145-180
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Archaeological Site of Eleusis-Mithraeum". Retrieved 2023-10-21.
  4. ^ "E. Kolia, The Cult of Mithras in Aigion, L' Acaia e l' Italia Meridionale. Contatti, scambi e relazioni dall' Antichità ai nostri Giorni, Atti del Convegno, Eghio, 6-9 Luglio 2006, 208-221 | Erofili - Iris Kolia" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-10-21.
  5. ^ "Ministry of Culture and Sports | Relief of Mithras Tauroctonos (Mithras the Bull-slayer) at Thermes". Retrieved 2023-10-21.
  6. ^ "Hawarte". Retrieved 2020-07-08.

External links[edit]