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Mithriaca I. The Mithraeum at S. Maria Capua Vetere

Maarten Jozef Vermaseren

The Mithraeum at Capua is in many respects one of the most important sanctuaries of the Iranian god who in the first centuries of our era conquered the Roman world.

The temple is decorated with fascinating and original paintings by a number of artists, many of them being unique in their kind. The most interesting, however, are the ones on a number of the front panels of the side benches, which revealed a large part of the initiation rites for the first time. Until 1924, the year of the Mithraeum's excavation, one had to rely for these questions on the scattered and hostile evidence of the Church Fathers.

Since 1924 the Capuan frescoes have been mentioned in nearly every publication, but it seems that the ever-increasing number of new finds has kept the scholars from a thorough control of the first publication by Prof. A. Minto. Nor have these exceptional initiation-ceremonies ever been reproduced in colour, and consequently scholars have often come to erroneous conclusions. At a time when Mithraism finds such an enormous interest in the world of learning it therefore seems necessary to start with a revaluation of the many older finds, and in this context the Capuan sanctuary deserves first place.

That this first volume of Mithriaca is dedicated to Prof. H. Wagenvoort will not surprise those who have read his books, in which so many pages show his deep interest in the mystery cults. It is our hope that the illustrious Utrecht emeritus will be able to devote still more studies to the intricate problems of ancient religion. Nama, novis et multis annis!


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