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Passages on Mithras in Graeco-Roman literature

The New Mithraeum
5 Nov 2022
Updated on 15 Dec 2023

Mithras: all the passages in Graeco-Roman literature

This page by Roger Pearse lists passages in Greek and Latin literature that refer to Mitra, Mithra and Mithras, in English translation. This includes all material relating to both the ancient Persian cult of Mithra and the Roman cult of Mithras. It is worth noting that the Romans generally considered Mithra and Mithras to be the same, and used the same word for each.

I have indicated in each case, where possible, which is intended: the Persian cult by P, the Roman one by R. and those which could be either as ?.

The material here has mainly been gathered as follows:

  • Use the bibliography from Manfred Clauss The Roman cult of Mithras.
  • Use Geden Select passages illustrating Mithraism
  • Use Cumont, Textes et Monuments vol. 2.A number of passages which don't mention Mithras, or else are from late saints' lives, are omitted.

I have tried to link to complete English translations online where possible, and to indicate where the original language text can be found using {}. In some cases where more than one translation was available to me, I give both. Dates given for the works are approximate, for the convenience of the reader.

I have excluded Persian and Armenian material, which presumably would be inaccessible in the Greek and Roman world anyway. Geden translates a small selection of this.

Herodotus (5th c. B.C.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.16-17}

Histories, book 1, ch. 131 (Geden p.24):

Others are accustomed to ascend the hill-tops and sacrifice to Zeus, the name they give to the whole expanse of the heavens. Sacrifice is offered also to the sun and moon, to the earth and fire and water and the winds. These alone are from ancient times the objects of their worship, but they have adopted also the practice of sacrifice to Urania, which they have learned from the Assyrians and Arabians. The Assyrians give to Aphrodite the name Mylitta, the Arabians Alilat and the Persians Mitra.

Cumont notes that Ambrose of Milan also calls Mithra female.

Ctesias (after 398 B.C.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.10}

Quoted by Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, book 10, ch.45 (2nd c.). Geden p.25:

Ktesias reports that among the Indians it was not lawful for the king to drink to excess. Among the Persians however the king was permitted to be intoxicated on the one day on which sacrifice was offered to Mithra.

Cumont adds that the passage from Athenaeus is reproduced in part by Eustathius, Commentary on the Odyssey, XVIII, 3, p.1854; and Commentary on the Iliad, p.957.

Xenophon (ca. 397-340 B.C.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.51}

Oeconomicus, IV. 24. Cyrus the Younger, addressing Lysander:

Do you wonder at this, Lysander? I swear to you by Mithra that whenever I am in health I never break my fast without perspiring. (Geden)

Cyropaedia, VII. 5. Spoken by Artabazus to Cyrus the Elder.

By Mithra I could not come to you yesterday without fighting my way through many foes. (Geden)

Duris of Samos (Mid. 4th c. B.C.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.10}

Quoted by Athenaeus, Deipnosophists, book 10, ch.45, immediately after the quote from Ctesias above. (2nd c. A.D.) Geden p.26.

In the seventh book of his Histories Duris has preserved the following account on this subject. Only at the festival celebrated by the Persians in honour of Mithra does the Persian king become drunken and dance after the Persian manner. On this day throughout Asia all abstain from the dance. For the Persians are taught both horsemanship and dancing; and they believe that the practice of these rhythmical movements strengthens and disciplines the body.

Cumont adds that the passage from Athenaeus is reproduced in part by Eustathius, Commentary on the Odyssey, XVIII, 3, p.1854; and Commentary on the Iliad, p.957.

Strabo (20 B.C.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.49}

Geographica, XI. 14:

The country (i.e. Armenia) is so excellently suited to the rearing of horses, being not inferior indeed to Media, that the Nisaean steeds are raised there also of the same breed that the Persian kings were wont to use. And the satrap of Armenia used to send annually to Persia twice ten thousand colts for the Mithraic festivals. (Geden)

Geographica, XV. 3:

The Persians therefore do not erect statues and altars, but sacrifice on a high place, regarding the heaven as Zeus; and they honour also the sun, whom they call Mithra, and the moon and Aphrodite and fire and earth and the winds and water. (Geden)

Cumont notes that the second passage reproduces Herodotus.

Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.32}

Natural History, book 37, chapter 10: (Jewels derived from the name)

Mithrax is brought from Persia and the hill-country of the Red Sea, a stone of varied colours that reflects the light of the sun. ... The Assyrians prize Eumitren the jewel of Bel their most honoured deity, of a light-green colour and employed in divination. (Geden)

Quintus Curtius (40-50 A.D.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.10}

Geden p.27. History of Alexander, book 4, chapter. 13. The scene is before the battle of Arbela.

The king himself with his generals and Staff passed around the ranks of the armed men, praying to the sun and Mithra and the sacred eternal fire to inspire them with courage worthy of their ancient fame and the monuments of their ancestors.

Cumont adds that there is a variant here: mithrem rather than mithram.

Plutarch (ca. 100 A.D.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.33-36}

De Iside et Osiride, ch. 46. Theopompus lived in the 4th c. B.C.

The following is the opinion of the great majority of learned men. By some it is maintained that there are two gods, rivals as it were, authors the one of good and the other of evil. Others confine the name of god to the good power, the other they term demon, as was done by Zoroaster the Magian, who is said to have lived to old age five thousand years before the Trojan war. He calls the one Horomazes, the other Areimanius. The former he assserts is of all natural phenomena most closely akin to the light, the latter to darkness, and that Mithra holds an intermediate position. To Mithra therefore the Persians give the name of the mediator. Moreover he taught men to offer to Horomazes worthy and unblemished sacrifices, but to Areimanius imperfect and deformed. For they bruise a kind of grass called molu in a trough, and invoke Hades and Darkness; then mixing it with the blood of a slaughtered wolf they carry it to a sunless place and throw it away. For they regard some plants as the property of the good god, and some· of the evil demon; and so also such animals as dogs and birds ,and hedgehogs belong to the good deity, and the water rat to the evil. Of these last therefore it is meritorious to kill as many as possible.

They have also many stories to relate concerning the gods, for example that Horomazes was born of the purest light, Areimanius of the darkness, and these are hostile to one another. The former created six gods, the first three deities respectively of good-will, truth, and orderliness, the others of wisdom, wealth, and a good conscience. By the latter rivals as it were to these were formed of equal number. Then Horomazes extended himself to thrice his stature as far beyond the sun as the sun is beyond the earth, and adorned the heaven with stars, appointing one star, Sirius, as guardian and watcher before all. He made also other twenty-four gods and placed them in an egg, but Areimanius produced creatures of equal number and these crushed the egg . . . wherefore evil is mingled with good. At the appointed time however Areimanius must be utterly brought to nought and destroyed by the pestilence and famine which he has himself caused, and the earth will be cleared and made free from obstruction, the habitation of a united community of men dwelling in happiness and speaking one tongue. Theopompus further reports that according to the magi for three thousand years in succession each of the gods holds sway or is in subjection, and that there will follow on these a further period of three thousand years of war and strife, in which they mutually destroy the works of one another. Finally Hades will be overthrown, and men will be blessed, and will neither need nourishment nor cast a shadow. And the deity who has accomplished these things will then take rest and solace for a period that is not long, especially for a god, and moderate for a sleeping man. To this effect then is the legendary account given by the magi.

Life of Alexander, c. 30:

If thou art not false to the interests of the Persians, but remainest loyal to me thy lord, tell me by thy regard for the great light of Mithra, and the royal right hand ....

Life of Artaxerxes Memnon, c.4:

Presenting a pomegranate of great size a certain Omisus said to him: By Mithra you may trust this man quickly to make an insignificant city great.

Vita Pompei (Life of Pompey) c.24, 5, 632CD. (This is often quoted as if it had some connection with Mithras of the legions; but surely relates to Mithridates and Persian Mithra in Asia Minor?).

There were of these corsairs above one thousand sail, and they had taken no less than four hundred cities, committing sacrilege upon the temples of the gods, and enriching themselves with the spoils of many never violated before, such as were those of Claros, Didyma, and Samothrace; and the temple of the Earth in Hermione, and that of Aesculapius in Epidaurus, those of Neptune at the Isthmus, at Taenarus, and at Calauria; those of Apollo at Actium and Leucas, and those of Juno in Samos, at Argos, and at Lacinium. They themselves offered strange sacrifices upon Mount Olympus, and performed certain secret rites or religious mysteries, among which those of Mithras have been preserved to our own time having received their previous institution from them. (Dryden)

They were accustomed to offer strange sacrifices on Olympus and to observe certain secret rites, of which that of Mithra is maintained to the present day by those by whom it was first established. (Geden)

(Ps.Plutarch) De fluviis, XXIII. 4.

Clauss says that the story is that Mithras spilled his seed onto a rock, and the stone gave birth to a son, named Diorphos, who, worsted and killed in a duel by Ares, was turned into the mountain of the same name not far from the Armenian river Araxes.

Near it also (i.e. the Araxes) is a mountain Diorphus, so called from the giant of that name, of which this story is told: Mithra being desirous of a son, and hating the female race, entered into a certain rock; and the stone becoming pregnant after the appointed time bore a child named Diorphus. The latter when he had grown to manhood challenged Ares to a contest of valour, and was slain. The purpose of the gods was then fulfilled in his transformation into the mountain which bears his name. (Geden)

Dio Chrysostom (ca. 50-120 A.D.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.60-64}

Oration 36. Marked as doubtful by Cumont.

In the secret mysteries the magi relate a further marvellous tradition concerning this god (Zeus) that he was the first and faultless charioteer of the unrivalled car. For they declare that the car of the sun is more recent, but on account of its prominent course in the sky is familiar to all. Whence is derived, it would seem, the common legend adopted by almost all the leading poets who have told of the risings and settings of the sun, the yoking of the steeds, and his ascent into the car. But of the mighty and perfect car of Zeus none of our writers hitherto has worthily sung, not even Homer or Hesiod, but the story is told by Zoroaster and the descendants of the magi who have learnt from him. Of him the Persians relate that moved by love of wisdom and righteousness he separated himself from men and lived apart on a certain mountain, that fire subsequently fell from heaven and the whole mountain was kindled into flame. The king then with the most illustrious of the Persians approached wishing to offer prayer to the god. And Zoroaster came forth from the fire unharmed and gently bade them be of good courage and offer certain sacrifices, since it was the divine sanctuary to which the king had come. Afterwards only those distinguished for love of the truth and who were worthy to approach the god were permitted to have access, and to these the Persians gave the name of magi, as being adepts in the divine service; differing therein from the Greeks who through ignorance of the name call such men wizards. And among other sacred rites they maintain for Zeus a pair of Nisaean steeds, these being the noblest and strongest that Asia yields, but one steed only for the sun. Moreover, they recount their legend not like our poets of the Muses who with all the arts of persuasion endeavour to carry conviction, but quite simply. For without doubt the control and government of the Supreme are unique, actuated always by the highest skill and strength, and that without cessation through endless ages. The circuits then of the sun and moon are, as I said, movements of parts, and therefore readily discernible; most men however do not understand the movement and course of the whole, but the majestic order of its succession removes it above their comprehension. The further stories which they tell concerning the steeds and their management I hesitate to relate; and indeed they fail to take into account that the nature of the symbolism they employ betrays their own character. For it may be that it would be regarded as an act of folly for me to set forth a barbarian tale by the side of the fair Greek lays. I must however make the venture. The first of the steeds is said to surpass infinitely in beauty and size and swiftness, running as it does on the outside round of the course, sacred to Zeus himself; and it is winged. The colour also of its skin is bright, of the purest sheen. And on it the sun and the moon are emblematically represented; I understand the meaning to be that these steeds have emblems moon-shaped or other; and they are seen by us indistinctly like sparks dancing in the bright blaze of a fire, each with its own proper motion. And the other stars receive their light through it and are all under its influence; and some have the same motion and are carried round with it, and others follow different courses. And the latter have each their own name among men, but the others are grouped together, assigned to certain forms and shapes. The most handsome and variegated steed then is the favourite of Zeus himself, and on this account is lauded by them, receiving as is right the chief sacrifices and honours. The next to it in rank bears the name of Hera, being tractable and gentle, greatly inferior however in strength and swiftness. Its colour is naturally black, but that which is illuminated by the sun is always resplendent, while that which is in shadow during its circuit reveals the true character of the skin. The third is sacred to Poseidon, and is slower in movement than the second. His counterpart the poets say is found among men, meaning I suppose that which bears the name of Pegasus; a spring, according to the story, breaking forth in Corinth when the ground was opened. The fourth is the strangest figure of all, fixed and motionless, not furnished with wings, named Hestia; but they do not hesitate to declare that this also is yoked to the car, remaining however in its place champing a bit of steel. And the others are on each side closely attached to it, the two nearest turning equally towards it, as though assailing it and resenting its control; but the leader on the outside circles constantly around it as though around a fixed centre post. For the most part therefore they live in peace and amity unhurt by one another, but eventually after a long time and many circuits the powerful breath of the leader descends from above and kindles into flame the proud spirit of the others, and most of all of the last. His flaming mane then is set on fire, in which he took especial pride, and the whole universe. This calamity which they record they say that the Greeks attribute to Phaethon, for they refuse to blame Zeus' driving of the car, and are unwilling to attach fault to the circuits of the sun ... and again when in the course of further years the sacred colt of the Nymphs and Poseidon rouses itself to unaccustomed exertion, and incommoded with the sweat that pours from it drenches its own yokefellow, it gives rise to a destruction the contrary of the preceding, a flood of water. This then is the one catastrophe of which the Greeks have record owing to their recent origin and the shortness of their memory, and they relate that Deucalion reigned over them at that time before the universal destruction. And in consequence of the ruin brought upon themselves men regard these rare occurrences as taking place neither in harmony with reason nor as a part of the general order, overlooking the fact that they occur in due course and in accordance with the will of the preserver and ruler of all. For it is just as when a charioteer chastises one of his steeds by checking it with the rein or touching it with the whip; the horse gives a start and is restless before settling down into its accustomed order. This earlier control then of the team they say is firm and the universe suffers no harm; but later a change takes place in the movement of the four, and their natures are mutually altered and interchanged, until they are all subdued by the higher power and a uniform character is imposed on all. Nevertheless they do not hesitate to compare this movement to the conduct and driving of a car, for lack of a more impressive simile. As though a clever artificer should fashion horses out of wax, and should then smooth off the roughnesses of each, adding now to one and now to another, finally reducing all to one pattern, and forming his whole material into one shape. This however is not the case of a Creator fashioning and transforming from the outside the material substance of things without life, but the experience is that of the very substances themselves, as though they were contending for victory in a real and well-contested strife; and the crown of victory is awarded of right to the first and foremost in swiftness and strength and in every kind of virtue, to whom at the beginning of our discourse we gave the name of "chosen of Zeus." , For this one being the strongest and naturally fiery quickly consumed the others as though they had been really wax in a period not actually long, though to our limited reasoning it appears infinite; and absorbing into himself the entire substance of all is seen to be far greater and more glorious than before, having won the victory in the most formidable contest by no mortal or immortal aid, but by his own valour. Raised then proudly aloft and exulting in his victory, he takes possession of the widest possible domain, and yet such is his might and power that he craves further room for expansion. Having reached this conclusion they shrink from describing the nature of the living creature as the same; for that it is now no other than the soul of the charioteer and lord, or rather it has the same purpose and mind. (Geden)

Statius (ca. 80 A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii, p.46}

Thebaid, book 1, v.719-20:

(Mithras) 'twists the unruly horns beneath the rocks of a Persian cave' (Clauss)

717 ...... seu te roseum Titana vocari
Gentis Achaemeniae ritu, seu praestat Osirim
Frugiferum, seu Persei sub rupibus antri
Indignata sequi torquentem cornua Mithram.


Whether it please thee to bear the name of ruddy Titan
after the manner of the Achaemenian race, or Osiris
lord of the crops, or Mithra as beneath the rocks of the Persian cave
he presses back the horns that resist his control. (Geden)

Geden suggests the horns must be those of the bull.

The scholia on Statius are attributed to a certain Lactantius Placidus.

Justin Martyr (ca. 150 A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii.20-21}

1st Apology, ch. 66

For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body; "and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood; "and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn. (ANF)

Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 70

70. And when those who record the mysteries of Mithras say that he was begotten of a rock, and call the place where those who believe in him are initiated a cave, do I not perceive here that the utterance of Daniel, that a stone without hands was cut out of a great mountain, has been imitated by them, and that they have attempted likewise to imitate the whole of Isaiah's words? For they contrived that the words of righteousness be quoted also by them. But I must repeat to you the words of Isaiah referred to, in order that from them you may know that these things are so. They are these: `Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; those that are near shall know my might. The sinners in Zion are removed; trembling shall seize the impious. Who shall announce to you the everlasting place? The man who walks in righteousness, speaks in the right way, hates sin and unrighteousness, and keeps his hands pure from bribes, stops the ears from hearing the unjust judgment of blood closes the eyes from seeing unrighteousness: he shall dwell in the lofty cave of the strong rock. Bread shall be given to him, and his water [shall be] sure. Ye shall see the King with glory, and your eyes shall look far off. Your soul shall pursue diligently the fear of the Lord. Where is the scribe? where are the counsellors? where is he that numbers those who are nourished,-the small and great people? with whom they did not take counsel, nor knew the depth of the voices, so that they heard not. The people who are become depreciated, and there is no understanding in him who hears.' Now it is evident, that in this prophecy [allusion is made] to the bread which our Christ gave us to eat, in remembrance of His being made flesh for the sake of His believers, for whom also He suffered; and to the cup which He gave us to drink, in remembrance of His own blood, with giving of thanks. And this prophecy proves that we shall behold this very King with glory; and the very terms of the prophecy declare loudly, that the people foreknown to believe in Him were foreknown to pursue diligently the fear of the Lord. Moreover, these Scriptures are equally explicit in saying, that those who are reputed to know the writings of the Scriptures, and who hear the prophecies, have no understanding. And when I hear, Trypho," said I, "that Perseus was begotten of a virgin, I understand that the deceiving serpent counterfeited also this. (ANF)

78. ... I have repeated to you," I continued, "what Isaiah foretold about the sign which foreshadowed the cave; but for the sake of those who have come with us to-day, I shall again remind you of the passage." Then I repeated the passage from Isaiah which I have already written, adding that, by means of those words, those who presided over the mysteries of Mithras were stirred up by the devil to say that in a place, called among them a cave, they were initiated by him. ... (ANF)

Geden (p.39-40) renders these passages as:

(Apol. 1, 66) Accordingly in the mysteries of Mithra also we have heard that evil spirits practise mimicry. For at the initiatory rites bread and a cup of water are set out accompanied by certain formulae, as you know or may ascertain.

(Dial. 70) And when in the tradition of the Mithraic mysteries they relate that Mithra was born of a rock, and name the place where his followers receive initiation a cave, do I not know that they are perverting the saying of Daniel that "a stone was hewn without hands from a great mountain," and likewise the words of Isaiah, all whose sayings also they endeavour to pervert? Noteworthy sayings too besides these they have artfully contrived to use.

(Dial. 78) According to the tradition of the Mithraic mysteries initiation takes place among them in a so-called cave, ... a device of the evil one.

Lucian (120-200 A.D.) [=?] {Cumont, ii.22}

The Gods in Council, chapter 9.

Momus. Ah; and out of consideration for him I suppose I must also abstain from any reference to the eagle, which is now a God like the rest of us, perches upon the royal sceptre, and may be expected at any moment to build his nest upon the head of Majesty?--Well, you must allow me Attis, Corybas, and 9 Sabazius: by what contrivance, now, did they get here? and that Mede there, Mithras, with the candys and tiara? why, the fellow cannot speak Greek; if you pledge him, he does not know what you mean. The consequence is, that Scythians and Goths, observing their success, snap their fingers at us, and distribute divinity and immortality right and left; that was how the slave Zamolxis's name slipped into our register. However, let that pass. But I should just like to ask that Egyptian there--the dog-faced gentleman in the linen suit-- who he is, and whether he proposes to establish his divinity by barking?


And Attis too, by heaven, and Korybas and Sabazius with what a flood have these deluged us, and your Mithra with his Assyrian cloak and crown, maintaining even their foreign tongue, so that when they give a toast no one can understand what they say. (Geden)

The Tragic Zeus, ch. 8:

There is Bendis herself and Anubis yonder and by his side Attis and Mithra and Men, all resplendent in gold, weighty and costly you may be sure.

Menippus, ch. 6:

Once as with these thoughts I was lying awake I determined to go to Babylon and there make inquiry of one of the magi, the disciples and successors of Zoroaster. I had heard that by incantations and magic rites they open the gates of Hades, and lead thither in safety whom they will, and restore him again to the upper world . . . so I arose at once, and without delay set out for Babylon.

On arrival I betook myself to a certain Chaldaean, a man skilled in the art of the diviner, grey-haired and wearing an imposing beard, whose name was Mithrobarzanes. With much trouble and importunity I won his consent, for whatever fee he liked to name, to be my guide on the way. He took me under his charge, and first for twenty-nine days from the new moon he conducted me at dawn to the Euphrates and bathed me, reciting some long invocation to the rising sun, which I did not fully understand; for like the second-rate heralds at the games he spoke in obscure and involved fashion. It was clear however that he was invoking certain deities.

Then after the invocation he spat thrice in front of me and conducted me back without looking in the face of any whom we met. For food we had acorns, and our drink was milk and honey-mead and the waters of the Choaspes, and we made our couch upon the grass in the open air. These preliminaries concluded he took me about midnight to the Tigris, cleansed and rubbed me down and purified me with resinous twigs and hyssop and many other things, reiterating at the same time the previous invocation. Then he threw spells over me and circumambulated me for my defence against the ghosts and led me back to the house, as I was, on foot; and the rest of the journey we made by boat. He himself put on some sort of a Magian robe, not unlike that of the Medes. And he further equipped me with the cap and lion's skin and put into my hands the lyre, and bade me if I were asked my name not to answer Menippus, but to say Herakles or Odysseus or Orpheus ....

Arrived at a certain place, gloomy and desolate and overgrown with jungle, we disembarked, Mithrobarzanes leading the way, and dug a pit, and sacrificed the sheep, pouring out the blood over it. Then the Magian with lighted torch in his hand, no longer in subdued tones but exerting his voice to the utmost, invoked the whole host of demons with the Avengers and Furies, "and Hecate the queen of night and noble Persephone," joining with them some foreign names of inordinate length. (Geden)

Cumont adds that the name of Mithras is explained in two of the scholia on Lucian. The second is similar to Hesychius.Scholia, c. 1. 1 (p.173 ed. Jacobitz), Cumont p.23. Translated by Andrew Eastbourne:

Cumont cites two scholia on Lucian which discuss Mithra(s), from the edition of Jacobitz. For a more recent edition, see Rabe, Scholia in Lucianum (1906).[1]

Scholion on Lucian, Zeus Rants / Jupiter tragoedus 8 [cf. Rabe, p. 60]

This Bendis…[2] Bendis is a Thracian goddess, and Anubis is an Egyptian [god], whom the theologoi[3] call "dog-faced." Mithras is Persian, and Men is Phrygian. This Mithras is the same as Hephaestus, but others say [he is the same as] Helios. So then, because the barbarians would take pride [4] in wealth, they naturally also outfitted their own gods most expensively. And Attis is revered by the Phrygians…

Scholion on Lucian, The Parliament of the Gods / Deorum concilium 9 [cf. Rabe, p. 212]

Mithrês [Mithras]… Mithras is the sun [Helios], among the Persians.[5]

[1] I have noted points where Rabe's edition differs in substance from the text printed by Cumont. Rabe's edition is available online at
[2] Lucian's text here mentions Bendis, Anubis, Attis, Mithrês [Mithras], and Mên.
[3] The Greek term normally refers to poets who wrote about the gods, like Hesiod or Orpheus. Note that this is an emendation; the mss. read logoi ("words / discourses / accounts"), which Rabe adopts in his edition.
[4] Gk. ekômôn; lit., "wore their hair long / let their hair grow long."
[5] Rabe's text: "Mithras is the same as Helios, among the Persians."

Zenobius the Sophist (2nd century A.D.) [=?]

A Greek sophist of the reign of Hadrian. His collection of proverbs is partly extant.

Proverbia, book 5, 78 (in Corpus paroemiographorum Graecorum vol. 1, p.151). Quoted in Albert de Jong, Traditions of the Magi: Zoroastrianism in Greek and Latin literature, p.309:

Evander said that the gods who rule over everything are eight: Fire, Water, Earth, Heaven, Moon, Sun, Mithras, Night.

Not in Geden or Cumont.

Clauss p.70 n.84 also mentions literary evidence of syncretism of Mithras with the Orphic creator-god Phanes (no citation). This refers to a similar list from Iranian sources appearing in Theon of Smyrna's Exposition of mathematical ideas useful for reading Plato, ch. 47 (from Exposition des connaissances mathematiques utiles pour la lecture de platon, J. Dupuis in 1892, p.173):

47. The number eight which is the first cube composed of unity and seven. Some say that there are eight gods who are masters of the universe, and this is also what we see in the sayings of Orpheus:

By the creators of things ever immortal,
Fire and water, earth and heaven, moon,
And sun, the great Phanes and the dark night.

And Evander reports that in Egypt may be found on a column an inscription of King Saturn and Queen Rhea: “The most ancient of all, King Osiris, to the immortal gods, to the spirit, to heaven and earth, to night and day, to the father of all that is and all that will be, and to Love, souvenir of the magificence of his life.” Timotheus also reports the proverb, “Eight is all, because the spheres of the world which rotate around the earth are eight.” And, as Erastothenes says,

“These eight spheres harmonise together in making their revolutions around the earth.”

The real basis for identification of Mithras and Phanes is some inscriptions.

Tertullian (ca. 200 AD) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii, p.50}

Adversus Marcionem book 1, c.13:4.

The very superstition of the crowd, inspired by the common idolatry, when ashamed of the names and fables of their ancient dead borne by their idols, has recourse to the interpretation of natural objects, and so with much ingenuity cloaks its own disgrace, figuratively reducing Jupiter to a heated substance, and Juno to an aërial one (according to the literal sense of the Greek words); Vesta, in like manner, to fire, and the Muses to waters, and the Great Mother to the earth, mowed as to its crops, ploughed up with lusty arms, and watered with baths. Thus Osiris also, whenever he is buried, and looked for to come to life again, and with joy recovered, is an emblem of the regularity wherewith the fruits of the ground return, and the elements recover life, and the year comes round; as also the lions of Mithras are philosophical sacraments of arid and scorched nature. (ANF)


The lions of Mithra are represented as types of an eager and impetuous nature. (Geden)

De Baptismo 5.

"Well, but the nations, who are strangers to all understanding of spiritual powers, ascribe to their idols the imbuing of waters with the self-same efficacy." (So they do) but they cheat themselves with waters which are widowed. For washing is the channel through which they are initiated into some sacred rites-of some notorious Isis or Mithras. The gods themselves likewise they honour by washings. (ANF)


For nations destitute of all understanding of spiritual powers attribute the same efficacy to their idols; but they cheat themselves with springs that yield no living water. For in certain rites also of an Isis or Mithra initiation is by means of baptismal water. (Geden)

De corona. 15.

Blush, ye fellow-soldiers of his, henceforth not to be condemned even by him, but by some soldier of Mithras, who, at his initiation in the gloomy cavern, in the camp, it may well be said, of darkness, when at the sword's point a crown is presented to him, as though in mimicry of martyrdom, and thereupon put upon his head, is admonished to resist and east it off, and, if you like, transfer it to his shoulder, saying that Mithras is his crown. And thenceforth he is never crowned; and he has that for a mark to show who he is, if anywhere he be subjected to trial in respect of his religion; and he is at once believed to be a soldier of Mithras if he throws the crown away----if he say that in his god he has his crown. Let us take note of the devices of the devil, who is wont to ape some of God's things with no other design than, by the faithfulness of his servants, to put us to shame, and to condemn us. (ANF)


Be ashamed as Christ's fellow-soldiers to be open to reproach not only from Christ himself but from any soldier of Mithra. For to him when he is initiated in a cavern, a veritable home of darkness, a crown is offered on a naked sword, as if in parody of martyrdom; this then is placed on his head, and he is enjoined with his own hand to lift it from his head and voluntarily to transfer it to his shoulder, declaring that Mithra is his crown. Thereafter he is never crowned. And this is regarded as evidence of his steadfastness, if ever he is tempted to break his oath, and forthwith he is regarded as a soldier of Mithra, should he have rejected the crown and claimed the god himself as his crown. We may recognise the craft of the devil, who counterfeits divine things to turn us from our faith and bring us into condemnation. (Geden)

De praescriptione haereticorum 40.3-4

The question will arise, By whom is to be interpreted the sense of the passages which make for heresies? By the devil, of course, to whom pertain those wiles which pervert the truth, and who, by the mystic rites of his idols, vies even with the essential portions of the sacraments of God. He, too, baptizes some-that is, his own believers and faithful followers; he promises the putting away of sins by a layer (of his own); and if my memory still serves me, Mithras there, (in the kingdom of Satan,) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown. What also must we say to (Satan's) limiting his chief priest to a single marriage? He, too, has his virgins; he, too, has his proficients in continence. (ANF)


The devil (is the inspirer of the heretics) whose work it is to pervert the truth, who with idolatrous mysteries endeavours to imitate the realities of the divine sacraments. Some he himself sprinkles as though in token of faith and loyalty; he promises forgiveness of sins through baptism; and if my memory does not fail me marks his own soldiers with the sign of Mithra on their foreheads, commemorates an offering of bread, introduces a mock resurrection, and with the sword opens the way to the crown. Moreover has he not forbidden a second marriage to the supreme priest? He maintains also his virgins and his celibates. (Geden)

Apologeticum 7 (not included by Cumont):

Those who aspire to initiation first I believe approach the father of the ceremonies to learn from him the preparations that are to be made. (Geden)

Cassius Dio (200 A.D.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.12}

Epitome of book 63, 5:2.

At this a great roar went up, which so alarmed Tiridates that for some moments he stood speechless, in terror of his life. Then, silence having been proclaimed, he recovered courage and quelling his pride made himself subservient to the occasion and to his need, caring little how humbly he spoke, in view of the prize he hoped to obtain.These were his words: "Master, Iam the descendant of Arsaces, brother of the kings Vologaesus and Pacorus, and thy slave. And Ihave come to thee, my god, to worship thee as Ido Mithras. The destiny thou spinnest for me shall be mine; for thou art my Fortune and my Fate." (Loeb).

I, my lord, am son of Arsaces, and brother of the kings Vologeses and Pacoras, and thy servant. And I am come to thee as my god, to worship thee as I worship Mithra, and I will be as thou shalt determine. For thou art my Destiny and my Fate. (Geden)

Origen (200-254 A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii.30-31}

Geden p.45-7. Contra Celsum, I. 9:

Celsus urges that argument and reason compel us to accept certain dogmas, on the ground that those who refuse their assent are without doubt the victims of error. And he likens those who believe without reason to tramps and fortune-tellers, to followers of Mithra or Sabazius, or to any chance guide, unsubstantial forms of Hecate or other demon or demons. (Geden)

Origen, contra Celsum VI. 21-22:

Celsus following Plato affirms that souls proceed to and from the earth by way of the planets . . . and further being desirous of exhibiting his learning in controversy with us he expounds certain Persian mysteries also, and among them the following: "These doctrines are contained in the traditions of the Persians and in the cult of Mithra which they practise. For the latter gives a kind of representation of the two heavenly spheres, the one fixed and the other assigned to 'the planets, and of the journey of the soul through these. There is an ascending road with seven gates, and an eighth at the summit. The first gate is of lead, the second of tin, the third of bronze, the fourth of iron, the fifth of mixed metal, the sixth of silver, and the seventh of gold. The first is dedicated to Kronus, the lead symbolizing the planet's slow motion. The second to Aphrodite, the resemblance consisting in the bright and malleable nature of the tin. The third, firm and resistant, to Zeus. The fourth to Hermes, in that like the iron Hermes is the tireless and efficient worker and producer of wealth. The fifth to Ares, because of the variable and irregular nature of the alloy. The sixth, of silver, to the Moon; and the seventh, of gold, to the Sun, from a comparison of their colours." Later Celsus investigates the reason for this definite assignment of the stars in whose names the remainder of the physical universe finds symbolical expression, and he expounds further the doctrines of harmony in which the Persian theology is set forth. In addition to these he is so ambitious as to publish a second treatise dealing with the principles of music. In my judgement however, for Celsus to propound his theory in these is absurd; it is like his procedure in the matter of his denunciation of Christians and Jews where he makes irrelevant quotations from Plato, and is so far from being satisfied with these that he drags in the Persian mysteries as he calls them of Mithra also with all their details. For whether these things are true or false in the belief of those who preside over the Mithraic rites of the Persians, why did he choose them for exposition and interpretation rather than any other mysteries? for Greeks have no preference for mysteries of Mithra rather than those of Eleusis or the traditional rites of Hecate which they celebrate in Aegina. And why if he felt it incumbent upon him to set forth foreign mysteries did he not rather prefer the Egyptian, in which many take an interest, or the Cappadocian worship of Artemis in Comana, or the Thracian, or even those of the Romans themselves in which the most high-born senators take part? but if he regarded it as unsuitable to his purpose to adopt anyone of these on the ground that they furnished no support to his denunciation of Jews or Christians, how is it that he did not draw the same conclusion with regard to his exposition of the Mithraic rites? (Geden)

And beyond the material quoted by Cumont and Geden, I found this material:

XXIII. If one wished to obtain means for a profounder contemplation of the entrance of souls into divine things, not from the statements of that very insignificant sect from which he quoted, but from books -- partly those of the Jews, which are read in their synagogues, and adopted by Christians, and partly from those of Christians alone -- let him peruse, at the end of Ezekiel's prophecies ... Let Celsus know, moreover, as well as those who read his book, that in no part of the genuine and divinely accredited Scriptures are "seven" heavens mentioned; neither do our prophets, nor the apostles of Jesus, nor the Son of God Himself, repeat anything which they borrowed from the Persians or the Cabiri.

XXIV. After the instance borrowed from the Mithraic mysteries, Celsus declares that he who would investigate the Christian mysteries, along with the aforesaid Persian, will, on comparing the two together, and on unveiling the rites of the Christians, see in this way the difference between them. ... It seems to me, however, that it is from some statements of a very insignificant sect called Ophites, which he has misunderstood... (ANF 4)

Ps.Clement, Homilies, (End of 2nd c.) [?] {Text: Cumont, ii, p.9}

Clementine Homily VI.10. The author speaks of allegorical interpretations, which the pagans give to their divinities:

And I must ask you to think of all such stories as embodying some such allegory. Look on Apollo as the wandering Sun (Peri-Polôn), a son of Zeus, who was also called Mithras, as completing the period of a year. And these said transformations of the all-pervading Zeus must be regarded as the numerous changes of the seasons, while his numberless wives you must understand to be years, or generations. (ANF)


Adonis also they take to represent the ripe fruits, Aphrodite birth and marriage, Demeter the soil, Kore the seeds, and some regard Dionysus as the vine. All explanations of this nature alike imply in my judgement a kind of metaphor. Apollo is to be regarded as the sun in his course, the offspring of Zeus, named also Mithra, as he completes the cycle of the year. (Geden)

Porphyry (ca. 270 AD) [=Mithras] {Text: Cumont, ii, p.39-43}

De Abstinentia, Book 2, ch. 56:

Pallas declares that under the emperor Hadrian human sacrifices were almost entirely abolished; and he is the best exponent of the mysteries of Mithra. {1} (Geden)

1. Cf. Eusebius, PE IV. 16:7.

De Abstinentia, Book 4, ch. 16:

Among the Persians those who are learned in the doctrines of the gods and minister in their service bear the name of magi. For this is the meaning of magian in their native tongue. And this class has been regarded among the Persians as so great and honourable that Darius Hystaspes had inscribed upon his tomb in addition to his other titles that he had been a teacher of Magian lore. The magi were divided into three grades, according to the assertion of Eubulus who wrote the history of Mithraism in many books. Of these the highest and most learned neither kill nor eat any living thing, but practise the long-established abstinence from animal food. The second use such food but do not kill any tame beasts. And following their example not even the third permit themselves the use of all. For in all the highest grades the doctrine of metempsychosis is held, which also is apparently signified in the mysteries of Mithra; for these through the living creatures reveal to us symbolically our community of nature with them. So the mystics who take part in the actual rites are called lions the women hyaenas *, the servants crows, and of the fathers . . . for these bear the names of eagles and hawks. He who is invested with the character of the lion adopts various forms of living creatures, the reason of which is said by Pall as in his work on Mithra to be the belief in their common life-history, which extends over the course of the zodiacal cycle; and a true and precise conception of human souls is set forth in symbol, for these they say pass through various bodies. (Geden)

* Or more probably the text should read "lionesses".

De Antro Nympharum (=The Cave of Nymphs) ch. 5-6:

Our ancestors appear to have adorned and consecrated grottos and caves ... so the Persians also initiate the novice into the mysteries by an allegorical descent of the souls to the lower world and a return, and they use the name cave. In the first instance, according to the report of Eubulus, Zoroaster consecrated a natural cave in the adjacent mountains of Persis, carpeted with grass and with fresh springs, to the honour of Mithra creator and father of all, in imitation of the worldcave which Mithra fashioned, and of the natural elements and regions which bore within at regular intervals symbolic representations. And after Zoroaster the custom was observed amongst others also of celebrating their rites in grottos and caves either natural or artificial. (Geden)

De Antro Nympharum, ch. 9-10:

9.Caves, therefore, in the most remote periods of antiquity were consecrated to the Gods, before temples were erected to them. Hence, the Curetes in Crete dedicated a cavern to Jupiter; in Arcadia, a cave was sacred to the Moon, and to Lycean Pan; and in Naxus, to Bacchus. But wherever Mithra was known, they propitiated the God in a cavern. With respect, however, to the Ithacensian cave, Homer was not satisfied with saying that it had two gates, but adds that one of the gates was turned towards the north, but the other which was more divine, to the south. He also says that the northern gate was pervious to descent, but does not indicate whether this was also the case with the southern gate. For of this, he only says, "It is inaccessible to men, but it is the path of the immortals."

10.It remains, therefore, to investigate what is indicated by this narration; whether the poet describes a cavern which was in reality consecrated by others, or whether it is an enigma of his own invention. Since, however, a cavern is an image and symbol of the world, as Numenius and his familiar Cronius assert, there are two extremities in the heavens, viz., the winter tropic, than which nothing is more southern, and the summer tropic, than which nothing is more northern.

De Antro Nympharum, ch. 15:

The votaries use honey for many and diverse symbolic purposes, because of its variety of properties, since it possesses both purgative and preserving virtue. For by honey many things are preserved from corruption and wounds of long standing are cleansed. It is also sweet to the taste and is gathered from flowers by bees which are regarded as born of cattle. When therefore into the hands of those initiated into the lion grade honey is poured for washing instead of water, they are charged to keep their hands clean from all wrong and injury and defilement; the offering of actual water to the initiate is avoided as being hostile to the fire with its purifying qualities. The tongue also is purified from all sin by honey. And when honey is offered to the Persian {1} as the guardian of the fruits, its preservative virtue is symbolically expressed. (Geden)

1. I.e. the fifth grade of initiation.

De Antro Nympharum, ch. 18:

The bowls symbolize the springs, as in the ritual of Mithra the bowl is set for the spring .... Our ancestors used to call the priestesses of Demeter, as being an earth goddess, mystic bees, and the maiden herself honied; to the moon also as presiding over birth they gave the name of bee, especially since the moon is a bull and the moon culminates in the Bull, and bees are bull-begotten. And souls when they come to birth are bull-begotten, and the god who secretly promotes birth is a stealer of bulls. (Geden)

De Antro Nympharum, ch. 20:

Our earliest ancestors therefore, before temples were invented, used to consecrate to the gods recesses and caves in Crete to the Zeus of the Curetes, in Arcadia to Selene and the Lycaean Pan, and in Naxos to Dionysus. And wherever Mithra is known, the sanctuary where he is worshipped is a cave. (Geden)

De Antro Nympharum, ch. 24:

He (i.e. Homer) has not described the entrances therefore by east or west or by the equinoxes, i.e. by the ram and the scales, but by north and south (gates opening to the south being most exposed to wet, those to the north to cold), because the cave is sacred to souls and the water-nymphs, and the regions of birth and death appertain to souls. Mithra's own seat however is determined by the equinoxes. He bears therefore the sword of the ram, the Aries of the zodiac, and rides on Aphrodite's bull, since the bull is generator and he (Mithra) is lord of creation. Moreover according to the equinoctial cycle he is represented with the north on his right and the south on his left, his southern hemisphere being so assigned because of its warmth, his northern because of the cold of the wind. And to souls that come to the birth and depart from life it was natural to assign winds, because they also bring with them breath, as some have supposed, and are of similar nature. But the north is appropriate to those that come to the birth. (Geden)

Commodian (3rd c. A.D.) [=Mithras] {Text: Cumont, ii, p.9}

Instructiones. 1.13, (Clauss pp. 62 n.77, 78 n.92)

Invictus de petra natus si deus habentur
Nunc ego reticeo; vos de istis date priorem!
Vicit petra deum, quaerendus est petrae creator.
Insuper et furem adhuc depingitis esse,
Cum, si deus esset, utique non furto vivebat.
Terrenus utique fuit et monstruosa natura,
Vertebatque boves alienos semper in antris
Sicut et Cacus Vulcani filius ille
If indeed a god, Invictus was rock-born;
Now which came first? Here rock has
Vanquished god: for who created it?
If a god, by theft he could not live; yet
Cattle-thief is the name he goes by.
Terraneous he was born, a monster;
Vulcan's son he's like, old Cacus who
Stole another's beasts, hid them in a cave. (Clauss)

XIII. The unconquered one was born from a rock, if he is regarded as a god. Now tell us, then, on the other hand, which is the first of these two. The rock has overcome the god: then the creator of the rock has to be sought after. Moreover, you still depict him also as a thief; although, if he were a god, he certainly did not live by theft. Assuredly he was of earth, and of a monstrous nature. And he turned other people's oxen into his caves; just as did Cacus, that son of Vulcan. (ANF4).

Whether the invincible, born from a rock, is to be regarded as divine--I now pronounce no judgement; it is for you to decide which of these has the priority. If the rock preceded the god, who then was the rock's creator? Moreover you portray him as a thief. Yet surely were he divine he would not be guilty of theft. The truth is he was of earthly birth and shared the nature of the creature, and was always driving off another's bullocks in his caves, like Cacus of the story the fabled son of Vulcan. (Geden)

Arnobius the Elder (295 A.D.) [Doubtful] {Cumont, ii, p.58}

Adversus Nationes, VII. 10:

It is not right to assert or maintain a likeness where the main features do not show similar lines .... The sun is clearly seen by all men to be smooth and rounded, but you ascribe to him human face and features. The moon is always in motion, and assumes thrice ten forms in her changing monthly circuit. According to your representation she is a woman, with a countenance that does not alter, though her daily variation carries her through a thousand forms. We all know that the winds are pulsations of the atmosphere, set in motion and stirred by mundane forces. You give them the faces of men with cheeks distended with the violent blasts of their trumpets. Among your gods we see the grim face of a lion smeared with vine and bearing a name reminiscent of the crops. {1} (Geden)

1. Nomine frugiferio. Cumont however would adopt the suggestion "frugiferi," i.e. Saturn.

POxy 1802 (2-3rd c. A.D.) [=Mithra]

Oxyrhynchus papyrus P.Oxy. 1802 (volume 15, p.129), l.82, as described by Francesca Schironi of Harvard University at a colloquium "Buried linguistic treasure" at Christ Church, Oxford, 30th June 2006. This is a fragment of an ancient Greek glossary or lexicon, in strict alphabetical order. Most of the words on the fragment begin with μ. The words are all ones that are unusual, of foreign origin, or used in an unusual way. The definitions mostly refer to books (mainly now lost) rather than current usage, and the latest such book is of the 1st century BC. The papyrus itself is 2-3rd century AD, which suggests that this is a copy of an older work from the late Ptolemaic-early Roman period. Among the words given is this:

Μιθρας ὁ Προμηθεύς κατὰ δ̕ ἄλλους ὁ ἥλιος παρὰ Πέρσ[αις]

Mithras: Prometheus, according to others the sun among the Pers[ians].

This indicates that the name of Mithras was itself an unusual word at this period. Not in Geden or Cumont.

Ps.Callisthenes (ca. 300 A.D.?) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.36-7}

The Alexander Romance. book I. 36:

I, Darius, king of kings and of the race of the gods, consort of Mithra on his throne and co-partner with the sun, in my own right divine do give these injunctions and commands to thee my servant Alexander. (Geden)

I. 39:

Alexander the king, the son of king Philip and Olympias his mother, to the great king of the Persians, king of kings and consort of the sun-god, off-spring of the gods and co-partner with the sun, greeting. It is unworthy that Darius, so great a king of the Persians, exalted with so great power, consort of the gods and co-partner with the sun, should be reduced to mean servitude to a mere man Alexander. (Geden)


Alexander then seeing the great pomp of Darius was moved almost to worship him as Mithra the divine, as though clothed in barbaric splendour he had come down from heaven,--such was his splendid array. Darius was seated upon a lofty throne, with a crown of most precious stones, wearing a robe of Babylonian silk inwoven with golden thread. (Geden)

(Syriac version of same passage) And when Darius saw Alexander he did obeisance and worshipped Alexander, for he believed that he was Mihr the god, and that he had come down to bring aid to the Persians. For his raiment was like that of the gods, and the crown which rested upon his head shone with rays of light and the robe which he wore was woven with fine gold. (Geden)

III. 34 (After the death of Alexander):

The Persians contended with the Macedonians wishing to carry off Alexander and to proclaim him as Mithra. But the Macedonians resisted, wishing to carry him back to Macedonia. (Geden)

Greek Magical Papyri (3rd century?) [=?] {Cumont, ii, p.55}

From a Paris papyrus, PGM IV. lines 475-829 (Clauss, p. 106-8) (the "Mithras liturgy"):

Shew me favour, kindly Forethought (i.e. Athene) and Fortune, as I write these ancient mysteries that we have received, and for my only son I beg the gift of immortality, ye ministers of this our great potency. You therefore, O daughter, shouldest take the juices of herbs and of species which are in thy care in the rite of my holy office. For in this the great sun-god Mithra bade me by his archangel take part, that I ... may rise to heaven and have insight into all things. And of mv discourse this is the invocation .... O king, greatest of the gods, thou sun, the lord of heaven and earth, god of gods, thy breath is potent, thy power is potent, if it seem good to thee, forward me on my way to the supreme deity who begat thee and formed thee, for I am the man N. (Geden)

British Library papyrus 46 (Kenyon, Greek papyri in the British Museum, p.65):

I invoke thee, O Zeus the Sun-god Mithra Sarapis, invincible, giver of mead, Melikertes, lord of the mead, abraalbabachaebechi ....

Cumont gives three other magical fragments in which Mithras is not named as such.

Hegemonius, Acts of Archelaus (Early 4th c. A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii, p.16}

Acts of Archelaus ch. 36. Addressing Mani:

What further then shall I say? You foreign priest and partner of Mithra, you will worship Mithra alone as the sun, whose light penetrates and illuminates, as you imagine, the secret shrines. This worship it is that you travesty, and like a clever actor rehearse the mysteries. (Geden)


Barbarian priest and crafty coadjutor of Mithras, you will only be a worshipper of the sun-god Mithras, who is the illuminator of places of mystic import, as you opine, and the self-conscious deity; " that is, you will sport as his worshippers do, and you will celebrate, though with less elegance as it were, his mysteries. (ANF)

Firmicus Maternus (350 A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii, p.13-14}

De Errore profanis religionis, ch. 4:

The Persians and all the Magi who inhabit the borderlands of Persia reverence the fire, and give to it the primary place among all the elements. These then regard the fire as possessed of a double energy, assigning its character, to each sex, and expounding the essential substance of the fire under the figure of a man and woman. The woman they represent with three faces and girded with huge snakes... while in the worship of the hero who drove off the bulls they transfer his rites to the cult of the fire, as his poet has recorded for us when he wrote:

Mystic priest of the captured bulls, skilful son of a noble sire.

To him they give the name Mithras, and celebrate his rites in secret caves, that shrouded in the dim obscurity of the darkness they may shun the touch of the pure and glorious light. Truly an ill-omened exaltation of a deity! a hateful recognition of a barbarian rite! to deify one whose criminal acts your confess. When you affirm therefore that in the temples the Magian rites are duly performed after the Persian ceremonial, why do you confine your approval to these Persian rites alone? If you think it not derogatory to the Roman name to adopt Persian cults and Persian laws.... (Geden)


They say (this god) is Mithras, but they perform his initiations in caves that are hidden away, so that, plunged perpetually into the pitchy murk of night, they may shun the grace of the bright and glorious light. ...

[Mithraists are] initiates of the theft of the bull, united by the handshake of the illustrious father. (Clauss 5.2)

De Errore profanis religionis, ch. 20:

The pass-word of a second mystery cult of foreign origin is the "god from the rock." {1} Why do you shame your profession by transferring this sacred and revered name to the heathen rites? Different indeed is the Stone which God in confirmation of his pledged word promised to send to Jerusalem. Under the figure of the sacred stone the Christ is represented to us. Why this deceitful and dishonourable transference of a revered name to unclean superstitions?... As for the stone of their idolatrous worship of which they use the title "God from the rock" what prophetic utterance has told thereof? To whom has that stone brought healing and mercy? (Geden)

1. Clauss: θεὸς ἐκ πέτρας

Gregory Nazianzen (mid-late 4th century A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii, p.15-16}

Oration 4, ch.70(First Invective against Julian).

... thou that admirest the funeral pyre of Hercules... the castrations of Phrygians, who are fascinated by means of the pipe, and are abused after the piping; and those in the rites of King Mithras, the well-deserved or mystical brandings; and the sacrifice of strangers at Tauri... (


The mutilations of the Phrygians distraught with the sound of the flute, and the tortures in the temple of Mithra, and the mystic cauteries, and the sacrifice of strangers among the Taurians. (Geden)

Oration 4, ch. 89. A Christian priest is lynched:

He was dragged through the streets, he was thrust into the sewers, he was pulled by the hairs, not only of the head, but of every part of the body without exception, shame being mingled with torment, at the hands of people who deservedly are thus tortured in the rites of Mithras...

Oration 39 -- On the Holy Lights (Ad Sancta Lumina), ch.5:

Nor is it the sacrificial art of Magi, and their entrail forebodings, nor the Chaldaean astronomy and horoscopes, comparing our lives with the movements of the heavenly bodies, which cannot know even what they are themselves, or shall be. Nor are these Thracian orgies, from which the word Worship (qrhskei/a) is said to be derived; nor rites and mysteries of Orpheus, whom the Greeks admired so much for his wisdom that they devised for him a lyre which draws all things by its music. Nor the tortures of Mithras which it is just that those who can endure to be initiated into such things should suffer; nor the manglings of Osiris, another calamity honoured by the Egyptians; nor the ill-fortunes of Isis and the goats more venerable than the Mendesians, and the stall of Apis, the calf that luxuriated in the folly of the Memphites, nor all those honours with which they outrage the Nile, while themselves proclaiming it in song to be the Giver of fruits and corn, and the measurer of happiness by its cubits. (ANF)


Neither the divination of the Magi, nor inspection of the victims, nor the astronomy and horoscopy of the Chaldaeans . . . nor Thracian orgies . . . nor the mystic rites of Orpheus . . . nor the painful endurance required of the initiates of Mithra, nor the mutilations of Osiris . . . nor the misfortunes of Isis, etc. (Geden)

Carmen VII Ad Nemesium, ch. 7, lines 265 f.

The mountain-haunting Bacchants in the train of Semele's son, and the ill-omened apparitions of nightly Hecate, and the shameful deeds and unrivalled orgies of the Mithraean shrine.

Cumont adds that Eustathius appears to have borrowed these lines for his sermon In sanctam quadragesimam. (Tafel, Eustathii metropolitae opuscula 1832, p.74, 90 f.)

Julian the Apostate (361-2 A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii. p.19-20, 66}

Oration 4 (Hymn to King Helios), 115b:

Were I to tell you next of the reverence paid to Mithra and the quadrennial games in honour of the sun I should be expounding a ritual of quite recent date. It would be better perhaps to set forth a cult of more ancient times. (Geden)

Convivium (=Caesares) 336C. Words addressed by Hermes to Julian:

As for you ... I have granted you to know Mithras the father. Keep his commandments, thus securing for yourself an anchor-cable and safe-mooring all through your life, and, when you must leave the world, having every confidence that the god who guides you will be kindly disposed. (Tr. W.C.Wright).


But to thee, Hermes declares to us, have I granted the knowledge of Mithra the father. Do thou therefore observe his commands, providing for thyself in this life a sure cable and anchorage, and with a joyous confidence assuring for thyself when thou departest hence the gracious guidance of the god. (Geden)

Oration 5, On the Mother of the Gods, 172D:

Were I also to make reference to the secret initiatory rite which the Chaldaean priest celebrates for the seven-rayed god, by whose aid he conducts the souls upwards, I should be telling of mysteries, mysteries at least to the vulgar, but within the knowledge of the fortunate hierophants. On these matters therefore for the present I will be silent. (Geden)

Cumont also refers here to the comments of Proclus.

Oration 4 (Hymn to King Helios), 156C:

Immediately after the last month of Kronos and before the new moon we observe the renowned festival in honour of the Sun, celebrating the feast to the invincible Sun, after which none of the gloomy rites which the last month involves, necessary as they are, may be completed; but in the order of the cycle the festal days of the sun succeed immediately upon the last days of Kronos. May mine be the good fortune often to celebrate and to confirm these by the favour of the royal gods, and above others of the Sun himself the king of the universe. (Geden)

Cumont says that "this fragment, given by Fabri as relating to Mithras, in reality makes allusion to the festival celebrated on 25 December in honour of Sol Invictus, festivals which have only an indirect connection with the mysteries of Mithras."

Himerius (ca. 362 A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii, p.17-18}

Oration VII, ch. 60:

At the summons of the Emperor ]ulian he went to the Emperor's camp for the purpose of giving exhibitions of rhetoric in Constantinople. Prior to the exhibition he was initiated into the Mithraic mysteries, and delivered his oration before the city and the Emperor who had established the rite. (Geden)

Panegyric on Julian, opening words:

With heart enlightened by Mithra the sun, and by divine grace admitted now to friendship with the king the friend of the gods, tell me what discourse in the stead of a lamp we should kindle for the king and the city. For the law of Athens bids the mystics carry a light and sheaves of corn to Eleusis, in token of a blameless life. But let our mystics present as their thank-offering an oration, if indeed I am right that Apollo is the Sun and that discourses are the sons of Apollo. (Geden)

Panegyric on Julian, IX, 62:

He (i.e. Julian) by his virtue dispelled the darkness which forbade the uplifting of the hands to the Sun, and as though from the cheerless life of an underworld he gained a vision of the heavens, when he raised shrines to the gods and established divine rites that were strange to the city, and consecrated therein the mysteries of the heavenly deities. And far and wide he bestowed no trifling grants of healing, as the sick in body are revived by human skill, but unlimited gifts of health. For with a nature akin to the sun he could not fail to shine and illuminate the way to a better life. (Geden)

Libanius (360's A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, Les mysteres de Mithra, 1913, p.248}

Oration 18: Epitaphios Juliani, section 127 (vol.II, p.290, Förster). English translation here.

And because it was not easy for the emperor to go out of his palace every day to a temple, whilst constant intercourse with heaven was a thing of the utmost importance, a temple was built in the centre of the palace to Him who rules the day; and he himself took his part of the Mysteries and communicated thereof to others; being both initiated and initiating. He erected also altars to all the gods separately.

Epiphanius (late 4th c. A.D.) [=?] {Cumont, ii, p.65}

Panarion book 1, 3:

... Epimenides, who was an ancient philosopher and erected the idol {of Mithras} in Crete. (Williams)

This passage is given by Cumont, who states that the text is corrupt and should read "of the god". The translation of the Panarion by Frank Williams omits the {of Mithras}.

Jerome (ca. 400 A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii, p.18-19}

Letter 107, ch.2 "To Laeta":

... did not your own kinsman Gracchus whose name betokens his patrician origin, when a few years back he held the prefecture of the City, overthrow, break in pieces, and shake to pieces the grotto of Mithras and all the dreadful images therein? Those I mean by which the worshippers were initiated as Raven, Bridegroom, Soldier, Lion, Perseus, Sun, Crab, and Father? Did he not, I repeat, destroy these and then, sending them before him as hostages, obtain for himself Christian baptism? (ANF)


"...did not your own kinsman Gracchus, whose name betokens his patrician origin, when a few years back he held the prefecture of the City, overthrow, break in pieces, and set on fire the grotto of Mithras and all the dreadful images therein? Those I mean by which the worshippers were initiated as Raven, Bridegroom, Soldier, Lion, Persian, Sun-runner, and Father? Did he not send them before him as hostages, to obtain for himself Christian baptism? 5" (Greenslade, "Early Latin Theology", Library of Christian Classics vol. 5, p.333)

5. Furius Maecius Gracchus is mentioned in the Codex Theodosianus as Prefect of Rome in A.D. 378 and 377. His destruction of the cave of Mithras is also alluded to by Prudentius, Contra Symmachum, I., 562. Platner and Ashby, Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1929), list eight known Mithraea in Rome, with another doubtful. This passage is important for the seven degrees of initiation into Mithraism, but the text is not wholly certain. The Latin words are:-- corax, nymphius, miles, leo, Perses, heliodromus, pater; Hilberg substitutes cryphius for nymphius on the basis of inscriptions, but this is against the manuscripts. For the family connections of Gracchus compare Letter 108:1." (Greenslade) [Letter 108 is to Eustochium (also in the same book), and describes Paula as a descendant of the Gracchi and related to the Maecii. The letter refers to the destruction of the Serapeum, and seems to date to 403 - RP]


When a few years ago your relative Graecus, whose name bespeaks his noble birth, held the office of prefect of the city, did he not utterly destroy the cave of Mithra with all the monstrous crew that give names to the initiates in their grades, the crow, the gryphon, the soldier, the lion, the Persian, Heliodromus,{1} and father? These his works were pledges as it were sent forward, whereby he gained Christian baptism. (Geden)

1. For the name Cumont quotes an inscription from Otourah in Phrygia given in Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, vol. 1., pt. ii, p. 566. The name is unknown elsewhere in connection with the Mithraic mysteries.

Against Jovinian, book 1. c. 7:

Heathen fables relate how Mithras and Ericthonius were begotten of the soil, in stone or earth, by raging lust. (ANF)


According to the popular legend Mithra and Erichthonius were born in a rock or in the ground by the unaided passion of lust. (Geden)

Against Jovinian, book 2. c.14

Eubulus, also, who wrote the history of Mithras in many volumes, relates that among the Persians there are three kinds of Magi, the first of whom, those of greatest learning and eloquence, take no food except meal and vegetables. (ANF)


Eubulus the author of a history of Mithra in many volumes states that there are three classes of magi among the Persians, the first of which, men pre-eminent in learning and eloquence, confine their food to pulse and vegetables alone.

Cumont does not print this extract, and says instead "See Porphyry".

Commentary on Amos, book 5, ch.9-10:

Basilides gives to the omnipotent god the uncouth name of Abraxas, and asserts that according to the Greek letters and the number of the cycle of the year this is comprehended in the sun's orbit. The name Mithra, which the Gentiles use, gives the same sum with different letters. (Geden)

I.e. Μειθπας = 40 + 5 + 10 + 9 + 100 + 1 + 200 = 365; Ἀβράξας = 1 + 2 + 100 + 1 + 60 + 1 + 200 = 365.

Clauss refers to Jerome, Comm. in Am. 1.3.9-10 (CCL 76: 250) and says it has notes on the name 'Meithras' adding up to 365, the days of the year. "iuxta computationem Graecarum litterarum Meithras anni numerum habet." This is not mentioned by Cumont.

Eunapius (late 4th c. A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii, p.12}

Lives of the Sophists: Life of Maximus:

After himself there would arise a priest to whom it was forbidden to sit upon the priestly throne since it was consecrated to strange divinities, and mighty oaths had he sworn not to take part in strange rites. He declared nevertheless that he would take part although not even an Athenian ... and his words came to pass in this way. For at the same time that Agoraeus Vettius arose, founder of the Mithraic cult, and for no long (period) ... when a storm of misfortunes, numerous and indescribable, had broken .... (Geden)

Geden adds that the name "Agoraeus" is uncertain -- Cumont prints Ἀγόῤιος -- and that the text is interrupted and uncertain.

The Augustan History (late 4th c. A.D.) [=Mithras]

'Lampridius', Life of Commodus, ch. 9:

Sacra Mithriaca homicidio vero polluit, cum illic aliquid ad speciem timoris vel dici vel fingi soleat

He [Commodus] desecrated the rites of Mithras with actual murder, although it was customary in them merely to say or pretend something that would produce an impression of terror. (Tr. D. Magie, Loeb Classical Library)


With his club he struck down not only the lions masquerading in woman's clothing and a lion's skin but even many men. Halt and lame men he dressed up as giants, so that covered with rags from the knees downwards they crept along like serpents, and transfixed them with arrows. The shrines of Mithra he defiled with human blood judging that in this way he would terrorise by deed as well as by word. (Geden)

Ambrose of Milan (late 4th c. A.D.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.17}

Epistula 18, contra Symmachum.

... her for instance, whom the Africans worship as Caelestis 77, and the Persians as Mitra, the greater part of the world as Venus, the same deity under different names.

Cumont says that this must be derived from Herodotus, and shows that Ambrose was quite ignorant of Mithras.

Claudian (ca. 400 A.D.) [=Mithra] {Text: Cumont, ii, p.8}

De consulatu Stilichonis book 1 (21), line 58 f.

Fragrant with clouds of incense and with sheaves of Sabrean corn the altars ensure peace. From the furthest shrines the priests draw forth the sacred flame and slay the bullocks with Chaldaean rite. The king himself with his right hand tips the gleaming bowl, and summons to witness Bel's mystic lore, and Mithra who guides the wandering stars. (Geden)

Prudentius (ca. 400 A.D.) [=?] {Cumont, ii, p.71}

Cathemerinon book 5:

Kindly Guide, creator of the radiant light, who controllest the seasons in their fixed courses, if thy sun is hidden chaos grim encompasses us, restore thy light O Christ to thy faithful followers. Though with countless stars thou hast adorned the sky in all its grandeur, and with the splendour of the moon, yet we go in quest of light from the cleft rock, monstrous forms of stony birth. May men discern their hope of light enshrined in the unchanging body of the Christ, who declared himself to be the firm rock, whence our lesser fires have their birth. (Geden)

Geden says that these words have been supposed to contain a reference to the story of Mithras born from a rock, but that "the language of Prudentius
is probably sufficiently explained by Matt. xvi. 18, I Cor. x. 4". He has Cumont's remarks in mind.

Ps.-Paulinus of Nola / Anonymous, Carmen ad Antonium (ca. 400 A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii.31, Cumont, ii, p.52}

Poem 32 (the "Poema Ultimum"), chapter 111 (CSEL 30, carm. 32, p. 329-338). 

What of the fact that they hide the Unconquered One in a rocky cave and dare to call the one they keep in darkness the Sun? Who adores light in secret or hides the star of the sky in the shadows beneath the earth except for some evil purpose? Why do they not hide the rites of Isis with her symbols and the dog-headed Anubis even deeper, instead of showing them throughout the public places as they do? Yes, they look for something and rejoice when they have found it and lose it again so that they can hunt for it again. What sensible man could put up with the sight of one sect hiding the sun, as it were, while the others openly display their monstrous gods? (Croke and Harries).

111. How dark is the human mind, how unforeseeing men’s hearts! The object of their worship does not exist, yet bloody sacrifices are conducted. For example, they keep the Unconquered One down in a dark cavern, and dare to call him the sun though they hide him in darkness. Who would think of worshipping light in darkness, of hiding the star of heaven in hell, except the initiator of wickedness? Then, too, there are the mysteries of Isis, the rattle and the dog’s head which they do not seek to conceal, but put on public display. At any rate, they search for something or other, rejoice when they have found it, and lose it again so that they can find it again!24 What man of sense could endure on the one hand the followers of Mithras burying, so to say, the sun, and on the other hand the followers of Isis flaunting the barbaric symbols of their deities in the light of day? (P.G.Walsh (tr), Paulinus of Nola: Poems, Paulist Press, 1975, p.334).

Anonymous, Carmen ad Flavianum / Carmen contra paganos (ca. 400 A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, Les mysteres de Mithra, 1913, p.249}

Online here.

How, I ask you, did your priest help the city? He taught the [Greek] priest to seek the Sun beneath the earth, and when a grave-digger from the countryside happened to cut down a pear tree for himself, would say that he was a companion of the gods and mentor of Bacchus, he, a worshipper of Serapis, always a friend to the Etruscan diviners, the one who sought eagerly to pour for the unwary his draughts of poison, who sought a thousand ways of harming and as many contrivances.

Augustine (early 5th century A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii, p.59}

Saint Augustine Tractatus in Joh. Evang. VII, 6.

Some counterfeit therefore the spirit which I speak has set up, as though he would fain redeem by blood his own image, since he knew that by precious blood the human race was redeemed. For evil spirits invent for themselves certain counterfeit representations of high degree, that by this means they may deceive the followers of Christ. To such an extent, my brethren, that these very foes of ours, who delude by their posturing and incantations and devices, mingle with their incantations the name of Christ. And because with poison alone they are unable to lead the Christians astray, they add a little honey, to conceal the bitter taste by the sweet, that the fatal draught may be taken; to such an extent that as I understand at one time the priest of that mitred god [Mithras] was accustomed to say, "the mitred god himself also was a Christian." (Geden)


And this is a great thing to see in the whole world, the lion vanquished by the blood of the Lamb: members of Christ delivered from the teeth of the lions, and joined to the body of Christ. Therefore some spirit or other contrived the counterfeit that His image should be bought for blood, because he knew that the human race was at some time to be redeemed by the precious blood. For evil spirits counterfeit certain shadows of honor to themselves, that they may deceive those who follow Christ. So much so, my brethren, that those who seduce by means of amulets, by incantations, by the devices of the enemy, mingle the name of Christ with their incantations: because they are not now able to seduce Christians, so as to give them poison they add some honey, that by means of the sweet the bitter may be concealed, and be drunk to ruin. So much so, that I know that the priest of that Pilleatus was sometimes in the habit of saying, Pilleatus himself also is a Christian. Why so, brethren, unless that they were not able otherwise to seduce Christians? (ANF)

Pileatus = a god wearing a phrygian cap; either Attis or Mithras. According to Geden, Cumont judges that Attis is probably meant, and the ceremony is the criobolium.

Ambrosiaster (5th century A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont ii. p.8}

Quaestiones veteris et novi testamenti 113.11 (PL 34:2214).

in spelaeo velatis oculis illuduntur -- they are deceived in the cave when they have their eyes blindfolded.

Alii autem ligatis manibus intestinis pullinis proiiciuntur super foveas aqua plenas, accedente quodam cum gladio et inrumpente intestina supra dicta qui se liberatorem appellet. i.e. that the initiands hands were tied with chicken's guts, which were then cut through by a man calling himself his "liberator"

Alii autem sicut aves alas percutiunt vocem coracis imitantes, alii vero leonum more fremunt ... ecce quantis modis turpitur inluduntur qui se sapientes appellant -- some of them flap their wings like birds, imitating the croak of the raven, while others actually roar like lions ... how disgustingly deluded these people are, who call themselves "wise". (Clauss)


What travesty is it then that they enact in the cave with veiled faces? for they cover their eyes lest their deeds of shame should revolt them. Some like birds flap their wings imitating the raven's cry; others roar like lions; others bind their hands with the entrails of fowls and fling themselves down over pits full of water, and then another whom they call the Liberator approaches with a sword and severs the above-mentioned bonds. Other rites there are which are yet more dishonourable. What shameful mockeries for men who call themselves wise. But because these things are concealed in the darkness they think that they can remain unknown yet all these, the secret devise and contrivance of foul and malignant demons, have been dragged to the light and unveiled by the holy Christian faith. For when the faith is preached the hearers of the excellent and sacred truth thus proclaimed have been converted, and have abandoned those dishonourable and secret rites, confessing that in their ignorance they have been misled. (Geden)

Dionysius the Areopagite (late 5th c. AD?) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.11}

ps.Dionysius the Areopagite, Epist. 7. Section 2 (PG 3, p.1082):

But you say, the Sophist Apollophanes rails at me, and calls me parricide, as using, not piously, the writings of Greeks against the Greeks. ...

How then does he not worship Him, ... when sun and moon together with the universe, by a power and stability most supernatural, were fixed by them to entire immobility and, for a measure of a whole day... This thing indeed naturally astounded even Babylonians, and, without battle, brought them into subjection to Hezekiah,....

But Apollophanes is ever saying that these things are not true. At any rate then, this is reported by the Persian sacerdotal legends, and to this day, Magi celebrate the memorials of the threefold Mithras. But let him disbelieve these things, by reason of his ignorance or his inexperience. (


Accordingly of this the sacred records of the Persians make special mention, and to the present day the Magians celebrate the memorial rites of the triple Mithra. (Geden)

Cumont states that Cosmas Indicopleustes reproduces this passage of ps.Dionysius.

Martianus Capella (5th century A.D.) [=?] {Cumont, ii.24-25}

De nuptiis philologiae et Mercurii (On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury), book 2, ch.85, line 191 f. (Teubner p.53)

Te Serapin Nilus, Memphis veneratur Osirim,
dissona sacra Mithram Ditemque ferumque Typhonem;
Attis pulcher item, curvi et puer almus aratri,
Hammon et arentis Libyes ac Byblius Adon.
Sic vario cunctus te nomine convocat orbis.
You the dwellers on the Nile adore as Serapis, and Memphis as Osiris;
In differing rites as Mithras, and Dis and cruel Typhon;
Likewise beautiful Attis, and the kindly boy of the curved plough,
And waterless Libya as Ammon, and Byblos as Adonis.
Thus the whole world adores thee under various names.

Translation found online plainly inaccurate, partly fixed and partly completed by me, but I was unable to get the sense of the Attis line.

Andrew Criddle has kindly come to my rescue on the Attis line, and adds,

In order to make sense of this one must be aware that "the boy of the curved plough" is a title of Triptolemus. Virgil's first Georgic has: "and the boy inventor of the curved plough" and Ovid's Fasti has: "He will ... be the first to plough and sow and reap rewards from the tilled soil."

He also pointed out problems with the Ditem line. Dis is Pluto.

The Latins call thee Sol, for that in solitary splendour thou art highest in rank after the Father, and from thy sacred head adorned with its twice six rays golden beams shoot forth, furnished thus, men say, to equal the number of the months and the seasons determined by thee. F our steeds they relate that thou guidest with reins, for thou alone dost control Nature's car. And for that thou expellest the darkness, disclosing the bright heavens with thy light, therefore they name thee Phoebus, revealer of the secrets of the future, or Lyaeus because thou dost unloose the hidden things of night. Thee the Nile reveres as Serapis, Memphis as Osiris, other cults as Mithra, or Dis, or savage Typhon. Thou art fair Attis too, and the gentle boy of the curved plough, Ammon also of the parched Lybian desert, and Adon of Byblos. So under various names the whole world worships thee.

Socrates Scholasticus (early 5th c. AD) [=Mithras] {Text: Cumont, ii, p.44-45}

Ecclesiastical History book III, ch. 2:3:

2. It is now proper to mention what took place in the churches under the same [emperor]. A great disturbance occurred at Alexandria in consequence of the following circumstance. There was a place in that city which had long been abandoned to neglect and filth, wherein the pagans had formerly celebrated their mysteries, and sacrificed human beings to Mithra. This being empty and otherwise useless, Constantius had granted to the church of the Alexandrians; and George wishing to erect a church on the site of it, gave directions that the place should be cleansed. In the process of clearing it, an adytum of vast depth was discovered which unveiled the nature of their heathenish rites: for there were found there the skulls of many persons of all ages, who were said to have been immolated for the purpose of divination by the inspection of entrails, when the pagans performed these and such like magic arts whereby they enchanted the souls of men. The Christians on discovering these abominations in the adytum of the Mithreum, went forth eagerly to expose them to the view and execration of all; and therefore carried the skulls throughout the city, in a kind of triumphal procession, for the inspection of the people. When the pagans of Alexandria beheld this, unable to bear the insulting character of the act, they became so exasperated, that they assailed the Christians with whatever weapon chanced to come to hand, in their fury destroying numbers of them in a variety of ways: some they killed with the sword, others with clubs and stones; some they strangled with ropes, others they crucified, purposely inflicting this last kind of death in contempt of the cross of Christ: most of them they wounded; and as it generally happens in such a case, neither friends nor relatives were spared, but friends, brothers, parents, and children imbrued their hands in each other's blood. Wherefore the Christians ceased from cleansing the Mithreum: the pagans meanwhile having dragged George out of the church, fastened him to a camel, and when they had torn him to pieces, they burnt him together with the camel. (ANF)


In the great city of Alexander a disturbance arose from the following cause. There was a district in the city, long waste and neglected, a receptacle for stores of rubbish, wherein the Greeks of old used to celebrate Mithraic rites and perform human sacrifice. This vacant site Constantine had long previously assigned to the Alexandrian Church. Georgius however wishing to build an oratory there on gave orders for it to be cleared. In the course of the work a shrine was found at a considerable depth, in which were hidden the mystical emblems of the Greeks; and these comprised many human skulls, both ancient and new, whose owners were reported to have been slain in olden times, when the Greeks practised divination by the entrails and offered magical sacrifices with sorcery and deception. The Christians therefore finding these in the shrine of Mithra hastened to turn the mysteries of the Greeks to open ridicule before all. They forthwith formed a procession and exhibited the naked skulls to the populace. When the Greeks of Alexandria saw this they were inflamed with wrath, regarding it as an intolerable insult; and availing themselves of any weapon to hand they made an attack upon the Christians, and by various means destroyed many of them. Some they slew with swords, others were killed with clubs or stones, and others strangled with cords; others again they crucified, employing this manner of death in mockery of the cross; and the greater number they wounded. Then also as is the wont in such circumstances they did not spare even their nearest relatives, but friend smote friend, and brother brother, and parents their children, and all turned to mutual slaughter. The Christians therefore abandoned the cleansing of the Mithraeum. And others dragged Georgius from the church, bound him to a camel and tore him asunder, and burned both of them together. The king therefore indignant at the murder of Georgius wrote a letter and upbraided the people of Alexandria. (Giden)

These events took place ca. 360 AD, in the reign of Julian the Apostate.

Sozomen (5th century A.D.) [=Mithras] {Text: Cumont, ii, p.45}

Ecclesiastical History, book V, ch.7.

A calamity had also taken place at a spot called Mithrium; it was originally a desert, and Constantius had bestowed it on the church of Alexandria. While George was clearing the ground, in order to erect a house of prayer, an adytum was discovered. In it were found idols and certain instruments for initiation or perfection which seemed ludicrous and strange to the beholders. The Christians caused them to be publicly exhibited, and made a procession in order to nettle the pagans; but the pagans gathered a multitude together, and rushed upon and attacked the Christians, after arming themselves with swords, stones, and whatever weapon came first to hand. They slew many of the Christians, and, in derision of their religion, crucified others, and they left many wounded.

This led to the abandonment of the work that had been commenced by the Christians, while the pagans murdered George as soon as they had heard of the accession of Julian to the empire. This fact is admitted by that emperor himself, which he would not have confessed unless he had been forced by the truth; for he would rather, I think, have had the Christians, whoever they were, than the pagans to be the murderers of George; but it could not be concealed. (ANF)


The following event took place in connection with their so-called Mithraeum. This place which had long been waste was granted by Constantine to the Alexandrian church. When Georgius was clearing it for the erection of a house of prayer a shrine was disclosed, wherein were found some images and the instruments of those who formerly practised there initiatory and other rites. These were regarded by those who saw them as ridiculous and bizarre; and the Christians exhibited them publicly in procession in mockery of the Greeks. The latter gathered a crowd together and set upon the Christians, arming themselves some with swords or stones, others with any weapon to hand; and they slew many, crucifying some by way of insult to their religion, and inflicting wounds on most of them. The Christians therefore left unfinished the work they had begun; and the Greeks with the connivance of the queen of Julian killed Georgius. The king himself moreover bears testimony to the truth of this. (Geden)

These events took place ca. 360 AD, in the reign of Julian the Apostate.

Proclus (5th century A.D.) [=Mithra] {Text: Cumont, ii, p.43}

Commentary on the Timaeus, 315 D, F:

The barbarians call this life-giving source the well of life, the hollow receptacle suggesting together with the quality of a well the virtue of the whole life-giving godhead, wherein are contained the springs of all life, divine, angelic, demoniac, psychical, and physical.

If the one is spring-like (πηγαῖος), so also is the other. What then are we to say? The barbarians give to bowls the name of wells (πηγαίους), and so they denote individual souls. This bowl therefore is a bowl of living water (πηγαῖος κρατήρ); for it is the source of souls, wherein souls .... (Geden)

A paraphrase of the four books of Ptolemy on the stellar influences, ed. Allatius, p.93:

They have natures therefore corresponding to the majesty of their native gods. They worship Aphrodite, whom they call Isis, and the son of Kronos also . . . the sun they address as Mlthra. Most of them also foretell the future. (Geden)

The 'barbarians' in the first section are supposed to be the followers of Mithra.

Cumont suggests cf. the comments of Porphyry and Julian.

Hesychius (ca. 400 AD) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii, p.17}


Mithras, the name for the sun among the Persians.
Mithres, the chief god among the Persians. (Geden)

Zosimus the alchemist (300 A.D.) [=?] {Cumont, ii, p.52}

Ζώσιμος, περὶ ἀσβέστου (from the collection of Greek alchemists in Berthelot and Ruelle, vol. 2, p.113):

Dry the substance then in the sun and preserve it as a mystery not to be revealed, which none of the sages ventured to communicate by word but only by signs. For it is an indication of this that in their esoteric writings they use the word stone for that which is not a stone, the unknown they describe as universally known, the dishonoured as highly honoured, the ungenerous as divinely bountiful. Let me then also extol heaven's real gift, which alone in our daily experience rises above the material; for this is the medicine that is potent to heal, the Mithraic mystery. (Geden)

Geden (p.75) thought that this must be either Zosimus the historian or Pope Zosimus, and adds, "It is improbable that either of these was the author of the collection of magical charms or prescriptions from which the above extract is taken." It would seem that he was unaware of the alchemist Zosimus of Panopolis. (RP)

Zosimus (6th c. A.D.) [=?] {Cumont, ii, p.72}

New History, book 1, ch. 61:

Aurelian ... after the capture and destruction of Palmyra ... celebrated a triumph at Rome, and was received with the utmost enthusiasm by the Senate and people. He built the temple of the Sun also on a magnificent scale, adorning it with the votive offerings from Palmyra, and set up statues of the Sun and Bel. (Geden)

Geden notes that "the supposed reference to Mithras is doubtful." Cumont says this arises from Fabri presuming that Mithras and Sol Invictus were the same; which he rejects.

Nonnus of Panopolis (ca. 400 A.D.) [=Mithra] {Cumont, ii.25-26}

Dionysiaca, book 21, lines 246 f.

Turn if thou will they steps to the near country of the Medes; thither go and adress the chorus bands of Dionysus. I will show thee the land of Bactria, where divine Mithra had his birth, the Assyrian lord of light in Persis. For Deriades 1 never learnt to know the race of the blessed gods of heaven, nor does honour to the Sun or Zeus or the chorus band of the bright stars... I take no heed of the blessed offspring of Zeus; for the twain Earth and Water alone have become my gods. (Geden).

1. The Indian King.

Dionysiaca, book 40, lines 365-7.

With revelry he approached the home of Astrochiton 1 and the leader of the stars, and in mystic tones uttered his invocation: Herakles star-adorned, king of fire, ruler of the universe, thou Sun, who with thy far-flung rays art the guardian of mortal life, with flashing beam revolving the wide circuit of thy course... Belus thou art named on the Euphrates, Ammon in Libya, Apis of the Nile art thou by birth, Arabian Kronos, Assyrian Zeus... but whether thou art Sarapis, or the cloudless Zeus of Egpyt, or Kronos, or Phaethon, or many titled Mithras, Sun of Babylon, or in Greece Apollo of Delphi, or Wedlock, whom Love begat in the shadowy land of dreams... whether thou art known as Paieon, the healer of pain, or Aether with its varied garb, or star-bespangled Night - for the starry robes of night illuminate the heaven - lend a propitious ear to my prayer. (Geden)

1. An epithet of Heracles.

Lactantius Placidus (5th century) [=Mithras] {Text: Cumont, ii, p.46-49}

This is scholia on Statius. The Statius text is:

Whether it please thee to hear the name of ruddy Titan after the manner of the Achaemenian race, or Osiris lord of the crops, or Mithras as beneath rocks of the Persian cave he presses back the horns that resist his control.

Commentary on Statius' Thebaid 1.719-20, (p.88-9 Sweeney).

a) Seu te roseum t. v. -- He [Statius] declares that different nations give to Apollo different names. The Achaemenians call him Titan, the Egyptian Osiris, the Persians Mitra and worship him in a cave. (Geden) [Spelling of Mithra corrected to spelling Mitra as in Cumont - RP]

The expression "resist his control" has reference to the figure of Mithra holding back the horns of a recalcitrant bull, whereby is indicated the Sun's illumination of the Moon, when the latter receives its rays.

b) Seu praestat Osirim -- The Egyptians regard Osiris as the Sun, by whom they think success may be assured to the crops... These rites were first observed by the Persians, from whom the Phrygians received them, and from the Phrygians the Romans. The Persians give to the Sun the native name of Mithra, as Hostanes [Ostanes] relates. (Geden) [Mithra spelled with 'h' in text, so unchanged. RP]

c) Persei s. r. a. -- The Persians are known as Achaemenians from Achaemenes, son of Perseus and Andromeda, who ruled there. They call the Sun Apollo, and are said to have initiated the rites in his honour. (Geden)

d) Sub rupibus -- The Persians are said to have been the first to worship the Sun in caverns. For he is represented in a cavern in Persian dress with a turban, grasping the horns of a bull with both hands. The figure is interpreted of the Moon; for reluctant to follow his brother he meets him full and his light is obscured. In these verses the mysteries of the rites of the Sun are set forth. For in proof that the Moon is inferior and of less power the Sun is seated on the bull and grasps its horns. By which words Statius intended the two-horned moon to be understood, not the animal on which he rides. (Geden)

e) Indignata s. t. c. M. The meaning is as follows: The Persians worship the Sun in caverns, and this Sun is in their own language known as Mithras, who as suffering eclipse is worshipped within a cave. The Sun himself moreover is represented with the face of a lion with turban and in Persian dress, with both hands grasping the horns of an ox. And this figure is interpreted of the Moon, which reluctant to follow its brother meets him full and obscures his light. He has revealed further a part of the mysteries. The Sun therefore presses down the bull as though to show that the Moon is inferior. He has laid especial stress moreover on the horns, in order that attention may be more clearly called to the Moon, and not to the animal on which she is represented as riding. Since however this is not the place to discuss the mysteries of those gods on the lines of an abstract philosophy, I will add a few words with regard to the symbols employed. The Sun is supreme, and because he treads down and controls the chief constellation, that is to say the Lion, he is himself represented with this face; or the reason may be that he surpasses the rest of the gods in power and energy, as the lion other wild beasts, or because of its impetuosity. The Moon however being nearer to the bull controls and leads it, and is represented as a cow. But these gods of divine and royal estate as they appear in the world are without mortal form either of a man or beast, having neither beginning nor end nor an intermediate part as other and lesser deities, as he himself declares above: "next comes the crowd of the wandering demigods." For that is necessitated by the attribute of eternity. (Geden) [Spelling of Mithras same as Geden and Cumont - RP]

From different scholia in a different ms.

f) He gives to the rocks of a Persian cavern the name of temple of Perseus in virtue of the representation there of Phoebus as drawing to himself the Moon the latter goes in advance of the Sun, and in so doing gradually loses her own light, until she ceases entirely to shine. Approaching the Sun however at length she renews her light, and then follows the Sun. Moreover at the full, being now nearest to the Sun, she is said to be grasped by him. (Geden) [Cumont continues: Likewise Phoebus is believed by the Egyptians to be Osiris. For they say that Osiris, translated into heaven ...]

John the Lydian (6th century A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii, 24}

De mensibus (On the Months) book 3, ch.26:

The western region being assigned to the element earth it was natural for the Romans to take the latter under their care. For this reason they appear to have honoured Vesta above all as the Persians the rock-born Mithra because of 'the region of fire, and the dwellers in the north the watery element because of the region of water, and the Egyptians Isis, meaning the moon, the guardian of the entire atmosphere. (Geden)

Clauss gives the Greek of the key phrase: τὸν πετρογενῆ Μίθραν. (the rock-born Mithras).

Damascius (6th century A.D.) [=?] {Cumont, ii, p.11}

A fragment preserved in the Suda, I, 2 (p.481 of the Bernhardy edition), which attributes it to Damascius:

Epiphanius and Euprepius were both Alexandrians by birth, with a profound knowledge of the religious observances there practised. Euprepius presided over the so-called Persian rites, Epiphanius over those in which Osiris was honoured, and further over those of the god celebrated as the Eternal, of whom I might write, but for the present at least I abstain. Of these rites also however Epiphanius was in charge. (Geden)

Cumont states that the Persian rites must be those of Mithras.

Cosmas Indicopleustes (ca. 550 A.D.) [=Mithra]

Christian Topography, 165A:

It is reported that to the present time the Persians keep the festival of Mithra, that is of the sun, in memory of the miracle of the time of Ezekiel. (Geden)

Cf. Dionysius the Areopagite.

Maximus the Confessor (7th century A.D.) [=Mithra]

From a scholion attributed to him:

To this the Persians bear testimony, when they give to the sun the name of Mithra, and thus by their celebration of the memorial rites of the "threefold" recall the lengthening of that day. (Geden)

Cf. Dionysius the Areopagite.

Nonnus the mythographer (mid 6th or mid 7th c. A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii.26-7}

Commentary on Gregory Nazianzen, In Julianum imperatorem invectivae duae:

Mithra therefore the Persians consider to be the sun, do sacrifice to him, and observe certain rites in his honour. No one can participate in his service without passing first through the grades of discipline. These grades are eighty in number, with descent and ascent, for the tests applied are first of an easier character, then more difficult; and thus after passing through all the grades the disciple arrives at perfection. The successive disciplinary tests are by fire, by cold, by hunger and thirst, by prolonged exertion, and in a word by similar trials of all kinds. (Geden)

Commentary on Gregory Nazianzen, In Julianum imperatorem invectivae duae:

Mithra is considered by the Persians to be the sun. And to him they offer many sacrifices, and observe certain rites in his honour. No one can be initiated into the rites of Mithra without passing through all the disciplines and giving proof of self-control and chastity. Eighty grades are enumerated through which the postulant must pass in succession; for example, plunging first into deep water for many days, then throwing himself into fire, then solitary fasting in a desert place, and others also until as stated above he has passed through the eighty. Then finally if he survives he receives the highest initiation, or if he has succumbed an (honourable) sepulture. (Geden)

Commentary on In sancta lumine:

Different views are held with regard to Mithra. Some identify him with the sun, others with the guardian of the fire, others with a specific force, and certain rites are observed in his honour, especially among the Chaldaeans. The aspirants to initiation pass through a series of disciplinary grades, undergoing first the easier forms of penance, then the more difficult. For example fasting is first imposed upon the neophytes for a period of about fifty days. If this is successfully endured, for two days they are exposed to extreme heat, then again plunged into snow for twenty days. And thus the severity of the discipline is gradually increased, and if the postulant shows himself capable of endurance he is finally admitted to the highest grades. (Geden)

Cumont notes that Cosmas of Jerusalem makes use of Nonnus, and gives the variant text. He also gives a summary in the Scholia Clarkiana, the catena of Nicetas, some scholia from a manuscript in the Escorial.

Elias of Crete in the 11-12th century wrote a commentary on these invectives against Julian, for which the Greek text is still unpublished. Cumont gives two fragments from the modern Latin translation, which also summarise Nonnus.

John the Lydian (6th century AD)

De Mensibus (On the Roman months) book 4, February:

For this reason too the Romans, it is clear, honored Hestia before all [others], just as the Persians [honor] the rock-born Mithras on account of the cardinal point of fire; and those under the Bear [honor] the moist nature on account of the cardinal point of water; and the Egyptians [honor] Isis, the equivalent of Selene, the overseer of all the air.

Theophylact Simocatta (ca. 600 A.D.) [?]

History, book 4, ch. 10.

Gazing up into heaven and acknowledging the creator, disowning the false gods and placing no hope in Mithra, he 1 averted the imminent peril, changing faith and fortune to brighter issues. (Geden)

1. Chosroes II.

History, book 4, ch. 16.

For lions are subdued, dragons are muzzled, Bel and Mithra are put in fetters. (Geden)

Cosmas of Jerusalem (ca. 750 A.D.) []

Also known as Cosmas Melodus.

Scholia in Greg. Naz. Carm. (Migne, PG 38: 506):

For example, first the initiands were made to starve for fifty days; then, if they endured steadfastly, they were abraded for two days, and afterwards thrown into snow for twenty. (Clauss)


The disciplinary grades of Mithras are reported to be eighty in number, through which the candidate for initiation must pass in succession. In addition to those already described there is immersion in water for many days, passing through fire, solitude and fasting in the wilderness, and numerous others until the end of the eighty disciplines is reached. And they do not allow participation in the rites of Mithras to anyone who has not passed through all the grades and approved himself pure and self-controlled. (Geden)

Theophanes (810-814 A.D.) [=Mithras?] {Cumont, ii.51}

Chronicle, Anno Mundi 5794:

In this year Galerius Maximianus was persuaded by a sorcerer Theoteknos to sacrifice to the demons and to receive oracles. Theoteknos entered a cave and delivered to him an oracle against the Christians in order to arouse persecution. (Geden)

Cumont says that, if we believe that Galerius, like Diocletian, was a cultist of Mithras (see inscr. 367) it does not seem doubtful that the priest who gave him an oracle in an antro was a priest of that god.

The Suda (9-10th century A.D.) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii.30}

Under Mithres, μ 1045 (3: 394 Adler).

Of Mithras: The Persians believe that the sun is Mithras and they offer many sacrifices to him. So no one would be able to be initiated into his cult unless going through some steps of ordeals he shows himself holy and free from passion. (Suda Online)


The Persians regard Mithra as the sun, and offer many sacrifices to him, however can be initiated into his service without passing through certain disciplinary grades and approving himself pure and steadfast. (Geden)

Cumont states that this is abbreviated from Nonnus the Mythographer.

Photius, Lexicon (9th century) [=Mithras] {Cumont, ii.30}

Cumont states that, like the Suda entry, this is also abbreviated from Nonnus the Mythographer.

Μιθρου· Μίθραν νομίζουσιν ἐ̃ναι οἰ Πέρσαι τὸν ἡλιον καὶ τούτῳ θύουσιν πολλὰς θυσίας

Panegyrici Latini (9th century) [?] {Cumont, ii, p.53-4}

Panegyrici Latini 3[11].23.5-6. Mynors, 170.

TBA. Not in Geden.