This site uses cookies. By continuing visiting this site, you agree to their use.
To find out more, including how to control cookies, see our privacy policy.


Tauroctony of the Villa Borghese Collection

Mithras slaying the bull bought by the Louvre Museum in 1807.
16 Jun 2009

  • Unknown 

  • Grabado incluido en la obra dedicada al relieve de Villa Borghese de Lajard
    Andreu Abuín 

  • Mithras killing the bull (c. 150 CE; Louvre-Lens)
    Serge Ottaviani 

White marble relief (H. 2.54 Br. 2.65), was erected on the Piazza Capitolino (Pignorius) in the 17th century, then transported to the Villa Borghese, nowadays Paris, Louvre, Inv. No. 1023. Second cent.

Nearly in every publication about the Mithras-mysteries, this relief has been discussed. See MMM II 193 and 479 No. 6 with fig. 18 and Pl. I; MM, Taf. II,3; Saxl, 109; Autran, Mithra, 112; Cecchelli, Roma sacra, I, 137f; Mariani in Bull. Arch. Arte 1938, 85; Giglioli in Capitolium 1940,762; HGR, 385.

In a grotto Mithras tauroctone in the usual attitude and attire. The dog, the serpent and the scorpion are present; the raven is perched on the rocky border of the cave.

Cautes clasps with his l.h. the ears (two or three) from the bull's tail, he lifts with the r.h. his torch. Before the bull Cautopates is standing. with the torch pointed downwards. Both torchbearers are not cross-legged.

In the l. upper corner Sol in a quadriga. He wears a flying shouldercape. With a whip, which is lost now, he urges the horses, which he leads with the reins. Before the horses a naked child with a upraised torch (Phosphorus).

In the r. upper corner Luna descends in a biga, also guided by a naked child with a torch pointed downwards (Hesperus). In the middle three twisted trees.

Of the numerous, often bad restorations we mention Mithras' head, his r. arm with a great part of the dagger, the l. arm and a part of his r. leg; the front part of the bull's head; the heads and torches of both torchbearers, moreover the l. leg of Cautopates and his l.h. with a bunch of grapes, the r. leg of Cautes; the greater part of the dog and a part of the serpent; the raven has been restored as an owl; the head of Sol and the foremost part of his horses; the head of Luna and her horses (originally probably bulls) almost entirely; the heads of the two children.

On the bull's neck and body an inscription:


CIL VI 719; 30819; MMM II No. 62.

Next to the wound:

Nama Sebesio.

On the bull's body and on the lower border of the relief:

Deo Soli invict[o] Mitrhe(sic!) /
C(aii) Aufidii Ianuarius [et...

Nam/a/ necs.
The graffiti on the thigh are modern (Cumont in Rev. Phil., 1892, 96).


Add a comment


Help us to keep
The New Mithraeum alive!

Do you like The New Mithraeum? Help us to keep it up, running and ads-free with a quick PayPal contribution.
Any amount is more than welcome! is powered by Enkidū