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Development, Decline and Demise: The Cult of Mithras ca. AD 270 - 430

Walsh, David (2016) Development, Decline and Demise: The Cult of Mithras ca. AD 270 - 430. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:56837)

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This thesis provides an overview of the cult of Mithras from the late third to early fifth centuries across the entire Roman world. It seeks to illustrate what developments occurred in the cult during this period and how it subsequently came to an end. In doing so, it elucidates alterations in the environment and architecture of mithraea, the patrons and adherents of the cult, and Mithraic ritual practices. It demonstrates that by the fourth century the cult of Mithras had become increasingly localised, with a significant degree of variation evident among different Mithraic communities. Furthermore, it will be shown that, contrary to the traditional narrative, the end of the Mithras cult was not the product of an Empire-wide persecution by Christian iconoclasts, but a more gradual process that occurred over a long period of time. Additionally, it explores whether adopting a sociological approach, as has been suggested by other scholars in the past, can be used to explain how the transformations evident in the cult may have contributed to a decline in the commitment of Mithraic adherents in the fourth century. This study contributes to the wider field of research on the late antique period in three ways. Firstly, it is to my knowledge the only analysis of a non-Christian cult in Late Antiquity to cover the entire Roman Empire and thus hopes to contribute to a greater understanding of the sacred landscape in this period. In particular, it sheds some light on areas which are generally understudied in this regard, such as the Rhine and Danube frontiers. Secondly, it seeks to place the end of a cult in this period in its sociocultural context, rather than focusing only on the evidence from cult sites alone as previous studies have often done, thus providing a more nuanced explanation for why this occurred. Finally, through comparing the Mithras cult to other cults in this period it also shows that there is little to support any notion of a uniform 'decline of paganism' in late antiquity, with various cults experiencing divergent rates of decline which began at different times.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Lavan, Luke
Thesis advisor: Laurence, Ray
Uncontrolled keywords: Archaeology, Ancient History, Late Antiquity, Roman Archaeology, Roman History, Ancient Religion
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 15 Aug 2016 13:00 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 12:21 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Walsh, David.

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