In the centuries following the conquests of Alexander the Great the dramatic unification of the Mediterranean world created exceptionally fertile soil for the growth of new religions. Christianity, for example, was one of the innovative religious movements that arose during this time. However, Christianity had many competitors, and one of the most remarkable of these was the ancient Roman "mystery religion" of Mithraism.
Like the other "mystery cults" of antiquity, Mithraism kept its beliefs strictly secret, revealing them only to initiates. As a result, the cult's teachings were never written down. However, the Mithraists filled their temples with an enigmatic iconography, an abundance of which has been unearthed by archaeologists. Until now, all attempts to decipher this iconography have proven fruitless. Most experts have been content with a vague hypothesis that the iconography somehow derived from ancient Iranian religion.
In this groundbreaking work, David Ulansey offers a radically different theory. He argues that Mithraic iconography was actually an astronomical code, and that the cult began as a religious response to a startling scientific discovery. As his investigation proceeds, Ulansey penetrates step by step the mysteries concealed in Mithraic iconography, until finally he is able to reveal the central secret of the cult: a secret consisting of an ancient vision of the ultimate nature of the universe.
Brimming with the excitement of discovery--and reading like an intellectual detective story--Ulansey's compelling book will intrigue scholars and general readers alike.
"Ulansey's style is highly readable and I would unhestatingly recommend it as reading for students who want to learn about this fascinating religion. Ulansey has demystified the mysteries marvelously and with admirable lucidity."--Nicholas D. Humez, Montclair State University
"An excellent, well-researched, comprehensive analysis of the origins of a tradition popular throughout Europe and the Near East for hundreds of years."--Antonia Tripolitis, Rutgers Univ.
"The illustrations and diagrams play a useful part in this clear and lively exposition concerning the origin of a major reigion which for a time rivalled Christianity."--Shadow
"...sets a new standard for both scholarly and popular works on Mithras."--Timothy O'Neill, Gnosis Magazine
"A very interesting interpretation of the symbolism of the Mithras-religion."--Journal for the History of Astronomy
"Lucid....A surprisingly convincing and readable book, and I heartily recommend it to the educated general reader."--Biblical Archaeologist
"[A] thrilling book....Bravo for Ulansey."--Religious Studies Review
"Why are the Mysteries of Mithra such a mystery to us?...The astronomical explanation...has been revived in our time under different forms, but never as convincingly, with such an impressive array of arguments--iconographic, geographic, mythological, numismatic, and literary--as those offered by Dr. David Ulansey."--Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, Institut de France
"Ulansey's extremely interesting book throws a completely new light on the origin of the Mithras religion."--B.L. van der Waerden, University of Zürich
"Ulansey has put the development of western Mithraism in an utterly new perspective."--Martin Schwartz, University of California, Berkeley
"An important contribution toward the comprehension of a religious cult tht spanned Greco-Roman and Near Eastern cultures in late antiquity. Erudite, well written, and fascinating to read....This excellent book is a welcome addition to research on the mysteries of Mithras, and firmly establishes the basis for furhter examination of an important cult of antiquity."--Bulletin for the Center for the Study of World Religions
"A fascinating and. to me, compeltely persuasive scholarly detective story."--The Key Reporter
"Ulansey's book addresses a very large audience, from undergraduate to scholars of religion and/or history."--The Journal of Religion
Series: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World
Number Of Pages: 168
Published: 28th March 1991
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 21.9 x 14.4
Weight (kg): 0.22