The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries: Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World

Paperback | March 1, 1991

byDavid Ulansey

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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 beenunearthed 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 bystep 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.

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From Our Editors

The teachings of the ancient Roman 'mystery religion' of Mithraism--one of the most important competitors of early Christianity--were guarded with the utmost secrecy, reveled only to select initiates. While the Mithraists never wrote down their secret doctrines, they did leave a key to them in the arcane iconography which filled the wa...

From the Publisher

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...

From the Jacket

The teachings of the ancient Roman 'mystery religion' of Mithraism--one of the most important competitors of early Christianity--were guarded with the utmost secrecy, reveled only to select initiates. While the Mithraists never wrote down their secret doctrines, they did leave a key to them in the arcane iconography which filled the wa...

About the Author: David Ulansey is Assistant Professor of Religion at Boston University.

other books by David Ulansey

Format:PaperbackDimensions:168 pages, 5.51 × 8.27 × 0.43 inPublished:March 1, 1991Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195067886

ISBN - 13:9780195067880

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From Our Editors

The teachings of the ancient Roman 'mystery religion' of Mithraism--one of the most important competitors of early Christianity--were guarded with the utmost secrecy, reveled only to select initiates. While the Mithraists never wrote down their secret doctrines, they did leave a key to them in the arcane iconography which filled the walls of their underground temples. Until now, all attempts to decipher this iconography have proven fruitless. Most experts have been content with a vague hypothesis that these images somehow derived from ancient Iranian religion.

Editorial Reviews

"Ulansey has put the development of western Mithraism in an utterly new perspective."--Martin Schwartz, University of California, Berkeley