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File:Roman - Fragment of a Mosaic with Mithras - Walters 437.jpg


Artist Anonymous ( Roman Empire)
Title Fragment of a Mosaic with Mithras
English: Mithras was a Persian creation god, as well as the god of light. Mithraism, the mystery religion associated with him, spread throughout the Roman Empire. Initiation into Mithraism was restricted to men and was especially popular with soldiers in Rome and on the northern frontier during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.

According to the Persian myth, the sun god sent his messenger, the raven, to Mithras and ordered him to sacrifice the primeval white bull. At the moment of its death, the bull became the moon, and Mithras's cloak became the sky, stars, and planets. From the bull also came the first ears of grain and all the other creatures on earth. This scene of sacrifice, central to Mithraism, is called the Tauroctony and is represented as taking place in a cave, observed by Luna, the moon god, and Sol, the invincible Sun god, with whom he became associated in Roman times. Mithras is generally depicted flanked by his two attendants, Cautes and Cautopates, and accompanied by a dog, raven, snake, and scorpion.

This central medallion from a floor mosaic depicts the birth of Mithras. Emerging from a dark cave, he is flanked by his two attendants, Cautes and Cautopates. Above him flies the raven, associated with the creation myth and with the first level of initiation into his cult.
Date 1st century (Roman)
Medium stone, glass tesserae

60.6 cm (23.9 in) (diam.);

framed: 78.3 × 78.2 × 6.7 cm (30.8 × 30.8 × 2.6 in)
Accession number 43.7
Credit line Acquired by Henry Walters, 1921
Ownership history
  • P. Philip et divers amateurs Sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 1905 [no. 583]
  • 1921: purchased by Henry Walters, Baltimore
  • 1931: bequeathed to Walters Art Museum by Henry Walters
place of origin Delta in Egypt (?)
Source/Photographer Walters Art Museum: Nuvola filesystems folder home.svg Home page  Information icon.svg Info about artwork
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