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A ROMAN MARBLE GROUP OF MITHRAS TAUROCTONUS
A ROMAN MARBLE GROUP OF MITHRAS TAUROCTONUS

CIRCA 2ND CENTURY A.D.

Details
A ROMAN MARBLE GROUP OF MITHRAS TAUROCTONUS
CIRCA 2ND CENTURY A.D.
This god shown dispatching the bull, wearing a Phrygian cap, a tunic, close-fitting trousers, and a chlamys billowing out behind, pulling the head of the bull back with his left hand, stabbing its shoulder with a dagger in his right hand, a snake and hound rear up lapping the blood from the wound, a scorpion below biting the bull's pendulous testicles, on an integral plinth
14¼ in. (37 cm.) long
Provenance
with Antiquarium Ltd., New York, 1993-94.
Private collection, Switzerland.
Sale Room Notice
Please note that this Lot is published:
Antiquarium Ltd., New York, 1992 (Myth and Majesty, no. 30).

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Lot Essay

According to Plutarch the cult of Mithras originated along the coast of Cilicia, Asia Minor, in the 1st Century B.C., and spread quickly throughout the Roman Empire through the legionaries; from England to Syria, Germany and North Africa. Once the principal competitor of early Christianity, it was a mystery cult, with its content and teachings only gradually revealed to its male initiates in seven stages thought to reflect the ascent of the soul through the heavens, as they proved their loyalty and spiritual preparedness.

The scene of Mithras slaying the Cosmic Bull to create the universe was the most essential and repeated element in a temple to Mithras. It was the universal symbol for the cult that consistently appeared in Mithraea throughout the entire Roman Empire during this period. This representation of Mithras in the perpetual act of sacrifice illustrates the god as forever in the process of granting salvation to the believers of the cult.

Astrology was fundamental to Mithraitic teaching. Each figure in these universally repeated scenes corresponded to a constellation radiating along the Celestial Equator between the two points of its intersection with the elliptical equator, at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes: Mithras represented Perseus, the bull Taurus, the dog Canis Major or Minor, the snake Hydra and the scorpion Scorpio. The equinoxes were of essential importance to the Romans as times of sowing and reaping crops, and the cyclical transition from a living earth to a dormant one.

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