Ancient Roman Religion  

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Mithraism was practised from as early as 4000 B.C. The Persians, who were Zoroastrians, infused Mithraism into their own religion in the Babylonian period in the 7th century B.C. The Jews who were in captivity in Babylon were exposed to Mithraism.

Tenets Amazingly, seven centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ, the belief system of Mithraism, according to the Book of Mithra which influenced the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, was based on the following tenets:

Mithra was the son of Azura - Mazda, the divine God of the Heavens;

He was sent by the Father God to Earth to confirm His contract with man;

Mithra was a saviour of mankind;

He was part of a Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit);

Mithra was born in a stable of a virgin, Anahita, through immaculate conception;

His birthday was celebrated on December 25; At his birth, Mithra the infant child was visited by wise men bearing gifts;

He made a contract between man and God. Mithra is the Persian word for contract;

Mithra had 12 disciples. He was called the Messiah, or Christos, by the Jews while in captivity;

He performed miracles and healed the sick;

He celebrated a last supper with his disciples before his death;

Mithra died to atone for the sins of man; Mithra was resurrected on a Sunday;

He ascended into Heaven to rejoin his father;

Mithra will return to pass judgement on man; the dead will rise and be judged by Mithra on judgement day; He will send sinners to Hell and the faithful to Heaven;

On judgment day there will be a final conflict between Good and Evil. The forces of Evil will be destroyed and the saved will live in paradise forever; Mithra is depicted with a halo or band of light around his head; His followers drank wine and ate bread which represent his blood and flesh; The discs of bread which Mithra worshippers ate to symbolise the flesh of their god, were marked with a cross; Mithra's followers were baptised;

Followers called each other 'brother' and were led by a priest called 'father' whose symbols were a staff, a hooked sword, a ring and a hat; Saturday and Sunday were the two days in the week to rest and celebrate.

Mithra was worshipped in the Roman Empire, largely by the army and the ruling class, including many Emperors. His birthday on December 25 was the most important day of the year. The closeness of Christianity to Mithraism is so stunning that it begs an answer to the question, how could such a replication occur?

Constantine The key was Constantine who claimed that, in a decisive battle for succession in the Roman Empire, he was told by a voice as he prepared for battle at the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD to put a cross on the shields of his soldiers and he would be victorious. Constantine, who was a follower of Mithra, did as he was told and was successful in this decisive battle which led him to eventually become Emperor of the Roman Empire.

Constantine attributed the voice to the Christian God and became converted to Christianity. In the same year he signed the Edict of Milan extending tolerance to Christians. He freed Christian prisoners and restored properties owned by them. Constantine directed his army to worship on Sundays and declared December 25, the birthday of Mithra, to be the birthday of Jesus Christ.

The conversion of Constantine to Christianity did not result in his denial of Mithraism. He worshipped both, which made it easy for Romans to adopt the beliefs of Mithraism into Christianity. In these and many other ways the Emperor Constantine was responsible in large part for the christianisation of the Roman Empire by absorbing Mithraism which eventually faded as a religion. This does not derogate from the important roles of the Apostles Peter and Paul who waged their own incessant campaigns. Constantine created great monuments which helped Christianity to eventually become the dominant religion: the Church of High Wisdom in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), the first St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. (from The meeting of east and west by Edward Seaga via Jamaica Gleaner News)

Also read:

Christianity or Mithraism

Saul of Tarsus, Mithraic Cults, and Christ's Blood

Mithraism and Christianity from Metareligion

History of Mithraism

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