A history of the world in 100 objects: Statue of Mithras
This marble statue, dated from between 100-200CE, is a relic of the Roman Empire. It depicts the sun god Mithras ritually slaughtering of a bull, whose blood was supposed to have cleansing properties.
Mithras is a Greek form of the name of the Indo-European god Mithra, Mitra or, in old Persian, Mica. Mithraism was a mystery religion that came from Persia and was once known as the Mysteries of Mithras.
Worshippers of Mithras had a complex system of seven grades of initiation, with ritual meals and cult-like underground temples. It was popular with the Romans between the first and fourth centuries because of its military structure and was practised there before the arrival of Christianity. It is said to have been a rival of the early forms of the faith.
Becky Allen, the curator of the Saadiyat Island exhibition describes its importance: “Mithraism as a faith died out when the Roman empire become Christian so this piece is talking about the moment before the rise of the world faiths as we know them today. It is an example of a religious belief that didn’t get translated into the modern world.”
• Each week Arts&Life will focus on one artefact on show as part of A History of the World in 100 Objects, an exhibition running until August 1 at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
Updated: June 23, 2014 04:00 AM