|Temple of Capitoline Triad|
Jupiter, Juno and Minerva
Soldiers in the ancient world often dealt with and faced death on a daily basis. How did they find the strength and courage to get up in the morning for another march to another battle? The horrors witnessed, and committed by, soldiers of every rank must have been terrible, even to men who (let’s face it) were of much sterner stuff than we are today.
|Mithras Slaying the Bull|
Louvre Museum Collection
If one thing can be said of religion in the ancient (and medieval) worlds, it is that it inspired magnificent art, much of which is the source of our historical, architectural and social knowledge. For soldiers in the Roman Empire, the religion of choice was Mithraism. Mithras was originally a middle-eastern god that was adopted by the men of Rome. Rome may have been violent but it certainly was open to, and embraced, other religions – so long as the believers of other faiths did not stir up trouble (Christians certainly had a hard time in the beginning!).
|Recently Discovered altar at|
Through ancient art, two of the most well-known scenes of Mithraism are the image of Mithras slaying the bull in a cave (in darkness) and, Mithras at banquet with the god Sol. Anyone who has seen the HBO series ROME will remember the first episode when Attia, Octavian’s mother, is drenched in the blood of a bull that is sacrificed above her. In this scene, Attia is praying to Magna Mater (the Great Mother) but in reality, the practice of sacrificing a bull (called tauroctony) and letting the blood pour over oneself was a key part of Mithraism. The scene in ROME, dramatic as it was, was a bit of dramatic license on the part of the director and writer.
|Relief carving of Sol with hollowed-out |
eyes, mouth and sun rays
|The Four Seasons on|
the Musselburgh altar