E. H. Alton
1911 The Irish Church Quarterly  
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more » ... org This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 16:21:02 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions 60 MITHRAISM. MITHRAISM. EARLY Christianity waged many campaigns with the State, with creeds and philosophies. But it never entered on a more relentless warfare nor won a more striking victory than when it faced and conquered the power of Mithra. It is only in recent years that archaeology has enabled us to estimate the greatness and extent of that power: in the great cities and tiny hamlets in Italy and the Provinces, along the mighty frontiers of the Rhine and Danube, in the remote valleys of the Alps and Vosges, beneath Hadrian's great rampart where the legionary faced the Caledonian savage, on the shores of the Black Sea, everywhere are found traces of this popular cult, the " cave " of the god, votive inscriptions and other wreckage from the sea of time. In the second millennium B.C. there lived a tribe which may have contained the common ancestors of the Hindu and Iranian races. Such an inference is drawn by scholars from a cuneiform inscription found in the centre of Asia Minor. This inscription mentions as the gods of a common Pantheon the names of Indra, Mithra, Varuna and the NAsatyAs. The first two are common to Iran and India; they are mentioned both in the Avestas and Vedas; the latter two are peculiar to Hindu mythology. Arguments have been drawn from philology to show that the origin of the two nations of India and Persia was due to a religious schism. It is impossible to pierce the veil of time with any certainty; it must suffice to know that Mithra belongs to a very remote antiquity. Whether the Avestas contain the true tradition of this ancient religion in all details is a debatable question; the redaction of these sacred writings dates from the Sassanid, or second Persian Empire founded in 226 B.C. But it seems certain that the position of Mithra in the early Iranian Pantheon-at the time Cyrus conquered the Medes in 560 B.C. and founded the Achaemenid dynasty-was essentially the same as that which was assigned to him in the Avestas. In these writings, which give the official ritual of the later empire, it is Ahura Mazda (Ormazd), the Creator, the God of Goodness, who is the chief figure; he and his archangels This content downloaded from on Sun, 15 Jun 2014 16:21:02 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
doi:10.2307/30067202 fatcat:ps4trf6bnram5jhc557crktr7m