Mithras in the Urban Landscape: New Perspectives on the Cult of Mithras in the City of Ostia c. 150-400 C.E.

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Mithras in the Urban Landscape: New Perspectives on the Cult of Mithras in the City of Ostia c. 150-400 C.E.

Type: Research master thesis
Title: Mithras in the Urban Landscape: New Perspectives on the Cult of Mithras in the City of Ostia c. 150-400 C.E.
Author: Sonnemans, Iskander Renato Gregoire Echnaton
Issue Date: 2017-08-30
Keywords: Ostia
Spatial Analysis
Lived Religion
Mithraism
Mithras
Mithraeum
Abstract: This research-master thesis focusses on the social implications of the Mithras cult in Rome’s port-city of Ostia. The social aspects of the cult have until now received little scholarly attention. A high number of sanctuaries dedicated to this cult are preserved in Ostia, most of which are architecturally well preserved. The methodology devised for this study is based on the concepts of Lived Religion and Spatiality. Drawing on these theoretical frameworks, a dataset of 17 sanctuaries was analysed at three distinct scales. Firstly, the sanctuaries, known as mithraea, were studied individually and compared to each other in terms of (ritual) use and decoration. Then all the mithraea were examined within their immediate urban surroundings to identify local spatial activities as well as common trends in spatial engagement. Lastly, the chronological and spatial development of the cult throughout the city was analysed, together with the relationship of these sanctuaries to the urban street network. This research yielded many novel results. In terms of ritual use, decorations, and the spatial engagement between the mithraea and their surroundings, this study identified numerous commonalities and significant variations. It can be suggested that these small religious communities transmitted thoughts and ideas to each other, and these seemed to have influenced architectural and stylistic decisions. The cult played an important role in the daily lives of a substantial number of relatively small groups of men, belonging to the mostly lower classes of society. These small religious groups formed a new social nucleus that partially replaced earlier social structures and family ties that were perhaps not so strongly present in the expanding city. The notions of ‘self’ and ‘us’ were built and fostered through initiation and exclusiveness, an obscurity attached to the sanctuaries, and the creation of a very distinct ritual identity. This identity was reinforced through the unique ritual functioning of these places and their appearance.
Description: Unmodified version, several minor errors in grammar, spelling and layout are still present.
Supervisor: Stöger, Hanna J.
Faculty: Faculty of Archaeology
Department: Archaeology (Research master)
Specialisation: Archaeology - RMA town & country
ECTS Credits: 35
Evaluation: Recommended
Handle: http://hdl.handle.net/1887/52638
 

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