Religion has a been a cornerstone that holds humanity to moral standings even though there are a lot of controversies surrounding religion, deities and the existence of God. Many religions believe in celestial entities; for Christianity, it is Yahweh, for Islam, it is Allah and for Mithraism?
Mithra is the god for Mithraism; a religion shrouded in mystery. Mithra is believed to be the god of the justice, war, contract and the sun in pre-Zoroastrian Iran and this was the name of the good in the Roman empire in the second and third centuries BCE.
Mithra was worshiped and honored by the emperor until Constantine embraced Christianity which led to the downfall of the religion in the formative years of the 4th century. However, a sanctuary to the old religion was unearthed in Corsica, the French island.
The sanctum was built around 100BCE in the city of Mariana, Rome. Initially, the local government was to begin roadworks in the vicinity of the sanctuary when they called INRAP to handle excavation to prevent damage to any archaeological findings.
The team led by Philippe Chapon, an archaeologist, began working in Mariana last November. It is believed that the city of Mariana was thriving between the 3rd and 4th century. Furthermore, the reason for its success was the commercial harbor which was a center for maritime trade in the Mediterranean at the time.
Archaeologists worked on the site for months before they found the temple and inner sanctum which appear to be a worship room for the god Mithra. According to Chapon, the temple is a very rare find and is the first piece of evidence that Mithraism was prolific on the French island.
The team was able to unearth some relics which include oil lamps (3 pieces), and three broken marble pieces which show a mythological picture of a bull being sacrificed by Mithra. The team was able to discern a dog and serpent guzzling down blood and a scorpion squeezing the testes of the bull.
Additionally, a marble female head, pottery and bronze bells were also unearthed. It’s believed that Mithraism was popularized in the West during the same period as Christianity and that the two religions were competing for disciples.
Evidence suggests the religion was introduced to the Roman Empire by their soldiers and Eastern traders. However, there aren’t any texts describing the religion, so the majority of information gathered by archaeologists is from recovered relics, drawn rituals, and sanctuaries.
Archaeologists believe that the religion was gender biased—men only, and it spread within blue-bloods before it reached the other social classes.
Before Theodosius I–a Roman emperor, decreed Christianity as the official Roman religion in 392, he struggled to vanquish Mithraism and all its practices. Some of the recovered relics bear scars of that time—like the broken altar.
Although the cause of destruction is unclear, archaeologists noted that the Christian structure built in the area around 400 might have been the reason for the discourse that led to the destruction of the altar.