The Dieburg Mithraeum – some reflections on the 1928 publication

Great news – Behn’s Das Mithrasheiligtum zu Dieberg, De Gruyter (1928) has arrived.  Here’s an image of the title page as proof!

The discovery of the Mithraeum at Dieberg was something of a watershed.  I don’t know if there were monographs dedicated to individual Mithraea before then, but it set a pattern for such monographs in future.  Most notably these included the publications of Vermaseren of the splendid Mithraea of Marino and Barberini, with the amazing colour frescos.

Behn’s book was doubtless cutting-edge in its time.  But what struck me, as I looked through it, was how poor the quality of the photographs was.  They are small, grainy, and I don’t know how useful they are to the scholar.  Yet, most likely, these are the only available images of the lesser finds.

The Mithraeum in Germany tends to contain very elaborate tauroctonies, with side panels depicting what must be elements of the mythology of the mysteries of Mithras.  Unfortunately we can only guess from these what the story being told was.

So the German tauroctonies are important for the study of Mithras.  The Dieburg Mithraeum is one of these.

The volume itself is A4, and less than 50 pages, so I have made a copy of it for my own use.  I wish that I could share it; but the fact is that it will probably be in copyright when I am in my grave.  I doubt that more than a handful of people ever consult Behn’s tome; and, so long as we have oppressive copyright laws, that is the way that it will stay.

So why scan it?  Well, because I want to read it.  And I don’t read German very well.  Once the OCR has completed, I can copy and paste portions of the German text into Google Translate.  And that will give me a very fair idea of what most of the book — much of it probably waffle – says.

It has been long since I sat at my scanner on a Friday evening, and it has been a pleasant reminder of how I used to spend my weekends.  The time at my disposal grows less every year, or so it seems.  The night comes, when none of us can work.  But “ah, not yet, not yet”.[1]

  1. [1] Matthew Arnold, On the Rhine. From Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems, 1855.  Online here.

2 Responses to “The Dieburg Mithraeum – some reflections on the 1928 publication”


  1. jack brant

    Dr. Behn’s book on the Dieburg mithräum has been out of copyright since at least 1974. I have made a CD from the original printing of 1928 and supplied it to a number of German Friends. The Deutsches Limes Kommission reprint would be in copyright for their formatting.

    There were at least two German mithräen (mithraea) that were the subject of books prior to Behn’s one on the Dieburg mithräum. In 1915, Dr. Robert Forrer published his mongraph “Das Mithra-Konigshofen bei Strassburg” Stuttgart, Verlag von W. Kohlhammer, 1915. 134p. with 85 photographs. Even earlier Georg Wolff and Franz Cumont published their book “Das dritte Mithraeum von Heddernheim und seine Skulpturen” Trier: Fr. Lintz’sche Buchdruckerei, 1894. 69p. In addition, I have a photocopy of Dr. Theodor Goldmann’s “Das Mithraskultus und die Mithraeen in Friedberg” which was published in 1895. The oldest book on a mithräum which I am aware of was Dr. Friedrich Creuzer’s book on the first Heidelberg mithräum titled “Das Mithreum von Neuenheim bei Heidelberg” Heidelberg: Akademischen Verlagshandlung von C. F. Winter, 1838. The latter has been reprinted and is available for purchase online.

    John W. Brant

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thank you very much for these interesting details.

    I do not understand how Behn’s book could be out of copyright from 1974 — could you clarify? It would be great if it was, of course! But copyright in Europe is life of author plus 70 years, and even if Behn died in 1928, that would mean that it did not come out of copyright until 1998? Or am I missing something? According to Wikipedia he died in 1970, which means that the book comes out of copyright in 2040 (when, no doubt, I shall be dead).

    Thank you very much for the list of monographs. I am glad to find that I am mistaken! I must see if I can find PDF’s of some of the older ones.