Mithras and Phanes
CIMRM 860. Mithras and the egg.
See also Mithras and other gods.
In Orphism, the deity Phanes1 emerged from the world egg at the beginning of time, bringing the universe into existence. There is evidence that this Orphic speculation influenced the cult of Mithras sometimes.2
There is some literary evidence connecting Mithras and Phanes, or interchanging them. A list of the eight elements of creation appears in both Zenobius and Theon of Smyrna; most of the elements are the same, but in Zenobius the seventh element is 'Mithras', in Theon it is 'Phanes'.3
CIMRM 860, a relief from Vercovium / Borcovecium (Housesteads) on Hadrian's Wall shows a deity holding a dagger and a flame and emerging from the cosmic egg, which is represented both as such and by the shape of the zodiacal ring.6 The item was found in the Mithraic cave at Housesteads, between two altars inscribed to Mithras, and in front of the main cult relief.7
CIMRM 985, a similar relief, was found inside a Mithraeum at Trier in 1928, between two altars, one to Mithras and one to Sol, and again there may have been the main cult relief behind it. It depicts the cosmic birth of Mithras from the rock inside a zodiac. Mithras is holding the globe of the world, and reaching out to touch the zodiac.8
CIMRM 985. Mithras and the zodiac.
These have similarities to a relief in the Galleria Estense in Modena, originally from Mutina or Rome, which shows Phanes rather than Mithras in much the same context.9 This shows Phanes coming from an egg with flames shooting out around him, surrounded by the twelve signs of the zodiac, in an image very similar to that at Newcastle.10.
Ulansey has commented on the various similarities between Mithras, Phanes, Aion and the lion-headed god, including that the Modena relief, originally Orphic, came into the hands of an initiate of Mithras, according to an inscription scratched on it.11