From my diary

We all know Franz Cumont’s Textes et Monumentes, which collected all the ancient sources on Mithras known a century ago.  What few realise is that a translation was made of most of the literary fragments that he published.  It’s A. S. Geden, Select passages illustrating Mithraism.  It was published by SPCK in 1925; and since Mr. Geden died in 1936, it should be out of copyright in the EU and probably everywhere else too.

Last night I scanned it to PDF and made it searchable.  I’ve uploaded it to, here.

I’ve been going through my own page of Mithras testimonia, and was struck by how he rendered some passages from Tertullian.

For instance in De praescriptione haereticorum 40:3-4, the ANF version reads:

… if my memory still serves me, Mithras there, (in the kingdom of Satan,) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown.  What also must we say to (Satan’s) limiting his chief priest to a single marriage? He, too, has his virgins; he, too, has his proficients in continence.

While Mr. Geden gives us:

…  if my memory does not fail me marks his own soldiers with the sign of Mithra on their foreheads, commemorates an offering of bread, introduces a mock resurrection, and with the sword opens the way to the crown. Moreover has he not forbidden a second marriage to the supreme priest? He maintains also his virgins and his celibates.

Let’s see the Latin:

[4]  et si adhuc memini Mithrae, signat illic in frontibus milites suos. Celebrat et panis oblationem et imaginem resurrectionis inducit et sub gladio redimit coronam. [5] Quid, quod et summum pontificem in unis nuptiis statuit? Habet et uirgines, habet et continentes.

The ANF material in brackets is the opinion of the translator, struck by the sudden switch from “the devil” to Mithras as the subject.

Now I know that “Mithrae” in this passage is thought to be a gloss itself.  Some have thought that the sense demands that the subject of all these remarks is “the devil” — the devil has his chief priest, who can only marry once, the devil has sacred virgins.  Both are, after all, part of ancient Roman religion.  The Roman state priests had to marry only once; the vestal Virgins are well known.  Nothing of either is known to be associated with Mithras; and indeed the idea of Mithraic nuns is strange, for a male-only cult.  Tertullian, then, is listing a set of features of Roman paganism, from various sources, on this theory.

Maybe so.  But it is curious, all the same.


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