Was there a network of Roman Mithraists?

Title: Was there a network of Roman Mithraists?
Source document: Religio. 2018, vol. 26, iss. 2, pp. [167]-182
  • ISSN
    1210-3640 (print)
    2336-4475 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license
A deity with the name of Mithra (Mitra, Mithras) is attested from second millennium BC Indian Vedas to the first four centuries of the Roman Empire. Despite scholarly attempts to trace a line of influence from earlier manifestations of this deity, especially from the Persian Mithra to the Roman Mithras, recent research suggests that the character of Mithraic cults, even those of the Roman Mithras, remains primarily local. Might, however, the recent renewal of interest by historians in network theory – especially, network theory as it has been recast from sociological to chaos theory, to a "complexity-network theory" – show a relationship among the Mithraic cults, especially, among those of the Roman Empire? This possibility is supported by a recent network mapping of the cults of Jupiter Dolichenus in the Roman world. Despite the cults of Jupiter Dolichenus and those of the Roman Mithras both being transmitted (largely) by their embeddedness in the Roman military, there remain significant differences between the two religions that question the emergence of a network of Roman Mithraists. Rather, the approach of the cognitive science of religion, which seeks to identify the pan-human neurocognitive dynamics and attractors that underlie culturally contingent representations, and which has now also been employed by a few scholars of the Roman cults of Mithras, remains the most viable approach for understanding the relationship of diverse practices and cultural expressions of the disparate Mithraic groups.