Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Discover the Temple of Mithras in London

Believe it or not, London can boost on its own Temple of Mithras built by the Romans in 240 AD on the bank of the small river Walbrook that once flowed through the city.

Today’s visitor has to go Bloomberg’s new European Headquarters and descend the steep stairs to the Roman street level, some seven meters under our modern roads. Admission is free but advanced booking is recommended (For all information, click London Mithraeum).

Mithras the bull-slayer is a young god who came from the east and was much loved by the soldiers who used to worship him in underground temples where the blood of the sacrificial animals mingled with the mud floor. Its mysterious rites have been reconstructed as faithfully as possible with the sound of shuffling sandals in the background. A recording of a choir recites in Latin the names of the different levels of initiates as found among the graffiti in a similar temple in Rome. The cult itself is otherwise still shrouded in mystery and the secret remains very well guarded. No records on the subject have reached us.

The Roman temple was discovered in 1954 when the ruins of London after the raids of WWII were being cleaned up. The head of the young god found among the rubble was identified as Mithras and provided the clue. The discovery was, however, not appreciated at its right value and for years the temple foundations were stored in a builder’s yard. In 1962, the walls were partially but badly reconstructed some 30 meters from their finding place but much of the original material like the timber benches were lost or thrown away.

It appears that Bloomberg’s European Headquarters stand on one of the richest archaeological sites in London. Sadly much was destroyed by later constructions. But there is good news too as the soggy ground contributed to the startling preservation of hundreds of wooden tablets carrying faint inscriptions – the oldest handwritten testimonies from Roman Britain on which the name of Londinium is mentioned for the first time.

The Mithraeum has now returned to its original place where an art gallery on ground level is hosting more than 600 objects found on this site, like a wooden door, a sandal with hobnails, or a wooden tablet containing the oldest financial transaction in Britain. The head of Mithras mentioned above has been moved to the Museum of London together with other beautiful carvings.

Until now, all the representations of the god Mithras I have seen were fragmentary and usually limited to the very god in his dominant position above the bull which was often missing also. To my surprise, I recently saw a large and nearly intact high relief of Mithras at the Louvre-Lens Museum, a dependence of the Louvre in Paris exhibiting a most interesting collection of artifacts in their Gallery of Time which ranges from the Assyrians all the way to Napoleon. Judge for yourself:

It is a great example of the artistic way to picture this god who was so popular with the Roman soldiers and has strangely enough kept his secrecy alive.

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