Abandoned Mithraic Cult Chamber in Rome. The Mithraic Mysteries were a mysterious religion practiced in the Roman Empire from about the 1st century A.D. to the 4th century A.D. Worshippers of Mithras had a complex system of seven grades of initiation, with ritual meals. They met in underground temples, which survived in large numbers to present day.
Iranian "Mithra" and Sanskrit "Mitra" are believed to come from an Indo-Iranian word mitra meaning "contract, agreement, covenant". Modern historians have different conceptions about whether these names refer to the same god or not. John R. Hinnells has written of Mitra/Mithra/Mithras as a single deity worshipped in several different religions. On the other hand, David Ulansey considers the bull-slaying Mithras to be a new god who began to be worshipped in the 1st century BC, and to whom an old
Mithraic Temple of Santa Prisca a small church on the Aventine Hill just above Circus Maximus. Inside the temple the pagan god Mithra was worshipped with blood sacrifices when the Persian cult swept the Roman Empire between the 1st and 4th centuries AD. Inside is a beautifully preserved wall sculpture of Mithra killing a sacred bull before the god Saturn sitting at his feet.