The Marble Bust of Mithras Tauroctone from Olbia

  • Roman Kozlenko PhD in History, Junior Research Fellow of the Lower Buh Region Archaeology Department, the National Historical-Archaeological Reserve “Olbia” of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5602-7796
Keywords: religion, cult, sanctuary, Mithras, Roman garrison, Olbia

Abstract

The article introduces a marble bust of the Mithras deity, which was found in 2010 in a pit of the 2nd — 3rd centuries AD during excavations at the “R-25” sector in the Upper city of Olbia. Based on the iconography of the sculpture, side and frontal holes, with remnants of rust from the iron rods intended for fastening, it should be assumed that it could have been a part of Mithras Tauroctone sculpture, which is slaying the bull. Such sculptural image of Mithras was found for the first time in the Northern Black Sea region, and has analogies in the sanctuaries of the European and Asia Minor provinces of the Roman Empire. At this time the cult of Mithras became widespread among the Roman army, in particular in the Danube provinces, from where, as part of Roman vexillations, it came to the antique centers of the Northern Black Sea area. His veneration in Olbia is confirmed by the finds of four marble votive relief slabs pieces. On the same sector, in the Roman layer, marble statues fragments, architectural details, an altar, and the lower part of a marble relief depicting a horse’s or a bull’s leg were found, which may be the parts of this sculpture, since they are made of the same kind of marble. In the Northern Black Sea region finds of votive slabs, sculptural images of Mithras, and Latin inscriptions dedicated to this deity mark the points of deployment of the Roman troops. The published marble bust may have come from the mithraeum — a sanctuary associated with the cult of Mithras, which appears in Olbia as a result of a stay of the Roman garrison in the city in the second half of the 2nd — first half of the 3rd centuries AD. Since all finds related to the cult of Mithras in Olbia were found on the territory of the citadel, the presence of mithraeum should be assumed in the Upper city.

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2021-09-23
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Publication of Archaeological Material