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on 16 December 1999
This is simply an excellent piece of work, which confidently challenges the Iranian hypothesis of Cumont by arguing for an astronomical rather than comsogonic interpretation of the tauroctony and questioning Cumont's "circular" proof for a Zoroastrian genesis to Roman Mithraism. Shoul be read alongside Cumont, however, so that a possible synthesis between the two Mithraic scholars can be proposed. Beautifully illustrated and written in a racy style that will appeal to the non-specialist whilst not insulting the scholar.
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on 23 August 1998
The author is careful to document his sources and makes no assumptions in his evaluations. The book is specifically written to disclose the origins of the Mithraic Mysteries. Thus, specific discussions of rituals, etc. are left to the reader to obtain from other sources. I felt that the author did an excellent job in sticking to the intent of the book, and the book is a nice source for anyone interested in learning HOW Mithratism originally developed, and WHY it was so popular during the time of the first century A.D. You do not have to be a scholar to understand this work, and I applaud the author for a job well done.
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on 11 February 2011
Following recent visits to San Clemente in Rome and Carrawburgh on Hadrian's Wall, I became interested in the religion that linked these two parts of the Roman Empire ie the Mysteries of Mithras. The question was: where to start? If, like me, you are looking for a readable introduction to the Mysteries, this book is a good starting point. But this recommendation does come with a health warning: some of Ulansey's theories are not universally accepted by other scholars of the Mysteries. These include his theory that Mithras represents the constellation of Perseus and that the tauroctony (the sculpture of the bull-killing by Mithras) represents his victory as the power that shifts the world's axis (the precession of the equinoxes). Ulansey interprets the Mysteries as a religion based on this hypothesis.

His arguments are fascinating and by the conclusion I was convinced that I knew all there was to be known about the Mysteries, as all the arguments fell so neatly into place. But, although it is an excellent read, I would not recommend reading this work in isolation without considering other points of view.

For a contrasting view I would recommend the painstaking and cerebral work by Roger Beck: "The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire - Mysteries of the Unconquered Sun". He stresses that his investigations do not pretend to decipher Mithraic doctrine in a "definite and comprehensive" way and he warns the reader that he may find this disappointing. Personally, I like the way in which he never loses sight of the relevance of the ancient texts (eg Porphyry "De Antro Nympharum") and their description of the Mysteries, as well as the importance of the design of the Mithraeum (temple).

This is not an easy book to read and, for me, would probably have proved too complex as a starting point. I am still working through it and it is well worth the effort. If you are serious about learning about the religion of Mithras I would recommend reading both books to give a balanced view, but with Ulansey's work as a good starting point.
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on 19 March 2011
A book very well written. David Ulansey is obviously extremely knowledgeable in astrology and symbolism and his presentation is compelling. I would have liked though to have a clearer connection to the role Mithraism played in the Roman Empire world. Mr. Ulansey is not promising more than the origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, this is very true. However, there seem to be a gap between the pirates of Cilicia and the Roman Empire. I'm still looking for that clear connection.
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on 10 July 2011
A plausible and well-argued exploration of the origins of the Mithras Mystery School. While readers looking for reconstructed rituals may be disappointed, this book offers a coherent and satisfying account of the cosmic mystery at the very heart of the cult's iconography and teachings. As such, it can also offer the general reader a valuable insight into the way religion evolves.
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on 26 February 2015
This book offers an explanation of the origins of Mithraic mysteries based on the realization that the cult's iconography was actually an astronomical code. It is a really useful book.
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on 1 November 2002
Ulansey's excellent book is extremely clever and well-argued. The only point he seems unable to explain is why such an erudite astronomical thesis would inspire religious worship? It's possibly the failing of an academic to assume that a neat theory would win not just minds but hearts. Cumont's now outmoded ideas at least show us the functioning of an ancient religion with all its inherent mystery and ritual. Ultimately, Ulansey's solution seems just too neat. Or perhaps that's why Mithraism declined? Either way, there's clearly still a lot more room for new theories and new research on this fascinating subject.
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on 11 February 2016
Very pleased, excellent.
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on 25 May 1999
I am going to Rome this fall on a Dartmouth Foreign Studies Program. This book has been ideal for my research. He provides a compelling summary of new knowledge about Mithras. Ulansey keeps one expectant until the end.
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