/Mithraeum at Baths of Caracalla Reopens

Mithraeum at Baths of Caracalla Reopens

Last week, Mamma Parla and I joined my friends from Context Travel for a visit to the recently restored Mithraeum, a cult sanctuary, beneath the Baths of Caracalla. After being closed for over a decade, the site is open to the public through January 6, 2013. After the initial scare of not being able to go inside because the electricity was out, fiat lux! With the restored illumination, we were led beneath the northwestern side of the bathing complex and spent 45 minutes being guided through the Mithraeum.

There are dozens of Mithraic sanctuaries in and around Rome (with a particularly high concentration at Ostia Antica). But in spite of their number and relatively good state of preservation, we don’t know much about the cult of Mithras. Of course you can open any guide book or listen to most tour guides (including our guide that day) and they will rattle off a long list of facts about Mithraism, all of which are debated or dismissed by scholars.

Much of what we know about the cult of Mithras comes from archeology–no scripture survives–or secondary Christian sources. The most common assertion is that Mithras was a Persian god, whereas modern scholars suggest he was a Roman god, acknowledging some similarities to an eastern divinity. Another claim is that followers of Mithras practiced blood rituals and bull sacrifice, whereas there is little plausible evidence to support this. While it is tempting to conjecture about the rituals and tenets of Mithraism, it is patently wrong to state them as facts. In the end, the tour left us with more questions than answers, but we were all left in awe of the place itself, the largest Mithraeum in Rome.

Booking is mandatory and tickets, which costs €16.50, include a guided tour. To reserve a visit call +390639967700 (lines are open Mon-Fri 9-18 and Sat 9-14). For more information, see this website.

UPDATE FEB 2013: The mithrarum is closed and there is no official news about its reopening. To stay up to date subscribe to the Coop Newsletter.

2017-02-17T15:16:59+00:00 November 27th, 2012|Categories: Culture, Rome & Lazio|7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Kelly November 27, 2012 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    I wish I was going to be there in time to see this. Will they be opening again in 2013?

  2. Marian November 28, 2012 at 12:45 am - Reply

    Interesting. I may very well be spending a few days in Rome this coming May, and will have to see if the mithraeum will be open; I’ll head over to Trip Advisor and see if anyone has any further info.

  3. Katie November 29, 2012 at 7:23 pm - Reply

    the site will close January 6. there is not news about it opening again, but i cannot imagine that they poured all that €€ into the restoration just to open it for 8 weeks. to stay on top of the future shedule i have signed up for the newsletter for the company that sells tickets. http://www.coopculture.it/newsletter.cfm

  4. Tom Proulx December 5, 2012 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Dear Katie,
    How does this compare with the Mithraeum under San Clemente? I’ve always found San Clemente to be most impressive and evocative. Cheaper too!

  5. Michael in Seattle December 23, 2012 at 1:26 am - Reply

    I went back to the website for the mithraeum and saw something that got my hopes up that the mithraeum is actually open from now on and that the Jan 6 date is just for the art show that’s been installed inside.

    If you go to the Coop Culture website, and click on “Didactic Tours…” you see this info:
    quote:
    The mirteo can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday and public holidays except
    January 1, May 1, December 25

    If it indeed was open only for the period of Oct 30 to Jan 6, why would they include May 1 among the dates when it is closed? I work with attorneys, so my radar is always tuned to how some phrasing might imply something that isn’t actually true.

    Anyway, we’ll find out in a couple of weeks, won’t we? Here’s hoping!

  6. […] with an oral tradition, no primary sources exist on the subject. This obviously led to a debate among scholars on the content and rituals of Mithraism. However, the recently opened Mithraeum below the Caracalla […]

  7. Katie February 28, 2013 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Update Feb 2013: the site is closed. there is no official news about it opening again. to stay up to date subscribe to the coop news letter. http://www.coopculture.it/newsletter.cfm

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