Thursday, 19 June 2014

Apollo and Mithras

Apollo and Mithras
A strange relationship

A couple of weeks back some one described my Judeo-Christian deity  as being just another near eastern solar god. I politely pointed that that was incorrect for several reasons. anyway I started thinking about the rayed halo iconography and its origins and did some googling to find the latest views on that.

A lot of people believe the rayed halo was borrowed from either the Mithras cult or or some other sun god like Apollo.

Now the odd thing is that Apollo with a rayed halo or any halo is only depicted with one from the late Hellenistic era onwards.

Some scholars used to believe the Kouros images of archaic Greek art were Apollo like this one.




Greek Classical art depicted Apollo like this :






Either dressed as a musician or shown as an archer or nude always with long hair and young. Frequently you can see where a hand holding a bow was broken off.

Now these Hellenistic Imperial era images.





First sign of the rayed halo motif!
Though this may be Helios driving the sun chariot!
The later Greeks seem to have confused the two in popular art.

Images of Mithras a maybe Persian god. 





Maybe a persian god? The first shows Mithras with a Hellenistic Greek King Antiochus and the second is Persian. 

Now the Mithras cult is odd. Said to have come from Persia there are very few artifacts within the Persian and Parthian cultural sphere showing Mithras. 

Given the Mithras cult peaks during the Roman era is it possible there was a separate Anatolian Mithras cult incorporating solar imagery from both Greek and Near Eastern art . Mithras changed from a minor deity to a separate syncretistic cult.

A lot of Roman art copies and adapts earlier Greek art.

Here's a mosaic from Roman Africa.



Who used the rayed halo first? Apollo or Mithras. Given Hellenistic cultural contact with the Parthians its not impossible the rayed halo idea moved from west to east? 

By the way that sun god thing in relation to images of Christ? The earliest images of Christ tend to to stress the Good Shepherd image without HALOS.

But thats a topic for a separate post.

Apollo and Mithras. What was the ultimate source for the rayed halo?

I've given you images to think about. Enjoy.