Along with other Roman finds, two temples dedicated to God Mithra are of special importance. The first was dis­covered at the end of the nineteenth century and has been preserved on site, protected with a hut. The second, larger one, to be located in the vicinity, had been severely damaged and is now displayed in the Ptuj museum.

Mithraeum I

Located on a former river terrace, Wil­helm Gurlitt researched the first of Ptuj's Mithraic temples at the end of the 19th Century. The number means that this is the first ever Mithraeum discovered at the same time it is the oldest dis­covered Mithraeum, being constructed between 150 and 160 A.D. It is a small temple, consisting of three parts and dedicated to the Sun-god Mithra.

Mith­raism is known to have been a mystic religion about which nothing was al­lowed to be written, whose religious beliefs were taught to insiders in small, closely connected communities. Mem­bers of the religion were in most cases imperial officials, in this case slaves of the customs administration. Mithraism never became an officially recognised Roman religion, and for this reason Mithraea were erect­ed outside the town bor­ders. The religion originates from Persia, but the Romans transformed it considerably. Mithra became the most important god, with many myths taken from eastern religion con­cerning the beginning of the world, the birth of the god Mithra from a rock or tree, together with practices such as bull sacrifice.

Despite its small size, Mithraeum I is rich in dedicative stones, which indi­cate different levels to which believ­ers belonged. The best-known is the unique statue of a bull-carrier, dedicat­ed to the transfer from one planetary sphere to another (from Mercury to Venus). Represented in full plasticity is Mithra's birth from a rock, symbolising the earth, wrapped around by a snake illustrating transfer on the cosmic level from Venus' to Mars' planetary sphere. The carved inscriptions indicate which jobs were held by the employed slaves and who their owners were. The oldest Mithraeum must have had an impor­tant role in spreading the cult in the town and its wider surroundings.

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