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MITHRAS - Initiation and Mysteries Rediscovered

By D Jason Cooper, published by Simon Weiser at £10.99. 160pp. ISBN: 0-87728-865-8

A fascinating introduction to a mystery cult which is largely unknown today but which for several centuries, during the later Roman period, vied with Christianity for supremacy throughout the Roman Empire. Cooper's book is rather short but nevertheless thorough and well presented with a particularly in-depth analysis of both the iconography of the Tauroctony (the famous Bull-Slaying image) and of the structure and organisation of the Mithraic cult.

Cooper also examines the possible reasons why Christianity eventually won out for Official State Religion status and suggests as one reason the fact that Christianity, while treating women as second class members, was even so willing to accept women into its community; Mithraism, by contrast, completely excluded women - thus reducing its potential membership by half from the start. He also highlights all the ritual ideas and imagery which Christianity nicked from Mithraism but subsequently claimed as its own, including the bread and wine sacrament, which will be very familiar to anyone who has been a church-goer in a previous incarnation or who is otherwise familar with Christian symbolism.

Recommended for anyone with an interest in the mystery cults of the ancient world.