Mithraeum of the Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus Mithraeum is one of the largest places of worship of the god Mithras known in Rome. It arose in the 3rd century AD on the premises of a previously existing 2nd century public building which probably had something to do with the Circus.The complex was discovered at about 14 metres below ground level during 1931 building work on what was then the Pantanella pasta factory.

The previously existing building was then adapted to house the functions associated with the cult. It had consisted of a row of five parallel but separate chambers, into which doorways were opened up; and the central part of the sanctuary was at this point paved with recycled slabs of white marble. The current entrance was actually a secondary one, the main on being on the east side, via a room terminating in a right-angled corridor, so that passers by would be unable to view the proceedings inside the sanctuary.

On the piers framing the doorway from the first room to the next are two niches which must have housed the statues of the god’s torchbearing companions, Cautes and Cautopates. From here we enter the most important part of the Mithraeum: this has stone benches along the walls to seat the faithful during sacred meals.

The doorway to the heart of the sanctuary is described by a large arch: on the pavement, a circle of alabaster represents the sun, and at the back is a semicircular niche which must have contained the statue of the god Mithras. A magnificent marble relief depicts the ceremony of taurobolium, during which a bull was sacrificed, using the example of Mithras who, flanked by Cautes and Cautopates and by the Sun and the Moon, is raising his dagger to slay the sacrificial animal.

Information
Address Piazza Bocca della Verità, 16/a
May be visited upon request 06 67103819
Price € 3,00; concessions € 1,50