Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review of Cumont, Les mystères de Mithra

Franz Cumont, Les mystères de Mithra (volume édité par Nicole Belayche & Attilio Mastrocinque avec la collaboration de Daniela Bonanno). Bibliotheca Cumontiana. Scripta maiora, 3. Savigliano: Nino Aragno Editore, 2013. Pp. xc, 258. ISBN 9788884196101. €70.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Matthew M. McCarty, University of British Columbia (


An era when even the whisper of terms like “doctrine” or “belief” sends historians of Roman religion scurrying may seem like a strange time to re-issue Franz Cumont’s turn-of-the-twentieth-century synthesis of Mithraism. After all, it was Cumont who forged disparate textual and visual remains related to Mithras into a coherent system of ideas and spiritual content, into something that resembled a nineteenth-century, Protestant-looking “World Religion.” Yet this volume, with its rich historiographic introductory essays and inclusion of Cumont’s previously unpublished essay on the spread of Mithraism, offers much to those interested in the historiography of Classical and religious studies, as well as a chance to reflect critically on the method and practice of ancient history.