Bronze plaque of Mithras slaying the bull

Period: Mid-Imperial, Antonine or Severan

Date: mid-2nd–early 3rd century A.D.

Culture: Roman

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: Overall: 14 x 11 5/8 x 1 3/4 in. (35.6 x 29.5 x 4.4 cm)

Classification: Bronzes

Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.145.3


The cult of Mithras was very popular throughout the Roman Empire and was followed especially by soldiers. It was one of several eastern cults that spread rapidly as a result of the pax Romana (Roman peace); others included the worship of Jupiter Dolichenus, Manichaeism and, of course, Christianity. Shrines dedicated to Mithras have been found at sites as far apart as Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain and Dura Europos on the River Euphrates in Syria. This plaque may well have decorated the wall of such a Mithraeum (place of worship). Busts of Sol (the Sun) and Luna (the Moon) watch over the ritual scene of Mithras slaying the bull, aided by a dog, snake, and scorpion.