CIMRM 74 - The Mithraeum at Sidon.

See also: CIMRM 74 Mithraeum; 75 Tauroctony relief; 76 Tauroctony statuette; 77 Mithras carrying bull statuette; 78-9 lion-headed statuette; 80 Cautes statuette; 81 Cautopates statuette; 82 Cautes with axe statuette; 83 Cautes with axe statuette; 84-5 Hecate statuette; 86 Two Venus statuettes; 87 Vermaseren's research note;

See also: The Sidon Cippus (140-141 A.D.)

A collection of beautiful Mithras statuettes was sold to the Louvre in the 1880s by an adventurer. The man, named Durighello, claimed that he had discovered them in a Mithraeum at Sidon, and demanded money to reveal the location. The location of the Mithraeum is still unknown today. There are extensive details about the transactions, including a map, in Jean-Marie Saint-Jalm, "Vers la localisation du mithraeum de Sidon", in: Topoi. Orient-Occident 18, (2013) pp. 295-313.

CIMRM entry

Note that the de Clercq collection is now in the Louvre. (RP)

Note that a new article has appeared, offering a proposed site under the court of the archbishop of Saida, and actually provides Durighello's plans.: J.-M. Saint-Jalm, "Vers la localisation du mithraeum de Sidon" TOPOI 18.1 (2013), 295-313.


The Mithraeum may have been under the present Greek Catholic Archbishopric, although what evidence there is for this is not stated.3

Summary of Colloquium "Mithra" held at the Maison de l'Orient Méditerranéen, Lyon, 18 November 2000. Topoi 11 (2001).4 Gordon dates the finds to 140/141 A.D. One paper is of specific interest:

5) F. Baratte (Univ. de Paris I, Sorbonne), 'Le mithraeum de Sidon'

A short account of the sculptures found at an unknown date in the mithraeum of Fl. Gerontios in Sidon, which entered the Collection Péritié and, in 1882, the Collection Le Clerc, and are now in the Louvre (CIMRM 74-87). The circumstances of the discovery, as described by E. Durighello in Bosphore égyptien 19 August 1887, are more or less totally unreliable, though the account of 7 niches may be true. One of the Cautes and Cautopates pairs (CIMRM 82, 83), in white marble with vertical veins, is separate from the rest. They are the same height as nos. 80-81, but differently worked, and they probably come from another mithraeum.

The reverse of the tauroctony (no. 76) is left rough, suggesting it backed against a wall. The base of the taurophoros (no.77) has traces of cement , suggesting that it was cemented to the floor or to an altar. Doubts have been expressed about the authenticity of the Hekate (no. 84), but Baratte rightly compares the style with that of Venus, Artemis and Ganymede group from Aphrodisias now in S. George de Montagne in Bordeaux (late IV cent. AD).

The three inscribed pieces (nos. 76, 78, 84) are surely late IV cent. AD, the others, particularly the well-known relief with zodiac (no. 75) probably earlier.

A. Chalupa, Mithraism in Ancient Syria: Persian Cult on the Borders of the Roman Empire, in: Anodos, vol. 10, 2010, p.57-66. p.58:

A mithraeum was found at Sidon[10] in the late 19th century. Unfortunatelly, archaeological reports are very incomplete and the original site has been built up so no new excavations arepossible[11]. The mithraeum is dated on the basis of inscriptions on some of the its monuments[12], but because they might use two different versions of a local calendar, it can be placed either in the year 188 C.E.[13] or 389/390 C.E. [14] The later dating is usually preferred [15], which is somewhatsurprising, because the majority of scholars see Mithraism on the brink of extinction by this time. Two pieces of statuary from the Sidon mithraeum are worth mentioning.Firstly, there is a beautifully cut marble relief with a tauroctony surrounded by the twelvesigns of the zodiac (Fig. 1)[16]. Two details are quite remarkable in this regard, since they attest the presence of astrological lore in this Mithraic community:

1) a scorpion encircling bull's genitalia is identical with the astrological sign of Scorpio;
2) the animals symbolizing the constellations of Taurus and Aries are depicted leaping up at the busts of Luna and Sun, which could be, at least according to one specialist in ancient astrology, anallusion to the fact that the exaltation of these planets occurs in these particular zodiacal signs[17].

Secondly, there are two statues representing Mithraic torchbearers[18], Cautes and Cautopates.These are quite customary except for one extraordinary detail. It is the only known instance when these followers of Mithras are holding double edged battle axes in addition to the usual torches.

10. CIMRM 74.
11. For a detailed summary of all facts we know about the mithraeum at Sidon and the circumstances of its discovery see Baratte, F. 2001. "Le mithreum de Sidon: certitudes et questions." Topoi 11: 205-27.
12. Especially CIMRM 76.
13. De Ridder, A. 1906. Collection De Clercq. Catalogue. IV. Le marbres, les vases peints et les ivoires. Paris: E. Leroux: 54, 60.(Online here.)
14. Will 1950, 262-3.
15. Cf. Beck, R. 1984. "Mithraism since Franz Cumont." ANRW II.17.4: p.2002-115; p.2015, n. 13; Hopfe, L. M. 1990, "Mithraism in Syria." ANRW II.18.4: p.2214-35., p.2221; Baratte 2001, p.207-8.
16. CIMRM 75.
17. Beck 1984, p.2062-3.
18. CIMRM 82-83.

Examining De Ridder, p.54 we find that Edmond Durighello published his letter in the Bosphore Egyptien on 19 August 1887; and it was reprinted by S. Reinach in Rev. Archéol. 1888, I, p.91-93 (Chroniques d'Orient I, p.434-6). See Cumont, TMMM II, inscr. 6, p.92 and mon. 4, p.191. He does not discuss the Venus statues, except to say that the second one is of type "Cnidean". The Mithras and Hecate monuments are illustrated in plates XIX-XXVIII, in images that appear to be reproduced exactly in the CIMRM. (p.297 of the PDF).

Number of entries: 11

1Online here.
2Online here.
3Al-Mashriq. Online here: " The cult of Mithra survived here even after Constantine the Great sought to wipe out paganism. The Mithraeum of Sidon escaped destruction because the followers of Mithra walled off the entrance to the underground sanctuary. Evidence supports the belief that the sanctuary may have been beneath the foundations of the present Greek Catholic Archbishopric."
4Online here.

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