Cult Relief of Mithras Slaying the Bull (Tauroctony) Artist: Unknown

ca. A.D. 168

Ancient Art

On view, 1st floor, Dura-Europos

The Mithraeum at Dura-Europos is unique in featuring two cult reliefs of Mithras slaying the bull (the tauroctony) in the center of the niche. In both, the god appears in his customary pose—plunging a dagger into the bull’s throat—accompanied by the usual symbolic attendants: a raven, dog, snake, sun, and moon. In the later, larger relief, the dedicant and fellow initiates are depicted to one side (see 1935.98). Although dedicants and family members appear in cult images elsewhere at Dura-Europos and at Palmyra, such iconography is extremely rare in Mithraic images.

Medium

Limestone

Dimensions

41.4 × 56.3 × 14.2 cm, 72.58 kg (16 5/16 × 22 3/16 × 5 9/16 in., 160 lb.)

Credit Line

Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos

Accession Number

1935.97

Period

Roman (2nd century A.D.)

Classification
Disclaimer

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.

Provenance

Provenance

Excavated by the Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos (block J7, Mithraeum), present-day Syria, 1928–37; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
Bibliography
  • Jennifer Chi and Sebastian Heath, eds., Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos, exh. cat. (New York: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 2011), 90, fig. 4–11
  • Lucinda Dirven, The Palmyrenes of Dura-Europos: A Study of Religious Interaction in Roman Syria (Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1999), 262–69, pl. 8
  • Hans Erik Mathiesen, Sculpture in the Parthian Empire : a study in chronology, 2 volumes (Aarhus Denmark: Aarhus Universitetsforlag, 1992), 196–97, no. 172, vol. 1, appendix II, pp.78–80, fig. 52
  • Christa Bauchenss-Thüriedl, Erika Simon, and Ingrid Krauskopf, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, 8 vols. (Zurich: Artemis, 1981–97), vol. 6, p. 606, no. 226, pl. 354
  • Susan B. Downey, The Excavations at Dura-Europos, Final Report III (Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, 1977), 22–25, 217–225, no. 7, pl. 4, fig. 7
  • Ann Perkins, The Art of Dura-Europos, 1st ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), 84–90, pl.34, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Inscriptions

in Palmyrene: "A good memorial, made by Ethpeni, the strategos, son of Zabde'a, who is in command of the archers who are in Dura. In the month of Adar of the year 480" (A.D. 168); in Greek: "Ethpeni, strategos"

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