Welcome to weekend writing warriors. Many fine authors, and me, contribute short snippets for your delectation. This is the start of a new work, Illegal Aliens. It is something of a cross between a horror story, a science fiction tale, and a romance.
Roland, an archaeology instructor at Reading University (academic ranks in the UK are different than in the US, he’d be an assistant professor in the land of the free), is on his way to London. He’s on call when something unusual turns up in the works on the new underground. After an interesting conversation on the train, he arrives to find the odd item – a block of Roman Concrete which is covered in inscriptions.
Two and a half hours later, after the train ride to Paddington, a shunt in the rattling cars of the circle line and a shuttle along the new but unopened tracks, with his bright yellow vest – lined with reflective tape, and a yellow hardhat Roland met the works manager at the site.
“So Mr Shah, where’s this block?” The works manager insisted on the ‘Mr’ so Dr Stevens used it, rather than the informal first names he usually found worked better with people; he wasn’t sure he even knew Mr Shah’s first name.
Mr Shah pointed the way, “You can see it’s right in the middle of the line; I’ve had the diggers expose as much as I can; as much as is safe, we think might be a UXB left nearby – from the war.”
“Is that why Carter’s here?” Roland waved at an army officer who was drinking a cup of coffee while he stood by the works office, a mobile shed constructed from a shipping container; he waved back.
Mr Shah spat, “Of course; we scanned the area with a metal detector; there are so many bomb fragments and other bits of metal rubbish around here – too many for my taste … and there’s something big near that bloody piece of concrete.”
“Best then if I take a look,” Roland and Mr Shah walked to the block.
After he inspected it, Roland said, “You’re right, definitely Roman mortar.”
Mithras, a Persian god, was widely worshiped in the Roman Empire. Most, if not all, of the legions participated in his cult before the emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire (mind you, he adopted what is known as the Aryan heresy but that’s another story).
The cult was squashed by the early Christian church. Unlike the Olympian gods he didn’t get re-cloaked as a saint. There are several reasons for this.
- It was a mystery religion. You weren’t supposed to know about it until you were initiated and you weren’t supposed to proselytize. There were a series of initiations – think of the scene from the Magic Flute and you’ll get the idea.
- The early Christian church was a social welfare agency. After it more or less ‘went public’ and was (usually) tolerated, it fed the poor and helped the sick. This gave it wide support among the commoners. It also abraded the rigid class distinctions of the Roman Empire because it taught that all people were equal before God (if not each other).
- The mythological structure of Mithridates almost mockingly mimicked Christianity (though had things gone differently we might reverse that). Mithridates had twelve apostles, died for three days and rose (about the time of Easter), was born on December 25th, and performed miracles.
Mithriadic sites were typically in caves and a surprising number of them are underneath churches. The similarities between two faiths are not surprising – both were mystery religions in the 1st and 2nd century AD or CE. Christianity because the authorities did not like it and Mithriadism because of choice. Undoubtedly there were individuals who attended both and mixed the ideas.