You really have to break down this book into components to give it a proper evaluation, as some parts are excellent and others are not so good.
First, for content this book is an eleven out of five. Clauss displays an encyclopedic knowledge of Mithraism, as deep as it is broad. He absolutely dismisses the ridiculous theories that have been popularized recently and takes the reader to the basic facts. Mithras is the sun, the bull is the moon. Their "combat" is nothing more than the cycles of life and nature that every human being observes and experiences on a daily, monthly and annual basis. Clauss references a variety of monuments and other objects associated with Mithrea, but he always sticks to the concrete and avoids speculation.
But when it comes to format and presentation the book falls short. Gordon's translation had a lot of flaws; his spelling and vocabulary are at times so archaic and stilted you wonder if they are typo's. In some cases his punctuation is downright wrong by all rules of English grammar. Where ever an ancient province or town is mentioned the author parenthetically notes the modern equivalent. This is jarring and really disrupts the flow of the text. It is easy enough to find a map of the Roman empire if you don't know where Noricum was. Finally, the book contains many photographs which are so poorly reproduced that they look like grey blobs with little to no visible detail.
There is one last point that can't be ignored. At the very start Clauss makes the sweeping and offhanded claim that Roman Mithraism is a unique and singular creation, with no relationship at all to Persian Mithra. He then leaves that statement to stand alone without any further discussion, justification or rationalization. As Carl Sagan noted, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and Clauss gives us nothing. If you are going to propose that two gods with the same name, the same attributes and the same iconography, two gods that the Romans themselves acknowledged as the same, a god that Plutarch tells us was imported from Asia Minor, you better have something to back it up. So best ignore this odd opinion of his and focus on the information that he does provide extensive proof for.
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Routledge (21 March 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415929784
- ISBN-13: 978-0415929783
- Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.3 x 23.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item