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Upper Danube: Carnuntum: lion statue from the Mithraeum

Carnuntum lies between the modern towns of Bad Deutsch-Altenburg and Petronell, 40 km down the Danube from Vienna (Roman Vindobona). The name Carnuntum is of Illyrian origin, referring to a Celtic hill-fort or oppidum. After the arrival of the Romans, indigenous people resettled in a civilian town, eventually  made a municipium. Romans, meanwhile, brought in a host of new practices from around the empire, including worship at the cult of Mithras, a Near-Eastern God of light and fertility.

 The Carnuntum museum contains a reconstructed Mithraeum (temple to Mithras), with this statue of a lion (fig.1) guarding the entrance to the temple. Fabricated inside a cave which symbolized the universe, the temple recreates the legendary battle between Mithras and an evil spirit. The cult of Mithras was very popular amoung Roman soldiers between the second and fourth century AD, with legionary Mithraeums known from Syria to Hadrian's Wall in Britain.

[Fig.1: Lion statue outside the Temple of Mithras at Carnuntum Museum. (© 1999 BFA Documentary Photography)]

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