The name Mithras
Bas-relief of the tauroctony of the Mithraicmysteries, Metz, France.
The name Mithras (Latin, equivalent to Greek "Μίθρας",
) is a formof Mithra, the name of an Old Persian god.
(This point has beenunderstood by Mithras scholars since the days of Franz Cumont.
)An early example of the Greek form of the name is in a 4th century BCwork by Xenophon, the Cyropaedia, which is a biography of thePersian king Cyrus the Great.
The exact form of a Latin or classical Greek word varies due to thegrammatical process of declension. There is archeological evidencethat in Latin worshippers wrote the nominative form of the god's nameas "Mithras". However, in Porphyry's Greek text
(«Περὶἀποχῆς ἐμψύχων»), there is a reference to the now-lost histories of theMithraic mysteries by Euboulus and Pallas, the wording of whichsuggests that these authors treated the name "Mithra" as anindeclinable foreign word.
Related deity-names in other languages include•Sanskrit Mitra (
), found in the Rig Veda.
In Sanskrit, "mitra" means "friend" or "friendship".
, found in an inscribed peace treaty between the Hittites and the kingdom of Mitanni, from about1400 BC.
Iranian "Mithra" and Sanskrit "Mitra" are believed to come from an Indo-Iranian word mitra meaning "contract,agreement, covenant".
Modern historians have different conceptions about whether these names refer to the same god or not. John R.Hinnells has written of Mitra/Mithra/Mithras as a single deity worshipped in several different religions.
On theother hand, David Ulansey considers the bull-slaying Mithras to be a new god who began to be worshipped in the 1stcentury BC, and to whom an old name was applied.
Mary Boyce, a researcher of ancient Iranian religions, writes that even though Roman Empire Mithraism seems tohave had less Iranian content than historians used to think, still "as the name Mithras alone shows, this content wasof some importance."