Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun)
- Sol Invictus was the official sun god of the later Roman Empire and a patron of soldiers. In 274 AD the Roman emperor Aurelian made it an official cult alongside the traditional Roman cults.
- Celebrated near-solstice
- After his victories in the East, the Emperor Aurelian reformed the Roman cult of Sol, elevating the sun-god to one of the premier divinities of the Empire.
- Constantine decreed (March 7, 321) dies Solis—day of the sun, "Sunday"—as the Roman day of rest (Codex Justinianus): On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.”
- Constantine's triumphal arch was carefully positioned to align with the colossal statue of Sol by the Colosseum.
- Celebration included religious rites and public business was suspended. Even slaves were supposed to be given some form of rest. Family and community celebrations were held.
- Within the city of Rome, the priests were not allowed even to see work done.
- Sol Invictus played a prominent role in the Mithraic mysteries, and was equated with Mithras.
So….what was Mithraism?
- A mystery religion of the god Mithras practiced in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to the 4th century.
- Mithras was born from a rock emerging already in his youth on December 25 (date contested by some)
- Key imagery includes Mithra slaughtering a sacred bull while being watch by Sol who he then shares food with.
- There are no written records of this religion, so all information has been interpreted by archeological evidence.
- By some, Mithraism has sometimes been viewed as a rival of early Christianity with similarities such as liberator-saviour, hierarchy (bishops, deacons, presbyters), communal meal and a hard struggle of Good and Evil (bull-killing/crucifixion).
- Mithraism declined with the rise to power of Christianity,
- Early Christian apologists noted similarities between Mithraic and Christian rituals, but nonetheless took an extremely negative view interpreting Mithraic rituals as evil copies of Christian ones.