The relief is replete with astrological symbols alluding to constellations: Cautes and Cautopates to Gemini, the dog to Canis Major or Minor, the serpent to Hydra, the raven to Corvus, the ears of grain at the tip of the bull's tail, and the scorpion to Scorpio.
According to Franz Cumont, a pioneer in the field of Mithraic studies, "Mithraic art rested at heart Asiatic, like the Mysteries of which it was the expression. Its predominating idea was not to provoke an aesthetic impression; it aimed not to fascinate, but to tell its mission and to instruct,--faithful in this also to the traditions of the ancient Orient. The jumbled mass of personages and groups which are presented on some of the bas-reliefs, the host of attributes (...), show us that a new ideal was born with the new religion. These uncouth and unappealing symbols (...) did not allure by their elegance or nobility; they fascinated the mind by the disquieting attractions of the Unknown, and provoked in souls reverential fear for an august mystery." For a survey of more recent scholarship on the the subject see R. Beck, The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire, 2006.
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