El culto a sol en el occidente del imperio romano

  1. Pérez Yarza, Lorenzo
Supervised by:
  1. Francisco Marco Simón Director

Defence university: Universidad de Zaragoza

Fecha de defensa: 28 June 2019

  1. Attilio Mastrocinque Chair
  2. Gabriel Sopeña Genzor Secretary
  3. Elena Muñiz Grijalvo Committee member

Type: Thesis


The Sun is present in most ancient religions as a god or a divine principle. Lazio was home of a native religious tradition called Sol that was strongly influenced by the Greek culture, deriving in a Hellenistic-Roman concept which for several centuries served as a benchmark for different cultic traditions. As a consequence, different solar versions came into contact in the Mediterranean basin sharing epithets, theonyms, forms of representation and symbolism during the Roman Republic and Empire. The interest in the appealing epiklesis Sol Invictus, as well as Sol’s relevant role played within the imperial milieu, motivated the studies about the identity and origin of the solar cult in Rome. The Cumontian reading of the solar worship created a homogeneous generalist discourse linked to the oriental influence which varied from Mithraic to Syrian associations. However, this account of events has changed significantly. With the passage from the 20th to the 21st century literature has switched the interpretation with continuist nuance in favour of a more complex reality. The aim of this thesis is to describe this continuism based on the internal Greco-Roman coherence shown by the sources, whose explanation as a whole is still missing. In order to conduct this study, it is necessary to offer an integrated interpretation of the numerous indications existing about the Sun as divinity. Therefore, this work focuses on the evolution of Sol within the Republican and Imperial cultural system, and not on the detailed description of the different solar cults with whom the image of the Sun interacts. We try to reflect a periodization that accompanies the transformation of the figure of Sol in three stages: The Republic, the Principate (first and second centuries) and the deep changes that surround the Third Century. In total, five major areas with useful information have been analysed. The pillar of this research is constituted by Numismatics (republican, imperial and local ), and Epigraphy (republican and imperial), regardless of language or register (public or private). The third area is the variated contribution of archaeology with studies on Mithraic iconography, portable art and information from archaeological excavations from places of worship. Finally, we also add to the material remains two types of written sources: classical literature, and intellectual discourse. Thus, we carried out a brief study of mentions of Sol in classical literature (epic, lyrical and historical/antiquarian during the Republic and Empire), and of the use of the solar image by philosophy (and related disciplines), which goes from the incorporation of Middle Platonism and Stoicism in Rome to the development of Neoplatonism.