At last Mithras appeared and shed his light upon the earth; the spirits of the night retired to their dens, and the Magi stirred up the sacred fire which had been carried before the army the whole way from Babylon, until it became a gigantic flame.
She drew her veil hastily, and retired within the dwelling, indulging the secret hope that none of her attendants had witnessed an action, which Artaphernes would deem so imprudent. On the following morning commenced the celebrated festival called, 'The Salutation of Mithras; during which, forty days were set apart for thanksgiving and sacrifice.
Nor should it be forgotten that Tertullian admits that those admitted into the rites of the Sun-God Mithras were so marked, trying to explain this away by stating that this was done in imitation of the then despised Christians!
"That sounds well; but, by Mithras, I knew some one who often spoke of that great teacher, and yet in her deeds turned out to be a most faithful disciple of Angramainjus. You know the traitress, whom we are going to extirpate from the earth like a poisonous viper to-day."
"Victory to the king! They await death with calmness, for it is sweet to die by thy will." "Have you heard anything of their conversation?" "Yes, my Ruler." "Do they acknowledge their guilt, when speaking to each other?" "Mithras alone knows the heart; but you, my prince, if you could hear them speak, would believe in their innocence, even as I the humblest of your servants."
In this connection it may be mentioned, as a series of curious coincidences, that in the Zoroastrian religion long before our era the Sun-God Mithras bore much the same relation to the All-Father that the Christ does in ours, and is referred to in the Zend Avesta as the Incarnate Word; that Mithras is said, like the Christ, to have been born in a cave; that the Fathers admitted that the new-born Sun had been worshipped in the cave at Bethlehem to which the story of the birth of Jesus referred; and that in framing its calendar our Church fixed upon the recognised birthday of Mithras, the Natalis Invicti of the Roman Brumalia, as the birthday of the Christ.
He had gone to bed in the evening, and yet he now saw, by the direction of the sun's rays which fell on his bed, that, instead of dawning as he had expected, the day was growing dark. There could be no mistake; he heard the chorus of priests singing farewell to the setting Mithras. Then he heard a number of people moving behind a curtain, which had been hung up at the head of his bed.
"She is innocent! by Mithras, it is impossible that she can be guilty," cried the king again, and forgetful of the presence of others, he sank on his knees. A Persian physician came up and rubbed her forehead with a sweet-scented oil, and Nebenchari approached, muttering spells, felt her pulse, shook his head, and administered a potion from his portable medicine-chest.
It was an entirely perverted ingenuity which sought a generation ago to find mystic meaning in the representations on Greek vases. Attempts to portray the Deities of the Mysteries scarcely count as works of art. Such figures as Sabazius, Isis, Mithras, only come into ancient art in its decadence.
"Though you disclaim all images of divinity," rejoined Aspasia, "yet we hear of your Mithras pictured like a Persian King, trampling on a prostrate ox." With a smile, Artaphernes replied, "I see, lady, that you would fain gain admittance to the Mithraic cave; but its secrets, like those of your own Eleusis, are concealed from all save the initiated."