The cult of Mithra reached the height of its popularity in the second and third century AD in Roman territories after quiet beginnings in the highlands of eastern Turkey sometime in the first century BC. The Mithraic cult reached many parts of the Roman world and it is unlikely that Malta was immune to this popular, yet private and exclusive cult. There is every possibility that Mithraic practices filtered into the islands sometime after the archipelago came under Roman domination in 218 BC at the start of the Second Punic War.


This talk investigates the evidence for the cult in the Maltese islands. We will look at the objects with Mithraic iconography that have come to light in the archipelago in the not so distant past when building works and other disturbances have uncovered Mithraic cultic sites in which these artefacts were located. Mithraic places of worship, known as the ‘mithraea’, have been found in numbers throughout the Roman world and the most convincing cultic site in the Maltese Archipelago is located at Ras il-Wardija perched on the west coast of the north island of Gozo.   In addition to funerary sites with possible Mithraic architectural traits, there are early church structures, comprising simple stone buildings and natural caves that might have served an earlier, Mithraic purpose. 


Biography of Dr. Claudia Sagona M.O.M.

 Claudia Sagona is a Principal Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Melbourne. An honorary member of the National Order of Merit of Malta, her research on Maltese archaeology has focused on the Phoenician-Punic period.  She has also carried out fieldwork in various regions of the Near East and the Caucasus. She is the author of The Archaeology of Malta (Cambridge 2015).

For more information contact Dr. Amelia R. Brown ( This event is supported by a grant from the UQ Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.