In ancient astronomy, the heliocentric system of Aristarchus of Samos did not meet universal approval. Contrary to that, the cult of the sun gained immense importance in the Roman Empire. Relics of this significance we still find e.g. in the meaning of the Sunday in the week and in the date of Christmas. The rise of the sun cults is characterised by the merging of different gods from various cultures. Already in classical Greece the god of the sun, Helios, almagated with the god of light, Apollo. The resulting entity was regarded as the harmonic guide of the visible universe, symbolized by Apoll. As well as he plays the lyre, he conducts the cosmos harmonically as the sun. Plato recommends to politicians to study musical harmonics and astronomy in order to get a feeling of the right way to rule the state. In consequence to the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Babylonian star religion was mingled with Greek cosmology and the concept of transmigration of souls. The astrology resulting therefrom spread out over the whole Hellenistic world and was very common in the Roman Empire. The calendar with its religious division of time as the days of the week, following the principle of the gods of the planets governing the hour, was well known. The god of the sun was graded up by the adoption of the calendar of the sun from Egypt by Caesar. Augustus chose Apoll as his guardian god and built with “his” sundial a symbol of the god of the sun, which was visible from a long distance. Augustus used more astral symbols as propaganda of leadership. During the competition with the Parthians, another large empire, for world domination the focus fell on an Iranian god: the Iranian god of light and contract - Mithras. Shortly before 100 A.D., a new cult of mysteries arose in the Roman Empire, called cult of Mithras, and spread quickly. It combined the attributes of a classical sun-god with a religion of salvation, guaranteed by baptism, communion and seven degrees to be passed. The introduction of the sun-god Elagabal from the Syrian town Emesa as the highest god of the empire, tried about 220 A.D. by the young emperor bearing the same name, failed. The introduction of sol invictus, however, the invincible god of the sun, by the emperor Aurelian in 274 A.D. succeeded. It was the begin of a development that led to the submission of the Roman pantheon to the sun-god. In the imperial propaganda, the emperor likened his own government to the ruling of the cosmos by Apoll. The cosmocrator, a symbol of the emperor as the sovereign of the world, turned into Christus in iconography. The cult of the sun, shaped by Helios - Apollo - Mithras sol invictus was very popular. For this reason, in the fourth century the christians took over the most important religious festival, the winter solstice, which was the birthday of Mithras, as Christmas and Christ became the “Sun of Justice”.
Acta Historica Astronomiae
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