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 Sol Invictus

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MessageSujet: Sol Invictus   Lun 26 Déc - 2:10

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Sol Invictus ("the unconquered sun") or, more fully, Deus Sol Invictus ("the unconquered sun god") was a religious title applied to three distinct divinities during the later Roman Empire.

Unlike the earlier, agrarian cult of Sol Indiges ("the sun in-the-earth"), the title Deus Sol Invictus was formed by analogy with the imperial titulature pius felix invictus ("dutiful, fortunate, unconquered").

A festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun (or Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) was celebrated when the duration of daylight first begins to increase after the winter solstice,—the "rebirth" of the sun.


The title first gained prominence under the emperor Elagabalus, who abortively attempted to impose the worship of Elegabal, the sun-god of his native city Emesa in Syria. With the emperor's death in AD 222, however, this religion ceased, though emperors continued to be portrayed on coinage with the radiant sun-crown, for close to a century.

In the second instance, the title invictus was applied to Mithras in private inscriptions by devotees. It also appears applied to Mars.


The emperor Aurelian introduced an official religion of Sol Invictus in AD 270, making the sun-god the premier divinity of the empire, and wearing his rayed crown himself (image, right). While not officially identified with Mithras, Aurelian's Sol borrowed many features from Mithraism, including the iconographical representation of the god as a beardless youth. Aurelian dedicated the Sol Invictus Temple on Dec 25, 274 in a festival called dies natalis Solis Invicti or birthday of the invincible Sun. It is conjectured to have been promoted by Aurelian as a means of linking this rebirth with the perpetual renewal of the Roman Empire. Also conjectured is that the Natalis Invicti was later renamed Christmas, for example: the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Christmas states: "The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date."


The religion of Sol Invictus continued to be a cornerstone of the emperors until Theodosius I's decree on Feb 27, 390 that only Nicene Christianity was acceptable. Before his supposed conversion (some think Emperor Constantine never converted but that a Christian coup took advantage of his death), on his deathbed, even the young Constantine portrayed Sol Invictus on his official coinage. Constantine on Mar 7, 321 decreed SUNday (dies Solis) as the Roman day of rest [CJ3.12.2]:

On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost.

Sol Invictus and Christianity

Christianity apparently adopted some of the attributes of the Sol Invictus religion, as apparent in the first examples of Christian iconography, depicting Christ with solar attributes such as the sun-ray crown or, in a few instances, a solar chariot.

According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia of 1967, article on Constantine the Great: Sol Invictus had been adopted by the Church of Rome as evidenced by Christ as Apollo-Helios in a mausoleum discovered under St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City and dated to 250 and from the article on Christmas: from the beginning of the third century "Sun of Justice" was used as a title of Christ.

The date for Christmas may also bear a relation to the sun worship. According to the scriptor Syrus, writing in the fourth century:

'It was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.'
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