The paper discussed here grew out of a spirited history assignment. Readers of
"Mithraism in the Roman Empire" was written by a Korean high school student for whom
this topic was as alien as a paper on the 'Religious beliefs of the inhabitants of Goguryo'
(a 4th century state on the Korean peninsula) would have been to a European or North
American high school student.
Park Hyeongsu worked, in stages, over 2 years on this paper. In a first draft he described
Mithraic Cosmology and discussed the interpretations he found in literature. Upon my
request, in a second draft he added a chapter on the role Mithraism played in Roman
society, in a third draft he wrote on the interrelation between Mithraism and other religions
in the Roman Empire.
At KMLA we have research projects for three years now. In history, the vast majority of students
choose topics in modern history. So far, four students dared to take on research papers in
religious history of Roman antiquity. Such topics in antiquity, especially in the field of religion, require
students to understand specific terminology, and to relate individual events, persons, debated issues to the
socio-economic-political context of the time. Among these four projects, one
was not completed. Another (Cho Eunhae's
Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Mary)
was extensive and thorough (61 pages), even partially based on primary sources (translated into English); on the other
hand, it suffered one defect, heavy dependence on the works of one single writer.
Park Hyeongsu's "Mithraism in the Roman Empire" covers a wide range of aspects and, being based on a
solid list of references, provides his readers with a concise, thorough overview of the phenomenon;
it would serve as a good basis of a 3rd year college seminar discussion.
In the course of the project, Park Hyeongsu has proven, that, with a minimum of guidance by the teacher,
he can independently conduct, and successfully conclude, historic research tasks based on
English-language secondary sources. His paper will serve as a standard by which future KMLA students'
research papers on topics in the history of antiquity will be measured.
December 4th 2006