5.3.4 Redemption
The humanizing spirit of Greece treated bulls very differently. It was their potency rather than their ferocity that impressed the Greeks, and thus the bull became a favourite embodiment of Zeus, eloping with the not unwilling Europa, as we see him on a Greek vase, and in Titian's masterpiece. Finally we must consider the confusing part played by a bull in the legend of Mithras. At first a god, he becomes a man, a barbarian soldier in a Phrygian cap, who is represented as killing a bull with his sword. The sacred animal has become the victim of sacrifice. The importance of this concept is obvious. Although we have no written records of Mithraism, for it was an all-male freemasonry sworn to secrecy, there is no doubt that it was the most formidable rival to Christianity up to the time of Constantne.  The sacrifice of the bull as the symbol of redemption and new life shows how profound were the spiritual needs of the late antique world, which were answered so differently by the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
Men had sacrificed animals for thousands of years. It seems to have been one of the most ancient human instincts. As we do not feel a trace of it today it is difficult for us to see why the practice became a necessity all over the ancient world. Many books have been written about the subject, in which the arguments are like vast bundles of thread beginning nowhere, ending nowhere, and practically impossible to unravel. But out of this confusing, and often contradictory, evidence a few skeins may be extracted : propitiation, atonement, the need to assert kinship. While men still felt a kinship with animals, to eat them was a crime against the group, and expiation could be achieved only by a ritual feast in which all were involved. Communion was the first basis of sacrifice. But quite soon the belief grew up that the gods were pleased by sacrifice, particularly by the smell of burnt offerings, in which the food was given solely to them. The more the gods had to be propitiated to avert disaster or secure the success of some enterprise, the more sacrifices they required. Finally, sacrifices could become an assertion of royal or priestly authority. The priest is seen as the visible mediator between the people and the god. Thus in the relationship of animals and what had been an act of kinship became an act of pure destruction, and led to the animal carnage of the Roman amphitheatre.