Could we have all ended up worshiping the Invincible Sun if the Roman emperor Constantine had opted for Sol Invictus instead of Christianity?
In the early third century AD, the teenage emperor Elegabalus introduced the Syrian sun worship religion to Rome and brought a sacred rock to the city from the Middle East, similar to the meteorite we can see today in Mecca that pre-dates Islam as an object of veneration. When he was assassinated, the rock was sent back and sun worship set aside, though not forgotten.
Sun worship made an energetic comeback later in that century with Aurelian – the emperor who reunited a fractured Roman empire – constructing a major temple to Sol Invictus in Rome. It could be argued this was a drift towards monotheism that made it easier for Christianity to sweep away the old polytheistic faith of ancient Rome.
Constantine is best known for embracing Christianity but he seems to have hedged his bets for most of his reign. I have coins of Constantine that clearly mention Sol Invictus and his arch in Rome references the cult. He also instituted the day ‘Sunday’ – which ironically became the main day of worship for Christians.
References to the ‘light’ and other sun worship terms and imagery seeped in to Christianity, which at the same time fought a stringent rearguard action against Sol Invictus and similar so-called ‘pagan’ cults. Historian Ramsay McMullen has clearly evidenced that Christianity had huge difficulty crushing non-Christian religions for more than four hundred years after Constantine.
By the time our beloved Templars came on the scene – there were still curious variants of Christianity, as well as the mainstream Catholic church, where pagan influences like sun worship were still very evident. Now, the influences are still there – just we don’t notice them anymore.