M. J. Vermaseren, Corpus Inscriptionum et Monumentorum Religions Mithriacae/Reprinted by permission of Kluwer Academic Publishers and the Vermaseren Heirs

The cosmos at his feet, a god with a lion head and a human form entwined with a snake stands atop a small globe representing the universe. Two bands encircle the cosmic sphere, forming an “X” where they cross. One band stands for the celestial equator, the other the zodiac. The two points at which the bands intersect symbolize the equinoxes.

This stone relief from Rome and many other images of a lion-headed god have been discovered in numerous mithraea. So important was the intersection of the celestial equator and the band of the zodiac in the minds of the ancients that a globe with an X was often used in art to symbolize the entire cosmos. Plato even went so far as to write that when the creator of the universe formed the cosmos, he shaped its substance in the form of the letter X.