Wednesday, 12 December 2012

God's of Wonder

Another double posting for you lucky lot! This time with a splash of Rome....

December 11th

Today we have something a little bit special...

Image taken from
It is the head of the goddess Sulis Minerva, celebrated primarily in Bath, England.  This statue is slightly larger than life, cast from bronze and carefully gilded in gold leaf.  The head has clearly been removed in a deliberate act, thought to have occurred during the rise in Christianity and the banishing of Pagan belief.  This goddess is particularly special as she is actually two goddesses merged into one, allowing for the sacred springs of Bath to be just that for local Britons and the settled Roman population.  Sulis, arguably had the springs first, she was the local goddess and like Minerva stood for very similar things...they were both able to provide wisdom and success to their followers.  This resulted in the Roman visitors combining the two, it meant the superstitious Romans could edge their bets, the local population would be happier and it showed some common ground between the two conflicting camps.  This particular example is believed to have come from the temple situated near the springs, which is why it is so ornate in comparison to other examples of Sulis Minerva sculpture.  She is also only known within the region of Bath, with similar goddesses taking her role elsewhere in Britain.
December 12th
Today is carrying on the theme of religion in the Empire...
Image taken from English Heritage
It is the Temple of Mithras, Carrawburgh, Hadrian's Wall.  There are three such Temples known across the length of Hadrian's Wall and the cult of Mithras is well known within the Empire.  It is believed to have been borrowed by the Romans from those in the East, probably Persia, though this is not certain.  It seems to have been a fairly secretive Cult with certain rites having to be achieved before cult practice can begin, how much of this is true is unknown as there are few detailed references relating to Mithras.  It is known that he was a god of honour, truth and courage and as such held a strong appeal for solider and traders alike.  It also said that slaves were keen to be involved in the Cult, maybe he provided them a source of encouragement and belief when the world seemed to be against them.  It is clear as to why he would be favoured on Hadrian's Wall, it would have been a cold, lonely and hostile place, the very edge of the Empire and forever away from the lands that the soldiers may have called home.  Much like the slaves, they would need comfort and words that could stir courage to ensure honour and bravery.  

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