Jupiter Dolichenus at Vindolanda

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Vindolanda, temple of Jupiter Dolichenus © David Gill

The sanctuary of Jupiter Dolichenus lies just inside the northern ramparts of the fort at Vindolanda. It was excavated in 2009.

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Vindolanda, altar of Jupiter Dolichenus © David Gill

One of the finds was a stone inscribed altar (now displayed in the museum). It bears a relief of Jupiter standing on the back of a bull. The inscription is dedicated to Jupiter Dol<o>chenus by Sulpicius Pudens, prefect of the Fourth Cohort Gallorum.

Sulpicius Pudens also appears on a second altar dedicated to Jupiter (but not Jupiter Dolichenus) that was found at Staward Pele in 1885 (RIB 1688). The earliest dedication to Jupiter was probably made by the prefect Quintus Petronius Urbicus dating to 213-235 (RIB 1686). Another prefect also made a dedication to Jupiter (RIB 1687). A fourth inscription, dedicated Naevius Hilarus, probably came from Vindolanda (RIB 2062). Some of these may have been dedicated in the praetorium building.

The Fourth Cohort Gallorum was stationed at Vindolanda from c. 213 to 367. The unit is identified in an inscription of c. 213 (RIB 1705). The unit is recorded in a building inscription of 223 (RIB 1706); it probably relates to the rebuilding of the south gate of the fort. The cohort is recorded on an inscription that dates to the reign of Probus, 276–282 (RIB 1710). Another prefect, Pituanius Secundus, erected an altar to the genius of the praetorium at Vindolanda (RIB 1685).

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Altar dedication by Quintus Petronius Urbicus from Vindolanda, Chesters Museum © David Gill

London Mithraeum

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Mithraeum, Walbrook, London © David Gill

The Mithraeum was excavated by William Francis Grimes on Walbrook in London. This has now been repositioned in the basement of Bloomberg Space. Visitors experience the darkness of the space and light levels are increased so that the remains can be seen.

Some of the sculptures are displayed in the nearby Museum of London. They include a relief of Ulpius Silvanus, formerly of the II Augustan legion (based at Caerleon). He appears to have been initiated to the cult at Orange in modern France.

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Mithras Tauroctonos, Walbrook Mithraeum, Museum of London © David Gill

Silvanus at Corinium

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Corinium Museum © David Gill

A fragmentary altar to Silvanus was found at Circencester (Corinium) in the 19th century (RIB 104). It was dedicated by [.] Sabidius Maximus.

Anthony Birley has suggested a possible link with M. Sabidiu[s] Ma[ximus] known from an inscription found at Elbasan, Albania, on the route of the strategic Via Egnatia (AE 1937, no. 101) [JSTOR]. He served in various roles, including signifer, in the Legio IX Claudia, then as centurion in the Legio III Gallica (during the reign of Hadrian). Birley suggests that one of the Legions in which he served could be restored as the Legio I[I Augusta] (based at Caerleon).

The hunters of Banna

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Inscription, Birdoswald © David Gill

An inscription found at Birdoswald in 1821 is now displayed in the small site museum (RIB 1905). It had previously been displayed in the undercroft at nearby Lanercost Priory (and where it features in Charles M. Daniels, Handbook to the Roman Wall 13th ed.).

The altar was dedicated to the ‘holy god’ Silvanus, and the dedicators were the venatores or hunters of Banna. Banna is almost certainly Birdoswald, and is a name also known from the Rudge cup found at Froxfield in Wiltshire (for the replica, now in the British Museum) that shows some of the forts along Hadrian’s Wall.

It has been suggested that the inscription should be dated to the 3rd century (supported by David Breeze in his Handbook to the Roman Wall).