Thursday 30 August 2012

Britons and Anglo-Saxons - Lincolnshire AD 400-650

A new book by Thomas Green, due publication in September, argues that British political control in the Lincoln region survived into the sixth century.

Britons and Anglo-Saxons: Lincolnshire AD 400 - 650
Thomas Green

No 3 in Studies in the History of Lincolnshire Series
Published by the History of Lincolnshire Committee, 18 September 2012

Hardcover: 336 pages
ISBN-10: 0902668242
ISBN-13: 978-0902668249

Paperback: 336 pages
ISBN-10: 0902668250
ISBN-13: 978-0902668256

Offering an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Dark Age Lincolnshire during the period between c. 400 and 650 AD, reviewing not only the archaeological evidence, but also the availabe historical, literary and linguistic information for the period. Green argues that by using all of this material together, significant advances can be made in our understanding of events during this period, particularly Anglian-British interaction. When taken together, this evidence suggests that a British polity named *Lindēs was based at Lincoln into the sixth century, going on to have an intimate connection to the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Lindsey (Old English Lindissi).

A British Polity in the Lincoln Region
The main focus of Britons and Anglo-Saxons is on the post-Roman period, and specifically tackles the question of Anglian-British interaction in eastern Britain. Green argues that there is now a significant body of evidence to suggest that the former Late Roman provincial capital of Lincoln retained its centrality into the post-Roman period, becoming the focus of a British polity known as *Lindēs which probably survived up to the fifth century and at least into the sixth. A large quantity of British high-status metalwork is known from fifth- to sixth-century Lincolnshire and during the same period the old Roman forum at Lincoln appears to have been used by the British as a Christian church. Significantly, this fifth- to sixth-century British polity appears to have been able to control the Anglo-Saxon immigrants arriving in its territory, up until the early sixth century and eventually succumbing to Anglo-Saxon control, the region became the seventh-century kingdom of Lindissi (the name derived from *Lindēs).

The Origins of Lindisfarne and the Kingdom of Bernicia
Britons and Anglo-Saxons claims to provide a detailed analysis of the nature of the Anglo-Saxon population-groups that were present in the Lincoln region from the mid-fifth century onwards, including those of *Lindēs-Lindissi and also groups further south, such as the Spalde/Spaldingas. Arguing that the emerging picture of Anglian-British interaction, if repeated throughout the Anglo-Saxon regions would have a significant bearing on the origins of Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, the nature and extent in the core areas of Anglo-Saxon immigration, and the conquest and settlement of Northumbria.

Green presents the case for the island of Lindisfarne being originally settled by Anglo-Saxon migrants from Lincolnshire, which he argues provides the most credible interpretation of the etymology for the name of the Northumbrian island as the Lindisfaran were a major Anglo-Saxon population-group based in the Lincoln region. Further, he suggest that that the arrival of the Lindisfaran could be identical with the arrival of the founders of the kingdom of Bernicia.

Table of Contents:
Foreword: Dr Kevin Leahy (The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Lindsey, 2008) acknowledges Green's latest monograph as breaking new ground, presenting a new approach to the history of the Lincoln region in the post-Roman period.
Introduction:  Previous Approaches, Sources and Methodology
Chapter 1  The Context of Post-Roman Lincolnshire
Chapter 2  The British Country of *Lindēs
Chapter 3  Anglian-British Interaction and the End of the ‘Country of *Lindēs’
Chapter 4  Lindissi and the Legacy of *Lindēs
Chapter 5  The Population-Groups of Early Anglo-Saxon Lincolnshire
Chapter 6  Lindisfarne, the Lindisfaran, and the Origins of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Conclusion  The Significance of *Lindēs and Lindissi

Britons and Anglo-Saxons is due to be published on 18 September 2012 in both hardback and paperback (336 pages, ISBNs 978-0-902668-24-9 and 978-0-902668-25-6). The book can now be pre-ordered from the publishers at a discount of 25% off the cover price available through a link on the author's website Thomas Green Arthuriana - a saving of 25% on the published prices of £29.95 hbk and £17.95 pbk. Orders must be received before the launch date of 18 September 2012.

"This volume breaks new ground. It offers an interdisciplinary approach to the history of the Lincoln region in the post-Roman period, drawing together a wide range of sources. In particular, it indicates that a British polity named Lindes was based at Lincoln into the sixth century, and that the seventh-century Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Lindsey had an intimate connection to this British political unit." - Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology

Dr Thomas Green lives in Lincolnshire and is currently undertaking research at the University of Oxford, where he recently completed his doctoral thesis. He maintains the Arthuriana website specialising in studies in early Medieval history and legend. Much of the Arthurian material from the website is available as Arthuriana: Early Arthurian Tradition and the Origins of the Legend as a print-on-demand book or a PDF download. Much of this material formed the basis of his book Concepts of Arthur: the Nature of the Early Arthurian Legend (Tempus, 2008), both essential reading for students of  the early Arthurian legend.

See: ‘The British Kingdom of Lindsey’ by Thomas Green, a detailed study of the historical, archaeological, literary and linguistic evidence for a post-Roman British kingdom in the Lincoln region. [A version of the paper that originally appeared in Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, 56 (2008), pp.1–43]

* * *

Saturday 25 August 2012

Glastonbury and the Grail

Next month sees the publication of a new book on Glastonbury and the Grail, Justin E. Griffin's third book in his investigations of the Grail legend:

Glastonbury and the Grail
Did Joseph of Arimathea Bring the Sacred Relic to Britain?

Justin E Griffin
ISBN: 978-0-7864-6582-8
Paperback, photos, bibliography, index
McFarland, due publication1st September 2012

From the publisher: “Glastonbury, a small town in Somerset, England, stands at the epicentre of a longstanding tradition placing the Holy Grail in Britain. Legend holds that Joseph of Arimathea travelled to Britain, bringing with him both a gathering of followers and the cup that Jesus used at the last supper. He is said to have buried the Grail at Glastonbury, where some claim he founded the first church in England. This volume chronicles one man’s personal quest to find historical evidence supporting the traditional beliefs surrounding Joseph of Arimathea and the Holy Grail in southern England. Bolstered by an abundance of evidence supporting the presence of Joseph in 1st Century Britain, he separates his findings from the fantasy of the Grail Romances, answering questions about the Grail and the origins and progressions of its legend.”

Griffin's first two books, The Holy Grail (McFarland 2001) and The Grail Procession (McFarland, 2004) received mixed reviews, with Griffin, who professes to quest for the 'Historical Grail', accused of stretching possibility and conjecture, representing it as fact. Griffin appears to accept that all written sources provide historically factual evidence, and ultimately he combines the grail texts with the history of the Pelagian heresy in Britain which he argues is a factual retelling of the legend of the Fisher King, claiming it is the actual life of Pelagius on whom King Pelles of the Grail Legend is based.

In his first book, The Holy Grail: the Legend, the History, the Evidence, Griffin examines the legitimacy of the claims of several modern day claimants with chapters on The Spear of Destiny, The Historical Grail Candidates, The Santo Caliz of Valencia, The Nanteos cup,  and comes up with a theory of multiple grails.

In Griffin's second book, The Grail Procession: The Legend, the Artifacts, and the Possible Sources of the Story, in addition to the sacred artefacts tied to the Passion of Christ, the Holy Grail, the Holy Lance, that pierced Christ’s side, the sword that was used to behead John the Baptist, and the dish from the Last Supper, he examines the forgotten relics of the Grail Procession using material omitted from his first book. Griffin comes to the conclusion that the Grail Hallows did exist as archaeological relics and the legends surrounding the Grail Hallows are reputed to uphold the theory that the blood of Christ was taken west by Joseph of Arimathea following the crucifixion.

Now, in his third outing, Glastonbury and the Grail: Did Joseph of Arimathea Bring the Sacred Relic to Britain? Griffin follows the trail of Joseph of Arimathea to Britain, Griffin inevitably arrives at the Mysteries of Glastonbury, the enigmatic Somerset town, site of the Abbey and King Arthur's grave. There was certainly a cult of St Joseph of Arimathea at Glastonbury, instigated by Abbot Chinnock, in the late fourteenth century. But it wasn't until Abbot Bere constructed the crypt, known as St. Joseph's Chapel, beneath the Lady Chapel, c.1500 AD, that the cult became a major attraction.

Traditionally, the twelve Hides of Land of the Church of Glastonbury, descend from an original grant given to Joseph of Arimathaea, by King Arviragus (10 -74 AD). The Glastonbury tradition claims that, after arriving in Britain in 63 AD, Joseph pushed his staff into the ground on Wearyall Hill and this grew into the Glastonbury Thorn, flowering every Christmas.

Hopefully Griffin will delve into the Prophecy of Melkin the bard which appears for the first time in John of Glastonbury's fourteenth century "Chronicle". According to the prophecy, Joseph of Armimathea established the first Christian church at Glastonbury and carried with him 2 cruets of Christ's blood and sweat which are buried with him at Glastonbury, “linea bifurcata”; yet the jury is still out as to whether this is a reference to a linen shirt or a forked line.

The early thirteenth century Perlesvaus, or The High History of the Holy Grail, puts the Grail firmly at Glastonbury. Katherine Maltwood, commissioned to illustrate Perlesvaus,  became convinced that the adventures of the knights of the Round Table corresponded to places in the Vale of Avalon. A fragment of the Perlesvaus manuscript found at Wells cathedral lends support to the claims that it was written at Glastonbury Abbey.

But the Glastonbury tradition of Joseph of Arimathea really starts when Robert de Boron, wrote his "Joseph d'Arimathie", in the late twelfth century, thus Christianising Chretien's pagan "graal" and transforming it into the vessel of the Last Supper, a theme continued in the Vulgate's "Estoire del Saint Graal,” that produced "The Holy Grail" for the first time.

 Robert is the first author to give the Holy Grail myth an explicitly Christian dimension. According to him, Joseph of Arimathea used the vessel of the Last Supper vessel to catch the blood from Jesus's body as he hung on the cross. Joseph is imprisoned by angry Jews and sustained for forty years solely by the Grail.  Following his release he leaves for foreign lands in the west, presumed to be Britain, with a party of Christians. Eventually the party arrive at vaus d'Avaron, the valleys of Avaron (Avalon?) although Joseph is not recorded as travelling on this last part of the journey, where the Grail is entrusted to a succession of keepers. And a legend was born.

However, we must bear in mind that the Grail texts cannot be considered historical accounts. For this we are limited to the letter of  St. Augustine (d. 604 AD) to Pope Gregory which states that there was a church in the west of Britain that was divinely constructed for the salvation of His people. This has been interpreted as evidence that Christ himself built the first church at Glastonbury, inevitably accompanied by his uncle Joseph of Arimathea.  Added to which we have the statement from Gildas that Britain “received the beams of light, that is, the holy precepts of Christ, the true Sun” during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, (Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD). It should be interesting reading.

This is the book of thy descent, here begins the book of the Holy Grail,
here begin the terrors, here begin the marvels.

* * *

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Eastern Mystery Cults in Roman London

"Say all these things with fire and spirit, until completing the first utterance; then, similarly, begin the second, until you complete the seven immortal gods of the world. When you have said these things, you will hear thundering and shaking in the surrounding realm; and you will likewise feel yourself being agitated. Then say again: "Silence!" (the prayer) Then open your eyes and you will see the doors open and the world of the gods which is within the doors, so that from the pleasure and joy of the sight your spirit runs ahead and ascends." [1]

The Sacred Valley of the Walbrook
The legendary history of Geoffrey of Monmouth [2] claims that Brutus, a descendant of the Trojan Aeneas, founded London, his New Troy (Trinovantum), when he came to the shore of the Thames. After leaving Greece, Brutus came to the island of Loegecia where he experienced a vision at the Temple of Diana, the goddess of the woods, where a statue gave answers to those who consulted her. He was foretold to travel to an island in the west and build a second Troy. [3] If Brutus brought a religion with him it seems likely that it would have been a cult from the east.

According to Geoffrey, when Lud, brother of Cassibellaun, king of the Britons who made war against Julius Caesar, (Geoffrey's version of the historical British chieftain Cassivellaunus) obtained the government of the kingdom, he surrounded the city with walls and towers, and having abolished the name Troy, renamed it KaerLud, the city of Lud. He commanded the citizens to build houses and all kinds of structures within it so that no foreign country could show more beautiful palaces. [4] However, we know that the London Wall was built by the Romans during the Severan period, toward the end of the 2nd and early 3rd centuries, around the 'square mile' of the City of London. If Geoffrey's early temple to an eastern goddess of the woods exists at all, it must be within the Walls of the first city.

Running through the centre of the early Roman settlement of Londinium was the Walbrook river, probably named as such as it ran through the Wall, at the site of All-Hallows-on-the-Wall Church, Broad Street, which possibly started as a water shrine on the Wall. Feeding into the Thames at Dowgate, the Walbrook provided a source of clean water for the first inhabitants of the settlement, although now no longer visible the watercourse continues to exist beneath the city. Excavations in the 19th century by General Pitt Rivers uncovered 'many dozen skulls' reported from the bed of the Walbrook between Finsbury Circus and the south side of the London Wall.
Walbrook skulls

These skulls have been interpreted as evidence of of Geoffrey's account of a mass beheading on the banks of the Walbrook. Geoffrey has Asclepiodotus, Duke of Cornwall, march against the usurper Allectus at London. According to Geoffrey, after Allectus had been killed,  Asclepiodotus besieged Gallus and the rest of the Romans in the city.  Asclepiodotus is supported by Dimetians, Venedotians, Deirans, Albanians and all others of the British race who breached the walls and made a violent assault on the city. Witnessing the onslaught Gallus and his troops surrendered to Asclepiodotus, but a body of Venedotians rushed them and beheaded them upon a brook in the city, from which the name of the British commander was afterwards called, Nautgallim in the British tongue and in the Saxon Gallembourne[5] Geoffrey seems to have invented Gallus simply to provide the translation for the Walbrook (Gallobroc).

Perhaps there is the faintest glimmer of a true account within Geoffrey's story as the Celts were renown head hunters with classical historians recording the Celt's habit of displaying the heads of their enemies on walls or hanging them from their horse's necks on the battlefield. Is this evidence of a Celtic attack on the city as Geoffrey writes it? Perhaps, understandably some historians have interpreted the Walbrook skulls as evidence of the Boudiccan rebellion of 60 AD. [6] Tacitus tells us that 70,000 perished in the three cities of Camulodunum (Colchester), Verulamium (St Albans) and Londinium during the Boudiccan revolt. [7] Of these, as many as 30,000 were from an estimated population of 45,000 in London. The Walbrook skulls may have been so plentiful that they were manifest in the 12th century when Geoffrey wrote. Since the 19th century over one hundred skulls have been found in the upper Walbrook valley.

There was so much material deposited in the Walbrook, including metalwork, broken or bent miniature weapons, mutilated figures of deities, that it was at one time thought to have been a municipal rubbish dump. Excavations along the Walbrook in London during the 1920s produced several wooden and lead tablets, but these older discoveries have been largely ignored by scholars.  However, ritual deposition is now recognised as the source of this material and a lead curse tablet from the Walbrook stream has been identified at Princes Street, which had been fixed by a single nail bearing the same inscription scratched on both sides cursing two men.

Excavations in the Walbrook Valley in 1989 by the Museum of London at a tributary channel of the Walbrook was filled with waterlain deposits and a number of  human  skulls. Cut  into the  channel deposits were a number of pits found to contain scrap leather from Roman sandal manufacture. These pits, and contemporary drainage channels, also contained human skulls.

Today it is thought more likely that the Walbrook skulls reflect votive practices over a long period. Carbon dating of the skulls returned a date range from The Bronze Age and the Late Iron Age to the Roman period. Further, the skulls were mainly from young males, 25 -35 years at the time of death. Study of the skulls indicates that they had been deliberately deposited without their lower jaws and that the discolouration of the bone suggested that they had been exposed for some time after death, perhaps as curated relics. [8]

The practice of skull deposition appears to have its basis in a pre-Roman cult of the head that continued into the Roman period. The deposition of human skulls in watery contexts is an ancient custom that can be traced back to the late Bronze Age. The cult of the head is attested in Celtic written sources, such as the head of Bran from the Mabinogion.

We find the largest accumulation of deposits along the stretch of the Walbrook between Cannon Street and the Bank of England, considered with the presence of shrines along on the banks of the stream here. A votive tin plaque of three Celtic mother-goddesses and a mother-goddess figurine found in the Walbrook valley indicates this was an area of deep religious significance to the Romano-British inhabitants of Londinium. Further, at Budge Row, running east-west and once part of the Roman road of Watling Street, a marble plinth was found with an inscription stating that the district restored the shrine to a mother-goddess that stood nearby on the bank of the Walbrook. This was clearly a religious quarter.
Roman facepot (Potteries Museum)

The remains of over 100 ceramic face pots, one of the largest groups in the country, have been found in the Upper Walbrook valley reflecting the concentration human skulls in this area. Most of the complete face pots from London, mainly manufactured in the Verulamium (St Albans) area, have been found in the Walbrook valley and from local shrines as ritual deposits. It would appear they have nothing to do with food storage, but are connected to funerary activity as some have been found in cemeteries and with cremation burials. Some face pots from Italy have been interpreted as bearing the face of Charon, guide to the shades. Originating in the Rhineland these distinctive vessels can be found in most cultures all over the Roman empire, following in the footsteps of the army. However, their usage seems to have continued amongst the civilian population even after the military had left the area. The face pots appear to have been introduced to Britain by the Roman army who based in Londinium at the fort at Cripplegate, on the west bank of the Walbrook.

The Temple of Mithras
The Romans were a superstitious people and very conscious of indigenous religions. They brought much of their religion with them to Britain but debate goes on as to the depth they replaced the Celtic religious practices. Some scholars see a total replacements while others see continuation of Celtic beliefs and practices. However, the Romans were certainly responsible for bringing the Eastern Mystery Cults to London, yet only one temple of a mystery cult has been positively identified in London.

A Mithraeum had long been suspected in Londinium when a Tauroctony, a marble relief of Mithras sacrificing a bull, was found in Walbrook in 1889.  Excavations by W F Grimes in 1954 on the east bank of the Walbrook, revealed a basilican temple, built c.240 AD, architecturally very similar to an early christian church with central nave and side aisles, divided from the nave on each side by a row of seven columns with was a raised sanctuary within a rounded apse at the western end. The 1954 excavations also revealed a group of fine marble sculptures of pagan deities confirming it was anything but a Christian church. The high quality sculptures of Mithras, wearing his Phrygian cap, Minerva, Serapis and Mercury were all made from Carrara marble, carved in Italy and shipped to Britannia by civilian merchants. The sculptures had all been carefully buried within the floor of the temple that was in use in the early 4th century.
Walbrook Tauroctony
The Tauroctony found in Walbrook in 1889, is thought to have been carefully buried at the same time as the sculptures probably due to the threat of the advancing tide of Christianity in the later 4th century. An axe cut on the side of the neck of the Mithras sculpture and damage to the principal sculptures in London and the damage to the tauroctony at the Carrawburgh Mithraeum on Hadrian's Wall is suggestive of a violent end to this eastern mystery cult in Britain. [9] The Walbrook temple appears to have continued in use, although there is no evidence that it converted to a Christian church. Indeed, a marble sculpture of Bacchus, the wine god, combined with a satyr, a maenad, a panther and a serpent, lying on the temple's latest floor suggest its continued use as a pagan temple.

Roman Mithraism, a mystery religion that involved the subterranean worship of the ancient Persian god Mithras, the Indo-European god of heavenly light, through seven stages of initiation, was practised widely in the Roman Empire, from  the 1st to 3rd centuries AD, being particularly popular amongst the Roman military, officials and merchants.  It seems likely the London Mithraeum had a strong military contingent drawn from the nearby fort at Cripplegate.

Chillingly similar and Christianity's strongest rival in the Roman world: the sacrifice of the great bull, the scene depicted on the Tauroctony, with the shedding of the eternal blood hinting at a belief system not so far removed from the Christian concept of Judgement, Salvation and Pedition. Little of the liturgy has survived but at the Santa Prisca Mithraeum some painted texts have survived on the walls making reference to the 'eternal blood' and 'the blood which grants eternity.' [10]
Mithras, Walbrook

Perhaps the most enigmatic find at the Walbrook Mithraeum was a silver box found stashed in a secret hiding place within the temple. The scenes depicted on the outside of the box have been interpreted as depicting the dramatic ceremonies that were performed symbolising life and death, associated in some way in these initiation ceremonies with the initiate passing through death to resurrection in a new life must undergo a temporary burial. A coffin-like pit was found at the  Carrawburgh Mithraeum thought to be for this purpose. The concept is suggested on the lid of the silver box, where a man emerges from a coffin-like chest. The sculptures of both Serapis, Egyptian God of the Underworld, and the Roman god Mercury, guide to the souls of the dead, are associated with life after death and lend further support to this view. Within the box was a strainer or infuser, thought to have been used to strain the sacramental wine. The Walbrook strainer may have been used in this way but is unusually deep and may have been used to infuse a concoction of herbs, perhaps of a hallucinogenic trait. [11]

These temples were designed to imitate the cave in which the god Mithras slayed a mythical bull, being invariably low buildings often subterranean in part at least, with little natural light but sometimes with an aperture to admit the rays of the sun at an important sequence in the solar calendar; a ceiling in the vault of the mithraeum at Caesarea Maritima, on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, has an aperture that admits light onto an off-centred scuttle which throws sunlight onto the altar at midday at the summer solstice. [12]

Following the 1954 excavation, the Walbrook Mithareum was uprooted and moved down the road to Temple Court where the temple outline was recreated in Roman building materials in Queen Victoria Street. The Mithraeum is now due to be moved back to its original location with remains of the temple now been dismantled and in controlled storage ready to be showcased inside a new building. Ironically, it cannot be relocated in exactly in its original position because some of the foundations of the original Roman temple are still there, consequently the reconstruction will be moved to the original Roman level of the temple on the correct N-S position but shifted a few metres to the west to avoid the original foundations.

Isis at Southwark
Mithraism was not the only eastern mystery religion to be imported to Britain by the Romans. The discovery of a 1st century flagon found in Tooley Street, Southwark, bearing graffito LONDINI AD FANVM ISIDIS or "From London at the temple of Isis" indicating that a temple to the great Egyptian goddess Isis may have once stood on the south bank of the Thames opposite the Londinium settlement.

Numerous finds of small artefacts hinted at the presence of the worship of Isis in Roman London but it was not until the mid-1970's when two altars, bearing 3rd century inscriptions celebrating the restoration of the temple of Isis, were found amongst the building material of the riverside wall at Blackfriars that its existence was finally confirmed.

In 1996 excavations at a cemetery site parallel to the Watling Street Roman road in Great Dover Street in the Borough of Southwark revealed  three lamps in an unusual cremation burial which depicted the jackal headed Anubis, the Egyptian god of the underworld, closely associated with Isis. Maybe not Brutus's temple but evidence that the worship of eastern deities had spread from Asia and Egypt to the far western Empire.

Since the 19th century a mausoleum associated with a large Roman building is known to  have existed on part of the  site of Southwark Cathedral but it wasn't until excavations carried out in the  crypt in 1977 revealed traces of 1st century buildings and a square timber-lined well of probable late Roman date. The well contained an important group of  Roman funerary sculptures, perhaps the furnishings from the mausoleum. The sculpture had been broken in half and dumped into the well  with a large quantity of  building rubble that showed signs of  burning and damage, perhaps signifying a violent end for pagan worship at this temple.

The major sculpture is a free-standing limestone group of an eastern deity, usually identified as either Attis (Atys) or Mithras, flanked by a seated hound and a small hoofed beast, probably a stag. The god has a bow in his left hand, and a quiver on his back, and wears the Phrygian cap characteristic of  both deities. Attis was a Phrygian vegetation god and consort of Cybele, the Mother goddess.

Hunter god, Southwark
Alternatively, this deity may simply be a representation of a hunter god. Permitting this identification then the sculpture of the deity found in the well at Southwark Cathedral is a good parallel for the Romano-British deity known as Apollo Cunomaglos, attested by an altarstone at Nettleton Shrub, Wiltshire. 'Cunomaglos,' meaning 'hound lord' portraying associations with hunting, a native deity who the Romans equated with Apollo, one of the most important deities in ancient Greek and Roman religion. The son of Zeus and Leto, Apollo was the twin brother of the hunter goddess Artemis. To the Romans she was known as Diana, the goddess of the hunt.

In addition to the hunter god found at Southwark, figures wearing Phrygian caps and carrying hunting equipment have been found at Goldsmiths’ Hall, near Ludgate Hill, and in the east of the city at Bevis Marks, near Aldgate, on the line of the Roman Wall; evidence of a Hunter god cult in Roman London?

Copyright © 2012 Edward Watson

Notes & References
1. The Mithras Liturgy from the Paris Codex, Edited and Translated by Marvin W. Meyer.
2. "Historia Regum Britanniae" (History of the Kings of Britain) , Book I, Chp 17.
3.  Ibid. Book I, Chp 10.
4.  Ibid. Book III, Chp 20.
5.  Ibid. Book 5, Chp 4.
6. John Morris, Londinium: London in the Roman Empire, BCA, 1982, following Mortimer Wheeler.
7.  Tacitus, The Annals, Book XIV, 109 AD.
8.  R.Bradley and K.Gordon, Human skulls from the River Thames, their dating and significance, Antiquity, 1988.
9.  Martin Henig, Religion in Roman Britain, Batsford 1995.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12.  Roger B Beck, Beck on Mithraism, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2004.

The Museum of London website is an invaluable resource for Roman London.


Mystery of 39 skulls found at London Wall is solved after 25 years
Skulls discovered within the boundaries of ancient London a quarter of a century ago are now believed to be those of gladiators, brutally killed for the amusement of Roman audiences.

The haul of 39 skulls, discovered beneath the site of the Guildhall in the City of London, were discovered in 1988 and were believed to have originated from human remains washed out of burial sites by the Walbrook, one of the area’s lost rivers. But now after 25 years in storage, the remains have been re-examined by an historian from the Museum of London, who believes they are the first evidence of gladiators in London.

Decapitated heads were 'gladiators' - Mail Online 15 January 2014
Gladiator Heads? Mystery of Trove of British Skulls Solved - Live Science 07 February 2014 (from Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 43)


60 years since the discovery of the Roman Temple of Mithras
In the summer of 1954, archaeologist WF Grimes and his team excavated the site in the City of London ahead of the construction on Bucklersbury House, Legenland. The archaeologists had no evidence for the function of the building until on the last day of the planned excavation, the 18th September, the head of the god Mithras was found by a workman.

In 1962 the Temple of Mithras was relocated approximately 100 metres from its original location.
The reconstruction was carefully dismantled again in 2011 ahead of construction of the current site owners, Bloomberg,  new European headquarters. The Mathraeum will be reinstated  back, where it originally sat, at the correct Roman ground level seven metres below current ground level, following Grimes’s original record drawings, in 2017.

Past Horizons 23 September 2014

* * *