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Romanisation and Aquae Sulis

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1 Romanisation and Aquae Sulis
This presentation uses evidence from Roman Bath to illustrate how aspects of native British culture were integrated into the Roman way of life to create a distinctive ‘Romano-British’ culture and religion. The worsksheets ‘Roman Religion’ and ‘Temple Pediment at Aquae Sulis’ may be used in conjunction with this presentation, along with the supporting information pages ‘Possible Answers for the Pediment worksheet’ and ‘Roman religion, Celtic Religion and Other religions’, all included in the accompanying pdf file. Teachers can add their own material and adapt the presentation to suit their own requirements. Further information about how to translate the inscribed stones can be found in the ‘Decoding Roman Religious Inscriptions’ leaflet and on the web-page ‘Religious Inscriptions’. Part one

2 What is ‘Romanisation’?
How did the Romans achieve ‘Romanisation’? How did they make the native Iron Age people want to be like Romans? How did they let the Iron Age people keep some of their own culture and combine it with Roman culture? How did ‘Romano British’ religion develop as a specific version of Roman religion? What characteristics of Roman and late Iron Age religion made this fusion possible? How did Romanisation enable the Romans to unify multicultural societies throughout their Empire?

3 Bath Aquae Sulis This reconstruction drawing shows what the Roman town looked like, with all the usual features inside a town wall: forum, theatre, temples, baths … instead of the Iron Age roundhouses which the native people had been used to. Just imagine all the new skills which British workmen would learn from the experts brought in from the Empire:

4 Stone: quarrying, carving.
We know the names of two stonemasons in Aquae Sulis! Bricks and tiles: firing and new building techniques Concrete: for domes, vaults and arches. Lead: mining, pipe-making, sealing the linings of baths. Metalwork: for e.g. keys, locks, weights and measures. Pewter, leather, pottery, glassware. Plaster, stucco: for wall decoration. Hypocaust: underfloor hot-air central heating. Mosaics: making tesserae, artistic designs. The museum has more evidence of individuals and the way they worked in Roman Bath - examples of makers’ marks, slots for lifting blocks of stone, plasterwork roughened to take a top decorative finish, a piece of pottery with a name scratched on it MARTINI = “Belonging to Martinus” Did Martinus scratch his name on this dish to show that it belonged to him? - and even a possible reminder of a guard-dog: paw-prints preserved in clay!

5 This assumes that the Iron Age people of Britain had none of these industries of their own, and that there was a desire for town life, with its accompanying social structures and Town Council, replacing old tribal loyalties. This was not the case. British people had been making pottery and mining and exporting metals for centuries – it was one of the reasons the Romans invaded – and their metalworking was renowned for its finery. Many of the tribal leaders of Britain were given positions of power over their regions and tribes within the new Roman province. However, throughout their Empire the Romans encouraged Romanisation, so that wherever a traveller went in the Roman world he would find exactly similar cities with the same buildings and an inclusive ‘Romanised’ culture.

6 The special thing about Aquae Sulis is that three springs of hot water bubbles up near the river. The Iron Age peoples of the area believed it to have healing powers as a gift form the gods. So did the Romans. BUT Iron Age religion was not the same as Roman religion. How did the Romans build their temple without offending the local Iron Age people who worshipped a goddess called Sulis?

7 Roman Bath Aquae Sulis At this point students should be directed to complete what they can of the worksheet ‘Roman Religion’. They should then discuss their answers and add more information. The Romans recognised that Sulis was very similar to their goddess Minerva. They decided to join the two together – Sulis Minerva. The Roman name for the town: ‘Waters of Sulis’ acknowledges the Iron Age tradition. Look at the Temple and Baths in the centre of the town.

8 The sacred spring is in the corner of the temple precinct
The sacred spring is in the corner of the temple precinct. It is also linked to the baths complex on the right so that the hot water could be used in the Roman bathing experience.

9 A typical Roman temple, raised up on a podium with an imposing flight of steps. The sacrificial altar was in front of the temple and there was a large statue of the goddess inside the temple, where only priests were permitted to go. At some temples, including the one at Aquae Sulis, a Haruspex examined the organs of sacrificed animals and used them to interpret the wishes of the gods and prophesy the future.

10 A typical Iron Age temple.
The Iron Age people did not have temples, but they did have sacred places. They left the sacred spring as it was and just met there to give offerings to its goddess. Archaeological remains suggest a causeway leading into the spring.

11 Notice the owl sitting on Minerva’s shield.
Minerva: Roman goddess of war, wisdom and the arts. The Romans had already adapted Greek mythology and religion to suit their own gods and goddesses: Minerva was the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Athena. In Aquae Sulis they joined the Roman goddess Minerva to the Iron Age goddess Sulis – to get Sulis Minerva. You can see the Gorgon, Medusa’s snaky-haired head on Minerva’s breast-plate on this stone carving Notice the owl sitting on Minerva’s shield. ‘Relief’ carving like this is typically Roman: not quite 3-D but raised from a flat background.

12 This gilt-bronze head is all that is left of a (slightly larger than) life-sized statue which stood in the temple. It is very good quality – a statue in the Classical style. Small rivet-holes hidden in the hair show where her helmet would have been attached.

13 But what about Iron Age religion?
Several late Iron Age coins have been excavated from the Spring. This would support the ideas that Iron Age people worshipped here. They may have worshipped a water-god. They sometimes worshipped carved heads and the spirits of animals and places. Decoration of a water god on a silver dish from Mildenhall – notice his striking moustache and the four dolphins in his hair. (British Museum) Carving of three mother goddesses is made in a low relief non Classical style.

14 The goddess worshipped at Bath was Sulis Minerva.
Here are some ‘paterae’ –dishes thrown into the spring as offerings for the goddess. You can see her name in abbreviated form (Dea Sul Min or DSM) carved on the handles. In Latin to express ‘for the goddess’ the dative case is used. The spelling of the goddess’s name changes to show this. deae Suli Minervae = for the goddess Sulis Minerva.

15 Can you read the name on the first three lines of this inscription?
Here is a votive altar dedicated as a gift to Sulis Minerva by Sulinus. Can you read the name on the first three lines of this inscription? Some of the letters are written backwards, ‘I’ is often carved superscript, and there are many ligatures (joined letters). DEA SULIS MINERVA In Latin to express ‘To the goddess ‘ the dative case is used. The ending of the words change to show this. deae Suli Minervae = ‘To the goddess Sulis Minerva’.

16 To the goddess Sulis Minerva, Sulinus, Son of Maturus( FILius)
V S L M is short for: VOTUM SOLVIT LIBENTER MERITO willingly and deservedly kept the promise he had made (i.e. to give this offering to the goddess) Sulinus had completed a promise he previously made to do something – but we don’t know what it was.

17 The second line of this stone gives us the name of a Roman haruspex at the temple – using ligatures! (This is the technical term for joined letters). The inscription reveals that the stone was set up by L. Marcius Memor, a haruspex, who was a special kind of priest for whom no other parallel is known from Roman Britain. It was dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva and is likely to have supported a statue of her. D D is a formulaic inscription: ‘dono dedit’ = gave this as a gift.

18 The name of the harupsex:
LUCIUS MARCIUS MEMOR The asymetrical positioning of ‘HARVSP’ suggests that ‘VSP’ was added later, possibly to make it clearer that it referred to a Haruspex.

19 It is interesting to see that a senior representative of Roman religion calls the goddess
Sulis rather than ‘Sulis Minerva’ or even ‘Minerva’: her Roman name.

20 Gods were asked to punish their worshippers’ enemies.
This lead alloy curse tablet is requesting Sulis to ‘make as liquid as water’ whoever has stolen ‘my vilbia’. This curse tablet was thrown into the Sacred Spring. ‘vilbia’ is an unusual word and no-one is quite sure what it means! Each word is written in reverse order: [I]UQ IHIM MAIBLIV TIVALO[V]NI QUI MIHI VILBIAM INVOLAVIT whoever has stolen my vilbia One of the other curses from the Sacred Spring is written in the Celtic language and it is the only surviving example yet known to us of Celtic in written form.

21 Objects thrown into the Sacred Spring as offerings.
Just like today – people threw coins into the Spring! Other objects are more puzzling, such as the tin mask. Does it have some significance in Iron Age or Roman religion or is it just a precious gift?

22 This pedimental sculpture on the front of the Temple would have been painted in bright colours. We should expect all the features to be very symbolic. What does the central roundel show?

23 Male or female? Snakes? Wings? Water god? Gorgon?


25 Temple Pediment at Aquae Sulis - Which features are Roman and which are Iron Age? Try this without looking back at references, discuss your ideas and then look back for more clues. Explain carefully what the different features represent and if you think that some are ambiguous or a mixture, explain why. Even archaeologists do not know all the answers! This slide is designed to be used as a worksheet if it is printed in advance. Students should be asked to: Draw arrows to show where each feature is located. Using two different coloured pens, identify the Iron Age and Roman features of as many parts of the pediment as they can (not just the pictured sections!)

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