Military Religion in Roman Britain

Military Religion in Roman Britain

Military Religion in Roman Britain

Military Religion in Roman Britain

Synopsis

This volume deals with the religions of the Roman soldiers in Britain and the religious interactions of soldiers and civilians. Drawing on epigraphic and archaeological evidence, the discussion shows the complexities of Roman, Eastern, and Celtic rites, how each system influenced the ritual and liturgy of the others, and how each system was altered over time. The first part presents discursive chapters on topics such as the cult of the emperor, Mithraism in Britain, the cults of Celtic warriors and healers, the Romanization of Civilian religions, and Christianity; the second part consists of an annotated catalogue of the epigraphical sources. Of significance is the broad range of materials synthesized to show the extent to which native religions influenced and were influenced by imported Roman and Eastern cults.

Excerpt

The Roman soldier in Britain occupied his time in many ways. He fought barbarians. He built walls to delineate the borders of empire. He spent his evenings in the bars of the vici which inevitably cropped up around permanent forts or at the baths, gambling, or exercising, or gossiping. He might marry a local girl, without the sanction of Roman law. Caracalla's edict ratified such marriages. Upon retirement, he might join the local community as a farmer, a craftsman, a politician. Only the highest ranking officer might return to the home of his birth. The rest would not receive passage home.

The army of Roman Britain was as multicultural as the empire herself. Allied troops stationed in Britain were originally raised from Upper and Lower Germany, the Gallic provinces, Spain, Thrace, Syria, Africa, Pannonia, Dacia, Dalmatia, and Raetia—a microcosm of the empire and an archetype of ethnic and cultural diversity. These troops arrived in Britain during times of crisis and expansion. Fresh units came for Claudius' invasion, to fight Caratacus and Boudicca, to expand Roman hegemony under the Flavians, to draw lines of stone on the Roman imperial map under Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, to fight and hold territory under Severus. Nero's expeditions of 66 saw the removal of one legion. Troops in Britain were depleted by the expeditions of Clodius Albinus, Constantine, Allectus, Carausius.

This standing army enjoyed a diverse heritage. Legions were traditionally raised from Rome and Italy. Although provinces with full rights of citizenship supplied most of the legionary soldiers of the late first and second centuries AD, Italian families are recorded in Britain. Although allied units might continue to receive fresh recruits from the original area of adlection (especially for specialized units of archers or the like), soon the province herself supplied men for the emperor's army. By the third century, Rome's army in Britain was manned by a largely Romano-British force. But the essence of a provincial army hardly became stagnant or entirely local, as units moved into, within, and out of the province.

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