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3. The Roman Army

The Roman empire was created by the soldiers of the Roman army. It was the greatest fighting force the ancient world had ever seen. The discipline of its soldiers and the brilliance of its commanders made it irresistible.
Tombstone of an army standard bearer shown with his shield and sword. His standard has a bull's head and a three-pronged base for holding it in the ground. Found at Carrawburgh Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall, now in Chesters museum. Photo Simon I. Hill with the kind permission of English Heritage.
The Roman army fought wars against Rome's enemies, conquered new territory and protected the people of the empire from attack.
Detail of the distance slab from Bridgeness on the Antonine Wall showing Roman cavalry attacking native tribesmen. National Museums of Scotland
It was a tough life as a Roman soldier. A man usually served for over 20 years, the discipline was strict and punishments harsh. A soldier was, however, well paid and the people of the empire admired and feared him.
Tombstone of Caecilius Avitus, an Optio (deputy centurion) of the Twentieth Legion from Merida (Emerita Augusta), Spain, found in Chester. © Grosvenor Museum, Chester.
In the Roman army at the time of the conquest of Britain in 43 there were two kinds of soldiers: legionaries - who were the best troops in the army - and auxiliaries who were soldiers recruited in the lands conquered by the Romans.
A Roman legionary with his arms and equipment. Illustration by Sarah Hall, Roman Britain
 
A Roman auxiliary with his arms and equipment. Illustration by Sarah Hall, Roman Britain
Did you know? Roman soldiers worshipped many different gods and goddesses. One of the most popular was Mithras, a Persian sun god who fought against the forces of darkness and evil. A temple of Mithras can be seen at the fort of Carrawburgh on Hadrian's Wall.
Temple of the god Mithras at the fort at Carrawburgh on Hadrian's Wall. Photo Patrick Ottaway

The Roman Legions

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There were about 5000 men in a Roman legion. They were infantry which means that they were foot soldiers who fought their enemies hand-to-hand in pitched battles. The legionaries joined up to win glory for the empire, and wealth and fame for themselves.
Roman legionaries throwing javelins and preparing for battle. Illustration by Peter Connolly
Each legion had a number and usually had a sort of nickname. For example, one of the legions serving in Britain was the Ninth Legion Hispana (In Latin Legio IX Hispana) which won glory in Spain (in Latin Hispania) before it came to Britain.
Tombstone of Lucius Duccius Rufinus, a standard bearer of the Ninth Legion, found in York. Yorkshire Museum, York.
The legions were based in great fortresses which had massive buildings, magnificent streets and strong defences.
Reconstruction of part of the Roman fortress at York in the early 3rd century seen from the north-west. Illustration by Simon Chew York Archaeological Trust.
We can learn a lot about the Roman legions from written evidence including Roman histories, writing tablets and inscriptions. We know what legionaries looked like because they are often shown on monuments like triumphal arches. Individual soldiers are shown on their tombstones.
Tombstone of Marcus Aurelius Nepos, a centurion of the Twentieth Legion, and his wife, found at Chester. © Grosvenor Museum, Chester.

Officers and Men in the Legions

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The smallest unit of men in a legion was a group of eight which was called a contubernium in Latin. They shared a tent when they were on campaign and a pair of rooms in a barrack block when they were living in a fortress.
Reconstruction of a legionary barrack block at Caerleon Roman fortress (Gwent), Wales. Illustration by John Banbury after Howard Mason, CADW - Welsh Historic Monuments
Ten groups of eight men, eighty men in all, made up a century who were commanded by a centurion. He carried a staff cut from a vine as a sign of his rank.
Tombstone of the Roman centurion Marcus Favonius Facilis from Colchester. Colchester Museum
Six centuries, 480 men, made up a unit known as a cohort. Ten cohorts made up a legion. As you will have realised ten cohorts of 480 men would make a total of 4800 men, but each legion had additional men who had special duties as clerks, craftsmen or doctors and so there were usually about 5000 men in a legion.
Roman legionaries shown on a stone monument from the fort at Croy Hill (Strathclyde) on the Antonine Wall, Scotland. National Museums of Scotland
The legionary commander was called the legate, in Latin legatus. He was usually a man in his 30s who served in the army for 2-3 years before moving on to a more senior post in the government of the empire. The commander was assisted by the tribunes. They were young men who had little military experience, but came from wealthy families and needed experience of the army before going into government.
Detail of the distance slab from Bridgeness on the Antonine Wall showing a sacrifice to the goddess of Victory. Four men watch a man in a toga - probably the legionary commander - who is about to sacrifice a pig, sheep and bull. To accompany the ceremony there is music from a flute player. National Museums of Scotland

Legionaries on Duty

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The duty of most legionaries was to fight the enemy, but there were also men who carried out special duties. They included the eagle bearer (in Latin aquilifer) who carried a standard with a model of an eagle on top. The eagle was the special badge of the Roman legions.
Model of a bronze eagle from Dover (Kent). Dover Painted House Museum
The standard bearer (in Latin signifer) carried a standard on which the badges of his cohort were displayed.
An actor dressed as the Roman standard bearer Lucius Duccius Rufinus from York. York Archaeological Trust
The legion had specially-trained craftsmen who made and mended the soldier's weapons and their kit.
Cheek piece of a 2nd century cavalryman's bronze helmet from York. York Archaeological Trust.
A legion always had a team of doctors who cared for the sick and wounded.
Aesculapius, the Roman god of doctors visiting a patient. Illustration by Sarah Hall, Roman Britain
All Roman soldiers were very superstitious and each legion had an augur. He was a priest who foretold the future by observing the flight of birds or listening to their song.
Cockerel shown on a small limestone block, probably part of an altar to Mercury, messenger of the gods. The bags on the bird's back carried the messages. Found in York. Photo: Simon I Hill, York Archaeological Trust.
Did you know? It was said that wherever a legion made a winter camp there was always a pair of eagles roosting nearby.
Relief carving of an eagle on a building stone from South Shields fort (Tyne and Wear). Photo Simon I. Hill, Tyne and Wear Museums

Life as a Legionary

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Although it could be a hard life as a legionary, the wages were good. A recruit was usually 18 - 21 years old and signed on for 20 - 25 years. He had to be a Roman citizen, but that did not mean he had to come from Rome itself. Legionaries came from all parts of the empire.
Tombstone of Caecilius Avitus, an Optio (deputy centurion) of the Twentieth Legion from Merida (Emerita Augusta), Spain, found in Chester. © Grosvenor Museum, Chester.
Training was tough, but Roman legionaries knew what to do in battle because they practiced all the time. They tested their weapons on dummy enemies so that they would have no problems with real ones.
A replica Roman ballista in use. Exeter City Museums and Art Gallery
Legionaries were trained to be builders and engineers as well as soldiers so they could construct roads and forts in enemy territory. It was the legionaries who built Hadrian's Wall.
Hadrian's Wall at Walltown Crags (Northumberland). Photo Simon I Hill, Roman Britain
If a soldier fought well he could be promoted, given extra pay or a medal called a phalera. Bravery was rewarded with a wreath of laurel or oak leaves called a corona.
Relief of soldiers carrying a wreath on a building stone from South Shields fort (Tyne and Wear). Photo Simon I. Hill, Tyne and Wear Museums

The Legionary's Weapons and Equipment

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Here is a Roman legionary wearing his armour and carrying his weapons and kit. His main weapon was a short sword known as a gladius used for stabbing his enemy. He also had a dagger. He used a spear known as a pilum to pierce enemy armour. To protect himself in battle the legionary used a curved rectangular wooden shield and wore a helmet to protect his head and neck.
A man dressed as a Roman legionary standing on Hadrian's Wall. Photo Simon I. Hill
The legionary protected his chest with armour made of iron strips held together with leather straps. In Latin this was called lorica segmentata. Below the waist the soldier was only protected by a few leather straps strengthened with metal strips. Heavy armour around the legs was useless as it prevented easy movement in battle.
Dummy head of a Roman soldier wearing a helmet and sheet metal armour (lorica segmentata). In the museum at Corbridge (Northumberland). Photo Simon I. Hill with the kind permission of English Heritage.
When he was on the march a legionary wore boots known as caligae which looked a bit like sandals with their soles fixed on with iron nails. He carried all his kit on a pole over his shoulder. Kit was very heavy as it included an axe and other tools, clothes, food, a cooking pan, and even bits of sponge which were used as lavatory paper!
A Roman legionary with his arms and equipment. Illustration by Sarah Hall, Roman Britain

The Auxiliary Soldiers

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The auxiliary soldiers were recruited from among the people conquered by the Romans. In Britain we know of auxiliary units from what are now Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Spain and many other parts of the empire.
The tombstone of the Thracian cavalryman Sextus Valerius Genialis from Cirencester. Corinium Museum
Auxiliary soldiers served in units of infantry, cavalry or a mixture of both and they formed units of 500 or 1000 men. An infantry unit was called a cohort (cohors). A unit of cavalry was called an ala (meaning wing in Latin).
Detail of Roman sword from South Shields Roman fort (Tyne and Wear) showing a soldier with a spear and shield inlaid into the blade. Tyne and Wear Museums
Each auxiliary unit was known by a number and the name of the region the soldiers originally came from. For example, the 1st Cohort of Spaniards was garrisoned at Maryport, a fort on the coast of Cumbria.
Altar dedicated to Jupiter Optimus (greatest) Maximus (best), shown as IOM, by the 1st Cohort, part cavalry, of Spaniards, commanded by Lucius Antistius Lupus Verianus from Africa at Maryport Roman fort (Cumbria). Photo Simon I Hill, Senhouse Museum, Maryport.
Auxiliaries were less heavily armoured and so were more mobile than the legionaries. In battle they were often used to attack the enemy before the main battle and to cut off any enemy soldiers trying to escape afterwards.
Tombstone of an auxiliary cavalry soldier from Ribchester Roman fort (Lancashire). Photo Simon I. Hill, Ribchester Museum Trust
One of the auxiliaries' main tasks was to defend the frontiers of the empire. All the forts on Hadrian's Wall - the northern frontier of Roman Britain - were garrisoned by auxiliary troops.
The east gate at the Roman fort at Birdoswald on Hadrian's Wall. Photo Patrick Ottaway with the kind permission of Cumbria County Council
We know a lot about the Roman auxiliaries in Britain. The names of soldiers and their units appear in inscriptions on altars and tombstones, and many other objects. Archaeologists have excavated many forts and found detailed evidence of how the soldiers were organised and how they lived.
Remains of 3rd century barracks under excavation at South Shields Roman fort (Tyne and Wear). In the foreground notice the stone paved floor and doorway. On the right is a street. The black material is the result of the burning down of the barracks in about the year 300. Tyne and Wear Museums.

The Auxiliary's Weapons and Equipment

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Here is a Roman auxiliary soldier wearing his armour and carrying his weapons. His weapons included a sword and a spear. Some soldiers were also expert archers who used a bow and arrow. The auxiliary's body armour was often chain mail made from hundreds of tiny iron rings welded and riveted together. His shield was flat and oval and in the centre was an iron boss which could be used to strike an enemy. The auxiliary protected his head with an iron or bronze helmet. In cold weather he wore leather breeches which came down to his knees.
A Roman auxiliary with his arms and equipment. Illustration by Sarah Hall, Roman Britain

The Roman Cavalryman

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The Roman cavalryman had to be able to mount his horse, ride it, and get it to jump and to swim while he was wearing his full armour.
Tombstone of an auxiliary cavalry soldier from Ribchester Roman fort (Lancashire). Photo Simon I. Hill, Ribchester Museum Trust
The cavalryman's weapons were a long sword for slashing at the enemy and a spear for stabbing.
Detail of the sword on the tombstone of an auxiliary cavalry soldier from Ribchester Roman fort (Lancashire). Photo Simon I. Hill, Ribchester Museum Trust
The cavalryman had an oval shield carried on his left arm.
Head and shoulders of the cavalryman on a Roman tombstone from Ribchester (Lancashire). Photo Simon I. Hill, Ribchester Museum Trust
This man is bareheaded, but the cavalryman's head was usually protected with a helmet. For special riding displays he wore a decorated helmet with a face mask.
Auxiliary soldier's bronze face mask for wearing on parade. Found at Newstead (Trimontium) Roman fort (Borders), Scotland. National Museums of Scotland
The horse was quite small and probably looked rather like a Welsh pony. The harness was often highly decorated with medallions and pendants.
The head of the horse on a Roman cavalryman's tombstone from Ribchester (Lancashire). Photo Simon I. Hill, Ribchester Museum Trust
Did you know? The Emperor Hadrian once watched a Roman cavalryman swim the River Danube in full armour with his horse, fire an arrow in the air and then hit it with a second arrow!
A Roman auxiliary cavalryman and his horse. Illustration by Simon Chew, York Archaeological Trust.

Roman Forts and Fortresses

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The Roman army built forts and fortresses to house their soldiers. A fort was used by auxiliary soldiers and a fortress was used by a legion and so a fortress was much bigger than a fort because it had to house about 5000 men rather than 500 or 1000.
Reconstruction illustration of the Roman legionary fortress at Exeter. Exeter City Museums and Art Gallery
Forts and fortresses were always carefully sited on important Roman roads and were often close to an important river crossing. The site also needed to have good views of the surrounding country so an enemy could be easily spotted.
Artist's reconstruction of a Roman fort (based on Ilkley, West Yorkshire). Illustration by Peter Connolly Olicana Museum, Ilkley.
The plan of a Roman fort or fortress was usually like a playing card: rectangular with rounded corners. Inside there were buildings arranged around a regular grid of streets. Around the outside ran the defences.
Model of the Roman fort at Ribchester (Lancashire). The barracks are the long low buildings in the foreground and the headquarters building is in the centre. Photo Simon I. Hill, Ribchester Museum Trust
We know a lot about forts and fortresses in Britain because many of them have been excavated and surveyed. We can still see the remains of forts in many places, especially along Hadrian's Wall. Impressive remains of fortresses can be found at Caerleon, Chester and York
The 'Multangular Tower' at the west corner of the Roman fortress at York. The smaller stones in the lower half are Roman work and the larger stones above are medieval. Photo Lesley Collett
Did you know? At the edge of the roofs of fortress buildings the Romans often placed small vertical tiles called antefixes with the badge and name of the legion on them.
Antefix (roof edging tile) from Chester bearing the stamp LEG XX (Twentieth legion) and the boar symbol of the Legion. © Grosvenor Museum, Chester.

The Defences

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In about the first 50 years after the invasion of 43 the Romans usually defended their forts and fortresses with a ditch and a rampart - a sort of mound - made up of all the material dug out of the ditch. There would have been a wooden fence, known as a palisade, on top of the rampart.
The palisade on the defensive rampart at the reconstructed Roman fort at the Lunt, Baginton near Coventry. Photo: Simon I Hill, Coventry Museums and Art Galleries
At the end of each of the four main streets there were gates and at regular intervals between the gates there were watch towers.
Replica timber gateway at the reconstructed Roman fort at the Lunt, Baginton near Coventry. Photo: Simon I Hill, Coventry Museums and Art Galleries
In the 2nd century the Romans rebuilt their fort and fortress defences putting a stone wall in front of the rampart to give it extra strength. The towers and gates were also built of stone.
The east gate at the Roman fort at Birdoswald on Hadrian's Wall. Photo Patrick Ottaway with the kind permission of Cumbria County Council
An unusual carved stone from Maryport Roman fort in Cumbria actually shows a fort gate and there is an image of a goddess standing next to it.
Relief of a Roman fort gateway and a goddess on a stone block from Maryport (Cumbria). Photo Simon I Hill, Senhouse Museum, Maryport
Did you know? At South Shields fort you can see a full size reconstruction of a Roman stone gate. It is based on a careful study of the remains of gates which survive on other sites in the empire.
The reconstructed west gate of the Roman fort at South Shields (Tyne and Wear). Photo Patrick Ottaway by kind permission of Tyne and Wear Museums

Inside a Roman Fort

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This is the Roman fort at Housesteads on Hadrian's Wall. You are looking at the remains of the north gate from inside the fort.
Remains of the north gate of Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall seen from inside the fort looking north-east. Photo Patrick Ottaway with kind permission of English Heritage.
This is a simple plan of Housesteads Roman fort. You can click on the coloured buildings to learn more about them.
Plan of Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall (based on original plan English Heritage).
The headquarters (in Latin the principia) usually stood in the centre of the fort. It had an enclosed courtyard with, on one side, a hall, usually called the basilica where the troops could be gathered together and addressed by the commander. In the basilica there was a shrine where statues of the emperor and the gods and goddesses of Rome stood, and a strong room where the army pay and soldiers' savings were kept.
The remains of the headquarters building (principia) at Housesteads Roman fort looking west through what was the main entrance (with flagstones) across the courtyard, now grassed, to the hall at the rear. Photo Patrick Ottaway with the kind permission of English Heritage.
The commanding officer's house (in Latin the praetorium) was very luxurious. It was built around a central courtyard or garden. It would have had its own bath house and kitchens. The commander was not expected to live with the other soldiers!
Remains of the commanding officer's house (praetorium) at Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall. In the centre are the pillars of the hypocaust system in what was once the dining room. Photo Simon I. Hill with the kind permission of English Heritage.
The granaries are where the grain and other food was stored. Roman granaries can be easily recognised as they are long buildings with thick walls and a floor raised up off the ground by little walls or pillars. A raised floor allowed air to circulate under the floor and keep the grain cool and dry. This prevented it from going rotten.
Granary at Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall showing the underfloor support stones. Photo Patrick Ottaway
The hospital (in Latin the valetudinarium) was for soldiers who were wounded or ill. Doctors and their assistants would be on-hand to give treatment.
The remains of the hospital at Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall looking south-east. It has a paved courtyard in the centre surrounded by small rooms where the patients were cared for. Photo Simon I. Hill with the kind permission of English Heritage.
There were twelve barrack blocks. They were long low buildings (like those you can see in this model of Ribchester) where the soldiers lived. Each group of eight men had two rooms in a barrack block, one for sleeping in and one for eating and storing equipment. It was probably a bit cramped and you had to hope your comrades did not smell too bad or snore at night!
Model of the Roman fort at Ribchester (Lancashire). The barracks are the long low buildings in the foreground and the headquarters building is in the centre. Photo Simon I. Hill, Ribchester Museum Trust
In the latrine or lavatory at Housesteads the men would have happily sat side by side. They did not want special cubicles for privacy!
The latrine at the Roman fort at Housesteads on Hadrian's Wall. Originally there was wooden seating above the drains. Photo Simon I. Hill with the kind permission of English Heritage.

The Roman Army on Campaign

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The Roman army usually campaigned in the summer months. In the winter it was too cold and marching was difficult in wet, muddy ground.
Roman legionaries shown on a stone monument from the fort at Croy Hill (Strathclyde) on the Antonine Wall, Scotland. National Museums of Scotland
As the army marched into enemy territory it made camps for overnight stops - these are known as marching camps. A ditch around the outside could be dug very quickly. The soldiers slept in tents.
Roman legionaries digging a camp ditch. Illustration by Peter Connolly
The Roman army liked to fight in open country where the soldiers could make their superior training and discipline count against enemies who were not usually well organised.
Roman legionaries throwing javelins and preparing for battle. Illustration by Peter Connolly
The ditches and ramparts which the soldiers dug around their marching camps and forts can be sometimes seen at ground level, but they are usually only found by using aerial photography.
Aerial view of the Roman forts at Cawthorn (North Yorkshire) from the west. Royal Commission on Historical Monuments for England
Most of what we know about Roman battles comes from written descriptions as it is not usually possible to find the exact site of a Roman battlefield. The Roman historian Tacitus described a battle scene in Britain as follows: 'Then Agricola signalled with his sword for four cohorts of Batavians and two from Tongres to fight hand-to-hand. They were well-trained for this, while the Britons with their small shields and long spears were ill-equipped'.
The tombstone of the Thracian cavalryman Sextus Valerius Genialis from Cirencester. Corinium Museum

The Roman Army in Battle

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Before the Roman army attacked its enemy the commander usually made a splendid speech to encourage the troops. The writer Tacitus tells us that the Governor Agricola spoke to his men before the battle of Mons Graupius in Scotland as follows: 'We have our hands on our swords and they are all that matters. I made up my mind long ago that neither an army nor a commander can avoid danger by running away. Although an honourable death would be better than a disgraceful attempt to save our lives, our best chance of safety lies in doing our duty'.
Modern statue of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, Governor of Britain (c.78-84), in his home town of Fréjus, France. Photo Patrick Ottaway
At the start of the battle the Romans tried to weaken the enemy by throwing javelins or shooting arrows. Specially-trained men with slings hurled stones.
Roman legionaries throwing javelins and preparing for battle. Illustration by Peter Connolly
The Roman army sometimes used a machine called a ballista. It was like a big catapult which fired iron-tipped wooden bolts at the enemy.
A replica Roman ballista in use. Exeter City Museums and Art Gallery
The soldiers waited for the eagle bearer to give them the signal to attack the enemy and then watched the standard bearers of their own units for detailed orders. The soldiers fought the enemy hand-to-hand with their swords.
Tombstone of an army standard bearer shown with his shield and sword. His standard has a bull's head and a three-pronged base for holding it in the ground. Found at Carrawburgh Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall, now in Chesters museum. Photo Simon I. Hill with the kind permission of English Heritage.
After a victorious battle the Romans prayed to the goddess of victory. The enemy prisoners were rounded up and taken off to be sold as slaves. Doctors treated the wounded and the dead were carefully buried.
Statue of the Roman goddess of Victory (Victoria) found at Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall. Photo Simon I. Hill with the kind permission of English Heritage.

British Warriors

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Brave warriors had great fame amongst the Britons, but no matter how hard they fought, the British warriors were no match for the Romans.
Roman arrowhead lodged in the spine of a British warrior, found in a cemetery at Maiden Castle hill fort. Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society
Julius Caesar wrote that the Britons had some cavalry, but found that their most skilful troops were the charioteers. The chariot was a light vehicle drawn by a horse and carried a warrior to where he was needed on the battlefield.
British warriors riding in a chariot. Illustration by Sarah Hall, Roman Britain
The Britons had no permanent army like the Romans. The British warriors had to spend most of their time on their farms and were not able to do much training.
An artist's impression of native British man and woman at about the time of the Roman invasion of 43. Illustration by Sarah Hall, Roman Britain
The British warrior usually fought with a sword. Some warriors may have had a helmet and shield, but they had no armour to protect their bodies. They probably tried to frighten off their enemies by making loud noises, but in a fight courage was the British soldier's best weapon!
A boar's head made of bronze which was part of a trumpet, possibly used by a native Caledonian army. From Deskford (Grampian), Scotland. National Museums of Scotland

Religion in the Roman Army

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Throughout the year Roman soldiers took part in religious ceremonies in which they prayed to the chief gods and goddesses of Rome including Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Emperors were worshipped as gods after their death.
Detail of the distance slab from Bridgeness on the Antonine Wall showing a sacrifice to the goddess of Victory. Four men watch a man in a toga - probably the legionary commander - who is about to sacrifice a pig, sheep and bull. To accompany the ceremony there is music from a flute player. National Museums of Scotland
Altars dedicated to Jupiter, the king of heaven, have often been found at Roman forts. They usually have the letters I O M carved on them which means Jupiter Optimus (best) and Maximus (greatest).
Altar dedicated to Jupiter at Maryport Roman fort (Cumbria) by Caballius Priscus, the commander (tribunus) of a cohort of Spanish auxiliary soldiers. Jupiter is referred to by the letters IOM meaning Jupiter, best and greatest (IUPITER OPTIMUS MAXIMUS). Photo Simon I Hill, Senhouse Museum, Maryport
Roman soldiers prayed to Mars, the god of war. He was also believed to be the father of Romulus who founded Rome.
Statue of the Mars, the Roman god of war from York. Yorkshire Museum, York
Soldiers prayed for success in battle to Victoria, the goddess of victory, and Fortuna the goddess of good luck. They also prayed to Fortuna in their bath houses because this is where the soldiers played dice and gambled.
Statue of the goddess Fortuna from Birdoswald Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall. Photo Simon I. Hill, Tullie House Museum, Carlisle
Outside Roman forts there were small temples where groups of soldiers met to pray. For example, just outside the fort at Benwell on Hadrian's Wall you can see the remains of a small temple to a god with the strange name Antenociticus.
Remains of the Roman temple outside the fort at Benwell on Hadrian's Wall. Photo Patrick Ottaway with the kind permission of English Heritage.
Inscriptions tell us that soldiers prayed to many different gods and goddesses, including those of the country in which they were posted. At Corbridge there is a dedication by a Roman centurion of the Sixth Legion to Jupiter and the local 'Sky Gods of Brigantia' who were worshipped by the Brigantes, the local British tribe.
An altar dedicated to Jupiter Dolichenus, the sky gods of Brigantia and Salus (god of health) by a centurion of the Sixth Legion, Julius Apolinaris at Corbridge (Northumberland). Photo Simon I. Hill with the kind permission of English Heritage.
Did you know? The Romans believed that their gods and goddesses gave them the right to rule the world. In The Aeneid, an epic poem by the Roman writer Vergil, the god Jupiter says: 'I give the Romans no frontiers in either space or time. I have allowed them an empire without end'.
Antonine Wall distance slab found at Ferrydyke, Old Kilpatrick (Strathclyde). The slab is carved to resemble a temple façade. The goddess Victory reclines resting her left elbow on a globe. The slab marks the construction of 4411 feet of the Wall. Hunterian Museum, Glasgow

Mithras

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Mithras was a great favourite of the Roman soldiers. He was a mysterious sun god who was thought to have been born from a rock or an egg. He fought against the powers of darkness and evil.
Reconstruction in the Museum of Antiquities, Newcastle upon Tyne of the temple of Mithras at Housesteads fort on Hadrian's Wall. Museum of Antiquities, Newcastle upon Tyne
all his temples Mithras was shown on a great carved stone tablet sitting astride a bull which he has just dragged into a cave. Mithras stabs the bull in the neck to release the blood from which all living things are created. The blood of creation which oozes out of the bull is drunk by a dog and a snake who represent all the living things on earth. At the same time the force of life is poisoned by a scorpion which bites the bull's testicles.
The god Mithras slaying a bull on a stone tablet from the temple of Mithras at Housesteads fort on Hadrian's Wall © Museum of Antiquities, Newcastle upon Tyne
A temple of Mithras was called a mithraeum in Latin. It was supposed to be a dark and mysterious place which reminded the worshippers of the cave where the bull was killed.
Temple of the god Mithras at the fort at Carrawburgh on Hadrian's Wall. Photo Patrick Ottaway
On each side of the tablet showing the bull sacrifice there would be a figure holding a torch. One is called Cautes and the other Cautopates. Cautes has his torch with the flame upwards symbolising light and goodness. Cautopates has his torch turned downwards symbolising darkness and evil.
Statue of Cautes, one of the attendants of the god Mithras. Found in the temple of Mithras at Housesteads Roman fort on Hadrian's Wall. Photo Simon I. Hill with the kind permission of English Heritage.
Did you know? Followers of the sun god Mithras were very secretive and you could only join them by going through mysterious initiation ceremonies which sometimes involved dressing up as four-legged animals or as birds.
Part of a mosaic at Brading Roman villa (Isle of Wight) showing a man with a cockerel's head. Photo Simon I. Hill, Oglander Roman Trust
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