Time to look towards the Autumn lecture courses and I am beginning to review material for a course on the Religious World of Roman Britain. Sound like a clumsy title, but I am trying to introduce the students to the complexity that were the competing or coexisting belief systems in Roman Britain. And yes I will compare it occasionally with the very complex religious universe of the Indian subcontinent.
One of the issues that interest me is the different levels at which some cult followers made decisions on how to be seen by the wider population.
This is the Aesculapius stone from Maryport. It isn’t the only stone to Aesculapius in Britain and it isn’t the only Greek inscription from Britain either. But this one was found in Maryport, not exactly a Roman place that you would associate with words like ‘multiethnic’ beyond the Roman/Iron Age divide (?) and certainly not a place you would expect to see a lot of Greek speakers….and still Aulos Egnatios Pastor chose to use Greek on his dedication to Aesculapios. Did a Greek god give premium service to Greek speakers? Was this part of a small Greek-speaking group? Does that mean the language of the services was Greek?
And would everybody else feel excluded or welcomed to a mysterious cult that used special magic words and must therefore be powerful?