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Contrast And Assessment Of Urban And Rural Faith History Essay

This newspaper explores Roman Britain Religious beliefs namely the urban and the rural faith in the Romano-British Period. The archaeological examples which can be of great value in finding contrast and assessment of the rural and urban religions help us to develop the theme of the paper. The newspaper is organized in such a way that it touches upon the main religious movements in Roman Britain ( two main religions: Pagan and Christianity which existed in Roman Britain).

Contrast and Comparison

of the Urban and the Rural Religion

in the Romano-British Period

The religious situation in the Roman Empire was alternatively difficult and complicated. All of the variety of cults and religions which were represented in the Roman Empire can be divided into several groups. Among them are the cults which symbolize the primary idea of the Roman Empire - the worship of Emperor. The other ones are "the worship of traditional Olympian Gods" and the religions of local people which were conquered by the Romes. (Ireland, 1986)

Religion in Roman Britain is of special interest. It really is known from the history of Britain that Roman Britain which occupied some area of the island of Great Britain belonged to "the Roman Empire from Advertisement 43 to Advertisement 410". It had been among the numerous provinces of Roman Empire. (Esmonde, 1989)

At that period there were such religions as pagan faith and Christianity. The purpose of this newspaper is to find the contrast and comparison of metropolitan and rural religions in the Romano-British period through different archaeological samples founded on the place of Britain. (Hening, 1984)


There were various kinds religion in Roman Britain which can be represented by the following religious movements: the Graeco-Roman and Barbaric Paganisms, Mithraism and other Eastern Cults and Christianity. (Ward, 1911)

The Celtic Caste of Druids who had been considered to be the first people of Britain were announced to be an outlaw by Claudius. Their defense of the sacred groves was failing. The Romance ruined them on the island of Mona. Nevertheless, the worship of Celtic pagan Deities been around in the time of Roman rule. (Frere and Tomlin, 1991)


Different cities and towns in Roman Britain made an appearance in different cycles of Roman guideline. It is very interesting to find information concerning the activities, religions and monuments by the study of the archaeological data which were found during numerous excavations completed on the territory of Britain. (see fig. 1) Naturally, these files are "incomplete credited to preservation and possibility to excavate".

(The Association for Roman Archeology)

Fig. 1 Archaeological excavations at York. York Archaeological Trust

According to the study materials of the Relationship for Roman Archeology, the best conserved and explored Roman cities and cities are the pursuing ones: Wroxeter, Silchester, Verulamium. (see fig. 2) There are also some written sources which were found during the excavations. These resources tell about some "examples of events Aurelius Victor (about fatality of Severus in York) and Tacitus' Anales". (The Connection for Roman Archeology).

Fig. 2 Reconstruction of the center of the city in Roman Britain Wroxeter. You can find a bath tub house and the basilica in this picture. Illustration by Ivan Lapper. British Heritage

The Distinguishing Top features of Cities in Roman Britain.

In order to compare metropolitan faith and rural religion in the Romano-British period, it's important to find some distinguishing top features of cities in Roman Britain. They are the following elements:

A lot of residences for town dwellers

A middle for the federal government of the town

Manufacture and trade complexes: shops, warehouses, workshops, markets, hospitals

places for different cultural activities such as theaters, bathtub residences, taverns, amphitheaters

a special religious places - temples and statuaries. (Millet, 1990)

There are numerous streets in any town of Roman-British period. The cemeteries are situated around the town.


It is known that Roman guideline allowed both Romans and he local people who have been conquered by these to worship numerous gods and goddesses. That is why there was a rise of temples and shrines to different deities. Before the advent of Christianity the Imperial Cult was considered to be one of the key religious aspects. (see fig. 3) The Emperor was a so called "mediator between your people and the gods". (Mattingly, 2000)

Fig. 3. Bronze Bust of

Emperor Hadrian, The

British Museum

The town of Colchester was the most crucial place for the Imperial Cult. The primary spiritual elements included temples, altars and shrines. (Collingwood, 1956)

Temples were special residences for the Gods. The action of worship occurred at the altars where different outdoor rites were structured. Shrines were special places of God's presence. For instance, the complex at Colchester possessed typically Roman style properties. (Collingwood, 1956)

It is interesting to note that the majority of shrines were found in the country side and only some of them could be found in the cities. (The Romans in Britain)

The experts in the sphere of archaeology confirm that there was a broad fusion and adoption of Roman Gods to "the established local deities". People venerated to several Gods with the same attributes. For example, Sulis-Minerva at Shower. (Religion in Roman Britain)

A great number of temples and shrines to various deities were within the towns and towns of Roman Britain:

The Capitolium in Verulamium which symbolized a shrine to the Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.

An inscription to a Serapis/Osiris temple in York

London's Mithraeum

Different epigraphical resources which described Cult centers of Cybele and Isis found in London

Altars will be the places where people had an possibility to worship outdoor. There were numerous inscriptions on the altars which named the God or Gods to whom they were sacred. The inscriptions consisted of short sentences and experienced abbreviations. For instance, V. S. L. M. - Votum solvit libens merito which means He fulfills his vow, willingly, dutifully. (Frere&Tomlin, 1991)

Archaeological examples of altars in the towns of Roman Britain are the following:

Altar to Mother Goddesses of the household by Gaius Julius Crescens, Nunnely Street which can be found in York

Altars to Fortuna, Aesculapius, Salus and Genius Loci which is located in Chester

The altar which commemorates the rebuilding of the temple of Isis by Marcus Martianius Pulcher found in London

Our understanding of Christianity in the Romano-British Period is taken mainly from the literary sources. So, the archaeological samples are scarce. The only person is a Christian Church which is situated at Silchester. It had been a very small building in the heart of the town which means the Religious Community got no local affect.


It is well known that most people in Roman Britain lived in the country side. They resided in small villages. Those who were rich built large houses in a Roman style which were called villas. (Persival, 1976)

Fig. 4 Reconstruction Illustration of Bignor Villa in Sussex.

A villa is a huge beautiful house in a roman style which has tall stone walls and wonderful mosaic flooring surfaces, with a shower house and backyards. (see fig. 4, 5)

Fig. 5 View of Rockbourne Villa (Hampshire). Country Council Museum.

Rural faith included religious celebrations when the peasants prayed to the Gods and Goddesses for having good harvest and healthy domestic pets or animals. (see fig. 6) It had been very important for agriculture in the united states side. It is impossible to find some written resources about the rural faith in life in the works of British isles writers.

Fig. 6 Mosaic which ultimately shows Ceres, the Goddess of Harvest. From Broading Villa.

All the data regarding the rural life we can get from the archaeological excavations. The archaeologists found the remains of farm and villa structures, the bones of domestic cattle, seed products of crops. You will discover two well-known villas in Roman Britain: Chedworth situated in Gloucestershire and Bignur which can be found in Sussex. (Salway, 1993)

Fig. 7 Map of town and parts of Roman Britain

The most important religious festivals occurred each season of the year. The celebration of Lupercalia celebrated in the middle of February was devoted to spring's awakening. The God Pan at Lupercalia or Faunus defended local pets or animals (caws and sheep) and the shepherds. (Salway, 1993)

The first Christians in the country-sides of Roman Britain persecuted that's the reason they worshiped in residences they lived. According for some archaeological data, Lullingstone Villa experienced the surfaces of an exclusive chapel with pictures of folks who have been praying. (Hening, 1984)

Fig. 8 The Wall picture from the Christian Chapel in Lullingstone Villa, which shows people at prayer. The British Museum

The archaeologists found a mosaic at a villa in Dorset which exhibited Jesus Christ with a symbol "chi-rho" behind his brain. The orange fruits stand for the image of lots. (see fig. 9)

Fig. 9 The top of Jesus Christ decorated over a mosaic from the villa at Hintin St. Mary in Dorset. The English Museum

The archaeologists found a lead fish tank of the 4-th hundred years from Walesby in Lincolnshire. It shows the fact that in order to become an associate of the Christian Community it's important to be baptised with drinking water by way of a priest. (see fig. 10)

Fig. 10 A little part of the lead container from Walesby that was used for Christian Baptism which ultimately shows folks who are preparing for a babtism. City and Country Museum in Lincoln.

The other interesting archaeological finding presents Roman magic vessels and spoons used in communion service. (see fig. 11)

Holy Communion is a significant part of Religious worship together with the participants of the city assume that the priest must change wine beverage and bread into Jesus Christ bloodstream. (Millet, 1990)

Fig. 11 Chapel plate and gold vessels within Normal water Newton,

Cambridgeshire, the 4th century. The English Museum.

Christians started out to built churches in the 4th century. It really is known that that they had an apse which displayed a tiny semi-circular area at the east part where the altar was located. (see fig. 12)

Fig. 12 Reconstruction illustration of an Roman Cathedral in Colchester. The apse reaches the end of the building. Illustration be Peter Foster. Colchester Archaeological Trust


In the Roman Britain towns played an important role. They were the centers of trade, culture and government. It really is known that in Britain before the Romans rule there have been no towns or cities. All of the cities were built by the Romans in different parts of Britain. For instance, such cities as Colchester, Gloucester and Lincoln were built rather than legionary fortresses. The retired troops resided there. The cities in Roman Britain were not large (about 10000 people). Faith in the towns and metropolitan areas of Roman Britain was more idealized than in the country-side. The temples were built generally in the cities. Speaking about the villages in Roman Britain, it is necessary to say that rural faith was represented by the local culture and worship preserved from the Iron Age. Rural religion fell behind metropolitan religion. Moreover, there was a great difference in language too. In a few remote mountainous locations, the folks spoke Celtic terminology within the towns the soldiers and traders spoke Latin. Nevertheless, rural religious beliefs which was usually Pagan religious beliefs, later could be changed by the Christianity. The above mentioned archaeological examples confirm the obvious expansion of Christian elements in the life span of country-side in Romano-British period.

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