Wednesday, March 12, 2003

The Role of Villa Owners in the Romanization of the Native Religion in Britain

One of the most prominent features of Romanization in the British countryside during the occupation were the Romanized villas, symbolizing the benefits of adopting classical lifestyles. Most of these structures represent the native aristocracys desire to exhibit and maintain their status and prestige through the construction of houses with Roman-style architecture and materials. The construction of Romano-Celtic temples was probably an extension of this pro-Roman attitude: structures erected by the aristocracy to emphasize their growing romanitas. One of the wealthiest villas in Gloucestershire which does show the distinction between different groups of residents can be found at Chedworth. A Romano-Celtic temple has also been discovered at Chedworth. The use of pits for votive dedications during the Iron Age in Britain is well attested, and such a dedication at this Romano-Celtic temple suggests that the sanctity of the site predates the building. Further evidence for the continuity of sanctity was a stone relief of a hunter with a dog and stag, which was one of the most notable finds from the site. There may well have been a native hunting deity connected with the shrine, for example Silvanus, but the proximity to the Coln River may also indicate a water cult. The erection of this temple structure was probably meant to allow the villa owner to appear more Romanized and to advertise his social, financial and possibly political status and success. Owing to the continuity of sanctity at the site, it is unlikely that the rituals and beliefs centered there would have changed, with the majority of the population continuing to revere the local deities.
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