Long before the Romans arrived in the North-East with their powerful gods – Jupiter, Venus and Mars – the ancestors of today’s Geordies worshipped their own gods, including one called Cocidius. A Roman altar to Cocidius will be one of many new exhibits on display when Housesteads Roman Fort in Northumberland, the most complete Roman fort in England, re-opens to the public on March 31.
Cocidius was worshipped by the ancient Northumbrians and across northern England before the Romans arrived and carvings and inscriptions to him have been found along the Wall. When the Romans built Hadrian’s Wall from 122 AD they associated Cocidius with deities of their own, including Silvanus – the god of the woods and fields – protective spirits called Genii, and Mars the god of war, hunting and military might.
English Heritage historian Paul Pattison said: “Cocidius was an important local god in Roman times. Life for the Roman soldiers at Housesteads fort, right on the edge of the Empire, was tough and they believed strongly that powerful deities could help them in their everyday lives. It’s not surprising that soldiers worshipped Cocidius.”
The altar featured in the new exhibition at Housesteads Roman fort bears the inscription which translates as: “To Cocidius and the guardian Spirit of the Headquarters, Valerius, a soldier of the Sixth Victorious Loyal and Faithful Legion, fulfilled his vow.”
The altar, together with other archaeological finds and artefacts brought out of English Heritage and the Great North Museum’s store of treasures, will give visitors a vivid impression of what life was like for the inhabitants of Housesteads nearly 2000 years ago.
The exhibition features an audiovisual presentation and hands on exhibits alongside stunning object displays and will explore all aspects of life in the busy fort. From the tools used to maintain the fort’s buildings to the medical equipment employed to keep troops healthy in the hospital on site, the exhibition shows the surprising sophistication of the people who lived at Housesteads. Small, personal objects such as devotional altars and shoes, will sit beside the intricate objects of the Commanding Officer’s house like high status decorative clay drinking cups imported from France and finely carved fluted jet beads.
The Romans associated Cocidius with Mars, Roman God of War, but which Roman gods are closest in spirit to today’s Geordie gods?
Cheryl Cole as Venus
The Roman deity of love, beauty and female charms, Cheryl Cole is the perfect candidate for a modern-day Venus.
Alan Shearer as Mercury
Although technically the winged messenger of the gods, the famous Geordie striker would be just as quick on the field as Mercury was in the skies.
Sting as Apollo
Roman god of music and poetry, Sting is the obvious choice to be a modern day Apollo. The god is even said to have invented the lyre, an early stringed musical instrument; could this explain Sting’s passion for the lute?
Ant & Dec as Janus
The Roman god with two faces, this inseparable pair are the Janus of the 21st century. Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, appropriate given the amount of celebrities the duo have helped rise to fame in the jungle.
Who would be your Geordie god? You can vote on our Hadrian’s Wall Facebook page from Thursday March 22 Visit www.facebook.com/
Note: Housesteads will re-open from Saturday March 31. The fort will be open daily from 10am – 6pm and admission prices are:
Adults £6.00, Concessions £5.40 and Children £3.60. Under 5s and English Heritage and National Trust members go free. For more information visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/