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Temple of Mithras

Temple of Mithras

Life and Death

In 1989 NASA launched the space probe Galileo to the planet Jupiter. Jupiter is a Roman God. See the altars to Jupiter, their God of Gods, at Senhouse Museum, Maryport. They were all important, and like Christian saints, each had their own sites of worship. At Benwell, outside a Wall fort along the West Road from Newcastle is a small temple to 'Antenociticus' - a native deity not found outside the north-east?

The headstone and altars are at the Great North Museum in a collection showing their importance now as well as then. Beyond the school run or weekend shop, the AD122 bus follows the Wall to the Temple of Mithras. Again a fort nearby, Carrawburgh, a gem, and these English Heritage sites are free to visit.

Perhaps life is life away from hustle and bustle. The AD122 lets you plan a walk one way and a bus back again. Chesters and Housesteads are each less than four miles from Carrawburgh - who said you have to walk, or bike, all the Wall to appreciate it?

Galileo made the first telescope to see the moon for what it is. Museums and archaeology are telescopes to help us understand our own and others' beliefs.

Law & Order

"You will be taken to a place of public execution and be hanged till you are dead. Send the prisoner down."

Black cap, the noose, our law is based on Roman Law and Order.

Did it work? A cold case still open...

...In 2010, archaeologists at Vindolanda find an eight to ten year old buried inside the barracks. From tooth enamel analysis he or she came from the Mediterranean, perhaps a legionary's child. Fragmented skull, probable cause of death a blow to the head, accidental or deliberate not yet know, clearly covered up. A coroner could only return an open verdict. Whoever killed the child and concealed the killing got away with it. The law did not work.

Nor at Housesteads. In the 1930s a stone's throw from the fort two men were discovered dead under a civilian building. One had a chiv, an assassin's knife, still stuck under his ribs, perhaps it'd already killed before, the man lain next to him, murdered before his eyes then stuffed beneath the floor, food for rats. Murderers 3 Prosecution 0.

Laws mean property, property theft, theft security, security locks. Brought by the Romans too, ever cleverer to keep out light-fingered thieves and burglars. A corroded metal strip might be a key, a pick or both. Not so much Neighbourhood Watch, more watch your neighbours.

Visit both scenes of crime, but remember to lock your car and keep all valuables out of site.

Sense of Wonder

‘What we do in life echoes an eternity.’

Isn’t this really why we visit the Wall? To become in touch with eternity, and thus ourselves? These are the words of Maximus Decimus Meridius, the hero of the film Gladiator upon the consequences of all our actions. Stand by the Wall as Maximus Decimus Meridius or any Roman soldier, see what they see and gain a sense of wonder. Maximus returns home to his family in the world beyond mortality. It is life and death.

As is the Imperial Eagle, Aquila, the standard at the head of a Legion, to be kept at all costs, never lost, like life itself, for Aquila is the bird of Jupiter who flies above the storms. At Chesters Museum see the tombstone of an army standard bearer from Carrawburgh fort near the Temple of Mithras. Imagine holding the standard, even at the expense of your life.

You’d need to travel west of Carlisle or cross the Solway Firth into Dumfries and Galloway to see eagles, but along Hadrian’s Wall on a calm day look out for Hawks, Falcons, Kestrels and maybe the smaller Buzzards holding themselves against the thermals ready to swoop. The RSPB Geltsdale Centre just south-east of Brampton is a must if you’re keen on birds. Those thermals are great for kite flying so why not remember to take one with the picnic – and you might catch the real thing, a Red Kite drop like a stone to catch its prey, perhaps the most thrilling – and rare – sight for anyone watching flight.

‘What we do in life echoes an eternity.’

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