Friday, April 11, 2008

A Roman Soldier's Gift Altar to Two Goddesses

Roman soldier's gift found
David Ottewell 10/ 4/2008

HE was many miles from home - a Roman soldier posted to Manchester, perhaps feeling cold and lonely, longing for loved ones left behind.

He was called Aelius Victor. And now after 2,000 years an altar he built to keep a promise to the goddesses he prayed to has been unearthed in the middle of the city.

The altar - described by experts as being in 'fantastic' condition - was discovered during an archaeological dig at a site on Greater Jackson Street earmarked for development.

Aelius Victor had dedicated it to two minor goddesses. A Latin inscription on the altar says: "To the mother goddesses Hananeftis and Ollototis, Aelius Victor willingly and deservedly fulfils a vow.

"The find marks the first time in nearly 400 years that archaeologists have been able to put a name to a Mancunian Roman solider. In 1612 another altar was found by the River Medlock, dedicated by Lucius Seniacianius Martius, a centurion - an officer - with the 20th Legion from York.

It is believed that Aelius Victor may have been a centurion commander posted from Germany - where worship of Hananeftis and Ollototis originates.

Norman Redhead, Greater Manchester's county archaeologist, said: "This is the first Roman stone inscription we have found for 150 years. It is a very, very valuable find and it is in fantastic condition, considering it has been in the ground for 2,000 years."

The altar was discovered during a pre-development dig at the site at the junction of Great Jackson Street and Chester Road.

Evidence suggests it may have been constructed in the latter part of the first century AD and later discarded, as it was found on top of an ancient rubbish pit.

The existence of a number of pits and ditches in the area suggest it was cleared for farming use.

The site is only hundreds of yards from a known fort and civilian settlement of Roman Manchester, dropping down to a ford across the River Medlock.

Mr Redhead said that, traditionally, that was the kind of area where places of worship were located. The altar will go on display at Manchester Museum.

General Julius Agricola (40-93AD), the commander of the invading legions, first founded a Roman settlement at the meeting point of the Rivers Irwell and Medlock. He called the place Mamuciam - meaning 'breast-shaped hill' because of the shape of the outcrop.
Hananeftis and Ollototis, were worshipped in Germany. Hananeftis sounds like a variation on the theme of Anna/Hannah/Inanna - a mother goddess/grandmother goddess. I am not familiar with Ollototis, but according to this information, she is another mother goddess.


Anonymous said...

Umm, rather than two goddesses, one named Hananeftis and the other Ollototis, we have two groups of goddesses. DEABVS MATRIBVS is a dative ("to" the mother goddesses), and HANANEFTIS and OLLOTOTIS must therefore also be datives; if so, they are plural, since singulars would not have those endings. A better translation is thus "to the Hananefta and Ollotota mother goddesses"; if this inscription follows the pattern of other similar mother-goddess inscriptions found in Germany and Britain, Hananefta and Ollotota are probably placenames.

Jan said...

That is very useful informtion, thanks!

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