Corbridge: Head of Sol

CorbridgeSol

Alongside the worship of Jupiter, the cult of Jupiter Dolichenus merged the Roman god Jupiter with an all powerful sky god that originated in Asia Minor. Co-existing with the worship of Jupiter alone, there was also other merged versions of Jupiter that were popular throughout the Roman army. Several reliefs from a temple to Jupiter Dolichenus have survived having been used in later Roman work. Including a frieze of Sol, the above deeply incised panel formed part of the decorative iconography of the temple. The third century relief of the sun god was found reused as a floor slab in the east granary (Hodgson, 2015). The god was reputedly introduced in Rome by the first Sabine king Titus Tatius at the same time as that of the Moon (Grimal, 1991). There were three religions that were widely practiced in the Roman Empire. The mysteries of Mithras, the god of light and truth, originated from Persia, the worship of the Egyptian goddess Isis, goddess of fertility, and the third was the worship of Atargatis – known as Dea Syria. This Syrian goddess was originally an earth mother whose cult was especially popular with soldiers. Shrines have been found in Rome and as far away as Hadrian’s Wall and she was associated with the Roman Jupiter. Worshipped in wild rituals, Atargatis was often depicted with her consort Jupiter Dolichenus who was portrayed standing upon the back of a bull (Morford, Lenardon & Sham, 2011). The beautiful carving above shows the head of Sol with his radiating nimbus (halo) behind his head and his whip (for driving the sun-chariot) set over his left shoulder. Although not typically classical, the dramatic style shows that the worship of the Syrian god was spread wide across the entire empire and celebrated at Corbridge.

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