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Hadrian's WallA Life$
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Richard Hingley

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199641413

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199641413.001.0001

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The Mithraeum at Borcovicium (Housesteads): Reasons to be Cheerful?

The Mithraeum at Borcovicium (Housesteads): Reasons to be Cheerful?

(p.137) 8 The Mithraeum at Borcovicium (Housesteads): Reasons to be Cheerful?
Hadrian's Wall

Richard Hingley

Oxford University Press

John Collingwood Bruce was one of the most significant Wall experts of the nineteenth century. In 1849, Bruce organized a tour for a group of interested individuals, the first of the Hadrian's Wall Pilgrimages that have visited the Wall on regular occasions since. This first Pilgrimage explored the entire length of the Wall and included a visit to the Roman remains at Borcovicium and the temple dedicated to Mithras just to the south. While little of the temple of Mithras at Housesteads was visible at the time of the first Pilgrimage, Bruce drew religious and imperial messages from this place of pagan worship. The impressive features that were just beginning to be uncovered at the fort inspired Bruce to draw a comparison between the fallen empire of Rome and the glorious contemporary domestic, religious, and imperial condition of Britain. He assessed the significance of the Wall's remains by emphasizing its contemporary political and cultural importance — metaphorically rebuilding its remains as a topic of current political, religious, and cultural concern. In this context, Bruce was reacting to almost a century of comparative disregard for the Wall, a situation that is explored in this chapter. The focus then turns to Bruce's Borcovicium lecture.

Keywords:   John Collingwood Bruce, Hadrian's Wall, pilgrimage, Roman empire, Britain, Borcovicium

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