TEMPLVM MARTI NODENTIS

Roman Temple and Villa

Lydney Park, Gloucestershire

NGRef: SO615026
OSMap: LR162
Type: Iron-Age Promontory Fort, Roman Iron-Mine, Romano-Celtic Temple, Romano-British Villa.
Roads
NE (17½) to GLEVVM (Gloucester, Gloucestershire)
SE (12½) to VENTA SILVRVM (Caerwent, Gwent)

The Temple of Nodens Mars

Lead Defixio Addressed to Nodens

DEVO NODENTI SILVIANVS ANILVM PERDEDIT DEMEDIAM PARTEM DONAVIT NODENTI INTER QVIBVS NOMEN SENICIANI NOLLIS PETMITTAS SANITATEM DONEC PERFERA VSQVE TEMPLVM DENTIS ¹
"For the god Nodens. Silvianus has lost a ring and has donated one-half [its worth] to Nodens. Among those named Senicianus permit no good-health until it is returned to the temple of Nodens."
(RIB 306; lead plate; 1817)
  1. Primary text shown. A secondary text reads simply REDIVIVA, "re-used, second-hand, again", i.e. the curse had been renewed.

Situated on a steep bluff overlooking the Severn Estuary from the north-west, this famous site was excavated by R.E.M. Wheeler in the 1920's, who established that the shrine was constructed sometime after AD364 although the site was occupied c.250 by the huts of the workers from the nearby iron-mines. The temple itself is rectangular in outline measuring 80 x 60 feet with additional heavy, angular buttresses containing a number of niches on their interior sides - presumably for statues - and an entrance via a short flight of steps on the south-east. The cella measures 32½ x 55 feet overall with its extreme north-west end divided into three separate 7 ft. deep rooms, probably indicating a tripartite god, with each room dedicated to a different aspect of the triad. The temple of Nodens emulates the format of a normal Romano-Celtic shrine, although in a somewhat monumental style, using a rectangular plan instead of the usual square and providing for three separate shrines instead of the normal single cella. The temple was probably provided with a clerestory in the upper part of the cella and thus resembled its typical Romano-Celtic counterpart (Type Ie, possibly IIe).

"The small finds are numerous indeed. Over 8,000 coins ... prove a very rich occupation extending certainly into the fifth century. Nine representations of dogs in stone or bronze, a bronze plaque of a woman, a bronze arm, an oculist's stamp, 320-odd pins and nearly 300 bracelets quite definitely indicate a healing cult. There is some indication, from the inscriptions and philology, of a hunting aspect. Sea-monsters and fish on the cella mosaic, and bronze reliefs depicting a sea deity, fishermen and tritons suggest some connexion of Nodens with the sea. A bronze object (headdress or vessel?) also shows a sea-god driving a chariot between torch-bearing putti and tritons. Thus a picture emerges of a complex deity, combining the diverse aspects of healing, hunting and the sea. ..." (Lewis, p.89)

The Monumental Inscriptions

There are four inscription recorded in the R.I.B. for the Lydney temple, among which are a collection of forty-seven bronze letters in various sizes found between 1817-40; T D V L I VF L N R V V F E L N V A L F R V T O C C E M N P/R S T plus 12 more fragments (RIB 308). The remaining three inscriptions all bear dedications to the same god, variously named Nodons, Nodens or Nudens, and conflated on two of the texts with the Roman war-god Mars (vide supra et infra).

Dedication to Mars Nodons

D M NODONTI FLAVIVS BLANDINVS ARMATVRA V S L M
"To the god Mars Nodons,¹ Flavius Blandinus the drill-instructor² willingly and deservedly fulfills his vow."
(RIB 305; bronze ansate plate; 1826)
  1. The most likely expansion of the letter M to M[arti], indicates that the Celtic god Nodens shared one or more attributes in common with the Roman war-god Mars.
  2. The Latin word Armatura (-ae) is variously translated as; armour, harness, equipment, or (light-)armed troops. Used in this context however, the word obviously denotes someone's profession and it is very likely that Blandinus' work was connected with either the manufacture or the use of military field-equipment.

Dedication to Nudens Mars

PECTILLVS VOTVM QVOD PROMISSIT DEO NVDENTE M DEDIT
"Pectillus dedicates this votive offering which he had promised to the god Nudens Mars.¹"
(RIB 307; pentagonal bronze plate bearing the image of a baying hound; 1826)
  1. See note #1 above.

Click Here for the RBO Temples and Shrines Index

Click Here for details of the Lydney Park Promontory Fort and Camp

See: The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
Temples in Roman Britain by M.J.T. Lewis (Cambridge 1966).
All English translations, including any inherent mistakes, are my own.

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