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Essex Through the Ages
Roman Essex
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Roman Religion

Religion in Roman Britain was largely a mixture of the Roman and British or Celtic traditions. Both were polytheistic, following many gods and goddesses each of which had a different function. Often the Celtic and Roman gods had similar roles and these could be connected, with the names as evidenced in dedications also connected; hence the temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath, with Sulis being a Celtic equivalent of the Roman goddess Minerva.

Archaeology contains numerous examples of personal possessions which evidence religious devotion, including jewellery and figurines. In terms of monuments there are numerous shrines or temples of different forms and sizes. Most Roman towns have at least one, and often they were created on sites which already had some religious significance. The temple at Harlow was built on an Iron Age site, whilst at Chelmsford the religious use of a shrine site dated back at least three centuries, and the shrine at Great Dunmow lay on an earlier Roman cremation cemetery.

Christianity reached Britain some time in the first two centuries of Roman rule. There is historical evidence for bishops in the 4th century, including one based at Colchester, where archaeology has revealed the remains of the earliest surviving Christian church, situated within the Late Roman cemetery at Butt Road, and dating from around 320 to 400 AD. The remains are now on public view.