It’s a murky day – not an auspicious start to my walk! I was hoping for a beautiful panoramic photo of London from the top of Shooters Hill, allowing us to imagine what a Roman traveller may have seen in their first glimpse of London from this pinnacle. Instead, this:
Still, as David Walsh – my first walking companion – said: you can instead imagine what a Roman soldier being posted to Britain from the Mediterranean and experiencing our wet and grey weather may have felt. Probably damp resignation, and maybe foreboding gloom at the prospect of a longer march to Hadrian’s Wall.
Like me, David’s from Bexley so knows the area well – as well as a a lot about Mithraism. We walked and talked about this ancient cult down the hill and through to Bexleyheath, trying to figure out the route of the original Roman road – which may not be road as it is now. Simon Medden from Bexley Archeological Group sent me some places to look at, including the site where 300 odd funeral urns were found – some of which may now be in the Roman Museum in Canterbury.
I picked up this guide to Roman Welling, which I’ll have a read of tonight. Now, though, back to the (possibly not Roman) road.
I’ll leave you with Kipling’s poem to Mithras, which David alerted me to.
A Song to Mithras
Hymn of the XXX Legion: circa A.D. 350
“On the Great Wall” – Puck of Pook’s Hill
Mithras, God of the Morning, our trumpets waken the Wall!
“Rome is above the Nations, but thou art over all!”
Now as the names are answered, and the guards are marched away,
Mithras, also a soldier, give us strength for the day!
Mithras, God of the Noontide, the heather swims in the heat.
Our helmets scorch our foreheads, our sandals burn our feet.
Now in the ungirt hour – now lest we blink and drowse,
Mithras, also a soldier, keep us true to our vows!
Mithras, God of the Sunset, low on the Western main –
Thou descending immortal, immortal to rise again!
Now when the watch is ended, now when the wine is drawn,
Mithras, also a soldier, keep us pure till the dawn!
Mithras, God of the Midnight, here where the great Bull dies,
Look on Thy children in darkness. Oh, take our sacrifice!
Many roads Thou hast fashioned – all of them lead to Light!
Mithras, also a soldier, teach us to die aright.