This resource is part of the Museum Snapshot collection - a collection of smaller resources perfect for starters, plenaries or spare moments to explore something fascinating.
Resource created by: York Museums Trust
This tablet records the constructions of a temple in honour of the Egyptian god Serapis. Nothing odd about that, you might think: but this temple was built in the distinctly non-Egyptian city of York! Gods and spirits were used to represent and understand nearly all things. Their divine powers were called upon to help overcome all of life's problems.
What we see is a stone block with very clear writing carved into it, in Latin. This however was not a Roman god – it was from Egypt. The block or tablet is made of millstone grit which is a commonly found sandstone in Northern England, traditionally used for millstones in watermills.
The tablet was found in York, the city founded by the Romans in about 71 CE. It reads: To the holy god Serapis, Claudius Hieronymanius, legate of the Sixth Legion Victorious, built this temple from the ground.
Despite being an Egyptian god, Serapis was a favourite of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, a brutal and powerful ruler who fought throughout the empire but finally died while he was in York in 211 CE. It is not surprising that some of the gods of the earlier civilisation survived into the Roman era. Also that the army was happy to please their emperor by building a temple in honour of his favourite. This tablet is all that remains of the temple and was found in 1770, at Toft Green in York.
Bed Thompson, Deputy Head, The Business Academy, Bexley
- This inscription was in Latin which was spoken all over the Roman empire. What language do you think is spoken most widely in our world today?
- In Roman times people travelled by boat and on foot, journeys that would take a long time. Language would be exchanged as they travelled through different lands. How does language travel now?
- What does the inscription tell us about the character of Claudius Hieroymanius?
- Who else might have helped him build the temple?
- How have different religions have spread around the world and what are the reasons behind them spreading?
- Latin is said to be a 'dead' language but many words we use today come from Latin. In the dictionary the word 'camera' has an 'L' beside it to show it comes from Latin. Find other common words that originally came from Latin.
- Following on from the discussion about which language is most widely spoken today - pupils annotate a map of the world to show which languages are most widely spoken. They could use different colours to create a key to show e.g. the top 10 languages and in which countries they are spoken.
- Pupils could use maps to identify the regions of the world where different religions began and then show how they have spread. They could also include timelines to show the timescales for them spreading.