Roman fort at Cumbria, England (Photo: Malcolm Jones)

Roman fort at Cumbria, England (Photo: Malcolm Jones)

Scientists have discovered that an ancient Roman fort/castle built by Emperor Hadrian in the second century AD/CE near Hardknott Pass in Cumbria, England, is aligned astronomically to the winter and summer solstices. Physicist Amelia Carolina Sparavigna of the Polytechnic University of Turin “used online software and satellite imagery to calculate the angles at which the solstice sun rises and sets at the fort.” In her analysis, Sparavigna determined that “during the summer solstice, the sun would rise in rough alignment with the fort’s northeastern and southwestern gates, and set in alignment with its northwestern and southeastern gates.”

Furthermore, the southeastern and northwestern gates were built to align with the sunrise at the winter solstice, while its southwestern and northeastern portals mark the sunset during that time. Also, “the four towers of the garrison seem aligned to cardinal directions.”

The ruins of the Roman fort in Britain by Hardknott Pass are roughly aligned with the light of the solstice sun. Credit: Satellite image copyright Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky, courtesy Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

‘The ruins of the Roman fort in Britain by Hardknott Pass are roughly aligned with the light of the solstice sun.’
Photo: Copyright Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky; Amelia Carolina Sparavigna

Solar religion/astrotheology

Based on knowledge of ancient Roman and other religion and mythology, it is probable that the fort was aligned not only to mark these auspicious times of the year – especially important in pre-electricity times for their “light show” – but also for religious purposes, to acknowledge or propitiate Roman and possibly native British solar deities.

“An orientation of sacred places to sun and sky is common to several religions,” Sparavigna told Live Science in an email. It is “quite possible that the Hardknott fort has a symbolic homage to the sun,” she said. “The god could be Sol, the ancient Roman god of the sun, which evolved [into] Sol Invictus (a deity whose name means ‘unconquered sun’).”

Taq-e Bostan: High-relief of Ardeshir II (Photo: Philippe Chavin)

Persian god Mithra with sun rays from the high-relief of Ardeshir II (Photo: Philippe Chavin)

Another god possibly propitiated at this English site is the Roman version of the Persian solar deity Mithra, whose “birth” was celebrated at the same time as that of Sol Invictus: the winter solstice, the end of which was marked by the ancients as falling on “December 25th.” Mithra was held by Persians also as having been born of the virgin goddess Anahita and shares other characteristics with the later Jesus Christ.

As we know well, numerous other sites globally are aligned to astronomical milestones such as those of the sun, moon, Venus and others. These sites include “several Roman towns in Italy that have alignments with the solstice sun,” as well as the North African town of Timgad, which is “aligned with the direction of the sunrise on the birthday of the Roman Emperor Trajan, who reigned from A.D. 98 to 117.”

With our current and future technology, it will be much easier to determine such alignments and to demonstrate the abundant astrotheology of the ancients worldwide.

Further Reading

Solstice Sun Aligned With Rome’s Hardknott Castle
Let in the Light: Ancient Roman Fort Designed for Celestial Show
Hardknott Roman Fort/Castle
Is December 25th the winter solstice?
Mithra: Born of a Virgin on December 25th
Was Mithra Born of a Virgin Mother?