Roman Britain, 2nd or 3rd century AD
from the Roman fort at Maryport, Cumbria
An Algerian town councillor serving as a Roman army officer in northern Britain
This large and highly-decorated altar, made of Cumbrian red sandstone, was one of the earliest antiquarian finds from Britain: it was discovered shortly before 1587 in the north-west corner of the fort at Maryport, where it had probably been re-used in a late-Roman building.
It was dedicated by Gaius Cornelius Peregrinus, tribunus (military commander) of the auxiliary garrison at Maryport. He came from Saldae (now Bejaia, Algeria) in North Africa, where he was a decurion (town councillor). Ritual objects have been carved on the sides and back of the altar: they include an axe and a knife used in the slaughter of sacrificial animals, and a flagon and dish used for pouring liquid offerings.
The main inscription translates 'To the Genius of the place, to Fortune the Home-Bringer, to Eternal Rome, and to Good Fate, Gaius Cornelius Peregrinus, tribune of the cohort, decurion of his home town of Saldae in the province of Mauretania Caesariensis, gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilled his vow.'
A further inscription on the back of the altar, probably added in the third century, reads simply 'VOLANTI VIVAS' ('Long life to you, Volantius').
T.W. Potter, Roman Britain, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)