Roman Lincolnshire in the British Museum

The British Museum contains a number of Romano-British objects discovered in Lincolnshire. Some of these form an important part of the museum’s Roman Britain galleries and have been included in various publications, but others are generally less well known. This post aims to briefly highlight some of the more significant and interesting of these objects.

The Fossdyke Mars

fossdyke mars

OA.248. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

The copper alloy figure of Mars found in the Foss Dyke canal is one of the most accomplished artworks from Roman Britain. The languid figure probably originally held a shield and either a sword or spear. The inscription on two sides of the base provide wonderful context for the creation of the statuette. The whole inscription reads:

DEO MAR(TI) ET / NV(MINI)B(VS) AVG(VSTORVM) COL/ASVNI BRVCCI/VS ET CARATIUS DE / SVO DONARVNT / AD SESTER(IOS) N(VMMOS) C(ENTVM) / CELATVS AERAR/IVS FECIT ET AERA/MENTI LIB(RAM) DONAV/IT FACTAM (DENARIIS) III

This translates as ‘To the god Mars and the Deities of the Emperors the Colasuni, Bruccius and Caratius, presented this at their own expense at a cost of 100 sesterces; Celatus the coppersmith fashioned it and gave a pound of bronze made at the cost of 3 denarii’.

Who the Colasuni brothers were, how they made their money and what they hoped to gain from making this expensive offering are all sadly lost to us, but the quality of the offering clearly suggests it was important to them. The contribution of Celatus the coppersmith adds a fascinating dimension, as his artistic input would usually remain anonymous in such circumstances, but here we can at least put a name to the wonderful craftsmanship.

Tombstone of Gaius Julius Calenus, Lincoln

bm_calenus

1866,1208.1. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

This limestone tombstone was discovered in 1859, ‘about a furlong (c.200m) west of the Roman wall’. The inscription reads:

DIS MANIB(VS) / G(AI) IVLI GAL(ERIA TRIBV) / CALENI LVG(DVNO) / VET(ERANI) EX LEG(IONE) VI/ VIC(TRICE) P(IA) F(IDELI) IVLIA SEM(PRONIA) F(ILIA)

This translates as ‘to the spirits of the departed (and) of Gaius Julius Calenus, of the Galerian voting tribe, from Lyons, veteran of the sixth legion Victrix Pia Fidelis; Julia Sempronia, his daughter (set this up).’

The Sixth Legion arrived in Britain in c.AD120, replacing the Ninth Legion at York – though theories on what happened to them isn’t something I’m going to go into here! The Sixth Legion remained at York, at least on paper as detachments of them are attested in various locations, for the remainder of the Roman period. Calenus was a veteran of the legion, serving his time and, as far as we can tell, deciding upon retirement to settle in Lincoln and bring his family with him. His tombstone is evidence that veteran colonies were not only settled by veterans of the legions that had served in the precursor fortresses.

Tombstone of Gaius Saufeius, Lincoln

bm_saufeius

1873,0521.1. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

The tombstone of Gaius Saufeius was discovered in 1865 on what was then known as Salthouse Lane, but is now Princess Street, off Lincoln’s lower High Street, during the digging of house foundations. The largest military tombstone known from Lincoln, it commemorates a soldier of the Ninth Legion who died while on duty at the Lincoln fortress between its foundation in the AD60s and the legion moving to York in AD71/72. The inscription reads:

G(AIO) SAVFEIO / G(AI) F(ILIO) FAB(IA TRIBV) HER(ACLEA) / MILITI LEGIO(NIS) / VIIII / ANNOR(VM) XXXX / STIP(ENDIORVM) XXII / H(IC) S(ITVS) E(ST)

This translates as ‘to Gaius Saufeius, son of Gaius, of the Fabian voting tribe, from Heraclea, soldier of the Ninth Legion, aged 40, of 22 years’ service; he lies here.’

Tombstone of Volusia Faustina and Claudia Catiotua, Lincoln

bm_faustina

1862,0423.1. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

The tombstone of Volusia Faustina is the finest quality tombstone currently known from Lincoln, from an artistic perspective at least, and presents an intriguing mystery. It was discovered in 1859 during building works at The Park, the tombstone being reused, as many tombstones were, in the foundations of the city wall. The primary tombstone was set up to Volusia Faustina, young wife of the town councillor (Decurion) Aurelius Senecio. Her portrait can be seen on the left of the tombstone with her dedication below. The dedication reads:

D(IS) M(ANIBVS) / VOLVIA FAVSTINA / C(IVIS) LIND(ENSIS) V(IXIT) / ANN(OS) XXVI / M(ENSEM) I D(IES) XXVI / AVR(ELIVS) SENE/CIO DEC(VRIO) OB / MERITA C(ONIVGI) P(OSVIT)

This translates as ‘to the spirits of the departed: Volusia Faustina, a citizen of Lindum, lived 26 years, 1 month, 26 days. Aurelius Senecio, a councillor, set this up to his well-deserving wife.’

The mystery comes in the identity of the second female commemorated on the tombstone, whose image sits on the right. The brief inscription below it, somewhat squeezed into the space, simply records Claudia, daughter of Catiotuus, who lived for 60 or more years (the break in the tombstone means that we cannot be sure if more numbers originally existed or not). Analysis of the hairstyles of the portraits has suggested that Faustina’s dates to the reign of Alexander Severus (AD222-235), but Claudia has the ‘Julia Domna’ hairstyle of a decade earlier, despite her inscription being cut later. Was Claudia a faithful servant, dying later than her mistress but honoured by joining her on her tombstone? Was she a second wife of Aurelius Senecio? If so, she certainly did not receive much praise from her husband in the form of a lengthy dedicatory inscription.

Tombstone of Titus Valerius Pudens, Lincoln

bm_pudens

1853,1108.1. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

Recorded on another military tombstone from Lincoln, Titus Valerius Pudens was a soldier of the Second Legion Adiutrix Pia Fidelis (‘APF’). The tombstone was discovered in 1849 on Monson Street – the site of a well established Roman cemetery. The Second Legion APF garrisoned the Lincoln fortress after the Ninth Legion moved northwards in AD71/72 and remained until AD77/78. The legion was formed in AD70 in Germany, and Lincoln became their first posting. Many of the soldiers seem to have been recruited from the Roman navy, and judging by the trident and dolphins motif on his tombstone, Pudens had just such a career path. He was born in Savaria, a city in the province of Pannonia Superior, in modern Hungary. His inscription reads:

T(ITVS) VALERIVS T(ITI) F(ILIVS) / CLA(VDIA TRIBV) PVDENS SAV(ARIA) / MIL(ES) LEG(IONIS) II A(DIVTRICIS) P(IAE) F(IDELIS) / C(ENTVRIA) DOSSENNI / PROCVLI A(NNORVM) XXX / AERA [V]I H(ERES) D(E) S(VO) P(OSVIT) / H(IC) S(ITVS) E(ST)

This translates as ‘Titus Valerius Pudens, son of Titus, of the Claudian voting-tribe, from Savaria, a soldier of the Second Legion Adiutrix Pia Fidelis, in the century of Dossennius Proculus, aged 30, of 6 year’s service; here he lies. His heir at his own expense set this up.’

Tombstone of Lucius Licinius Saliga, Lincoln

bm_saliga

1866,1208.2. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

The fragmentary tombstone of a soldier of the Second Legion APF, now read as ‘Saliga’ despite the old photograph above giving it as ‘Sanga’, found at the same Monson Street cemetery as T. Valerius Pudens, above, and in the same year, 1849. Saliga, a Gaul from Lugdunum (Lyon) can barely have spent much time at the Lincoln fortress before succumbing to whatever illness or injury took his life, as he had served only 2 years in the legions. The fragmentary inscription reads:

[LE]G(IONIS) II AD(IVTRICIS) P(IAE) [F(IDELIS)] C(ENTURIA) [.(…) / P]ONTI PROCV / LI L(UCIVS) LICINIVS L(VCI) F(ILIVS) G / AL(ERIA TRIBV) SALIGA LVG(DVNO) A / NNORVM XX / […S]TIPEND(IORVM) II

This translates as ‘…of the Second Legion Adiutrix Pia Fidelis, in the century of […] Pontius Proculis, Lucius Licinius Saliga, son of Lucius, of the Galerian voting-tribe, from Lyons, aged 20 (or more), of 2 years’ service.’

Tombstone of Lucius Sempronius Flavinus, Lincoln

bm_flavinius

1899,0713.1. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

This tombstone, almost identical in form to that of Gaius Saufeius, above, is inscribed in a style of Latin closer to the cursive seen on writing tablets than to the usual formal lettering of stone inscriptions. It was discovered in 1830 under 17 Lindum Road, having been reused in the later colonia wall. It was likely to have been originally sited in a cemetery close by. The inscription reads:

L(VCI) SEMPRONI FLA / VINI MIL(I)T(I)S LEG(IONIS) VIIII / C(ENTVRIA) BABUDI SEVERI / AER(VM) VII AN(N)OR(VM) XXX / (H)ISPANI GALERIA (TRIBV) / CLVNIA

This translates as ‘Lucius Sempronius Flavinus, soldier of the Ninth Legion, in the century of Babudius Severus; of seven years’ service, aged 30, a Spaniard, of the Galerian voting-tribe, from Clunia’

Flavinus (as the name is usually now read, not ‘Flavinius’ as in the older translation on the photograph above) was born in Clunia, an important Roman colony in north central Spain.

Tombstone of a soldier from Pisaurum, Lincoln /

Tombstone of Fortunata, Lincoln

bm_pisaurum

1866,1208.6. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

These fragments of tombstone were donated to the British Museum in 1866, and are believed to have been discovered at Monson Street in 1849. Joined together in the photograph above, they actually represent fragments of two different tombstones. The top fragment reads ‘[…] FORTVNATA […] […]TAE FIL[…]’, translating simply as ‘Fortunata, daughter of […]ta’.

The lower fragments can be slightly better reconstructed, but only enough to identify a soldier of the Ninth Legion whose father was called Marcus, and who hailed from Pisaurum, modern Pesaro in eastern Italy. The inscription is reconstructed as:

[..]RCV[. / …]S M(ARCI [F(ILIVS)] / CAMILIA (TRIBV) PISA / VRO MIL(ES) / LEG(IONIS) V[IIII…

This translates as ‘[..]rcu[….]s, son of Marcus, of the Camilian voting-tribe, from Pisaurum, soldier of the Ninth Legion, ….’

Deae Matres, Lincoln

bm_matres

1856,0507.1. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

This limestone carving of the Mother Goddesses (Deae Matres), dates to the 2nd or 3rd centuries. This depiction is a typical image of them, featuring three matronly seated female figures. They hold in their laps items related to fertility and fecundity, in this case beloved to be, from right to left, a basket of fruit, a small animal or child, and a sheaf or bunch of grain. This is one of two depictions of the Mother Goddesses from Lincoln, the other being in The Collection.

A particularly interesting point to note about the Mother Goddesses is that, although they are Iron Age in origin and appear across Britain, they seem to have been brought across after the Roman invasion – as much a religious import as Mercury or Minerva.

Mercury headpot, Lincoln

bm_mercury-headpot_reconstructed

1866,1203.47. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

This head pot features a bold human face and a painted inscription around the base which identifies the character. The inscription reads ‘DOMIIRCVRIO’, a slightly garbled title but translatable as ‘to the god Mercury’.

The pot seems to have undergone some reconstruction work in recent years which I have to say I find a little over the top, giving the whole item a somewhat plasticky appearance. For comparison, below is an earlier image, showing that the whole mouth and much of the rim have been reconstructed.

bm_mercury-headpot_before

Sherd with lion, Lincoln

bm_lion-sherd

1866,1203.57. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

This characterful fragment of a pottery vessel features a lion leaping forward, perhaps part of a hunting scene or mythological reference. The vessel was produced at the massive pottery industry in Northamptonshire’s Nene Valley, and was likely to have been from a drinking beaker. It was acquired by the British Museum in 1866.

Copper alloy mount, Lincoln

bm_mount

1875,0625.2. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

This enamelled copper alloy mount is simply described as an ‘ornament’ on the British Museum’s database. The reverse of the object is plain, with no signs of attachment. I suspect that it is actually upside down in this photograph, and the damage at the bottom represents the point where a hinged fitting once attached, the object actually being a horse harness pendant (in a similar style to this example).

Money box, Lincoln

bm_money-box

1897,0913.1. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

This wonderfully evocative object was discovered in 1851 ‘near the bottom of the hill in the High Street’. Contained within it were 20 coins dating to the House of Constantine. Although coin hoards are commonly found within pottery containers, dedicated money boxes such as this are unusual finds.

Samian bowl, Lincoln

bm_samian-bowl

1866,1203.81. (c) Trustees of the British Museum

This samian bowl has been reconstructed and displays a variety of scenes from classical mythology, featuring Pan, Aphrodite, Perseus and Vulcan. Quite what links these four distinct deities / mythological characters is unclear, but it is fascinating to speculate what level of understanding of classical myth may have been held by the owners of such a bowl, and how vessels such as this may have assisted in transmitting classical mythology to those less familiar with its tales.

Lead plaque with coin impression, Fulstow

bm_valens-lead-plaque

2007,4213.1. (Photograph from the Portable Antiquities Scheme)

This rather crude looking find is actually one of the most interesting Roman objects to have been found in Lincolnshire in recent years. It was discovered at Fulstow in 2007 alongside another similar lead plaque and a blank piece of lead. The lead sheet has been impressed with the obverse of a coin (either a bronze nummus or a silver siliqua) of the emperor Valens (AD364-378). It must have taken some force to impress the coin into the lead, and the sheet has subsequently been folded across the portrait. This is unlikely to have been accidental, and the two holes suggest that the folded lead may have been nailed up. The question of why such an act would have been carried out remains. Perhaps the hammering of the coin represents an attempt at forgery using the ‘cliche’ method, though this would usually be done with thinner metals such as silver. More likely, the lead sheet represents a form of curse tablet, perhaps even against Valens himself, or at least against the more generic concept of imperial administration. The fold directly across the coin portrait on both this and the other lead plaque found at the site seems more than coincidental.

The Portable Antiquities Scheme reports for the three finds from the site can be seen here, here and here.

 

 

 

 

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