One of the most exciting new Roman history spaces in the country will open tomorrow (June 25 2011) in the form of The Roman Frontier Gallery at Tullie House in Carlisle. Here’s the second part of our guide to some of the star objects inside...
Statue of Fortuna, Goddess of Fortune (2nd/3rd Century AD):
This statue of Fortuna, the Goddess of Fortune, is from Birdoswald, the fort at Hadrian's Wall. In it, Fortuna is seated on a basket chair, dressed as a respectable Roman woman in provincial style, wearing a tunic. She originally held a rudder and globe.
This statue shows how the Romans brought the legends of their gods and goddesses with them to Britain. It was presumably made here, as the dress of the goddess is that of a well-dressed woman in Britain and not the "high fashion" of upper-class Rome.
This is one of the best surviving pieces of Romano-British sculpture and will be displayed alongside a marble Statue of Fortuna from Italy, on loan from the British Museum.
Writing tablet (1st Century AD):
This writing tablet is inscribed with the words In Britania. It is made from silver fir, a tree which didn’t grow in the UK in this period, so clearly came from abroad.
With its fragment of an address, it shows that within ten years of the Romans reaching Northern England Britain had taken on its new name, and that this name was used externally in communications with the country.
This item was the Tullie House submission to the British Museum’s exhibition, A History of the World in 100 Objects.
Inscription referring to Emperor Carausius (AD286-293):
The Roman coins recently uncovered in Frome, Somerset, bore the image of Carausius, and this inscription at Tullie House is the only inscription to him that survives from the Roman world. The inscription is on a milestone, erected during his reign.
Before becoming Emperor, Carausius was the Commander of the British Fleet, pursuing pirates. However, instead of returning the money he recovered to the Government, he kept it for himself, and on the verge of discovery he was able to buy the loyalty of his sailors and an imperial title.
Several years later, after an unpopular leadership, he was murdered by his Finance Minister, Alectus, and Constantine later took on his role.
At this time, this milestone, with its inscription referring to Carausius, was turned upside down to conceal Carausius’ name, and Constantine’s name was added in a new inscription.
A soldier’s housewife (1st Century AD):
The land around Carlisle is wet and soggy, which lends itself to the preservation of wooden objects. This soldier’s housewife, or sewing repair kit, is a wooden box with three bobbins attached inside it, which would have held thread. Rusted needles also remain inside.
This would have been dropped by a soldier during repairs on Hadrian’s Walls. Similar kits were used by soldiers in World War II. This kit shows that to whatever extent life was different in the Roman period, the lifestyle was not so different to ours after all.
Fragments of Roman armour (2nd Century AD):
This collection of fragments of Roman armour was found during an excavation in 2000. Archaeologists believe the location in which they were found was a corner of a workshop, where items and scraps were left aside for future use.
The fragments are of lorica segmentata, or lobster-style armour, which is the style we commonly see in films and other depictions of Roman life. The fragments show the details of trimmings.
- Read part one of our guide to star objects in the space. The Roman Frontier Gallery opens on Saturday (June 25 2011). See Culture24 for more star objects, Curator's Choices and features from the gallery.