Roman Highlights

Corinium Museum

A selection of Roman objects from our collection from the Bodicacia's Tombstone uncovered in 2015  to the acrostic which was discovered in 1868 and is one of the founding objects of the museums collection and one of only six in the world.

Bodicacia Tombstone
On the 25th of February 2015 an amazing find was uncovered by Cotswold Archaeology during the excavations at the former Bridges Garage site on Old Tetbury Road, which drew attention from archaeology enthusiasts from all over the world. The site is located just outside the towns Roman walls and would have been its western cemetery.  The artefact in question was a Roman tombstone dating from the second century. Only 170 tombstones survive from Roman Britain and this one is extraordinary for a number of reasons. Not only is it incredibly well preserved, its iconography and decoration is very rare and its inscription unique. The tombstone is over a metre high and features a crested pediment with a depiction of Oceanus, which has been deliberately defaced with a chisel, underneath the inscription translates to: 'To the shades of the underworld. Bodicacia, spouse, lived 27 years.' There have been a number of different theories into the origin of the name Bodicacia, which seems to be a completely new name not found anywhere else. It has been suggested for example that it might derive from the name Boudica meaning victory. Oceanus is identified by his pair of crab claw horns. The tombstone was reused for a later burial and was faound as a grave marker resting over a fourth century body.
Bronze Cockerel
In 2011 excavations on the site of Bridges Garage, Tetbury Road revealed the remains of part of Corinium’s western cemetery. This is the most significant Roman cemetery investigation in the town since the early 1970s. Archaeologists recorded 71 inhumation and three cremation burials. The single most important object discovered from the cemetery is a rare enamelled cockerel figurine unearthed from the grave of a young child. The Corinium figurine is the only example to survive with its tail piece and the only known British example excavated from a burial. Cockerels often accompanied or represented the Roman god Mercury. The presence of the figurine in a child’s grave may be associated with Mercury’s role in guiding deceased souls to the afterlife.
Tetbury Coin Hoard
Two pots, one of them containing 1437 3rd century Roman coins were discovered in 2010 on farmland near Tetbury. The coins are radiates, named after the crown worn by the emperors shown on the coins. They range in date from AD 260s - 280s. The silver content of the Tetbury hoard coins varies greatly. This is because in the 3rd century, the silver content of radiates dropped from around 50 per cent to as little as 1 per cent. Radiates were common until Diocletian’s reforms of AD 294 - 6. The largest concentration of coin hoards from Britain is in the second half of the 3rd century AD. Over 600 coin hoards are known - the largest number from any period of British history. This was a period of political upheaval across the Empire with a rapid succession of rulers and usurpers. At least 12 emperors are represented in the hoard out of a total of 21 who ruled over just a 20-year period. These include rulers of both the Central Empire and the breakaway Gallic Empire (Britain, Gaul, Germany, Spain), founded by rebel general Postumus in AD 260. The Gallic Empire was eventually re-conquered in AD 274 by Aurelian. The possible reasons for hoarding and burying coins are many. Some hoards may have been deliberately buried at times of unrest for safekeeping but with every intention of recovery. Others may have been buried as ritual offerings, perhaps the wealth of a farming community deposited over centuries, as insurance for a good harvest or good weather.
Pearl Earring
Romano-British gold earring with turquoise stone, possibly agate and pearl bead. Found during excavation at the Police Station, Cirencester, in 1962.
Bird Brooch
Romano-British enamelled copper alloy zoomorphic brooch in the form of a bird. Found during excavations at Cirencester Amphitheatre, Gloucestershire in 1966. This plate brooch has a hinge pin fastened at the tail of a bird with spread wings, the catch-plate being under the breast. The neck is long with slightly chamfered adges and the head is reduced to a profile with an eye on each side. If the profile is to be trusted the bird was intended to look like a duck.
Three Mother Goddesses
Romano-British limestone votive relief depicting the three mother goddesses (deae matres), found at Ashcroft, Cirencester, in 1899. It was found with a Doric column, fragments of a statue of Diana, another relief to the three mother goddesses, a figure of a mother goddess and an altar to the mother goddesses.                                                                                          The inscription [on the altar] found with the group was dedicated to the Suleviae, presumably the cult name of these Matres. The three Matres are seated upon a couch; each is portrayed frontally and is differentiated from her neighbour by coiffure and by slight variations in dress. Thus the goddess on the right as seen by the viewer lacks the rich locks of her neighbour and wears a cloak fastened by a circular brooch or stud above her breast. There are also variations in the objects balanced upon shallow bowls or baskets upon their laps. The goddess on the left has three long loaves each marked with a central groove (possibly intended to recall the female sexual organ). The central figure has ten circular objects (perhaps apples) and the one on the right has four; this last holds in addition three corn-ears in her right hand. The panel below the figures has been roughly tooled as though for inscription, but this was never executed.
Hunting Knife
Romano-British clasp knife with copper alloy handle in the form of a hound chasing a hare and iron blade still in place. Found during excavations at the Bath Gate Roman Cemetery, Cirencester, in 1971.
Hunting Cup
Romano British hunting cup. Found during Cirencester Excavation Committee excavations at Leaholme, Cirencester, in 1961
Jupiter Column
Romano-British sculpture of a Corinthian capital inhabited by four bacchic figures. Found at The Leauses, Cirencester, 1838. A dowel-hole in the top of the capital probably supported a statue. Sacred columns like this one were often dedicated to Jupiter (king of the gods). About 150 Jupiter columns are known, mainly from the Rhineland, although their capitals are usually smaller than this one. Bacchus would have been at the front and therefore Lycurgus would have been at the back. All the figures closely follow classical figure types. This Corinthian capital is certainly one of the great pieces of the Cotswold school. For its originality and striking appearance and skill in execution it may be regarded as a masterpiece. Despite the damage specified, the capital is fairly well preserved and the figures are virtually complete. The capital is heavily decorated with volutes and acanthus leaves typical of the Corinthian order. On each of the four sides a half-figure is carved: 1. A female figure wearing a sleeveless tunic with fruit in her hair and holding an oval object in her left arm. 2. A figure, probably male, with a slipped tunic exposing the right breast and with bunches of grapes on either side of the face. There is a wand-shaped object behind the left shoulder and a badly damaged object in the left hand.  3. A male figure with long hair and a beard. His right arm is raising a drinking horn to his lips and in his left hand is  a staff, or knotted stick. 4. A  male figure with long hair and a beard. In his right hand he holds a double axe and in his left hand a vine branch. These figures have been variously identified as personifications of the seasons and Celtic fertility deities, but most experts argue that they are drawn from the repertory of Bacchic iconography. 1. The female figure is a Maenad. She carries a tympanium (drum) in her left arm and beats it with her right hand.  2. The figure with the slipped tunic and the grapes is Bacchus himself. The wand behind his left shoulder is his thrysus (one of his most familiar attributes) and he carries in his left hand a wine cup (now very badly eroded). 3. The male figure with the drinking horn is Silenus. 4. The male figure carrying the double-headed axe is King Lycurgus.
Septimius Stone
Romano-British inscribed stone that stood at the base of a column surmounted by a statue dedicated to Jupiter. Septimius restored the statue under the reign of the emperor Julian (360-363AD). Found in 1891 in the garden of The Firs, Victoria Road. The stone is approximately square and is inscribed on three sides. The top is flat and has a dowel hole. The bottom is also flat with a socket for its attachment to a lower stone base. It is not known whether the fourth side of the stone was ever inscribed but it is possible that an inscription was subsequently chipped away. The inscription reads as follows: 'To Jupiter, Best and Greatest, His Perfection Lucius Septimius ... governor of Britannia Prima, restored (this monument), being a citizen of Rheims. This statue and column erected under the ancient religion Septimius restored, ruler of Britannia prima.
Romano-British acrostic or word-square. A section of painted wall-plaster with an inscription scratched into the plaster, dating from the second century AD. Found during excavations at Victoria Road, Cirencester, in 1868.The acrostic is one of only six in the world. One other example is known from this country, found during an excavation in Manchester in 1968.  Two others were found at Pompeii and two at Duro-Europos. The inscription consists of five words which read the same both across, down and back to front. The acrostic is held by many to be a secret Christian sign used as a talisman and composed sometime before 79 AD. The literal translation has been the subject of much debate. Most commonly it is said to mean, 'The great sower Arepo holds the wheel with force.' The word TENET (holds) forms a central cross to the design; this is a traditional Christian symbol. The twenty-five letters can be re-arranged as APATERNOSTERO (repeated twice). This contains both the word Paternoster (an amalgram of the first two words of the Lord's Prayer) and the A and O, alpha and omega, referring to Christ as the beginning and the end. A community of Christians could have been worshipping secretly in Corinium. Christianity was banned for much of the Roman period.                                                                      Other theories have postulated Orphic, Mithraic and Jewish origins. No one denies that the cryptogram was used by Christians at a later stage, but there is no conclusive evidence of it original use being Christian.The acrostic was found in a garden near Victoria Road which was being levelled. Many Roman coins and tiles  were found there.  For many years it was the only example known of its type, although a similar form but with the words in reverse order had been found in Eygptian writing of the late fourth or fifth century. In 1925 and 1936, however, examples of the square were found in Pompeii. 
Genalis Tombstone
Romano-British sculpture, tombstone of Sextus Valerius Genalis, circa 60AD. Found at Watermoor, Cirencester.This soldier died on active service at the age of 40, during the early days of the settlement and before the town of Corinium was founded. He was probably recruited in Lower Germany, where the unit is thought to have been until 43AD. With 20 years service he could have died about 60AD. Thus the Thracians were the first garrison at Cirencester. Limestone tombstone, inscribed in latin and showing a cavalryman riding and raising a lance over his fallen enemy. He carries a hexagonal shield on his left arm and bears a staff and decorated standard, which is not of any recognisable type. The enemy is lying prostrate and is shown naked in contrast to the soldier's splendid armour. The tombstone would probably have been painted. The soldier has stylised hair and a strip of embossed decoration below his chin suggests that he is perhaps wearing a face visor (used in parades). He wears a combined breastplate and shoulder strips to which is attached a large Medusa head. His sword has a decorated pommel and is suspended high. There is also possible decoration on the scabbard. The horse's hoof seems to rest on the pommel of the barbarian's sword, which points downwards into the ground. The barbarian is lying on his shield. The harness is well delineated and is decorated with round discs from which fringed strips hang. There are circular mounts on the head pieces and the saddle cloth has a fringed border.
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Heather Dawson, Corinium Museum

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