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Interesting exhibition at British Museum


expat

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Just read about this article, Legion: Life in the Roman Army. Interesting

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/other/legion-life-in-the-roman-army-one-of-the-most-powerful-british-museum-exhibitions/ar-BB1i1wbY?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531&cvid=51cc391af8264deb9d0b177e32438d02&ei=35

The only complete surviving legionary long shield on display at Legion: life in the Roman army at the British Museum

The only complete surviving legionary long shield on display at Legion: life in the Roman army at the British Museum

 

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Many thanks @expat for bringing this to the forum attention.

Appears to be very interesting and I had  already booked tickets for next month. 

My observation, not quite a reservation, as I'm going anyway,  is that the general exhibition in museums in the UK are normally free and there is a charge for this exhibition for  as a "special exhibition". Fortunately the cost is of no relevance to me but charges in museums can  exclude people particularly young people. The British Museum does not charge for entry only "special exhibitions". To be precise there is opportunity for children to visit free at specific times so not all bad.

This is the public statement of the National Museum of Wales. 

"We believe that everyone has the right to access and engage with their culture and heritage free of charge. After all, the national collections belong to to the people of Wales.

I have no issue with paying entry fees  for private museums who clearly need support but in my opinion,  national collections should be supported by taxation, maybe diverting the cost of one missile to find them?

 

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34 minutes ago, Dafydd said:

Many thanks @expat for bringing this to the forum attention.

Appears to be very interesting and I had  already booked tickets for next month. 

My observation, not quite a reservation, as I'm going anyway,  is that the general exhibition in museums in the UK are normally free and there is a charge for this exhibition for  as a "special exhibition". Fortunately the cost is of no relevance to me but charges in museums can  exclude people particularly young people. The British Museum does not charge for entry only "special exhibitions". To be precise there is opportunity for children to visit free at specific times so not all bad.

This is the public statement of the National Museum of Wales. 

"We believe that everyone has the right to access and engage with their culture and heritage free of charge. After all, the national collections belong to to the people of Wales.

I have no issue with paying entry fees  for private museums who clearly need support but in my opinion,  national collections should be supported by taxation, maybe diverting the cost of one missile to find them?

 

Maybe you can post a short write up with some photos after your visit. Hope you enjoy what is displayed.

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28 minutes ago, Dafydd said:

Many thanks @expat for bringing this to the forum attention.

Appears to be very interesting and I had  already booked tickets for next month. 

My observation, not quite a reservation, as I'm going anyway,  is that the general exhibition in museums in the UK are normally free and there is a charge for this exhibition for  as a "special exhibition". Fortunately the cost is of no relevance to me but charges in museums can  exclude people particularly young people. The British Museum does not charge for entry only "special exhibitions". To be precise there is opportunity for children to visit free at specific times so not all bad.

This is the public statement of the National Museum of Wales. 

"We believe that everyone has the right to access and engage with their culture and heritage free of charge. After all, the national collections belong to to the people of Wales.

I have no issue with paying entry fees  for private museums who clearly need support but in my opinion,  national collections should be supported by taxation, maybe diverting the cost of one missile to find them?

 

I think it's because many of the artefacts do not belong to the British Museum. So the price does two things - it allows the British Museum to display items it does not usually have, and it allows both the British Museum and the Yale University Art Gallery to buy more things to display or rent out. Whether they should be buying things from other cultures is another question.

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3 hours ago, expat said:

Maybe you can post a short write up with some photos after your visit. Hope you enjoy what is displayed.

I am sure I will enjoy my visit and I will post some photos. 

There are several really interesting Roman museums in the UK but on my bucket list is Lyon, this will be a really great bonus.

The British Museum exhibition had an interesting write up commending it on 27th January in the Times newspaper.

The surviving long shield is not what I visualised. I thought it would be much plainer. Then again I am probably psychologically influenced by Sidebottom and Fabbri who , from memory, never mentioned colour as they wouldn't have known. 

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13 minutes ago, Dafydd said:

The surviving long shield is not what I visualised. I thought it would be much plainer

Here's a much better photo of it from the Yale website.

image.png.3c212071aa4162c85cfd6d94fd7a46c2.png

3rdC AD, found at Dura Europos, Syria.

 

Edited by Heliodromus
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2 minutes ago, Heliodromus said:

Here's a much better photo of it from the Yale website.

image.png.3c212071aa4162c85cfd6d94fd7a46c2.png

3rdC AD, found at Dura Europos, Syria.

 

4 hours ago, expat said:

Maybe you can post a short write up with some photos after your visit. Hope you enjoy what is displayed.

I am sure I will enjoy my visit and I will post some photos. 

There are several really interesting Roman museums in the UK but on my bucket list is Lyon, this will be a really great bonus.

The British Museum exhibition had an interesting write up commending it on 27th January in the Times newspaper.

The surviving long shield is not what I visualised. I thought it would be much plainer. Then again I am probably psychologically influenced by Sidebottom and Fabbri who , from memory, never mentioned colour as they wouldn't have known. 

 

 

That is so impressive! It makes it more of a personal possession that a simple military issue like modern day fatigues. I guess if your life depended on this, you may put some care into it, and from what I can see we have homage to Victory and of course the imperial Eagle. I wonder if they were all the same or differed?

A fascinating subject.

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  • 1 month later...

I was there last week to go to the study room. The instructions to reach it were like a spy novel. Gallery 69a? Is that like Platform 9¾?
"Enter the museum via the main entrance on Great Russell Street, and once you enter the building turn left up the South Stairs. At the top, please turn right into G68 and then straight ahead into Gallery 69. In the middle under the balcony is the entrance. Please open the barrier, close it behind you, and go through the steel doors into Gallery 69a. At the back of the lobby area is a curved steel door. Please ring the doorbell to the right of the door." 

It was worth buying tickets to the exhibition just so I didn't have to queue to get in.

Familiar faces...
1and2.jpg.2d86becb0028207dd9250c7791d9cd76.jpg

Commodus with...erm...galleys and goats? and Severus Alexander showing off the Colosseum.
3and4.jpg.06eb71ed809f4463fd0307c5195c8308.jpg

The colourful shield and less colourful back of the shield.
5and6.jpg.b31cfacbff7725db4081203dcadf0711.jpg

A Roman tombstone found in Northumberland.
13.jpg.3b11205bad82fc913e2e52f24f978fe4.jpg

Not so invinsible. Cuirass found at the site of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 - the wearer had been in a shakle that went around his neck and bound his arms together - and a helmet made from the many pieces of Roman helmet found at Colchester from the time of Boudicca's revolt.
9and10.jpg.5c09e4c34b10ec584326b0e34fe3091b.jpg

Sword and hoard found in a burial of a soldier from Septimius Severus's victorious army after their defeat of Clodius Albinus at Lyon. The coins seem to be all of Flavians and Nerva–Antonines.
12.jpg.090988b6aeaea76ebf8785130f62cd15.jpg

A hoard of 126 aurei - over 10 years' wages for a soldier - heavy on Hadrian.
11.jpg.fa696e27f45c5ce6b1f47bf3d8ea3a1d.jpg

More familiar faces.
7and8.jpg.695300c39dc259c36a4104af661860c1.jpg

More pricey coins. Augustus denarius showing toga picta over tunica palmata between aquila and wreath. Claudius on horseback on his arch.
14and15.jpg.0cb6d95141bbf7c99f1d7688bdb3cb5e.jpg

Oh, and this is Gallery 69a. Shame the coins in the pictures weren't there.
IMG_2372.JPG.9e42a135e7aad5b8f922984b124930e3.JPG

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Posted (edited)

Nice. By the 4th and 5th centuries the.old rectangular shield fell out of use and was replaced by a round shield. The many patterns displayed on the shields seems to indicate that each unit had a custom design. The notitia dignitatum illustrates these in its list of soldiers of the line and auxiliaries. 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f1/Bodl_Canon.Misc.378_roll159B_frame28.jpg

There was a practical aspect in this since units could be identified in battle by their shields, useful for Roman on Roman combat I would suppose.

Edited by Ancient Coin Hunter
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19 minutes ago, Nerosmyfavorite68 said:

Who's the Mussolini-esque bust on the top right? 

Perhaps I'm just sleepy, but I'm guessing Galba.

Yes Galba. I was surprised how recognisable they were as statues rather than profiles on coins. But for some reason it doesn't sound cool if you can recognise Julia Domna across a crowded room.

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On 2/9/2024 at 6:29 PM, expat said:

The only complete surviving legionary long shield on display at Legion: life in the Roman army at the British Museum

What's interesting about the rectangular scutum design is that it was specific to the roman army, supporting one of their battlefield tactics - the "testudo" (tortoise) formation, where the rectangular scutum allowed a group of soldiers to hold their shields side-by-side, both in front and above them, giving protection from arrows/spears raining down on them, or other projectiles thrown at them during siege warfare. Rome's enemies, not using this tactic, used smaller round/oval shields that were presumably more convenient to the thrust and parry of man-to-man combat.

Here's a depiction of the testudo formation being used from Trajan's column (which also shows the oval shields of the enemy), and another from a reenactment group.

image.png.3f9655e0fe3ec918b847a8a2ac4cb6d9.png

image.png.deadf6269e1a7a069d78c3a5c8ff5a1c.png

When we see images on coins of Romans spearing fallen enemy, any enemy shield depicted is usually an oval one as is appropriate for a foreign/barbarian adversary. Here's an example on a coin of Constantine (issued by Maxentius).

image.png.87423d01310ea68f0246036fef179a5f.png

The coin below, an unlisted type (VIRTVS AVGGG - triple-G) issued by Constantine after his victory over Maxentius, with my specimen being for Maximinus II, is interesting in that it instead accurately depicts the fallen enemy with a rectangular scutum shield, since this was a civil war and the enemy were Romans (Maxentius' army).

image.png.46853f3dd3681c9d41a0a47cdc747e9e.png

While the Romans loved celebrating victories, a civil war, with Romans killing their own, was obviously a bit of a touchy matter, which may account for the rarity of a type showing such an explicit scene.

Edited by Heliodromus
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I went along to the exhibition today and spent a very enjoyable hour and a half walking round. It seems very popular. I took a few photos. I will share a few here of some bits not covered already....

A purse and denarii from inside it buried at a Roman fort. Found in Bridoswald fort in Cumbria. Showing the range in dates of coins being held together. Republic through to Trajan with the older coins given more evident wear than the later coins.

20240407_112434-Denarii.jpg.0e1dbcbacce08735f4a7371659a4723f.jpg

Draco head - found in Niederbieber, Germany

20240407_114307-Crop.jpg.ce9dbf4c0dc0c3c5d19ce80a2b75d193.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

I found this of interest on my way towards the exit. A tray containing coins from the collection of King George III, including a 12 Caesars collection in gold. There is a fake Brutus aureus on the top right.

20240407_123213.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

"The many patterns displayed on the shields seems to indicate that each unit had a custom design. The notitia dignitatum illustrates these in its list of soldiers of the line and auxiliaries. 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f1/Bodl_Canon.Misc.378_roll159B_frame28.jpg

"There was a practical aspect in this since units could be identified in battle by their shields, useful for Roman on Roman combat I would suppose."

(@Ancient Coin Hunter, 5 April)

"What's interesting about the rectangular scutum design is that it was specific to the roman army, supporting one of their battlefield tactics - the "testudo" (tortoise) formation, where the rectangular scutum allowed a group of soldiers to hold their shields side-by-side, both in front and above them, giving protection from arrows/spears raining down on them, or other projectiles thrown at them during siege warfare. Rome's enemies, not using this tactic, used smaller round/oval shields that were presumably more convenient to the thrust and parry of man-to-man combat.

"Here's a depiction of the testudo formation being used from Trajan's column (which also shows the oval shields of the enemy), and another from a reenactment group.

image.png.3f9655e0fe3ec918b847a8a2ac4cb6d9.png

image.png.deadf6269e1a7a069d78c3a5c8ff5a1c.png"

(@Heliodromus, 9 April)

Thanks to both of you for these posts!  From a medieval kind of place, both of them immediately invite comparison to later developments.   ...Wish you could stop me!  But identification on the battlefield is generally seen as the origin of heraldry.  Kind of a no-brainer.  And even with the ostensibly Norman 'kite-shaped' shields, transitioning directly from oval ones, the 'shield wall' was a common tactic among Vikings and Anglo-Saxons.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shield_wall#/media/File:Bayeux_Tapestry_4.jpg

Edited by JeandAcre
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