Traces of Empire: Roman Britain

Oct 29 2014

In our second blog on the Traces of Empire display at Weston Park, University of Leicester MA placement student, Josh Longley writes about his experiences working on the project.

As part of my MA Museum Studies course at the University of Leicester, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work with the archaeology team at Museums Sheffield. During this placement I was given the chance to work on the new display, Traces of Empire: Decoration and Design in Roman Britain. This display explores the near 400 year period of Roman occupation in Britain and allows visitors to glimpse some of the objects found in Sheffield and the local area dating from this time.

After the invasion of Britain in 43AD, Rome invested considerable resources in Britain, dedicating 10% of the Roman army to the occupation. This huge influx of people from across the Roman Empire brought changes to our country that we can still see today. The name ‘Britain’ has its origins in the Roman name for Britain ‘Britannia’, as does our capital city London labelled by the Romans as ‘Londinium’.

Glass bracelets from across the Roman Empire 100-300ADMy biggest surprise was how the research I undertook for the display challenged my previous views of Roman Britain. I had assumed that Britain was a cold, backwards province at the edge of the world, far away from the excitement of Rome. It became clear however that Britain was a very profitable and important part of the Roman Empire. There were three legions posted in Britain throughout most of the occupation and the local fort at Templeborough, while originally built for defence against the un-annexed Brigantes, was most likely kept occupied for so long to supervise mining activities in the Pennines. This would have provided a healthy profit for Rome.

The Roman occupation in Britain links our small island to the wider classical world and the objects on display in Traces of Empire tell the story of when Britain was part of one of the largest empires in history. The complexity and beauty of these objects demonstrates the culture flair and technological mastery that ancient Britons exhibited during and before the Roman period. Looking at these objects helps bring to life this lively period in British history.

Traces of Empire: Decoration and Design in Roman Britain is on display at Weston Park now - entry to the museum is free.


Top - Roman Silver Bracelets, 2nd-3rd century AD, found in Carlswark Cavern, Derbyshire in 1866 © Museums Sheffield
Bottom - Glass bracelets from across the Roman Empire, 100-300AD © Museums Sheffield



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