Show me:
and
Clear all filters

  • 35 items
  • 25 items Explore
  • 89 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,431 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 871 items
  • 4 items
  • 220 items
  • 12,617 items Explore
  • 209 items Explore
  • 1,229 items Explore
  • 8,493 items Explore
  • 5,043 items Explore
  • 1 items Explore
  • 167 items Explore
  • 12,977 items Explore
  • 13,621 items Explore
  • 4,806 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 5 items
  • 153 items Explore
  • 2,009 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 4,747 items Explore
  • 17 items Explore
  • 437 items Explore
  • 267 items
  • 19,928 items Explore
  • 34 items Explore
  • 1,911 items Explore
  • 1,083 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 2,049 items Explore
  • 449 items Explore
  • 919 items Explore
  • 1 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 7 items
  • 20,280 items Explore
  • 800 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 73 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 797 items
  • 20 items
  • 4 items
  • 26 items
  • 61 items
  • 28 items
  • 319 items Explore
  • 6 items
  • 44 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 2 items
  • 7 items
  • 121 items Explore
  • 119 items
  • 1 items
  • 1,020 items Explore
  • 812 items
  • 95 items
  • 27 items
  • 108 items
  • 36,941 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,869 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,533 items Explore
  • 403 items
  • 125 items Explore
  • 11,209 items Explore
  • 9,683 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1 items
  • 38 items
  • 3 items
  • 4 items
  • 7,090 items Explore
  • 7,461 items Explore
  • 4,517 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 1,873 items Explore
  • 1,192 items Explore
  • 22,344 items Explore
  • 3,662 items Explore
  • 17 items
  • 5 items
  • 334 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,385 items Explore
  • 23 items Explore
  • 352 items Explore
  • 796 items Explore
  • 1,091 items Explore
  • 513 items Explore
  • 1,143 items Explore
  • 89 items
  • 125 items Explore
  • 6,950 items Explore
  • 170 items
  • 310 items
  • 4 items
  • 2 items
  • 63 items
  • 2 items
  • 2,935 items Explore
  • 1,579 items Explore
  • 202 items
  • 91 items
  • 22,040 items Explore
  • 1,235 items Explore
  • 138 items
  • 843 items Explore
  • 32 items
  • 132 items Explore
  • 40 items
  • 20 items
  • 281 items
  • 313 items
  • 684 items Explore
  • 346 items Explore
  • 2,428 items
  • 2,535 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,385 items Explore
  • 41,282 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 3,294 items Explore
  • 275 items Explore
  • 8,590 items Explore
  • 31 items
  • 25 items
  • 304 items Explore
  • 776 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 65 items
  • 161 items
  • 58 items
  • 52 items
  • 22,463 items Explore
  • 917 items
  • 65 items
  • 22,564 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 2,338 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 1,028 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 3 items
  • 759 items
  • 499 items
  • 4 items
  • 3,305 items Explore
  • 177 items
  • 59 items
  • 11 items
  • 455 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 21 items
  • 90 items Explore
  • 76 items
  • 281 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 6 items
  • 129 items
  • 295 items
  • 447 items
  • 286 items
  • 1 items
  • 790 items Explore
  • 271 items Explore
  • 11,291 items Explore
  • 756 items Explore
  • 6,051 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 8,015 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1 items
  • 5,874 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 3,719 items Explore
  • 9,192 items Explore
  • 7,811 items Explore
  • 185 items
  • 19 items
  • 142 items
  • 7 items
  • 853 items Explore
  • 19 items
  • 2,361 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,096 items Explore
  • 269 items
  • 1 items
  • 3,540 items Explore
  • 695 items Explore
  • 18 items
  • 134 items
  • 6,718 items Explore
  • 93 items
  • 18,755 items Explore
  • 3,144 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 7 items
  • 10,982 items Explore
  • 37 items
  • 4 items
  • 2 items
  • 21,533 items Explore
  • 38 items
  • 13,225 items Explore
  • 3,460 items Explore
  • 5,587 items Explore
  • 33 items
  • 46,959 items Explore
  • 644 items Explore
  • 417 items
  • 25,996 items Explore
  • 217 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 35 items
  • 27 items
  • 434 items Explore
  • 636 items
  • 217 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 13,115 items Explore
  • 1,355 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 10,260 items
  • 9 items
  • 10 items
  • 14 items
  • 25 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,537 items Explore
  • 913 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 1 items
  • 320 items
  • 703 items Explore
  • 42 items
  • 2,286 items Explore
  • 1,663 items Explore
  • 15 items
  • 1,876 items Explore
  • 150 items
  • 81 items
  • 756 items Explore
  • 3,063 items Explore
  • 43 items
  • 17 items
  • 12 items
  • 10,678 items Explore
  • 23,131 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 2 items
  • 41 items
  • 1,372 items
  • 180 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 92 items
  • 13,437 items Explore
  • 3,571 items Explore
  • 2,896 items Explore
  • 4,810 items Explore
  • 22 items
  • 42 items
  • 6,911 items Explore
  • 4,834 items Explore
  • 256 items Explore
  • 2,298 items Explore
  • 2,973 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 1,901 items Explore
  • 193 items
  • 223 items Explore
  • 466 items Explore
  • 6,117 items Explore
  • 8,738 items Explore
  • 1,865 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 1 items
  • 5,794 items Explore
  • 3,339 items Explore
  • 11,170 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 85 items
  • 11 items
  • 1,793 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 24 items
  • 51 items
  • 6 items
  • 1 items
  • 4,199 items Explore
  • 610 items Explore
  • 72 items
  • 17 items
  • 154 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 95 items Explore
  • 460 items
  • 996 items Explore
  • 3,555 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 5 items
  • 5 items
  • 9,482 items Explore
  • 48 items Explore
  • 3 items
  • 7 items
  • 42 items
  • 3 items
  • 13,745 items Explore
  • 1,158 items Explore
  • 92 items
  • 10,557 items Explore
  • 1,920 items
  • 18 items
  • 7,831 items Explore
  • 21 items
  • 12,933 items Explore
  • 1,417 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 9,673 items Explore
  • 15,028 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 1,667 items Explore
  • 181 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 5,675 items Explore
  • 12,194 items Explore
  • 48 items
  • 25 items
  • 2 items
  • 3 items
  • 7,219 items Explore
  • 357 items Explore
  • 13 items
  • 4 items
  • 6 items
  • 103 items Explore
  • 7 items
  • 5 items
  • 491 items
  • 664 items Explore
  • 8,389 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 7,347 items Explore
  • 5 items
  • 26 items
  • 4,478 items Explore
  • 428 items
  • 9 items
  • 339 items Explore
  • 12,703 items Explore
  • 55 items
  • 20 items
  • 7 items
  • 4 items
  • 325 items Explore
  • 434 items
  • 499 items
  • 3,704 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 1,232 items Explore
  • 2,502 items Explore
  • 734 items Explore
  • 36 items
  • 1,139 items Explore
  • 97 items Explore
  • 24 items
  • 228 items Explore
  • 79,008 items Explore
  • 3,058 items Explore
  • 2,876 items Explore
  • 24 items
  • 5,338 items Explore
  • 1,831 items Explore
  • 4 items
  • 17,486 items Explore
  • 4,762 items Explore
  • 1 items
  • 7 items
  • 632 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 1 items
  • 31 items
  • 1 items
  • 76 items
  • 29 items
  • 86 items
  • 3 items
  • 1,178 items Explore
  • 109 items
  • 805 items
  • 12,217 items Explore
  • 27 items
  • 13 items
  • 1,559 items Explore
  • 214 items
  • 17,043 items Explore
  • 85 items
  • 17 items
  • 1 items
  • 8 items
  • 324 items
  • 2 items
  • 626 items Explore
  • 1,593 items Explore
  • 8 items
  • 1,034 items Explore
  • 2 items
  • 308 items

Select a time period

Or choose a specific year

Clear all filters

Ring of Senicianus

Category

Jewellery

Date

350 AD - 450 AD

Materials

Gold

Measurements

2.5 cm (Diameter); 12 g (Weight)

Place of origin

Britain

Order this image

Collection

Vyne Estate, Hampshire

NT 719789

Caption

Sometime in the 5th century, near the edge of the Roman town of Silchester (ruins north of Basingstoke, Hampshire), someone lost a valuable gold ring. The ring lay buried in the ground until 1785, when a farmer ploughing his field, perhaps catching a glint from the precious metal, recovered it and no doubt pondered upon its story. The size suggests it was made for a man’s finger, and its multiple inscriptions can be linked to both the Roman religion and early Christianity, including the words ‘Venus’ (Roman goddess of love and victory) and ‘Senicianus live in God’. At this time, pagan religions and Christianity existed side by side. Did the original owner use the ring to mark a conversion, or was he perhaps attempting to practise two faiths? The ring was later acquired by the Chute family, who owned The Vyne, a Tudor mansion nearby. In the past it has been wrongly identified as the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Summary

Gold ring with a faceted ten-sided hoop attached to a square bezel probably intended to be used as a signet ring. The bezel has an engraved profile bust facing left surrounded by a Latin inscription which in impression reads VENVS. There is a second inscription on the hoop; Seniciane vivas [i]n De(o). Late Roman, c.350-450AD.

Full description

Discovered at Silchester in North Hampshire around 1785, this gold ring is an important example of late Romano-British craftsmanship, which has fascinated researchers since the 1880s. The ring is made from gold and consists of a 10-sided faceted hoop with a square bezel attached to it. Both the hoop and the bezel have individual Latin inscriptions carved on them. The hoop's inscription reads Seniciane vivas [i]n De(o), which translates into English as 'Senicianus live in God'. The bezel has an engraved profile bust facing left which is surrounded by a Latin inscription which in impression reads VENVS or 'Venus'. The characteristics of the bezel suggest that it was intended to be used as a signet ring. The two inscriptions appear to be somewhat contradictory, with the bezel implying a devotion to the Roman goddess Venus, while the phrase on the hoop is normally associated with early British Christians. Around 1785, the ring was discovered by a farmer while ploughing near the ruins of the Roman city of Calleva Atrebatum near Silchester in Hampshire, around 4 miles north of The Vyne. It was shown at the Society of Antiquaries in London on 12 January 1786 by Lord Arden, but then disappeared only to re-emerge in the collection of the Chute family at The Vyne in the 1880s. This re-discovery coincided with the discovery of a lead plaque related to the Temple of Nodens at the Romano-British site at Lydney Park in Gloucestershire. Nodens was a Celtic god associated with healing, and the Lydney site was a major place of worship and pilgrimage. The Lydney tablet reads: Deuo Nodenti Siluianus anilam perdedit demediam partem donauit Nodenti inter quibus nomen Seniciani nollis petmittas sanita tem donec perfera[t] usque templum [No] dentis Which in English reads: 'To the god Nodens Silvianus has lost his ring and given half (its value) to Nodens. Among those who are called Senicianus do not allow health until he brings it back to the temple of Nodens'. The main temple building at Lydney has been interpreted as containing a large dormitory for sick pilgrims and it is possible that the ring was stolen while the owner slept there. Soon after the plaque's discovery was announced, it was connected by antiquaries to the ring at The Vyne. Exactly how the ring had made it into the Chute family's collection is unknown. The discovery of the plaque and its suggested link to The Vyne fascinated Chaloner Wiggett Chute (1838-1892) the then owner of the house who was in the process of writing his book The History of The Vyne and he arranged for both the ring and the plaque to be drawn to be included in its publication. It seems likely that the plaster copy of the plaque, NT 719790 entered The Vyne's collection at this time too. Even in the 1880s there was no agreement on the link between the ring and the plaque and this continued into the 20th-Century with Chaloner's son Sir Charles corresponding with the Cambridge academic Jocelyn Toynbee over it. If it is the same ring the as the one referenced on the plaque then it is difficult to explain why it has Senicianus' name on it rather than Silvanus', although suggestions have been made that it was made to protect him from the curse. Ultimately, it seems unlikely the plaque and its curese, and the ring are linked. This in part is due to the distance between Lydney and Silchester, but also the fact that it was discovered near a major contemporary settlement where it quite possibly could have been made. Even without the link, the ring is still of considerable importance for understanding late Roman Britain and its shifting sands of power and religious adherence. Probably made in the early 5th Century AD, and quite possibly at Calleva Atrebatum where it was found, its iconography and inscriptions reflect an owner who was living in this rapidly changing period of time, where Roman power was beginning to wane over its British province. When considering the bezel (Corby Finney, 1994, p.183), Corby Finney regarded its iconography as potentially unique within surviving known examples from anywhere in the Roman world. The face on the bezel is exaggerated and almost looks half-human, half-animal, making it appear primitive and dramatic. While it is not clear what it is meant to be or represent, it is not a recognisable image of the Roman goddess Venus. The inscription on the band also has similar curious issues, with it missing off the final dative 'O' for the word 'Deo'. This could simply be an engravers error, or reflect that the bezel is a later addition to the band, and when it was attached it simply covered the letter up. Whatever the case here, the inscription can be linked to several other examples of rings from Roman Britiain which were worn by Christians displaying their faith. What then was the owner trying to show with this ring? Perhaps he was trying to protect himself form a curse for stealing this very ring, but more likely he was a convert to Christianity who was re-purposing his ring to display his new faith. Or perhaps, as Toynbee (1968, p.190) has argued he was a Christian who equated his faith with love, and therefore included Venus, the goddess of love, as an appropriate symbol of his religion.

Provenance

Discovered at, or near Silchester c.1785 and at The Vyne before 1880. Bequeathed to the National Trust along with the contents of The Vyne by Sir Charles Chute, Bt in 1956.

Credit line

The Vyne, Chute collection (National Trust)

Exhibition history

Rings of Honour, State Museum for Prehistory, Halle, 2019 - 2020

References

Archaeologia, or, Miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity / 1770-, Vol. 8 [1787], p.449 Bathurst 1879: William Hiley Bathurst, Roman Antiquities at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1879) Anon 1866: Anon, 'Excursion to Monks' Sherborne, The Vyne, Basing House, June 22nd, 1880', Transactions of the Newbury District Field Club, 3 (1875-1886), 115-127 James 1881: J.James, 'On a Roman Ring', Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 6 (1881-1882), 75-79 Haverfield 1888: F.Haverfield, 'Further Remarks on the Ring of Senicianus', Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 13 (1888-1889), 203-204. Chute, Chaloner W. (Chaloner William), A history of the Vyne in Hampshire., 1888, pp.7-10 Toynbee 1968: Jocelyn M. C. Toynbee, 'Pagan Motifs and Practices in Christian Art and Ritual in Roman Britain', in M. W. Barley and R. P. C. Hanson, Christianity in Britain, 300-700 (Leicester University Press, 1968), 177-192 Finney 1994: Paul Corby Finney, 'Senicianus' Ring', Bonner Jahrbücher, 194 (1994), 175-196

View more details