The story starts with Julius Caesar. Near the end of his successful conquest of Gaul (modern France) Caesar and his legions twice invaded Britain, once in 55BCE and again in 54BCE. Although he failed to conquer Britain, he defeated several British tribes in battle. More importantly some British tribes became friends and allies of the Romans.
Nearly a hundred years later in 41CE, the 50-year-old Claudius became Emperor of Rome. Claudius never expected to become Emperor but he was a clever leader. He understood that, in order to protect his position, he needed to impress the Roman people. One way to do this was by conquest, through which he could add more land, money and people to the Empire. Not only was Britain rich in minerals and good farming land, it was also the place that the most famous of all Romans, Julius Caesar, had failed to conquer.
It is around this time that a prince or king called Verica comes to Claudius for help. Verica is from a British tribe, the Atrebates, who are still friends with the Romans. His tribe is being attacked and over-run by another British tribe, the Catuvellauni. As a friend of Rome, Claudius has no choice but to help Verica and his tribe and orders the legions to Britain. Of course, the story of Verica arriving at just the right time could be a made up story, or perhaps a half-truth, to give the Romans an excuse to invade. Whether because of Verica or the need to prove himself, in 43CE Claudius and his legions invaded Britain.
Numbers changed over the years, but during the time of the conquest of Britain there were around 30 legions, each of around 5,000 to 5,500 legionaries, making a total of about 160,000 all of them soldiers who were Roman citizens.
Besides the legionaries, there were also the non-citizen Auxiliary soldiers. Organised mostly in cohorts of either 500 or 1000 men, these totalled somewhere around 200,000.
The personal bodyguard of the emperor, the Praetorian Guard, numbered around 10,000 and we should also count the marines and sailors of the Roman navy.
The grand total comes to just under half a million. This might sound a lot but if you think about the size of the Roman Empire it is not actually a large number.
The army that invaded Britain was about 45,000 to 50,000 strong (around 10% of the entire Roman army).
This depended on whether the soldiers were out on campaign or living in forts.
The basic food of the Roman soldier was wheat. Each soldier was entitled to 3lb (1.4kg) per day. Wheat was normally either ground up into flour to make bread or crushed up to make porridge or it could be just boiled and eaten. Soldiers were also issued with acetum (sour wine) to mix with water to drink and olive oil for cooking.
When on campaign the soldiers might also get cheese, meat (sometimes fresh but often dried) or fish (again sometimes fresh but usually dried). They would also forage for whatever they could find from the land and would hunt wild animals, fish or birds to add to their rations.
When living in forts the diet was usually a little more varied. As well as their wheat, wine and olive oil ration there could be cheese, eggs, vegetables and seasonal fruits, along with meat, fish and shellfish. With a little more time on their hands in forts, they could also use some of their wheat to make biscuits or cakes, sometimes flavoured with or dipped in a little honey. Game, fish or birds were sometimes added to their rations.
Roman soldiers had two main meals a day: prandium (breakfast) at the start of the working day and cena (dinner) at the end of the day. Breakfast was traditionally a light meal for the Romans and typically the soldiers might eat a little porridge or bread, the bread perhaps dipped in olive oil or wine to add flavour. The main meal might be bread with cheese, eggs or a little meat or fish; or bread with a thick vegetable soup or stew, sometimes with meat or fish added.
Ordinary Roman soldiers were not allowed to get married. The Roman army did not want the trouble and expense of having to feed and house the families of soldiers, and they wanted soldiers to concentrate on fighting wars and battles, and not worry about whether their families were safe or not.
Whatever the army rules said, many soldiers met women they liked, fell in love, married and had families. The Roman government would not recognise these marriages as official or any children as Roman citizens until the soldier left the army and married his partner ‘officially’.
Unofficial wives and families were not allowed to live inside Roman forts so they set up home in camps outside the walls, often near the fort’s back gate. The soldiers would visit their families when they were off duty. There seem to have been a few cases where members of a soldier’s immediate family (perhaps a parent or brother or sister) also lived in these camps.
Because Roman soldiers received pay, traders were attracted to these camps. If a legion was based in the same fort for a long time, sometimes for years or even decades, these camps could become permanent settlements with shops, bars, cafes, baths, amphitheatres and all the other things associated with Roman living.
The minimum or maximum age for joining the Roman army is not known. This is because no original Roman record survives. The only original mention is in The Epitome of Military Science by the 4th or 5th century CE writer Vegetius who says that ideally new recruits should be ‘adolescents’.
Over the years archaeologists have dug up many tombstones belonging to Roman soldiers. From this information it seems that most men joined the Roman army in their late teens to middle twenties (about the same sort of ages as today’s army recruits). The youngest person we know of joined up when he was 13 (but he probably lied about his age), and the oldest was 38.
Most ordinary Roman soldiers came from poorer backgrounds and worked from a very early age. By the time they decided to join the army many would have been working for perhaps ten years or more.
This is the ‘apron’ of decorated straps that hang down from the front of most Roman soldier’s belts.
We are not certain what the apron was for. We do know that the apron, along with the belt it was attached to and the pugio (dagger) that was often hung from the belt, were usually expensively decorated. Soldiers wore them even when they were off-duty. This suggests that they belonged to the soldier rather than being army issue and that the soldiers were using them to show off their status and wealth.
The apron also seems to be an attempt to add a bit of protection to the soldier’s ‘vital bits’.
This would be our Portrait of an African, painted in about 1757-60. Although it is world famous, scholars do not all agree on who it is.
A few years ago many believed that it was Olaudah Equiano, a campaigner against slavery. Now most agree that it must be someone else – but who? I have argued that it is probably Ignatius Sancho, another African who freed himself from Slavery and became a writer, composer and celebrity in the 1700s.
Our oldest glass made in England, and still in one piece, is known as the Exeter Flute. This is a tall drinking glass engraved with the head of King Charles II. It was made in about 1660 to celebrate his coronation.
Not all of them. Many are at least two hundred years old but are so well made that with a good clean and oiling they will still run.
Some of our old clocks will be kept running for visitors to see in the new RAMM.
Our largest painting by a long way is The Entry of King Richard II and Bolingbroke into London, painted by James Northcote in 1793. It measures 303.5 x 394 cm, even without the frame.
All together we have about 7,350 but we don’t have the space to show them all at once. This includes oil paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints.
The collections I work with include pictures, silver, pottery, glass, clocks and watches and costume.
I answer questions from the public and display the collections in RAMM and elsewhere.
I also create exhibitions using works of art borrowed from other museums as well as our own.
This term describes the islands in the Pacific Ocean, which is split into three regions; Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. However, Oceania also includes some of the islands in South East Asia because of the very close cultural connections between peoples.
To be a curator of ethnography you need a degree in a subject such as social anthropology or archaeology. You then need extra postgraduate qualifications in museum studies. You need to know about working with collections, exhibitions and public events, so volunteering or work experience at a museum is really helpful. Start as an assistant curator to gain lots of experience and skills. You have got to be really interested in people!
Yes, we have objects from early voyages of exploration such as Captain James Cook (1728-1779), Vice-Admiral William Bligh (1745-1817) and Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798). Important items from these voyages continue to survive such as the Tahitian Mourner's costume. There is also a copper-alloy head that was looted from Benin City during the British Punitive Expedition of 1897.
We also look after the ceremonial regalia that was once owned by Crowfoot (who was called Issapoomahsika by his people). He was a very important leader of the Blackfoot people from 1866 until his death in 1890.
There is lots more information on our World Cultures Online website
A three cm long carving of two deities from a single grain of wheat. It is a 19th century souvenir which comes from the Ise JingÅ« temple complex in Japan.
It's a piece of bark cloth of stencilled motifs that measures 560cm in length and 140 cm in width and it comes from Vanua Levu in Fiji
The oldest item in the Ethnography collection is a hand axe made from stone called quartzite from South Africa. It is about one million years old.
Many museums in Britain were built in the 19th century, including RAMM which opened to the public in 1869. At the height of the British Empire in the 19th century, many Exeter citizens worked overseas as colonial officers, soldiers, missionaries, travellers and traders. Their time abroad often meant returning with interesting items. Often these items were acquired as souvenirs, curios or gifts. Some items were purchased in connection with their work. Others were taken away from the local people through missionary work, or captured during military activity.
Over the years many people have donated their collections to RAMM so that they can be looked after, and seen by the public. We still collect artefacts for our Ethnographic collection but nowadays these items are always donated to us and, on rare occasions, even purchased by us.
They come from many parts of the world and vary in age. The collection is split into five geographic areas Africa, Americas, Asia, Oceania and the Near East. There are some items from Europe but they are small in number.
In the Museum, the Curator of Ethnography cares for the collections, conducts research into artefacts and cultures, and shares this information widely. He or she makes sure that the collection is accessed through exhibitions, educational activities, lectures, the website and publications.
Ethnographers describe human cultures. Its origins began in the mid-19th century when there was a need for scientists to study the development of human societies. Today this is better known as cultural anthropology. Museum ethnographers use anthropology (the study of the origins and social relationships of human beings) to make historic cultural items, and the people who made them, relevant to the peoples of our time.
Ethnography comes from two Greek words, 'ethnos' and 'graphein' meaning 'people' and 'writing'
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