Last year the Beau Street Hoard came to Radstock museum in the form of a Roadshow. This event proved to be so successful that last month Radstock asked the Roman Baths collection team to bring the coins back, this time as a temporary display. It would be during the village’s ‘Radstock in Bloom,’ this year’s theme being ‘Romans in Radstock.’
Unbelievably, Susan and Verity asked me to put this display together. I was over the moon when asked if I wanted to do it, for display design is something I want to do in the future. Immediately I began brainstorming and researching different subjects and approaches for this exhibit. I had to consider what would catch the public’s interest, show them that this collection was not just ‘a bunch of old coins’ but something fascinating and historically important.
Eventually I settled upon focusing on the coin reverses and their connotations. This idea was spurred by my interest in the reverses for the Roman women on the coins. All of them (except for Otacilia and her hippo) were paired with a symbol or deity that promoted their character. I noticed this when cataloguing Herennia Etruscilla’s coins: On many is the image of Pudicitia, the female version of Roman Virtus. There are no English equivalents for either word, but in short Virtus was the ideal roman male while Pudicitia was the ideal roman female, staying out of trouble and remaining loyal to her husband. Looking at the other ladies, all their coins followed the same idea. Salonina’s coin depicted Juno, the Queen of the gods and the goddess of marriage. Thus her character and status as Empress were upheld by associating herself with the world’s most loyal wife and most powerful goddess.
I then moved on to study the Emperors’ coins. Like the ladies their coins served to promote their image, but unlike the ladies they covered far more different stances. Elagabalus had the military standards and an eagle on his coins, showing him as a strong emperor who would continue Rome’s legacy of glory and conquest. Hostilian compared himself to the war god Mars, a strong favourite of Rome, embodying the perfect Roman soldier. Severus Alexander even had Annona, the representation of the grain supply to Rome, in an attempt to depict himself as a competent ruler who would sustain a prosperous Rome.
Before working on this display my knowledge about these coins was very limited. That is not to say I became a coin know-it-all overnight, but researching and having hands-on experience really gave me an in-depth chance at learning more about these ancient windows to the past.
Flora, Collections Placement