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Romans at Rhiwarthen

Collections - Posted 29-11-2021

Until the founding of Ceredigion Museum the National Library of Wales had become the natural repository for interesting items found locally. Subsequently many of these items found their way to more relevant institutions. Working in the most interesting department of the Library and having insatiable curiosity can have its advantages, especially with regard to overlooked brown boxes containing shards of terracotta and numerous small coins covered in verdigris.

A note inside this particular box reads “List of coins in National Library of Wales from hoard found at Aberystwyth 1890.” Further use of Library resources found no trace of such a discovery but at some point a Mr. D T Harris presented the remains of a coin hoard to the Library. This was originally found at Rhiwarthen Isaf, nr Capel Bangor in 1881 and referred to in Archaeologica Cambrensis as comprising thousands of coins. It passed through the hands of a Mrs Morgan who made jewellery and bracelets out of, presumably, the better condition coins. This is the most likely source of our hoard, which fortunately was closely examined by ‘A.S.R.’ in 1948 who meticulously identified many of the 900 or so coins remaining.

Tetricus and Galienus may, depending on your bent, sound like Premiership football players or pharmaceutical products for uncomfortable intestinal problems. In fact they are third century Roman Emperors who post-humously have through their coinage reached the inner sanctum of the National Library of Wales. Other coins are from the reigns of Postunus, Victorinus and Claudius II. All reigned during the 260s and 270s A.D. suggesting the hoard was buried around 280 A.D. to be discovered some 1600 years later.

Wil Troughton
Photograph Curator

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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