: Silver and Mercury Alloy
: Second Half of the 2nd Century AD to C. 210 AD
: Roman Provincial
: An Antiquities Dealer in Germany, from an Old German Collection, found in England
This Legionary Ring of the VI Victrix is made from an alloy of silver and mercury. Although this has preserved the ring, it has also made it highly reflective and therefore very difficult to photograph. It is an American size 10 3/4 to an 11. Besides the miniature art there are many Roman inscriptions. The dux Lucius Artorius Castus, the Armorican expedition, and the key figures of that expedition are named. If you are inclined toward the "Artorius as the Roman Arthur theory" and are looking for an idea of what he may have had for an "Excalibur", then take your pick with the images posted here. There are a few to choose from, although the key is most likely a combination of all of them, but with a focus on the status of the spatha / Parazonium. It appears that there was also a legendary Briton Celtic Royal Chieftain that as a Roman Officer was leading Cavalry Auxiliaries along Hadrian's Wall; he may have been one of Artorius's Cavalry Commanders and the actual Arthur figure (but with a connection to Artorius's name). His two swords may have been where the "British sword in the stone" legend originates from. This ring may have been made long after Castus's command, but it is also possible that the Legionary (or attached Auxiliary) of the VI Victrix who wore this ring had been a member of that expedition. When possible I will post pictures of the inscriptions and improve the quality of the current pictures.
Pictures 1 thru 5 show the deeply engraved letters "VICTRIX"; each letter has some design and is made to appear as if moving to the right. The most distinct of these is the letter "C"; it is made as a bull / mule head, and is longer. This suggests a break in the letters, hence the "VI", then "CTRIX" for "VI Victrix". Between these letters there is a small "H", a small "T', a turret figure, and a face. The "H" and "T" may stand for Habitancum (an outpost fort along Hadrian's Wall) or Hadrianus Traianus, or both of these. This can also appear as gate, perhaps a main gate referred to as Hadrian's Gate, with another perspective it can be seen as a sword (with a cruciform hilt) in the ground. The turret figure has a stick, plus smaller figures on it that may have something to do with the tanning of hides. Pictures 6 thru 10 show in the "R" what looks like a cat man's face with a mustache (therefore he must be a Briton Celt, but perhaps a Northerner). Behind his face and in front of the diagonal arm of the "R" is a sword shape (it less like a Roman Gladius and more like a Celtic short sword). It is pointing to the bottom of the "I". The "I" itself is shaped like a Celtic long sword or Roman spatha. The "R" sword blade should symbolize a male short sword and the "I" sword blade should symbolize a female long sword blade (these should be matched with the two hilts). In Pictures 11 thru 13 the "X" with the "I" is shaped like a highly stylized Roman Officer Attic helmet but with two horns or feathers suggesting a Celtic helmet; the "R" sword blade is like a pointed sword. There is a scene below this that suggests an attack and rescue. This should represent a Romano Celtic Knight (that may have been a Celtic Chieftain). The bottom of the "I" has two stylized statue type sword hilts, one is more distinct and looks a like a "sword in the stone". The upper part of the "R" is like a dragon streamer curved over a helmet or hat, or both of these (this also looks like an arm holding a torch). In Picture 10 the "R" and the "I" can be seen as the front of a boar (or bull) with the torch in the center of the forehead and the two sword blades as tusks. If the "R" is put together with the last two letters then it will spell "RIX"; this is the Celtic word for king. The "R" is also shaped like a "Legionary R'" (this is an "R" as a stick figure marching with a foot forward). This may represent a Briton Celtic Auxiliary leader who was also a Chieftain (from Royal heritage) who was in the service of Rome. Due to the letter "R" it could even be suggested that his title may have been " Rixothamus" (Riothamus*). Over these are figures done in punch dot. To the left there is a group with spears forward (best seen in Pictures 7 and 8). Although these are stylized, this is no doubt our first look at the Picts. Pictures 15 thru 21 show that the top of the "C" and the "T" form a type of bowie knife with a face pommel. What cannot be seen is a wolf or cat (over and in the opposite direction of the mule) biting the knife. When seen at another angle this can also appear as a club; the pommel head can also appear as an axe head. The knife has a Roman inscription. These weapons may represent a legendary Pictish or Celtic tribal leader's weapons, which may have been put on Hadrian's Wall. It is even possible that the tribal leader was buried with these on or near Hadrian's Wall. Next to this are figures done in punch dot. One very large figure in furs and / or sheepskin is distinct; this may be the tribal leader.
Right Ring Band Side:
If this is worn on a finger of the left hand with the bezel inscription pointing outward, then this is the side that would be facing the wearer. In my opinion this side and the other side of the ring's band is almost exclusively about Lucius Artorius Castus and his Armorican Expedition. Pictures 22 thru 32 show two banners. To the viewer, one is facing to the right and the other to the left. The right banner shows a bear's head, but also a sheep's head. On this is inscribed a bind letter "A" with a larger "L"; to the right of this is the letter "B". This should represent Legions of Alae (Cavalry Wing) Britannia. The banner on the left is shaped like a square headed dog dragon; there is a large raised "S" done in scroll. This work is very similar to what is seen with the dragon on the "Roman Officer's Gold Gilded Scale Armor Piece" with this collection. Further to the left is another dragonesque face that may be that of a Sarmatian; it suggests that the Sarmatians may have tattooed their faces. (Note that this art appears to be far eastern as in ancient Chinese). Next to the letter "S" are the letters "A", "O", and "R", which should stand for Sarmatia or Sarmatians. At a future date I will photograph an area that shows that the Sarmatians ate dogs as well as horses. Based on what is seen with legionary war dog artifacts, it is evident that the Roman legionaries had an affection for their dogs. It can be expected that the legionaries who witnessed this practice held the Sarmatians in great disdain. Heavily engraved is a gladius pointed downward at an angle. In my opinion this further validates the inscription in Croatia that states that the dux Lucius Artorius Castus led Legions of Cohorts of Alarum (suggesting a very large Cavalry Wing); it also shows that half their numbers were Sarmatians and that the other half were from various Roman Cavalry units in Britain.
Right Ring Band Side Upside Down:
Pictures 33 thru 38 show the band is now engraved with what resembles stacked chevrons; obviously these chevrons are also the visors of four Roman Officer helmets (including the other side there are a total of eight). Each of these is made to appear as a horse's head and neck; they apparently represent specific types of Senatorial or Equestrian ranks. On this first side they are as follows: Of a dux (Special General) but also most probably the same as a Legatus legionis (Commander of a Legion); Tribunus laticlavius (Tribune, second in social status, but third in command); Tribunus laticlavius (one of five a legion's Tribunes of Equestrian rank); the third visor is of a Praefectus of Auxillaries; the wavy bottom clearly identifies it as being of a Praefectus classis (Naval Fleet Commander). Back to the first visor, this is distinctly different from the others. Its size is in between the Tribunes and the Praefectus classis; it is also shaped in a type of pentagon (much like a house or a temple); it is the visor of the overall commander. On the visor there is an inscription that reads L A C; next to and under the "C" in smaller letters it reads "ASTUS". This can also read as "CASTA". At another angle the "L" can read as a "D"; this should be a reference to Lucius Artorius Castus as a dux (Special General) of the VI Victrix and Legions of Cohorts of Cavalry, but also as a previous Praefectus Castrorum (Camp Commander and second in command) of the VI Victrix. Pictures 39 and 40 show the gladius in detail. It is different as its spiral form suggests that it symbolizes the nautical, rope, and horses. This hints at my theory of the Inuit "lady of the sea legend" of the Narwhal horn rising out of the sea (a symbol of rope, etc. but also resembling a sword) was the origin of the "lady of the lake" legend. Pictures 41 thru 46 show a one eyed female that is connected to the gladius; this further suggests a "lady of the lake" sword legend. This gladius appears to be associated with the Praefectus classis, but also possibly the Sarmatians. The fact that the visor of a Praefectus classis is on this side suggests that the Armorican expedition was also expected to be or had been a naval engagement (not just a naval transport). Pictures 47 thru 50 show various faces and scenes of the expedition; of interest is the scene on the second visor from the right (best viewed in Picture 49). In Pictures 50 thru 53 the band has been turned upside down; it shows more faces and scenes of the expedition.
Left Ring Band Side:
Pictures 54 thru 59 show in the center pointing downward (as if sheathed) a spatha, but it appears that it is also a Parazonium. On the pommel there is an eagle head, but above this is the head of a European Wild Cat (most likely a symbol for Northern Britannia, it should be connected to the cat man's face seen in the letter "R"). A diagonal line also hints of a symbolic cruciform hilt, but yet at an angle (perhaps suggesting a water compass). On the grip there is a bind letter symbol that reads "S C" but also as "B S", this should be the abbreviations for Senatus Consulto (the Roman Senate) but also "Britannia Septimus" (Northern Britain)**. This is the overall primary weapon on this ring.
Left Ring Band Side Upside Down:
Pictures 60 thru 62 show the band's heavy engravings as once again four stacked chevrons. There are three that appear to be of Tribunus laticlavii; the bottom visor is that of a Praefectus Alae (Cavalry Wing Commander). The helmet visor is the same as the Praefectus classis on the other side, but it does not have a wavy bottom. Picture 66 shows that the bind letters on the hilt of the spatha / Parazonium can now read as "S C D", which should stand for "Senatus Consulto dux". This should translate as decreed by the Senate as dux of Northern Britain. Pictures 63 thru 65 show that in the bottom visor's enclosure (to the right) there is a sword or knife (the sword or knife and the enclosure is shaped like a meteor); this sword or knife hints of a beaver. In Pictures 69 and 70 on top of the knife there is etched a spear or lance head (pointing at the sword or knife pommel). Pictures 71 thru 75 show the spatha / Parazonium positioned horizontally; there are faces and scenes of the expedition. Picture 76 shows this upright and at an angle. Pictures 77 thru 82 show the ring's band turned upside down and at an angle. It shows the spatha / Parazonium from this perspective, with various faces and scenes of the expedition.
*Riothamus (aka Riotimus or Rigothamus) was a Late 5th C. AD Briton war leader mentioned by Jordanes. It is theorized by Geoffrey Ashe, Leon Fleuriot, and others that he was the historical King Arthur, others speculate that the name is actually a title meaning "high leader".
**Similar to these initials would be the initials for the name Lucius "S"eptimus (Wales and West Country) with his posting as Roman Governor of "B"ritannia Prima (post 297 AD).
Copyright 2008 David Xavier Kenney
Revised May 08