The Ring of Silvianus (named after the British Roman citizen who was believed to have owned it) is an inscribed gold ring that dates from the 4th century, which was found in 1785 in a field near the village of Silchester (about 5 miles north of Sherborne St John). Silchester is home to the ancient Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum, which was first occupied by the Romans in 45 AD and today extensive sections of the town walls and an amphitheatre can still be found. Shortly after the ring’s discovery it came into the possession of the Chute family and was held in their private collection.
It was the discovery of another artefact (a lead tablet) in the early 19th century at the site of the Roman temple dedicated to the god Nodens at Lydney in Gloucestershire, that provided some context to the ring. This lead tablet was inscribed with a curse that read:
"DEVO NODENTI SILVIANVS ANILVM PERDEDIT DEMEDIAM PARTEM DONAVIT NODENTI INTER QVIBVS NOMEN SENICIANI NOLLIS PETMITTAS SANITATEM DONEC PERFERA VSQVE TEMPLVM DENTIS."
Which translates to:
"FOR THE GOD NODENS. SILVIANUS HAS LOST A RING AND HAS DONATED ONE HALF (ITS WORTH) TO NODENS. AMOUNG THOSE NAMED SENICIANUS PERMIT NO GOOD-HEALTH UNTIL IT IS RETURNED TO THE TEMPLE OF NODENS."
The curse seemingly accusing a person named Senicianus of stealing the ring from Silvianus.
No connection between the ring and the curse was made until 1929 when the archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler discovered the details of the curse and linked the inscriptions on the tablet to those on the ring. It seems that Wheeler consulted with J. R. R. Tolkien who was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon history at Oxford University to assist in understanding the origins of the name "Nodens" that was referred to in the curse.
Wheeler exposing Tolkien to the details of the Ring of Silvianus, the cursed tablet and the archaeology of the Lydney area (which includes an Iron Age fort known as Dwarf's Hill) is theorised to have inspired Tolkien’s writings and the "One Ring" in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
|The Silvianus Ring in its display case.|
|A close up view of the inscribed ring.|
|Another close up.|
|A copy of the "curse" tablet.|
|The curse translated into English.|
|Visitor's views on whether the ring inspired Tolkien - a marginal "yes".|
|Calleva Atrebatum Information Board.|
|Entering the Amphitheatre.|
|Mrs J in the Amphitheatre ready to be fed to the lions.|
|Amphitheatre Information Board.|
|A section of Calleva Atrebatum's walls.|
|On top of the wall.|
Pictures, Hampshire (November 2013).
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