Roman Artifacts in Denmark
It its impossible to make a complete list of Roman artifacts in museums in Denmark. Practically every local museum have something. And this in spite of the fact, that Denmark never became a part of the Roman Empire.
Denmark was – in The Roman Iron age – as we call this period in DK, a tribal area in the most northern part of Germania Inferior – behind the non-conquered Germania.
The Romans actually had no fixed name for these most northern Germanic regions. Plinius the Elder (23 BC. – 79 AD) called it ”Scatinavia” Pomponius Mela (1st. Cent AD) called it ”Codanovia”, Claudius Ptolemy (2nd. Cent AD) in his work ”Cosmographica” called it Scandza, and apparently made a map of the region. Jordanes (6th. Cent AD) called it Scandzia the root to the later "Scandinavia", which today is a collective term for Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
A major source for the Romans view on these regions, is of course Cornelius Tacitus who wrote ”Germania” in 98 AD. And Strabos ”Geographica” from the early 1st. Cent AD.
In the ”Deeds of the Divine Augustus” from 14 AD, Augustus wrote: ”I sailed my ships on the ocean from the mouth of the Rhine to the east region up to the borders of the Cimbri, where no Roman had gone before that time by land or sea, and the Cimbri and the Charydes and the Semnones and the other Germans of the same territory sought by envoys the friendship of me and of the Roman people”. This ”expedition” has no archaeological evidence whatsoever, but it could very well be true. The archaeological evidence i DK from the period from year 9 AD and onwards to the 4th century is abundant.
One of the finest finds we have from the early 1st. Cent. AD is the HOBY HOARD which can be seen at The National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen (NATMUS). Found in 1920 in Hoby on the Isle of Lolland. It consist of at very fine collection of Roman tableware. Including two cups in silver with decors from ”Illad” in Augustan Classicistic style. What is really interesting is that at the bottom of these cups is scratched the name ”SILIUS”.
We know that the commander of the Roman army in Upper Germania, after the Varus disaster in year 9 AD was named C. Silius A. Caecina Largus. And his primary job was punitive expeditions into Germania to punish the tribes that participated in the Varus battle. Was this Silius Largus the owner of the Cups? The quality of the find certainly suggest it.
From the early to mid 1st. Century AD we also have a find of a beautiful officers Pugio exhibited at HORSENS MUSEUM. This Pugio from Hedegaard, was found in a crematorial grave together with other personal Roman equipment and a LORICA HAMATA of a supreme quality, made of 5mm. riveted mail, with the classic roman Augustan shoulder reínforcement and front hooks.
From the 1st. Century the big VIMOSE find on Funen from 1859 and onwards is a big contributor. The great bog find here consisted of artefacts – offerings – over three centuries, from the first to the late third century. Today the collection from the excavations here, count more than 4000, mainly Roman, artefacts, at Odense Bys Museer and NATMUS. Among these are Roman 1st. Century gladius blades Pompeii style, and spathas and Hastas. A star piece in Vimose is a bronze Griffon, clearly from a Thraex gladiator helmet, exhibited at NATMUS.
Finds from the late first to second century AD in DK is mainly glassware, kitchenware and Roman coins. A Roman gladius - Mainz style - is found on Bornholm, now on NATMUS. At the Museum Silkeborg – which is known to be home of the Tollund Man from 350 BC. – we also have a find of a gladius and a spatha from the second century from a grave in Vinding.
The big Danish Bog finds – The Illerup Aadal, Nydam, Gudme, Thorsbjerg, Vingsted and more, also have Roman weapons in the thousands. Especially the Illerup Aadal find, which can be seen at MOESGAARD MUSEUM in Aarhus, is filled with prime roman artefacts from the third and fourth century. Today the theory is, that the battle in Illerup was between a Norwegian and a Danish army. Both armed with mainly roman weapons bought from roman merchants.
It is a common conviction in DK, that the Romans came here as friends. And, that sons from Danish tribes served the Romans as auxilliari or more. Is the Roman officer from Hedegaard a Roman soldier visiting or is he a local tribesman who served Rome as auxilliari?
Every year members of our group attend a small Iron age market in Lundeborg on Funen. Here we raise our tents, for us on sacred soil. Here excavations of Roman coins and other Roman artifacts proved that, at least on this very spot we know for sure, that 2000 years ago Roman merchants, and probably also legionnaires, stood on Danish ground. It chills our spine.
But all this, is only the local archaeological finds and history.
We also have other great Roman collections in DK. The greatest of these are the Carlsberg Glyptotek, which is a beautyful Roman-style palace in the heart of Copenhagen with a very big collection of statues and other classic antique artefacts, bought and "brought" to Denmark in the 19th century by the danish brewer J.C. Jacobsen who established the Carlsberg brewery. Are you a Roman nut, and coming to Denmark, the Glyptotek is a must. Among the Roman pieces here are unique portraits of Veaspasianus, Ceasar and many, many more.
In Aarhus a smaller but very fine collection of antique statues, portraits and other antique artefacts is found at the Museum of Antiquities at Aarhus University. The museum is based on the university collection of plaster copies used for study through the last 100 years. But today a fine collection of originals is also to be seen.
It is also worth mentioning that the NATMUS also have other fine Roman artefacts not found in DK. A perfect Augustan Pugio and a fine collection of phaleraes is to be seen here.