What was life as a Roman soldier like?

An upcoming exhibition at The British Museum explores what life was like for Roman soldiers through hundreds of artefacts.

The Roman Empire remains one of the most fascinating periods in history. Yet its story of might and conquest would have never been possible without the legions of men who joined its army and became part of Europe’s first professional fighting force. These men, however, were not just fighters, they were people, and a monumental exhibition by The British Museum in London promises to give visitors a new perspective on the life these men lived. 

Running between February 1 and June 23, 2024, Legion: Life in the Roman Army will bring together hundreds of artefacts that tell a more personal story about the men who fought on behalf of the Roman Emperors. 

These include army-related artefacts like standard imperial helmets, armour used during the Arminius revolt in Germania that lasted from AD 9-16, letters written by soldiers on papyri in Egypt, and horse armour from 200ADs Syria. These will also be accompanied by everyday objects that have miraculously made their way to us through time, including a pair of children’s shoes and a sandstone gaming board from England dated to AD 85-410. 

Incredibly, the exhibition reveals the lives these soldiers led through the story of one man, Claudius Terentianus, whose letters to his loved ones have survived for almost 2,000 years. These letters explain how, in AD110, he tried and failed to join the legions, how he eventually managed to achieve his goal, and how he was deployed to war. They also reveal more intimate details, like how he struggled to fit in with the other soldiers, and how he needed clothing and equipment to be sent to him.

Curated by Caroline Rangel de Lima, the tickets to this exhibition are already out on The British Museum’s website.

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