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Collection Highlights - Figures

The Silchester Eagle, object no. 1995.4.1

The Silchester Eagle, object no. 1995.4.1

These highlight including the famous Eagle are all on display in the Museum's Silchester Gallery. Only a small proportion of what was discovered at Silchester can be displayed in the Museum. For every piece of pottery, there may be several boxes in store, for every pin, twenty more. Each object is slightly different and some are not particularly suitable for display, but study of them helps push forward our knowledge of Calleva and of Roman Britain.


Many bronze and stone figures have been found at Calleva. Some were part of furniture, some decorated personal possessions and some played a part in the religious and administrative life of the town.

The Silchester Eagle

This cast bronze figure of an eagle found by Rev J.G. Joyce in the Basilica on the 9 October 1866. Its wings, now missing, would originally have been outstretched. The curve of the feet suggests that it stood on a globe. It is not a military eagle but is probably part of a large figure of an emperor or a god.

The eagle was repaired during its lifetime when replacement wings and probably new feet were fitted. It was then damaged again when it lost its replacement wings and suffered damage to its replacement feet.

This figure inspired Rosemary Sutcliff's books The Eagle of the Ninth and The Silver Branch.

The Silchester Horse

The Silchester Horse, object no. 1995.4.2

Cast bronze figure of a prancing horse found by Rev. J.G.Joyce in the Basilica on the 27 October 1870. Its mouth is represented as open by means of a saw cut; the two ears are separated and slightly bent out; the eyes are formed of dot and circle engraving which may possibly have held enamel; the mane is indicated by edge nicks on either side connected by three pairs of cross grooves suggesting braiding.
Below the mane on either side and running right down the back to the end of the tail is a series of stamped horseshoes. The fetlock and foot area of the hind legs is decorated with what appears to be a stylised horse's head. This figure may well be pre-Roman in date.


Euterpe, object no. 1995.4.3

Cast bronze figure of a girl holding a tibia, a double reed wind instrument similar to an oboe. She is wearing a tall stephane, or headdress, decorated with feathers and is therefore likely to be Euterpe, one of the nine muses.

In mythology, the muses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne were challenged by the sirens to a musical contest. The muses won and humiliated the sirens by pulling out their wing feathers and wearing them on their heads as tokens of their supremacy.


Serapis, object no. 1995.4.4

Stone head of Serapis the Egyptian god of fertility and the afterlife. There was originally a modius, or corn measure, on its head. It lay unrecognized in a garden at Silchester for some years.

When identified as a sculpture in 1899 it had an iron bar let into the top of the head and was said to have been used as a weight in a cheese press at the local farm.

Date updated: 01 Feb 2016

Copyright Reading Borough Council 2018

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