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This webpage reproduces an article in the
Journal of Roman Studies
Vol. 4 Part 1 (1914), pp1‑12

The text is in the public domain:
F. J. Haverfield died in 1919.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

p1 Roman Silver in Northumberland

By Professor Haverfield


[image ALT: A rectangular silver tray depicting a complicated scene in low relief. Two standing female figures each wearing a long robe and holding a lance appear to greet a man carrying a sceptre in his right and a bow in his right: the three of them are under a tree, along with a low square altar in front of the man. Behind the women, to our right, a woman seated on a square stool, looks behind her to a naked man holding a bow in his left hand; he stands under an elaborate domed tempietto supported by columns with Corinthian capitals. Beneath the human figures a decorative frieze where a dog, a stag, and a griffon disport themselves amid curious stylized plants and another small square altar on which burns a flame. The entire tray is bordered with an elegant grapevine motif. It is the Corbridge Lanx, the subject of this webpage.]
The Corbridge Lanx (from a photograph)
(A little less than half-size.)

In the first half of the eighteenth century, five pieces of Roman silver plate were discovered in south Northumberland under circumstances which suggest that they belonged to some service or hoard. The proof that they are thus connected together, though very strong, is not absolutely conclusive, and the service or hoard which (if the proof be accepted) they comprised is of no great magnificence; it cannot be set beside the 66 pieces found in 1830 at Bernay outside Berthouville, in Normandy, or the 70 pieces found just outside Hildesheim, near Hannover, in 1868, or the 108 pieces up dug up at Boscoreale, near Pompeii, in 1895, or the vessels weighing some 2,700 ounces discovered at Trier about 1628, or even the 39 pieces found at Chaourse, near Troyes, in 1883. Still, the occurrence of even a small parcel of Roman silver plate in northern Britain is remarkable, and one of the pieces, that commonly called the Corbridge Lanx, is of real artistic importance, and deserves to be better known among archaeologists than it actually is. I have said something of these pieces in a recent volume of the "County History of Northumberland."1 But that account was confined to somewhat narrow limits of space, contents, and illustrations, and I propose here to deal with these interesting remains for a different circle of readers and from points of view which were necessarily left untouched in the 'History' but which are appropriate to this Journal. I am the more anxious to do this since, by the kindness of my colleague, Prof.  P. Gardner, I can now append to my account an explanation of the Lanx which is certainly the most probable that has yet been put forward and which will, I hope, find general acceptance.

The pieces with which I am about to deal consist of (1) a silver 'basin' found about 1731 in or on the bank of the Tyne, 150 yards or so below the bridge which now crosses that river at Corbridge;2 (2) a two-handled cup found in 1733, at or near the same spot; (3) the Lanx, found in 1734/5 on the north bank of the Tyne, at the same spot; (4) a bowl bearing the Chi-Rho monogram, found in the summer of 1736 almost opposite the find-spot of the Lanx; and lastly, (5) a small silver vase, found in 1760 floating in the river at Bywell, four miles below Corbridge. The first four of these pieces were found so close together in place and time that we can hardly p2refuse them a common origin, and it is not very difficult to connect the fifth with them. Moreover, three of the five can to a certain extent be connected in date. The Lanx is most probably a work of the third or fourth century. The bowl found in 1736, with its Christian monogram, can hardly be earlier than the opening of the fourth century. The little vase from Bywell bore an inscription which strongly suggests a similar age. It is, therefore, no rash theory to conjecture that all these pieces belonged together, either to some service or to a hoard, which was buried or lost in the later Roman period.

It is easy to suggest reasons for the presence of such a service or hoard near the place where the pieces were found. Three-quarters of a mile above the present bridge of Corbridge, that is, above the find-spot of four out of the five pieces, the Roman road from York to the north crossed the Tyne on a bridge with stone piers, while on the north bank of the river, directly over the crossing, lay the settlement of Corstopitum. The 'great age' of this settlement falls, probably, in the middle and later half of the second century.3 But a hoard of 48 gold coins found with a gold ring in 1907, and buried in or about A.D. 385, and a curious bas-relief of the Sun-god, found in 1908, and datable in all probability to the fourth century, as well as some minor details, show that Corstopitum must have had importance in the latest days of Roman Britain. A collection of silver plate, such as our five pieces seem to indicate, is therefore not surprising in this neighbourhood. It might have belonged to some Roman, perhaps some Roman officer, who was then resident for a longer or shorter time in Corstopitum, and might have been buried by him, or by someone who got it from him, in a hoard by the river-bank, to be washed out later by a flood and dispersed by the stream. Or it might have been dropped from the bridge — or from a boat — out of the luggage of a traveller and have been cast up by the river in various neighbouring places. The possibilities of accidental loss, of robbery, of intentional concealment, are many on a disturbed frontier, and it seems of little use to speculate further. It is necessary only to add that Corstopitum appears to have been sacked and burnt by the barbarians about A.D. 360, to have been restored by Theodosius about A.D. 369, and to have been finally abandoned a little before or after A.D. 400.

I proceed to the individual pieces which form my subject:

(1) A letter written from Corbridge in April, 1735, by an agent of Algernon, seventh Duke of Somerset and lord of the manor of Corbridge, and addressed to another agent of the Duke in London, notes that, some four years before, the writer had taken steps against p3a 'pewterer' of Newcastle, who had bought for 9d. and apparently sold again for £9 a silver 'basin.' This basin had been found at Corbridge, very near the place where the Lanx was afterwards found, that is, just below the present bridge, and was deemed to be the property of the Duke as lord of the manor. Ultimately it seems to have been melted down by a Newcastle goldsmith.4

(2) The same writer, in the same letter, states that "a year and three-quarters agoe a fiddler, washing himself in the river near this place, found a small cup with two small handles, that a finger might have gone in each, with the figures of man and beas[ts] upon the same, about or near the said plate," that is, the Lanx. This cup, he adds, was sold to a Roman priest, one of the family of Howard of Corby, for a guinea. Mr. Craster, editor of the Northumberland History, has told me that one Howard of Corby was a Benedictine monk and died at Douay in 1766; he may well be the priest in question. What became of the cup is unknown.5

(3) In February, 1735 — more exactly, 1734/5 — Isabel Cutter, the nine-year‑old daughter of a Corbridge blacksmith, was picking up sticks for firewood on the north bank of the Tyne at a point which the researches of Mr. Craster have fixed, just inside the western edge of the grounds of the modern house Byethorn, 150 yards below the present bridge. Here she noticed a large object, "appearing white above the earth and sticking amid gravel and mud, near the edge of the Tyne." She took it home to her father, and he within two or three weeks sold it to a Newcastle goldsmith, named Cookson. This was the Corbridge Lanx; I mention it here in the order of its discovery, but reserve its full description and discussion for a separate section below (p6).6

(4) In the summer of 1736 a fourth piece, much corroded, was found on the south bank of the Tyne, nearly opposite to the place where the Lanx had come to light in 1735. In the October following it was "in the possession of Sir Edward Blackit, Bart. in Hexham, in behalf of the Duke of Somerset." Its later history is unknown. But, as it was found in a very bad condition, it probably soon came in pieces. We know it from communications and drawings laid before the London Society of Antiquaries by Mr. (afterwards Sir Charles) Frederick, on October 14th, and by Mr. Cay on Oct. 28th, 1836. These show it to have been a round flat-bottomed bowl with a flat rim, weighing 20 ounces, and measuring 4 inches in total height p4

[image ALT: A page of handwritten text with three sketches of a bowl: a profile, the ornament on the bottom on the inside, and a detail of a frieze that ran around it. It represents a silver vessel found near Corbridge in 1760, further discussed in the text of this webpage.]
Fig. 1 Drawings of silver vessel found near Corbridge in 1736a
From letter of R. Cay in the minutes of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 28th Oct. 1736.

p5 and 8¼ inches in total diameter. The bowl itself was without ornament, save for a circular design as of a conventional rose (1⅛ ins. diam.) placed inside on the centre of the bottom. The rim (1¾ ins. wide) bore a row of 57 round knobs, each a quarter of an inch high, and a conventional scroll pattern "of indifferent workmanship," in which the Chi-Rho monogram recurs six times at regular — or, according to Cay's account of 28th October, at irregular — intervals. Fig. 1 reproduces the hitherto unpublished drawings in the minutes of the Society of Antiquaries; fig. 2 shows a reconstruction prepared from there by the artist W. B. Utting for the 'Lapidarium Septentrionale,' which probably gives a reasonably accurate but somewhat too regular view of the whole. The bowl plainly belongs to some part of the fourth century. The monogram, as Mr. Cay and many others have seen, is of the type often called Constantinian, which appeared first on coins and inscriptions of the time of Constantine the Great, and remained in use for scores of years subsequently. Gough inferred from the Christian monogram that the bowl was intended for church use, and indeed for a chalice, but the shape is against this, and the presence of the monogram does not require the adoption of any such view.7

[image ALT: A round salver or bowl, seen from above, with a large flat rim chased with geometric motifs among which also the Christian chi‑rho repeated six times. A profile of the dish is given on the right, showing it to be a deep footed bowl. It is a silver vessel found near Corbridge in 1760, further discussed in the text of this webpage.]
Fig. 2 Restoration of silver vessel found near Corbridge (From the 'Lapidarium').
Based on fig. 1: scale about ⅓. Cay gives the diameter of the cavity as 5¼ ins. and its depth as 2½ ins.).


[image ALT: A footed pot-bellied vase; on the neck there is a band with an inscription. It is a silver vessel found near Corbridge in 1760, further discussed in the text of this webpage.]
Fig. 3
Silver vessel found in the Tyne in 1760
(p5).

From J. Brand, Hist. of Newcastle.
(5) A fifth silver vessel (fig. 3) was found in June, 1760, near Bywell, about four miles below Corbridge. It was detected, we are told, p6by a mason called Robinson, who was fishing in the Tyne, swollen no doubt by recent rain, and who saw it "as it was rolling on the waves full of earth." It is a fair inference that it had been washed out of some lair by a spate and carried down stream, and it is no very rash assumption to think that it had come from the place where the other four pieces of silver had been found a quarter of a century before. It was claimed by Mr. William Fenwick of Bywell, as lord of the manor, and delivered to him; what has since become of it is unknown. Fortunately, two pictures of it survive; of these, one is engraved in Brand's 'History of Newcastle,' while the other, by a local artist of the time, Ralph Spearman, survives (as Mr. Craster has pointed out to me) among the papers of John Hodgson, historian of Northumberland. The two views agree in showing a small ovoid vase, not unlike a 'Castor ware' cup; the weight is given as 6 ounces, the height as 4 inches, so that it was substantially made. Near the brim, in raised letters on a fillet, it bore an inscription, Desideri vivas. The name Desiderius occurs as early as the second century of our era, but is far commoner in later times, and it may be accepted as indicating, if not as proving, that this piece belongs to the same general period as the Lanx and the bowl with the Christian monogram.8

The Corbridge Lanx.b

I have mentioned the Corbridge Lanx in its place above (no. 3) and have referred to the 'Northumberland History' for a fuller account of its find-spot and finding. The piece is, however, of much artistic importance, and there is not a little to add to previous accounts of its history subsequent to its discovery, as well as of its date and interpretation; it seems to deserve a sub-section to itself on these points.9

The piece was picked up, as I have said, in February, 1735, on the north side of the river Tyne, 150 yards below the present bridge of Corbridge, close to the then water's edge, and was sold shortly to a Newcastle goldsmith named Isaac Cookson; the foot appears to p7have been sold first for thirty-six shillings and the rest about 1st March for thirty guineas. News of the find soon spread. Newcastle and London papers noticed it, and antiquaries like Roger Gale and his friends wrote letters to one another about it. The Duke of Somerset's agents early became active. March was not over before they were demanding that the piece be given up to the Duke as lord of the manor of Corbridge and as "intituled to all waifs, strayes and treasure trove happening within the said manor." Cookson declined to surrender the object, although he was "tendered in ready money" the sum of £33 6s. which he had given for the Lanx. He seems to have conceived the idea that he could sell it for 200 guineas, and proceedings at law became inevitable. On 1st May the Duke's deputy steward for the manor of Corbridge called a 'Court Leet and view of Frank-pledge' to deal with this and other matters affecting the manor. The jury brought in the following presentment, which I quote from the 'Northumberland History' as being the best contemporary account of the finding and early history of the Lanx:

The jury upon their oaths present that Isabell Cutter, daughter of Thomas Cutter of Corbridge, blacksmith, aged nine years and upwards, and Hester Skipsey, daughter of William Skipsey of Corbridge aforesaid, labourer, aged tenn years or thereabouts, did on or about the tenth day of February last past finde an ancient silver piece of plate in a great measure covered with the earth, one end sticking out of the ground, att a certain place within this manner near the north bank of the river Tyne by the water edge, two hundred yards or thereabouts distant eastwards from the bridge of Corbridge; and that the said Isabell Cutter pulled the said plate out of the earth and caryed it to her father; and that the said Thomas Cutter, not knowing what the said plate was, nor that the property thereof was in his grace the Duke of Somerset the lord of this mannor as treasure trove, concealled the same from the lord's bayliff, broke off a rim or foot of the said plate, weighing eight ounces, and sold the same to Isaac Cookson of Newcastle upon Tyne, goldsmyth, on or about the fifteenth day of the said month of February, and on the first day of March following sold the remainder of the said plate to the said Isaac Cookson, the whole together weighing one hundred and forty-eight ounces, for four shillings and sixpence an ounce, amounting to thirty-three pounds six shillings; and that the said Isaac Cookson is now in possession of the said plate. And the said jury finds and presents that the said plate is a treasure trove belonging to the lord of the mannour; and therefore we amerce the said Thomas Cutter 6d.

In this decision the jury carried out an ordinary piece of manorial jurisdiction, which included questions of treasure-trove affecting the lord of the manor. The fine of 6d. imposed on Cutter falls under the same head as any other fine imposed by such a court. Indeed, the court which fined Cutter 6d. also fined tenants and inhabitants of Corbridge 2d. "for suffering their pinfolds (pounds) to be out of repair." But in respect to the ownership of the Lanx, their decision had, of course, little more than a moral value, and the Duke actually opened proceedings in Chancery. On 19th July an injunction in Chancery was applied for by the Duke's agents and was issued by Lord Chancellor Talbot, to prevent Cookson from p8"alienating defacing or melting it down." There followed, in the autumn, a suit in equity for the possession of the plate. Cookson appears to have demurred to the suit on the technical ground that the Duke ought to have brought his action at common law, under one or other of the processes known as trover or detinue. At that time, and indeed till the middle of the last century, a defendant in trover or detinue, if he lost his case, could still keep the object, and was only compelled to pay its money value.10 It will be observed that here, and indeed throughout the proceedings, the Duke of Somerset's right to treasure-trove, as lord of the manor, was not disputed or indeed discussed. Cookson's object plainly was to surrender to the Duke, not the plate itself, but its money-value, as a jury might estimate it, and in 1735 a jury would probably have put its 'value' much below its worth as an artistic antiquity or even as a curiosity.11 On 12th November, however, Lord Chancellor Talbot decided against the demurrer and approved a suit in equity as the proper procedure.12 After this the plate seems to have been handed over to the Duke. Certainly, we hear of no further proceedings, and are only told that the Duke made good to Cookson all, and more than all, his payments to Cutter.13 Ever since, the plate has been in the possession of the Northumberland heirs of the Duke of Somerset, and it is now preserved by the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick.14

The object itself is a flat, slightly hollow dish, weighing 148 ounces troy (13.6 Roman pounds), measuring 19 inches by 15 inches, and supported on a 'rim or foot' just an inch high. The ornament, according to experts in silver-work, was in the first place cast in a mould; the figures and ornaments in low relief were then chased and the spaces between them engraved with small strokes of the burin or stippled with the point. The design shows five principal figures, four standing and one seated, all of which obviously represent p9deities of classical mythology. On the left Artemis enters in hunting dress, carrying a bow in her left hand and an arrow in her right, as if returning from the chase. In front of her is an altar and a sacrificial cake or similar round object upon it. Above is a spreading tree, which has been explained as a chestnut, but is too conventional to be identified. Among its branches sit ten birds, the largest of which has been called by some an eagle and by others the raven of Apollo, while small strings of votive offerings hang down and imply a sacred grove. Next to the tree and facing Artemis stands Athena, fully draped, with helmet, spear, aegis and shield, holding up her right hand in an attitude which suggests remonstrance, though it is also curiously like that used by Christian and other priests in benediction. Behind her, and looking the same way, stands another female figure, draped and erect, holding a long wand or sceptre, whose identification is uncertain. The fourth figure, a draped, veiled, and seated female, with a full spindle on her lap, looks away from the other three towards the right; she, too, is hard to identify.15 Behind and above her rises a column with a large round object on the top, called by some a globe and by others a sun or a sundial, and beyond that again is the façade of a shrine, supported by two columns with twisted carving, and decorated by dependent strings of small votive ornaments. On one of these columns the spiral ornament runs to the bottom; on the other it stops half-way, and its place is taken by a tall, squared quasi-pyramidal column divided into eleven or twelve compartments. In the shrine stands Apollo, nude, with a cloak on his shoulders, a branch of 'chestnut' or, as older writers called it, 'a physical herb' in his right hand, a bow in his left, a lyre at his heel, and buskins on his feet. Below these figures, in the space which in a coin would be called the exergue, but which here represents the foreground, are various plants and animals in the following order from left to right: a conventionally-outlined hill; an overturned urn with water running out, doubtless signifying a spring; a hound (the dog of Artemis) barking, and a fallen stag in its death convulsion;16 an altar with fruits or other offerings on it; the gryphon of Apollo, and some shrubs which can only be called conventional. Round the border is a running scroll of vine-leaves alternating with bunches of grapes.

The workmanship of the whole is singularly careful and good. It is further remarkable that none of the details can be identified as especially Roman; all are, or might be, pure Greek (Hellenistic) craftsmanship. Some of these details are intelligible enough. The p10shrine, the tree, the ex-votos, the conventional stream and hill, suggest that the scene is laid outside a temple in its sacred grove, and probably on a hill and near a fountain. Artemis and Athena on the left, Apollo on the right, are easy to recognize. The dog and stag in the foreground fit well with Artemis, the gryphon and raven (if it be really a raven) suit Apollo. But the third and fourth figures are entirely doubtful, and opinions have differed widely about them. Nor is the rest of the ornament easy to unravel. The curious half-column, with its eleven or twelve compartments (if really meant to be twelve) might, as Roger Gale long since conjectured, represent the twelve divisions of the year; both details would then fit in with Apollo. But the column surmounted by a disk or circle remains a puzzle, and the enquirer who asks the nature of the plants, tree, and birds will get little comfort.

Naturally enough, the interpretation of the Lanx has varied with almost every interpreter. Roger Gale, writing in 1735, observed that "I cannot, nor has (sic) anybody else who has seen it, discover that plan has relation to any story in the heathen mythology," and he therefore considered it to be "onely an assemblage of the Deitys it represents," that, a group of divine figures put together as a genre scene imagined for the purpose by the artist. Dr. Drexel, too, who has made a special study of certain aspects of Roman silver,17 thinks, as he writes to me, that the scene may show a simple visit of Athena, Hera and a third goddess to Artemis and Apollo, who are indicated as being at home by the presence of their emblems. Most modern archaeologists seem, however, to be unanimous in rejecting this line of explanation; they hold that a definite incident of classical mythology or history must have been in the mind of the artist of this plate, or, at any rate, in the mind of the author of the original which he had copied.

Nor can more be got from a symbolical explanation such as was adopted by the Northumberland archaeologists in the earlier nineteenth century. The Rev. John Hodgson, and after him Lord Ravensworth, took Apollo to be the sun who is indicating to Vesta, here doing duty for the earth, that winter is approaching and that he will cease to shine for a while; on the opposite side Minerva, personifying intellect and valour, welcomes Diana, patroness of the winter field-sports, while "the urn on the rock with the stream running from it plainly shows that the rainy season has commenced." Such an explanation was more or less in accordance with the general conceptions current among scholars, when Hodgson wrote, some seventy years since; it cannot be accepted to‑day.

A better interpretation connects the scene with the shrine of p11Apollo at Delphi. This view was first put forward forty years ago by the late Mr. C. W. King, and though his explanations of the details do not all bear scrutiny to‑day, his position deserves to be stated, and can indeed be stated more strongly than it was by him. We see Apollo and his shrine, and Diana (Artemis), who was worshipped there with him, and Minerva (Athene Προναία), whose shrine stood close outside his temple. We may further imagine that the seated figure with a roll (not a spindle) is Themis, who also had a much frequented shrine without the Delphic precinct and that the standing figure is Leto, third in the Delphic triad and indispensable in any Delphic picture.18 We may also identify the spring with the sacred fountain Castalia. But when we try to go further, difficulties arise. Many of the lesser details remain obstinately obscure, and the scene as a whole corresponds to no definite incident in the life or legends of Delphi. Still, as the next paragraphs will show, this view may be true in part.

A yet better interpretation and one which will, I think, prove to be the true view, has lately been suggested to me by my colleague, Professor P. Gardner. He considers that the Lanx depicts a very late version of the Judgment of Paris.19 Paris himself is absent, as he not infrequently is — so even on a quite early hydria from Volci, which shows the three goddesses, Hermes, and Apollo with his lyre. Hermes is also absent. But we have the three goddesses, Hera seated, Aphrodite standing with the sceptre, and Athena completing the triad, and in addition, Artemis and Apollo. Professor Gardner has kindly written me the following note:

Both in style and subject this dish is very interesting. It is at once clear that there is nothing in it which has any reference to Britain. It is imported, and the whole character of the dish shows that the place of its manufacture was one of the great cities of the eastern Mediterranean. Though it is of Roman times, there is nothing in it which is distinctively Roman. It is purely Greek, that is, Hellenistic.

It may be well to begin with a description of the decoration. The border is a pleasing design of alternate bunches of grapes and vine-leaves. On the right stands Apollo within a shrine. He is clad in a chlamys, which hangs from his shoulder, and boots. He holds a laurel-twig over an altar; in the other hand is a bow; behind him is his lyre. Just before the shrine is a globe, on a lofty basis. Next comes a group of four goddesses. The first, of matronly style, seated, seems to be addressing Apollo. The second carries a sceptre, her other hand is raised to her neck. The third is clearly Athena, with spear, helmet and aegis. She is addressing the fourth, Artemis, who wears a cloak over her chiton, and carries arrow and bow. Between Athena and Artemis is an altar, overshadowed by a tree, against which leans a shield, and in its branches are an eagle and nine small birds. The species of the tree cannot be determined. Beneath the feet of the group is a meadow, in which grow plants, and in which are also a griffin, p12an altar, a prostrate stag, a dog, and a vase whence pours water. Fillets hang from the roof of the shrine and the branches of the tree.

For a time the relief perplexed me: but now I have no doubt that it is a late variation on the theme of the Judgment of Paris. Paris, it is true, is not present; nor is Hermes, who is less often absent from it than Paris. Indeed, I would not be sure that the artist knew that he was depicting a late version of the well-known scene. Yet its line of descent is quite clear. To prove this at present would take too much space: I hope to insert in the Journal of Hellenic Studiesc a detailed examination of the dish, which fills a somewhat important space in the history of late Greek art. At present I will merely say that the scene of the Judgment is removed, as it is on some late Hellenistic vases, from Ida to Delphi, and Apollo is made arbiter instead of Paris. The seated figure is Hera; the figure who stands and holds the sceptre is Aphrodite.

The date of the vessel cannot well be earlier than the third or even the early part of the fourth century after Christ. It must come from some purely Greek city, since the art is the latest art of Greece, but unaffected by Roman influence. Alexandria, Antioch, and, in particular, Ephesus suggest themselves. Of course, there is in the design nothing of freshness or inspiration: but it is very carefully executed, and the types of the deities are derived from a good school of art. — P. Gardner.

In respect of date, the Lanx has usually been assigned to the later Roman age. But the critics have rarely explained their reasons or specified the traces which they assume to denote "the failing art of the lower empire." Indeed, as Professor Gardner observes, the workmanship of the piece is good and is based on good models. On the other hand the border, the architecture of Apollo's shrine, and some other details, seem to require a date in the second half of the empire, and that I understand to be no less required by the artistic features which Professor Gardner has worked out. Dr. Drexel assigns the piece positively to the Constantinian age. That is for other, non-artistic reasons not unlikely, but it may be safer to allow a wider margin of date.

On the back of the piece is an inscription which, though not at first understood, is now recognized to record its weight, viz.: 14 pounds, 3 ounces, 2 scruples, Roman measure. This agrees well with the present weight of the object in English measure, 148 ounces troy.20


The Author's Notes:

1 History of Northumberland (Newcastle, 1914), X, 516‑520. My remarks form part of a longish account of the Roman remains of the Corbridge district (pp455‑522), written from the historical, not the archaeological, point of view.

2 This is not the Roman bridge, to be mentioned presently, but a different bridge at a different spot lower down the Tyne, first erected in the Middle Ages, apparently in 1235, and since rebuilt (Hist. of Northumberland, X, 64, 229).

3 Hist. of Northumberland, X, 478.

4 See the quotation in Hist. of Northumberland, X, 517, and the note of Robert Cay printed in Hutchinson's Northumberland, I, 148.

5 Hist. of Northumberland, X, 517. For the monk see Hodgson's Northumberland, II, ii, 477.

6 For the circumstances of the actual finding I may refer to the Hist. of Northumberland, X, 517, where the story is told more fully than in any previous account.

7 MS. minutes of the London Soc. of Antiq. for 14th and 28th Oct. 1736 (pp231, 234); copy of the same, with additions by Cay, in Gough's papers in the Bodleian Library. See also Gough's Camden, III, p509; Hodgson's Northumberland, III, p246; Lapidarium Sept. no. 653; Corp. Inscr. Latin., VII.1350a; Hist. of Northumberland (1914), X, p519.

8 Newcastle Courant, 21st June, 1760 (brief notice); John Wallis, Hist. of Northumberland (1769), II, 152; John Brand, Hist. of Newcastle (1789) I, 608z, with fig. here reproduced; Hutchinson, Hist. of Northumberland, I, 134, 146, and Cumberland, II, 274; Gough's Camden, III, 510; Lapid. Sept. no. 651; Corp. Inscr. Latin. VII.1287.

9 For references see p12, note.

10 The action in detinue was for the thing or its value, the value to be assessed if the defendant lost, and refused to give up the object. In trover, the action was brought in the first instance for the value, or rather for damages; if the defendant lost, he might get the damages reduced to a nominal sum by surrendering the object. The two forms of action were almost identical in result, though each had some procedural advantages.

11 Prof. Geldart calls my attention to words used sixty years later, by Lord Chancellor Loughborough, in the case of Fells v. Read (1796), about a silver tobacco box: "The value I cannot measure. The Pusey horn, the patera of the Duke of Somerset, were things of that sort of value, that a jury might not give twopence beyond their weight. It was not to be cast to the estimation of people who have not those feelings. . . . It would be great injustice, if the individual cannot have his property without being liable to the estimate of people who have not his feelings upon it" (3 Vesey, 70).

12 The law-report of Talbot's decision (Peere Williams, III, 390) describes the Lanx as "an old altar-piece, remarkable for a Greek inscription and dedication to Hercules." Cookson might almost have replied that he held no such piece. The Duke's counsel, as reported, seems to have used much the same arguments as those in note 11.º

13 Since the above was in type, a short account of Cookson has appeared in the new volume of Archaeologia Aeliana (XI, 1914, p75). He seems already in 1735 to have been a person of very good standing in Newcastle; the Newcastle Courant of 24th August, 1754, noticing his death, calls him not only "a tradesman of considerable note," but a man of "strict integrity and honour, of peaceable and inoffensive temper and conduct, of great sobriety and temperance, and of a very benevolent, generous disposition."

14 The Duke of Northumberland has been kind enough to allow me to examine the Lanx and to have photographs taken.

15 According to C. W. King (in Lap. Sept.) the two figures are Pythia (seated) and Themis (with the sceptre); according to M. S. Reinach, the first foreign scholar to pronounce on the piece, they are Demeter (seated) and Persephone: Répertoire des reliefs (Paris, 1912), II, 436. For other views see below.

16 The idea, quoted and accepted by Bruce, that the stag is so laid out as to add to the whole relief a phallic emblem, and so war off the evil eye, seems both far-fetched and needless.

17 Bonner Jahrbücher, CXVIII, 176‑235.

18 Some of these explanations are due to Dr. Farnell, Rector of Exeter College, Oxford.

19 Since I wrote the text above, Miss Jane Harrison independently made to me the same suggestion. It was actually made in print some years ago, by Mr. Cadwallader Bates, in his History of Northumberland (1895, p27), though in slightly different form. But the explanation of the details on which he grounded it is altogether improbable. It will be remembered that Mrs. Strong in this Journal (I, 43) suggests that the Lanx showed some early design adapted in later times.

20 The literature of the Lanx is large; the following seem the most important items. The first notices appeared in the Newcastle Courant (cutting in the Bodleian Library; Gough Maps, 25, fo. 73), and in the London Journal of 5th April, 1735; and the first illustration was by Vertue (publ. Shafto), repeated by Hutchinson, Northumberland, vol. I, pp145‑151, and others. Correspondence of Roger Gale and his friends soon after the find is printed by Hutchinson, vol. I, p173, and in Stukeley's Diaries, etc. (Surtees Soc. III, p113). For later accounts and attempts at interpretation see Wallis, Northumberland, 1769, vol. II, p121; Hutchinson (as above); Hodgson, III, p245; Halliwell, Archaeologist, 1842, vol. I p128; Way, Arch. Journ. 1860, vol. XVII, p261; Way, Arch. Ael. 1860, vol. V, p166; Lord Ravensworth, vol. VI, p109; C. W. King, quoted in L.S. 652; Bruce, Alnwick Catalogue, no. 745; C. J. Jackson, History of English Plate, 1911, vol. I, p40, fig. 53; Mrs. Strong, Journal of Roman Studies, 1912, vol. I. For legal matters see especially Wm. Peere Williams, Chancery Reports, vol. III, p391; and John Fenwick, Treasure-Trove in Northumberland, Newcastle, 1851. For the inscription see especially L.S. 652; CIL 1286; Eph. IX, p659. By the kindness of Mr. Scargill Bird, I have examined the Record Office papers relating to the suit (Chancery Pleadings, 1714‑1758, no. 796); 1734, A 463 and 539; 1735, A 509). My Oxford colleague, the Vinerian Professor of English Law, Professor W. M. Geldart, has helped me over some legal hedges.


Thayer's Notes:

a To accommodate the search engines, which are not good at returning text results for images of eighteenth-century handwriting:

235: [presumably mid-sentence from a previous page] I take to be Constantine's Cross. In the bottom within is a circle 1⅛ inch diameter, the inner part being divided into 8 parts the outerward end of each being rounded, as if to resemble so many leaves.

I will not pretend to say, in what manner that ornament I call a pearl, has been made, there is no mark below as if it has been struck like chasing, and yet I dare be positive it has not been cut with a graver, one, at least of the figures I have called Constantine's Cross is indisputably fair, & I think all the six would be so, if cleaned. I am, etc.

The Rim, or Ledge


[image ALT: A sketch of a detail of an ornamental frieze. It is a detail of a silver vessel found near Corbridge in 1760, further discussed in the text of this webpage.]

N.B. the small circles representing the buttons ought to be larger, & almost to touch each other. The small lines issuing from 2 of the great circles are such on the plate.


[image ALT: A sketch of a small circular ornament on the bottom on the inside, and a detail of a frieze that ran around it. It is a detail of a silver vessel found near Corbridge in 1760, further discussed in the text of this webpage.]

The ornament in the
Bottom.


[image ALT: A profile of a deep footed bowl. It represents a silver vessel found near Corbridge in 1760, further discussed in the text of this webpage.]

Section of the Bason
a one of the buttons
bb The foot.

b The lanx — the Latin word means "platter" or "tray", see the article Lanx in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities — has recently been acquired by the British Museum whose page basically summarizes the article before you, and includes a good modern photograph.

A considerably more detailed article on the object may be read on the limited-access JSTOR site: The Corbridge Lanx, JRS 31:100‑127 (1941). The author, Otto Brendel, died in 1973: his paper thus remains under copyright thru 2043. In this piece of delicate art criticism, Prof. Brendel convincingly identifies the scene as Delos rather than Delphi, the seated woman as Leto, her standing companion as her sister Ortygia, and in case you were wondering, the little birds as quails, connected with the legend of the latter: he views the lanx as a sort of theological poem in honor of Apollo. Stretching beyond art criticism, he then suggests that the lanx relates to a visit to Delos by the emperor Julian; a notion refuted by Oliver Nicholson in Britannia 26:312‑315 (1995, on JSTOR again) — and indeed, it seems to me there are limits to how far one should stretch and pinpoint things: not every beautiful composition need reflect some specific historical event.

c A Silver Dish from the Tyne, JHS 35:66‑75 (1915).


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Page updated: 12 Sep 07