Bob Van Arsdell submitted these notes inspired by last week's mention of a book titled Lapidarium Septentrionale: or a Description of the
Monuments of Roman Rule in Northern England. Thanks. -Editor
I've occasionally used my own copy of the Lapidarium in numismatic studies, so I appreciated seeing John Collingwood Bruce's copy.
There's a link to numismatic work lurking in the background here...
A friend and collaborator of Bruce's, John Clayton financed some of the 19th century work on Hadrian's Wall. In time, he came to
own and conserve several of the forts along its length. In 1859, Clayton published an obscure, but important numismatic article about the Wall.
When early travelers explored the Wall in the 1700s, they found many dedicatory inscriptions mentioning the emperor Septimius Severus. By 1800,
most antiquarians believed Severus was the original builder, and the Wall came to be known as "Severus' Wall". This all came into
question when a quarryman found a Roman bronze purse full of coins near the site of a Roman quarry.
The coin hoard "closed" with unworn denarii of the Emperor Hadrian (the newest coins in the hoard). It became clear to Clayton that the
purse had been buried around the time the quarry went out of use – when it would be safe to hide money because the workmen had moved off the site.
Clayton realized the quarry must have been in use during the reign of Hadrian, not Severus. He published the coin write-up in Archaeologia
Aeliana in 1859.
This touched off a fifty-year debate over which emperor had built the Wall. Eventually, it was determined that the work of Severus was only a
reconstruction and refurbishment of the earlier work of Hadrian. The Wall thus became "Hadrian's Wall". As late as 1900 one Wall
scholar was still prepared to drop a "bombshell" and declare the Wall the work of Severus. Readers can see the "bombshell" letter
on my website:
I think Clayton's article helps illustrate the interplay of Numismatics, Archaeology and History. Some of the most important numismatic work
isn't written by numismatists and doesn't appear in numismatic books.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
LOOSE CHANGE: APRIL 14, 2019 : LOOSE CHANGE: APRIL 14, 2019
Wayne Homren, Editor
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