SADDLE up now for a series of major exhibits at museums and sites along Hadrian's Wall in 2017, between April and September, focusing on the underrated role of the cavalry along Rome's frontier.
The Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition will focus on the story of Roman cavalry regiments which were a vital but less well known aspect of the frontier garrison. Cavalry and part-mounted units were the elite of the auxiliary forces of the Roman army providing long-range reconnaissance, high-speed communications, shock tactics and mopping-up operations on the battlefield.
Alongside presentation of the training, equipment, daily life and military operations of cavalry troopers and their horses, the exhibition will explore the role of the regiments in projecting the Roman imperial image through their impressive armour and other equipment, and the powerful individual stories of regiments who came to Hadrian’s Wall from other parts of the empire.
Each participating Roman site and museum across the Wall will host part of the exhibition.
Cavalry regiments were stationed at key locations on major road and river crossings along Hadrian’s Wall supported by part-mounted regiments at many other forts. The cavalry regiment at Stanwix just north of Carlisle was one of only three 1,000 strong cavalry regiments in the Roman army.
The cavalry regiments were costly to raise and maintain. The troopers were highly paid and lengthy training was required for both men and horses. Their equipment – including full face parade helmets like that found at Crosby Garrett and horse armour such as the Vindolanda chamfron – was expensive, exotic and designed to impress.
The exhibition programme will include live re-enactment, learning and community engagement activity.
“The sheer quantity, quality and range of objects from sites across Hadrian’s Wall provides opportunities to tell many different stories as well as celebrating the beauty and interest of the objects themselves,” said Bill Griffiths, chair of the Wall-wide project steering group and head of programmes for Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums.
“Evidence from sites along Hadrian’s Wall has informed understanding of cavalry regiments across the Roman empire.
“From Segedunum we know that cavalry horses were stabled with the troopers in adjacent rooms in customised barrack blocks, while Chesters Roman Fort is the best preserved cavalry fort in Britain.
"Many of the best known writing tablets from Vindolanda were written by Batavian troopers posted there following their deployment as shock troops to overpower the druids on Anglesey and before their subsequent deployment to the Danube to support Emperor Trajan in his war against the Dacians.
"The three metre high tombstone of Flavinus from Hexham Abbey is one of the most celebrated portrayals of the cavalryman-barbarian motif from across the empire.
“We are also hoping to work with museums across the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site to assemble a unique collection for this exhibition.”
Hadrian’s Cavalry will cost £790,000 in total, and the remaining £100,000 needed will be generated through ticket sales, donations and sponsorship. Planning and preparation for the exhibition will start in 2015 and continue during 2016 for the opening at Easter 2017.