Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The Sylvianus Ring at the Vyne


Thanks for popping in.

The volunteers at National Trust properties are a mine of interesting facts, it's well worth chatting to them.  Whilst we were at The Vyne near Basingstoke, walking around the ground floor of the house whilst the roof renovations were taking place above us, one of the guides stepped forward and asked us if we had heard the story of the ring.

Step a little closer and I'll tell you.

Back in 1785, a farmer unearthed a gold ring whilst ploughing a field in nearby Silchester, an old Roman town.

Photo from the internet

The owners of The Vyne at the time, the Chute family, were known to be interested in antiquities and the ring worked its way into their collection.  It is a large ring made of 12g gold and would have been worn over a glove.  There's an image of the Goddess Venus on the front and it has an incomplete inscription in Latin which says 'Senicianus live well in God'.

A few years later in 1805, 100 miles away in Lydney at Dwarfs Hill, Gloucestershire, a Roman temple, dedicated to the Roman/Celtic deity Mars Nodens, was excavated and amongst the items found was a lead curse tablet. The tablet revealed that a 4th Century Roman, Silvianus, had lost a ring,  stolen by Senicianus and it entreated the god Nodens, to whom he had pledged half the ring's worth, to 'none grant health until he (Senicianus) brings back the ring to the Temple of Nodens'.

Senicianus had taken the ring, had it engraved with his name and then lost or discarded it in Silchester.

Eminent Archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler re-excavated the site in the 1920s and as well as recognising the connection between the ring and the tablet, in 1929 he called JRR Tolkein, Professor of Anglo Saxon at Oxford University, to ask advice on the unusual name of the deity. Tolkein worked on the etymology of the name Nodens and visited the excavation site several times.

Tolkein's famous book The Hobbit was published in 1937.  It and The Lord of the Rings, his subsequent books, feature the One Ring, which has an inscription written in a mythical language.

I wonder if the story gave Tolkein the idea for his books.



  1. A joy to visit and once again learn something new.

  2. What an amazing history about this ring. You are so lucky in live in the center of such history. Pat :)

    1. We certainly come across something historical on a regular basis that gives us a surprise. 😊

  3. Replies
    1. Amazing what you learn from these expert guides!!!

  4. What a wonderful story. I can see how Tolkein might have taken ideas and influences from his visits to the site and Wheeler's findings:)

    1. Great story isn't it but maybe Tolkein already had a cunning plan. 😊