Staffordshire Moorlands Pan

Staffordshire Moorlands Pan, a Romano-British Celtic-styled trulla; II Century; British Museum.

A copper-alloy pan (trulla), with polychrome enamel inlay, lacking its handle and base.
The circular bowl, though a little distorted in places, is complete, with a simple beaded rim and raised foot-ring. A narrow zone of differential corrosion and solder splash in an arc immediately beneath the rim discloses the former position of the handle and its width at the point of contact. The handle would probably have been flat, of bow-tie shape, with enamel inlay on the upper surface.

The convex wall of the pan is decorated with a band of Celtic-style curvilinear ornament – eight roundels, with eight pairs of intervening hollow-sided triangles. Each roundel encloses a swirling six-armed whirligig centred on a three-petalled device inlaid with red, blue, turquoise and yellow-coloured enamel.

Immediately above the band of roundels is an engraved inscription, inlaid with turquoise enamel, which runs around the pan in an unbroken and unpunctuated sequence of 56 letters.

The Inscription:


Four forts at the western end of Hadrian’s Wall are listed: MAIS (Bowness-on-Solway) COGGABATA (Drumburgh) VXELODVNVM (Stanwix) and CAMMOGLANNA (Castlesteads).

More difficult to interpret are the words RIGORE VALI AELI DRACONIS. ‘Rigore vali’ seems to be a direct reference to Hadrian’s Wall, for in Roman times it was known as ‘the vallum’. ‘Aeli’ may also belong with that phrase, specifying ‘the wall of Hadrian’, for Aelius was Hadrian’s family name. Alternatively, ‘Aeli’ could belong with the word ‘Draco’, forming the personal name Aelius Draco (or Dracon). He may have been a soldier or junior officer, of Greek origin, who acquired his citizenship under the emperor Hadrian, and who had the pan made as a souvenir of his military service on the Wall.

Published by Christian Clay Columba Campbell

Christian Clay Columba Campbell is a Roman Catholic of the Anglican Use. As Senior Warden of the Cathedral of the Incarnation (Orlando, FL), he organised the process by which the parish accepted the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, petitioning to join the Catholic Church. The Anglican Cathedral is now the Church of the Incarnation in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Personal queries should be directed to me at eccentricbliss dot com.

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