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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site


Bronze gladiator's helmet

Bronze gladiator's helmet

Bronze gladiator's helmet

Height: 46.000 cm

Purchased with the assistance of Miss H.R. Levy

GR 1946.5-14.1

This bronze helmet has a visor grille to protect the face, and a broad brim to protect the back and sides of the head. At the front of the helmet is a medallion of the hero Hercules, symbolizing strength and victory.

The helmet would have been worn by a murmillo, a heavily armed gladiator with a tall oblong shield and a sword with a broad straight blade, both similar to those of the army infantry soldiers of the time. The murmillo was one of the heavy-weight gladiatorial categories; the total weight of his arms and armour was around 16-18 kg. His most usual opponent would have been the thraex ('Thracian') or hoplomachus, with a small shield.

Gladiatorial schools, or familia gladiatoria, were run by a lanista, a private entrepreneur who bought or recruited suitable men, trained them and hired them out. Their number also included condemned criminals and even volunteers. There was strict discipline in the barracks, with a well-balanced diet, constant hard training and practice.

On display: Room 69: Greek and Roman life