Two thousand years ago the southern half of the Netherlands formed part of the Roman Empire. The presence of the Romans in our country is still apparent in the names they bestowed on various places, like the polder Roomburg in the vicinity of Leiden. At the time, the border fortress of Matilo was situated here, at the confluence of the rivers Vliet and Rhine.
For centuries now, Roman artefacts have been discovered in this area: inscriptions, statuettes, coins, pottery. In 1996 a spectacular discovery was made during excavation work: this beautiful mask, which had inexplicably ended up on the bottom of the Vliet. Was it lost in battle? Or offered up to the gods? And where is the rest of the helmet? This find remains cloaked in mystery.
The use of the mask
Some Roman horsemen wore such masks attached to their helmets, glittering like bronze rider gods at parades and tournaments. The mask also served to frighten the enemy during battle. It could be raised by means of a hinge. This was necessary because behind the bronze the temperature rose rapidly: every now and then the horseman just had to take a breath of air.
Object: Horserider's mask
Dating from: 80-125
Material: Metal, bronze
Size: h. 21 cm
Origin: Holland, Zuid-Holland, Leiden
Collection: Provincial Roman
Code: PZH 2001-500