Some of the British Museum’s finest Roman treasures have come to Leeds as part of a touring exhibition examining the lives of Romans in Yorkshire. STEPHEN LEWIS reports.

THE Romans are coming. Actually, no, ignore that. By the time you read this, the Romans will have arrived.

A new, touring exhibition featuring some of the greatest Roman treasures from the British Museum’s collection has come north to Yorkshire. Not to York, sadly: but at least it’s not too far away along the A64 in Leeds.

Roman Empire: Power & People features stunning objects from throughout the Roman world, from Egypt to Italy, Germany and, of course, Roman Britain.

The Leeds City Museum has combined the British Museum treasures with Roman objects from its own collection and from other museums in Yorkshire, including York’s own Yorkshire Museum.

The result is an exhibition that reflects the power, vastness and might of the Roman Empire, but also considers Britain’s – and Yorkshire’s – place within that empire, says Katherine Baxter, curator of archaeology at Leeds City Museum. It also aims to give a personal insight into what the lives of Romans living here were like: and whether ‘being Roman’ was the same for people in Yorkshire as it was for those in Rome.

The answer to that isn’t a simple yes or no, says Katherine.

“Certain factors and influences were the same for everyone in the Roman Empire – currency, the military, Roman style buildings, Roman fashions, and so on.

“But the lives of people across such a large empire would have differed hugely. One example is religion – in different areas of the empire people often continued to worship local deities - the goddess Brigantia in this area.

“Within Yorkshire itself there would have been those in the military, those emulating Rome and the Roman lifestyle and those carrying on with their lives as if the Romans had never arrived.”

The exhibition aims to explore this, and much more besides.

“Beautiful jewellery and near-perfect children’s clothes are being shown alongside a combination of personal, military and religious treasures,” says Katherine.

“The exhibition has been described as a journey and we’re thrilled with the diversity of the objects on show. It’s a major exhibition ... and we’re privileged to be able to show these extraordinary items courtesy of the British Museum.”

To coincide with the exhibition, which opens at Leeds City Museum today and runs until January 4, there is to be a series of lectures and family events: including talks about rural life in Roman Yorkshire, and a lecture on Roman York.

For children, there will be special events at which they can get to handle Roman objects, make Roman-themed festival decorations – and take part in Saturnalia, the Roman winter festival.

“The Roman world continues to fascinate and surprise us,” says British Museum director Neil McGregor.

“I am delighted to collaborate with Leeds City Museum on this exhibition that explores the wider Roman Empire in relation to Yorkshire and the British Isles.”

• Roman Empire: Power & People runs at Leeds City Museum from today until January 4. The museum is on Millennium Square, Leeds, LS2 8BH, and is open every weekday except Monday from 10am to 5pm (7pm on Thursdays), and from 11am to 5pm at the weekend.

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Lectures and activities associated with the exhibition include:

• Tuesday September 23, 12.30-1pm: join Curator of Archaeology Katherine Baxter for a special tour of the exhibition.

• Thursday September 25, 5.30pm, lecture - Crime and Punishment in Roman Britain.

• Thursday October 16, 5.30pm, lecture - Fields and farms, lucre and lightning seeds: people, coins and the rural landscape in Roman Yorkshire.

• Thursday October 23, 5.30pm, lecture - Roman York: An Ancient City Revealed. BLOB Thursday November 13 , 5.30pm, lecture - Roman Yorkshire: the impact of Eboracum (Roman York) on its hinterlands.

Family events

• Tuesday 28 October, 10am-12pm - Roman object handling. Drop in to the exhibition to handle real Roman artefacts from across the Empire.

• Thursday 30 October, 10am-12pm - A Zoo in My Pocket. Drop in to the exhibition to learn about animals in the Roman World through the coins they appear on

• Saturday 27 December, Sunday 28 December, Tuesday 30 December, 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm - Making Mischief! “Lo Saturnalia”…. The Roman winter festival full of jokes and merriment.