A 2,000-year-old Roman hoard which includes a bust of emperor Marcus Aurelius has gone on display for the first time since being discovered in North Yorkshire by two metal detectorists.

The incredible collection of “nationally important” artefacts are expected to fetch up to £90,000 when they go under the hammer next month.

The bronze items were discovered last year by metal detectorists James Spark, 40, and Mark Didlick, 44, in a field in Ryedale.

The Ryedale Ritual Bronzes include a perfectly preserved bust of Marcus Aurelius, who was played by Richard Harris in hit 2000 film Gladiator.

As well as the bust, which would have been mounted as the head of a priest’s sceptre, the hoard contained an equestrian statuette of the God Mars, a horse head knife handle and a large bronze pendulum.

The collection, believed to have been buried as part of a Roman religious ceremony in around AD160, has been given an estimate of between £70,000 to £90,000.

The relics will be available to view for the first time by appointment only at Hansons Auctioneers showroom in London from Friday ahead of the sale on May 20.

This week marks the 1,900th anniversary of Marcus Aurelius’s birth in Rome, Italy, on April 26, 121 AD.

Adam Staples, Historica expert at Hansons Auctioneers, said: “The hoard of artefacts was probably buried as a religious offering which marked the closure of a rural shrine or the death of a priest.

“The artefacts would have formed a suite of ritual implements, to be utilised when performing religious ceremonies and for predicting the future.

“The hoard was taken to York Museum and recorded through the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme.”

Marcus Aurelius became Emperor in March of AD 161 and his 19-year reign was one of relative peace and prosperity for Rome.

However, in AD 165 troops returning from Mesopotamia brought with them a virus which swept across the entire Empire – the Antonine Plague.

Now believed to be an outbreak of Smallpox, this ancient pandemic devastated the Roman citizens, with an estimated 10 per cent of the population losing their lives.

An accomplished scholar, author and philosopher, Aurelius faced the challenge of the pandemic with his own stoic attitude.

In his book ‘Meditations’ he wrote: "How unlucky I am that this should happen to me.

"But not at all. Perhaps I should say how lucky I am that I am not broken by what has happened."

Adam added: “He is indeed very lucky not to have been broken by his 1,850 years spent underground.

“The bust has survived extremely well and is in very fine condition with a glossy green patina.

“This is a very rare opportunity to own a nationally important group of artefacts.”

Viewings will also be available in York on May 11. To book email astaples@hansonsauctioneers.co.uk.