The British Museum is currently home to Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum – a major exhibition on the two ancient cities destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. For the first time, treasures previously unseen outside of Italy are on show in London – but that’s not to say that Britain doesn’t have some exquisite Roman artefacts of its own.
In an accompanying exhibition entitled Silver Service: Fine Dining in Roman Britain, the museum is giving visitors an opportunity to feast their eyes on the incredible Mildenhall treasure – a hoard of dishes, platters, bowls and assorted silverware found in Sussex some 70 years ago.
Fans of Roald Dahl will recognise this major archaeological haul for having inspired one of the author’s few non-fiction stories – truly a glowing endorsement.
The centrepiece is the Mildenhall Great Dish, a dining accessory grand enough to have played a central role in the most ostentatious Roman banquet. This silver platter is clearly the work of a consummate craftsman – it’s decorated with amazing carvings that depict a drinking contest between Hercules and the god of wine, Bacchus.
Other treasures include a silver plate with niello decoration, almost as large and beautiful as the Great Dish, and fluted and flanged silver bowls.
To ensure that visitors are truly immersed in an era when fine dining meant music, poetry, acrobats and dancing girls, the exhibition space is filled with evocative audiovisual displays and even pumped with the aroma of cinnamon.
Silver Service: Fine Dining in Roman Britain concludes on August 4th, so those booked into hotel accommodation in London this summer have just under a month left to attend. Admission is free.
The British Museum is one of London’s biggest tourist destinations and extensive public transport provisions mean it should be easy to reach. The closest tube stops are Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square and Goodge Street, all of which are within walking distance of the venue.