Discovering Dannicus

Dannicus is the Cotswold Archaeology logo – but who is he?

Dannicus tombstone detail © Cotswold District Council, courtesy of Corinium Museum
Dannicus tombstone detail © Cotswold District Council, courtesy of Corinium Museum

When Cotswold Archaeological Trust was created in 1989, a logo was required for the new charity. One idea was a feline, to match our abbreviation CAT, but in the end we chose instead one of the iconic images of Roman Cirencester, our hometown. In the 1830s, workmen digging in Cirencester discovered two inscribed tombstones of Roman auxiliary cavalrymen – both are now in Corinium Museum. The tombstones are similar in that they both depict a mounted soldier riding over a fallen enemy, although they are not identical. The finer carved tombstone is a monument to a soldier named Genialis, which shows the soldier looking to the side. The other tombstone is a memorial to a soldier named Dannicus, this time depicting the man looking directly at the viewer, and for that reason Dannicus was chosen as our emblem (despite the depiction of his steed as something akin to a pantomime horse!).

Dannicus tombstone © Cotswold District Council, courtesy of Corinium Museum
Dannicus tombstone © Cotswold District Council, courtesy of Corinium Museum

So who was Dannicus? The inscription on the tombstone tells us that he was a trooper in the regiment called the ala Indiana, came from the area around Basel in Switzerland and served in the army for 16 years. Dannicus’ regiment has nothing to do with India; it was named after its first commander, Julius Indus, who raised his own regiment in Trier, Germany, to help suppress a revolt by local tribesmen. The unit then moved to southern Germany, and that is where the local boy Dannicus would have been recruited. Dannicus could have come to Britain in AD 43 with the invading Roman army, or else in the aftermath of the rebellion of queen Boudica (the Boadicea of modern legend) in AD 61 to replace units destroyed in the uprising.

Dannicus died sometime after AD 70 and in his will he instructed his two executors, Fulvius Natalis and Flavius Bitucus to erect a tombstone to his memory. That they did, and it lay in the ground for almost 1900 years before seeing the light of day once again. Dannicus lived an amazing life in the 1st century AD. What stories he must have recounted, and how extraordinary that after a boyhood in Switzerland he came to be an enduring symbol of a town in far off England, and the logo for all of us at CA.

Neil Holbrook

You can see Dannicus’ tombstone for yourself, when it goes on display at the Corinium Museum in early December as part of a new gallery of 1st century military tombstones, illuminated in full colour. In the meantime, why not support the museum’s “Stone Age to Corinium” project – an exciting project to create new Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Early Roman Galleries, as well as an inspiring garden space and a dedicated “hands-on” Discovery Centre – by getting involved in one of their interactive initiatives:

Adopt an Object

Adopt an object from Corinium Museum to help them complete their project. Sponsorship ranges from £10 to £1,000 for some of the most significant objects in the museum’s collection.
Adopt an object here.

Buy a Corinium Creature

For a minimum donation you can buy a creature inspired by iconic objects from the collections and printed with a name of your choice that will be displayed for 1 year. You can buy a Corinium creature here.

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