"Mysteries" of Diana's Cult at Lake Nemi
in the Nottingham Collection

Lora Louise Holland


The English ambassador at Rome in 1885 was Sir John Savile Lumley, who undertook the excavation of several trenches in the volcanic crater that holds Lake Nemi and the famed sanctuary of Diana in the Arician nemus, in cooperation with the landowner Prince Orsini. The Prince kept the "best finds," that is, those that could readily be sold on the antiquities market of the day, leaving Lumley with the terracottas, small bronzes, coins, inscriptions, and various miscellaneous finds, much of it of Republican date. Lumley shipped the bulk of these finds to his estate in Nottinghamshire, where they formed what became known as the Nemi Collection at the Castle Museum in Nottingham. The "Nemi Room" was dismantled at the turn of the 21st century, and the entire collection was placed in storage at the nearby Brewhouse Yards Conservatory, where it remains today. While other finds from Nemi, many of which are scattered across the globe—at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, the British Museum, the Villa Giulia and other museums in Rome, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia—have received a good deal of attention, the Nottingham collection as a whole has not. Its contents, however, particularly items from the collection that have never been adequately published, are ripe for renewed study in light of new excavations in the environs of Lake Nemi. After two recent trips to Nottingham to study the collection, and one to Lake Nemi itself, I wish to present some results of my research.

In this illustrated paper, I will first give a brief overview of the ancient sites located in the Lake Nemi crater, including the most recently published plans of the area of the sanctuary, the small theater, and the holiday villa, excavated by the Nordic Institute in 1998-2002, believed to have belonged to Julius Caesar. Then I will present some of the objects from the Nemi Collection that shed new light on Diana's cult, and on Roman religion and culture more generally. This will include votive terracotta figurines of pregnant women—what they do and do not tell us—and two enigmatic bronze objects that have not been properly published, whose votive function I hope to illuminate. There will also be a handout with bibliography and additional visuals.

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