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Read, Watch and Listen

The Parthian Empire at its Greatest Extent (c. 96 BC)

In the early 1st century BC, Parthia’s territory expanded to the River Euphrates. Parthian and Roman envoys met to establish this landmark as the boundary between the two superpowers. At this first meeting, the Roman magistrate reportedly seized the seat of honour, humiliating his Parthian counterpart as the inferior ambassador. In 53 BC, Parthia finally demonstrated its strength by crushing the Roman army at Carrhae. 30,000 soldiers were killed or captured, and several legionary standards were lost to the Parthians.

Alexandra Magub - School of Oriental and African Studies and The British Museum

What's in a surname?

A major research project is on course to create the largest, most detailed and most accurate database of the UK's family surnames.

'Still' by Denise Riley

Riley wrote the poem in the wake of her son’s death but never published it. It plays on the many meanings of the word ‘Still’: 'still' as ‘quiet’, as 'continually', as 'constant', as 'even though', etcetera. Even though the poem deals with death, Riley assured us that the shape of the funerary urn was created quite accidentally by centring the words on the page.

The Parthian Shot: silver tetradrachm of an unknown king (c. 80-70 BC).

The archer on Parthian coins not only represented the military might of the Parthians, but also their Iranian character. Trousers were considered effeminate clothing in the Roman world; however the folds of material (shown on the coins as horizontal lines) prevented saddle chaffing. These mounted archers were a chilling reminder of Rome’s defeat at Carrhae: the Roman historian Justin recounts how the cavalrymen would gallop in retreat, only to turn in the saddle and fire fatal shots from their bows. 

© Trustees of the British Museum

Translating the 'Zibaldone'

One of the most famous works in Italian Literature has finally been translated into English thanks to AHRC funding.

(c) Auriol Herford, no title, translation of Sam's image, 11-18 March 2015:

“Taking the lead from Sam and his interest in the connections between the natural and digital world, I reflected on the idea of my instinct and relation to technology. Last week I had a Caesarean birth followed by a week of rigorous monitoring. Every night over the last year I have also plugged a catheter bag onto my eldest son. I translated the medical objects and fragments from the experience into an image that used printmaking, drawing and collage.” http://kitestudios.org/ 

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Speakers at the "Beyond the Battlefields: Käthe Buchler's Photographs of Germany in the Great War" exhibit. Copyright for images at the exhibit: German Photographic Museum in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony.

Silver denarius of Augustus (63 BC–14 AD).

In 20 BC, Augustus, Emperor of Rome, and Phraates IV, King of Parthia, negotiated the return of Rome’s captured standards. While both sides benefited from this treaty, Augustus was quick to portray the event as a personal victory.  On this coin, a Parthian wearing the characteristic trouser suit returns a standard from his knees. Recounting these events, Augustus published the claim throughout his empire, “I forced the Parthians… as supplicants to accept the friendship of the Roman people“(Res Gestae, 29). 

© Trustees of the British Museum