JEWELLERY and valuables found stashed away beneath a Colchester shop in 2014 are set to take centre stage in an exhibition exploring the life of one of Rome’s most infamous emperors.

The British Museum is hoping to open its exhibition on Nero, who succeeded to the throne aged 16 in 54AD, next month.

It is billed as a fresh look at the Emperor, who is said to have killed his mother after an incestuous relationship with her, as well as killing his first and second wife and setting fire to Rome.

The exhibition will feature more than 200 objects to question the traditional depiction of the “tyrant”, which is based on a “narrow range” of “brutally biased and partisan” sources from just after Nero’s death, curators said.

Items from the Fenwick Hoard, discovered in 2014 beneath the former Williams and Griffin store in Colchester High Street by Colchester Archeological Trust, will feature among 200 exhibits.

The trust believes the items of jewellery were part of a collection belonging to a wealthy Roman woman who lived in Colchester.

She is believed to have stashed the items under the floor of a house subsequently burnt to the ground during the Boudican Revolt in 61AD.

The collection is one of the finest of its type to have been discovered in the UK.

Delicate organic remains, including leather and wood, were also found, alongside bone fragments near to the house displaying signs of battle wounds.

The trust’s director Philip Crummy said: “The exhibition is of particular interest to Colchester because it was during the reign of Nero that Boudica’s attack on Colchester and other parts of Britain took place.

“Whenever we excavate within Colchester we find, almost always, traces of Boudica’s fire.

“This wasn’t a case of a fire started in one place which spread, they must have gone around and torched it comprehensively.

“A part of the attack on Colchester was to squash out Roman Britain, at that time Colchester was seen as the centre of Roman occupation of Britain.”

He added: “After that event there was an inquiry carried out on behalf of Nero, an exslave of his who had been freed came with an entourage – they must have come to Colchester as well as other parts of Britain – and sent back reports to Nero.

“There is still a bit of that report we can read, and we can ascertain that some British people living in the colony plotted against the Romans.

“Boudica must have been told the place was undefended.”

Glynn Davis, senior curator at Colchester and Ipswich Museums, said: “I am not sure how they will contextualise the Fenwick Hoard, many reports have falsely claimed this is the first time these items will be on display.

“They are always on display in Colchester Castle and it’s one of the star objects here.

“In the days when it was discovered, the museum worked with the archeological trust and Hugo Fenwick contributed to getting these items on display.

“It does two things, on one level it is still one of the earliest precious metal hoards from Roman Britain.

“It was caught up in the destruction of Colchester.

“Then the objects themselves have great significance, some of these items are the spitting image of jewellery from Pompeii at the time.

“So many reports falsely equate items to Pompeii, but in this case we can actually say this stuff is the same.

“This is jewellery of high status and male adornments such as battle honours, giving us insight to fashion popular around the world at the time.”

British Museum director Hartwig Fischer said: “Nero: The Man Behind the Myth is the first major exhibition in the UK to look beyond the commonlyheld view of Nero as the Emperor who fiddled while Rome burned.”

The exhibition runs from May to October 24 in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery at the British Museum.