Late Roman Crossbow Brooch, Bronze

Product No.:693001
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Late Roman Crossbow Brooch

 
Late roman crossbow brooch with onion shaped buttons, made of solid bronze with decorated foot and screw mechanism for attaching of the pin. The mechanism is quite cumbersome to handle and suggests that the fibula was firmly attached to the cloak fabric. Size about 80mm.
 

Late Roman Crossbow Brooch, type Keller 5

 

In the 2nd century, before the fall of the Upper Germanic Limes, special fibula shapes with hinged pin construction and wide arms at the head end of the bow appear in the military camps, reminiscent of a crossbow. As typical soldier brooches, they soon became an official mark of the soldiers and probably of the military rank. In the 3rd century, the arms and the bow were decorated with large decorative buttons, which remind of the shape of onions. In archeology, these military fibulae are therefore referred to as onion button brooches. For over 300 years, these fibulae are closely linked with the soldiers of Rome, but also with outstanding historical figures and the history of late antiquity.
While other forms of brooches were worn by both women and men, the crossbow brooches were a gem exclusively for men or soldiers. They served to close the heavy cloak (sagum) over the shoulder.

This form of the military crossbow brooch type Keller 5 enjoyed a great popularity in the late 4th and early 5th century. There were some related types like Keller 2c even at the beginning of the 4th century. On the ivory diptych of the general Stilicho (part of the cathedral treasury of Monza) from the period between 395 and 400 AD also a type-same crossbow brooch is depicted, which underlines the long service life of this type.
Some crossbow brooches of type Keller 5 also come from grave inventories and settlement finds of the early 5th century. Even younger is a fresco from the cubiculum of Theotecnus in the catacombs of S. Gennaro (Naples), which dates back to the mid of the 5th century. This refined form Keller 6 with a narrower foot survives until the middle of the 5th century.
 
The replica of this Roman military crossbow brooch is based on a find from the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, which is one of the Harvard Art Museums at Cambridge. The find was acquired in 1978 by the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology of the Harvard University and has got the inventory number 1978.495.37. The original is made of a copper alloy and bears traces of a former gilding. In the X-ray image indistinct embellishments on the bow and the foot can be seen, which is why a distinct pattern was supplemented by a better-preserved comparison piece.
 
Further information about the original: 

https://www.harvardartmuseums.org/art/310784

Literatur:

M. Proettel, Zur Chronologie der Zwiebelknopffibeln, IN: Jahrbuch RGZM Mainz 1988, Mainz 1991
E. Keller, Die spätrömischen Grabfunde in Südbayern, Münchner Beitr. Vor- und Frühgesch. 14, München 1971
B. Deppert-Lippitz, A Late Antique Crossbow Fibula in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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