Samnite Bronze Gladiator Belt


A magnificent Samnite warrior bronze belt decorated with clasps in the shape of palmettes with garnets. The Samnites, a tribe from Campania the Romans fought in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, were the prototype for Rome’s professional gladiators. It was their equipment that was first used and later adopted for the arena. This wide bronze belt was worn by a Samnite warrior to clasp a tunic at the waist. It was manufactured from a single piece of hammered metal and along both edges is a row of small punched holes that allowed the belt to be sewn to a leather or cloth lining for greater comfort. The decorative palmette clasps, a common feature on Samnite belts, were attached to the belt at one end with riveted plates. At the other end there are six holes in two rows for adjusting the belt size. The bronze surface shows traces of gilding. The piece is affixed onto a custom-made flat acrylic stand for protection and display.

N.B. This item will require additional postage charges after checkout due to weight and size.

Date: Circa 4th century BC
Provenance: Ex. Axel Guttmann collection, from there ex. Hermann Historica Munich, sale October 2010. Then from a Surrey gentleman's collection (DG), purchased on the London Art Market from an ADA member, formed 1990's onward.
Condition: Very fine condition, with green patina over the surface and minor fillings to the bronze. Original clasps reattached. Small chipping to the edges of the belt.


SKU: MG-269 Category: Tags: ,

Samnite warriors, taken as slaves after the Roman conquest, were used as gladiator in the arenas. Originally, these captured soldiers were made to fight with their own weapons and in their particular style of combat. The Samnite wore an elaborate helmet, a wide metal belt, such as this example, a large oblong shield, a sword and probably a greave on the left leg. Wide bronze belts with several clasps, often in the shape of palmettes, have been recovered especially in the regions of Apulia, Lucania, and Daunia, and feature widely on representations in Campanian and Lucanian painting.

Gladiators were professional fighters who battled from 105 BC to AD 404 in purpose-built arenas throughout the Roman Empire, with the Colosseum being the largest one. The origin of gladiator games can be traced back to the Etruscans, who associated a religious significance to the contests. During the Imperial Era, such games presented an opportunity to showcase wealth, commemorate military victories and entertain the populace. Perhaps the most well known gladiator is Spartacus, who led an uprising of gladiators and slaves from Capua in 73 BC.

Dimensions L 100 x W 9.8 cm



Semi-Precious Stones

Reference: For a similar item, please see The Metropolitan Museum, item 08.3a

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