Ancient Roman Silver-Gilt Brooch with Dedicatory Inscription


A fine Roman silver crossbow brooch featuring a semi-circle arched bow and short, flattened foot. The cross-bar is adorned with small knobs, a silver one on the right end whilst the left is missing. A final knob made of bronze has been applied to the bow. There is a long vertical incision running along the length of the bow ridge. Across the sides of the brooch is a dedicatory inscription in Latin: ‘VTER FELIX IURE VICTO’ which roughly translates to ‘To the rightful winner. Use it with good luck.’ The cross-bar is slightly tilted to the right. The hinged pin, still complete, sits on the other side of the pin catch, now fixed in place. There is evidence of gold gilt, applied to the silver, on the foot and terminating end of the arch.

Date: 4th century AD
Provenance: Ex Cambridgeshire, UK, collection
Condition: Good condition. One crossbow knob is missing and the horizontal arm is slightly tilted.

In stock

SKU: SK-28 Category: Tag:

In the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, fibulae (or brooches) were originally used for fastening garments. They came in a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety pin principle. Roman conquests spread the use of the fibula, which became the basis for more complicated brooches. The crossbow design reached the height of its popularity both in Italy and the Western European provinces at a later stage in the Empire’s history. Worn almost exclusively by men, the crossbow brooch came to represent civil and military authority, with famous late Roman generals such as Stilicho having been depicted wearing crossbow fibulae. Simpler versions made with cheaper materials were then popularised by Roman soldiers, thus allowing for their spread into the provinces where they became a staple of Romano-Celtic fibula design.

The dedicatory inscription ‘VTERE FELIX’, ‘use it with good luck’ or ‘with happiness’ is often found on Roman military artefacts, like belt fittings, brooches, and armlets; but it is rarely accompanied by ‘IURE VICTO’ inscription (‘rightful winner’). The inscription is typical of the late Roman military world, but it can also refer to people using the brooch in civil duties, these fibulae being ordinarily gifted to the militia armata and non armata.

Weight 19 g
Dimensions L 6.5 x W 4.1 cm


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Reference: For a similar item, The British Museum, item 1924,0502.7

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