Rare Ancient Roman Bronze Barrel Padlock


An extremely rare and fine ancient Roman bronze barrel padlock, unique in its design. The padlock body is stylised as a fish, detailed with incised scales, tail and eye, as well as a crested spine. On the reverse side, three rivet heads now remain. To the front, the piece is further adorned with a finely rendered and well preserved head of the Roman god Mars. He wears a galea, the Roman helmet, easily recognisable on his head turned in profile. The god is rendered in a naturalistic manner; his delicately carved facial features and helmet and are easily distinguishable and remain extremely well preserved. A suspension hole has been added at the front of his feathered helmet, whilst the padlock is pierced longitudinally from the back. Beautiful red and brown patination now cover the item; there are some minor earthly encrustations.

Date: Circa 1st - 2nd century AD
Condition: Very fine condition; minor earthly encrustations on the surface.


Figural padlocks, such as this beautiful example, are interesting items of the Roman everyday life, displaying the great skills of Roman bronze craftsmanship. Padlocks of this type are believed to have originated from North-East Italy, then spread to other areas such as Britannia and Germania. Unlike this rare example, the moulded bronze faces used to decorate figural padlocks were usually stereotyped, following the same features such as straight hair, usually combed straight down and worn in bangs.

In Ancient Roman mythology Mars was primarily the god of war. He was especially important to the Romans because he was regarded as the mythical father of the founder and first king of Rome, Romulus. He was associated with the Greek god, Ares (Ἄρης). However, whilst his Greek counterpart was often viewed unfavourably, Mars was a figure of military power for securing peace and a father figure of the people.

To find out more about Roman gods, please visit our relevant blog post: Roman Gods in Mythology.

Weight 45.40 g
Dimensions L 7.5 x W 0.9 x H 2.6 cm



Roman Mythology

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