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.
Roman Bronze Crossbow Brooch
A Roman bronze crossbow fibula with incised geometric patterns. It features a highly arched bow that’s applied to a flattened, rectangular foot. Both the curved bow and foot feature a central band of incised decoration, consisting of a column of small dots. The foot is further embellished with incised linear motifs, splaying outwards from the central rib. The longitudinal arms are hexagonal in shape and terminate in hexagonal dome-shaped knobs. An additional knob terminates the arched bow, intercepting the arms centrally. The arms also feature applied rings, that sit beneath each knob. Further decoration to the arms includes raised undulating ridges. The hinged pin is still complete and sits neatly into the curved catchplate.
Provenance: 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. Pin still intact.