Fibulae or brooches were originally used in Ancient Greece and in the Roman Empire for fastening garments, such as cloaks or togae. The fibula designs developed into a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety-pin principle. The Roman’s conquests spread Roman culture and therefore the use of the fibula, which became the basis for more complicated and highly decorated brooches, modelled in bronze, silver and gold and further enriched with precious and semi-precious gemstones. Fibulae are the most common artefact-type in burials and settlements throughout much of the continental Europe. By the Middle Ages, the Roman safety pin type of fibula had fallen into disuse.
There were a multitude of fibula designs in Roman culture; brooches, like this example, are classified as a ‘knee brooch’ and it is characterised by the wide head plates and the dramatic bend in the bow. Such fibulae were favoured amongst the Roman army and been recovered in military graves in both Britain and the Danubian province, but especially in the Pannonia region (modern Hungary), where this style is believed to have been originated from the 2nd century AD. Unlike crossbow fibulae, which were worn as a symbol of rank in the Roman army and civil service, knee fibulae were almost exclusively worn by soldiers.