Roman Bronze Handle With Bacchants


A beautiful ancient Roman round-section bronze handle. The back side of the handle reveals a slight curve, a sign that the handle was attached to a round object, such as a mirror or a patera. The handle features three sets of overlapping, finely-detailed acanthus leaves and terminates with the representation of a horse-head; the attachment bar features three radiating heads, and it is further decorated with two flowers at each extremities.

Please note that the handle is mounted on a purpose-made wooden stand.

Date: Circa 1st-3rd century AD
Condition: Excellent condition. Beatiful green patina on the surface.

In stock

Bronze mirrors were highly valued by individuals in the Roman Empire, on account of the importance given to appearance and grooming. They would have therefore been present in every aristocratic household, and were also buried with the deceased as grave goods. The bronze would have been buffered multiple times until the metal became reflective. The polished metal was believed to allow the gods to see into one’s soul and therefore to break a mirror was deemed very disrespectful. It was thought that the gods would bring bad luck and misfortune on those who were so careless, however, when mirrors were produced from glass, it became harder to prevent breakages.

On the other hand, a patera was an ancient Roman broad and shallow dish or bowl, mostly produced in bronze, and usually used as a sacred libation vessel. Bacchus, the equivalent of Dionysus, is perhaps best known for his position as the god of wine. Bacchants, commonly called Maenads, were the followers of Bacchus and are well known for their crazed and inebriated worship of the god. In the famous play of Euripides The Bacchae, the god infatuates the women of the city and causes them to behave immorally with men and they even conspire to murder under the god’s influence. This crazed behaviour was likely linked to Dionysus’s position as the god of wine and ‘good times’. Given that this handle was probably affixed to a vessel for holding wine, the imagery is particularly apt.

To discover more about the cult of Dionysus please visit our relevant blog post: Dionysus: Madness, Release, and Wine.


Weight 315 g
Dimensions L 15 cm



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