Legionary Belt/ Cingulum Buckle

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Roman Legionary cingulum ring belt buckle





Material  Silvered Bronze/Copper Alloy
Dimensions 6.9cm long x 5.5cm wide
Roman Empire Early to mid 3rd Century AD

A nice bronze Legionary Ring  belt buckle that replaced the more traditional Cingulum Buckle of the 1st and 2nd Century.  See Earlier Buckle Style The ring buckle began its use with the Baldric Belt suspension style, where the most elaborate decoration existed on the shoulder strap, and not the buckle.  Many monuments and gravestones show the use of this new style of buckle.  The earliest dated ring buckle appears on an alter dated to 211 AD. (2)

The design at the top is in the shape of two Dragon heads with ears, eyes, mouth and scales along both sides as well as a "tail", which makes up the remainder of the ring

The beast heads on the dragon buckles sometimes look like dragons, sometimes like panthers (with apparent whiskers), sometimes like snakes and sometimes like wolves.  The origin of the buckles may well be found in the draco standard of the late Roman army. This was a standard of Thracian origin adopted into the Roman army, originally for cavalry, but by the 4th century for infantry as well.  Like the heads of the dragon buckles, the head of the draco seems to vary in its form, sometimes looking more serpentine, sometimes more canine. And equally, like the pattern on the dragon buckle loops, the patterns on the draco’s tail seems to change.(3)

The remnants of an iron belt tongue are visible at the bottom where there is a dark brown patina.  Two rivet like protrusions also appear near the top of the buckle, making this a highly decorative piece.  Many examples are not nearly as ornate.

Possible TEXT

On the reverse there is visible numerous "scratches" or gashes along the buckle.  Other known examples have been found with engraving on them.  It was not uncommon to use a sharp object to put phrases onto military items (including names).  Basically a form of Graffiti, that is usually written in a style that is hard to read or interpret.  It is unknown if these marks (which appear only in this small area) are there as part of some text, or if they were just something that came with the manufacture of the item.  Further research is required.

The belt was an important part of the Roman Legionary's equipment and during the 3rd and 4th Century they were highly designed and really works of art unto their own. See 4th Century Buckle.

This item was found in the same location as the following other pieces.

Spatha Scabbard Chape

Spatha Scabbard slide

Perhaps they belonged to the same sword and belt pieces.  All are from the early 3rd Century and match the period.

Here is a similar Example from source (2) dated 3rd Century AD.

-painting by M. Daniel

Click on Pictures for higher resolution

Close up View of the dragon heads

Close up View of writing with highlights

Close up View of writing

Reverse View

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(1) Reference to similar items: STEPHENSON, I.P; Roman Infantry Equipment "The Later Empire", page 99-100 2001.

(2) Reference to similar items: BISHOP, M.C & COULSTON, J.C.N; Roman Military Equipment "From the Punic wars to the Fall of Rome", page 183 2006.

(3) References to similar items: http://www.lateromanbuckles.org.uk/ Stuart Laycock & Marshall 2005.

**Note on background. Close up view of the wall of the Colosseum of Pula, Croatia. Picture taken 2014