Legionary Fibula Inscription

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Roman legionarysilver fibula with dragon head



Material  Silvered with Bronze/Copper Alloy
Dimensions 6.0cm long x 1.8cm wide
Roman Empire 3rd Century AD

A heavily silvered bronze fibula.  This item is either solid silver or has a near original silvering "wash" still covering it.  The fibula is or high quality with an intricate design.  The head of the fibula which is missing the spring and pin, has a smooth slope to it with raised ridges that run up to the main focus of the piece. 

A decorative and fierce looking Dragon head.  This ornate head which is built directly into the fibula, makes the Dragon look like it is swallowing the remainder of the item.  Two eyes, open mouth with teeth, nostrils on a long snout and ears make up the features of the Dragon head. 

The design continues further with a raised thick ridge that runs around the neck of the Fibula.  Two smaller ridges balance it out on either side.  A long raised wavy line then continues on the top of fibula, ending at a rounded end piece.  A long smooth opening exists, where it would have housed the pin for the fibula.

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.(1)

The fibula was clearly something that was consistent throughout the Roman empire for Centuries.  Style varied and can dictate the time period when the item was made, however is is clear that a wide range of design and quality existed.  An ornate example such as this would have distinguished one soldier from another.

Also a similar even more elaborate eample Gold Inlaid Fibula

Click on Pictures for higher resolution

Close up Dragon Head View

Under Side View

Front View

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(1) 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