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Home > Auctions > 1st September 2020 > Byzantine Axehead with Silver Inlay

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LOT 0390

GBP (£) 4,000 - 6,000
EUR (€) 4,430 - 6,650
USD ($) 5,250 - 7,880

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£3,600 (EUR 3,988; USD 4,728) (+bp*)

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Byzantine Axehead with Silver Inlay

8th-10th century AD

An iron axehead with tubular socket and languettes, curved blade with Y-shaped void, inlaid silver scrolls and rosette to each face, scooped spike to the rear with silver and brass inlay. 296 grams, 20cm (8"). Fine condition.

Ex private English collection, 1980s-1990s; accompanied by an academic report by Dr. Raffaele D’Amato.
See Vegetius Flavius Renatus, Epitoma Rei Militaris, in L’arte militare di Flavio Renato Vegezio, traduzione e commento a cura di Angelini A., Roma, 1984; Vitlianov,S., Старобългарското въоръжение, София, 1996 (Vitlianov, S. Ancient Bulgarian armament, Sofia, 1996, in Bulgarian); Yotov, V., Въоръжението и снаряжението от българското средновековие (VII-XI век), (Arms in Bulgaria in medieval period, 7th – 12th century), Варна 2004; Vagalinsky, L, (ed.), Tsar Samuil (+1014) in battle for Bulgaria, Sofia, 2014; The Tactica of Leo VI, text, translation and commentary by G.T. Dennis, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Washington, 2014.
By the third century AD, the axe was forming a firm part of Roman infantryman's weaponry, mainly due to the influence of the Germanic auxiliaries. A good contemporary depiction of marching dromedarii equipped with axes can be seen in a frieze the Arch of Constantine (the Great) in Rome.

In his tactica, circa 900 AD, Emperor Leo insists that each cavalryman should be armed with a double-edged axe, furnished with a long, pointed spear-shaped blade hanging from the saddle in a leather case:
"Then you will arm the infantry Skoutatoi, who the ancients called oplitai, in a way that they should wear sword, spear and, when necessity arises, a long and wide shield, called thureos, completely round. The shields should be all of identical colour following the bandon (regiment) or tagma (company) of belonging; moreover they should have a helmet furnished on the top of a small plume, slings, double-edged axes, whose blade should be as a sword's blade, from one side, and from the other side as the point of a spear, which will be worn in leather cases, or other axes having a cutting side and round the
their side, and still other axes double edged as the bipennes".