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Home > Auctions > 21st November 2017 > Roman Gold Military Crossbow Brooch

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LOT 0147

GBP (£) 5,000 - 7,000
EUR (€) 5,920 - 8,290
USD ($) 6,380 - 8,940

3 1/2" (46 grams, 83mm).

A large gold crossbow brooch comprising a hollow hexagonal-section crossbar with beaded wire collars and onion-shaped knop terminals, third knop above and scroll detailing to the upper face; D-section bow with waisted ledge to the lower end, D-section footplate with triangle detailing to the long sides; catchplate to the reverse with lateral slot; the bow with possibly restored inlaid niello, text VTERE / FELIX, utere felix, for 'use [this] happily'.

Property of a South West London gentleman; acquired by his father in the 1970s; by descent 1986. Accompanied by X-Ray Fluorescence metal analysis certificate 00897-2017RB.

Cf. Wamser, L. Die Welt von Byzanz - Europas Östliches Erbe, München, 2004, item 3 for type.

Crossbow brooches were popular as sumptuous Imperial gifts from the late third to mid-sixth century. The act of giving money and valuable gifts to the soldiers of the Roman legions or to the Praetorian Guard by the Roman Emperors was known as donativum. The purpose of the donativa varied with some being expressions of gratitude for favors received, and others bribing the troops for their loyalty.Donativa were normally rendered at the beginning of each new emperor's reign. During the second and third centuries this form of bribery became a crucial part of any successful ruler in Rome, as was the case with many of the soldier-emperors from 235 to 248 AD.

The expression utere felix is one of the most common inscriptional formula on items from the Roman Empire, and is used to wish good luck, well-being and joy and is often inscribed on valuable personal possessions such as jewellery in the late-Roman period.