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Home > Auctions > 2nd June 2020 > Gotho-Byzantine Sword with Eagle Heads

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LOT 0473

GBP (£) 5,000 - 7,000
EUR (€) 5,620 - 7,860
USD ($) 6,300 - 8,820

Sold for: £6,875
(Inc. bp*)

Gotho-Byzantine Sword with Eagle Heads

5th-6th century AD

A double-edged cutting sword with complete blade; the point is well preserved; both cutting edges with evidence of use on the battlefield; the blade is straight with a hefty tang; the parallel fullers well marked; the guard (probably from another sword) is formed from a chip-carved gilt iron plate, divided into two sections, decorated with grooves, and ending with bird heads (eagles?) on one side, smooth on the back side; the iron grip with a circular golden plate, horizontally divided by five circles; the pommel absent with two original iron supports for the grip in situ. 806 grams, 88.5cm (34 3/4"). Fine condition, cleaned and conserved. Rare.

From the family collection of a South East London collector; formerly acquired in the late 1950s, accompanied by an archaeological report by military specialist Dr. Raffaele D’Amato.
See Behmer E., Das zweischneidige Schwert der germanischen Völkerwanderungszeit, Stockholm, 1939; Périn P., Kazanski M., La tombe de Childéric, le Danube et la Méditerranée, in Villes et campagnes en Neustrie, (Europe médiévale, 8) Montagnac, 2007, pp.29-38; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, The Merovingian Period, Europe without borders, Berlin, 2007.
An Eastern Germanic or Byzantine sword with gold chip carved guard and sheet gold grip; in excellent condition considering the antiquity of the blade. The general shape of the sword and the chip-carved guard points to a likely Byzantine origin, probably from a Constantinople (Byzantium) workshop. At the moment there are no known direct parallels of such a guard, but it shows similarities to the Pontic (Byzantine) sword of Pokrosk-Voshod (Périn-Kazanski, 2007, fig.5, p.31) and of the identical sword of MVF of Berlin (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 2007, p.327, cat.I.34.5), both dated to the mid-5th century AD. That particular item seems to have been produced by Eastern Goths, deeply influenced by Byzantium (of which they were formally subjects). The eagle terminals of that sword suggest a Crimean Gothic attribution, finding parallels with the Bosphoran eagle-buckles, considered to be of Ostrogothic-Italic origin. The prototypes of the eagle buckles from the southern Crimean cemeteries are the Gotho-Gepidic examples in the Middle Danubian region (Staatliche Museenzu, Berlin, 2007, p.77). An Eastern Roman origin of this weapon is very likely, on the basis also of the style of the chapes of other swords like the one from Zaragiz’s grave (Périn-Kazanski, 2007, fig.6, n.1, p.31). The presence of an unusual guard suggests the Constantinople origin of our specimen.