Gladius Scabbard Plate/ Lock Plate

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Roman gladius scabbard piece mainz style

Material  Bronze/ Copper Alloy
Dimensions 10cm x 8cm
Roman Empire  1st or early 2nd Century AD

Bronze imprint with nice even patina, believed to have once been part of the decoration of a Gladius scabbard. Four holes are present, once in each corner of the rectangular piece. Holes are from ancient times as the patina is on them as well. Unknown why they are present.

A section is missing from the center, also believed to have been from ancient times. Unknown why, or how the damage was made as it doesn’t appear to match a weapon puncture, and cuts right into the imprinted image. A smaller rectangular hole is also present near the bottom of the piece. The item shows a figure left with head facing right wearing a Roman helmet with plums coming from it, shield resting on right hand by legs, perhaps a representation of Mars.

The middle figure is supporting a spear in the right hand, head facing left with accents coming around it, perhaps representing light. Right hand is by its side, with the beginning of what looks like a Roman standard beside it. In behind the figure is some kind of frame, perhaps a doorway, with a checkered pattern of lines crossing it. Part of this figure is missing in the center from the irregular shaped hole present.

The figure on the right is believed to be female as there appears to be a veil hanging from the side of the face, which is looking straight ahead. The figure also appears to be holding parts of her dress in her right hand while the left hand crosses her body. There is a long draping dress covering all but her feet.

All three figures are standing on an alter with two palm leaves below, meeting an unknown object in the center. There are two Romanesque columns rising on either side of the group of figures, with draping decorations handing above them. Underneath the alter there appears to be a set of stairs leading up to it.

The dimensions closely match the width of a Gladius scabbard plate. Coupled with the similarities to other examples that are made in a similar manner(imprinted/inscribed bronze scabbard design) this items appears to be consistent with a Gladius Scabbard Plate (1)(2)

-painting by John Warry


***The other possibility is that the item was a bronze cover plate for a lock, where the cut out in the center was for the key. My knowledge in that area however is limited so I can not rule it out. However the intricate military design indicates it was used for something much more important and was perhaps reused later for something else**


Click on Pictures for higher resolution

 Close up view of upper part                     Close up view of lower part

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(1) References to similar items: FEUGERE, Michel; Weapons of the Romans, page 114 2002.

(2) References to similar items: COWAN, Ross; Roman Legionary 58 BC- 69 AD, page 16 2003.

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