CHI RHO Emblem
A complete bronze helmet crest for the "Intercisa II or IV" Roman helmet or other similar later Roman helmet that allowed a crest to be attached.
This exceedingly rare complete example consists of a fully gilded attaching crest, along with the mounting hardware and silver rivets.
The piece is wider at the top narrowing to the center circular image which is that of a CHI-RHO (explained further below). A narrow portion then continues further down to the end point. The piece still has large sections that are covered in a gold foil. The items patina is not present, but this is likely as a result of over cleaning or more likely as a result of being preserved in a oxygen depleted environment which did not allow it to corrode.
The mounting hardware is amazing, and almost identically matches the drawings from Christian Miks book(4) pages 52-54, in which the clip at the top attaches to the crest of the helmet, while the rivet at the bottom attaches to the ridge of the helmet. The fact that the rivets were done in silver indicates that they likely matched other silver rivets on the gilded helmet.
The symbol at the center of the piece is called the CHI-RHO. (*this item also has a star and crescent moon in the field*)
The symbol consists of the superimposed Greek letters chi (Χ) and rho (Ρ) and although commonly connected to Christianity in its earliest form, the symbol also was used prior to Christianity.
What really defines this symbol however is the belief that it was first used by the great Roman Emperor Constantine I (The Great) at the battle of Melvin Bridge on October 28th, 312 AD. According to one of the sources, Eusebius of Caesarea, Constantine had a vision in which the superimposed letters appeared to him accompanied by the words ‘in this you shall conquer’. A second contemporary source Lactantius, states that Constantine was also instructed to place the symbol on the shields of all his soldiers prior to the battle. History records that this is what he in fact did, and that the result of the ensuing battle was a decisive victory to Constantine and his troops. Constantine later went on to convert to Christianity on his deathbed, forever changing the course of history as the first Christian Roman Emperor.
Many coins of the period begin to display this symbol on the Military standard and it is consistently displayed on Christian inscriptions.
The item is extremely rare, and it was not until more recently that these items were properly identified. Previous thoughts had been that they were for belts, or other items. However the published works of Jelle Prins in 1998 confirmed that these pieces were actually the helmet crest for the Intercisa II or IV Roman helmets. The portions of a one of these helmets, along with some silver gilt sheathing was located in the Limburg Province of the Netherlands in the later 90's. The helmet crest still had the bronze attachment on it at the front, with a Chi-Rho emblem engraved on it (very similar to this piece). (1)(2)(3)(4)
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(1) References to similar items: KOCSIS, Laszlo; A New Late Roman Helmet, 2003.
(2) Reference to similar items: PRINS, Jelle; The Fortune of a Late Roman Officer, page 52-53, 1998.
(3) Reference to similar items: BISHOP, M.C & COULSTON, J.C.N; Roman Military Equipment "From the Punic wars to the Fall of Rome", page 210 2006.
(4) Reference to similar items: MIKS, Christian; Von Prunstuck zum Altmetall, Ein Depot Spatromischer Helmteile aus Koblenz, RGZM, 2008
**Note on background. Close up view of the wall of the Colosseum of Pula, Croatia. Picture taken 2014