DETAIL: A very handsome plaque containing two fragmentary pieces of Roman bronze jewelry. The stamped piece with the elaborate floral design is the fragment of a bronze bracelet which must have been very beautiful in its original form. This fragment is about 25 millimeters in length, and about 14 millimeters in width. The second bronze fragment appears to have been a pin or brooch. It is hard to be absolutely certain that it was used for personal adornment, as it is also similar to the bronze pieces which one might find embellishing a wooden trunk or other wooden furnishing. But it seems likely that this was a pin or brooch, or perhaps even something to be worn in the hair.
Jewelry was very popular in the Roman Empire. Rings, earrings, pendants, and bracelets, fibulae, brooches, and hair pins were commonly fashioned from bronze, and occasionally from silver or gold. Intaglio rings were designed so that a Roman Citizen could leave his own personal and distinct "seal" (or signature) on a clay tablet or lead pellet. Intaglio rings, engraved bracelets, carnelian intaglios, and many other types of Roman jewelry were quite intricate, requiring an enormous amount of effort to hand engrave. Typically they were worn by the upper class.
These gorgeous pieces of the world which was Rome, these beautiful bronze fragments of history, have been mounted onto an oak frame plaque with a brief narrative outline of the history of the Roman Empire. It measures 175mm * 145mm (about 7 by 6 inches). It would make a great gift, for yourself or a friend, and would surely delight a son or daughter. It would not only make a very handsome display, but would be very educational as well. As you can see the bronze artifacts evidence only moderately light porosity, and that is really only noticeable under magnification (as in the photo enlargements here). They do not exhibit the gross corrosion or porosity (surface pitting caused by burial) so common with most smaller ancient metal artifacts. The fragments possess a very nice, rich tone characteristic of ancient bronze.
HISTORY OF THRACE: The indigenous population of ancient Thrace were Indo-Europeans who spoke their own language who archaeologists believe originated in the area of the Black Sea around 5,000 B.C. Thrace included areas of present day Bulgaria, Northeastern Greece, Eastern Serbia, portions of Macedonia, and portions of northwest Turkey. Divided into separate tribes, the Thracians did not form a lasting political kingdom until the Odrysian and Dacian States were founded in the early 4th century B.C. At its greatest it extended beyond the Danube to the North (Ancient Dacia and Pannonia, present day Moldova and Romania) and to Southern Russia and the Ukraine to the East. The Thracians were capable of wielding an army of 150,000, and threatened even regional powerhouse Macedonia until both were conquered by the Persians under Darius the Great.
The Thracians were to fall under the cultural influence of the ancient Greeks, though as non-Greek speakers, they were viewed by the Greeks (and subsequently the Romans) as barbarians. The Greeks founded Thracian colonies as early as the sixth century B.C. Homer’s Iliad records that the Thracians had agreed to fight on the side of the Mycenaean Greeks in the Trojan War. However according to the account the Thracians did not fulfill this promise. In the Odyssey, Odysseus and his men raided Thrace on their way back home from the war. This was to punish them for their "cowardice", as the Odyssey puts it. Many mythical figures, such as the god Dionysus, princess Europa, and the hero Orpheus were borrowed by the Greeks from their Thracian neighbors. The Thracians were described by Roman Historian Herodotus as the second most numerous of peoples, after the Indians, and potentially the most powerful, and he suggested that the extent of the lands they inhabited and controlled would have made them a vast empire, if they were united.
Thrace was to fall to the great Persian armies of Darius the Great in the late sixth century B.C., and subsequently to Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. Thereafter Thrace was ruled by the Macedonians until Macedonia was stripped of its territories after its third war with the Romans. After the conclusion of the “Third Macedonian War, Thrace was ruled directly by Rome as a client state. The successor of the Roman empire on the Balkans, the Byzantine (or Eastern roman) Empire retained control over Thrace until the beginning of the 9th century, after which time control of Thrace alternated between the Byzantine Empire and Bulgaria (Roman Moesia). However ultimately the Ottoman Turks conquered the region and held it for five centuries until the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after the conclusion of World War I. Recently Bulgarian archaeologists have made monumental discoveries of Royal Thracian burials dating back to the fifth through third centuries B.C. in what has become known as Thracian Valley of the Kings.
ROMAN HISTORY: One of the greatest civilizations of recorded history was the ancient Roman Empire. In exchange for a very modest amount of contemporary currency, you can possess a small part of that great civilization in the form of a 2,000 year old piece of jewelry. The Roman civilization, in relative terms the greatest military power in the history of the world, was founded in the 8th century (B.C.). In the 4th Century (B.C.) the Romans were the dominant power on the Italian Peninsula, having defeated the Etruscans and Celts. In the 3rd Century (B.C.) the Romans conquered Sicily, and in the following century defeated Carthage, and controlled the Greece. Throughout the remainder of the 2nd Century (B.C.) the Roman Empire continued its gradual conquest of the Hellenistic (Greek Colonial) World by conquering Syria and Macedonia; and finally came to control Egypt in the 1st Century (B.C.).
The pinnacle of Roman power was achieved in the 1st Century (A.D.) as Rome conquered much of Britain and Western Europe. For a brief time, the era of "Pax Romana", a time of peace and consolidation reigned. Civilian emperors were the rule, and the culture flourished with a great deal of liberty enjoyed by the average Roman Citizen. However within 200 years the Roman Empire was in a state of steady decay, attacked by Germans, Goths, and Persians. In the 4th Century (A.D.) the Roman Empire was split between East and West. The Great Emperor Constantine temporarily arrested the decay of the Empire, but within a hundred years after his death the Persians captured Mesopotamia, Vandals infiltrated Gaul and Spain, and the Goths even sacked Rome itself. Most historians date the end of the Western Roman Empire to 476 (A.D.) when Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed. However the Eastern Roman Empire (The Byzantine Empire) survived until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D.
At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain in the West, throughout most of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and into Asia Minor. Valuables such as coins and jewelry were commonly buried for safekeeping, and inevitably these ancient citizens would succumb to one of the many perils of the ancient world. Oftentimes the survivors of these individuals did not know where the valuables had been buried, and today, two thousands years later caches of coins and rings are still commonly uncovered throughout Europe and Asia Minor. Roman Soldiers oftentimes came to possess large quantities of "booty" from their plunderous conquests, and routinely buried their treasure for safekeeping before they went into battle. If they met their end in battle, most often the whereabouts of their treasure was likewise, unknown. Throughout history these treasures have been inadvertently discovered by farmers in their fields, uncovered by erosion, and the target of unsystematic searches by treasure seekers. With the introduction of metal detectors and other modern technologies to Eastern Europe in the past three or four decades, an amazing number of new finds are seeing the light of day 2,000 years or more after they were originally hidden by their past owners. And with the liberalization of post-Soviet Eastern Europe, new markets have opened eager to share in these treasures of the Roman Empire.
HISTORY OF BRONZE: Bronze is the name given to a wide range of alloys of copper, typically mixed in ancient times with zinc, tin, lead, or arsenic. The discovery of bronze enabled people to create metal objects which were better than previously possible. Tools, weapons, armor, and building materials made of bronze were harder and more durable than their stone and copper predecessors from the “Chalcolithic” (the “Copper Age”), i.e., about 7000-3500 B.C., and the Neolithic (“New Stone Age”), i.e. about 12000 to 7000 B.C.). Of particular significance were bronze agricultural implements, tools for cutting stone, and weapons. Culturally significant was bronze statuary, particularly that of the Romans and Greeks. The ancient Greeks and Romans had a long history of making statuary in bronze. Literally thousands of images of gods and heroes, victorious athletes, statesmen, and philosophers filled temples and sanctuaries, and stood in the public areas of major cities. In fact, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia and the Colossus of Rhodes are two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Initially bronze was made out of copper and arsenic. It was only later that tin was used, becoming (except in ancient Egypt) the sole type of bronze in the late 3rd millennium B.C. Tin-alloyed bronze was superior to arsenic-alloyed bronze in that the alloying process itself could more easily be controlled, the alloy was stronger and easier to cast, and unlike arsenic, tin is not toxic. Toxicity was a major factor in the production of arsenic bronze. Repeated exposure to arsenic fumes ultimately led to nerve damage in the limbs. Evidence of the long agony of Bronze Age metalsmiths came down to the ancient Greeks and Romans in the form of legend, as the Greek and Roman gods of metalsmiths, Greek Hephaestus and Roman Vulcan, were both lame. In practice historical bronze alloys are highly variable in composition, as most metalworkers probably used whatever scrap was to hand. In one instance of ancient bronze from Britain, analysis showed the bronze to contain a mixture of copper, zinc, tin, lead, nickel, iron, antimony, arsenic, and silver.
Other advantages of bronze over iron include that bronze better resists corrosion, particularly seawater corrosion; bronze resists metal fatigue better than iron; and bronze is a better heat conductor (and thus is better suited for cooking vessels). However ancient bronze, unless conserved properly, is susceptible to “bronze disease”, wherein hydrochloric or hydrosulfuric acid is formed due to impurities (cuprous chloride or sulfur) found within the ancient bronze. Traditionally archaeology has maintained that the earliest bronze was produced by the Maikop, a proto-Indo-European, proto-Celtic culture of Caucasus prehistory around 3500 B.C. Recent evidence however suggests that the smelting of bronze might be as much as several thousand years older (bronze artifacts dating from about 4500 B.C. have been unearthed in Thailand).
Shortly after the emergence of bronze technology in the Caucasus region, bronze technology emerged in ancient Mesopotamia (Sumer), Egypt, the Indus Valley Civilization of Northern India, the Aegean, the Caspian Steppes (Ukraine), the Southern Russia/Central Mongolia Region (the Altai Mountains), the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean), Anatolia (Turkey) and the Iranian Plateau. By the late third millennium B.C. many Western European Bronze Age Cultures had emerged. Some of the more notable were the Celtic cultures of Middle Europe stretching from Hungary to Poland and Germany, including the Urnfield, Lusatian, and (Iron Age Transitional) Hallstatt Cultures.
The Shang in ancient China also developed a significant Bronze Age culture, noted for large bronze burial urns. The ancient Chinese were the first to cast bronze (using the “lost wax” technique) about 2200 B.C. Prior to that time all bronze items were forged. Though weapons and utilitarian items were produced in great numbers, the production of bronze in ancient China was especially noteworthy for ornamented ritualistic/religious vessels (urns, wine vessels, water pots, food containers, and musical instruments), many of immense size.
Britain’s Bronze Age cultures included the Beaker, Wessex, Deverl, and Rimbury. Copper and tin ores are rarely found together, so the production of bronze has always involved trade. Cornwall was one of the most significant sources of tin not only for Britain, but exported throughout the Mediterranean. Other significant suppliers of tine were the Taurus Mountains of Anatolia (Turkey), as well as Spain. Enormous amounts of copper was produced from the Great Orme mine in North Wales, the island of Cyprus, the European Alps, and from the Sinai Peninsula and other nearby sites in the Levant. Though much of the raw minerals may have come from Britain, Spain, Anatolia, and the Sinai, it was the Aegean world which controlled the trade in bronze. The great seafaring Minoan Empire (about 2700 to 1450 B.C.) appears to have controlled, coordinated, and defended the trade.
Tin and charcoal were imported into Cyprus, where locally mined copper was mined and alloyed with the tin from Britain. Indicative of the seafaring trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, a shipwreck from about 1300 B.C. off the Turkish coast revealed a ship carrying a ton of copper ingots, several dozen small tin ingots, new bronze tools, scrap metal, and a blacksmith's forge and tools (along with luxury trade goods from Africa). It appears that the Bronze Age collapsed with the fall of Minoan Empire, to be replaced by a Dark Age and the eventual rise of the Iron Age Myceneans (on mainland Greece). Evidence suggests that the precipitating event might have been the eruption of Thera (Santorini) and the ensuing tsunami, which was only about 40 miles north of Crete, the capital of the Minoan empire.
Some archaeologists argue that it was Santorini itself which was the capitol city of the Minoan World. However where Crete or Santorini, it is known that the bread-basket of the Minoan trading empire, the area north of the Black Sea lost population, and thereafter many Minoan colony/client-states lost large populations to extreme famines or pestilence. Inasmuch as the Minoans were the principals of the tin/copper shipping network throughout the Mediterranean, the Bronze Age trade network is believed to have failed. The end of the Bronze Age and the rise of the Iron Age is normally associated with the disturbances created by large population disruptions in the 12th century B.C. The end of the Bronze Age saw the emergence of new technologies and civilizations which included the large-scale production of iron (and limited scale production of steel).
Although iron was in many respects much inferior to bronze (and steel was inefficiently produced in very limited quantities), iron had the advantage that it could be produced using local resources during the dark ages that followed the Minoan collapse, and was very inexpensive when compared to the cost of producing bronze. Bronze was still a superior metal, resisting both corrosion and metal fatigue better than iron. And bronze was still used during the Iron Age, but for many purposes the weaker iron was sufficiently strong to serve in its place. As an example, Roman officers were equipped with bronze swords while foot soldiers had to make do with iron blades.
Pliny the Elder, the famous first century Roman historian and naturalist, wrote about the reuse of scrap bronze and copper in Roman foundries, noting that the metals were recast as armor, weapons or articles for personal use, such as bronze mirrors. The melting and recasting foundries were located at the Italian port city of Brindisi. Located on the Adriatic coast, Brindisi was the terminus of the great Appian Way, the Roman road constructed to facilitate trade and military access throughout the Italian part of the Roman Empire. The city was the gateway for Roman
penetration into the eastern parts of her empire (Greece, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea Region, the Danubian Provinces, and eventually Mesopotamia).
Due to its fragile nature this particular piece is shipped in an oversized box with lots of Styrofoam peanuts. Domestic shipping (insured first class mail) is included in the price shown. Domestic shipping also includes USPS Delivery Confirmation (you might be able to update the status of your shipment on-line at the USPS Web Site). Canadian shipments are an extra $9.99 for Insured Air Mail; International shipments are an extra $17.99 for Air Mail (and generally are NOT tracked; trackable shipments are EXTRA).