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Rare Roman Iron Plumbata Mamillata Javelin Head

Rare Roman Iron Plumbata Mamillata Javelin Head


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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Ancient World: Roman: Pre AD 1000: Item # 1278504
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This rare piece is a Roman iron javelin head that dates circa 3rd-4th century A.D. This piece is approximately 5.7 inches long, and is a complete example. This piece has a barbed "spiked tang" head at the end, and a rounded lead weight attached to the shaft about 3.5 inches from the end of this formable weapon. This piece has an exceptional dark brown patina, is in superb condition, and is preserved with a wax sealant which has preserved the iron shaft. There are also some spotty dark brown and white calcite mineral deposits seen mostly on the lead weight. This weapon was also known as a "hasta plumbata", meaning "leaded spear", or as referred to by the ancient source Vegetius, as a "martiobarbalus", meaning "Mars-barb". (See Vegetius, "Epitoma Rei Militaris", translated by N.P. Milner, Liverpool University Press, 1993.) Another ancient source, the "De Rebus Bellicus", M.W.C. Hassall and R.T. Ireland (eds), 1979, Oxford, describes the "plumbata Mamillata", meaning "breasted javelin", as a javelin with a lead weight and a pointed iron head, with flights attached to the opposite end of the shaft. The epithet 'breasted' likely refers to the bulbous lead weight. This lead weight was also molded onto and around the iron shaft, and was solidly attached to the shaft. This type of weapon is rare, as only a few examples have been recovered from the British Isles, notably Wroxeter; and even fewer examples have been found in Germany, notably Augst and Castell Weissenberg, and Lorch, Austria. However, the ancient source Vegetius, (1.17), does state that two Illyrican legions were renamed "Martiobarbuli Ioviani" and "Martiobarbuli Herculiani" by the joint emperors Diocletian and Maximianus because of their proficiency with this weapon. He further states that five "plumbatae" were carried by a soldier in the concavity of his shield, and they were thrown at first charge, or used to defend with the reserves and could penetrate the body or foot of the assailant. This weapon was also thought to easily penetrate shields because of the lead weight, and could be thrown at great distance. Vegetius, (1.17), further states that soldiers using the "plumbata" take the place of archers, "for they wound both the men and the horses of the enemy before they come within reach of the common missle weapons". This weapon was truly an innovation in Roman battle tactics, and is a weapon that is seldom seen on the market today, as it was made from iron which easily deteriorates in mineralized soils. Another rare piece of this type is seen in "The Late Roman Army" by Pat Southern and Karen Dixon, Yale University Press, 1996, p. 114, Fig. 46. A custom display stand is also included. Ex: Private German collection, circa 1990's. (Note: Addition documentation is available to the purchaser.) I certify that this piece is authentic as to date, culture, and condition: