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Roman Bronze Armor Belt Fitting Plaque with Dionysus

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Ancient World: Roman: Pre AD 1000: Item # 1329528
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This attractive piece is a Roman armor "belt fitting" plaque that dates circa 3rd-4th century A.D. This piece is approximately 2.5 inches wide, by 2.4 inches high, and is a complete example of a Roman bronze "belt fitting" plaque type segment, which was a component of a Roman belt. This Roman bronze "belt fitting" plaque was prominently displayed on a Roman legionnaire with a frontal view, and Roman bronze "belt fitting" plaques of this type usually portrayed heroic scenes that illustrate several Roman gods and goddesses. The back side of this piece has four round studs that attached this piece to a thick leather backing, which also served as the inner layer of the belt. The right side of this piece has two round elongated hooks that likely fit into a pin, and/or into another segment of the entire belt. The belt that held this plaque was a large and wide example, and may also have wrapped around the torso of a legionnaire in order to secure a "scale-armor" mail type shirt. In addition, this belt may also have supported a "gladius" or "spatha" sword and scabbard, and this type of Roman belt was known as a "cingulum", which was generally worn around the waist and best represented the Roman military soldier in the 3rd century A.D. (For the type, see Peter Connolly, "Greece and Rome at War", Macdonald Phoebus Ltd, UK, 1981, pp. 260-261.) This scarce piece shows a standing nude Dionysus, otherwise known to the Romans as Bacchus, who is seen leaning right, and is holding a "thyrsus" in his left hand, and pouring a wine offering into the ground from an oinochoe in his right hand. There is also what appears to be a panther seen below, and ivy tendrils are seen to the right as well. The military symbolism of this piece is apparent, as the "thyrsus" was not only a beneficent wand of Bacchus, but was also a weapon that was used to destroy those who opposed his cult and the freedoms he represents. It is quite possible that an individual, or a Roman soldier, who wore this piece was also a member of this cult. This piece has a nice dark green patina with some spotty dark brown highlights, along with some minute dark black mineral deposits. This piece is an exceptional "belt fitting" plaque, and is scarce on the market. This piece also hangs on a custom Plexiglas stand and can easily be removed. Ex: Fortuna Fine Arts, New York, circa 1990's. Ex: Private New York collection. I certify that this piece is authentic as to date, culture, and condition: