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Sharp Roman Bronze Theatre Mask Pendant AD100 $399.99 - SOLD

Handsome Ancient Roman Bronze Theatre Mask Pendant and (Contemporary) Chain.

CLASSIFICATION: Roman Bronze Artifact, Theatre Mask (Pendant). Contemporary chain.

ATTRIBUTION: Eastern Roman Empire (Thracia), 1st Century A.D.


Height: 46 millimeters.

Width: 34 millimeters.

Depth: 13 millimeters.

Weight: 25.19 grams.

Chain: Contemporary bronze tone 48 centimeters (18 inches).

CONDITION: Excellent. Entirely intact, sound integrity, no cracks, minimal porosity (surface pitting caused by contact with earth while buried). Good finish. Professionally conserved.

DETAIL: This is a very handsome, very large and distinctive, decorative piece of ancient Roman bronze ornamentation. Pendants of many different themes were enthusiastically worn by the Romans, as were brooches, rings, bracelets, earrings, fibulae (clothing pins), hair pins, etc. And the theatre was a very significant part of the average Roman’s life, just as television is so much a part of the average American’s life. Mimicking Greek Theatre, Roman actors of Classical/Greek/Tragedy more often not employed the use of masks to convey character and emotion. This pendant seems a celebration of Classical Roman Theatre in general, and the theatre mask in specific. Although such a pendant is not an uncommon find, to find one in such remarkable condition is not an ordinary event.

The artifact evidences none of the gross porosity (fine surface pitting due to burial in soil) that so commonly disfigures small ancient bronze artifacts. The pendant possesses a gorgeous antique bronze patina. There are no cracks, chips, or other impairments to its integrity. The Romans were very fond of jewelry and personal ornamentation, making wide use of very ornate belt buckles, brooches, bracelets worn both on the forearm and upper arm, rings, and of course pendants. This is a very distinct and handsome piece of Roman jewelry. It will without any doubt call attention to both itself and its wearer. It is accompanied by a contemporary bronze-tone copper chain which would darken with wear within a week or two to match the pendant in tone. The chain comes with the pendant at no additional charge. We also have available sterling silver and 14kt gold chains.

HISTORY: The influence of theatre on Roman life was huge. The beginnings of Roman theatre originate with the first record of drama at the Ludi Romani (Roman Festival) in 364 B.C. The Ludi Romani was held every September and honored Jupiter. There were five other festivals, Ludi Florales (April), Plebeii (November), Apollinares (July), Megalenses (April), Cereales (no particular season). By 240 B.C., Greek Theatre was familiar to Romans, translated into Latin, and brought to Rome from their new Greek colonies, and so both comedy and tragedy were performed. By 345 A.D., there were 175 festivals a year, 101 devoted to theatre. And by 550 A.D. there were more than 125 permanent stone theatre structures extant within the Roman Empire. Theatre was massively popular, and though acting was a profession held in low esteem, nonetheless Romans greatly enjoyed their two forms of theatre – Greek tragedy and Roman comedy. Greek tragedy was most popular in the Republic (before Julius Caesar). These were straightforward translations and adaptations of the Greek plays of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.

Roman Comedy (Fabula Atellana) was characterized by short improvised farces, with stock characters, similar costumes and masks – based on domestic life or mythology. Roman Comedy was the ancestor of today’s sitcoms, with plots focusing on domestic issues, usually involving boy-meets-girl-parents-forbid-marriage themes. In the later days of the Empire theatre took on an Etruscan flavor, grandly produced, and like today’s thrillers, filled with sexuality and violence. Stand-ins for actors (generally convicted criminals) were actually executed on stage at an appropriate moment within their role. Theatre came to encompass much more than mere drama; acrobatics, gladiators, jugglers, athletics, chariots races, naumachia (sea battles), boxing, and venations (animal fights) all became common. The later Empire Christian Emperors came to actively discourage theatre on moral grounds – leading to the decline of the “art”. 533 A.D. is the last record of a performance in the Roman/Byzantine Empire, as the Christian influence of Constantinople overwhelmed the pagan theatre.

In Greece actors had enjoyed a position of eminence and respect; but in Rome like many other professions in the empire, that of play-making was hereditary. Actors were foreigners, captives, or more frequently slaves who through skill had been able to purchase their freedom. The actors spoke the lines, but a second actor mimed the gestures to fit the lines, along with background music. Costumes and mask were worn to show the type of person on stage. Brown masks designated a male character, white for female; smiling or sad depending on the type of play. The costumes showed the audience who the person was - a purple gown for a rich man, a striped toga for a boy, a short cloak for a soldier, a red toga for a poor man, a short tunic for a slave, etc. Women were not allowed act, so their parts were normally played by a man or young boys wearing a white mask. Latin plays were presented in the daytime, sometimes before, sometimes after, the noon meal. The average comedy was about two hours long.

In the year 55 B.C., Pompey the Great erected the first permanent theater in the (conservative) city of Rome, disguised as a temple to Venus so as not to offend the sensibilities of the populace. It was of stone, seated perhaps seventeen thousand people, and had separate sections for nobility and senators. In contrast, the openly decadent city of Pompeii (Rome’s “Las Vegas”) had already possessed two permanent theatres for over a century. Julius Caesar built the first openly acknowledged permanent theatre in Rome in 55 B.C. Caesar’s success Augustus followed with the Theater of Marcellus. Theatres were generally built on level ground with stadium-style seating. Stages were large; 20-40 feet deep, 100-300 feet long, and theatres could usually seat 10-15,000 people. Generally a theatre would have an awning over the audience to protect them from the sun, and from the first century B.C. onwards an air conditioning system - air blowing over streams of water and water mist sprays as well.

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.

SHIPPING: These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request.

Our order fulfillment center near Seattle, Washington will ship your purchase within one business day of receipt of your personal check or money order. If you wish to pay electronically, we accept both PayPal and BidPay. However we ask that you PLEASE WAIT before remitting until we have mutually agreed upon method of shipment and shipping charges and you understand our PayPal limitations and policies (stated here). We will ship within one business day of our receipt of your electronic remittance.

A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request. We prefer your personal check or money order over any other form of payment - and we will ship immediately upon receipt of your check (no "holds"). Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."