DETAIL: A very well preserved third century A.D. Roman engraved bronze ring from Provincial Noricum. The ring is well preserved, and though it exhibits some fairly substantial wear from being used by its original Roman owner, the detail is nonetheless well preserved, and the ring is entirely intact. This is a heavy ring, very rugged, easily twice the weight of the typical similar-sized ring produced in the era. Thee bezel is crafted into a soft marquise with rounded ends, a popular style for the period. The engraved motif is also a very popular design, and though well worn, it is very easy to make out the clear remains of a legionary eagle (the best picture to discern the eagle is the topmost in this listing).
This is the classic three-quarter to full face depiction of a Roman Legionary Eagle. It looks to be almost, but not quite full-face. You can clearly see the two legs at the bottom of the bezel in an invested “V”, with what remains of the wings to either side, and the heard, cocked about one-quarter, directly above the legs at the opposite side of the bezel. The specimen originates in a Romano-Celtic region of the empire, and it does possess a hallmark characteristic of the bronze rings produced within the Roman Empire by Celtic artisans. That is the very distinctive “knob” at the back of the band. The Romans highly regarding Celtic workmanship, and articles of jewelry produced by Celtic artisans were highly prized, and by the time of Imperial Rome, Celtic artisans could be found scattered throughout the empire.
The ring is a wonderful, well-preserved piece of ancient Roman jewelry. It has a beautiful dark bronze tone very characteristic of ancient bronze, very handsome, and quite unlike any contemporary ring. Though heavy, it is of one-piece construction, much like a contemporary ring. The more archaic rings (which also tended to be heavy) produced by Roman artisans were characteristically made in two pieces; an incomplete ring (a “shank”) with a separately crafted bezel which was brazed to the shank in order to assemble the ring. The ring’s size is a bit small for modern populations, but the ring was almost certainly worn by an ancient Roman adult woman, perhaps even a male adult. Take into account that primitive populations were generally of slighter build than today’s robust populations, and the Italians then and even today were typically smaller than say their German/Celtic contemporaries.
Romans also oftentimes wore rings on all ten fingers (including their thumbs), so “pinkie” rings would have been much more common than they are today. And Romans wore rings on both the first and second joint of their fingers, the second joint obviously thinner (even on you and I) than the first joint where most people wear rings today. So a size 5 ring would not have been an uncommon size for the typical Roman adult. Fate has been kind, and the ring has been preserved in wonderful condition. Of course the ring does evidence some moderate all-over wear, you can see that the engraved design on the bezel has been worn down a bit. However this should not be a source for disappointment.
You must keep in mind that the ring was produced by an artisan and sold to a patron or consumer with the idea that the ring would be enjoyed and worn by the purchaser. And without any regard to twenty-first century posterity, that precisely what happened! The original Roman owner of this ring wore it, enjoyed it, and probably never could have in his most delusional moment ever dreamed that almost 100 generations later the ring would still exist. It should likewise come as no surprise that also detectable are the telltale signs that the ring spent thousands of years in the soil. Porosity is fine surface pitting (oxidation, corrosion) caused by extended burial in caustic soil.
Many small ancient metal artifacts such as this are extensively disfigured and suffer substantial degradation as a consequence of the ordeal of being buried for millennia. It is not at all unusual to find metal artifacts decomposed to the point where they are not much more substantial than discolored patterns in the soil. Actually most smaller ancient artifacts such as this are so badly oxidized that oftentimes all that is left is a green (bronze) or red (iron) stain in the soil, or an artifact which crumbles in your hand. However this specimen is not so heavily afflicted, and certainly has not been disfigured.
Even to close inspection, it simply looks like an ancient ring, nicely surfaced, no immediately discernible blemishes. You have to look very closely, such as with a jeweler’s loupe or in these photo enlargements, to detect the telltale signs indicating the ring was buried for millennia. This ring spent almost 2,000 years buried, yet by good fortune there is only an exceptionally light degree of porosity evidenced. It happened to come to rest in very gentle soil conditions. Consequentially, the integrity of the artifact remains undiminished, and despite the very mild porosity, the ring remains quite handsome, and entirely wearable.
This is an exceptional piece of Roman jewelry, and a very handsome and significant artifact. The ring has very nice rich tone, is quite sturdy and completely wearable, and the ring has been professionally conserved. The Romans were of course very fond of ornate personal jewelry including bracelets worn both on the forearm and upper arm, brooches, pendants, hair pins, earrings intricate fibulae and belt buckles, and of course, rings. Despite its shortcoming of exhibiting moderate (but not excessive) wear, this specimen is an exceptional piece of Roman jewelry, a very handsome artifact, eminently wearable, and aside from being significant to the history of ancient jewelry, it is also an evocative relic of one of the world’s greatest civilizations and the ancient world’s most significant military machines; the glory, might and light which was ancient Rome.
HISTORY: The eagle was the principal standard of the Roman legion, and continued to be used as such so long as that body existed. In the early Republic a number of “mascots” had been used by the legionary forces, including the eagle, the wolf, the minotaur, the horse, and the boar. However during the second consulship of Gaius Marius in 104 B.C., the eagle became the exclusive standard for the Roman Legions. These legionary eagles, not great in size, were affixed to spears, the lower ends of which were sharp-pointed for the purpose of their being more easily planted in the ground. They are exhibited on coins as holding in their talons a thunderbolt. Oftentimes in bronze, silver was preferred for the material of the eagle itself, and the reason, according to Pliny, a historian writing at that time, was that it is a metal which is seen at the greatest distance.
Perhaps one of the most prolific uses of the image of the legionary eagle was on the legionary coins of Mark Antony. In that depiction which was produced on literally hundreds of millions of silver coins, the eagle is placed between two standards, distinguished with three circular appendages, and terminating above in a spear-point. You can see an especially fine example of one of these silver denarii here. Eagles between simple ensigns, of a similar form and the same number, appear on denarii of Clodius Macer and of Septimius Severus; also on the well known coins which record the recovery of the ensigns from the Parthians (by whom they had been captured in battle).
Depictions of legionary eagles may also be found amongst the colonial mintages, such as in Acci, Caesar-Augusta, Patrae, Emerita, etc. On coins of Octavius Augustus commemorating the restitution of the standards, Mars Ultor appears, with a legionary eagle in his right hand, and in his left an ensign (or standard, if you prefer). The legionary eagle appears fixed to a ship's prow, and held by two right hands, on a brass coin of the Emperor Nerva, and also appears in the hands of a number of Roman emperors on the coinage of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, Severus Alexander, Philip II, Probus, etc. As can be seen on this ring, an engraved Roman Legionary Eagle was also a popular depiction on jewelry, especially rings and intaglios.
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 ancient Roman artifact. 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. At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Britain in the West, throughout most of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, and into Asia Minor. 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. The decline was temporarily halted by third century Emperor Diocletian. In the 4th Century (A.D.) the Roman Empire was split between East and West. The Great Emperor Constantine again managed to temporarily arrest 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.
In the ancient world valuables such as coins and jewelry were commonly buried for safekeeping, and inevitably the owners 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, thousands of years later caches of coins and rings are still commonly uncovered throughout Europe and Asia Minor. 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 thousands of years 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 ancient treasures.
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).
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.
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