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Handsome, Intact Ancient Roman-Byzantine Solid Silver Belt/Strap Applique/Embellishment (Stick or Brooch Pin).
CLASSIFICATION: Eastern Roman Empire/Byzantium Silver Artifact, Belt or Strap Applique/Embellishment (Pendant). Contemporary pin upon request. Mounted onto plaque or shadow box upon request (additional shipping charges apply).
ATTRIBUTION: Eastern Roman Empire (Macedon), Eighth to Tenth Century A.D.
Length: 23 millimeters.
Width: 13 millimeters.
Thickness: 3 millimeters.
Weight: 2.57 grams.
NOTES: Upon request can be mounted with a jewelry pin (see below) at no additional charge for use as a brooch or lapel pin. Can also be mounted onto a plaque or into a shadow box (see below).
CONDITION: Excellent. Scabbard/belt applique is entirely intact. Extremely light porosity (surface pitting caused by contact with earth while buried). Professionally conserved.
DETAIL: This is a very handsome, decorative/functional piece of ancient silver Roman-Byzantine ornamentation. If one examines this intricate piece of silver ornamentation, it is clear that this was most likely an appliqué for a belt or strap, or an appliqué for a leather scabbard. From the underside, you can see the shoulders which would have gripped a leather strap, belt, or narrow scabbard. It's likely that it would have been used by a Roman-Byzantine soldier as an appliqué on a strap or belt or scabbard worn by the solider himself. It is indeed the type of decorative ornamentation one would have expected to find on a belt or strap employed by a Roman Soldier.
Many pieces of equipment and weaponry were carried on the person of a Roman (Byzantine) Legionnaire, many held in place with belts (and buckles), and such ornamental appliqués were quite popular on belts and straps, as well as scabbards. Though intended as a belt or strap ornament, we hope you will agree that with the addition of a contemporary pin, it makes a handsome stick pin or brooch. With the addition of a contemporary pin it can be worn and enjoyed - an authentic "souvenir" of the Eastern Roman Empire. Worn as a pin, we are sure that the original owner would not disapprove, as the Eastern Empire Roman Byzantines were quite fond of wearing ornamental brooches, pins and pendants. As a pin it is a very handsome piece of jewelry, of very nice design and workmanship, an evocative memory of the glory and grandeur which was the world of Byzantium.
It is a very solid piece, well constructed, and in a very good state of preservation. Although it was of course not originally intended as a piece of jewelry, nonetheless we felt that mounted onto a pin it was quite handsome and a significant artifact of might of the ancient Roman-Byzantine military machine. The Romans and their successors in the East (Byzantium) oftentimes used very ornate belt buckles, as well as many other forms of personal jewelry including bracelets worn both on the forearm and upper arm, rings, pendants, earrings, hair pins, and brooches. It is a very piece, well constructed, and in a great state of preservation. The artifact evidences none of the gross porosity (fine surface pitting due to burial in soil) which so commonly disfigures small ancient metal artifacts.
Upon request we would be happy to attach a jewelry pin so that this remarkable artifact could be worn and displayed with pride. The pin is secure, but could easily be removed without damaging the artifact if desired in order to preserve authenticity. As a brooch or lapel pin it would be a very handsome and provocative piece of jewelry, of very nice design and workmanship. If you request (follow the links below), we could mount the artifact onto a framed display plaque (see it here), and it would make a great gift. The plaque narrates a brief outline of the history of ancient Rome along with an image of some of the ancient ruins of the City of Rome. It would make a very handsome 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. If you prefer, the artifact could be installed within a glass-front shadow box with or without printed history (see it here). Whether worn as a lapel pin or a brooch, displayed or mounted onto a plaque, it is a wonderfully attractive and evocative relic of the grandeur and glory which was Roman Byzantium.
HISTORY: The Byzantine Empire was the eastern remainder of the great Roman Empire, and stretched from its capital in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey) through much of Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, and small portions of North Africa and the Middle East. Prior to the fifth century collapse of the Western Roman Empire, one of Rome's greatest emperors, Constantine the Great, established a second capital city for the Roman Empire in the East at Byzantium, present day Turkey. Constantine The Great sought to reunite the Roman Empire, centered upon Christian faith, by establishing a second "capital" for the Eastern Roman, away from the pagan influences of the city of Rome. Established as the new capital city for the Eastern Roman Empire in the fourth century, Constantine named the city in his own honor, "Constantinople".
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire, the "Byzantine Empire", lasted for another thousand years as the cultural, religious and economic center of Eastern Europe. At the same time, as a consequence of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, most of the rest of Europe suffered through one thousand years of the "dark ages". As the center of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople was one of the most elaborate, civilized, and wealthy cities in all of history. The Christian Church eventually became the major political force in the Byzantine Empire. In Byzantine art, God rather than man stood at the center of the universe. Constantine the Great is also credited with being the first Christian Roman Emperor, and was eventually canonized by the Orthodox Church. Christianity had of course been generally outlawed prior to his reign.
Under the Byzantine Empire, Christianity became more than just a faith, it was the theme of the entire empire, its politics, and the very meaning of life. Christianity formed an all-encompassing way of life, and the influence of the Byzantine Empire reached far both in terms of time and geography, certainly a predominant influence in all of Europe up until the Protestant Reformation. In Byzantine art, God rather than man stood at the center of the universe. Representations of Christ, the Virgin, and various saints predominated the coinage of the era. The minting of the coins remained crude however, and collectors today prize Byzantine coins for their extravagant variations; ragged edges, "cupped" coins, etc. Other artifacts such as rings, pendants, and pottery are likewise prized for their characteristically intricate designs.
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.
ANCIENT MACEDONIA: Macedon (or Macedonia) is known to have been inhabited since the Neolithic, early inhabitants including Thracians, Pannonians, and Ilyrians. It is believed by anthropologists that the original population was of Indo-European Dorian stock. The Dorians were responsible for the invasion of Myceanean Greece to the south about 1150 A.D., precipitating the “Greek Dark Ages”. Mycenea was sacked, and the archaeological record shows that many other principle cities in Greece and Crete were reduced to villages. It is known that the Greeks considered the Doric Macedonians “barbarians”, and that the Macedonians spoke a distinct language or dialect, and were considered by the Greeks as “non-Greek” speakers.
Up until the time of Alexander the Great Macedonians were not allowed to participate in Olympic Games. However with the Hellenization of the Greek Peninsula, eventually Macedon was considered Hellenic. The area of ancient Macedon was in the north part of the Greek Peninsula, and was bordered by ancient Thrace. Ancient Macedon is now split between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia (formerly part of Yugosalvia). Due to the barbarian incursions and depopulation of the region after the fall of the Roman Empire, the surviving Greek population of Macedon fled southwards into what is now the Macedonian region of Greece; while eventually the northernmost regions (present day Republic of Macedonia) became repopulated with Slavic peoples, and even later by Armenians.
The ancient populations coalesced into the Kingdom of Macedonia about 800 B.C. Ancient Macedon fell to the Persian Armies of Darius the Great in the late sixth century B.C. It became more Hellenic in character after King Alexander I of Macedon began promoting the Attic (Greek) dialect and culture in the first half of the fifth century B.C. The Hellenic character of Macedon grew over the next century. Under the rule of Philip II, Macedon extended its power over the rest of northern Greece, including Thrace, Pannonia, and Illyria. Philip's son Alexander the Great conquered not only the remainder of Greece, but also the Persian Empire, Egypt, and Northern India. After his death Alexander’s generals divided the empire between them, founding their own states and dynasties.
Macedon was part of the empire created by Antigonus, remaining independent until foolishly engaging the Romans in three successive wars in the late third and early second centuries B.C. The Romans initially divided Macedonia into four republics, client kingdoms of Rome, before finally annexing Macedon as the first Roman Province in 146 B.C. With the division of the Roman Empire, Macedon eventually became part of the surviving Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire. However the population of the entire region was severely depleted by destructive successive invasions of Goths, Avars, Visigoths, Huns, and Vandals. In the fifth and sixth centuries a number of Slavic tribes repopulated the desolated northern regions (what is today the Republic of Macedonia).
Most of inland (Slavic) Macedonia was incorporated into Bulgaria in the ninth century, while the ethnic Greek Aegean coastal regions remained part of the Byzantine Empire. However the period following (one century plus) was punctuated by almost incessant warfare between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire, until finally in 1018 A.D. Bulgaria fell and the whole of Macedonia was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire as the province of Bulgaria. Macedonia was ultimately to fall to the Islamic Ottoman Empire in the first half of the fifteenth century. For the next five centuries Macedonia remained part of the Ottoman Empire.
The initial period of Ottoman rule saw the complete desolation of the plains and river valleys of Macedonia. The Christian population there was slaughtered, escaped to the mountains or was forcefully converted to Islam. Towns destroyed during the conquest were repopulated with Turkish Muslim settlers. At the conclusion of World War I and the dismembering of the Ottoman Empire, Macedonia was incorporated with the rest of Serbia into the Kingdon of Serbs, Croats, Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia). After the fall of the Soviet Empire late in the twentieth century, Slavic Macedonia became the Republic of Macedonia. Greek Macedonia remains of course, part of Greece.
HISTORY OF SILVER: After gold, silver is the metal most widely used in jewelry and the most malleable. The oldest silver artifacts found by archaeologists date from ancient Sumeria about 4,000 B.C. At many points in the ancient world, it was actually more costly than gold, particularly in ancient Egypt. Silver is found in native form (i.e., in nuggets), as an alloy with gold (electrum), and in ores containing sulfur, arsenic, antimony or chlorine. Much of the silver originally found in the ancient world was actually a natural alloy of gold and silver (in nugget form) known as “electrum”. The first large-scale silver mines were in Anatolia (ancient Turkey) and Armenia, where as early as 4,000 B.C. silver was extracted from lead ores by means of a complicated process known as “smelting”. Even then the process was not perfect, as ancient silver does contain trace elements, typically lead, gold, bismuth and other metals, and as much as a third of the silver was left behind in the slag. However measuring the concentrations of the “impurities” in ancient silver can help the forensic jewelry historian in determining the authenticity of classical items.
From Turkey and Armenia silver refining technology spread to the rest of Asia Minor and Europe. By about 2,500 B.C. the Babylonians were one of the major refiners of silver. Silver “treasures” recovered by archaeologists from the second and third millenniums demonstrate the high value the ancient Mediterranean and Near East placed upon silver. Some of the richest burials in history uncovered by archaeologists have been from this time frame, that of Queen Puabi of Ur, Sumeria (26th century B.C.); Tuankhamun (14th century B.C.), and the rich Trojan (25th century B.C.) and Mycenaean (18th century B.C.) treasures uncovered by Heinrich Schliemann.
The ancient Egyptians believed that the skin of their gods was composed of gold, and their bones were thought to be of silver. When silver was introduced into Egypt, it probably was more valuable than gold (silver was rarer and more valuable than gold in many Mesoamerican cultures as well). In surviving inventories of valuables, items of silver were listed above those of gold during the Old Kingdom. Jewelry made of silver was almost always thinner than gold pieces, as indicated by the bracelets of the 4th Dynasty (about 2,500 B.C.) queen Hetephere I, in marked contrast to the extravagance of her heavy gold jewelry. A silver treasure excavated by archaeologists and attributable to the reign of Amenemhat II who ruled during the 12th Dynasty (about 1900 B.C.), contained fine silver items which were actually produced in Crete, by the ancient Minoans. When the price of silver finally did fall due to more readily available supplies, for at least another thousand years (through at least the 19th dynasty, about 1,200 B.C.) the price of silver seems to have been fixed at half that of gold. Several royal mummies attributable to about 1,000 B.C. were even entombed in solid silver coffins.
Around 1,000 B.C. Greek Athenians began producing silver from the Laurium mines, and would supply much of the ancient Mediterranean world with its silver for almost 1,000 years. This ancient source was eventually supplemented around 800 B.C. (and then eventually supplanted) by the massive silver mines found in Spain by the Phoenicians and their colony (and ultimate successors) the Carthaginians (operated in part by Hannibal’s family). With the defeat of Carthage by Rome, the Romans gained control of these vast deposits, and mined massive amounts of silver from Spain, stripping entire forests regions for timber to fuel smelting operations. In fact, it was not until the Middle Ages that Spain’s silver mines (and her forests) were finally exhausted.
Although known during the Copper Age, silver made only rare appearances in jewelry before the classical age. Despite its infrequent use as jewelry however, silver was widely used as coinage due to its softness, brilliant color, and resistance to oxidation. Silver alloyed with gold in the form of “electrum” was coined to produce money around 700 B.C. by the Lydians of present-day Turkey. Having access to silver deposits and being able to mine them played a big role in the classical world. Actual silver coins were first produced in Lydia about 610 B.C., and subsequently in Athens in about 580 B.C. Many historians have argued that it was the possession and exploitation of the Laurium mines by the Athenians that allowed them to become the most powerful city state in Greece. The Athenians were well aware of the significance of the mining operations to the prosperity of their city, as every citizen had shares in the mines. Enough silver was mined and refined at Laurium to finance the expansion of Athens as a trading and naval power. One estimate is that Laurium produced 160 million ounces of silver, worth six billion dollars today (when silver is by comparison relatively cheap and abundant). As the production of silver from the Laurium mines ultimately diminished, Greek silver production shifted to mines in Macedonia.
Silver coinage played a significant role in the ancient world. Macedonia’s coinage during the reign of Philip II (359-336 B.C.) circulated widely throughout the Hellenic world. His famous son, Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.), spread the concept of coinage throughout the lands he conquered. For both Philip II and Alexander silver coins became an essential way of paying their armies and meeting other military expenses. They also used coins to make a realistic portrait of the ruler of the country. The Romans also used silver coins to pay their legions. These coins were used for most daily transactions by administrators and traders throughout the empire. Roman silver coins also served as an important means of political propaganda, extolling the virtues of Rome and her emperors, and continued in the Greek tradition of realistic portraiture. As well, many public works and architectural achievements were also depicted (among them the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus). In addition many important political events were recorded on the coinage. You can Romaan coins which depicted the assassination of Julius Caesar, alliances between cities, between emperors, between armies, etc. And many contenders for the throne of Rome are known only through their coinage.
Silver was also widely used as ornamental work and in other metal wares. In ancient cultures, especially in Rome, silver was highly prized for the making of plate ware, household utensils, and ornamental work. The stability of Rome’s economy and currency depended primarily on the output of the silver mines in Spain which they had wrested from the Carthaginians. In fact many historians would say that it was the control of the wealth of these silver mines which enabled Rome to conquer most of the Mediterranean world. When in 55 B.C. the Romans invaded Britain they were quick to discover and exploit the lead-silver deposits there as well. Only six years later they had established many mines and Britain became another major source of silver for the Roman Empire. It is estimated that by the second century A.D., 10,000 tons of Roman silver coins were in circulation within the empire. That’s about 3½ billion silver coins (at the height of the empire, there were over 400 mints throughout the empire producing coinage). That’s ten times the total amount of silver available to Medieval Europe and the Islamic world combined as of about 800 A.D.
Silver later lost its position of dominance to gold, particularly in the chaos following the fall of Rome. Large-scale mining in Spain petered out, and when large-scale silver mining finally resumed four centuries after the fall of Rome, most of the mining activity was in Central Europe. By the time of the European High Middle Ages, silver once again became the principal material used for metal artwork. Huge quantities of silver from the New World also encouraged eager buyers in Europe, and enabled the Spanish to become major players in the late Medieval and Renaissance periods. Unlike the ores in Europe which required laborious extraction and refining methods to result in pure silver, solid silver was frequently found as placer deposits in stream beds in Spain’s “New World” colonies, reportedly in some instances solid slabs weighing as much as 2,500 pounds. Prior to the discovery of massive silver deposits in the New World, silver had been valued during the Middle Ages at about 10%-15% of the value of gold. In 15th century the price of silver is estimated to have been around $1200 per ounce, based on 2010 dollars. The discovery of massive silver deposits in the New World during the succeeding centuries has caused the price to diminish greatly, falling to only 1-2% of the value of gold.
The art of silver work flourished in the Renaissance, finding expression in virtually every imaginable form. Silver was often plated with gold and other decorative materials. Although silver sheets had been used to overlay wood and other metals since ancient Greece, an 18th-century technique of fusing thin silver sheets to copper brought silver goods called Sheffield plate within the reach of most people. At the same time the use of silver in jewelry making had also started gaining popularity in the 17th century. It was often as support in settings for diamonds and other transparent precious stones, in order to encourage the reflection of light. Silver continued to gain in popularity throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and by the 20th century competed with gold as the principal metal used in the manufacture of jewelry. Silver has the highest thermal and electrical conductivity of any metal, and one of the highest optical reflectivity values. It has a brilliant metallic luster, is very ductile and malleable, only slightly harder than gold, and is easily worked and polished. When used in jewelry, silver is commonly alloyed to include 7.5% copper, known as “Sterling Silver”, to increase the hardness and reduce the melting temperature. Silver jewelry may be plated with 99.9% pure ‘Fine Silver’ to increase the shine when polished. It may also be plated with rhodium to prevent tarnish. Virtually all gold, with the exception of 24 carat gold, includes silver. Most gold alloys are primarily composed of only gold and silver.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. Precious minerals were likewise considered to have medicinal and “magical” properties in the ancient world. In its pure form silver is non toxic, and when mixed with other elements is used in a wide variety of medicines. Silver ions and silver compounds show a toxic effect on some bacteria, viruses, algae and fungi. Silver was widely used before the advent of antibiotics to prevent and treat infections, silver nitrate being the prevalent form. Silver Iodide was used in babies' eyes upon birth to prevent blinding as the result of bacterial contamination. Silver is still widely used in topical gels and impregnated into bandages because of its wide-spectrum antimicrobial activity.
The recorded use of silver to prevent infection dates to ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates, the ancient (5th century B.C.) Greek "father of medicine" wrote that silver had beneficial healing and anti-disease properties. The ancient Phoenicians stored water, wine, and vinegar in silver bottles to prevent spoiling. These uses were “rediscovered” in the Middle Ages, when silver was used for several purposes; such as to disinfect water and food during storage, and also for the treatment of burns and wounds as a wound dressing. The ingestion of colloidal silver was also believed to help restore the body's “electromagnetic balance” to a state of equilibrium, and it was believed to detoxify the liver and spleen. In the 19th century sailors on long ocean voyages would put silver coins in barrels of water and wine to keep the liquid potable. Silver (and gold) foil is also used through the world as a food decoration. Traditional Indian dishes sometimes include the use of decorative silver foil, and in various cultures silver dragée (silver coated sugar balls) are used to decorate cakes, cookies, and other dessert items.
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 $14.99 for Insured Air Mail; International shipments are an extra $18.99 for Air Mail (and generally are NOT tracked; trackable shipments are EXTRA). ADDITIONAL PURCHASES do receive a VERY LARGE discount, typically about $5 per item so as to reward you for the economies of combined shipping/insurance costs. Your purchase will ordinarily be shipped within 48 hours of payment. We package as well as anyone in the business, with lots of protective padding and containers.
We do NOT recommend uninsured shipments, and expressly disclaim any responsibility for the loss of an uninsured shipment. Unfortunately the contents of parcels are easily “lost” or misdelivered by postal employees – even in the USA. If you intend to pay via PayPal, please be aware that PayPal Protection Policies REQUIRE insured, trackable shipments, which is INCLUDED in our price. International tracking is at additional cost. We do offer U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, Registered Mail, and Express Mail for both international and domestic shipments, as well United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fed-Ex). Please ask for a rate quotation. We will accept whatever payment method you are most comfortable with. If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I offer a no questions asked return policy. Send it back, I will give you a complete refund of the purchase price (less our original shipping costs).
Most of the items I offer come from the collection of a family friend who was active in the field of Archaeology for over forty years. However many of the items also come from purchases I make in Eastern Europe, India, and from the Levant (Eastern Mediterranean/Near East) from various institutions and dealers. Though I have always had an interest in archaeology, my own academic background was in sociology and cultural anthropology. After my retirement however, I found myself drawn to archaeology as well. Aside from my own personal collection, I have made extensive and frequent additions of my own via purchases on Ebay (of course), as well as many purchases from both dealers and institutions throughout the world – but especially in the Near East and in Eastern Europe. I spend over half of my year out of the United States, and have spent much of my life either in India or Eastern Europe. In fact much of what we generate on Yahoo, Amazon and Ebay goes to support The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, as well as some other worthy institutions in Europe connected with Anthropology and Archaeology.
I acquire some small but interesting collections overseas from time-to-time, and have as well some duplicate items within my own collection which I occasionally decide to part with. Though I have a collection of ancient coins numbering in the tens of thousands, my primary interest is in ancient jewelry. My wife also is an active participant in the “business” of antique and ancient jewelry, and is from Russia. I would be happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item you purchase from me. There is a $2 fee for mailing under separate cover. Whenever I am overseas I have made arrangements for purchases to be shipped out via domestic mail. If I am in the field, you may have to wait for a week or two for a COA to arrive via international air mail. But you can be sure your purchase will arrive properly packaged and promptly – even if I am absent. And when I am in a remote field location with merely a notebook computer, at times I am not able to access my email for a day or two, so be patient, I will always respond to every email. Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."