A charming cast-bronze figure of a gladiator about to draw his gladius. He wears a helmet, a knee length coat of mail and what looks like a manica on his left arm. It may depict a Scissor (the “Slasher”) a type of gladiator who could fight a retiarius. He wore the same helmet as a secutor and carried a gladius in his right hand. Because he could not protect his body with a shield he wore a coat of mail (lorica hamata) or a scale armor (lorica squamata) which reached down to his knee. A very rare Romano-British artefact indeed!
This Roman figure was unearthed by a metal detectorist in a field near Harlow in Essex that uncovered Roman artefacts prior to a housing development being built and has caused much debate as to what it represents? ...Continued bottom of page
Condition: Cleaned and mounted. Otherwise in ‘as found’ condition.
Dimensions: Height including bespoke plinth (included) 10.5cm.
Provenance: Ex. Essex Coins & Antiquities. Previously the property of an Essex metal detectorist. Full provenance to buyer.
*Overseas buyers* this item will require a UK export license. This process incurs no additional cost to the buyer. Please contact me before purchasing, so that I can advise you of the export/import requirements, timescales and shipping that will apply.
The key to understanding this object is the subject and its profile. First of all, it clearly represents a fighting figure, a Roman gladiator or soldier. There is well-depicted body armour, a helmet and he is drawing a sword. Then we come to the figures profile. It’s unusually slim for a figurine and cast in a low-profile mould. Yet both sides of the figure are well detailed and clearly meant to be seen. There are no protuberances on the figure, so it’s not a gladiator brooch of which many do exist. There is loss at the feet (the weakest part) which suggests it was attached to something now long gone, almost certainly a base. But this was not designed as a statuette. Most were of gods, deities or elite individuals. The low-profile casting is not what you would expect of an object that was to be displayed or worshiped in a shrine. So why this profile? The answer must lie in a requirement to use the minimum amount of bronze and thus save on cost. So keep him cheap…
As we’ve come to realise, in many ways, the Roman world was not that different to ours today, especially when it came to leisure and a day at the arena. Indeed, it has long been known that Roman games held at an arena had restaurants, bars and even gift shops for Romans to buy souvenirs.
Roman Carnuntum, which was discovered in 2011 in Vienna, Austria, had bakeries, taverns and shops built right next to the huge 150,000-seated amphitheatre, which is understood to be the fourth largest of its kind.
It suggests that spectators who wanted to remember the moment a bronzed, shredded sandal-clad man ruthlessly speared his opponent to death in front of a large crowd could pop to the shop afterwards to grab themselves a souvenir.
The route to the arena would have led crowds of adults and children past street food vendors, souvenir shops and taverns - much like football matches today.
This little bronze figure is therefore almost certainly a keepsake or plaything, a souvenir of a gladiator. And to perhaps give it some context, the site in Harlow where it was found is just twenty miles north-east of Londinium with its shops, bars and large amphitheatre…
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