Small Roman Bronze Art and Artifacts

Among the most common Roman antiquities available on the legitimate market are small Roman bronzes. Apart from bronze coins, these take a great diversity of forms:

* Utilitarian objects such as knife handles, simple brooches, keys and cosmetic applicators.

* Decorative items such as furniture attachments and jewelery.

* Religious items, including statuettes and votive objects.

Small bronzes are relatively common detector and field walking finds. The range of small Roman bronzes available on the Clio Ancient Art website offers a good sample. All these come from either UK metal detector finds that were declared to be “not treasure” under UK law and legally exported or from very old private collections predating the imposition of current laws governing antiquities export from some source countries.

The bronze handle pictured below, with its decoration and partially preserved iron folding blade, is somewhat atypical in that it is quite well preserved. Such objects would have been carried by soldiers, farmers and farm hands.


Pictured below is a Roman key ring. Keys were often made integral parts of rings to avoid their being lost. This example has been combined with part of a late Roman lock mechanism. Many examples of both types of object frequently appear on the market.


A surprising range of highly decorative small Roman bronzes are available on the market. Pictured below is a heavy, well preserved, though somewhat incomplete, dolphin. This served as either a handle or a hasp (part of the closure mechanism) from a chest or cabinet most likely made of wood.


A surprising amount of Roman jewelery was made from bronze, not precious metals. Pictured below is an assembled group of 3 Roman bronze jewelery items. In this context, the term “assembled” means the objects do not come from the same context. They are all Roman but vary in date and place of origin. This mix of copper alloy bead, inscribed finger ring and child’s bracelet with simplified snake head terminals offers a desirable cross section of Roman bronze jewelery.


Among the most popular types of small Roman bronzes with serious collectors are statuettes of deities, both female and male. In addition to the “household god” or Lar, usually kept in a shrine and the center of the extended family cult, other specific deities were portrayed. The choice of deity was usually dictated by personal preference or a perceived need on the part of the devotee. Always popular was Eros, the god of love (sometimes called Cupid). The fine example shown below was found at Silchester, England.


Throughout the Roman world it was customary to follow older spiritual traditions, including the deposition of small votive objects at open air shrines, in springs or sources of running water and other sacred sites. These often represented body parts, in the hope of a cure or speedy recovery or as thanks for the same. The bronze foot wearing a sandal pictures below might at first appear to be broken away from a larger statuette, as is often the case but a small casting mark at its top shows that this was created as a complete object for votive purposes.

Link to this object:

Many more examples of small Roman bronzes may be viewed on our Etsy and eBay stores, along with Roman antiquities in glass, stone and other materials, at these pages:

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