buckle, from the Thetford treasure
the spot for ... treasure.
In 1979 a remarkable
hoard of late-Roman gold jewellery and silver tableware was found
It included this gold buckle. The figure on the plate is
a dancing satyr holding a bunch of grapes.
Two horses' heads form the loop or bow. The buckle is one of a number
of explicitly pagan items in the treasure, which was buried around
AD 390, by which time the Roman Empire was officially Christian.
Like the other
engraved gems in the hoard, this fine large carnelian gem
must have been removed from an older piece of jewellery.
It was originally an elongated oval shape, and has been trimmed
down to a rectangular form for re-setting.
It depicts Venus with Cupid, both signifying love, and the armour
of Mars, the Roman god of war, a standard scene in Roman iconography.
spoons, one a large cignus, the other a long-handled cochlear
are clearly from a matching set.
Both have Bacchic decoration, the first a horn-blowing triton holding
a steering-oar and accompanied by a dolphin, the latter a tigress
and a tree. The inscriptions are to the 'god Faunus Narus', referring
to the obscure Italian god Faunus.
The Celtic element narus, or narius (perhaps meaning 'powerful'
or 'mighty') emphasizes that this was a local cult.
There are Bacchic elements in the decoration of both spoons
and jewellery, and Faunus may at this date have formed part of the
wider Bacchic cult.
It appears that the treasure was owned and used by committed pagans
and may have been hidden as a result of anti-pagan legislation in
the final decade of the fourth century AD.
courtesy of The British Museum
The British Museum
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