Military horse trapping inscribed with the name of Pliny the Elder

Roman, around AD 50
From Xanten (Castra Vetera), Germany

Silvered-bronze roundel forming part of a decorative equestrian harness

Cnaeus Plinius Secundus, or Pliny the Elder (AD 23/4-79), the celebrated author of the Historia Naturalis ('Natural History'), died during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. At the time of his death he was commander of the Roman fleet stationed at Cape Misenum on the Bay of Naples, but he had previously been a cavalry commander in lower Germany.

This decorative horse trapping would have been issued to cavalrymen serving under Pliny in the Rhineland army. His name is punched into the trapping, over the bust of the emperor. The inscription reads: PLINIO PRAEF(ECTO) EQ(UITUM) ('while Pliny was Prefect of the cavalry'). Pliny's cavalry service overlapped the reigns of Claudius and Nero in the late forties and early fifties AD. The bust is a generalized type and could represent either emperor.

The trapping belongs to a partially preserved set, once mounted on a leather harness. The leather has perished, but enough of the decorative trappings survive to enable us to reconstruct the original arrangement.

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More information


I.D. Jenkins, 'A group of silvered-bronze horse-trappings from Xanten (Castra Vetera)', Britannia-2, 16 (1985), pp. 141-64


Diameter: 10.500 cm

Museum number

GR 1854.7-17.53 (Bronzes 2871)



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