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The sword of Tiberius

 

Length: 57.500 cm
Width: 7.000 cm
Thickness: 1.000 cm (max.)

Gift of Felix Slade

GR 1866.8-6.1 (Bronze 867)

Room 70: Roman Empire

    The sword of Tiberius

    Roman, around AD 15
    From Mainz, Germany

    Victory to the Empire

    This detail of the tinned and gilded scabbard shows the Roman emperor Tiberius (reigned AD 14-37) symbolically presenting his recent victories to his stepfather, the emperor Augustus. Augustus is semi-nude, and sits in the pose of Jupiter, flanked by Victory and Mars Ultor ('the Avenger'), while Tiberius, in military dress, presents Augustus with a statuette of Victory. Similar scenes on coins show Augustus much more modestly dressed in a toga.

    The iron sword and its decorated bronze scabbard was almost certainly commissioned for a senior officer to commemorate a victory in the lengthy and bloody military campaigns in Germany. Victory in these campaigns was essential for the extension and protection of Rome's empire, and the symbolic act of presenting it to the emperor avoided the destructive competition between generals, which had brought down the Roman Republic.

    P.C. Roberts, Romans, a pocket treasury (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

    H.B. Walters, Catalogue of bronzes, Greek, R (London, 1899)

    S. Walker, Roman art (London, 1991)

    C. Scarre, Chronicle of the Roman emperor (London, Thames & Hudson, 1997)

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