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Work Double-spiral fibula

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Double-spiral fibula

© 2009 Photo RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

This fibula comes from the temple of Artemis Hemera at Lousoi in Arcadia. It is made of a single bronze rod forming, from the hook to the tip of the pin, a double spiral with a central arabesque in the form of a figure-of-eight. This type of ornament, used to hold garments on the shoulders, was widespread in Europe in the Geometric period and made in a great variety of shapes and sizes. A few fibulae of unusually large proportions probably indicated the social rank and wealth of their owners.

An ex-voto from the Geometric period

This small bronze fibula comes from the temple of Artemis Hemera at Lousoi in Arcadia, in the northern Peloponnese, where it had almost certainly been left as an offering to the goddess, like many other similar pins discovered in temples of the Peloponnese. Many were also found in graves, particularly those of women. This fibula was made in the second half of the eighth century BC, in the last decades of the Geometric period. During this period, trade links with eastern countries were resumed, and craftsmen were once again able to work in bronze (an alloy of copper and tin) to create a host of small objects, such as ex-votos, funerary objects and ornaments.

An ornament with a social function

The fibula is composed of a double spiral, a central figure-of-eight arabesque and a pin, and the whole piece was made by coiling a single metal wire, quadrangular in section. The tip of the pin fitted into the hook formed by the other extremity of the wire at the back of the fibula. This type of clasp was used to hold garments in place, usually on the shoulders. They varied greatly in size, the largest ones probably indicating the social rank and wealth of their owners.

The production and distribution of spiral fibulae

Spiral fibulae were widespread in Europe from the early Iron Age on. Evidence of their production has been found most notably in the Balkan region and in northern Greece, particularly in Macedonia and Thessaly. In the late ninth century BC, the fashion for these fibulae spread farther south, into the Peloponnese. Spiral fibulae were subsequently produced in this area for several centuries, virtually unchanged in form. They were also very popular in Sicily and southern Italy, but here they differed slightly in form from Greek examples. In the eighth century BC, the craftsmen of Basilicata, in southern Italy, thus developed the spiral motif in single and multiple variations, creating single-, double- and quadruple-spiral fibulae, as may be seen from examples in the Louvre.

Technical description

  • Double-spiral fibula

    Second half of the eighth century BC

    Temple of Artemis Hemera, Lousoi (Arcadia), Greece

    Arcadia, Greece

  • Bronze, hammered

    H. 7.5 cm

  • Purchased in 1899

    Br 1872

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

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