Bow fibulae are one of the three classes of fibulae; the other two classes are penannular fibulae (class A) and plate fibulae
(class C). Bow fibulae have a body set apart from the pin, usually in
some form of an arc, giving the appearance of a bow, with the pin as the
string (hence, the name). The body of the bow is generally long and
narrow. While bow fibulae can be only decorative the gap between bow and
pin means that many types can be used to fasten together a bulk of
A sample of bow fibulae types from Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF
Bow Fibula Groups (B1 - B6)
Their are dozens
of types, sub-types and varieties of bow fibulae, but all are included
in one of six bow fibula groups. The groups are based on one-piece
construction (entirely made from) one piece of bronze, or more than
one-piece construction, the type of pin: spring or hinge, and the pin
One Piece Construction, Spring Pin
Group B1: One-piece construction, spring with four turns, tendon (wire connecting two ends of the spring) below the spring.
were made from one piece of bronze. The entire fibula
the catch, to the bow, to the spring
, to the tip of the pin was created
by shaping and bending a single piece of bronze with great expertise and
skill. The pin extends from the end of a spring
consisting of one or more loops. The tension of the spring
helps keep the pin in place. The wire foot (a-b below) is the most common pin catch/holder. The
solid foot is a late development.
Spring with four turns and tendon below (1), wire foot (a-b), a sample of bow group B1 fibula (Riha group 1) from Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF
Group B2: One-piece construction, tendon (wire connecting two ends of the spring) above the spring, held by spring hook.
the entire fibula
from the catch, to the bow, to the hook and plate, to
, to the tip of the pin was created by shaping and bending a
single piece of bronze with great expertise and skill. The pin extends from the end of a spring
. The tension of the spring
helps keep the pin in place. The hook holding
was an invention of the Augustan period, which did not go
beyond the 1st century. Predominantly group 2 fibulae
foot, or perforated foot, but occasionally also solid foot.
Spring with four turns and tendon below (2), a sample of bow group B2 fibula (Riha group 2) from Riha, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst. (1979). PDF
Two-Piece Construction, Spring Pin
Group B3: Two-piece construction with a pin holding the spring.
construction was rapidly replaced by the much easier to manufacture
two-piece construction in the middle of the 1st century A.D. The pin
holder remained in use until late in the Roman period, primarily
in free Germania
and the adjacent areas of the Roman provinces. For
group 3, the needle holders
are not of uniform shape. The needle catches
tend to be higher than other groups, some are tubular.
Group B4: Two-piece construction with spring sleeve.
group is characteristic of the Gallic regions (Gaul to the Rhine,
). Predominantly open/framed foot, or perforated foot, but
occasionally also solid foot.
Group B5: Bow Fibula with an Sleeve Hing, Early Imperial - Beginning of 2nd Century.
probably originated in Italy. It became the most popular form of
closure for Roman provincial fibulae
, and is characteristic of the bow
from the early imperial times to the beginning of the 2nd
century. Outside the Roman Empire and after that time, this type
was seldom used. The sleeve hinge consists of a small sleeve at the top
of the head
which is forged from a square sheet metal plate and then
rolled up. In a center-cut slot, the spiked needle is inserted and held
by a shaft (usually iron) passing through the whole sleeve. At the ends
of each of the Aucissa fibulae
and their early successors were buttons
holding the hinge axis
; later, the hinge axis
was clamped in the sleeve
and needed no buttons. The needle always carries a thorn-like projection
on its perforated oval plate, which beats against the head
and, by virtue of this resistance, causes the suspension to
forth. The sleeve hinge is used exclusively in bow fibulae
needle is primarily rectilinear, but bends hand in hand with the
flattening of the bow to the outside to continue to leave enough space
between the bracket and needle. For group 5, triangular to quadrangular
(i-m below) solid plate needle holders
are characteristic, but now and
then they also have a simple perforation. The sleeve hinge is considered
a typical Roman construction. The sleeve hinge fibulae
are by far the
largest group of Roman fibulae
in terms of numbers.
pin hinge with a hinge pin sleeve (5), a sample of bow fibula
group B5 (Riha
group 5) from Riha
, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst
. (1979). PDF
the end of the second century, perhaps in connection with a change in
the production of fibulae
, the tube
hinge was introduced. It was the
primary hing form in the Middle and Late Roman period. Like the hinge in
general, this construction is limited to the Roman provinces. The hinge
system itself functions like that of group 5. The hinge arms, however,
are cast or well soldered and always larger than those of the sleeve
hinge and lengthen and thicken over time: at the end are the massive or
arms of the onion button brooches
. The pin is not held in
place by lateral
buttons, but is clamped. The needle has the same shape
as in group 5. Sometimes, however, it has no thorn-like projection to
push the needle outward so security measures to keep the needle in the
catch-plate were necessary. The fibulae
of group 6 are, with a few
exceptions, showing high needle holders
(n-p below) with disc or
foot-shaped feet. This construction is characteristic of the late Roman
pin hinge (6), a sample of bow fibula
group B6 (Riha
group 6) from Riha
, E. Die römischen Fibeln aus Augst und Kaiseraugst
. (1979). PDF
Bow Fibula Types - Page Links in Alphabetical Order
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