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Bulla

Bulla (seal)

A bulla (plural, Bullae) is a lump of clay or lead molded around a cord and stamped with a seal that identifies the sender. A boulloterion, an iron, pliers-shaped instrument, was used to impress the designs on a lead bulla seal. After the cord was wrapped around the package or document and the ends inserted in a channel in the blank seal, the seal was placed between the disc shaped engraved dies on the jaws of boulloterion. The boulloterion had a projection above the jaws, which was struck with a hammer to impress the design on the seal and close the channel around the two ends of the cord, securely locking the seal around the package or document. With a bulla in place a container cannot be violated without visible damage to either the bulla or the cord, ensuring the contents remain tamper-proof until they reach their destination. 

Bulla (amulet)

Bulla, an amulet and worn like a locket, was given to children, at the time of birth, in Ancient Rome. A bulla was worn around the neck as amulet to protect against evil spirits and forces. A bulla was made of differing substances depending upon the wealth of the family. A common substance was leather, but the richer families would have bullae of gold or silver, and poorer families' would be made of cotton.  A girl child continued to wear her bulla until the eve of her marriage, when it was removed and kept along with her childhood toys and other things. A boy used to wear a bulla until he became a Roman citizen. His bulla was carefully saved, and on some special occasions, like his becoming a general and commanding a parade, the bulla was taken out. He would wear the bulla during the ceremony to safeguard against evil forces like jealousy of men.


Dictionary of Roman Coins


Please add updates or make corrections to the NumisWiki text version as appropriate.
Bulla, a small round ornament of gold, hollow inside, worn with Roman children of quality, together with the praetextal robe, and which hung pendant from their neck, until they attained the age of 17 years, when both that and the praetexia were exchanged for the toga virilis. Once arrived at adolescence, they consecrated the relinquished dress and decoration of childhood to the Dii Lares, household deities, as Persius thus indicates:

Bullaque succinetis Laribus donata pependit.

Macrobius relates the circumstance which led to the use of the bulla among Romans. In the war which ended in the triumph of Tarquinius Priscus over the Sabines, that King's son, aged only 14 years, having distinguished himself by his valour, and killed an enemy with his own hand, his father publicly eulogized him, and conferred on him the honour of a golden bulla; (et pro concione laudavit et bulla aurea donavit). At first this ornamental privilege was granted only to patricians; but it was, in process of time, allowed to all children who wore the pretexta. See the anecdote of young M LEPIDVS in Aemilia gens, p 14.

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