Antiquities > Other Metal Antiquities

Roman Handles - Helmet and Other

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Kilian O:
Good afternoon,

I've got this what I believe to be a roman helmet handle. A while back I posted something similar and was told it was a regular handle of something. Sadly Appels & Laycock missattribute things so i'm having my doubts right now even tho the examples in their book match really well.

Yes, sadly this is largely another misattribution.  The dolphin handle design was used for lots of things, including helmets.

There are a few known example of helmets with a dolphin handle.  See the illustrations below.

However, there are many more examples of this type of handle attached to drawer or chest parts. 

The difference is in the way they worked.  Drawer and chest handles only had to lift a slight amount away from the surface, so they could be thick and wide.  But helmet handles had to lift a full 90 degrees away from the helmet surface and rotate back and forth.  So all known helmet handles are very thin, otherwise the wide parts prevent the required functioning.

Take a look at the difference between yours and the two below.  The dolphin handles for helmets are really just thin handles with a dolphin design - total different from the common flat and wide dolphin handle.

I have three dolphin handles all of which are also wider than the helmets ones.  Likewise none of the ones shown in A&L are from helmets.  It appears that a very very small number of dolphin handles were used on helmets.

The vast majority of known helmet handles are the thin type seen below with nice spine or knob ends.  Though almost identical ones were used on drawers and chests as well so even they are no guarantee of being a helmet handle.


Kilian O:
Thanks Shawn this helped me out alot! You're right and I can see the difference the way you describe it. The military ones are more refined and more simple.

I am going to pin this thread to the top and change the name to "Roman Handles (Helmet and other)" and then we can post more examples from collections and museums.

Yours is a very nice example.  While I said drawers and chests, I think that large solid ones like yours were likely for chests or coffers.  Wether it carried legionary supplies, a family's fortune or a lady's clothes we will never know...


Joe Sermarini:
Excellent thread!


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