Sword of Tiberius. Detail of the scabbard: Tiberius and Augustus
Ca. 15 CE.
Length: 57.5 cm. Width: 7 cm. Thickness: 1 cm (max.).
London, The British MuseumInv. Nos. GR 1866.8-6.1 / Bronze 867.Photo by Roger B. Ulrich

Sword of Tiberius. Detail of the scabbard: Tiberius and Augustus.

Ca. 15 CE.
Length: 57.5 cm. Width: 7 cm. Thickness: 1 cm (max.).
Inv. Nos. GR 1866.8-6.1 / Bronze 867.

London, The British Museum

Mainz (Germany). Gift of Felix Slade.
Detail of the scabbard of the “Sword of Tiberius” in the British Museum (inv. GR 1866.8-6.1; Bronze 867).

Tiberius, standing at the left and wearing a cuirass, presents himself (and a miniature victory) to an enthroned Augustus, the latter semi-nude and rendered on a relatively larger scale (Augustus is presumably shown in his deified state; thus after his death in 14 CE). The left hand of Augustus rests on a shield with the inscription “FELICITAS TIBERI.” Between the two, Mars Ultor looks on (the image of Mars probably mimics the cult image that stood in the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum of Augustus in Rome). A winged Victory, now damaged, stands behind the enthroned Augustus.

The iron sword and its decorated bronze scabbard presumably did NOT belong to Tiberius himself, but to a senior military officer. It is from Mainz, Germany, so might have been a commemorative piece made during campaigns in Germany.

Dated to ca. 15 CE.

For additional information see: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/gr/t/the_sword_of_tiberius.aspx.

© 2010. Photo, text: Roger B. Ulrich.
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History of Ancient Rome