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Абрамков А.О.

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Fibula (Latin fibula, brace) - an antique type of metal clasp for clothing, which could also serve as decoration.

Fibulas of various shapes and sizes were widespread from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages, where they were later replaced by buttons.

Structure of the Fibula

Most of the fibulae found are made of bronze, but there are specimens made of silver, iron, gold or their alloys. There are also composite fibulas, which have different structural elements made of different materials. Many of the specimens found are decorated with artistic patterns, coinage, enamel, semiprecious stones, glass, coral or bone.

The fibula often had a complex structure. At the moment, the following components are distinguished: - needle-shackle (or body) - groove (needle holder that protects the fibula from unbuttoning and the skin from scratches) - spring that connects the needle to the shackle-body

In addition to fibulas, there were also simple needle pins, sometimes ending in a metal ball, often richly decorated.

In the late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD, a new subtype of fibula appears. They had a separate pin attached to the head of the case with a small hinge. In the second half of the 1st century AD, loops were introduced into lamellar fibulae. One or two small plates were cast on the back of the plate, and a pin was attached to them by a small hinge. Previously, lamellar fibulae had two-way springs attached to the back. In the 3rd century AD, a hinge was placed in the center of a long cross bar, creating the famous appearance of a fibula.

Structure of the fibula
A dolphin-shaped fibula. The head and tail consist of gold, the body of crystal, I-th century BC.


The first fibulae, in the form of a violin bow, appeared at the end of the Bronze Age. This simple one-way spring design is similar to a modern pin. The fibula of the bow had a low flat arch. The body ran parallel to the pin. The bow could be round, square, or have more complex cross-sectional shapes. Some of the fibulae found had small ornaments on their ends.

Some of the first bow-shaped fibulae were found in Mycenae in the Greek Peloponnese in the 14th century BC (types Peschiera and Unter-Radl). In Greek culture, Mycenae was rather a hotbed of fibula distribution, and from there they spread to the retail outlets of Crete, Cyprus and Sicily.

The second type of fibula design has a high rounded arch instead of a low flat bow arch of the fibula-bow. In earlier finds, the arch was quite thin. In later versions, its thickness was increased by making it from thicker metal or from two pieces of thin wire twisted together. These rounded fibulae were first discovered in the 12th century BC and have been in use for more than five centuries.

The third type of fibula consisted of horizontal wire spirals. The fibula consisted of two spirals connected together. Examples of such fibulae are Haslau and St. Lucija, which were found in the 9th-7th centuries BC. Later, in the 6th century BC, fibulae with four small spirals with a square pad in the middle, such as Vierpass, appear.

Early fibulae. Left: Bogen-type fibula, X-IX century BC Center: Saint Lucia-type Fraco-Cimmerian fibula, IX-VIII century BC Right: Vierpass-type fibula, Greek, VIII century BC

Italian fibulas represent a wide variety both in the device of the needle holder and in the shape of the handle. In the oldest Italian fibulas, the needle holder is formed, as in the later Hungarian and Scandinavian ones, by several turns of the spiral. In further modifications, the spiral needle holder is replaced first by a round flat plate, then by a plate with curved edges forming a groove, and sometimes ending in a button.

According to the shape of the arch among the Italian fibulas, there are:

Onion varieties. The bow of which has the shape of a semicircle. This is a type of ancient fibula. The arch can be either of uniform thickness, or thickened in one or several places — either completely smooth, or streaked with longitudinal and transverse stripes, covered with beads, etc.

Bulbous fibula, 900-800 BC

Serpentine fibulae are the most diverse group of Italian fibulae. The arch is sometimes curved in a very bizarre way. The needle holder is a long chute that ends in later forms with a button.

Serpentine fibulae of early Hallstatt, Baden State Museum in Karlsruhe.

Hallstatt fibulas (chertrozsky) are usually called samples with an elongated shape of the arch, which smoothly flows into a grooved needle holder with a button and an end wrapped up. Fibulae of this type were found in large numbers in the Certroza burial ground, among other Italian-type fibulae. This form, consisting of two spiral circles connected together, is very similar to Hungarian, Scandinavian and especially Greek fibulas.

Also in the Hallstatt burials, among other various forms of Italian fibulae, fibulae characteristic only of the Hallstatt territory were found. Among them, the spectacled and crossbow-shaped fibulae (fibules a l'arbalète) are particularly interesting.

Hallstatt fibulae

Crossbow-shaped fibulas are distinguished by the fact that the spring is a series of spiral turns going in a direction perpendicular to the arch. In some crossbow-shaped fibulas, the end of the needle holder is decorated with the head of a person or animal, curving up and slightly back. These fibulae, as well as fibulae of the Chertroz burial, make up the transition to Latene-type fibulae, which are characterized by a sharply curved back end of the needle holder.

Structure of the crossbow fibula
Silver Dacian Fibula, 1st century AD, Museum of Transylvania Cluj Romania

Fibulae-brooches ("shield"). In brooch fibulas, a shield is a mandatory structural element. The shield is an element of decoration, so images were often applied on it (by coining, casting), and the shield could also be inlaid with precious metals, as well as precious or semiprecious stones.

Fibula, 2nd-3rd century AD, New Jersey

Omegavidal fibulas are characterized by the fact that they are made in the form of the Greek letter omega, from which they get their name. The needle in the omegavidic fibulae can be located diagonally from one part of the body to another or located directly from top to bottom. This type of fibula was used by both the Romans and the Greeks.

Roman omega-shaped fibula, I-II centuries AD, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Omega-shaped fibula, II-III c. A.D. Aosta Museum.

In the Iron Age, fibulas were used everywhere.

The rapid spread of the Roman Empire by the first century AD led to a huge increase in the number of fibulae of various types throughout Europe and the Middle East. The spread of technologically advanced workshops in the Roman Empire led to more sophisticated fibula designs. The arms were cast in more complex shapes, and the hinges appeared next to the double-sided springs.

One of the first known types of Roman fibula appeared at the end of the 1st century BC. A straight-needle fibula, also known as a soldier-type or legionnaire -type fibula, is a very simple design. It resembles a fibula bow that existed more than a thousand years earlier, except that the arch is slightly more inclined, and the spring is two-sided.

Top: Legionnaire's fibula, 2nd century BC Bottom: Legionnaire's fibula, 1st century AD, Roman Noricum and Pannonia.

In the first century AD, several species of fibulae appeared in Roman Britain, among which the most interesting species was the "Dolphin". Dolphin-shaped fibulas have a smooth arched arch that tapers from the head to the end. The long double-sided spring is hidden. From above, the fibula looks like a " T " or Late Roman crossbow fibula. And from the side, it looks like a jumping dolphin.

Another type of British fibula was the so-called "Hod Hill". Usually fairly small Hod-Hill fibulae have a shallow arched bend that appears to consist of segments. Many Hod-Hill fibulas have a pair of small lateral projections.

There is also sometimes a third type of British fibula - "Thracian anchor". They have a wide crescent on the body giving the fibula the shape of an anchor. The Thracian anchor type is also called Illyrian and is found in Pannonia (Hungary), Dacia (Romania) and Serbia.

Rimsike fibulae in Britain. Dolphin-type fibulas at the top, 1st century A.D. Second and fourth from the bottom, Hod Hill fibulas, 1st century A.D.
Fibulae of the I-II centuries AD.
Scuteloid fibulae, 1st century AD

Fibula in the form of a knee joint, common in the II century AD, originated in Roman Pannonia (modern Hungary). Archaeologists believe that its arch with a 90-degree bend resembles a knee and leg. Many knee-shaped fibulas have semicircular heads of various sizes. It seems that the knee-shaped fibulae, like the Augen-type fibulae, spread in the Roman Empire thanks to the German allies. Despite their small size, their appearance in Roman military graves means that such a fibula was most popular among Roman soldiers in the 2nd century AD. They are rarely found outside of military installations.

The P-shaped type is another common form of fibula from the 2nd century AD, which originated among the Germanic peoples. The P-shaped fibula, or Almgren type, has a semicircular arch and a long needle that curves back under itself to return to the base of the arch. They have two-way springs. The arches of P-shaped fibulae are usually semicircular and decorated with a ribbed pattern in cross-section. P-shaped fibulae were found with dates from the second to the beginning of the first centuries.

The use of thyroid fibulae continued into the second century AD. Simple flat shapes were replaced by enameled versions or more complex shapes. These include animal (zoomorphic) figures (birds, horses, rabbits, flies, etc.), letters or words, abstract symmetrical or asymmetrical drawings (including Celtic spirals), and skeomorphic drawings (symbolic drawings). Most of the former types of fibulas continued to be worn during the second and third centuries.

Fibulae. Below: knee-shaped fibulae, 2nd century AD
Scuteloid fibulae, II-III century AD
Fibulae, II-III centuries A.D.


In the Roman Empire, fibulas were used by everyone: men, women, children, soldiers, officers, and even emperors could not do without it. The male part of the population, as a rule, used fibulas for raincoats: penula or saguma . They could also be used for tunics and focales. Since fibulas were usually located in a prominent place and were quite heavily decorated, it is logical to assume that they could also be attributed to antique jewelry, and not just to a structural element of clothing.

Other peoples also used them, especially the Celts and Greeks.

Stele of M. Aurelius Neon, military in Saguma from legio II Traiana fortis. Brucel Museum, inv. no. A. 2246. 222-235 AD
Bust of Octavian Augustus, 1st century AD, Hermitage Museum
Bust of young Commodus, 2nd century AD, Yale University Art Gallery

Women fastened capes or some kind of outer clothing with fibulas. They could also hold the tissues together symmetrically, using multiple fibulas on both sides.

Bust of the Goddess, 2nd century AD, The Princeton University Art Museum


The main period of reconstruction of our club is the middle of the first century-the beginning of the second century (50-125 years). But it is known that the fashion for jewelry changed much more slowly, and especially colorful specimens could be inherited. Also, they were not strictly localized by the period and locations of use. In this regard, you can take fibulas of a slightly wider period (within reason).

It should also be noted that with the exception of military fibulas with legion symbols, there are no strict restrictions on the use of fibulas depending on social status.

It is recommended to make them from brass or silver. Brass is allowed as a gold and silver stylization to reduce the cost of reconstruction.

Fibula reconstruction
Fibula reconstruction

Related topics

Penula, Sagum, Focale, Tunic, Legionnaire, Auxiliaries, Legion


Yarwood, Doreen (1986). The Encyclopedia of World Costume. Bonanza Books. ISBN 0-517-61943-1

Voronov, Yu. N., Caucasian arc-shaped fibulae of the Early Iron Age, KSIIMK, Moscow, 1983, no. 176, pp. 29-33.

Fibulae // Encyclopedia of Brockhaus and Efron : in 86 volumes (82 volumes and 4 additions). - St. Petersburg, 1890-1907.


Fibula, 2nd-3rd century AD, New Jersey
Fibula, II-III centuries AD, private collection, Los Angeles
Fibula, II-III centuries AD, Gloucestershire
Fibula, 1st-2nd century AD, West Sussex
Fibula, 1st-2nd century AD, East Sussex
Fibula, II century AD, Private collection
Fibula of the Tenth Legion. Silver. Private collection. Length-31mm, width-11mm, weight-5g. Second half of the 1st century BC.
Fibula of the Tenth Legion. Silver. Private collection. Length-31mm, width-11mm, weight-5g. Second half of the 1st century BC.
Fibula of the Tenth Legion. Silver. Private collection. Length-31mm, width-11mm, weight-5g. Second half of the 1st century BC.
Fibula of the Tenth Legion. Silver. Private collection. Length-31mm, width-11mm, weight-5g. Second half of the 1st century BC.
Silver Dacian Fibula, 1st century AD, Museum of Transylvania Cluj Romania
Fibula of the Tenth Legion. Silver. Private collection. Length-31mm, width-11mm, weight-5g. Second half of the 1st century BC.
Fibula, 2nd-3rd century AD, New Jersey