Crossbow fibula (safety pin)

Late Imperial Period
A.D. 340–360


Length: 6.4 cm (2 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


Jewelry, The Ancient World



The fibula is slim in proportions, its tailpiece has four elegantly carved pairs of scrolls, and it has hexagonal knobs and crossbar. The knobs and the base of the bow have beaded collars, and S-shaped scrolls are mounted on the crossbar. Up the “spine” of the fibula runs a finely incised interlace (guilloche). The tailpiece, which was meant to point upward and backward, can be removed to insert and fasten the (now-missing) pin. Such fibulae have been found throughout the Roman Empire, but they are especially common in the provinces along the Rhine.

(Entry adapted from the Art of the Ancient Mediterranean world, no. 223).


By 1988: with Sotheby's, 34-35 New Bond Street, London (auction, December 12, 1988, lot 49); purchased by MFA at Sotheby's auction; accessioned on January 25, 1989

Credit Line

Arthur Tracy Cabot Fund