Grasping history Sep / Oct 2017

Aureus of Macrianus in a diatret frame

260 / 261 AD / Samosata
Bust with cuirass and laurel wreath
Reverse: Roma enthroned with statuette of Victoria. Frame with four loops.

In the course of the third century openwork (Diatrita) became particularly popular in the Roman art of goldsmithing, a trend which continued well into the Late Antiquity until the end of the 7th century. In addition to typical jewelery such as ear- and arm rings, since the beginning of the 3rd century gems and cameos, as well as gold coins have been adorned with elaborately designed openwork frames. Thus embellished, these coins served among other things as pendants on necklaces, as elements of complex belt garnitures or as central medallions of cross-arranged body chains.


This item has four eyelets on the verso. Thus it could be interpreted as a central element of a cross-shaped body chain, which was an eyecatcher at the breast of the person wearing it. Another possibility would be the interpretation as medal-like phalera on a leatherbelt frame, as proposed for coins in Diatrita frames from the hoard of Petrijanec (Croatia), which also have four eyelets on the back. There are also two gold bracelets with four gold coins each (the latest of Claudius Gothicus, 268 - 270 AD), among others interpreted as armillae (bracelets as awards) of a soldier. Armillae made of precious metal are well known for the late antiquity as awards for soldiers. According to realia and other sources, coins were also worn as awards in the Late Antiquity, but rather as individual pieces. Whether in the third century sets of Phalerae based on the models of the early-imperial period still existed - like the Lauersforter Phalerae or those depicted on the gravestone of Marcus Caelius from Xanten - has to remain open.


8.95 g / diameter 30 mm (with frame)