by Sarah Corbett
The fibula is an ancient form of brooch which is not only decorative, but also has a practical purpose as a fastener for clothing.
The first fibula is seen in the late Bronze age. The style is known as the ‘Violin Bow Fibula’
and is the first recorded replacement for the straight pins which were the previous closure device. The straight pins were less secure and likely to fall out of a garment.
Throughout history the fibula has carried significant information within the design, speaking of the wealth, status and rank of the wearer.
Early fibula are known to have been used in the 14th century BC by the Mycenaeans in Southern Greece. The style quickly spread to Crete, Cyprus and Sicily.
Further adaptations of the original style are developed over thousands of years and the use of this ingenious piece of adornment spreads to Syria, Assyria and Persia, followed by Macedonia and the Balkans.
Gradually styles and designs emerge to decorate the fibula to include pieces with zoomorphic embellishments.
The styles and use of the Fibula grew hand in hand with the Roman Empire, bringing the design to Europe and to Britain.
By the First Century AD designs had become more ornate and enamelling was present in some grander Fibula. The spread of the use of the fibula continues through the 5th – 10th centuries AD to include amongst the wearers, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, and Gepids. The style continues to flourish and also reaches Southern and Western Europe.
Later still a new style of penannular fibula becomes popular, these consist of an incomplete ring and a closure pin. Some such pieces were decorative works of Art, which denoted high status. Especially fine examples were created in Scotland and Ireland.
The use of the fibula endures in North Africa. The fibula is a very important aspect of Berber Adornment and was widely used for daily use until the first half of this century. Fibula in this instance are generally worn in pairs, these are often connected by ornate chains.
There are many different styles, forms and sizes which identify the wearer’s origin.