Medieval Gilt Buckle with a Dragon, 13th-15th Century AD
large silver gilt buckle and belt plate decorated with a dragon/bird
hybrid monster, head turned back with mouth open, wing against body and
long curling tail; angled frame to buckle with ball ends and ribbed
cross bar; pin with engraved cross to one end.
Roman Military Parade Buckle with Gods, 4th-5th Century AD
A silver parcel-gilt military belt suite with an ithyphallic faun (Pan) with stick and pan-pipes; a facing Bacchus (Dionysus) with thyrsus and raised horn, lion at his feet and wine jug; a dancing maenad with pipes and swirling drapery; each in a pointillé tendril and leaf frame; buckle loop formed as a pair of opposed gilt lion-heads on textured curved necks, the tongue formed as a rectangular block with geometric ornament, protruding tail and flanking curved legs terminating in gilt claws.
Bacchus was the Roman name for the Greek deity Dionysus, a god who originally came from Thrace. He was closely associated with wine, fertility and the harvest, as well as being patron god of theatres and actors. A mystery cult developed around him that was extremely popular in the Greek and Roman periods, but which was viewed with suspicion by the authorities for its bending of social conventions. The mystery cults were based on sacred stories that often involved the ritual re-enactment of a death-rebirth myth of a particular divinity. In addition to the promise of a better afterlife, mystery cults fostered social bonds among the participants, called mystai. The followers of Dionysus derived many of their eschatological beliefs and ritual prescriptions from Orphic literature, a corpus of theogonic poems and hymns. The mythical Thracian poet Orpheus, the archetypical musician, theologian, and mystagogue, was credited with the introduction of the mysteries into the Greek world.
References by Herodotus and Euripides attest to the existence of certain Bacchic-Orphic beliefs and practices: itinerant religion specialists and purveyors of secret knowledge, called Orpheotelestai, performed the teletai, private rites for the remission of sins. For the Orphics, Dionysus was a saviour god with redeeming qualities. He was the son of Zeus and Persephone and successor to his throne. When the Titans attacked and dismembered the baby Dionysus, Zeus in retaliation destroyed the perpetrators with his thunderbolt. From the Titans’ ashes the human race was born, burdened by their Titan inheritance which could only be destroyed through the ecstatic worship of Dionysus.