151. A Rare Romano-British Bronze Figurine of a Bound Prisoner

Britain, 1st–2nd century AD
Size: 4 cm high

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There are sixteen other recorded bronze figurines of bound prisoners, ten from the UK and the others from sites along the Rhine. Their meaning has been much debated, one theory being that they are somehow recording slavery. This seems unlikely, because if you have a slave you want him/her to get on with the washing-up, and tying them up would rather interfere with their usefulness. Prisoners, bound, humiliated and facing execution are a continual theme throughout Antiquity, usually intended to boost the image of whoever has commissioned the image. These bronze figurines must be part of that tradition. We no longer condone gladiatorial combats as part of public entertainment; instead we watch extreme violence in the cinema, and believe we have evolved. 

Provenance: Rupert Wace Ancient Art, London

Private collection, UK