Object Description

A very rare bronze oval seal box featuring the face of a woman wearing a diadem, possibly an empress. The portrait is reminiscent of 2nd century AD coiffures and diadems worn by Plotina and Sabina, wives of emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Hattatt illustrated an example found in Ostia bearing the portraits of Hadrian and Sabina (p. 464, 151) and seal boxes with portraits of Vespasian and Domitian have been found in London and must have been used by high officials (Salway, A History of Roman Britain, p. 381). Above the head is the hinge that still works and the small box can be easily opened. They were used to seal the string of a bound writing tablet or package. The stings of the item were fed into the holes and sides eventually tied inside the hollowed area. Wax was then poured onto the knot and then impressed with a seal from a ring. To protect the wax seal, it and the knot were encased in a small, ornamental metal box with a hinged lid and three holes in the back for the cord. This allowed the item to be secure and safely covered during transport. It is believed that these seal boxes were in use more on the frontier and constituted part of the military mail system.
Period: 2nd cent. AD

Object Condition

Very fine. Minor flaws to the patina.

Object Classification

  • material
  • dimensions
    W:2 x H:4 centimeters

Dealer Opening Times

By appointment only.

Dealer Contact

0208 364 4565

Dealer Location

The Gallery
Trent Park Equestrian Centre
Eastpole Farm House, Bramley Road
Oakwood, N14 4UW, United Kingdom


St James's Ancient Art
10 Charles II Street, Ground Floor
St James