Roman bronze charioteer’s falx knife handle




A chariot-racing bronze falx knife handle in the form of a victorious charioteer. The charioteer (auriga) is shown standing and holding a palm frond, he wears a helmet and short tunic, and his chest is bound with protective bands (fasciae).

Charioteers were the Roman equivalent of modern sports stars, the race was extremely dangerous as crashes were frequent and the horses’ reins were tied around the charioteer’s waist. Every charioteer would carry a small knife (falx) with a very sharp curved iron blade in his fasciae, and this was his only hope of cutting the reins and survival if dismounted and dragged behind his horses.

Successful charioteers gained great wealth and fame as well as many female admirers, they often appear in commemorative sculptures and mosaics but artefacts directly related to the sport are very rare.

Roman, 1st to 4th Century AD

8.3 x 2 cms

Losses as shown in the photographs, iron blade missing

Ex. collection: Jytte Soelberg, Copenhagen, Denmark; acquired late 20th Century from an older collection.

For a closely comparable example in the British Museum, please see: