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Jessica Savage

Hoard of late 4th-century silver objects discovered in the year 1793 by workmen digging at the foot of the Esquiline Hill in Rome. In 1930, the first reliable inventory of the treasure was taken. What is currently identified as the Esquiline Treasure remains split between three museums—in London (British Museum), Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale), and Paris (Musée de Petit Palais)—with a speculative corpus of 61 objects. The greater part of the treasure, 59 objects, was acquired by the British Museum in 1866 (all items discussed are in the British Museum).

The principal components of the treasure are thought to be wedding gifts, or perhaps a dowry, for the high-ranking Roman couple Turcius Secundus and Projecta Turcii. These include a silver-gilt repousée toilet casket, known as the Projecta Casket, decorated with the busts of the couple and pagan themes. A Latin inscription on the lid translated as ‘Secundus and Projecta, live in Christ’ proves the casket was made for a Christian union. The dome-shaped Muse Casket, an elaborate silver repousée circular container, was likely made for holding perfume bottles and is decorated with figures associated with the arts and learning. Four furniture ornaments, or ...


In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....