Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Amongst the many pieces of silverware surviving from the later Roman Empire are the silver 'anniversary' plates commissioned by emperors and consuls in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., which were manufactured and given as gifts to celebrate imperial anniversaries or appointments to the consulship. The decoration and decorative techniques used on these plates vary widely, from simple punched inscriptions to elaborately cast figural scenes.
The presentation of these plates is closely related to other instances of largesse and the celebration of imperial anniversaries in the later empire, attested to both by the surviving literary sources and by the anniversary inscriptions found on other surviving artifacts of the period, such as coinage and statue bases. Unfortunately, some specific details concerning the production of these 'anniversary' plates are currently unknown.
Comparison of the many types of decoration used on these plates with other later Roman art indicates that they borrowed many of their motifs from a wide variety of both imperial and private art. There are also decorative similarities between these 'anniversary' plates and other contemporary pieces of art done in less expensive materials like glass, which suggest that the silversmiths producing these plates were free enough from strict official supervision to draw on whatever other artwork they wished for inspiration.
Epplett, W. Chris, "Anniversary Plates of the Later Roman Empire" (1994). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6015.
McMaster University Library