Francesco Rutelli, Italy's minister of fine arts, has presented at the Italian cultural institute in New York an important archaeological discovery made this summer in the course of excavations in Rome led by Clementina Panella in the area between the Via Sacra and the Palatine, near the arch of Constantine.
The finds are of imperial insignia, and consist of javelins and lances for carrying flags and pennants, and a sceptre and three orbs. The javelins, lances and sceptre are in orichalc, a highly-prized alloy similar to brass, and were wrapped in silk and linen cloths before being stored in wooden cases, while two of the orbs are in gilded glass and the third in chalcedony, a precious variety of quartz, probably brought from India. The importance of the finds is that such insignia, typical of Roman emperors, have so far been known only from representations on coins or friezes. The pieces date to the fourth century AD, and have been identified as probably belonging to Maxentius, Constantines rival for the empire, who was defeated at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312, during which he drowned.