Curb Bit

Thracian or Celtic

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 370

The mouthpiece of this bit consists of two spindle-shaped links articulated in the middle. They are connected on either side to lyre-shaped attachments for the bridle's cheekpieces (partly broken). The two shanks, from which hooks hang for the reins, are connected by a horizontal bar acting as a curb. The curb bar would have pressed the horse’s chin when reins were pulled back. The large lyre-shaped elements helped indicate the direction to the horse and held the bit in place in the mouth. The shape of these cheekpieces, as well as the rein hooks, are inspired from Hellenistic Greek and Macedonian bits, from which they evolved.

This object is also an example of the earliest type of curb bit to have been invented. It seems to have developed in the Balkans among Thracian and Scordisci (Eastern Celts) cultures between the 3rd and 1st century B.C. These populations were known for their great equestrian skills, especially at war. Examples of these bits have also been occasionally found in some western Celtic burials dating to the 1st century B.C., but they mostly spread in Roman territories during the conquest, thanks to the Thracian and East Celtic cavalrymen incorporated in the army. Curb bits were actually an improvement in military technology, since they allowed riders to have very good control of their horses with only one hand, freeing the other for holding a weapon.

Even if this bit is said to have been found in Rome, it was probably made in the Balkans, and then brought to the Italian peninsula by a rider of Eastern origin.

Curb Bit, Copper alloy (bronze), Thracian or Celtic

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