Terret (Rein Guide)

Date: 1–100

Culture: Celtic or Roman

Medium: Copper alloy, champlevé enamel

Dimensions: Overall: 3 1/8 x 4 x 1 1/4 in. (7.9 x 10.2 x 3.1 cm)

Classification: Enamels-Champlevé

Credit Line: Purchase, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund; Joseph Pulitzer Bequest; Pfeiffer, Rogers, Fletcher, Louis V. Bell, and Dodge Funds; and J. Richardson Dilworth, Peter Sharp, and Annette Reed Gifts, 1988

Accession Number: 1988.79


The Celts' use of chariots in warfare was legendary in the ancient world. Roman writers such as Polybius, Livy, and Julius Caesar describe the terror and turmoil wreaked upon the Roman infantry as hundreds of Celtic chariots entered battle bearing spear-throwing warriors. The Celts of Britain particularly favored chariots, using them in battle long after their counterparts in Gaul had abandoned them in favor of cavalry. Chariots were critical in the defense of Celtic Britain during the Roman invasions of the first centuries B.C. and A.D. Archaeological evidence from numerous metalsmith shops attests to the resources devoted to the outfitting and ornamentation of this valued army during this period, even in small communities.

This terret, made at the time of Rome's conquest of Britain, comes from one of the numerous workshops in the first century A.D. that specialized in the production of richly decorated, high-quality bronze and champlevé enamel fittings for horse and chariot. Harness mounts, horse bits, and other terret rings from several regions of Britain display the exuberant pattern of incised lines and brightly colored circles, fan shapes, and commas that so enliven the surface of this terret. The decorative effect was enhanced by the terret's distinctive silhouette, created through the regular placement of projecting "lips." The lips, too, serve as fields for enamel ornamentation, bearing reflecting patterns of dots and commas. The terret would originally have been attached to a chariot yoke, probably serving to guide the reins for a double harness.