Tabula ansata

tabulae ansatae from the sanctuary of Isis and Magna Mater in Mainz
Tabula ansata relief on the tomb of Charles, Count of Maine attributed to Francesco Laurana, in Le Mans Cathedral
tabula ansata on the right side of the boss on a soldier shield, metope XXIV from Tropaeum Traiani

A tabula ansata or tabella ansata (Latin for tablet with handles, plural tabulae ansatae or tabellae ansatae) is a tablet with dovetail handles.[1] It was a favorite form for votive tablets in Imperial Rome.[2]


Tabulae ansatae identifying soldiers' units have been found on the tegimenta (leather covers) of shields, for example in Vindonissa (Windisch, Switzerland).[3] Sculptural evidence, for example on the metopes from the Tropaeum Traiani (Adamclisi, Romania), shows that they were also used for the same purpose on the shields.[4]

Modern era

Tabulae ansatae have been used by modern artists as early as the 15th century, as shown on the tomb of Charles, Count of Maine attributed to Francesco Laurana, in Le Mans Cathedral.[5] The Statue of Liberty is holding one such tablet on which "July 4th 1776" is inscribed using Roman numerals.

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  1. Giroire, Cécile; Roger, Daniel (2007). Roman art from the Louvre. Hudson Hills Press. p. 109. ISBN 1-55595-283-6.
  2. Meyer, Elizabeth A. (2004). Legitimacy and law in the Roman world: tabulae in Roman belief and practice. Cambridge University Press. p. 28. ISBN 0-521-49701-9. LCCN 2003051532.
  3. See picture (source page)
  4. Tansey, Patrick (June 2008). "M. Titius, Menas and the insignia scutorum". Klio. 90 (1). Berlin: Akademie Verlag. pp. 68–70. doi:10.1524/klio.2008.0004.
  5. 1 2 3 Barnard, Toby Christopher; Clark, Jane (1995). Lord Burlington: architecture, art and life. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 118–120. ISBN 1-85285-094-9.
  6. Picirillo, Michele (2007). "Les mosaïques de la bande de Gaza". In Haldimann, Marc-André. Gaza à la croisée des civilisations: Contexte archéologique et historique. Chaman Edition. p. picture N°119. ISBN 2-9700435-5-6.
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