A Byzantine Plaque, 10th century

Scenes from the book of Joshua

Place of origin: Byzantium (Istanbul, Turkey)
Date: second half of 10th century
Material: Elephant ivory
Dimensions: Height: 7.3 cm at left, Height: 7 cm at right, Depth: 1.5 cm, Width: 27 cm, Weight: 0.26 kg
Museum number: 265-1867

This plaque comes from the side of an ivory casket. Such recepticles were often decorated with scenes inspired by Roman art and mythology. The panel depicts the biblical hero Joshua. The scenes can be matched exacly in, and were probably copied from, the Joshua Rotulus manuscript in the Vatican Library, which itself derived from a 5th-6th century model. The plaque is a telling example for the legacy of Roman imagery and adapted style.

The panel depicts two scenes. In the first Joshua sits upon a chair receiving two men who offer gifts wrapped in their mantles (envoys from Gibeon), in the second he appears to beckon to two warriors armed with shields and helmets. The plaque is made up of three pieces which were presumably joined together after the panels had been detached from a casket. Victoria and Albert Museum

Referenced on p34 MAA-89 Byzantine Armies 886-1118 by Ian Heath & Angus McBride:
Though oft-reproduced, this ivory casket from the Victoria and Albert Museum still remains one of the best representations of 10th-century skutatoi. All wear lamellar corselets, that of the seated general at left reaching to knee as well as elbow, and carry kontaria so long that they disappear out of the top of the panel. Though badly cut the leather harness of breast-bands and shoulder-pieces is also apparent. Two large oval shields of the type called skutai are apparent, while the man at extreme left carries instead a circular thureos. The two figures at the opposite end of the panel are apparently wearing non-metallic armour, either leather or possibly quilted fabric, and are perhaps peltastoi. All have helmets with scale aventails, surmounted by a ring to which a crest would be attached on parade.

by Giuseppe Rava
Plate A1: Katépanos of Vasilikoi Anthropoi
This senior officer of the ‘Imperials’ of the Guard is wearing a gilded thorax folidotos (scale corselet), covered by a crimson sagion (military cloak). Note the high pinkish-red boots (kampotouvia). The colours here are restored from the original pigments of a Joshua plaque now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Source: pp.12-13, Byzantine Imperial Guardsmen 925-1025: The Tághmata and Imperial Guard by Timothy Dawson

See also Byzantine Soldiers in the Joshua Roll, 10th century
A Byzantine Casket, 10th-11th century, Musée National du Moyen Âge, Paris, France
Other Illustrations of Byzantine Costume & Soldiers
10th century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers