Lombardic gilded silver brooch from Tuscany, c.600 AD, one of the largest of its kind (British Museum)
A fibula (/ˈfɪbjʊlə/, plural fibulae /ˈfɪbjʊli/) is a brooch or pin for fastening garments. The fibula developed in a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety-pin principle. Technically, the Latin term, fibulae, refers to Roman brooches; however, the term is widely used to refer to brooches from the entire ancient and early medieval world that continue Roman forms. Nevertheless, its use in English is more restricted than in other languages, and in particular post-Roman brooches from the British Isles are just called brooches (for example, the penannular brooches), where in German they would probably be fibulae.
A cloak pin
Unlike most modern brooches, fibulae were not only decorative; they originally served a practical function: to fasten clothing, such as cloaks. Fibulae replaced straight pins that were used to fasten clothing in the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. In turn, fibulae were replaced as clothing fasteners by buttons in the Middle Ages. Their descendant, the modern safety pin, remains in use today. In ancient Rome and other places where Latin was used, the same word denoted both a brooch and the fibula bone because a popular form for brooches and the shape of the bone were thought to resemble one another.
There are hundreds of different types of fibulae. They are usually divided into families that are based upon historical periods, geography, and/or cultures. Fibulae are also divided into classes that are based upon their general forms.
Lost fibulae, usually fragments, are frequently dug up by amateur coin and relic hunters using metal detectors.