Posts from the ‘armour’ Category

Spot the Barbarian…A fundamental law “B” is for Barbarian

After doing a series of complex and quite, in Robs words “ethereal”, posts about the nature of history, Constantine and philosophy I thought I would do a light hearted look at Barbarians and Romans.

We have been looking at pictures of Trajans Column for a few weeks now and I feel the need to share with you a simple rule that might help you distinguish civilized Romans from everyone else.

So the first rule is that the Barbarians have not bothered to shave before the big battle whilst the Romans have got up nice and early, had a shower, shave and breakfast before making a decent effort on the battlefield.

Gallic cavalry take trophies from the battlefield

Compare and contrast their faces

So the important thing to note is that “B” is for Beards and “B” is for Barbarian.  So this is a general rule that should help you if you need to work out if the person in front of you is a barbarian or a proper person.

Next have a look at this battle field.

Got your hands full? Don't want to lose your trophy? Use your mouth...

In this picture are Barbarians fighting auxiliary   Auxiliary are barbarians who are recruited into the army and will gained citizenship on successful completion of service.  One of them has a Dacian head in his mouth.  So here we can see that all the barbarians are wearing trousers so that gives us a hint of another rule to help us.  Quickly compare this with the image below and you note that the Emperor is wearing a tunica.  In the picture below you can see a group of Roman legionaries, bona fide Roman Citizens and they too are wearing tunicas.  Now the latin word for trousers is braccae and here we see it again.  “B” is for barbarian “B” is for braccae.  Its a fundamental law.

Soldiers building a road

Drusus Gets Dressed Helmet

A Galea was a helmet worn by Roman soldiers.
 The ears and eyes were not covered so the soldiers could see and hear very well.
  The neck was well protected by a guard at the back.
  The top of the helmet was very strong with a guard across the front.
  Unfortunately the middle of the face was not protected and many Roman soldiers lost bits of their noses in battle!

Drussus Gets Dressed, Cingulum

A Cingulum was a belt.

Cingulum symbol of a soldier

  It was a symbol or sign that a soldier was in the army.
  It was decorated with brass and silvered plates.
 It had a sheath for a dagger or pugio.

Drusus Gets Dressed 2

FACT:    The Lorica Hamata and the Lorica Segmentata were different kinds of Roman body armour.

Lorica Hamata

The Lorica Hamatawas one kind of Roman body armour.

It was made of chain mail.
It was comfortable to wear because it moved with the body, but it was very heavy.
It was not as safe in battles as the Lorica Segmentata

Lorica Segmentata

which was made of metal plates with shoulder plates to protect the arms.

Thanks to Lesley Mosely for content, Rob Mosely for advice and Joe Mosely for photographs.

Drusus gets Dressed

Caligae were Roman shoes which were made of leather with metal studs in the soles to make them hardwearing. (The Emperor Caligulas name meant Little Boots)
– Each legion had skilled leather workers to repair shoes when they wore out.
  – In colder countries Roman soldiers wore socks or closed boots.
  – Roman soldiers were trained to march up to 30 miles a day – in full armour and carrying kit weighing 35 kgs so they needed hardwearing shoes.

Thanks to Lesley Mosely for content, Rob Mosely for advice and Joe Mosely for photographs.

Head hunting Gallic Auxiliaries Trajan’s Frieze Scene 5

At the Fort we have a wonderful frieze (over 100 feet long) showing a colourised version of part of Trajan’s Column inRome.  Here’s another scene from it.


All the Roman soldiers shown here are auxiliaries (infantry and cavalry). The interesting point to note is the extreme shortness of their tunicas and mail shirts. As someone only too used to wearing the mail “lorica hamata” I feel well qualified to make a few comments on this.

None of the mail shirts worn by auxiliaries on the column show shoulder- doubling.  This doubling can be clearly seen on the image of yours truly depicting a member of the Fort garrison. The extra thickness of mail on the shoulders was a vital protection against attack by slashing weapons. It was copied from the Gauls in the time of Caesar and rapidly adopted by the late Republican legions. It is surprising to find its absence on the Column, depicting events around 100 AD. Facing up to the murderous Dacian falx would make shoulder -doubling  very very important.

The other odd thing here is that extreme shortness I mentioned a few lines ago. The cavalrymen would indeed have worn a short hamata, as it was necessary for them, as riders, to have freedom from the hips down. The same does not apply to the infantry.  The more protection the better – and one of the great advantages of the flexible mail shirt is that it gives good protection to the rather vital area of the crotch, which a “lorica segmentata” (as worn by legionaries) leaves wide open. My mail shirt ends halfway down the thigh, completely covering groin and rump. You feel safe in it.

It definitely leaves me wondering whether the designers and sculptors of the Column had ever actually seen a soldier in a mail shirt. If the men were not wearing their “femenalia” – the tight (eye-wateringly tight it appears) knee breeches – the Column would be a spectacle of mass indecency.

Experimental Armour Polishing with Lard

I decided to try to make up some Roman Armour polish to torment the British Army when they came to the Fort on Wednesday.  I thought to myself “What these brave men would really enjoy is getting some armour nice and shiney without the benefit of modern polish.”  Unfortunately they had to leave early and were unable to try the polish.

As I was tidying up Megan discovered the mixture and asked what the disgusting thing was.  I explained that it was the polish that the Romans used and how they used it.

I have always been skeptical about the idea that the Romans wandered around in nice shiney armour.  First the metal technology was not as good as ours, shiney metal is not better metal and thirdly I was unsure how effective ancient techniques would be.

So I decided to have a go with the helmet below and was flabbergasted by the result.  I made my polish from Lard and sand and prepared the metal with vinegar.  Vinegar has the effect of breaking up rust.  Then I plastered the area with lard to eat into any remaining rust areas.  After this I rubbed a small amount of the polish onto the area and then using a cloth removed the lard.  I saw an immediate improvement in the state of the metal and after ten minutes was able to see my reflection.  After I had polished the neck guard I noticed a silky texture to the metal which implies that there is a thin layer of grease on the metal which hopefully will protect it in the future from moisture.

Sorry about the quality of these pictures.  Note the image of the face guard.  The centre is where it has been polished and the sides remain untreated.  You can see how effective the treatment has been.  On other pictures you can see the before and after in particular the neck guard which was clearly corroded but now reflects the flash a bit too well.  The small pot you can see contains the polish.

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