? for the History Buffs: Roman Arms & Armor
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    In the basement of the Alamo

    ? for the History Buffs: Roman Arms & Armor

    I have a question for the resident history buffs on the board.

    When were certain types of Roman arms & armor first used/incorporated by the Roman Army?

    IIRC, Roman armor included (essentially) a chain shirt, (possibly) a scale mail shirt, & the famous lorica segmentia (essentially banded mail for the torso & shoulders). There is also the square shield & reinforced helmet. Were there other types used earlier/later? Am I roughly accurate w/ what I mentioned?

    As for arms, I'm familiar with the gladius (short sword), pilum (javelin), pugio (dagger), & spatha (long sword for cavalry). Anything I missed?

    Appreciate any help I can get.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Cookie Jar
    not sure it will help but...


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Ryoko Owari, City of Stories
    For me as a kid growing up the armor I always saw Romans using in the stuff I read was a solid breastplate. I've seen the other types as well, but that's what I think of first for a legionnaire.
    Last edited by Black Omega; Thursday, 16th May, 2002 at 11:57 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Germany, Bad Camberg
    The pilum is not a javelin.
    The pilum is a heavy throwing spear half of iron and half of wood .
    The iron behind the point was unhardened so it would after hitting bend.
    It was mainly used to take the shields of the enemy out of play.
    It goes through the shield and made it through the length of the pila unusable.

    the lorica segmata 1 Centuty IIRC

    The spatha is a stabbing (long)sword
    The sling was also used by the legions, 1/3 or 1/4 IIRC was equipped with such.
    Before the reforms of marius the third line the triarrii(the old veterans) ussed instead of pila the hasta the 2,5m long roman lance or spear.

    It was later used by the auxiliaries.
    who were equipped with chain or scale shirt gret round or oval shield .
    The auxiliar archers used mainly the reflex or composite bow.

    the slingers used only the sling IIRC

    You missed the bronce cuirass of the nobility the thorax for the tribunes legates and such.
    The scale mail wasn`t very pooular in the legiones but the auxiliar cavalry and the auxiliar eastern archers used him.
    The signifer and the tribune used a small equites shield(buckler i thin in d&d terms)

    A very good source is Junkelmann Legionen des Augustus
    Who are in translation in English i´ve heard no thought if planning, doing or done.

    I hope this helps a bit.

  5. #5
    It's been pointed out in other threads, but I'll repeat it. A great resource for info on anciens warfare is John Warry's Warfare in the Ancient World.
    As to Roman arms and armour: what period?

    In the early republic there would have been a lot of influence from Etruscan, Samnite and Greek cities.
    The Romans that fought Hannibal would bear no armour, a square metal breastplated or a chainmail shirt. (The latter being rather unique and only worn by the real veterans.) At this time the soldier was a Roman citizen and provided his own equipement. (An interesting foot note is that the cain shirt was probably a celtic influence: it was worn by the Gauls and onther Celtic peoples long before the Romans adapted it. The difference was of cource that Rome managed to produce chain on a larger scale.)
    The reforms of Marius made a more uniform legion. Soldiers would no longer have to be citizens and would be unifomly equiped with a chain shirt, gladius, pugio and pilum. The oval (clipped?) shield would be worn on the back, protected by a hide cover while on the march. Legionaries at this time referred to themselves as "Marius' mules" because the would have to wear a full kit on their backs, so as to minimize baggage trains slowing down the legions on the march.
    The archetypical legionairs are the soldiers Trajanus used in his conquest of Dacia (roughly modern Roumenia.)(note: during this campaing most soldiers reďnforced their helmets with a metal band running acros it. The Dacian falx (cross between a two handed sword and a halberd) would otherwise slash right throug it.) Most legionaries would wear a lorrica segmenta. In D&D terms this could be seen as a sort of banded mail: metal strips fastened together to provide rear, torso and upper arm protection. They would wear a shawl to protect the neck against the metal cutting them. Pictorial evidence suggests that this shawl became somewhat of a fashion rage among the auxilia troops who were still wearing mail. The lorrica segmenta probably never fully replaced the chainmail (economic of scale.) These are the legionaries you see in the move Gladiotor.

    In the later Imperial period there was a lot of influence from barbarian immigrants. The legions were replaced by low grade frontier troops: limitanei and the elite mobile forces: comitatense. There is no real agreement over the troop quality in this period. There is also a lot of debate concerning the amount of armour worn in this period. The pilum seems to have become obsolete and replaced by a spear and spatha (originally a Germanic weapon if I'm not mistaken.) Round shields had become the norm.

    If you want further details, ask away, but I would probably have to look it up first.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Gothenburg, Sweden
    The best source is of course Osprey Publishing.
    They have several very good books about the Roman army (well, about any army, basically), detailing equipment and tactics. And they're generally well up to date with the latest in ancient history.

    The lorica segmentata (which is not the Roman name for it, but from the renaissance) did probably not see much use in reality. It was heavy, cheap, and survives well in the ground, and so is overrepresented in the archaological findings.
    It saw most of it's use in Britain and germany, and seems to be a speedy replacement for all the armour that was lost when Varus lost all those legions in the Teutoburger forest, in 9 AD.

    The chain shirt is originally of gallic make, and seems to heve been in use as early as the third century BC. The same goes for the scale mail, albeit it was cheaper, and saw much use, especially in the eastern mediterranean region.

    The reinforced helmet, or gallic imperial, was adopted from the gauls after Ceasar (Julius) conquered them. It saw wide use from the beginning of thefirst century.
    Other helmets were used earlier, often a much simpler helmet, similar, but without reinforcements.

    The square shield is another early imperial innovation. Earlier the shields were more rounded, but of the same general size, and flat (not semi-cylindrical as the square shields).

    The swords.
    The gladius was a Celtiberian sword (i.e. from Spain/Portugal). Iberia was conquered during the Punic wars and the gladius and the gladius became the primary side arm of the romans, around 200 BC.
    The best gladiuses came from spain for as long as they were used.

    The Spatha is, yet again, a gallic innovation. The romans used it as a cavalry sword, I think from, say, first century BC.

    Many other weapons and armours were used by the legions themselves throughout the Roman era, and in particular by all the various auxiliary troops.

  7. #7
    In addition to John Warry's text, two books that I can't recommend highly enough if you're interested in the period...

    Peter Connolly's Greece and Rome at War--similar to Warry's, but with greater detail.

    Brassey's Roman Army, Wars of the Empire by Graham Sumner--makes use of color photographs of re-enactors, rather than the usual drawings. It really helps to visualize the period.

    Anyway, here are a few bits of trivia (all values are approx/best guesses)...

    The heavy oval scutum of the early republic:

    1.28m x 63.5cm
    1cm at edge to 1.2cm at center

    Very heavy. Probably used with straight arm in charge, then rested on ground to fight.

    By way of comparison, the shield used by the La Tene culture (Celts) was about 1.1m and 6.7kg.

    The later rectangular scutum of the empire:

    Shortened by straightening ("cutting off") the top and bottom edges.

    6mm thick at edge gives weight of 5.5kg

    If thickened to 1cm at center, weight rises to 7.5kg

    Lorica Hamata (mail shirt): 15kg

    Lorica Segmentata: 9kg

    By way of comparison, the knee length/hooded scale hauberk of a cataphractus has been estimated to weigh somewhere between 25-30kg.

    Hope some of that is interesting/illuminating
    Last edited by Thorvald Kviksverd; Thursday, 16th May, 2002 at 02:32 PM.

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