Roman Body Armor

Topics: Roman Empire, Roman army, Ancient Rome Pages: 8 (3135 words) Published: March 13, 2005
During the expansion of Rome and the acquisition of new territory, the Roman armies were often met by heavy resistance and bloody conflicts. The armies needed a type of protection that would safely protect soldiers and would ensure victory for Rome. That is the reason armour (upper body) in particular was implemented to save soldiers on the battlefield. The armour had to meet certain standards of construction for it to be useful: Of these standards the first was that armour was to be flexible enough to allow the wearer freedom of movement in battle. Secondly, it had to be lightweight it could be worn without wearing down the soldier, while still protecting him against an opponents' weapon: and finally, the armour had to be made at low cost. These three aspects were influential in the evolution of armour design in the Roman army. The main study point of Roman armour is that it was a trade off between freedom of movement, protection, and cost factor. In the first century A.D. there were about four types of armour in use. The names of the different types were muscle, scale, mail, and segmented mail and the segmented breastplate being the leading type. Studying of these armour types relies upon three main sources of evidence: iconographic; archaeological; and literary source documents. The evolution of Roman armour was influenced by the needs and circumstances of the Roman Army. Armies of the first century A.D. were finally established within the Empire and control fell solely under the Emperor. With the increase of soldiers in the Roman army, which was up to around thirty legions, well built armour was more in need than ever on the frontiers. The army could be divided into two distinct parts the legion and the auxiliary. Only Roman citizens could become a legionnaire, while the auxiliary were made of non citizens from Rome's settled territories. The early view put forward by a historian named Webster was that the equipment used by the legionnaires was remarkably uniform throughout the empire. However, there has been no evidence that supports this theory, showing that a great number of types and ages of equipment was in use at anyone time. Peterson argues that uniform armour in the Roman army may have only extended to the soldiers having their own body armour, helmet, weapons and shield showing a common trademark. Bishop and Coulston suggest that in this period soldiers purchased their own equipment. This type of owning their own armour meant that the individual would be more respectful of the equipment they owned by having a sense of personal responsibility. Many of these items may have been purchased from army stock, but soldiers may have been free to buy more elaborate or expensive items from private craftsmen. This was probably beyond the economic means of most soldiers and elaborate armament has been seen only on soldiers of centurion rank or higher. It is further proposed that the military equipment would be sold back upon retirement or death of the owner, and therefore could be used by a number of different owners. The cost of new equipment would probably have implemented recycling of old armour, and with the repair of damaged armaments this may have meant that the lifespan of an object would be many years. These factors also show that production of new armour at any point in time would have been fairly low. One of the most widely used types of the Roman armour was the so called 'muscle' plate. This chest armour was moulded on the contours of the muscles of the male chest. This type of armour was probably built from iron or bronze, consisting of a high-waisted or a hip length breastplate. Shoulder straps hinged to the edges of the back plate, with their forward arm protectors tied down to rings on the breast. These plates had side fastenings with two hinges or a pair of rings joined by ties providing for the soldier's left and right flanks. None of these metallic muscled breastplates of the Roman period have survived...
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