The armor of the Roman army around BC was mainly comprised of a shield, the scutum , and body armor that varied depending on rank and position, consisting of a breastplate and one greave, on the left leg. The scutum was a curved oval shield made from two sheets of wood glued together and covered with canvas and leather, usually with a spindle shaped boss along the vertical length of the shield.
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When a legionary charged with the shield, he would hold it with a straight arm and rest it on his left shoulder, then run towards the enemy with full force in an attempt to knock his foe over. He would then kneel behind the shield and fight from behind it. It is 1. Nine or ten strips of birch from cm wide were glued in-between two layers of thinner strips laid out perpendicular to the middle layer.
The shield is thickest in the center 1. The shield was covered with felt which was stitched through the wood. The grip was horizontal, and was meant to be held from the top. This type of shield probably also commonly featured an iron edging on the top and bottom rims.
Roman Imperial Armour: The Production of Early Imperial Military Armour
The shields of the legionary had to be of regulation size, and a soldier could be severely reprimanded if his shield was too large. Body armor of the principes heavy infantry , hastati front-line soldiers , and triarii veterans consisted of only a 20cm square breastplate, called a heart guard pectorale , and one greave. The one greave was worn on the left leg, the leg that was exposed during battle. The pectorale was either square or round. Wealthier soldiers wore mail shirts that were very heavy, weighing about 15kg.
This weight was quite a problem in the account of the battle of Lake Trasimene, where soldiers that tried to swim away were drowned by their armor. The principes and hastati also wore a bronze helmet with a ring of three black or purple feathers about 45cm high.
This was to make each man look twice his height. The velites lightly armed soldiers wore no armor at all, except a plain helmet. Sometimes decorated with wolf skin or some other unique mark so that the centurions could recognize them from a distance and judge their skill in battle. Cavalry was equipped in the Greek fashion, with a cuirass and round shield parma equestris. They also wore a mail shirt identical to that of the legionaries, aside from a split in the middle that allowed them to sit on a horse.
By the first century CE the method of recruitment had changed: recruitment was now open to all citizens, regardless of wealth. Previously the system was based on wealth, and the light-armed velites were drawn from the poorest class, because all soldiers were financially responsible for their own armor.
With the new open recruitment, the government had to provide cheap, mass-produced armor, for which the deductions were made in the soldier's pay. The whole was bound around the edges with wrought iron or bronze and the center was hollowed out on the inside for the handgrip and protected by metal bands. On the outside the surface was covered in leather, on which was fastened gilded or silvered decoration, probably in bronze. Each cohort had different color schemes aid recognition during a battle.
Roman Imperial Armour : The production of early imperial military armour
The shields also carried the name of the soldier and that of his centurion. On the march, the shield was hung by a strap over the left shoulder. Lorica Hamata Chain mail that was used extensively throughout Roman history and well after its fall. It provided excellent protection and flexibility, but was very heavy and time consuming to make.
Lorica Segmentata Plate Armor. A name translated by modern scholars, as we don't know what the Romans actually called it. This armor was made up of many pieces of laminated iron all bound together to form a very flexible, strong and the most effective of Roman body protection. It seemingly replaced chain mail as the favored Legionary issue but due to budgeting constraints its length of service seems to have been a relatively short period of time roughly Rome's golden era in the early empire and through the late 2nd century. Scale armor consisted of row upon row of overlapping bronze or iron scales, which resembled a coat of feathers.
Scale seemingly began to replace Plate late in the 2nd Century CE, as it was easier and less expensive to make than the other forms, but was less flexible and is often considered far less capable. Common thought is that it was especially vulnerable from an upward stab, but this theory is highly debated.
Gladius The Roman short sword. It was a double-edged weapon about 18 inches long and two inches wide, often with a corrugated bone grip formed to the Legionaries hand. A large round ball at the end helped with the balance. The primary use was for thrusting at short range. It was carried high on the right hand side so as to be clear of the legs and the shield arm. Pilum The Roman javelin. It was seven feet long and very light, as it was thrown before just prior to engaging the enemy in melee, to disarm as much as wound them.
The top three feet were of iron with a hardened point. It is probable that more sturdy types of spear of the same name were available for defense against cavalry in formation such as the turtle. Pugio The Roman dagger was anywhere from 7 to 11 inches long in similar width to the gladius. It could be highly decorative or very plain, but was a very useful secondary weapon in case of being disarmed.
Roman Imperial Armour
It was attached to the belt on the left hand side. A centurion's equipment was notably different from that of a legionary. He wore a transverse, side to side, crest along his helmet that would serve as an easily recognized point of reference for the men. The crest was made either of feathers or horsehair and colors could signify various ranks. Rather than the Lorica Segmentata of the Legionary, they would wear either chain or scale. It was generally about waist length with a lower edge similar to the muscled cuirass.
The armor and helmet could be silver-plated as well. He did not wear the apron like the Legionary but had a double-pleated kilt like piece. They also wore a cloak, of fine material, which hung from the left shoulder and a very ornate belt. Additionally the wearing of bronze greaves on the shins set them apart from the rank and file. They generally wore their swords on the left and daggers on the right, opposite of the common soldiers.
They carried a Vitis, vine staff, in his right hand as a symbol of his rank. It was made of grapevine and about 3 feet long. Officers could, of course, dress very differently from anyone else and there seems to be set pattern to the styles. They did have very fine dyed cloaks of various colors to signify rank. They generally wore a muscled cuirass and used a parazonium instead of a gladius; both described below. Lorica Musculata The muscled cuirass was a bronze chest piece made in two pieces, one for the front and one for the back, and buckled together at the sides.
These were well decorated with animal, mythological and chest muscle designs. Pteruges Straps that hung off the shoulders and waist and covering the upper arms and legs, were made of leather. They were implemented to protect the arms and legs, while conserving the use of metal.