Late Roman Army
Soldiers Through The Ages
The large scutum was adopted by all three classes of legionary during the Latin Wars of the 4th century B.C. according to Livy. This is based on the large curved plywood shield from Kasr al-Harit in the Egyptian Fayyum.
Body armour at this time was linked to wealth and social status. Such embossed copper-alloy breastplates seem to have been backed in leather and suspended using leather straps. Relatively little is known about Republican belts and here a simple belt with bone buckle is used.
1st century B.C.
Caesar’s Invasion of Britain.
North British warriors
The Claudian Invasion of Britain.
Legionary from the Boudican revolt.
second half of the 1st century.
Cavalryman with contus
Cavalryman from a Cohortes equitates.
The shoulder doubling on the mail shirt would be becoming old fashioned by this date. The long spatha has an early second century cows bone grip based on a find from Dangstetten, with walnut pommel and guard with recessed copper plate. The scabbard is based on finds from Scotland and Germany. The belt has plates of open work design based on finds from Hadrian’s Wall. Caligae have gone out of fashion and here an enclosed boot is worn.
The Dacian wars.
Legionary Legio II Adiutrix.
Auxiliary Cohortes Equitatae.
The legionary wears a long sleeved tunic and tight trousers over military boots with integral laces. The scutum or shield is made in the old tradition using in effect a version of plywood. At this time they were edged in leather or rawhide for structural stability. The bull, the proposed symbol of the VI from York can be seen on the shield. The pilum is still in use. An impression based on readily available Deepeeka products.
Septimius Severus comes to York
The soldier wears a heavy pair of boots with integral laces, trousers with integral feet, and a linen tunic decorated with clavi. His military belt is secured to belt studs through a square framed “buckle”. His pattern welded spatha is suspended by a wide baldric, decorated with silvered studs with phalera and strap end from Carlisle and Zugmantel respectively. The pair stand beside the city walls, re-modelled along the river frontage at this time.
Dura Europus, Syria.
The broad baldric is based on an example from a votive deposit at Vimose, Denmark. Here it suspends a very pointed semi-spatha, again based on a find from Kunzig. The greaves are of a type seemingly used by infantry, with a material backing worn of leg wrappings. A quiver of javelins is carried as seen on a tombstone of Aurelius Mucianus from Legio II Parthica based in Syria. The oval shield, now planked with a sewn rawhide edge is based on those from Dura. A spear is carried decorated in the fashion of finds from Danish bogs.
The chamfron consists of three panels joined by two long hinges. A naked Mars dominates the central panel which tampers slightly towards the base. The side plates have flying Victories around the top, snakes curving around the eye-guards and the Dioscuri with their horses near the lower edge. The horse also wears a silvered breastplate.
The cavalry sports greeves, ocreae, have detached knee guards hinged to the greaves, elaborate bossing with a silvered background, and cover the ankles. A naked Mars can be seen on the left greeve.
The painting on the parade shield is loosely based on fragments of a preserved painted circular leather shield facing, found in Egypt, now on display in Trier. The umbo is from the ex Guttman collection showing Minerva, in tinned copper alloy.
The rider wears a well upholstered auxiliary cavalry helmet from the early 3rd century, and flexible scale armour. The helmet padding was causing large amounts of sweat to colour the broad baldric holding the pattern welded spatha. On this very hot day linen trousers and tunic are worn, with a well built pair of typical 3rd century boots with integral laces.
Roman cavalry group.
When viewing the original in Leiden Museum, it noticeable that its hinge protectors have been mounted upside down. The left hand rider wears a copy of the iron helmet found in Egypt at Deir el Medineh, and is now on display at the Coptic Museum, Cairo.
All helmets need some form of padding. Vegetius referred to the “pilleus Pannonicus”. The Pannonian cap can be identified with the hats worn by soldiers on the Arch of Constantine. Shaped liked a pillbox, it is particularly suited to the shape of the ridge helm. On the right hand rider a Germanic style type 1 spatha can be seen, worn from a waist belt. A glimpse of the padded subarmalis can be seen, with attached leather pteruges, protecting the wearer’s upper arms and legs. Over this is worn rigid scale armour consisting of copper alloy scales wired to their neighbours, top, bottom and both sides. It is given a linen backing and leather edging. The relative inflexibility means that rigid scale shirts do not extend below the waistline. It is relatively light, but gives excellent protection, the force of a direct blow hitting any individual scale been quickly dispersed to the neighbouring scales. Although 4th century shirts leave no evidence, reconstructions of scale body armour are generally made with an opening on the left-hand side. This means the fastenings are protected by the wearer’s shield. The hardened leather thigh guards come are based on one of the two finds from Dura. An early form of lamellar, these fit from the waist over the knee to partially cover the shin above the military boot. A manica is worn protecting the right arm, while the shield, displaying the blazon of the Equites Talfali, protects the left. A recurve bow is carried to the riders left, and arrow to the right. The horse barding is in part based on drawings of the destroyed Column of Theodosius copied by Franco Giovanni Battista il Semolei in the 16th century, now in the musée du Louvre. In all a speculative assemblage.
The army of Justinian.
Kabarian Khazar Rus mercenary
in Byzantine service.
Varangian in Anatolia
The Latin Empire of Constantinople.