The Greek and Hellenistic Period

Which helmets are appropriate?

This is intended to be a simple summery of what helmet is suitable for a Greek or Hellenistic cavalry impression, in relation to easily commercially available helmets. It makes for a rather short list!

For visibility, hearing and comfort an Illyrian, Pilos and Boeotian means you can recreate the period from the Persian Wars until the early 3rd century.

Peter Connolly in "The Greek Armies" (1977) gave a simple time of helmets which many of us have grown up with.

Connolly has the Kegel-Illyrian group and the left and the Corinthian group on the right.

Illyrian type III and IV helmets ares produced by Daniyal Steel Crafts (DSC) of India. They are relatively cheap reproduction but a good fit for most people. They have the advantage of being the one available helmet type for which there is little doubt about how the crest was attached.
The crest is attached to the rear lip of the central groove and the button on the front.
DSC make crests for very little money, although the bottom of the crest box may need to be covered in leather or felt.

  • o Type I (ca. 700 BC-640 BC) left the neck unprotected and hampered hearing.
    • o Type II (ca. 600 BC) offered neck protection and again hampered hearing.
      • o Type III (ca. 550 BC) offered neck protection and allowed better hearing.
        • o Type IV (ca. 500 BC) was similar to Type III but hearing was not impaired at all.

        Particularly popular in the Peloponnese, the Illyrian type helmet was also used by the Etruscans, Scythians and Illyrians. While obsolete in most of Greece in the early 5th century, it probably lasted another hundred years in Illyria. A good choice for 520-450 BC and until around 400 BC in Illyria.

        This is perhaps one of the most successful and iconographic helmets in history. It had a long life dating from the 8th century until the late 5th century, and into the late 4th century as a badge of rank for strategoi. Crests were probably used as a badges of rank, and many cavalryman depicted in a Corinthian with a shield are probably hoplites riding to war and dismounting to fight.

        The Deepeeka brass version with ear cut outs is very cheap, easily available and less unique than the DSC bronze model with enclosed ears. This is not an ideal cavalry helmet with limited hearing, but perhaps fine for an early to mid 5th century impression. These helmets could be modified for Scythian impressions.

        These are available from the group, and are much better than Deepeeka or DSC production helmets. Based on the felt pilos hat they started to replace the closed Corinthian helmet from around the middle of the 5th century.

        In the later 5th century Cyrus the Younger's bodyguard were using them. Aristophanes mentions an Athenian cavalry officer in Pilos in his comedy Lysistrata first performed in 411. By the turn of the 4th century they may be the majority helmet, and lasted into the 3rd century.

        Many of Alexander's infantry may have marched in a simple Pilos. They can be customised with crests and cheek pieces. Maybe not an elegant helmet on all, they are a very useful one.

        This is a development of the Corinthinian and appears in the late 6th century. Deepeeka do a simple brass version, probably from the early 5th century, which has been copied by other companies. It can be bought very cheaply. It develops into a helmet with hinged cheek pieces commonly used in Italy. The basic design lasts until the 4th century. The Indian versions tend to be very large.

        Somewhat like the Chalcidian without the nasal bar and with hinged cheek pieces. Developed around the mid 5th century in one form or another it lasts through the Hellenistic period. It is very popular in India. Deepeeka do a 3rd century version in brass which I have not seen, and Armae do a better bronze version typical of southern Italy. Possible options for Hellenistic impressions, but neither are ideal.

        The classic cavalry helmet was introduced before Xenophon's recommendation in the 360's BC. It becomes the standard cavalry helmet of Alexanders army, and continued in the early 3rd century. These are available in bronze from the group and can be customised with cheek pieces, interesting fastening systems, leather edging, wreaths and horse tail plumes. They can bin silvered, tinned or even painted white.

        John Conyard