Chainmail Armor Through The Ages

What do you get when you interlock a series of metal rings together in a pattern?  If you said “chainmail armor”, then you win the prize!  Known as one of the earliest types of protection, it would be fair to say that chainmail armor has had quite a successful run and is, in fact, still used today.

The longevity of chainmail armor comes from its effective prowess, both on and off the battlefield. One of its major appeals was the flexibility it gave the wearer.  It was light and allowed for ease of movement, which was of the utmost importance when engaging in battle.  It also proved to have a great deal of resistance against piercing and thrusting weapons, as well as cutting blows from edged weapons.  In addition, chainmail armor was cost effective and accessible for almost anyone to make.

The earliest impression of chainmail armor dates back to almost 3,000 years ago where it surfaced in Etruscan civilization.  However, this pre-dates other forms of chainmail by 2,000 years and thus, it was most likely not the inspiration for European chainmail.

Flash forward to the 2nd century BC where the Gauls were the first to be spotted wearing European chainmail armor.  The Romans saw this and said, “Hey! That’s cool!” and jumped on the bandwagon.  This manifested its self in a chainmail shirt called the Lorica Hamata that was unique with its technique of using solid punched out rings versus the more common approach of drawn-wire links.  This type of chainmail remained steady through the fall of the Roman Empire into the Dark Ages.

The Middle Ages brought about the next innovation in chainmail armor with its process of crafting wire from steel.  After the wire was formed, it would be shaped into small interlocked rings.  An overlapping ring pattern, consisting of many flat rings, was also characteristic of this period.  When it came to the actual assembly of the rings, it was far from simple.  As most chainmail armor shirts were comprised of roughly 40,000 rings, whoever did this job had their work cut out for them.

CH-chainmailtype

As the Middle Ages came to a close, chainmail armor was confronted by the threat of replacement due to the emergence of plate armor.  For some time, these two armor types worked in conjunction with one another with plate armor making up the main configuration and chainmail being used to protect the joints.  As time went on, plate armor became all-encompassing and by the end of the 16th century, chainmail armor had graciously made its exit.

Attempts for a chainmail comeback surfaced from time to time.  One of them was in the late 19th and 20th centuries where chainmail was used to construct bulletproof vests.  Another was during World War I where chainmail fringes were added to helmets for facial protection.  Both of these implementations didn’t have a lasting presence.  However, chainmail proves to be alive and well today and can be found in gloves for butchers and woodcarvers, suits for scuba divers and animal control officers, electrical and industrial environments, and jewelry and decorations.

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Bringing Definition To The Greek Helmet

When you think of the defining head gear of ancient Greece, the Spartan or Corinthian helmet is most likely the first to enter your mind.  After all, these types tend to be the typical ones seen in film and other media.  However, Greek helmets were vast in their assortment.  Thus it hardly seems fair to call either one of these the dominant Greek helmet of the day.  In taking a closer examination of ancient Greek style, you will notice similarities in each Greek helmet, as well as aspects that set them apart.  In addition, the different styles are telling of the territories conquered and ruled by Greek warriors.

The Corinthian helmet is believed to be the first Greek helmet to emerge in ancient Greece.   Its major appearance is in the 8th century BC, but archeological finds show its first sightings much earlier.  It originated from the city-state of Corinth and was worn both in and out of battle.  It was made of bronze and characterized by full face coverage with limited visibility.  Later versions expanded visibility and the inclusion of protection for the back of the head and neck.  It had a solid run into the 1st century AD.  Bearing strong resemblance to the Corinthian helmet was the Spartan helmet.  Its design was basically the same, but with shorter cheek guards.

Corinthian Helmet

Corinthian Helmet

As an improvement from the Corinthian helmet came the Chalcidian helmet, which had widespread use during the 4th and 5th centuries BC.  It is believed to have emerged from the European city-state of Chalcis, although there is debate over this claim.  This piece was made of bronze and offered better visibility and hearing than the Corinthian.  It was shaped like a hemispherical dome with two hinged cheek pieces, a nose guard, a nose guard, and loops on the sides to fit the ears.  This helmet was often decorative with etchings or elaborate designs and protrusions, such as combs, on the top.  The Chalcidian helmet later gave rise to the Attic helmet, which was almost identical, but lacked a nose guard.

Brass Chalcidian Helmet

Brass Chalcidian Helmet

Another familiar Greek helmet is the Illyrian helmet which came into prominence in the 7th and 8th centuries BC.  Developed in the Peloponnese, this bronze head gear was open faced and comprised of two pieces joined together at the crown.  Though visibility was good, hearing was impaired in the earliest design. Later variations improved on its audible nature and also incorporated coverage for the full head and neck.  Ridges along the sides were also characteristic of this style and aided in extra reinforcement.

In terms of classic Greek helmet types, the Phrygian helmet is as classic as it gets, especially since it originated in Classical Greece.  This bronze head gear was worn all throughout the Mediterranean.  It is characterized by a high and forward pointing apex attached to the skull.  The apex served to protect the upper part of the face and shield the eyes.  Another distinct part of this helmet were the large cheek pieces that were so prominent that they often met at the center with just enough space for the eyes and nose to stick out.  The Phrygian endured from the Classical era into the Hellenistic period.

In addition to the styles discussed here, Greek helmet designs had many other variations.  While the basic designs served as the foundation, it is still nearly impossible to define the head gear of ancient Greece with just one type of Greek helmet.  This is indeed a testament to the sharp minds and innovation of the Greeks.

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The Great Helm: A Medieval Helmet For The Ages

When fighting in the Crusades, all it took was a blow to the head

To ensure a fatal wound that would sometimes even leave you dead.

That is why a medieval helmet was key

Along with armor to have longevity.

Among the most effective head gear to abound

Was one called the Great Helm, the finest around.

It splashed on the scene as the twelfth century moved on,

Worn until the fourteenth century when it was gone.

Sported by heavy infantry and knights,

It protected in a great many fights.

Now you may be wondering “What made this medieval helmet stand out from the rest?”

Well, I’m glad you asked.  Give me a bit of your time to put this question to the test.

 

Famous for being the first medieval helmet to enclose the head in full,

The Great Helm was a flat-topped steel cylinder with max. protection as its goal.

It contained openings for the mouth and eyes

Boasting an appearance of substantial size.

Later designs saw a curved top which offered greater deflection

From adversaries’ weapons and various types of projection.

The head gear was secured in place with a strap under the chin

While an adjustable liner and padding was found within.

The Great Helm was worn over a mail coif and bascinet

Ensuring comfort and protective layering was set.

 

Further enhancement came from the helmet’s decoration,

Being multi-purposed with visual stimulation.

Cross shaped ventilation holes were pierced on the front, adding a nice pious touch,

In which a chain, attached to a belt or cuirass, could be threaded through and such.

Since the head was fully covered, warriors could not be easily recognized.

Thus crests and facial décor were adorned to have identities emphasized.

Indeed this medieval helmet emerged into a thing of fashion-

No longer just a protective piece in the heat of fighting passion.

Crusader Medieval Battle

 

The Great Helm may have been inspired by the Viking mask.

Since their civilization is gone, we can’t really ask.

What we know is the twelfth century Nasal Helm paved the way

For the grand entrance of the Great Helm to have a lengthy stay.

The Nasal Helm was of short, conical form,

In which only nose protection was the norm.

As heads were getting attacked, a need arose

For complete head coverage, not just fort the nose.

This is what brought about a change,

Expanding the protective range

To the full face rather than merely a part.

You must admit this design was pretty smart!

 

Medieval Helmet Great Helm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Century twelve is done. Enter thirteen

Where new developments here can be seen.

Protection for the back of the neck was also included,

Highlighting the excellent protection this helmet exuded.

In addition, ventilation holes increased

Allowing more breathing to be released.

Moving ahead to the fourteenth century, the Great Helm had reached its height

With moveable, removable, and pivoting visors coming to light.

Reinforced cross-bars were enhancements as well

And a shoulder length Great Helm had cast its spell.

When the fourteenth century closed, this medieval helmet said “goodbye!”

As the bascinet came into its own, hoping for its chance to fly.

 

Flash forward to today and the Great Helm is still around

Go to modern day re-enactments. There it can be found.

Or look in art and media- there also it does appear

As an iconic medieval helmet we cherish most dear.

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Gladiators or Knights in Roman Armour

There were no televisions.  There were no movie theaters.  And the internet was still many centuries away.  Alas, what was a person to do for entertainment in ancient Rome?  Fortunately there were fights…gladiator matches to be exact.  They were the hottest ticket in town and kept spectators on the edge of their seats.  More than a mere sporting event, gladiator matches were a true spectacle highlighted by flashy costumes and various types of Roman armour.  Similar to athletes in today’s world, the combatants of these popular arena fights became stars with their portraits being seen in public places and some even becoming sex symbols.

While the life of a gladiator had potential to resemble that of a Hollywood celebrity, they had to survive first.  Their glory came at a cost, as their lives were always on the line.  Although not every battle was a fight to the death, fatal wounds were pretty much a guarantee.  After all, these men (and occasionally women) were fighting wild animals who were unpredictable and trained opponents who were aggressive.  As a result, the life span of a gladiator was fairly short.  According to historical records, most gladiators only survived to their mid 20’s.

Roman Armour Gladiator

To keep an even playing field, there were various classes that gladiators were categorized into and each match faced off fighters of similar stature and skill.  Other distinguishing factors for classification were victory records, experience, fighting style, and weaponry used.  In addition of gladiators included free men, slaves, criminals, captives from Roman Empire conquered lands, and even Roman emperors at times.  The Roman armour sported by gladiators in the arena aided in showing class association as well.

AV Blog - Roman Armour arena 2

Gladiators combined traditional Roman armour style with styles of the territories won over in Roman conquests.  This blend culminated in a vast array of armour that pleased spectators, as they took great pride in being reminded of Roman victories.  Among the many different variations worn into the arena, there were a few pieces of Roman armour commonplace to all gladiators.  The cassis, or helmet, was essential for maximum head protection against fatal blows.  While gladiator head gear differed in their appearance, metal construction was consistent throughout all pieces.  The galea, a helmet with a visor, was the most popular and worn by most gladiator classes.  Another crucial armament was the balteus, or sword belt, which contained a sheath and hung conveniently at the wearer’s front.  This ensured quick and easy access to a sword, which was of utmost importance.  Along with the balteus was the cingulum, a leather belt (often reinforced with metal plates) which guarded the waist from injury.  The cuirass, or breastplate, was comprised of a single metal plate that protected the gladiator’s front and chest area.  The galerus, or shoulder guard, was usually constructed of metal and offered shoulder covering, as well as some for the neck and head.  The ocrea, or leg guard, was a metal piece that covered the front of the leg from the knee or thigh to below the shin.  These were the basic Roman armour ensemble typically worn by gladiators in all classes.  However, the specific design of these pieces varied and alterations and additions to this composition were not uncommon.

Although gladiators lived with death looming at their doorstep, they were influential in uniting the people of ancient Rome.  They ushered in a sense of widespread pride, exciting a society with something to cheer for.  These fighters were truly hometown heroes and while their lives may have been cut short, their legacy lives on!

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Memorial Day Weekend Sale 2016 at Armor Venue – Save 15% Now Through 5-31!

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Armor Venue Memorial Day Sale 2016

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This coupon code is good until Tuesday, May 31st. Get an instant 15% off your order using the coupon code “memorial15” at checkout or on the billing/shipping page. Discount will be immediately applied to eligible items in your cart.

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  • Coupon code cannot be applied to sale or clearance items including those in the Bargain Dungeon section of the site. Other items such as suits of armor may not be eligible.
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Medieval Shields: More Than Meets The Eye

During the Middle Ages, shields were a hot commodity to one’s armament.  Both mounted knights and foot soldiers alike sported these defensive pieces.  Not only shields offer protection against opponents’ blows, they also boasted an attractive appearance with ornate images and designs in vibrant colors.  Their artistic flair was a major characteristic that put medieval shields in a class of their own.  However, they didn’t have cool designs just for the sake of being artsy.  The symbols (also known as heraldry) and colors on these pieces actually served the vital purpose of identification for knights in battle.

Seeing as how knights were heavily armored with helmets that covered their entire face, they were virtually unrecognizable to family, friends, and adversaries.  If it wasn’t for the heraldry of the medieval shields they carried, one knight would like exactly like another.  Therefore, each shield design was not random, but featured symbols and colors that were specific to an individual knight, identifying their character, accomplishments, family order, and lord or king.  More often than not, these things were encompassed in a coat of arms decoratively displayed on the shield’s surface.

Among the revealing aspects of medieval shields was color.  Through the centuries, additional meanings were attached to each color, but the base quality still remained the same.  White represented purity and peace while black stood for wisdom, prudence, and mystery.  Cruising down the rainbow, red was the color of passion, confidence, and strength.  Orange signified ambition and happiness.  Yellow was representative of optimism and creativity.  Green meant growth, abundance, and independence.  Blue indicated loyalty, trust, and inner calmness.  And purple was associated with royalty and depth.  Other colors, such as silver or gold, were occasionally spotted on shields, but the main palette was derived from the colors mentioned.

SCA Medieval Battle Shields

In addition to colors, symbols were another component of identification on medieval shields.  There was a wide array of possibilities to choose from, including shapes, plants, animals, structures, and other objects.  Each symbol was chosen with care and had a specific meaning.  Among the most common emblems used was a sun representing glory, a heart indicative of honesty and charity, a cross standing for faith and protection, a crown signifying authority, a dagger standing for power and honor, and a helmet for wise defense.  Popular animal symbols on shields included an eagle for a person of action and lofty affairs, a horse for strength and loyalty, a lion for courage and justice, a dragon for discovery and protection, and a bear as a symbol of the great warrior.  As was the case with colors, these heraldic symbols were given multiple meanings and some of them changed over time.  These, however, are still associations that have stuck.

Along with colors and symbols, line patterns were also given special meanings on medieval shields.  For example, wavy lines signified water while zig zag lines indicated fire.  Additionally, thicker lines, or stripes, played a role in dividing a shield into different sections and even this component was not void of meaning.  A few of these worth mentioning are a horizontal stripe representing honor and a vertical stripe representing military strength.  An angled stripe was a symbol of protection and loyal service while a diagonal stripe was a symbol of defense.  Each line and stripe was selected to compliment the rest of the shield’s design.

As you can see, medieval shields were not just mass produced carbon copies of one another, but individual works of art.  Each shield was unique and truly embodied a person’s character, history, and legacy.  A thorough examination of one of these shields will prove there is indeed more than meets the eye!

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Medieval Helmets or Stylish Protection?

Being a knight during the Middle Ages was not as glamorous as what you see in films.  True, there were probably damsels in distress to rescue and castles to storm, but knights were also in the heat of battle.  As war raged across the land, knights constantly faced great danger and thus, proper protection was key  if they were to survive.  Not only did this include body armor, but head gear as well.  And just as armor styles changed with the evolution of new materials, technology, and battle strategies, so did styles of medieval helmets.

Let’s rewind to the 10th century where one of the first medieval helmets entered the scene.  It was known as the Norman Helmet and was distinguished by a conical shape with a nasal guard.  It was typically comprised of four pieces of triangular metal which formed a ring and culminated at the apex.  The true defining element of this piece was the nasal guard, which not only guarded the nose, but also covered a decent portion of the wearer’s face to the degree that they would be unrecognizable until the helmet was removed.  The Norman Helmet had a respectable run through the early 12th century.

Sugar Loaf Medieval Helmet

Sugar Loaf Medieval Helmet

The next advancement in the line of medieval helmets emerged in the late 12th century with cylindrical helmets, one of the most popular being the Sugarloaf.  The main advantage of this head gear was its coverage of the entire face, not just the nose.  Ventilation holes were added in this form to allow a bit of breathing room and eye cutouts provided limited visibility.  The conical top also aided in defense by effectively deflecting opponents’ blows.  While this style had its downsides, it was still progress in the right direction and enjoyed widespread use through the 13th century.

As the 14th century approached, medieval helmets saw even more improvement in their design.  One of the major components that was added was a movable visor.  This development meant full visual field and easier and expanded breathing.  Plus there was also the option to go into battle fully visored or visorless, depending on what the situation called for.  Among the visored helmets, one of the most popular was the bascinet.  Constructed from chain mail and iron plate, this was a piece worn by wealthier knights and was esteemed as being quite fashionable.  The bascinet and other visored head armor reached their peak in the 14th century, but proved they had the lasting power to stick around into the Late Middle Ages.

As the Middle Ages came to a close in the 15th and 16th centuries, medieval helmets transitioned from being a mere piece of armor to becoming status symbols and artistic creations.  It was common for crests, coats of arms, and other insignia to appear on these helmets.  Not only were these designs lavish to behold, they also served as a form of identification for knightly order.

While serving their own purposes for knights in battle, medieval helmets also paved the way for head gear of future eras, leaving a lasting legacy and proving some things never go out of style!

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Armor and Chainmail Maintenance – Simple Instructions to Keep Your Armor New!

Follow these easy instructions and tips to keep your armor and chainmail preserved for years to come!

Follow these easy instructions and tips to keep your armor and chainmail preserved for years to come!

Visit us at www.armorvenue.com to see our full range of chainmail shirts and hauberks, and breastplates.

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Roman Armor – A Mixed Bag

When you see someone dressed to the nines in a full Roman armor ensemble, you have to admit there’s a certain appeal. Their appearance is powerful and confident, not to mention that it just looks really cool! If this attire inspires you to seek out a Roman costume of your own, or if you are simply interested in learning about what exactly these Romans wore, it’s your lucky day to be enlightened.

For starters, it should be stated that Roman armor was not put on over bare skin, as this would have been quite uncomfortable.   Roman soldiers began with a linen undergarment followed by a knee-high wool tunic on top. Scarfs around the necks were also a part of the typical to protect the skin against metal armor. Trousers became part of their dress later, but initially they were viewed as effeminate and not allowed.

As for Roman armor its self, it was comprised of metal strips hinged and tied together in such a way that mobility was as fluid as possible. Interestingly enough, there was no standard composition for ancient Roman armor. Even factory manufactured armor varied in style from province to province. On the plus side, this gave Roman soldiers liberty to construct their own, wear armor passed down through a family line, wear discontinued styles, or buy it from other soldiers who had served their term.

There was a variety of styles, but the most popular ones are as follows. The loricahamata was a chainmail armor. The loricaplumata and loricasquamata were types of scale armor. The loricasegmentata was a type of segmented metal strips fastened to interior leather straps. The loricamanica were arm guards. In addition, greaves were worn to protect the legs. The metals used for these pieces included bronze, iron, brass, and various other types.

Roman Armor blog pictureThe head gear of the day, soldiers sported bronze helmets, but after some fatal encounters with swords, it was discovered that bronze just didn’t have the stamina needed to withstand enemies’ blows. So iron helmets became the standard.Over time, other materials were used for construction as well. Roman helmets were also symbols of status and rank with crests and medals on the front for distinguishing officers such as centurions.

A few of the most recognizable helmets of the day are as follows. The Coolus was a globe shaped helmet made of brass which featured raised panels for the cheeks and a riveted crest knob. The montifortino was also a widespread piece and was of a round shape with a protruding neck guard and side plates for cheek protection. Then there was the Imperial Helmet which resembled the Coolus. It was very instrumental in advancing Roman head gear.

The Roman armor ensemble also included various accessories to make things more convenient on the battlefront. One of the most common pieces was the baldric, which was worn over the shoulder and allowed soldiers to store swords or other weapons for quick and easy access. Another widespread accessory was the localus, which was a sachel that legionary soldiers kept with them for storage during marching. And last, but not least, was the balteus, which was your tyical belt. It was used by soldiers to tuck their clothes into and to store weapons.

As you can see, it is a bit challenging to nail down everything about Roman armor, as it was such a vast assortment of styles and construction. Nonetheless, no one can deny its lasting legacy and the fact that wearing it is still in fashion.

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What Lies Beneath A Roman Soldier Costume

If you have ever taken part in an Easter media production or any other Roman period piece, there is a good chance you wore a Roman soldier costume.

Portraying one of the troops in the Roman army was, no doubt, a fun experience, but do you ever wonder what it was really like serving as a protector of the ancient Roman Empire?  If so, now’s your chance to find out!

Being a Roman legionary was more than simply putting on a Roman soldier costume.  It was considered your professional full time gig and like all jobs in today’s world, there were qualifications that had to be met.  Among these requirements were being a Roman citizen between the ages of 18-45, meeting a height standard of at least 5’5″, and making a commitment to serve in a legion for 25 years.  The Roman army was particular in their selection process, seeking the best of the best, and while not necessary, a letter of recommendation wasn’t a bad idea to maximize your odds.  If you were among the chosen to be a part of a Roman legion, that’s when the hard work would begin.  There was compensation of around 300 denarii annually, some of which went towards army expenses and a portion going to a pension given to a soldier when their service was done.

Once a part of the army, the first order of business was training, which was no easy feat.  Grueling hours were spent mastering effective weapon usage, learning techniques, and practicing battle tactics and formations under the watch of a staunch Roman commander.  Marching was also a key component in the process.  Each troop member was expected to eventually be able to march 25 miles in full armor in a mere 5 hours.  If you have ever worn the full Roman soldier costume ensemble, you know this task would be far from easy in the heat of the day, with so many pieces weighing you down.  In addition, road construction and fort building was a part of a soldier’s daily activities.

The foundation for legionary training was discipline and structure.  There was little to no room for slacking off and those that did paid for it with severe consequences, some of them being beatings, sleeping outside protected camp, and even execution.  In contrast, those who proved themselves as disciplined and obedient were rewarded with higher rank and other perks.

Roman soldiers

Another aspect of being in a Roman legion was traveling.  Divided into many groups, legions were stationed on the outer limits of the Roman Empire to protect against adversaries.  They would set up camps at specified locations and move to another spot periodically when summoned.  The journey from one camp to another was a rigorous one, as it required miles and miles of marching in a column-style formation with tents, equipment, and weapons weighing 40 pounds or more.

While gear and weapons were a burden to bear, legionary dress was a little lighter.  Styles varied somewhat within each legion with no standardized uniform, but most Roman troops wore something similar to the Roman soldier costume that is typical of today’s re-enactments.  Base attire for Roman soldiers consisted of a linen undergarment, a woolen tunic reaching the knees, and leather trousers were eventually added.  Typical Roman legionary armor consisted of metal strips hinged together along with bronze helmets which were later replaced by iron ones.  To compliment their armor, Roman soldiers often carried wooden shields, a pilum (throwing weapon), and gladius (short sword) with them.

In summary, there’s your snapshot of what it was like as a Roman legionary.  It was a life of discipline and devotion.  So, the next time you step into a Roman soldier costume, take a moment to reflect upon the true reality it represents.

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