Gladiators: The Men Behind The Roman Armor

Crowds flocked from miles around to watch them.  They were quite a spectacle with their mad skills and flashy Roman armor. They gave an empire heroes to believe in and became the pride of the people.  Indeed Roman gladiators were one of the most defining forces of ancient Rome.  More than just men in Roman armor, these guys inspired many as they exemplified honor and bravery by risking their lives. While this is the basic essence of Roman gladiators, here are some interesting tidbits to give you a more complete picture.

For starters, not all gladiators were slaves.  Granted, a decent portion of these men were prisoners or captives of conquests.  These men were bought, sold, and traded.  In addition to the slave class, however, free men also had a desire to hop on the bandwagon, as the prospect of fame and fortune was simply too enticing to resist.  After all, gladiators that had a winning streak in arena matches became household names and statues of them in their Roman armor were likely to spring up.  The free men who joined the gladiator ranks were comprised of all social statuses and included knights, ex-soldiers, civilians, etc.  These men signed contracts with gladiator schools and were thus commissioned as fighters.

12-facts-ancient-roman-gladiators

In terms of slaves who were gladiators, their lives weren’t necessarily easy; but they didn’t have it as bad as one would assume.  Because good health and strength were essential, they were given adequate food and lodging.  They also received training, Roman armor, and weapons. A successful slave fighter could earn his freedom if he survived enough matches.  A typical gladiator career consisted of two to three fights per year for three to five years.  In summary, this meant that a slave would have to make it through six to fifteen fights before he was free.  Unfortunately, most slaves didn’t last this duration due to the dangerous nature of arena combat.

As for the arena matches themselves, it should be stated that rarely was a fight “to the death”.  Sorry to burst your bubble of cinema excitement, but historians show that only one in five or one in ten matches culminated with death.The main goal in a gladiator match was to wound the opponent, not to kill them.  Gladiators were trained accordingly wit this in mind.  Arena matches would often end once a gladiator was severely injured and the unharmed fighter would be declared the winner.  If the men were lucky, a fight could wrap with no injuries inflicted, given that there had been enough excitement and thrills to please the masses.  And on rare occasion, a bout would come to a stalemate if the audience got bored.  Seeing as how a gladiator match was considered a game, there were strict rules to follow and a referee supervised the event.  In addition, combat was typically between two men and while animal fights occurred, this was not the norm.

Gladiators were a sought after commodity in ancient Rome and much value was attributed to the men behind the Roman armor.  They were a loved and cherished people whose legacy has not been forgotten.

Posted in Armor, Gladiator, Roman Armor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Setting The Record Straight About A Knight In A Suit Of Armor

When it comes to the Middle Ages, perhaps the most defining image in popular culture is a knight in a full suit of armor mounted on horseback.  Hailed as one of the most exciting times in history, the medieval period has been quite romanticized over the years, thanks to literature, cinema, and fine art.  There is not necessarily anything wrong with this, but these glamourized depictions may lead to an inaccurate understanding of knights in conjunction with medieval armies and armor.  By all means, let’s continue to enjoy and appreciate these mediums while not neglecting the way things really were.

Going back to the image of a knight in a shining suit of armor, one might assume that a knight was the sole hero of a battle.  However, the truth is that every victorious battle had many heroes, as knights. Thus, knights fought alongside foot soldiers, such as pikemen and archers who brought with them, different weapons that aided greatly against adversaries.  Further support came from squires and attendants who accompanied the armed forces and were responsible for task like armor maintenance, watching over horses, etc.  Granted, knights were the primary force, but their success was indeed a team effort and the supporting players deserve recognition.

sp-sfma918-1s

Another inference that could be made from the common picture of mounted knights in armor is that they were an elite class.  While a good portion of knights were comprised of noble men, there was some diversity.  Unlike people being born into nobility,knighthood wasn’t inherited, but rather appointed by feudal lords, other knights of high status, and on occasion, priests.  Because knights were selected, regular civilians and mercenaries were sometimes knighted for their demonstrations of bravery and sharp skill.  In addition, a suit of armor, or at least armor in general, was not an exclusive privilege for just knights.  Since protection was essential to withstand opponents’ blows, everyone needed armor of some form, be it knights, foot soldiers, and anyone else who risked potential harm.  As armor was the responsibility of the wearer to acquire, its quality ranged widely, but everyone had it.  The wealthy would have been able to afford a full suit of armor while the lower classes would have only had a few pieces, most likely a helmet, breastplate, and/or mail.  And of course, armor was accompanied by various weapons.  With this in mind, one could not assume that a man in armor on the battlefield was always a knight.

One last thing to point out about the portrayal of a knight in shining armor on horseback is the implication that all knights were fighters.  True, most knights were, but some also held their position without being in the heat of battle.  Some knights had poor health, were too old, or on rare occasion, too fearful to fight.  So they would lead in a civilian position of authority instead of a war-time one.

There is no denying that a knight on horseback in a full suit of armor seems more “cool” than what history says and there is no shame in admitting that.  Still, a well-rounded perspective is never a bad thing!

Posted in Armor, Suits of Armor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Notable Facets of Chainmail Armor For Sale

If you are a historical enthusiast, there’s no doubt that you’ve come across chainmail armor for sale.  No one can deny its appeal bearing a spiffy look with its interlocking ring pattern. Nor can anyone discount the place of chainmail in history. Worn through the ages, it proved to be effective protection.  And when it comes to selecting a piece of chainmail for yourself, you should be aware of the various options that lie before you.

When you encounter chainmail armor for sale, you will notice a variety of material used for its construction.  These materials range from steel to aluminum to bronze and brass, as well as gold, silver, and even titanium.  You should definitely give this some consideration.  For example, if you desire chainmail armor for a re-enactment, aluminum offers a cost effective option with a shiny appearance and a light weight that gives flexible movement.  Titanium also serves chainmail armor well with its strength and light weight.  For a material with more strength and durability, steel is the ideal choice.  Within this class, there is mild, galvanized steel.  Mild steel is perfect for a medieval costume with a dull look.  Galvanized steel also makes a nice compliment with a dirty look.  And stainless steel will add a shine.  If you are rolling in the dough, brass, bronze, and copper may be your preference.  These metals are extremely strong and radiate like a new penny.  They are perfect for chainmail display pieces. And finally, gold and silver are at the top of the class.  Yes, they are at a premium cost and they are not the best for wearing.  However, chainmail pieces of this nature are quite impressive.

Different types of chainmail construction - butted, flat ring riveted, dome riveted, and combination.

Different types of chainmail consturction – butted, flat ring riveted, dome riveted, and combination.

Another consideration as you examine the different kinds of chainmail armor for sale is the weave you want.  There are quite a few different patterns with the most popular being the European 4-in1 weave. Widespread throughout Europe, especially during the Middle Ages, each ring passes through four others in this style.  Providing a denser feel, the European 6-in-1 weave links each ring with six others.  Offering yet another variation on this weave comes the European 8-in-1 which connects each ring with eight others.  As this weave is heavier, it brings with it greater strength. However, the down side is its lack of flexibility compared to the 4-in1 pattern.  Other weaves that fall into this category are the European 10-in1, 12-in-1, and 14-in-1.  These patterns pretty much speak for themselves with each ring passing through ten, twelve, and fourteen rings.  In addition, the European 8-in-2 (also known as the “King’s Maille”) and the European 12-in-2 (also known as the “Emperor’s Maille”) build from the foundation of the 4-in-1 and 6-in-1, but the number of rings are doubled.  As more rings are added to the weaves, the more time consuming and challenging they become to construct.

Aside from European weaves, there are other types in scattered categories worth mentioning.  As chainmail was popular in Japan too, the Japanese Hex offers a unique configuration of triangles and hexagons with six rings connected to each ring that lays flat.  Then there is the dragon scale weave which consists of an overlapping pattern of small and large rings that look like dragon scales.

Alongside chainmail armor for sale, you will also find chainmail jewelry for sale which contains some uniquely decorative weaves.  Among them is the box chain which features a chain weave with pairs of rings in opposite directions.  In the same vein comes the bird cage (also known as the Byzantine) which resembles the box chain, but with a reversing pattern.  Then there’s the classic spiral weave, whose name speaks for its self.  These mail weaves are only some of the noteworthy designs that exist.

The world of chainmail is vast, but hopefully this insight will give you food for thought the next time you see chainmail armor for sale, or other chainmail items for that matter, in selecting the perfect piece to fit your liking.

Posted in Armor, Chainmail | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Right Roman Soldier Costume For You

As Halloween is only days away, you may be rummaging through your wardrobe and thrifts store racks in hope of finding the perfect garb to impress at those weekend parties.  While this search can be daunting, history is always a good place to find a bit of inspiration.  Historical periods provide a plethora of cool fashions and perhaps, one of the most notable is ancient Rome.  As one of the most powerful forces of all time, the Roman army enjoyed many victories.  This was a result of their masterful warfare and fighting techniques, but let’s be honest, they also came dressed for the part.  With this in mind, why not follow suite and sport a Roman soldier costume this season?  However, this decision begs the question “Which Roman soldier costume should I wear?”After all, there were a few different types of Roman soldiers and ranks within the Roman army.

When in doubt, you could go with the most popular of the Roman soldiers and dress like a Roman legionnaire.  These guys could be considered the Roman “all stars”, as they had the utmost respect and were the highest paid. However, if you are looking for a less conventional Roman soldier costume, you could be an auxiliary.  These guys could be seen as the underdogs.  Since they weren’t Roman citizens, they were regarded with less value and thus, they only received a third of the pay that Roman legionaries earned.  Most of their time was spent keeping watch over frontiers and fortresses and at times, they were sacrificed as casualties of war because they fought on the front lines in direct line of fire.  One could argue that this made them more courageous, but then again, they didn’t have much of a say in whether or not they wanted to stay out of the danger zone.

Roman Soldier Costume

If the legionary and auxiliary don’t satisfy your Roman soldier costume craving, fear not.  There are a few other soldier types to consider.  There were infantry, or foot soldiers, who marched from place to place fighting battles as they went.  In contrast, cavalry were soldiers on horseback who were used to chase fleeting adversaries.  The ones who really got to do the fun stuff, though, were the artillery soldiers.  They used catapults and wind-up crossbows to harpoon big balls of tar and rocks at enemies.  In the same vein, some soldiers got to have even more fun, playing with slingshots and bow and arrows, as well as swimming rivers to sneak up on opposing sides.  These guys were basically like modern-day Olympians.

Still haven’t found what you’re looking for?  Well, you could always up your status with a more elite Roman soldier costume.  As the Roman army had a hierarchy in rank, the top officer was the general followed by the lieutenant as second in command.  Going down the line was the questor, who was in charge of military chest and supplies, followed by the bodyguards, who protected the senior officers.  Rounding out the high ranking positions were the military tribune, who made decisions for the greater good of the army, and the centurion, who was in charge of a large group of men.  It was an honor and privilege to be in one of these offices and as a result, the Roman army operated with superior organization and efficiency.

Whether you desire to be more of a common man or a person of prestige, you can see that there is a Roman soldier costume suitable for all.

Posted in Armor, Roman Armor | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Suit of Armor For Sale And A Historical Tale

If you’ve ever seen a suit of armor for sale,

Were you aware of the pieces it does entail?

Though it may look like one big chunk of metal, it has many parts

That work together to guard against the enemies fiery darts.

Thus, if a suit of armor for sale catches your eye,

You should know the function of each component before you buy.

Whether you wear the suit or put it on display,

Here’s a brief overview to enlighten your day.

 

If you journey back in time through history’s pages,

You’ll find suits of armor in the Middle Ages.

Worn on the battlefield, they were every knight’s fashion,

Shining in the sun while they fought with such passion.

Much improved from just padded garments and chainmail,

This armor was effective to greater avail.

Made of metal plates, it welcomed movement with ease.

Not overly heavy, these suits surely did please.

They were also status symbols for valiant knights,

Commanding respect from on-lookers in their fights.

But a suit of armor for sale had a high price

That the lower class most likely couldn’t suffice.

Each suit had to be tailor made and custom sized.

And exact measurements couldn’t be compromised.

A suit of armor had many parts.  The question is “where to start?”

So well assembled, this armor had some gumption

Fully equipped and ready for every function

In terms of body armor, the breastplate and back plate were the picks

While faulds, attached armor rings, guarded the lower back, abs, and hips.

The rerebrace and vambrace guarded the guarded the upper and lower arm

While small, round shields called besagues protected the armpit with charm.

Gloves with metal plates on the fingers, called gauntlets, covered the hand

And sabatons were metal plates attached to boots to help one stand.

Knee defense was known as poleyns and cuisses, defense for the thigh,

Greaves for the calf and ankle, and spurs to “spur” a knight’s horse to fly.

It’s a no brainer the helmet offered protection for the head

With an attached aventail to keep the back of the neck from dead.

There was a visor and detachable piece for the face and eyes.

And in a nutshell, this is what a suit of armor does comprise.

 

Because suits of armor protected so well,

Advancement in weapons rose and cast its spell.

With plate armor, swords and spears could not penetrate,

So stronger pole arms did these suits stimulate.

Maces, war hammers, and pole axes entered the scene

With the power to do damage by a blow real mean.

As a result, plate armor took its final bow

And no suit of armor for sale was in sight now.

The time had come for something new

As armor evolution grew.

True of any period, change was destined to come,

But who can deny suits of armor had a good run?

 

So the next time you see a suit of armor for sale,

Consider investing in something more than chainmail.

When you put it on, you’ll be protected, respected, and look mad cool.

Not only that, you’ll be sporting something from the armor history pool!

Posted in Armor, Suits of Armor | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Medieval Leather Armor, A Medieval Meal, And A Medieval Reenactment You Won’t Forget

The Middle Ages was a time of exhilarating excitement, bloody battles, and awesome action that is, no doubt, one of the greatest periods in history. Though this era is now a thing of the past, its legacy and impact is still preserved through historical reenactments.  Reenactments surface in a wide variety ranging from entertaining to educational. There are those seen at Renaissance fairs, and the like that blend history with fantasy with its aim of delighting its audience.  Then there are those that are more than just a group of nerds in medieval leather armor playing with foam weapons, known as living history reenactments.  The goal of this type is to accurately portray civilian life as it was in an authentic manner and its focus is not on public spectacle, but on ensuring the participants have a realistic experience.  Both reenactment genres have their place and offer enlightenment, but let’s go back to the medieval leather armor and foam weapons for a moment to look at Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, a reenactment experience fitting for the whole family.

Picture this – a replica 11th century castle in grand splendor.  A cast of 75 dressed in medieval leather armor, steel armor, and other fashionable apparel of the Middle Ages.  20 horses doing tricks right in front of your eyes.  A tasty period-style meal that’s guaranteed to beat anything you could get at McDonald’s.  And an evening of medieval games, sword fights, and jousting matches keeping you on the edge of your seat all night.  These are the elements that contribute to make Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament a popular attraction, with nine current locations throughout the United States and Canada, and a memorable evening of fun.

about-banner

The evolution of Medieval Times is simple, yet interesting.  The idea was sparked when a guy named Joe Montener started a medieval reenactment dinner theater on his own estate on the island of Majorca in the 1960s.  This led to the formation of a private company, which eventually made its way to the United States and opened the first Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament establishment in Orlando in 1983.  From there, its appeal spread and more locations were gradually put into place.  While the general composition of the show remains intact, changes are made every 5 years.

Now that you have a bit of background on Medieval Times, you may be wondering about the show it’s self.  To begin, you can expect to be greeted by jovial knights, serfs, wenches, and other animated characters upon arrival.  It is also not uncommon for guests to come in costume, so feel free to sport that medieval leather armor and bring those LARP weapons and you’ll feel right at home.  As guests are escorted into the arena, they are served bread and soup while they wait for the action to begin.  As the show begins, the Lord Chancellor, who serves as the master of ceremonies, is introduced.  Guests also get acquainted with the king, the princess, and the knights, as back stories for these characters are revealed.  Next comes the part of the show where the horses get to show off their skills with the Trot in Place, the Passage, and the Capriot. After this is finished, dinner is served which consists of chicken, corn, and potatoes.

After the meal is served, the competition starts to heat up.  Guests behold knights on horseback playing games such as flag passing and throwing lances through rings.  Knights also try to knock each other off their steeds.  These games are thus followed by the jousting matches.  Play continues until the last knight falls and he is declared the winner.  The night ends with a celebration and guests are then ushered out with hearty farewells by the cast.

While Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament may not be the most historically accurate reenactment, it will give you a taste of what the Middle Ages may have been like to some degree. Think of it as a highlights version of the medieval period, encompassing the most thrilling aspects of the time. So, gather your medieval leather armor, weapons, and game face and check out Medieval Times at some point. It will remind you why the Middle Ages is such an endearing part of our history!

Posted in Jousting History, knight, Leather Armor, Medieval Tournaments | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Centurions: More Than Just Average Guys In Roman Soldier Armor

Through the ages, many civilizations have left their mark upon the pages of history.  Among them are the armies of ancient Rome, proving to be powerful and effective in numerous military conquests.  A variety of factors contributed to their success including the Roman soldier armor they wore and their battle strategies.  However, a large component of their strength came from the role of Roman centurions who led their troops from victory to victory.  As common characters in movies and other media, centurions are the most famous officers to emerge from the Roman military.  But what did they actually do and what makes them worthy of such great acclaim?

More than a cool guy in Roman soldier armor, the job of a centurion was no easy task.  He was in charge of managing a cohort of 80 to 100 men and was responsible for keeping order on the battlefield, attending to administrative work, giving out punishments, hiring new officers, and delegating duties to his unit.  Essentially, he served as a sort of father figure and boss to those he was leading.  As a result, all eyes were on him to set an example of upstanding character and true bravery, especially in battle.  There is no doubt he felt a great deal of pressure in his position.

Roman Centurion

Centurions were generally selected from the plebian class and then promoted.  As time went on, they also began to emerge from the higher equestrian class.  They were nominated by the Senate and sometimes even directly appointed by the emperor.  To be among the chosen, qualities of leadership and fearless valor had to be demonstrated.  Most centurions stayed in their position for the duration of their career, but it was possible to advance to a higher rank, such as prefect, tribune, or member of the Senate.  Perks for centurions were more pay than the standard soldier and riding on horseback rather than marching on foot.

The attire of a centurion was distinguished from the standard Roman soldier armor and consisted of a leather arming doublet with a mail shirt over it, a helmet with a sideways horsehair crest, a cloak of lavish material, a sword worn on the left side with a dagger on the right, and medals adorning the chest.  Centurions also wore typical pieces of Roman soldier armor such as greaves, which covered the ankle to above the knee and a cuirass, which covered the torso with an attached skirt to protect the lower region of the body.  In addition, centurions were known to carry a special stick, called a vine staff, to help establish their rank.  They would use it to discipline any soldier who was out of line.

roman centurion costume set

Our Roman Centurion Set on Armor Venue

The line of centurions is long in Rome’s history and there have been quite a few that have left a lasting legacy.  One that stands out is Lucius Siccius Dentatus of the 5th century BCE.  His accomplishments include engagement in at least 120 battles and 8 single combat duels.  Another of the greats was Spurius Ligustinus of the 2nd century BCE.  Spanning 22 years in rank, he exhibited the highest level of courage and thus received 34 separate awards for it.  And known for saving Julius Caesar’s life on the battlefield is the valiant P. Sextius Baculus.  The centurions mentions here represent only a miniscule portion of those who are worthy of being in the Roman Hall of Fame.

The Roman Empire was indeed a thriving one for centuries and it wouldn’t have been what it was without the integral presence of centurions.  These men were more than just average guys in Roman soldier armor – they were pillars who laid a foundation to make a civilization great!

Posted in Armor, Roman Armor, Roman Centurion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Leather Armor For Sale! Is It Worth It?

If you are someone who likes to engage in historical re-enactments or happen to be an armor enthusiast, there is no doubt you have been to conventions or Renaissance fairs where you have seen steel and leather armor for sale.  As you stand there debating which type to add to your collection next, steel armor may appear to be the obvious choice.  After all, it tends to be the more popular and effective style.  However, like any upstanding consumer, it’s always best to gather all the facts to enable an informed purchasing decision.  With this in mind, don’t overlook the value of leather armor, as well as its place in history.  For your own enlightenment, here’s what you need to know to aid in your decision making process when you see leather armor for sale and wonder if it’s really worth it.

Leather armor has dabbled at various times in various places in armor history.  There is much speculation and argument over its use beyond mere fantasy role playing.  Amidst this back and forth battle, at least one thing can be said with certainty.  Leather armor was present during the Middle Ages.  In particular, this armor type was a strong presence in the early part of the period, but, of course, nothing lasts forever.  By the Late Middle Ages, its presence faded.  Still, leather armor had a good run.

For knights and soldiers, it was a staple of their wardrobe and a “go to”.  This was because it was cost effective and didn’t require a wild goose chase to find it.  In addition, leather armor didn’t require one to be a master armor artisan in order to make and maintain it.  If the armor was damaged, a soldier was able to make repairs himself.  Another advantage of leather armor was its lightweight nature and mobility.  When entering the battlefield, a medieval fighter would not feel the bulkiness and inflexibility of some of the other armor types and thus, he was able to have maximum effectiveness against his opponents.

Leather Armor Celtic

At the beginning stages of the evolution of leather armor, it was used as a stand alone material with no added components.  As time went on, metal plates were added for extra reinforcement.  While this proved to be effective for protection against cutting prowess, it didn’t deliver against punctures.

To remedy this, the next phase of improvement surfaced in the form of boiled leather, also known as “cuir bouilli”.  The way this was done was through boiling leather in oil or molten wax.  After letting the leather marinate for a bit, it was pulled out and shaped into various pieces, like breastplates, gauntlets, etc.  Then it was left to dry and harden.  When all was said and done, a soldier had a much more durable piece of leather that did achieve the goal of withstanding punctures.  As with everything in life, there are drawbacks and the down side to boiled leather was that it didn’t possess longevity.  It had the tendency to crack and rot, especially when exposed to inclimate weather.  Fortunately, as stated above, leather was cheap and easy to fix, so it wasn’t the end of the world.

In the later years of leather armor, it shifted from being something worn on its own to being a base for other types of armor, such as chainmail or plate armor.  It served as an inner layer for metal armor to provide greater protection and comfort as well.  While leather armor eventually made an exit, there is no denying the foundation it laid for shaping the future of armor as we know it today.

In conclusion, leather armor is far from a thing of fiction.  It is living, breathing, and in some ways, an inspiration. Was it perfect?  Of course not, but then again, what is?  So, the next time you see a booth with steel or leather armor for sale, be sure to give the latter some extra consideration.

Posted in Leather Armor | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Why You Should Try LARPing

Armorvenue-com_June_Infographic

What is LARPing?

LARP stands for “live action role playing,” and it’s a hobby that’s taking the nation by storm. In LARP, participants dress up and act like specific characters. Whether from a book, movie, game, or completely original, the costumes and actions are all expected to be realistic. Games and battles are reenacted with a group of other LARPers. Whether you dig the attire or are looking to make new friends, there are plenty of reasons to try LARP.

LARP creates an ideal atmosphere to make new connections, especially for those who might be shy. Because you take on the traits of your chosen character, you get to interact behind a mask of sorts. This allows people to break out of their shells where otherwise they might have been withdrawn. Organized gatherings take the pressure out of approaching new people. Plus, interacting with those who have similar interests as you is a way to build healthy bonds that last.

Always dreamt of being a princess or a knight in shining armor? Here’s your chance! Choose your character and get to work. Spend as much or as little as you want on a costume or gear. Fair warning, though—once you start dressing up, you’ll wish you would have bought those accessories you were eyeing. LARP is perfect for those who love to be creative. It gives you the opportunity to develop and create a character. Problem solving, designing, and displaying your hard work pays off when you have the chance to show off your skills on the battlefield.

Not only is LARP great for friendships and creativity, it can keep you healthy, too. Think of LARP as real-life versions of your favorite video and computer games. Usually, a LARP get-together involves a battlefield that can take up a few blocks. Running, jumping, and battling is a great way to stay heart-healthy and shed a few of those extra pounds.

When it comes to creating your perfect LARP persona, look no further than Armor Venue for all of your outfitting needs. Created out of the love of the sport, Armor Venue strives to provide top of the line products to fit any persona.

From Samurais to Roman Soldiers, these historically accurate helmets, shields, sets, and accessories can be made in any size. Whether you are looking for your first costume or for something for your child, Armor Venue has it ready.

Get your LARP on at www.armorvenue.com.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Chainmail | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment