Beyond Medieval Leather Armor And Nerds: A Brief LARP History

In today’s world, people have many options of how to entertain themselves.  They can watch movies, read books, play sports, go hiking, and even engage in live action role playing, more commonly referred to as LARP.  Now let’s be honest…when most people think of LARPers, they associate this activity with a group of super nerds dressed in goofy medieval leather armor and other fantasy garb frantically winging latex swords at one another.  While this train of thought is not unfounded, the truth of the matter is that we are all nerds in our own fashion and this is okay.  In fact, the concept of LARP – people assuming roles and characters to play out a given scenario – doesn’t come out of left field.  After all, isn’t this what actors do?  When it comes down to it, actors and LARPers have a lot in common – they are both interactive storytellers.  Sure, one may not wear the elven attire or medieval leather armor on a consistent basis, but both actors and LARPers essentially strive for the same goal of crafting a good story.

In recent years, LARP has seen a huge surge of popularity, but be not fooled.  The invention of LARP goes all the way back to pre-history where games like “cops and robbers”, “cowboys and Indians”, and the like were favorite childhood past times.  Moving forward, history saw a transition from childhood “pretend” to grown adults joining the fun.  This surfaced in historical re-enactments among the ancient Romans, medieval Europeans, Han Chinese, and many other civilizations.  Primarily serving as entertainment at various social gatherings, people would re-create various situations from past historical periods.  Even royalty, such as Queen Elizabeth, were known to bring in re-enactors for their delight.  In the 20th century, these were manifested in theatrical re-enactments.

Medieval leather armor

The bridge between historical re-enactments and modern-day LARP occurred in the 1960s where the Society for Creative Anachronism was founded in Berkeley, California in 1966.  Along with this organization came the Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia in 1969, who held their first events at the University of Maryland.  This also may have signified the beginning of LARP medieval leather armor and latex swords, as this group’s main focus was re-creating medieval life and times.  Hints of fantasy were implemented here, but it was not yet full force.  It wasn’t until the 197s with the emergence of “Dungeons and Dragons” and other LARP groups that fantasy really struck a chord.  Once it hit, the wave moved rapidly on a national and international basis.

Not only as LARP given people a community to belong to and a recreational activity to foster creativity, it also has influenced other forms of entertainment.  Among them is improvisation which is essentially a kind of role-playing.  Evidence of this can be traced back to the 16th century Commedia del’arte stock characters that were placed in different scenarios and basically free-styled their way through them.  Modern-day examples of this would be comedy groups such as Second City and the Groundlings.  LARP also aided to the creation of Renaissance faires and other such events where people can come in their Scottish kilts, medieval leather armor, and Renaissance wardrobe and take on a character type for a day.

Indeed, LARP has a legacy that extends far beyond nerds in medieval leather armor with latex swords and at the rate things are going, it doesn’t look like it’s dying off any time soon.

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The Basics Of The Bascinet: One Of The Greats Of Medieval Helmets

For knights of the Middle Ages, head gear was key

To deflect sharp weapons and to make arrows flee.

A blow to an unprotected head was all it took

To end a warrior’s fight without a second look.

Thus, many medieval helmets came and went,

Each with their own style until their time was spent.

The Great Helm, Barbuta, and Norman Nasal –these medieval helmets who could forget?

Still there’s another, which brings us to the topic of today, which is the Bascinet.

 

In the mid-fourteenth century, the bascinet became widespread,

One of the most popular medieval helmets to hit the head.

Emerging from a steel or iron type cap, it featured a more pointed apex at the skull

With downward extensions in the rear and sides to guard the neck, ensuring protection full.

Further enhancement came from a bottom helmet mail curtain called an “aventail”

Which offered valiant protection for the neck, the shoulders, and throat to great avail.

In addition, a visor was often put in place

To maximize security for the exposed face.

The bascinet was not initially worn on its own.

Being worn under or over a mail coif set the tone.

It was also accompanied by a padded arming cap

Making a knight’s head look swollen and unnaturally fat.

These medieval helmets had three common shapes before they reached their peak.

A round skull covering just below the ears was one of which to speak.

A conical apex reaching all the way to the base of the neck was another to mention.

And a tall conical skull with an elegant point, reaching below the ears, got attention.

By mid-fourteenth century, the tall form extended its protection to the neck base

With either a smooth skull or central ridge in front, running from the apex to the face.

From a single metal piece, these medieval helmets were typically raised

Sometimes another metal piece was added, which, which decorated and amazed.

As time passed, bascinets became more than just common head wear.

They became status symbols causing others to stop and stare.

Adorning the skull with an ornate band,

It displayed which rank and class one did stand.

 

The visor also underwent some changes over time.

It began as a triangle piece keeping the nose in line.

With hooks or studs, the nose guard attached to the head gear.

And the piece was padded, making comfort not a fear.

The “klappvisor” was the first piece to cover the whole face.

Made of oval, metal plates, two strong studs held it in place.

It was thus suspended by a single, vertical bar

With breathing holes and eye slits, though vision didn’t go far.

The next advancement was a removable visor,

Which offered convenience and this choice was wiser.

Due to the fact this piece had a protruding nose,

The name “Pig face” was given, as the story goes.

 

The bascinet remained prominent until the mid-fifteenth century where it began its decline.

They were replaced by the armet and sallet which were now the more common medieval helmets to find.

However, a cage-like visored bascinet stuck around for a substantial time more

Being used for foot combat in tournaments until the sixteenth century did soar.

 

Though the glory days of bascinets have come and gone,

The legacy of these medieval helmets lives on.

This head gear can be spotted on knights in media and art

Showcasing their effective design, which was indeed quite smart.

Credit: Lee Pugsley

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Knighthood: What It Took To Get The Knight Armor, Weapons, and Title

Nothing is more defining of the Middle Ages than a knight.  These men in their medieval knight armor, with their noble steeds, inspired many. However, they had to pay their dues to reach this status.  Indeed, knights are to be respected, but the respect definitely grows once you get a glimpse of everything they had to undergo.

Knights were highly regarded in medieval society, similar to the way celebrities are elevated in today’s culture.  While it was possible for anyone to attain knighthood, certain components had to be in place.  It was more than simply having knight armor, proper training, and the best weapons; one also had to have the right connections.  Training and equipping a knight cost a pretty penny and as a result, it was not affordable for lower classes to engage in.  Thus, knights were mainly comprised of men from wealthy families and nobility.  If you were one of the lucky few to be born into a line of knights, you would inherit this honor.  Knightly training began at a very young age.  Boys were taught the code of chivalry and were required to exemplify the utmost respect.  They were also given a wooden sword and shield and could most likely be spotted with at least a few pieces of knight armor.

knight armor pauldrons

The process of becoming a knight was demanding and called for a bit of sacrifice.  One of the biggest sacrifices was being separated from one’s family.  At the age of seven, a boy was sent to the home or castle of a lord where he was given the title of page.  A page was essentially a lord’s personal assistant and performed such services as dressing their master, waiting on tables, and other menial tasks.  A page’s term lasted from age seven to fourteen and they were ranked according to age.  While their responsibilities may not have been the most glamorous, these boys did have some perks.  In addition to room and board, they received an education and training to bring them one step closer to their dream of knighthood.  They had the opportunity to learn such skills as using a lance, fighting with a sword, and mastering the art of riding on horseback.  They also got to experience the exhilaration of tournaments on a regular basis.

After the page phase was complete, the next rite of passage was serving as a squire.  This position gave a young man full immersion into the world of knighthood.  The squire started at age fourteen and held a seven year term until age twenty one.  He was essentially a knight’s right hand man and did everything a knight did, including participation in courtly life, furthering the practice of chivalry and learning heraldry, and accompanying on the battlefield.  His skills of using weaponry, horsemanship, and jousting were also perfected during this period.  He also adjusted to mobility in medieval knight armor.  For those who demonstrated exceptional courage and valor, they could be knighted earlier than the age of twenty one.  And going back to the idea of sacrifice, many squires laid down their lives in battle while standing in the line of fire while protecting their knights.

After serving as a page and squire, the dream of becoming a knight was a reality. This was celebrated in a ceremony of knighthood, in which a man was dubbed officially as a knight.  It was a long and rigorous road to get there, but well worth it for the honor and notoriety that came with it.  Dressed in splendor with medieval knight armor and equipped with powerful weapons, the excitement and adventure for a knight was just beginning.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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