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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Rapiers – Fighting On The Edge

Since the dawn of time, many combat weapons have come and gone.  Among them are swords, which have been one of the earliest weapons and have lasted through the generations.  It wasn’t until the emergence of firearms that swords took the back seat.  And in the vein of swords exist many types, each one offering specific characteristics that set it apart.  Some are used for cutting while others are used for thrusting and some are capable of both.  In the thrusting class, one of the swords that enjoyed a nice ride in the 16th and 17th centuries is the rapier.

The rapier entered the scene during the Renaissance era as a dueling weapon for nobility.  It started out small in Spain, then known as an espada ropera, and served as a civilian dress weapon.  However, this cutting device could not be contained for long.  As word got out, the weapon spread throughout Western Europe.  Rapiers replaced battlefield swords, developed to become lighter and easier to wear over time, and were eventually replaced by small swords in the 18th century.

Classical Rapier:

Classical Rapier

As with any sword, the rapier offered advantages over others.  Characterized by a long, thin, sharp blade, the rapier’s strength was in its impeccable ability to execute thrusting attacks.  Sometimes this sword would be sharpened on the entire cutting edge and other times, it was sharpened only from the center to the tip.  To protect the hand, the weapon also possessed a complex hilt with rings extending forward from the crosspiece.  These rings were later replaced by metal plates and then by cup hilts.  The average rapier weights about 2.2 pounds and is 39 inches in length.

When fighting with a rapier, the combat is done with a one-handed grip, using the index and middle fingers, as well as the thumb for solid control.  Because only one edge of the sword is sharpened, this allows for half-sword techniques involving holding the weapon by its blade.  A dagger, small shield, or other weapon would accompany the rapier in the combatant’s free hand.

17th Century Swept Hilt Rapier:

17th Century Swept Hilt Rapier

Even though the rapier is not a primary fight weapon today, its popularity continues to live on in books, films, television, video games, and more.  That being said, there’s gotta be something appealing about it!  To see our collection of rapiers, check out http://www.armorvenue.com/.

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The Claymore – Cutting At Its Finest

You may have heard the word “claymore” thrown around here and there, but what exactly is it?  To start with, let’s just admit that it sounds cool…rolls off the tongue so nicely!  To shed some light on this though, you should know that the Claymore is a weapon, a member of the long sword family.  Rising to prominence in the 15th and 16th centuries in the Scottish Highlands, the Claymore was a two-handed sword meaning “great sword” in Gaelic.  This cutting piece resembled others of its time throughout Europe, but there were indeed aspects that set it apart.

The Claymore was truly impressive in appearance and a large contributing factor was its blade.  Crafted of steel, the blade was characterized as being straight, heavy and long (as much as 60 inches) and was sharpened on both edges for maximum power and efficiency.  The average weight of these swords was around 5.3 pounds.  Sometimes, the blades would have inscriptions signifying religious beliefs or family associations.  On a note of interest, the most massive Claymore on record was 7 feet 6 inches in length and came in with a weight of 23 pounds.  In modern times, these weapons tend to be smaller with blades usually measuring about 40 inches.

Scottish Claymore:

Scottish Claymore

Moving down the Claymore was the hilt and the guard.  Both were straight, although the guard slanted slightly toward the blade.  The grip sometimes contained interwoven Celtic patterns for decoration.  It has also been documented that hilts were made on Islay, an island off the west coast of Scotland.  The weapon was also balanced by a wheel pommel accompanied by a crescent-shaped nut.  During the 16th century, many claymores shifted to basket-hilted weapons and thus the term came to mean basket-hilted broadsword.

As the Claymore emerged over time, it earned the reputation of being the national weapon of Scotland.  The weapon was desired for its excellent balance and was a stellar choice for cutting and thrusting.  Due to its size and weight, it was used primarily by combatants fighting on foot.

Basket Hilt Claymore:

Brass Basket Hilt Claymore

The Claymore served as the basis for other swords to come and still remains today, making appearances in reenactments, film, and more.  To see our collection of Scottish Claymores, visit http://www.armorvenue.com/.

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The Trojan War: History In The Making

In examining the many wonders of the world, there are indeed many, but one of the most fascinating lies in the realm of history.  What is meant by this is that even with the wealth of historical research and documentation available today, we will never know the complete story because, plain and simply, we weren’t there!  True, we can grasp many details of things of the past, but there will always be areas of intrigue that will never be fully known.  Among them is the subject of the Trojan War and whether or not it actually transpired.  These events have been widely debated with evidence supporting both sides of the argument.  Be it fact or fiction, no one can deny that the tale of the Achaeans versus the city of Troy has become a part of our history in some way, if for no other reason than shaping several aspects of our modern culture.

Trojan Helmets: http://www.armorvenue.com/helmets-greek-helmets.html

The Trojan War and its famous characters have had a lasting impact on many commonalities of today, even some of which you may not be full aware of.  For example, you have heard the expression “Achilles’ heel”, but what you may not know is that it is rooted in the Greek hero, Achilles, who led troops into Troy and killed the Trojan hero, Hector.  Achilles was known for his incredible strength, but had a weak heel.  In turn, the term “Achilles’ heel” came to represent one’s weakness in the midst of.

Trojan War Helmet – Bronze:

Trojan War Helmet - Bronze

Another cultural staple emerging from the Trojan War was inspired by the Trojan horse, which was the wooden animal responsible for transporting soldiers into the city gates of Troy for an unexpected attack.  Grounded upon this, a Trojan horse now signifies something seemingly harmless that has power to do serious damage.  This term has been used in many fields, one of the most notable being technology.  In computers, the term has been coined to name a deadly virus that can destroy a hard drive.  This malware appears to be no big deal, but spreads quickly with detrimental effects.  Also, you may have heard the phrase “Beware of the Greeks bearing gifts” which was developed because of the horse that these guys gave the Trojans.

In the vein of pop culture and entertainment, the Trojan War has made a splash in many media forms through the generations.  The most reputable of these is probably Homer’s The Odyssey which is a required piece of literature for most high school English classes and the writing’s title also brought about the word “odyssey” meaning a long and perilous journey.  There have also been a good amount of films created around this subject, with the most recent being 2004’s Troy.  And let’s not forget the television shows, video games, conventions and reenactments, costumes and accessories, etc. that the Trojan War has given us!

Trojan War Helmet:

Trojan War helmet

As you can see, the Trojan War, truth or tale, has left a pretty big mark and even if it didn’t happen, it will remain in the history books for the ways it has helped to form modern culture.

To see our collection of Trojan helmets and other Trojan War inspired attire, go to http://www.armorvenue.com/.

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The National Civil War Museum – A Journey To The Past

It started because of conflicting views over slavery and resulted in all-out war with several casualties.  From 1861 to 1865, the American Civil War waged in full force between the northern and southern states in a fight for freedom.  Though it resulted in over 600,000 deaths, victory was had with slavery being abolished and “a more perfect union” moving one step forward.  This was indeed a turning point in history and its legacy continues to live on in media, architecture, and many other ways.  Among them is the National Civil War Museum located in Reservoir Park in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  As an institution focused on preserving this monumental battle, it strives to educate visitors through exhibitions and other attractions that are both interesting and insightful.  With many options of historical places to visit, this is truly one not to be missed!

Designed as a chronological journey through the years, the National Civil War Museum invites visitors to step back in time beginning with the causes of the war and concluding at Appomattox Court House where it ended.  With several well researched and comprehensive exhibitions of artifacts, writings, photographs, and more, the museum halls are brought to life to tell the “entire story of the American Civil War”.  And history buffs will be thrilled to know that all the major battles are depicted here, from Bull Run to Vicksburg to Wilderness, and of course, Gettysburg.

Deluxe 1860 Civil War Cavalry Saber:

Deluxe 1860 Civil War Cavalry Saber

Featuring an eclectic assortment of galleries, the National Civil War Museum’s displays commence with pre-war showcases including A House Divided highlighting the causes of the war, followed by American Slavery: The Peculiar Institution drawing attention to America’s view of slavery at the time.  Next focus is the start of the war, with exhibits such as First Shots dating back to Fort Sumter, Making of Armies and Weapons and Equipment exploring army training and warfare, Campaigns and Battles of 1861-1865, Battle Map 1861-1862, Why Men Fought, 1861-1863, and Camp Curtin (the war’s largest Union camp).  Mid to end war attractions include Gettysburg, 1863, Campaigns and Battles of 1864-1865, and Battle Map, 1863-1865.  Other galleries worthy of mention bring enlightenment to special topics like Civil War Music, Women in the War, Costs of War (focused on Civil War medicine), Navy, and Lincoln: War and Remembrance.

Founded by former Harrisburg Mayor and Civil War enthusiast, Stephen Reed, the National Civil War Museum has gained a wonderful reputation and had much success.  Because of Reed’s passion, he invested a wealth of time in gathering war memorabilia between 1994 and 1999 and had many items donated to his cause.  With these artifacts in tow, he led a $32 million operation to build the museum.  Among the numerous artifacts collected and shown at the museum, some of the most interesting and rare include two of the three known sabers belonging to General J.E.B. Stuart, gauntlet worn by Stonewall Jackson, rare chains and iron shackles from the antebellum slave trade, and the last battle map used by General Robert E. Lee.

Civil War Pistol With Brass Finish:

Civil War Pistol With Brass Finish

The National Civil War Museum remains alive and well today and ranks as the largest institute devoted to the war.  It continues to draw big crowds every year and is always looking to illuminate visitors with new findings, pieces, and aspects of America’s greatest war!

To view our collection of Civil War weapons, artifacts, and gifts, go to http://www.armorvenue.com/.

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Japanese Samurai: Superstars…Or Something

If you have seen the Tom Cruise movie The Last Samurai, you may think that being a samurai was all fun and games.  While there was an element of that, being one of these famous warriors was not completely glamorous.  In fact, there was a lot they had to deal with and many duties to perform, with little room for error.

Being a samurai in feudal Japan was no walk in the park.  Because samurai were held in such high regard, they were very much under the public eye.  Just like celebrities of today have their every move scrutinized, such was the case for these guys.  There was a great deal of pressure for them to set a stellar example and be a role model for all.  What this meant was that they were to exemplify the qualities of bravery, loyalty, justice, and kindness.  You can bet there was quite a raucous if they faltered in these things.  On the plus side, samurais had some cool entitlements over the rest of society, including the privilege to ride a horse, be carried on a palanquin, and the honor of possessing two swords which they could whip out at any time, according to their best judgment.

Japanese Warrior Armor:

Japanese Warrior Armor

To guide the samurai in the way they should go was the sacred moral code of Bushido, also known as the “way of the warrior”.  This code kept the samurai in check both on and off the battlefield and was to be strictly adhered to.  The Bushido code was anchored in the foundations of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shintoism, common religious practices of the day.  Within these beliefs was utmost respect for fathers and masters, readiness to give one’s life at any moment, and revenge.  In the event a samurai’s master was killed, it was the task of the samurai to find and seek vengeance on the killer.  Needless to say, a certain balance between peace and war had to be kept.

In addition to displaying the Bushido code and being fine upstanding citizens, another aspect of being a samurai was defense, be it for self or others.  And no time was wasted in bringing up a samurai in their duty.  For kids in today’s society, messing around with swords is merely child’s play, but for samurai boys, swords were serious stuff!  As a toddler at the age of 3, boys were learning to fence with wooden swords.  By the age of 7, they were using real swords and expected to hold their own against enemies and thieves.  Then they were sent to live with a samurai master, where they were educated in military tactics, pole arms, archery, and other lifelong practices.  The training was rigorous, but did much to imbed these lifelong ideals in their minds.

Samurai Dragon Helmet:  http://www.armorvenue.com/samurai-dragoon-helmet.html

Samurai Dragoon Helmet

One of the most defining pieces of the samurai was his sword.  This was regarded as precious and sacred and a symbol of the soul.  A samurai was nothing without his sword…or swords, as he carried two of them.  He had one long sword, one short sword, and sometimes a dagger.  These swords came from a lasting legacy, being passed down from generation to generation, father to son.  When war was not waging, the swords were carried on the left side with blades facing up.

As mediators, defenders, and honorable figures, the samurai provided a great showcase of moral standing and left a very big mark in many ways.  To see our collection of samurai weapons, armor, and swords, go to http://www.armorvenue.com/.

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Medieval Shield Symbols: Pictures Of A Thousand Words

In thinking about medieval armor and weapons, it all seems quite grand!  There were the helmets, the swords, and one of the most important pieces, the shield.  While these pieces provided excellent protection, they also carried much more significance than that.  As your curiosity may be sparked now, let’s lay out the facts here.

Medieval Shields: http://www.armorvenue.com/shields-medieval-shields.html

The shields of the Middle Ages were more than just cool looking defense mechanisms; in them, a knight’s full identity was encompassed.  From their beliefs to their family name to their stories of bravery, these weapons spoke loud and proud!  Shields began in a very simple way with painted patterns that marked a knight’s clan or kingdom in the early Middle Ages.  As time progressed, shields added symbols and animals to their look, which communicated a knight’s beliefs and ventures.  Much could be inferred from examining a shield and it gave a knight’s opponent a little heads up on just who exactly their combatant was.

Crusader Lion Shield:

Crusader Lion Shield

When it came to shield symbols, there was a wide array in play.  Probably the most dominant symbol was the crucifix, which seemed logical as Christianity was at the center of medieval Europe.  Emerging from Roman Emperor Constantine’s implementation of the crucifix on his armies’ shields, this emblem was widespread and made appearances on such things as national flags and yes, you guessed it, knights’ shields!  Animals were also common insignia on shields.  These images had quite a range from fictional creatures, such as dragons, to strong beasts, like lions or bears, to horses.  These animals reflected a knight’s values, background, or ruler.

In addition to beliefs and values, shield symbols were indicative of social status and identity.  For example, a crown signified royalty.  Kings had the largest crown on their shield while nobles had a smaller version, and knights an even smaller one.  Shield emblems could also key people in to location.  Take the fleur-de-lis, for instance.  This small flower was a French royal symbol.  Another function shield symbols had were to showcase the family name.  Through the duration of a knight’s life, he would possess a shield as part of a coat of arms.  When he passed away, the next in line would take the shield and the emblem on it let people know what family he came from.  Color was also a factor in symbol meanings on medieval shields.

Black Prince Shield:

Black Prince Shield

So, the next time you see a medieval shield, know that there is more than meets the eye.  Every shield tells a story and an interesting one at that!  To view our collection of medieval shields, check out http://www.armorvenue.com/.

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The Real Celtic Warrior: Clarity on Common Celtic Fallacies

With every historical period and people group, myths and misconceptions are guaranteed to arise.  As a result, civilizations get slapped with stuff they shouldn’t or they do not get the credit for their contributions.  And thus, let’s tackle one of these groups, the Celts, to learn a bit more accurately about who they really were.

When people think of the Celts, the typical image is of a group of naked crazies, painted bright blue, with bloodthirsty appetites and war on the mind at all times.  First thing to clear up is that the Celts were not savages and all-out war between tribes did not happen on a regular basis.  Most of the fighting that ensued actually transpired among members of their own tribe.  It is hard to say why this was the case.  Perhaps it was considered training for larger scale battle or due to boredom.  As for the naked truth, the nudity ritual was reserved solely for religious sects and mercenary groups to be closer to the gods they worshipped and to connect with nature.  And last, the Brythonic Celts and Picts were the only ones who wore blue paint.  This practice had died out a while ago.  Basically, Celts, while having some distinguishing factors, were similar to other warrior groups of the time.

Celtic Swords: http://www.armorvenue.com/swords-medieval-swords-premium-medieval-swords.html

Celtic Battle Sword:

Celtic Battle Sword

Another popular Celtic depiction is that of women as warriors.  In a great deal of literature pertaining to the Celts, women are seen prominent in battle just like their male counterparts.  When separating fact from fiction here, it gets a bit tricky.  The fact is that Celtic women did have a good amount of liberties, more than most in other societies of the day, and this included the option to fight.  However, it was not the norm for them to join the battlefield action.  Yes, some women were warriors, but that group was only a small percentage.  The majority did domestic duties and daily chores while their menfolk did the dirty work.

When it comes to Celtic warfare, there have been a few misleading ideas as well.  For one, Celts are thought to have run wild on the battlefield, using no degree of strategy or structure.  Because a strong Celtic value was bravery, they were encouraged to march forward boldly and fight.  As each warrior was trying to prove themselves, there was a bit of individualized charging.  And while Celtic warriors many not have exactly been the cream of the crop for organization, they did indeed have some unity and planning.  In terms of their weapons, Celts often go under the radar for their weaponry contributions, as they are thought to have constructed weapons that pale in comparison to the Romans.  But you must remember that these guys were forging masters and cranked out some pretty superior iron weapons.  Needless to say, the Celts deserve a round of applause!

Celtic Foot Soldier Sword:

Celtic Foot Soldier Sword

For a look at our collection of cool Celtic armor and weapons, as well as other period pieces, go to http://www.armorvenue.com/.

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Time For A Knightly Joust

Jousting was truly riveting to watch and probably even more exciting to watch.  To be successful in this sport, a knight was required to be both a skilled horse rider and a masterful swordsman.  The match began with two men on horseback rapidly coming at each other.  Armed with a lance, their goal was to knock the opponent off their horse.  Once a knight had done this, he would also get off his horse and the showdown continued with a swordfight on foot until one of the participants gave up.  A knight had to be careful though, as he could be disqualified from a joust for killing a horse.

Battle Ready swords: http://www.armorvenue.com/swords-medieval-swords-battle-ready-swords.html

As with all sporting events, jousting tournaments had rules and scoring in place.  There were slight variations on how scoring worked, but basically a knight would accumulate points by hitting the point of their lance at various areas on their opponent’s bodies.  For maximum points, the hot spots to aim for were the chest or the center of the shield.  Touching any other part of an opponent’s body could result in penalty, including immediate removal from the match.

Jousting Knight With Lance:

Jousting Knight With Lance

While the objective in each jousting tournament remained the same, there was a bit of differentiation.  Weapons and fighting styles could vary from tournament to tournament, as well as the length of each one.  For example, some jousts consisted of a series of elimination rounds culminating in a final showdown and others called all knights to fight the king in a king’s championship.

Aside from human skill, a key component for a jousting victory was a knight’s horse.  Because jousting tournaments were held in open fields on an 80 yard track, horses needed to have great speed, strength, and agility.  This could make or break a knight’s success.  During the Middle Ages, the stallion was the commonly used breed, selected for strong structure and great muscle.

Jousting Knight Suit of Armor:

Jousting Knight Suit of Armor

On a note of interest, a knight’s horse was considered of greater value than the knight themselves.  A knight’s death was seen merely as an unfortunate tragedy, but a horse’s death was severely looked down upon and there was a zero tolerance policy for this occurrence.

To check out our jousting armor and weapons, as well as other knightly armor and swords, go to http://www.armorvenue.com/.

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