The ancient Egyptians were actually the civilization that created the first known armor – a shirt-like garment with bronze plates sewn onto it. The armor was very weighty, making walking like an Egyptian very difficult, unlike the delightful dance craze of later years. In the 8th century B.C., the Greeks improved upon the design by constructing separate bronze plates, each piece fitted to the body part it shielded. This era is when the bronze breastplate and backplate, together known as the “cuirass,” appeared and became the centerpiece of personal armor.
However, the ancient world of body armor was not immune to fickle fashion trends. In the 3rdcentury B.C., the Romans developed chainmail,
a shirt made of linked metal rings. This tighter armor became the skinny jeans fad of the Roman military, slowly phasing out the once popular cuirass.
Then enter the Medieval Age, also known as the “Cuirass Comeback Age” (among those who are lenient with their historical terms). King Edward of Woodstock (b. 1330 B.C.) became the first Knight of the Garters – it’s rumored that he received his nickname “the Black Prince” because of an ornate black cuirass he wore during his first triumph in battle. His rounded cuirass became standard wear for Knights, and by the end of the 14th century, it had completely replaced chainmail among the nobility.
The breastplate of the cuirass was composed of a lower piece and an upper piece that overlapped. To give flexibility to the armor, the two sections were linked by a strap or sliding rivet. The cuirass rested on the hips, not the shoulders, so the weight didn’t fatigue the wearer or abrade his shoulders. After all, the last thing you want to deal with when you’re trying to avoid your enemy’s lance is chafing.
For all you aspiring knights, be sure to check out our selection at www.armorvenue.com to find the right breastplate or cuirass for you!