Whether you’re putting on a theatrical production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” or simply interested in dressing up as a member of the Roman legion for Halloween, you want to look polished and realistic rather than cheap and commonplace. Obviously, you want the materials to be of higher quality, but you also want the armor to make sense historically and while seeming authentic. The design and the styling must match what people expect from a Roman soldier uniform.
Let’s start with the style of helmet that Roman soldiers would’ve worn. Helmet designs changed several times throughout the history of the Roman empire as production became more advanced and intricate as the years passed. The earliest style of helmet was known as montefortino. Montefortino helmets were characterized by a conical or round shape with a raised knob in the center. These helmets were significantly less ornate than the Roman helmets that people expect when they imagine a Roman legionary. The iconic plumed helmets that have come to be associated with Roman soldiers are known as the imperial helmets. These imperial helmets varied in style (and name) depending on the location and rank of the soldier wearing them, but many were plumed, had sloped neck guards, and protective ear coverings.
Next, let’s talk about the body armor, also known as the lorica. As with the helmets, the style of lorica changed over time as well as with rank and location. Loricahamata was manufactured out of bronze and iron and then shaped into interlocking rings. This armor was very flexible and durable. Then, there was the loricaplumata, which was based on the hamata. The loricaplumata was reserved for military leaders and other high-ranking individuals due to the intricacy of its design and the cost associated with it. The term “plumata” refers to the feather-like scales decorating the rings of the armor. Finally, the most common type of Roman soldier armor was the loricasegmentata. This armor consisted of metal strips fastened to internal leather straps and is among the most iconic styles of Roman lorica.
Costumes can be fun, but they can also be impressive and authentic. You can find a Roman soldier costume that’s not only historically accurate, but also impresses those around you.