The Roman Republic and Empire each flourished as major world powers for hundreds of years. Any collectors who want good examples of helmet craftsmanship will have a lot to choose from. In case you’d like to learn a little bit about these pieces of Roman soldier armor, we have a few quick facts for you.
Roman helmets varied widely based on the time period and who was wearing them, such as gladiators or soldiers of varying ranks. However, the basic design of metal helmets was the same once they came into fashion. Though previously, Roman soldiers had worn leather helmets strengthened by metal, they eventually had their helmets beaten out of a single sheet of iron or brass and often topped them with a crest on a knob or a spike.
Commanders who needed to be seen topped theirs with bright crests made of horsehair or feathers. There is some evidence that soldiers of different ranks wore the crests facing different directions, and these crests were probably dyed more colors than just the red seen in movies. Some might have even been dyed in alternating color patterns.
The earliest major types of helmet were the Montefortino and the Coolus, both rounded helmets with a plume-holding knob on top and a protruding neck guard. After these came different forms of the Imperial helmet, which were far more elaborate in design and decoration. These took the early forms and added a protective piece across the forehead along with guards for the sides of the face.
The forehead piece disappeared in late antiquity as Imperial helmets were replaced by Ridge helmets. Unlike all the previous Roman helmets, which had been based off of Celtic designs, the Ridge helmet was closer to Middle Eastern designs. As the name suggests, these helmets had vertical ridges running down the bowl of the helmet. They didn’t usually have any sort of knob or plume on top, but they did have thin nose guards for further protection of the face.