Our group has chosen to base our blog on the Roman Legions during the High Imperial Age. This group includes some of what are referred to as the Classic Legions, and also includes the legions formed by Julius Caesar, which is why is was particularly interesting for me. My specific topic is the Uniform and armor which I have have subsequently divided into two sub topics: Main Armor and Weaponry, and Other Clothing and additional items. Various resources have been utilized in these descriptions, which are cited below. A photographic representation is also included for your personal benefit as a viewer.
Main Armor and Weaponry
A typical Roman uniform would’ve consisted of several main pieces.
- Helmet. The style and shape varied slightly over the first century as improvements were made, with both the Coolus and the Gallic style helmets being used. A common addition to a normal military helmet during this period was the neck guard, used to protect the neck from gladius strikes. (Goldsworthy 122-123)
- Body armor.Popular styles ranged from typical mail cuirass, to scale mail which was harder to maintain and therefore less popular, to the preferred segmented plate armor, made of iron plates, bronze fittings and leather straps which created a layered method of bodily protection. This version came into play specifically in the Imperial era. (Connoly, 228-230)
- Shield(Scutum). They were made of reinforced wooden strips, and contained designs including the name and symbol of the Legion. Large and durable, but light enough to be carried extremely long distances, weighing in at about 15 or so pounds. It had a wooden grip in the middle, covered by a metal plate, and played an essential role in the safety of each Legionnaire. (Kelly, et al.)
(Kelly, et al.)
- Sword(Gladius). A slightly tapering blade with a large point made this weapon extremely lethal. Usually short, approximately 15- 22 inches in length, it was excellent for jabbing, and could be easily removed from it’s sheath in a closed proximity, allowing the wielder to remain protected behind his scutum and draw his weapon at the same time.
- Spear(Pilum). Another main weapon of Legionary was the pilum. These spears were mainly used for throwing. Many of them featured a butt spike, and were made of a wooden shaft with an iron heads. Apart from being used to kill enemy soldiers, it was also used to render their shields less effective as the spears were very flexible and difficult to remove. (Goldsworthy 131-133)
Other Clothing/ Additional Items
Aside from the aforementioned items, a Legionary would’ve also typically been equipped with:
- Open toed boots were typically worn, as well as socks depending on the occasion. These items are mentioned in the Vindolanda tablets and were used increasingly in colder climates and seasons.
- Soldiers also wore decorated belts or aprons, mostly as a status symbol, to distinguish them from citizens.
- Another necessary item was a pack, usually made of piece of fabric fastened to a wooden pole which was then fastened to the aforementioned pilum. These packs were typically used to carry cooking equipment, personal items etc.
- A typical addition to the tops of the helmets would’ve been a wide crest of hair. Although originally used solely by high ranking officials, the practice became more common during the reign of Julius Caesar.
- Goldsworthy, Asdrian. The Complete Roman Army. Thames and Hudson, 2003. Print.
- Connoly, Peter. Greece and Rome at War. Frontline Books, 2012. Print.
- Kelly, Patrick, et al. “The Shield: An Abridged History of its Use and Development.” myArmoury.com. Ed. Patrick Kelly. myArmoury.com, 2012. Web. 23 October 2016.
- Matyszak, Philip. Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Manual. London: Thames and Hudson, 2009. Print.
- Cavvazi, F. The Roman Army. 4 June 2008. http://www.roman-empire.net/army/army.html. Accessed 23 October 2016.