Roman Mail and Scale Armour, M.C. Bishop


Roman Mail and Scale Armour, M.C. Bishop

Elite 252

Although the plate armour known as Lorica Segmentata is probably the most famous type of Roman armour, mail and scale armour were both probably more common, were used all across the Roman period, and by all types of Roman troops.

We start with a brief look at the language used to describe these types of Roman armour. The modern use of Lorica Hamata, Lorica Squamata and Lorica Segmentata actually date to the 16th century, although the use of squama for scale armour is found in Isidore of Seville (early 7th century), writing after the collapse of Roman power in Spain, but still within the classical world. Earlier Greek sources distinquish between mail,

The three chapters on Mail, Scale and Lamellar each cover the artistic representation of that type of armour, looking at how it changed over time and in dfferent parts of the Empire, look at the known history of the type – when did it first appear in Roman use etc, the known variations of the type and the archaeological evidence for the type. There is a great deal of detail on Mail and Scale, but very little for Lamellar, reflected a general lack of evidence for its use. There are a few examples, enough to suggest the Romans were familiar with the type.

The section of the mantacture of these types of armour includes some surprising revalations, including the estimate that a single mail shirt could contain 40,000 rings and take 200 man days to make! This makes one realise how large the industries required to equip the Roman army would have been, with thousands of mail shirts needed, and a single man making just under two per year.

It is clear that these two types of armour were more important and used over a longer period of time than the more famous lorica segmentata, were used alongside it, and each other, and by citizen soldiers (legionaries and Praetorians) and by auxiliaries. This is thus a useful study of a key part of Roman military equipment. It covers more topics than many books on armour (such as the ease of maintenance or how to put on mail).

Mail Armour
Scale Armour
Lamellar Armour
Manufacture and Decoration
Mail and Scale Armour in Use

Author: M.C. Bishop
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2023

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