Roman Plate Armour, M.C. Bishop


Roman Plate Armour, M.C. Bishop

Elite 247

The main focus is on the famous Lorica Segmentata, plate armour made out of overlapping metal panels. We start with a look at the evidence and the terminology, which produces some surprises. There is plenty of archeological evidence for Lorica Segmentata, with panels found across the Empire (including at Corbridge near Hadrian’s Wall). However there is relatively little artistic evidence – it features heavily on Trajan’s Column in Rome and on other art directly influenced by that column, but is surprisingly rare elsewhere. Perhaps most surprising is that we don’t know what the Romans actually called it. Mail and scale armour both had Roman names – hamata and squamata – but there is no known name for segmented plate. The first recorded mention comes from a volume of 1596!

We then move on to look at the three main types of segmented armour, each named after the place the best example of it was found. The three types were split into the same basic four sections, but the exact details of how they were joined, how many parts were in each section etc changed in quite clear ways. We get a good explaniation of how the types changed and what the motives for each change might have been.

Next comes a look at other types of plate armour. This falls into three catagories – hybrid forms with a mix of plate and other armour (for which there is very little evidence), segmented arm guards (well documented) and the muscled cuirasses worn by the officers.
There is an interesting look at reason why so many parts of segmented armour have been found - it is more common in the archeological record than mail or scale armour, but appears to have been less common in use. The answer appears to be that lorica segmentata was rather more fragile out of combat, with plenty of rivets, hinges and leather straps that could fail. The mix of ferrous and non-ferrous metals also caused problems with corrosion. To balance that it was also rather easier to repair than the other types of armour, as a broken hinge or plate could simply be replaced with a spare.

We finish with a look at this type of armour in use. Here several key points are made – although it looks complex, this type of armour was actually easier to make tha mail or scale, lighter, probably more effective, and allowed the wearer great flexibility of movement. These benefits were clearly enough to make up for its increased vulnerability to damage.

This is useful examination of the most famous form of Roman armour, well illustrated and with good accounts of the different forms of segmented armours, its advantages and its flaws.

Kalkriese-Type Lorica Segmentata
Corbridge-Type Lorica Segmentata
Newstead-Type Lorica Segmentata
Other Forms of Plate Armour
Manufacture and Decoration
Plate Armour in Use


Author: M.C. Bishop
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2022

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