Roman Body Armour - Hilary & John Travis.

Anything with a vague historical bent

Moderator: Moderators

Stuart Quayle
Posts: 402
Joined: Fri Aug 26, 2005 12:46 am
Location: Douglas, Isle of Man
Contact:

Roman Body Armour - Hilary & John Travis.

Postby Stuart Quayle » Sat Apr 23, 2011 10:44 am

I just want to post a quick review on an excellent book I have read recently entitled "Roman Body Armour" by Hilary and John 'Rob' Travis.

Hilary and Rob wished to go 'back to basics' with their book, in so much that they are of the belief that alot of modern reproduction Roman armour is constructed wrong, copies being made of incorrect copies, perpetuating the same mistakes. They wished instead to look at the archaeological evidence and if this was not possible, then the original 2D photographes, sketches, notes of the finds, to try and establish anomalies.

Chapter 1 - the Introduction was excellent in setting out their stall, considering the history of Roman study, from an archaeological, art, sculptural, and of course re-enactment perspective - the beginnings of the Ermine Street Guard etc.;

Chapter 2 - considers lorica segmentata - i.e the development of articulated plate armour, covering all the main finds - Corbridge, Newstead and Kalkriese (Kalkriese being the style Hilary chose to reconstruct and build for her husband Rob). This book covers that reconstruction in some detail and the end result is a magnificent piece of amouring!

Chapter 3 covers what Chapter 2 has touched upon in alot more detail, and I found the bit about the "Corbridge - inconsistencies in the published report" very interesting;

Chapter 4 - my personal favourite, dealt with lorica hamata, the history of Roman mail armour, the various historical ring patterns, and how Hilary and Rob built their own hamata shirt and 'weapons tested' it various levels of destruction. They describe in some detail how the hamata morphed and changed almost constantly to meet the varying demand and changes of use placed upon it throughout the centuries - absolutely fascinating and worth buying this book for that reason alone IMHO;

It gets even better! Chapter 5 studies Muscle cuirass - lorica Musculata and even better cardiophylax - those highly decorated, bronze discs that protect the heart - so beloved of the early Italic warriors and especially the Samnites;

Chapter VI - moves on to lorica squamata (scale armour) and its' close relative lamellar armour, in loads of excellent detail for anybody thinking of building their own;

Chapter VII - discusses (potential) Roman under-armour - Thoracomachus or Subarmalis, a very interesting topic and hottly debated.

I must not forget to mention all of the superb colour plates drawn by Rob Travis - some of my favourites are his paintings of the not so well known Roman warrior types - e.g. the Roman 'hoplite' soldier; the Samnite warrior; the Late empire legionary wearing a very loose fitting (and hooded!) long sleeve scale cuirass; the Scythian armoured horsemen and the Clibinarius.

I cannot reccomend this book highly enough!

Regards
Stuart Quayle



User avatar
nathan
Posts: 130
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:27 pm
Location: Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Contact:

Re: Roman Body Armour - Hilary & John Travis.

Postby nathan » Mon Apr 25, 2011 11:13 pm

Stuart Quayle wrote:Chapter 4 - my personal favourite, dealt with lorica hamata, the history of Roman mail armour, the various historical ring patterns, and how Hilary and Rob built their own hamata shirt and 'weapons tested' it various levels of destruction. They describe in some detail how the hamata morphed and changed almost constantly to meet the varying demand and changes of use placed upon it throughout the centuries - absolutely fascinating and worth buying this book for that reason alone IMHO;


Interesting views Stuart, must admit i was very put off the whole book by this section.

For some reason the authors seem to be seriously suggesting that Roman mail may have been butted in some cases on the basis that they found some butted medieval horse armour in the Royal Armories (no citation as to the specifics) and that modern butchers gloves are butted.

This issue was compounded by that fact that they failed to describe the riveting process used in any real detail but spent page space telling me that pliers used in mail making are traditionally given bird names ('condor', 'duck' and 'woodpecker' apparently).

2d
N.


http://www.conroidevey.co.uk
Beware of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.

Stuart Quayle
Posts: 402
Joined: Fri Aug 26, 2005 12:46 am
Location: Douglas, Isle of Man
Contact:

Re: Roman Body Armour - Hilary & John Travis.

Postby Stuart Quayle » Tue Apr 26, 2011 1:50 am

Hi Nathan

But didn't the authors throughout Chapter 4 point to the use of riveted, welded, solid-stamped, and butted mail links? Page 74 discusses the mail shirt finds in the collapsed countermine 19 at Dura-Europas for example.

Also, they stated that in most archaeological circumstances the mail is found so badly corroded together into a solid lump that it is not possible to determine exactly what type of closure the various rings had originally. But at no time did they say butted was the only logical form of Roman link closure, in fact they said riveted closure or a mixture of riveted and solid could never be ruled out of the equation.

I think the point they were trying to illustrate with the mention of butted mail (horse) armour and modern butcher's gloves is that butted mail is alot quicker, more time and cost effective and less skill is required for a legionary on campaign to make a quick 'field repair' to a hamata using butted links, than to try and repair a gap in the shirt by riveting the gap shut again. Nothing more than this fact.

Personally, I found the nicknames for the tools used to make riveted mail most interesting, the description on how to rivet I cannot comment on.

Regards
Stuart



User avatar
nathan
Posts: 130
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2005 1:27 pm
Location: Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Contact:

Re: Roman Body Armour - Hilary & John Travis.

Postby nathan » Tue Apr 26, 2011 4:30 am

Stuart Quayle wrote:I think the point they were trying to illustrate with the mention of butted mail (horse) armour and modern butcher's gloves is that butted mail is alot quicker, more time and cost effective and less skill is required for a legionary on campaign to make a quick 'field repair' to a hamata using butted links, than to try and repair a gap in the shirt by riveting the gap shut again. Nothing more than this fact.


"it is possible that if mass-producing for low-status legionary or auxiliary use, butt joints may have been used in order to kit out a large group of me quickly. It is possible in those cases that the individual soldier would gradually replace sections of his armour with patches of the more robust riveted mail , eventually replacing the entire mail suit." [p75]

I would suggest that this is exactly the opposite of the idea of a quick field repair. And whilst highly couched with maybe & possible the suggestion made is in direct contradiction to multiple articles published within the last 15 years that have been moving us away from the image that butted mail was a fast and cheap option to riveted mail (prior to modern mass production and refinery techniques, labor is cheap but materials expensive), a position that many re-enactors unfortunately have not caught up with.

Even with corroded lumps it is possible using X-Ray analysis to identify the presence of riveted joints that are invisible to the naked eye. One of the reasons early antiquarians believed some mail was butted was because they could see a line in the corrosion (caused by the riveted lap) but no rivet as it was hidden by the corrosion products, whey X-Rayed the rivets are visible.

I'm afraid the degree of conjecture and misinformation (the bird names thing coming from an SCA website) in this section alone put me off the rest of the book.

N.


http://www.conroidevey.co.uk

Beware of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.

Hobbitstomper
Posts: 327
Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2005 2:04 pm

Re: Roman Body Armour - Hilary & John Travis.

Postby Hobbitstomper » Tue Apr 26, 2011 8:34 am

Hijacking the thread to talk about mail...

The only period butted mail I have heard of/seen are some early Celtic shirts (royal armouries magazine article), some Islamic stuff (eg Wallace collection) and some small hole repairs on a super fine rivetted 16th century shirt.

The first stuff had to be made from very thick wire to get any strength. In the rest, I think the butted links were probably cosmetic.

Butted links are a fraction of the strength of rivetted, welded or solid links. If a small bend is put in butted mail then the links come apart. On mild steel wire I can do this with my fingers. This does not happen with rivetted. The links may bend but stay linked. To fail a link has to bend in 4 places at once and then bend/stretch to a point were the metal breaks. This is a lot of work.

Butted mail is responsible for the myth that mail is rubbish against stabbing weapons and arrows. As real armour, butted mail sucks.




Return to “Book, Film, TV & Music Reviews”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest