here are limits to what can be inferred from both the archaeological and iconographic evidence. This section illustrates some of the problems when dealing with these different sources of evidence. Bishop and Coulston (1993: 19) propose that before the nineteeth century, antiquarian studies relied almost solely on representations of soldiers from Roman art for their information on Roman military equipment. Of these representations, perhaps the most useful are the large numbers of surviving stone sculpture depicting Roman soldiers. However, for these to be of any value to the study of Roman armour, one must be aware of:
...the conventions employed, the sculptor's sources of information, the artistic influences at work, the intended function of the reliefs concerned, and the type and quality of the stone used (Bishop & Coulston 1989: 12).Such sculpture survives on funerary reliefs such as tombstones, propaganda monuments, and statues. Emphasis of studies on stone sculpture is a result of its durablity in comparision with other media (Bishop & Couston 1993: 19). However, a study of this sculpture cannot be taken at face value. Most sculpture in Roman times fufilled a propaganda role, whether it was a truimphal arch commemorating an emperor's victory, or on a tombstone (stela) advertising the deceased man's status and achievements (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 19). Sculpture in the cuirass context tends to depict for the most part important people in ceremonial gear, and generally not the common soldier. Therefore the types of armour seen in sculpture may not necessarily represent the types commonly used.
The artists who produced much of this work introduced their own form of bias. Most would not have been concerned with direct representation but may have employed their own stylistic conventions in depicting their subjects. Bishop and Coulston (1993: 22) suggest that, until recently, Trajan's Column has dominated most fields of Roman army studies, particularly where arms and equipment were concerned. Trajan's Column which depicts a loose narrative of the Emperor Trajan's two Dacian campaigns (A.D. 100-2 & 105-6). It depicts legionaries wearing the earliest representation of lorica segmentata, auxiliary infantry and cavalry in mail and scale armour (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 21-22). However, Bishop and Coulston (1993: 22) also suggest that the column was a product of metropolitian sculptors who appeared to be unfamiliar with much of their subject matter: their military knowledge was restricted to the information available, such as that provided by guard units in Rome. An example of the distortions introduced by artistic convention is that of legionaries, depicted on Trajan's Column, engaged in engineering and construction activities whilst in full armour (lorica segmentata, see image EV1), a most unlikely set of work clothes unless in direct peril. Additionally, the importance of displaying the human form unobscured results in reducing the size of the shields to show the people behind (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 20, see image EV2). The accurate rendering of military equipment was probably not the object of the artists (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 18).
|EV1 - TRAJAN'S|
|EV2 - TRAJAN'S|
n contrast to Trajan's Column is the Tropaeum Trajiani at Adamaklissi (A.D. 108-90). This shows less uniformity of military equipment than Trajan's Column (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 22). Legionary troops are represented in mail and scale armours and not lorica segmentata. Conventionally, drilled holes have been used to show mail (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 22).Bishop & Coulston (1993: 22) argue that the artists who depicted the legionaries on this monument paid close attention to equipment details and thus accurately reflected the armour types known from the archaeological record. The incorporation of realistic features and technical accuracy may represent the work of serving soldiers or retired veterans who were not affected by metropolitian influences. Funerary works such as stelae are similarly depicted to the Adamklissi metopes because they may have also been executed in a similar manner (Bishop & Coulstob 1989: 10). Due to the probable cost involved, most reliefs on tombstones were probably limited to the centurion and officer class. An exception to this rule may have been when patronage was involved. Another important factor of Roman sculpture is that most were probably painted to show a higher degree of detail, such as mail rings. Most of the colours on sculpture has been completely lost which has led to the misconception that some Roman armour was made from leather (Bishop & Coulston 1989: 13).
The archaeological record does not represent a complete sample of Roman armour types or concentrations. The uneven distribution of archaeological material found mainly in the western provinces of the Empire to some extent probably represents the restrictions imposed by factors such as: location; cost; methodology; research design and the quality of the archaeological investigation. Armour is most commonly found at excavations on Roman military sites such as Newsteads and the legionary fortress at Vindonissa (Bishop & Coulston 1989: 13). Some artefacts are probably over-represented in the archaeological record. An example of this is lorica segmentata fittings which were easily damaged. However, it is intriguing that more segmental lames have not survived as they should prove more durable archaeologically than the components of other armour types. Additionally, the apparent needs for continual repair of this armour type may explain the vast number of brass fittings found. This suggests that these fittings are over-represented in the archaeological record. Their frequency may be the result of their short useful life rather than reflecting the overall frequency of the armour type itself. This may be a common problem as most Roman military artefacts recovered have been damaged in some way (Bishop & Coulston 1989: 13). It is a common notion that concentrations of broken armour and weapons found in the archaeological record were a result of accidental loss. This is a contentious view as the Romans, like most ancient societies, could not afford to throw away valuable assets which, even if broken, could be reforged (Bishop & Coulston 1993; 34). Alternatively, these concentrations may represent surplus and damaged equipment buried to deny to the enemy goods which could not otherwise be easily transported by a moving army (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 34). What is apparent through a basic understanding of both the limits of both iconographical and archaeological evidence is that both forms of evidence if taken alone do not represent an accurate picture of the frequency and types of armours worn between the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.