|cale (Lorica Squamata) c.late
3rd century B.C., assembled from
scales found near Lake Trasimene. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto,
934.6 (Robinson 1975: 153).
nother type of cuirass was the lorica squamata, also known as scaled or jezeraint armour. Scale armour is perhaps the oldest type of metal body armour. Peterson (1992: 42) proposed that its origins date to at least the 2nd millennium B.C., having a long history of use in Greece and the East. Despite its early origins it was used throughout the entire period of Roman dominance. Scale armour is usually depicted with short sleeves, and the lower edges reaching the upper thighs, as in the sculpture of Q. Sertorius Festus on a grave stela. Alternately, the marble relief in the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua, shows a lorica squamata, worn by a 1st century legionary. This is sleeveless with broad reinforcing shoulder-straps that fit together from throat to breast-bone. The straps have cut-away outer corners and are edged with leather piping, as is the neck of the garment (Robinson 1975: 157).
Scale armour was made from both iron and bronze. The manufacture of scale armour involved small sections of metal sheeting of varying sizes being attached by wires or riveted to their neighbours and sewn onto a suitably flexible foundation of hide or strong cloth. Early scale armour was commonly joined by small twisted links of bronze wiring, positioned in horizontal rows, overlapping upwards and imbricated like scales of a fish or in the manner of roof tiles (Tarassuk & Blair 1982: 311, see image SC1). The size of these scales range from small bronze specimens of 2.8 cm by 1.4 cm to iron ones 8 cm by 5.4 cm (Robinson 1975: 154, see image SC2). Scales commonly had rounded lower ends, though some are simply cut into sharp points or have a straight bottom edge and their corners cut off at an angle (Robinson 1975: 154). Evidence of parts of a bronze lorica squamata were found at the site of Corstopitum (Corbridge) in Northumberland England. These scales were very small, and due to the expense incurred in manufacturing such fine armour, Simkins (1994a: 15) proposes that the man, probably an officer, no doubt would have purchased this armour himself. A similar group of 346 scales which was found in the fort of Newstead (c.A.D. 98-100), of yellow bronze (perhaps a result of oxidization), are larger measuring 2.9 cm by 1.2 cm (Robinson 1975: 154).
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|SC2 - DRAWING|
enerally, the defensive qualities of scale is inferior to mail armour, being neither as strong nor as flexible (Simkins 1994a: 15). It was nevertheless popular throughout the Roman period, possibly because it appears that it may have been simpler to manufacture and repair than other loricae (although presumably more difficult to maintain because of its intricate construction). Experimental archaeology conducted by Massey (1994: 56) has tested reconstructions of known arrowheads against various body defences used in Roman times. At a range of 7 meters, Massey (1994: 37) argues that arrowheads seemed to penetrate this armour type 1 out of every 2 occasions. He suggests that this may occur due to the shape of the scales and the way in which the scales have been assembled. Presumably the changing conditions of the test would also affect the frequency of penetration. Further, it is concluded that tests indicated that when scale armour had been strengthened by wiring in a series of horizontal rows, none of the known contemporary arrow types could penetrate it, although the scales were severely deformed (Massey 1994: 37). A modern parallel would be modern body armour (flak jackets), which will stop some bullets however, the impact may nonetheless cause severe trauma such as internal haemorrhaging.
Lorica squamata was used by legionaries, auxiliary infantry and cavalry during the first two centuries A.D. (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 85). However, the evidence provided by tombstones (stelae) depicts only officers wearing scale. Stelae such as that belonging to Q. Sertorius Festus from Verona, Centurion of Legio XI Claudia Pia Fidelis and that of a relative, L. Sertorius Firmius, an aquilifer with the same legion (c.42 A.D.), depicts both men in scale armour (see images SC3 & SC4). Similar evidence comes from the tombstone of a centurion, T. Calidius Severus (Legio XV Apollinaris), from Carnuntum (Robinson 1975: 157, see image SC5). The Adamklissi metopes depict legionaries' scale armour, in contrast to Trajan's column where they are equipped only with lorica segmentata (Bishop & Coulston 1989: 44, see image SC6). Archaeological finds appear to indicate that this type of armour was used much more widely than the surviving sculpture suggests, although only fragments of the armour survive (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 85). Despite this evidence the use of lorica squamatae does not appear to have been as extensive as mail. Peterson (1992: 42) suggests that the sculptured record indicates that lorica squamata was largely the exclusive equipment of centurions and high ranking officers between the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D.
|SC3 - STELA|
|SC4 - STELA|
|SC5 - STELA|
|SC6 - METOPE|
oman sculpture often depicts scale armour with a number of decorative elements, such as medial lines or ridges. When seen in this form it gives the impression of feathers (Robinson 1975:156), hence the name lorica plumata. This decoration probably applied to the most ceremonial makes such as that worn by centurion Q. Sertorius Festus. Robinson (1975: 156) states that three scales of this pattern, which were plated with white metal, were excavated at Hod Hill in Dorset. These scales may have been lost from a lorica squamata belonging to a centurion or cavalryman who were stationed there (Robinson 1975: 156). White metal plating of scale was frequently either silvered or tinned. This gave a magnificent appearance and may also have prevented the scales from corroding when wet and so rotting the stitching and the foundation (Robinson 1975: 156). Additionally, this type of loricae could be also coloured by tinning alternate scales with bronze and iron so that a silver and gold chequerboard effect was produced (Robinson 1975: 156). At Ham-Hill in Somerset, forty-seven scales were found which had been treated in this way (Robinson 1975: 156). One of the most decoratively-equipped centurions depicted on a surviving military gravestone is Q. Sertorius Festus. He wore a scale shirt with short sleeves. The lower border reached to the level of the upper thighs, terminating in two rows of scaled and bordered scallops. The sleeves were extended with short pteruges. The skirt had longer pteruges that reached the knees. Over this, a leather harness with nine large phalerae (decorative circular plates) was worn. Two large twisted torques hung around his neck (Robinson 1975: 157 see image SC7).
Simkins (1974: 33) speculates that phalerae may have been embossed in high relief, such as the head of the gorgon Medusa, as this may have been intended to protect the wearer from harm. Another member of the same family, L. Sertorius Firmius, provides another richly equipped gravestone. His scale armour is shown with sleeve extensions and a skirt of pteruges without phalerae. It has only one row of scallops along its lower border (Robinson 1975: 157). These scallops are decorated with Medusa heads and other ornaments. The latter may have been encouraged because of the noise that it made (Robinson 1975: 157). The difference between functional and ceremonial armour cannot be clearly defined. The examples of lorica squamata used in this essay mostly relate to funerary goods of the officer class, which because of their detail and therefore cost should not be used to indicte what the common soldier worn. Ceremonial armour is more likely to appear on sculpture. Due to the lack of precise knowledge as to the context in which it was worn this ceremonial armour may have also been functional, commanders perhaps requiring less need of protection and more need for mobility and the ability to provide inspiration for their troops. What is clearly evident is that despite this armour's apparent inferior properties as armour, its use was continued perhaps because of other functional needs of the wearer.
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