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Full Version: Double hand grips on the aspis
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If you've looked at many images on hoplites in vases, you've probably seen representations of of aspises with a grip on the left edge of the shield as well as the right. In my opinion these result from an artist portraying the left side of the antilabe incorrectly or partially and are not accurate. The shield could not simply be turned around since if nothing else your lambda becomes an upsilon.

There are many "ropes" shown inside aspises in art. There is often just a grip, or two grips on opposite sides. Usually there is an antilabe running around the inner face through 4-8 rings. Sometimes as well as an antilabe we see one or usually two straps that are presumably to sling the shield by.

But, perhaps this is incorrect and they really had such grips. Here is a vase image that shows two men gripping the handles of a shield at opposite ends. The fact that the structure is an integral part of the action makes it more likely to be accurate, but still perhaps a poor representation of the left side antilabe.

Opinions?
This man has nice hair!
Paul,we had a discussion about it on the Phalanx forum a long time ago. I mean if the word "antilabe" means all the ropes inside the shield or just the grip. I'm now sure it meant just the grip so if you're usung the word meaning all the system of ropes,you need to define it because it's confusing. The word "antilabe" (αντιλαβή) means other/oposite grip. "Labe" (λαβή) means just grip. Being sure now that the grip was separate from the rest of the rope(being usually thicker and of other matterial,and tied to the bronze fittings). So the rest of the rope is not a "labe",a grip. Thus the word refers only to the grip oposite the porpax and not the whole rope.
That said,I believe some shields had an antilabe on the left side,too. I''m pretty sure that the positioning and number of the rings were not the same in all shields. We can be sure about that from sculptures(where the paint is still preserved),not only vases.
What the purpose of the left antilabe was?
Being easier to carry when marching,by changing arms? The fact that some of them had and others not means that the purpose of the left one was really secondary. My problem with it is not so much that the emblem would be upside down,but that most porpakes were not placed in the middle of the shield,thus you may have had a problem when changing side.
One thing to notice in the above vase,the man in the left has his arm painted under the other man's elbow and actually...under the porpax itself!
Khaire
Giannis
Quote:I'm now sure it meant just the grip so if you're usung the word meaning all the system of ropes,you need to define it because it's confusing. The word "antilabe" (αντιλαβή) means other/oposite grip. "Labe" (λαβή) means just grip. Being sure now that the grip was separate from the rest of the rope(being usually thicker and of other matterial,and tied to the bronze fittings). So the rest of the rope is not a "labe",a grip. Thus the word refers only to the grip oposite the porpax and not the whole rope.

I interpret this "grip" simply as a thickened section of the same rope or a sleeve over the rope of the antilabe to better facilitate holding. If it is contiguous then the whole thing can be appropriately called antilabe. Unless people belive me and start calling it a "decorative remnant of a once functional truss" (DROFT), then we have no term for it other than antilabe anyway :wink:

Quote:That said,I believe some shields had an antilabe on the left side,too. I''m pretty sure that the positioning and number of the rings were not the same in all shields. We can be sure about that from sculptures(where the paint is still preserved),not only vases.

The rope is sometimes show in small segments, but usually is contigous and runs through 4 to 8 rings. Usually it is shown slack, but sometimes tight and sometimes "hanging" up, defying gravity.

Its is not simply a sling for the shield because it is sometimes shown alongside a sling on the inner face of the shield.

Quote:What the purpose of the left antilabe was?
Being easier to carry when marching,by changing arms? The fact that some of them had and others not means that the purpose of the left one was really secondary. My problem with it is not so much that the emblem would be upside down,but that most porpakes were not placed in the middle of the shield,thus you may have had a problem when changing side.

Also the padding/reenforcements seen on some shields, like on the Chigi vase, would be useless. If it is real I don't think it has a military function- perhaps an aid in hanging the shields? I do NOT think it was meant to be held by anyone else, it clearly is meant to be pulled towards the porpax because it is always depicted as bending that way.

I have never seen this second grip referred to in literature- either to show or deny its existance. Has anyone?
Quote:I interpret this "grip" simply as a thickened section of the same rope or a sleeve over the rope of the antilabe to better facilitate holding. If it is contiguous then the whole thing can be appropriately called antilabe. Unless people belive me and start calling it a "decorative remnant of a once functional truss" (DROFT), then we have no term for it other than antilabe anyway
I don't think it can be thought as a continuation of the rope,for it's there even when the ropes are missing and also it is clearly tied to the fittings. Also if the rope passed through it,when the rope would be tightened(for example when the shield was hung from it), the antilabe would have to be tightened,too,something not so practical. So,the lack of another word doesn't mean we should allow ourselves to be calling it wrong,causing a lot of confusion. Lets call it "telamon" or "aorter" like the hunging rope of the peltes. Of course the problem is I believe they were used to hung them while you don't,but it's a better sollution than call them "antilabe". For one,if they were at all as kind of "labe", they should have been called "perilabe"(grip around).
Khaire
Giannis
Quote:I don't think it can be thought as a continuation of the rope,for it's there even when the ropes are missing and also it is clearly tied to the fittings.

Well clearly it is not part of the rope when only a handle is shown and there is no rope. It is less clear that it is tied and not simply sliding through the rings around the shield's perimeter. The fact is that the appearance is quite variable on vase images.

Quote:Also if the rope passed through it,when the rope would be tightened(for example when the shield was hung from it), the antilabe would have to be tightened,too,something not so practical.

Unless of course the act of taking the antilabe in hand put tension of the rope. At rest the grip would be further from the porpax than when gripped, but when gripped it tightened the whole thing and kept the arm snug in the porpax.
Khaire,

I'm speculating here until I try it, but it does seem from my aspis that I can roll my bedroll and my spare chlamys/blanket and tie them INSIDE my shield (on either side of the porpax) with the straps/ropes that constitute part of the truss... and then I can use them as "pack straps" to carry the whole thing on my back. Now my camp gear is dry under the shield, and the whole works as a pack frame.
Again, I'll have to carry it a few miles to make sure, but I'm modestly sure it will work. Even better if the porpax is removable...

Now, most hoplites didn't have to march far--and of course, most had a shield bearer to carry the darned thing. But interestingly, Spartan hoplites were in the habit of serving further from home--and by the 480s, other Greek hoplites were too. The removable porpax might have had more to do with long distance marching then anything else...
Anyway, just speculation until spring comes and I can do some marching.
Quote:and then I can use them as "pack straps" to carry the whole thing on my back.

Christian,

There are images that show what are surely carrying straps in addition to the antilabe-ish rope. They are more logically two straps, one for each shoulder, and long as opposed to the small segmented radially oriented inner rope.

Here's a couple images, there are more.
lovely. Thanks, Paul!

now, was the antelabe simply adjustable? perhaps the rope stretched in use, and needed a constant torsioning?
Quote:now, was the antelabe simply adjustable? perhaps the rope stretched in use, and needed a constant torsioning?

Frankly, I don't know. This will take some reconstruction to be sure. What I think kis this:

The early aspis was not always/ever solid wood, but lathe construction and did not have metal reenforcing bands around the inner circumference of the "shoulder section. It would have benefitted from a rope truss placed in exacty the position we see the "antilabe." If they borrowed the ide from boat building, then yes this would be left loose until battle the shield was intended to be used, then tightened- probably by twisting.

Then again we don't know how much the early aspis face flexed. If it did, then if the antilabe is less than tight at rest, when the shield face is pressed it will expand and tighten. Alternatively, the simply act of pulling it into the grip my have been enough tension, but this would be awful hard on the hand and arm.

We see this even on so called 'boeotian shields', where the crossed ropes have been mistakenly called solid "spreaders". The problem is not keeping a curved shield spread opened, it is keeping it from collapsing. Now I don't think boeotean shields are real, but some of the artists evidently understood the concept. Perhaps there were references to this construction that we lack.

Later, I think the overall construction becomes more robust- metal inner bands and perhaps the "shoulders" thicker. If this is true then the truss becomes mere decoration.
Well, I agree with every word there. How often do you see those words?
Me? Almost never. Which makes them all the more heart warming :wink:

Saddly, you and I are a minority I fear.
As I've said before elsewhere, eventually I'll build a "boat hull" aspis and then we'll have a little broader knowledge base. Or I'll throw my hands int he air and curse a lot.
If you make a "boat hull" aspis,Kineas,you better ensure it is flexible and ther is a risk of it colapsing,otherwise your efford will be purposeless. Does your current contruction seem to have those problems? Even if the ropes were tightened in battle,as Paul suggests,this should not had been done by the hand. As he said on his own,the arm would have to stuck in the porpax so much that it could not go further. The he would have to pull the antilabe(with the rope) very much in order to tighten all of it. Plus in all the vases the antilabe is already tight and the rope loose.
But please Paul,can you provide a painting where ALL ropes are tightened? It can't be that none of them had been painted if they were ever meant to be tight! One would say that if you're correct that the ropes became decorative but where once usuable,then we ought to see at least one very early depiction of them. Again art doesn't help us,because most very early depictions of the aspis don't have ropes at all! Or they do have fittings in random places,but no ropes running through all of them. Then,at about 550 bc we see more and more that stereotype depiction with the 4-8 fittings and the rope always loose running through all of them but those where the antilabe is attached. I point out that those firrings are different from the rest. Theya re not hunging rings. They are far narrower than the rings,which suggests that the rope was not mean to pass through them,but be tied or attached in some other way to them.
Anyway,this is my opinion,and still trying to figure out the true meaning of the many fittings and the rope. One of may best theories is that the rope was indeed for curring the shield(like p51 Osprey Greek Hoplite),despite the different other types of telamon,and the many rings served to spread the weight of the shield to all of them rather than just two,given that the shield core was rather thin in the places where the rings were attached. Still it isn't totally convincing.
Khairete
Giannis
Quote:As he said on his own,the arm would have to stuck in the porpax so much that it could not go further. The he would have to pull the antilabe(with the rope) very much in order to tighten all of it.

Its not so much that he pulls the rope, but if the face of the bowl of the early aspis flexed under pressure, then it would tighten all by itself. Initially he would want the distance between porpax and antilabe to be an exact fit for his arm. I'll not that this is not the case for many reenactors. They have too much play in their grip. You can tell because they rotate the hand to an almost horizontal position to tighten it in their grasp just to hold the aspis. I have mentioned this before, but with the proper tension pulling the forarm into the porpax, the system would be similar to the one used to fit artificial limbs snuggly and keep the porpax from sliding up to the elbow.

Quote:But please Paul,can you provide a painting where ALL ropes are tightened?

They are very rare, but see below. The one on the left seems pretty tight and also peculiarly it goes under the strap of the porpax. On the right they are either tight or defying gravity.

Quote:I point out that those firrings are different from the rest. Theya re not hunging rings. They are far narrower than the rings,which suggests that the rope was not mean to pass through them,but be tied or attached in some other way to them.

I'm not too confident in differentiation rings from anything else at the level of detail we have.

Quote:the many rings served to spread the weight of the shield to all of them rather than just two,given that the shield core was rather thin in the places where the rings were attached.

Hey! Its not fair to use that on me. I think I proposed that years ago on the phalanx. No fair using my own previous ideas against me :wink: Its funny how long we have known each other and how many friends I have online who I have never actually seen or heard.
Quote:Hey! Its not fair to use that on me. I think I proposed that years ago on the phalanx. No fair using my own previous ideas against me Its funny how long we have known each other and how many friends I have online who I have never actually seen or heard.
Hey,I do remember speaking about this on the phalax long ago,but it was actually MY idea. I remember you saying this was the only logical explanation(except of your of course :lol: ) that one proposed in all that discussion. Please don't make me go back into thousands of posts to find it and post it here! However you must be older than me in the Phalax forum,so perhaps you had thought of it before i came,but i certainly haven't read it from you.
Now on those vases,the left one seems somewhat tight. Interestingly he's not holding it,and the antilabe is certainly not one the rope can pass through. The other I don't believe it shows tight ropes,especially of the striking man. However the same artist in the same vase shows a shield with the rope connected to antilabe and the other not. So I think there is evidence against the supposition that the antilabe and the rope were connected and it was the hand that stretched it. However,may i point out that a stretched rope is always a streight line seen from any side. In all those vases the ropes are at least somewhat curved,often in the oposite direction of the vase's curvature.
Khaire
Giannis
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