RomanArmyTalk

Full Version: Roman Cavalry Officer, Punic Wars?
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2
What would a Roman cavalry officer have looked like during the 2nd Punic War? What kind of equipment would he have worn? This is a commander of a Turma of Roman or Latin Equites during the 2nd Punic War era (Camillan) and prior to the Marian reforms. I need to know...

- Likely helmet. Attic? Boeotian? One of the Southern Italian derivatives?
- Likely body armour. Bronze cuirass? Scale mail? Chain mail? Linothorax?
- Primary weapon. Spear or Sword?
- Shield. I assume a parma shield is likely or a derivative thereof, yes? What kind of design? Winged horse? Boar?
- Other. Pteruges, yes or no (if yes, leather or linen)? Boots or sandals? Greaves or no greaves?

It would be interesting to know what you guys think.

Discussion on the various looks an Equite would be cool too.
85 views and no insights? Sad
Hello there,

I suspect you have had lots of interest in your question but few replies because we'd all like to know the answers but solid evidence is sparse and ambiguous. Much revolves around interpretation of a passage in Polybius, which throws up as many questions as it answers and is too long to repeat here right now.

At the risk of being mobbed for self-advertisement, could I refer you to pages 157-161 of my book Warhorse: Cavalry in Ancient Warfare, where I discussed the possibilities and the problems as I understood them.

In summary I think I would opt, as a safe bet, for an open-faced helmet of some type, perhaps a Greek-influenced Boeotian, or those (Montefortino?) used by the infantry; a muscled cuirass (as he is an officer), a stout spear as primary weapon (something like an 8' hoplite spear or the hasta of the triarii) and a sword for back up. The shield might be the round type with reinforced spine carried by the Greek enemy on the Aemilius Paullus monument (possibly adopted by Greeks from Celtic origins during Galatian invasion and, as the easiest but far from universally accepted explanation has it, taken to Italy by Pyrrhus). I wouldn't have a clue what designs might be painted on it - a family/clan emblem, individual choice?

Anyway, look forward to seeing what some others have to say.


Phil Sidnell
The only thing that can be said with much certainty is that the shield was a small round one. There are a lot of references to round shields in the early books of livy as well as in art.
As chainmail was being used by the roman elite around this time and was not yet common amongst their enemies (hence Hannibal's looting of Roman equipmen and reequipping of his troops) I expect that a cavalry commander would have worn maile. I don't know much about the sword that might have been used as it was copying the Spanish sword of Hannibal's army during this war which gave the Romans their classic sword design. The other popular cavalry sword, the falcata, or machaera, was only being adopted by the Roman late in this conflict too.
I did a bit of browsing and found this image of a coin from the second punic war, showing a cavalryman

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... Sg0542.jpg

The helmet looks high, open faced, with cheek pieces. The primary weapon is the spear. I can't make out what the image on the shield is meant to be.
Yes, you see from the coin in the link above that the shield is actually quite large with a central spine, not the smaller earlier type with a circular boss (described by Polybius as like the round cakes with a boss in the middle used at sacrifices - representations of such cakes or loaves have been found, indirectly giving us the shape of the shield). The problem is that the relevant passage in Polybius, where he describes the Roman cavalry adopting Greek style shields and spears, comes as a digression in his coverage of the Second Punic War, but it is unclear whether he is saying the change was made before the Punic Wars, during it, or after. He contrasts 'earlier times' with 'now' and he was of course writing some decades after the close of the 2PW.

Phil Sidnell
If I were depicting one, which I'm guessing is your purpose, I would show him without greaves and with some kind of boot, to prevent chafing on the calves while allowing some delicacy of touch when giving leg signals to the horse. I do not know anything about Roman boots, but Hellenistic ones of this period could be Iphicratids (a bit like toe-less boxer boots). Although there are representations of mounted figures with greaves (I'm thinking of Classical Greek art), they are far outnumbered by those without.

I said muscled cuirass because these remained popular with senior Roman officers for centuries (and I was thinking of a terracotta horseman from Apulia shown on p. 71 of Michele Feugere's Weapons of the Romans), but then again this is only the commander of a turma. Chainmail might actually serve your purpose well in that it looks 'more Roman' to popular imagination and is, after all, how the Roman cavalry is depicted on one of the earliest clear pieces of sculptural evidence, the Aemilius Paullus monument (though this is from a generation or more after the end of the 2PW).

Ultimately, the lack of conclusive evidence actually gives you a good deal of license within reasonable bounds. The cavalry were drawn from the wealthiest families and provided their own equipment, so could afford to pick and choose their equipment from the various types available.
Quote:The shield might be the round type with reinforced spine carried by the Greek enemy on the Aemilius Paullus monument (possibly adopted by Greeks from Celtic origins during Galatian invasion and, as the easiest but far from universally accepted explanation has it, taken to Italy by Pyrrhus).

Actually, you have that last point backwards. This type of shield, along with the scutum, actually originated in Italy in the 8th c. BC. From there it and the scutum were adopted by Celtic peoples and taken to central and northern Europe and eventually spread throughout most of the Old World. The theory is that after Pyrrhus' campaigns in Italy, he either brought back the cavalry shields which he had adopted there or brought back Italian allies and mercenaries who introduced such shields to Greece and beyond.

Quote:The only thing that can be said with much certainty is that the shield was a small round one. There are a lot of references to round shields in the early books of livy as well as in art.

Based on evidence, a larger round one seems more likely, and it fits with the overall usage throughout the Greek world at the time of large, round cavalry shields.

Quote:I did a bit of browsing and found this image of a coin from the second punic war, showing a cavalryman

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... Sg0542.jpg

The helmet looks high, open faced, with cheek pieces. The primary weapon is the spear. I can't make out what the image on the shield is meant to be.

This is a depiction of a cavalryman on a coin of the Frentani from Larinum, and so perhaps does not exactly reflect Roman arms in use at the time.

Quote:Yes, you see from the coin in the link above that the shield is actually quite large with a central spine, not the smaller earlier type with a circular boss (described by Polybius as like the round cakes with a boss in the middle used at sacrifices - representations of such cakes or loaves have been found, indirectly giving us the shape of the shield). The problem is that the relevant passage in Polybius, where he describes the Roman cavalry adopting Greek style shields and spears, comes as a digression in his coverage of the Second Punic War, but it is unclear whether he is saying the change was made before the Punic Wars, during it, or after. He contrasts 'earlier times' with 'now' and he was of course writing some decades after the close of the 2PW.

The problem is that both shields appear side by side in use at the same time as well, so that we perhaps cannot easily qualify popanum shields as early and round "Celtic" shields as coming later.

Quote:Although there are representations of mounted figures with greaves (I'm thinking of Classical Greek art), they are far outnumbered by those without.

Actually, during the Hellenistic period, it is abundantly evident from funerary stelai that greaves were normally worn by cavalrymen. Whether that reflects on Roman practice, however, is very unclear.

Here are a few sources which you might find helpful.

These first two are late Republican intaglio impressions. This one:

http://antiquemilitaryhistory.com/images/repubgem.JPG

Shows what is perhaps a cavalry officer. He wears a muscle cuirass and his attendant carries a spear for him, but what is most interesting is his large round shield with a classic lightning bolt emblem. This was a very common emblem in the Hellenistic period and represents the power of Zeus.

This one:

http://antiquemilitaryhistory.com/images/repubgem2.JPG

Shows a cavalryman fighting in action like a Hellenistic heavy cavalryman, just as we would figure from Polybius' description. However, he is carrying a large popanum shield instead of a "Celtic" shield as one would expect. Note how he wields his lance one-handed in the Hellenistic style.

And finally here is a monument from Pompeii showing Roman cavalry. You can see on the lower figure the mail cuirass, and on the upper figure the large popanum shield.

http://antiquemilitaryhistory.com/image ... nument.JPG

Hope this helps.
:lol: A flood of posts made within a few hours time. Thanks guys. You've actually now confused me more than anything. hehe. I think I will give the Decurio thus (but I still have questions):

- Helmet: Boeotian and Attic types.
- Body Armour: Scale Mail and Muscled Cuirass variations. Should he have that "Hellenistic" sash that wraps around his belly?
- Pteruges: Leather and Linen variations.
- Boots: Leather boots that cover his calf somewhat.
- Shield: Round shield with spine. Not sure what design motifs I'll use.
- Cape?

- Horse: Simple saddle blanket (maybe a hint of some Hellenistic patterns along the edges), a tack with small bronze disks. Question: Would the horse wear any armour, like a chamfron or peytral?
Quote:- Body Armour: Scale Mail and Muscled Cuirass variations. Should he have that "Hellenistic" sash that wraps around his belly?

If he is an officer, then yes.

Quote:- Cape?

Yes.

Quote:- Horse: Simple saddle blanket (maybe a hint of some Hellenistic patterns along the edges), a tack with small bronze disks. Question: Would the horse wear any armour, like a chamfron or peytral?

No, probably not.
Quote:The problem is that both shields appear side by side in use at the same time as well, so that we perhaps cannot easily qualify popanum shields as early and round "Celtic" shields as coming later.

But there is that passage from Polybios specifically stating that the Roman cavalry abandoned the smaller popanum type in favour of the Greek-style shield as soon as they realized these were superior. As I stated in the book, I imagine the two styles (and the various styles of armour) actually co-existed side by side in various combinations with any transition being slow.


Quote:Actually, during the Hellenistic period, it is abundantly evident from funerary stelai that greaves were normally worn by cavalrymen. Whether that reflects on Roman practice, however, is very unclear

That's interesting. Could you point me towards somewhere I can see some examples of these, preferably online?

Phil Sidnell
Quote:But there is that passage from Polybios specifically stating that the Roman cavalry abandoned the smaller popanum type in favour of the Greek-style shield as soon as they realized these were superior. As I stated in the book, I imagine the two styles (and the various styles of armour) actually co-existed side by side in various combinations with any transition being slow.

The problem is that it seems from evidence that the popanum shield was used all the way into Augustan times, as a relief from Thessaloniki shows. I don't know exactly when the round cavalry shield was dropped in favour of the scutum, but I would imagine the situation was something more along the lines of the popanum shield becoming less popular while the "Celtic" shield came into fashion and then the two coexisted, with the latter being preferred over the former.

Quote:That's interesting. Could you point me towards somewhere I can see some examples of these, preferably online?

Not online, no, but Pfuhl and Möbius' "Die ostgriechischen Grabreliefs" illustrates several dozen funerary stelai of Hellenistic cavalrymen from the Ionian coast, many of which show feature greaves along with the other elements of the horseman's panoply.
Aah, nothing in English then. Yet again I am left cursing my linguistic ignorance! Thanks anyway

Phil
Quote:... my linguistic ignorance!
It's not just the language barrier. It's the difficulty and expense of accessing books which are only available in foreign libraries. No wonder people scan book chapters (hem, hem) and send each other PDFs. (Of course, I cannot condone such behaviour. :wink: )
As a publisher I am shocked and outraged to learn that such things happen. I think I need to look into this illegal scanning business. If only I had a sample pdf of, as a random example, some pages from Pfuhl and Möbius' "Die ostgriechischen Grabreliefs", I could look investigate the matter properly....

Phil Sidnell :wink:
Pages: 1 2