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Full Version: Later Germanic shield bosses
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I've been mulling over the question of Germanic shield bosses from the 4th-6th centuries lately, specifically the sharp conical examples. Obviously this was of offensive use in combat, but why would the Romans, Persians, Celts, Iberians, etc etc stick fairly strictly to the traditional rounded boss? Anyone know? Could it have something to do with the lack of armor around the end of the Western Empire? But a focused pressure point would have a lot of value, armor or no I would think. Was it a simple cultural thing? <p></p><i></i>
A pointed shield boss may be a weapon, but is it a weapon suitable for its purpose? If I were a front-rasnker in an infantry formation, the thought of rows of pointy shield bosses behind me would make me nervous. Of course, as a Greek phalangite I'd be as worried about pointy /sauroter/ butt spikes and they used those so there may have been a way around it.<br>
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Also what shields did these bosses belong to? Many late Roman shield reconstructions I know are fairly heavy, with horizontal grips. Shield bashing would work with the rim or more as a shove. If the pointed bosses belong on lighter round shields, they could be used like a buckler. I don't know if the late Romans used such shields before the 6th century. Without a warrior tradition to back you up, expecting your troops to fight individually in an aggressive style is a recipe for defeat. <p></p><i></i>
I was more referring to Roman opponents like the Goths and Franks and their smaller round shields. I never even approached the idea from a formation point of view, which makes total sense. For a Frank having just thrown his monster javelin (can't remember the name ) it would be a pretty useful if the battle was a melee and the Roman troops were not in formation. <p></p><i></i>
Quote:</em></strong><hr>For a Frank having just thrown his monster javelin (can't remember the name> <hr><br>
ANGON <p></p><i></i>
I'm no metallurgist, but I would think a dome would be a much stronger structure, than a cone. That's how it is in architecture. In any case, I think I have seen some cone-shaped bosses attributed to the Romans. <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

The boss can be used as a weapon so a cone shaped boss would make sense, from a "poke-em-in-the-eye" standpoint.<br>
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Dave <p>[url=http://www.freewebs.com/davekufner" target="top]www.freewebs.com/davekufner[/url]</p><i></i>
But you can only use the boss as a weapon effectively if your shield is light enough to punch with on the extended arm. With a heavier shield, you'd better push or bash with the rim. Thus, I really don't see pointy bosses on scuta as very useful. Especially not if you have a man in the rank behind you pushing forward...<br>
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Different combat styles, different weaponry, I guess. <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

I recall reading that the cone construction was a cheaper varient as it was made by cutting a circle in half then welding or pinning the flat edges together.<br>
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This would make it a matter of expedience rarther than design.<br>
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Assuming it is the right method of construction ?<br>
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Anyone know if this might be right ?<br>
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Conal <p></p><i></i>
I guess it is possible, but some cone-shaped bosses are made from one piece, without rivets or welds. I remember an example from Gotland (IIRC - somewhere Scandinavian, but pre-Viking) that even has an inverted-cone tip on its point extending a few inches forward. Can't see any practical point to this, though. Maybe a parrying device? <p></p><i></i>
Or maybe they just liked that style of shield bosses, who knows?<br>
The fact is that Roman soldiers (and officers) themselves adopted that kind of bosses in the fifth century (if not somewhat earlier, I should have revised the sources...) maybe the wearers were enlisted barbarians too or simply the design was reallly attractive....<br>
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Aitor <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

I thought Franks threw <em>francisca</em>, hence their name. <p></p><i></i>
That is true Hagen, but they also had the angon (thanks Robert! ) which was a large heavy javelin with an iron shank similar to a pilum. It could be used for close combat or throwing as well.<br>
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From the discussion I'm starting to think that the Germans simply liked the design and used it. A dome would seem to be stronger than a cone, especially if the boss is welded. <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

I say that it was because, like you said it would be poor in melee, the Romans were exceptional at holding formations and breaking enemy formations. The Roman javelin barrage could break almost any formation. But the barbarians never had such a talent.The only way they could break a Roman rank was to charge in a triangular formation with large, protective shields and split the formation in two. <p></p><i></i>
I have always been very skeptical about the the idea of the purpose of the shield boss being to thrust into an enemy. The idea is often put forward that the boss can be thrust into an enemy's face. To do this, as has been stated somewhere above, would mean lifting your shield in such a way as to expose a greater part of your body to danger from enemy weapons, as well as blocking your own forward vision, which could prove deadly.<br>
As has also been said above, the edge of the shield is a better part of the shield to use offensively.<br>
If have always held that the primary purpose of a shield boss is to protect the hand. To exercise the greatest level of control of the movement of a shield, the handgrip needs to be parallel to the overall plane of the shield, hence the cut-out handgrips on most of the Dura shields. Of course, in order to have this much control you have to actually put your fingers and thumb through the face of the shield, which would mean that all of the digets of the left hand would be in severe danger of being severed by the first sword stroke to hit the centre of the shield, unless they were covered by somthing rigid enough to protect them. This is where the boss comes in. As either a dome or a cone the boss has a strong shape, being either an arched or triangular shape in profile. This means that it can offer better protection to the hand than a flat or simply arched piece of metal. The flange of the boss not only keeps the boss attached to the shield but also strengthens the centre of the shield which has, of course, been structurally compromised by the cutting of the central hole/s.<br>
Obviously the boss could be used as the leading portion of the shield if the shield were used with a punching action, but I very much doubt that this was part of the design ethos. This, I feel, is supported by the fact that at some stage Germanic warriors began to use shield bosses with small highly decorated near-flat disks mounted on them. These disks were mounted on a single 'leg' a little like a mushroom stalk which was itself attached to the apex of the boss. It is hard to imagine that these disks would have improved the performance of a pointed boss if the idea of the point was to use it agressively.<br>
Certainly, the boss can be, and doubtless was sometimes, used to punch, but I think that both the physical and reconstructed evidence argue against this being its intended function.<br>
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Crispvs <p></p><i></i>