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It is generally assumed that the full-plate armor, e.g. of a medieval knight, was first invented in the Middle Ages (obviously ignoring Dendra Armor and other such items of great antiquity). Romans clearly had the technological access to a full-plate armor suit via the lorica segmentata, but they've never adopted a full-body suit as far as I know. It's precisely in this context that my interest was piqued by a passage in Tacitus:

Annals 3.43:

Quote:[Julius] Sacrovir with some armed cohorts had made himself master of Augustodunum, the capital of the tribe, with the noblest youth of Gaul, there devoting themselves to a liberal education, and with such hostages he proposed to unite in his cause their parents and kinsfolk. He also distributed among the youth arms which he had had secretly manufactured. There were forty thousand, one fifth armed like our legionaries; the rest had spears and knives and other weapons used in the chase. In addition were some slaves who were being trained for gladiators, clad after the national fashion in a complete covering of steel. They were called crupellarii, and though they were ill-adapted for inflicting wounds, they were impenetrable to them.

Do we have more information about these crupellarii?


EDIT: Oops, I have found some more things, e.g. this reconstructed suit:

[Image: crupellarius-n.jpg]

Do we know some specifics about the suit's construction, and what sort of provenance and usability it had?

Do we know the reasons why the Romans never adopted the crupellarius suit militarily (e.g. for tactical reasons)?
Looks like it's based on this figurine, which was published a few years ago. There is nothing on the figurine that says it's a crupellarius. but it matches the description quite closely. Why did the Roman army not adopt full body armour? Simple: it's the old compromise between protection and mobility.

Mike Bishop

[attachment=0:aj092nnl]<!-- ia0 crupellarius.jpg<!-- ia0 [/attachment:aj092nnl]
Quote:Do we know the reasons why the Romans never adopted the crupellarius suit militarily (e.g. for tactical reasons)?
I'm shooting from the hip here, but could it be too hot, too heavy, and too tiresome to wear for a 20 mile hike?
Notice that Tacitus says, "They were ill-adapted for inflicting wounds..."
The Romans liked inflicting wounds. They liked it a lot. They figured you weren't worth much militarily if you couldn't inflict wounds. The real question is why the Gauls liked watching these guys fight, since they must have fought until one dropped from exhaustion or heat stroke. Maybe they fought a lighter-armed type. Or from horseback.
Quote:Notice that Tacitus says, "They were ill-adapted for inflicting wounds..."
The Romans liked inflicting wounds. They liked it a lot. They figured you weren't worth much militarily if you couldn't inflict wounds.
That's exactly right. I wonder why it went a different direction in the Medieval period, and what they would've said about it (having the technology themselves).
Well combat was vastly different between the ancient and medieval periods. In the ancient times it was hand to hand combat all the time. Rarely did you have the luxury of horses and artillery to fight from a distance (though the Romans more than most regions had both of these). Of course cavalry is still fairly close, you could at least battle a few feet from the enemy. The ancient Greeks and Romans were shield to shield in a phalanx style fight.

I think in the medieval time when the longbow became a huge player as did the other types of distance weapons... it wasn't the same type of combat. Sure, you're likely to whack at each other at arms distance with a sword every so often... but you had glaives, pikes, lances, and other distance (or distancing) weapons.

I think at that time period one of two things probably happened two. One you had a stronger respect of life. Not necessarily of ones own life but for the fellow man who fought for you. As a Lord in the countryside it would have been a lot harder to raise more troops than say the senate of Rome (who could raise legions of troops). Then you also had the chivalry. The shinier the metal, the more colorful the banners, and everything associated the better you were off. It just looked good. Who cared if you couldn't move.

Keep in mind that full armored troops like you see in the movies or the example above just didn't exist in mass numbers. Take for example the Longbowmen of England. They had at best a shoulder armor piece and a helmet with open neck, face, etc. They wouldn't be able to function with full armor. Men at Arms for say England or France during the 100 Years War didn't have that kind of armor either. They wouldn't have been able to maneuver their weapons. Just like a phalanx or shield wall wouldn't be able to change positions, march forward (especially at a quick pace over dozens of miles), and fight together.

That's how I see/understand it. I would think the Romans and the surrounding nations would have thought the same way at the time. It's like anything that's heavy and bulky (like the Americans in WWII and the Pershing tank... just too big and slow).
There were a lot of technological innovations that led to the development of a reasonably comfortable suit of plate armour that the Romans simply didn't have: water powered trip-hammer mills, the sliding rivet, etc.
I have to admit that I find the link between

clad after the national fashion in a complete covering of steel
("adduntur e servitiis gladiaturae destinati quibus more gentico continuum ferri tegimen: cruppellarios vocant, inferendis ictibus inhabilis, accipiendis impenetrabilis") (Tac, Annales III, 43,2 )

and the Versigny figure:

[Image: file.php?id=5195]

....just a bit too tenous for comfort. While it is fun to base something off a single figure and a single passage in a rather fickle writer, it is hardly good source treatment. In fact, it is what I fight a (losing) battle every day to have my fellow reenactors STOP doing. Rule of thumb: at least three separate pictoral sources, preferably more, to avoid the all-too common jump to conclusions (Many archaeologists would be wise to follow this rule, as well; it is still sinned against frequently).

That being said, doesn't the text offer a far more straightforward answer? These guys were rebels, slaves and (provincial ) gladiators. While I know a lot of ink has been spilled on army-gladiatoral equipment transfer, perhaps the answer is right there.

On a side note, Tacitus' description doesn't sound like especially effective armour, if they were unwieldy and unable to inflict damage - a far cry from what later full-covering armour was all about (be it late roman, high or late medieval, or extraeuropean).
Quote:There were a lot of technological innovations that led to the development of a reasonably comfortable suit of plate armour that the Romans simply didn't have: water powered trip-hammer mills, the sliding rivet, etc.

Not strictly true, as sliding rivets were used in the Gamla lorica seg (in the backplates - I've seen the real thing and there is absolutely no doubting it). As for trip hammers, the latest metallographic evidence that David Sim is accruing and publishing seems to show clear signs of having been rolled and, as he pointed out to me once, the finest steel plate used in lorica seg was lighter and tougher than the best plate armour made in the Renaissance (better than the stuff Maximilian gave to Henry VIII). It was just a pity that it always looked like it had been assembled by monkeys.

Mike Bishop
The most recently published work I know is In defense of Rome: a metallographical investigation of Roman ferrous ferrous armour from northern Britain (JAS 32, 2005, 241-250) I think Fulford et.al. might perhaps also jump to conclusions in regards to the comparisons they are making. The specimens are arm guard fragments (Carlisle, Newstead), lorica pieces (Vindolanda) maille rings (Newstead), scale/lamellar armour scale pieces (Carlisle), a shield boss fragment (Newstead) and a single helmet fragment (Vindolanda). All pieces are fragmented and thus cross-section examinations could be made from what would be the frontal parts of the samples (if I understand the article correctly). There is some speculation that a large hammer or rolling has been used on the Vindolanda lorica, although I am pretty sure I've seen the straight line interfaces seen on Fig 4. (p.247) described in ironwork that definitely was hammered (with a large mallet, but hammered none the less). It's a bit hard to say for me, I am not a metallurgist. They directly compars these to for example A. Williams' (JAAS 1982, the RA 1995 studies, and his 2003 book ) analysis of a number of medieval and early modern helmets and armour pieces. The problem is that Williams' samples from these armour pieces (at least in the western medieval and early modern examples that I have article or book copies of) are often taken from damaged or inferior areas he was allowed to sample: deformed back pieces of helmet edges, typically, where damage already had occured and where the best quality metal would not be present. At least this is the case with the articles I have read. It is certainly the case in all the high medieval fragments he has studied.

The only helmet fragment Fulford, Sim, Doig and Painter studies is the Vindolanda helmet fragment (p245), that has been made by folding and forge-welding the iron together. This is a different technique from the one used on the early modern samples (and some late medieval samples) referred to, that have been made by rolling definite blast furnace-produced metal.

It doesn't mean that their conclusions are wrong, but it does mean that they are based on two very different sample sets from widely different pieces of armour where the best direct type comparison material, the helmet, is not made in the same way as the ones it is compared to, and where samples have been taken at very different parts of the armour. That is a lot of ifs and buts.

Metallurgically, the analysis is excellent (as far as I can see - once again, I am hardly a metallurgist although it was part of my basic curriculum and I maintain an interest in it), but to make any broad conclusion on this matter would require a direct comparative study where samples are taken from the same parts of armour. That would require re-sampling all the material - and preferably other material as well - in a much larger study where representativity, rather than availability, decided the samples examined. Such studies have been carried out in other fields, and given the growing interest in archaeometallurgy, perhaps not impossible to find funds for, especially not within the EU. Is this what Sim has been doing lately?

Very broad conclusions from small material samples are hardly unique within archaeometallurgical studies - in, for example, A Germanic ultrahigh carbon steel punch of the late roman iron age (JAS 31, 2004) Godfried and Nie, after a very thorough analysis of the sample, conclude (admittedly in a more careful manner than the article above) that "Germanic ironwork could be finer than what is known from the contemporary roman world" (p1124). Indeed, they compare it to wootz steel (!).

If I were any of those authors, I would be less definite with my conclusions. With such small sample sizes, practically every new analysis will turn most hypothesii upside-down. Of course, it always helps with some big splash conclusion to to publicize your work! Big Grin

I've written almost the same about those two articles before, I see from a search. Oh well.

When it comes to mechanized production, I am also skeptical. I've seen articles that argue that large and deep imprints in stone ore-crushing anvils must mean that it was mechanized trip-hammer production. That could of course be...but as 19th century africans were quite able to create quite large and deep imprints in their stone forges (anvil-stones) when they worked them with their giant mahomba stone "hammers"...let's just say that Occam's Razor favors the simpler explanation. The question anybody working in this field must set themselves very seriously before concluding its use it: was it possible to achieve such a result without utilizing technology we do not have anything but circumstantial evidence for? If the body of evidence is not direct - i.e. somebody actually finding a trip-hammer mechanism from the period in question - there is a big risk involved of "proving" something from a large and contrived body of circumstantial circular evidence. This is a classic problem with armour dating when you want to really get into the spesific period: You find a helmet. You look in the sources, and find a set of pictures that resembles it from the year X. You date it to year X. Five years later Bob finds another helmet. He dates it based on your dating and some of the pictures you used. Much later Susan finds a set of pictures of a helmet. As they are fragmentary, she dates them based on the helmet datings you did 30 and 35 years back. And so on and so forth.
Quote:I have to admit that I find the link between

clad after the national fashion in a complete covering of steel
("adduntur e servitiis gladiaturae destinati quibus more gentico continuum ferri tegimen: cruppellarios vocant, inferendis ictibus inhabilis, accipiendis impenetrabilis") (Tac, Annales III, 43,2 )
and the Versigny figure
....just a bit too tenous for comfort. While it is fun to base something off a single figure and a single passage in a rather fickle writer, it is hardly good source treatment.
I wholeheartedly agree.
I dont think the Versigny figure is detailed enough to allow for a reasonable reconstruction, nor to suggest a link to the Crupelarii.
Also why should gallic gladiatorial slaves of 21AD being described as "clad after the national fashion" be considered wearing "full body segmentata"?
Note also that Tacitus differenciates between the crupellarii and the "one fifth armed like our legionaries".
But I guess a discussion about the nature of the crupellarius would better fit in the Ancient Combat Sports forum.
Quote:
Dan Howard:6lwxi416 Wrote:There were a lot of technological innovations that led to the development of a reasonably comfortable suit of plate armour that the Romans simply didn't have: water powered trip-hammer mills, the sliding rivet, etc.

Not strictly true, as sliding rivets were used in the Gamla lorica seg (in the backplates - I've seen the real thing and there is absolutely no doubting it). As for trip hammers, the latest metallographic evidence that David Sim is accruing and publishing seems to show clear signs of having been rolled....

Where does Sim publish his findings? Quite convincing evidence for Roman water-powered trip-hammers has actually surfaced in the last 10-15 years. See:

- Lewis, M.J.T.: "Millstone and Hammer: the Origins of Water Power" (1997)
- Burnham, Barry C.: "Roman Mining at Dolaucothi: The Implications of the 1991-3 Excavations near the Carreg Pumsaint", Britannia, Vol. 28 (1997), pp. 325-336 (333-335)
- Wilson, Andrew: "Machines, Power and the Ancient Economy", The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 92. (2002), pp. 1-32 (16, 21f.)
I think the recent work by Sim is as yet unpublished. It will be interesting to see if he has uncovered something concrete.

It is the Dolacuathi mine trip-hammers I was writing about in the last paragraph of my reply: the evidence for trip hammers is mainly the depressions made in the base ore-crushing stones, which is argued to be greater than what could be done with man-power. Even excepting african stone forging, the simple evidence of most common hardened steel anvils - that can over time suffer extensive deformation even with tools wielded by a single man - should demonstrate that time can replace brute strength when it comes to deformation.

Wilson's article assembles the circumstantial evidence. But we lack concrete evidence, so far. Until (indeed if) that becomes unearthed, the risk of circular argumentation will remain.
Quote:It is the Dolacuathi mine trip-hammers I was writing about in the last paragraph of my reply: the evidence for trip hammers is mainly the depressions made in the base ore-crushing stones, which is argued to be greater than what could be done with man-power.

Not quite so, it is not so much the depth but the regularity and the spacing of the depressions which serves as evidence for trip hammers in mining operations. Since at least few of the anvils have been found close to watermill sites, they also seem to have been powered by water power.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trip_hammer (Section on the Greco-Roman world)
Have you ever seen a well-worked smith's anvil used for specialized work? The depressions are quite regular; sometimes deep grooves are hammered into the hardened steel. The africans were able to conduct forge-welding and generally work with high precicion in their Mahomba work as well (I've posted on this before, which was why I didn't go into it...can't seem to find it). Why shouldn't repetitiveness lead to regularity? I think the studies in question are going a bit fast. Nothing wrong with that, as long as they point out that it is from circumstantial evidence - which is what Wilson and the others do. Occam's Razor should apply no matter what you are doing - especially when interpreting archaeological finds: if there is a simpler possible explanation for a phenomenon, it should be preferred to the more complex one.

As far as I know (I would love to stand corrected) the anvil stones have never been found as, for example, the swedes found the blast furnace remains excavated the high medieval Lapphyttan site: remains of watermills and diverted streams right next to the furnaces. That is an example of (more) concrete evidence, real proximity, in a context where waterpower actually has had previous documented use in metal production contexts within the same cultural sphere.

Don't get me wrong. It is quite possible that those stones are evidence of trip-hammers. However, with no actual trip-hammers, mechanisms or watermill remains right next to the stones, one risks invoking an archaeological "truth" from circular argumentation. The farther we go back in time, the less we generally get to learn from archaeology due to the simple processes of nature...sad but true.
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