Full Version: How common lorica segmentata actually was?
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First of all, excuse my ignorance - I am still a new member.

You see, I have done quite a bit of reading up on the Roman army, and while I used to think the standard issue armor was the lorica segmentata, I have formed a rather contradicting opinion on the subject: I have started to think that the LS (short for lorica segmentata, I will from here on refer to lorica hamata as "mail" and lorica squamata as "scale") was not nearly as common as it is made out to be - it was only used by a fraction of the troops. Although LS can superficially appear to be tougher than mail or scale, the size of its plates suggests it was made of rather soft iron, since if it was made of proper steel it would have been far more expensive than mail. So I have started thinking it was more of a parade piece, since it also produces a lot of chaffing, is quite expensive to maintain and is far from ergonomic.

Now, my beginner's opinion holds little water, so what do you experts think? Was the LS really so common? Was it really better than mail and scale? Was it worn into battle at all?
Well, we've talked about this subject here on RAT in lenght. Do some searches and you'll find lots of discussions Big Grin

As for some of your comments. I wouldn't classify the LS as a parade piece at all. Firstly, I personally don't believe in in the parade armour concept in general (as is becomming a more common opinion in general). Secondly we've big numbers of LS pieces found in all kind of castella along the Limes, including the finds at Hadrians wall. This give very big spread (including many Auxilia fortresses), which in my opinion would also support AGAINST a parade armour view.

Next I would suggest you to be very carefull by stating 'costs' of armour as a way to make 'common sense' arguments. Value in Roman times can easily be totally different from current day value, as does 'common sense'. Even in this time, common sense in the USA might differ a lot from common sense in Europe, for instance.

As for you first observation, I have to say I support it. The LS saw much fewer use as (the old) view of the Roman army might tell you. Don't forget that mail armour has been in use for 1000s of years, as is scale armour. The LS in contrast has only seen use for a relative small period of time, during which mail and scale armour continued to be used alongside the LS.

Sorry if I angered you with my ignorance.
Quote:Sorry if I angered you with my ignorance.

Luckily you didn't Smile
Now I don't claim to know the consistency of Roman metals, however how soft do you think Roman iron was? Aluminum coke can soft? The armor had a good run over what we estimate to be 300 years, and from what we can tell, it was relatively wide spread, though other armor was still in use.
And prolificly depicted on many monumants!
Although not that many monuments outside Rome. :wink:

Regarding the possibility of lorica segmentata chafing, in thirteen seasons of wearing segmentata myself, I can happily say that I have never encountered this problem.

Which would imply it was very prolific, if it was known by these artists who had never seen
a real soldier before. :wink:
But mail must have been quite a bit more expensive, since it was the most expensive armor money could buy till tempered steel plate.

P.S. It being depicted by people who haven't seen a soldier would suggest quite the opposite.
I think it was definately more expensive, as it was a more labour intensive product!
I think there could have been issues with practicality which could possibly have led to is disuse, however, it certain stayed arounf for a considerable period, as has been pointed out. Perhaps the quality of the mail and scale improved to make them superior
It is time consuming to don a Seg in comparison to throwing on a mail shirt.
Even with the later Newstead/stilfried vesions.
Maybe as they became more of a fire brigade, it was better to be able to react asap
as opposed to marching out from a campaign camp to fight a set piece battle?
It seems to have hung around in Spain for a considerably longer period than everywhere else.
Quote:But mail must have been quite a bit more expensive, since it was the most expensive armor money could buy till tempered steel plate.

Well, please support that view with sources. Where do you base the (ancient) value of armour on?
Well, thats a good question indeed, Jurjen.
I recall several modern sources equating the price of a Hoplite panolpy
to that of a good quality family car.
No one seems as ready to price equipment from later periods, though, from what I can see.
What do you think the value would be, just out of curiosity?
Quote:What do you think the value would be, just out of curiosity?

Well, it's my opinion we can't say ANYTHING (or at least:MUCH) about the value of pieces, especially not relative pricing. Of course we have some sources stating values of armour, but as far as I know that's about the whole set, not single pieces.
Other than cost and the amount/quality of metal which is something we can only debate and have no real idea about, perhaps the introduction and use of the LS ahould be viewed as the perceived threat to the soldiers.

It is quite a leap from musculata and certainly very different to mail/scale. Whoever thought of the idea of articulated metal sheets for protection was seriously thinking outside of the box and that, in military technology terms, usually comes from the threat.

So the longevity of the armour, although perhaps related to the cost of production, may also have been in response to the perceived threat.

Was LS more resistant to arrows - did they glance off better than getting stuck in links/scales? Did it provide more protection against the dreaded falx and other sharp bladed weapons which could split the rivets on scale?

And I don't think it was ceremonial due to the spread of archaeological finds, although I do believe (perhaps against the "tide" of opinion) that there was formal parade wear for some elements of the serving units.
Yes, I agree with that.
I think we can make relative estimates, based on the labour involved, though.
Ring mail would be a bit more labour intensive, so it would technically be the more expensive product to produce. Not a monetary value, but just based on resources required.
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