Full Version: Greek Glues
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Pages: 1 2


The production of much of Greek military equipment would have required the use of alot of glue ie Linothorax, Aspis ( I refuse to use the word Hoplon as even today in greek hoplon refers to Weapon, rifle etc NOT shield ) and of course triremes. What glues would they have used? <p></p><i></i>
I've posted the little I know on glues to the RAT.<br>
Aitor <p></p><i></i>


Thanks for the Help <p></p><i></i>
I reserect this topic based on a recent finding finding.
An old shoemaker told me about ALEVROKOLA translated as flour-glue.
I checked in my encyclopedia and says that it is just wheat-flour boiled in water and then left to cool. No details about doses or compositon though.
My friend George speculates that its possibly flour that started becoming unedible.
Well I admit that my encyclopedia is rathe old.
Perhaps some brave soul might attempt to reconstruct.
Shoemakers used it with leather but it might be good for fabric too.
Kind regards
I've heard about boiled bones glue and pine tree resine.
Salve commilitones

Mix flour with cold water to get a paste, mix the paste with hot water, shaking it with a spoon while boiling until gets thick, than let it get cold.
If the final paste it's too thick, you can mix more cold water.

Jorge Mambrilla / Octavianus
Jason Hoffman has done some research into this subject and seems to think that glue may not have been used at all - even in the linothorax. After reading his argument I think I agree with him.
In a related way, below is a link to a pdf file. It's a school science project for making Roman and Egyptian glue, the former using bicarboonate of soda (sodium hydrogencarbonate), and the latter milk of magnesia. Both utilise a casein solution which is first made from skimmed milk and clear vinegar, and a bit of jiggery-pokery. Not sure if it's accurate, but looks like fun anyway.


I would put money on hide glue.

It is tremendously strong (can come in different strengths), relatively easily made from animal hides which would be in abundance, and is completely waterproof. It can be dried to a flake, then mixed with water and heated. It is applied hot. It more cools than dries.

Much stronger than bone glue, casein glue, and as I recall has certain advantages over fish glue. As I recall casein and flour glues both lose adhesion when wet.

I am not talking about that "Tite Bond" stuff that comes in a bottle.
Quote:I would put money on hide glue.

It is tremendously strong (can come in different strengths), relatively easily made from animal hides which would be in abundance, and is completely waterproof. It can be dried to a flake, then mixed with water and heated. It is applied hot. It more cools than dries.

Hi Marsvigilia,

Can it be bought off the shelf anywhere ?

I'd like to glue pteruges to my musculata when it comes.


Well, Theo,
Do it as you like but I'd rather say that the round lappets and pterugae should be sewn to the subarmalis, which should be tailored to fit exactly the cuirass, so everything would remain seeemingly 'in place' within acceptable margins.
Look at his detail of a statue of Marcus at the Ny Carlsberg (Copenhagen)
[Image: Marcus.jpg]
You will notice that the form of the first row of lappets does not follow very exactly the lower contour of the cuirass.
Of course, I'd like to know what did Romans really do... but it proves really elusive! :wink:

BTW, none of my business but, why that spanish flag? Confusedhock:

Quote:Can it be bought off the shelf anywhere ? Theo
It is a bit difficult to find off the shelf.
The two sources that I found about a year ago were:

Milligan & Higgins
Maple Avenue - P.O. Box 506
Johnstown, NY 12095 Phone: 518-762-4638
Fax: 518-762-7039.
E-Mail: [email protected]

Eugene B. Thordahl
Bjorn Industries, Inc.
551 King Edward Road, Ste: 211
Charlotte, NC 28211
(704) 364-1186 voice
(704) 364-1098 fax
E-Mail: [email protected]

There is good article on glues in the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th Edition, published around 1911, also in the 9th though it has much of the same information. These are great references for old knowledge, often offering details that modern sources don't.

If you don't have access to a hard copy of these, a free online OCR version of the 11th can be found at: (note: glue article incomplete)

Or there is a full scanned version on CD available at
Thanks a bunch for the info, Marsvigilia Big Grin .

I'll check out your sources when I get a chance.

Ave Aitor,

Quote:I'd rather say that the round lappets and pterugae should be sewn to the subarmalis

Thanks for your advice.

I haven't decided whether to add the round lappets or "tongues" (as Travis Clarke calls them) to my impression. Not all statues I've seen have them.

Quote:BTW, none of my business but, why that spanish flag?

Because it's my favorite Roman province Big Grin .

Actually I'm of Spanish decent. And, no, I don't speak the language :wink: .
Hide glue isn't waterproof. Casein can be waterproofed if lime is added. IMO hide glue wasn't used anywhere near as often as many seem to think.
I can't say anything much on Ancient greece (not my area), but I have been playing with glues for a while and this might help.

No animal-based glue is waterproof, though thick, heated hide or bone glue is very strong indeed. The water resistance of all animal-based glues can be improved by adding about 10% (by dry weight of the glue) alum. It can be added at the beginning of the soaking process or to the heated, liquid glue, but if added to the ready glue it will cause considerable thickening and gelling. I rendered my first batch unuseable this way.

Animal glue can be made from skin (size or hide glue) bones (bone glue), and fish bones, bladders and scales (fish glue). The basic chemical components are the same, but they have different characteristics. Hide and bone glue are toughest, fish glue is finer and thinner (and stinkier). The clearest and finest animal glue usually available is made from the skins of small mammals and referred to as 'hareskin' or 'rabbitskin' glue. All animal glues can also be used to make jello, though I'd leave out the alum.

I have used alum-treated bone glue on two flat and a curved shield board and so far hae had good results (though none of them have been field-tested yet). It takes longer to set (several days, up to a week) and retains some flexibility. I immersed test pieces of plywood stuck together with this glue in cold water fopr 24 hours and did not get significant loss of sticking power. After 48 hours, I could force them apart. Then the commercial plywood gave out. I am also making test pieces of linen armour with this glue, but they are not yet ready for test yet, so I can't speak to their durability. They are certainly impressively hard, yet flexible.

Another glue that could be used is casein glue. I have found the earliest references in the 11th century, but the process is very simple. You need curdled milk or cheese (the harder the cheese, the tougher the glue) and a chemical to convert the casein (I've only used lime, but others such as borax are also supposed to work). Simply mix the cheese and slaked lime (if you are using hard cheese, a mortar or blender is needed) until the whole becomes a thick, whitish-grey glue. This will set water-resistant, but becomes very hard and brittle and may not be suitable for most military applications. I have used it on a shield board and found it less flexible than the bone glued one. Haven't used it on a linen armour piece yet, but I will try it for surface treatment. Casein glue made with curds or cottage cheese also makes a useful paint base and dries water-resistant (though not waterproof)

Glues can also be made from gums. I am told that addimg alum to gum arabic will render it water-resistant, but I haven't tried it yet. at any rate, there appear to be a large number of composite glue recipes in circulation (involving animal glue and various gums or resins), and a test on a Roman age leather sole from Cologne indicates that gum arabic was used to glue the layers. I suspect that this was not the only glue used becauswe by itself it is water-soluble.

Finally, flour or starch can be cooked to glue. I haven't tried this out, but its main problem seems to be that it is not very water-resistant.
Pages: 1 2