Full Version: Roman Cavalry parade ceremonial helmets
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Hay everybody,

I want to start by saying how happy I am to have found this forum! I'm an archaeologist by trade, but my specialism is Roman, particularly the military. I've just finished an MA at Durham University (the blessed home of Eric Birley!) and I start training to teach archaeology at A level and degree level in september, then I intend to go onto do a PhD. I hope you guys don't mind, I just thought it would be nice if I introduced myself!

OK so back to the topic! I'm doing some research on Roman cavalry parade helmets, with particular focus on the ones from Newstead fort just north of Hadrian's Wall. I would like though to look at other examples, but I also want to compare them with medieval, samurai, Anglo-Saxon and modern helmets, looking at the psychology and anthropology of fighting and parading with such a helmet on. Hence, why I am also seeking the opinion of modern day martial artists and soldiers. However, I am also looking at the style of Roman cavalry helmets, their religious and ritualistic meaning, their deposition etc

So anyway, I just wanted to open my mind and try and think 'outside the box' by trying to promote some discussion on them and by seeking the opinions and perspectives of others. I do think that archaeologists and fellow Roman military enthusiasts like myself (lets face it they aren't many of us around) should communicate more Smile

All comments valued, thanks

p.s. I attach one of the three helmets found at Newstead fort!
Here is the replica sports cavalry helmet that I made for the Trimontium Trust it is one of the others found at Trimontium in pit 22 of Curles excavations there, it is currently on display at their museum in Melrose. Scotland along with also my replica of the horse chamfron found in the same excavations.
I decided at that time that it needed a face mask so I copied the other one found also at Trimontium and simply married the two pieces together.

Thank you for the photograph and wow that is an amazing object you've made. I'm quite familiar with the examples from Newstead and its fabulous to see two of them recreated and married together like that. Do you have a photograph of the back by any chance?
There is an interesting feature about this helmet that I discovered from making it and this is the fact that it had a leather hinge to hold a face mask, if one looks closely it is found that this hinge is of course offset to one side
The reason being is that at the centre front of the helmet behind the peak there is a decoration that the craftsman did not want to spoil so he simply off set the two rivets that held the leather hinge.
Here also is the original face mask that I copied however this could never have been the mask that fitted this helmet, for this also has an offset for a similar hinge but it goes in the opposite direction and to fit the helmet I made I altered its offset the other way to meet the needs of the original helet that I had copied.
Here are the decorations I had to create on the bowl of this helmet.
Interesting, I do wonder what 'type' or 'style' of facemask would have gone with the helmets which had no hair but instead depicted imperial art, like the one in your re-creation. I looked at the imagery on it once before and I think the figure with wings has something to do with Mercury, and as such the value of 'speed' to the wearer, like the ones with hair are supposedly associated with the powers of medusa and the Alexander the Great. Sorry I'm wittering on but theres so much one can say about them! I'm particularly interested in the line/difference between real battle and parade, as I think in the ancient world the division was not so clear cut. So I'm interested in if any similar ones could have been used in real combat? Perhaps by a standard bearer or some such similar person who also had a strong religious role in the military?
p.s. you are an amazing metal worker!
The images on this particular helmet are in fact two cupids and it has been said that it copies the race around the areana where the forward cupid leads the lepard chariot through the metae.
The other types you mention may have been similar to the Kalkreise mask that would have fitted a standard soldiers type helmet where the cheekplates would have held it to the face such as this creation I did of the Kalkreise.
Thanks, this forum really is a god send! Its so good to be able to bounce ideas and get more information! Do you think that face masks may have been worn in battle, or during some other event other than the cavalry parades? Say for example during the birthday of the eagle when they anointed the standards?
This is indeed a subject that has been discussed before on RAT with all kinds of opinion and the Kalkreise type may have been used in such a purpose, I did do a small paper on the Kalkreise after having made it about half a dozen times fore it is a very interesting one.
Indeed my own opinion is that the Kalkreise may have had about three different phases through its life time, due of course to the amount of holes in this mask for there are in fact nine of these most of which would have been hidden under its silver sheet before it was looted in the Varus battle.
Here is a picture that shows just some of the holes and I do have a side view of it when I can find it.
Thank you, how fascinating. I know a bit about these types of helmets but not as much as I want to know. Ritual, standards of the units and fortress architecture were my main areas. I'm sort of branching out with this but it ties in well I feel with the studies of ritual and standards that I've done. My dream is to write a book all about ritualistic behaviour in the Roman military from about 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD. Of course it ties in with the helmets, the standards and architecture. I'm constantly disappointed by the lack of writing on Roman military religion and ritual. I tried to do my MA thesis on the cult of the signa and genii in the Roman military but there just wasn't enough out there!
I do think that with some of our more well read members you will indeed come across so much more interesting information on many subjects.
Thanks Brian Smile
It may be a bit later than the period you're interested in,. but this lengthy discussion of the use (or not!) of masked helmets by later Roman cataphracts might be interesting:

Face mask or face guard in late Roman period

Particularly, maybe, the idea often expressed in literature that masked men resembled 'living statues', and that they inspired 'terror' and were 'dreadful to behold', which might fit with your psychological angle.
Thanks Nathan! Especially for the point about masked men in literature. You wouldn't happen to have a reference for me as a starting point by chance?
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