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Full Version: Did the Romans have parade armour?
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Did the Romans have "parade" armour? That is a costume that looks like armour that was worn for ceremonial purposes but was not intended for use in battle.
I remember an example of a probable senior officer's helmet, with a bronze leafy crown element, that looked highly unlikely for field use.

The Romans did have parades, we know that for certain. Also the Romans produced objects, such as the labels carried in triumphs saying what the captives were etc, specifically for use in parades. Also they definitely changed the appearance of people for parade purposes - a triumphing general had his hands, arms and face painted/dyed red.
Perhaps it would be good to specify WHICH sort of Romans could or could not have had parade armor. In the thead from which this is a spinoff, the discussion revolved around the musculata, a garment shown and known to be worn by higher officers.
The average John L. Miles would in all likelyhood have had to burnish his metals till they shown, when he took part in any parade. Not much chance every dogsbody lugging around a set of display armor when on campain, bad enough to have to carry a full kit.
I think I remember reading someone who claimed that outdated armour in Roman art sometimes reflected objects which civilians owned for parades, theatre props, hunting, etc.

Quote:I remember an example of a probable senior officer's helmet, with a bronze leafy crown element, that looked highly unlikely for field use.
Although medieval and renaissance people were happy to wear fire-gilded armour, armour covered in gold leaf, elaborately etched armour, armour covered in the most expensive cloth available, etc. in battle and tournament. So one can't assume that just because something had expensive and fragile decoration, nobody would have worn it into battle.
Well let's look at this: how often did the Romans hold parades? Maybe they just kept an Armory full of PArade Armor for when they occurred?
Quote: Also they definitely changed the appearance of people for parade purposes - a triumphing general had his hands, arms and face painted/dyed red.
Possibly. We are not sure about that. Even WP recognizes this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_triumph
Oh Evan, please ......
Anyway, that raises another question, what kind of parades are we talking about anyway? Something to impress the hell out of the native Britons or a parade through Rome of the glorious victor? The whole things sound pretty far fetched to me. I am sure a legate or anyone up high would have a class better/fancier/showier/flashier armor to look very good sitting on a horse then the average John L. Miles, as that is what goes with the job, putting up a high profile in all aspects, so plenty of parades to show off at.
Ah right... not all the parades were held in Rome. Fail Confusedilly:
All soldiers like parades. They like showing off - or their generals like showing them off, so they have to dress appropriately.

Whether they kept special armour for these occassions will be a long debate, but perhps they put the people with the best kit in the front rank which would be noticed and hid the dodgy, battle-dented stuff wearers in the middle? Smile
Hahahaha! Naah, I think some bloodyminded optio would have them scrubbing their helmets and plates and mail with sand and leather till it all shone and THEN put them in the middle where no one would notice all the elbowgrease that had gone into their appearance.
Frankly, unless we have a written source indicating there was something like parade armor for the rank and file, the whole topic is a bust from the start IMHO. For bigwigs, who never got anywhere near the frontline if they could help it (well OK maybe Vespasianus), ANY armor could be classed as parade armor.

Also, if I wanted to impress the hell out of the locals, I would indeed shine the armor, polish the hasta, gladii, spatha & pugio, give the standards a good rub en march by 8 deep in step on hobnailed shoeware looking everything an army wants to look, a well oiled, well groomed, well equipted, menacing, not taking ANY shit warmachine which at the drop of a hat could turn very, very nasty indeed.
In Rome itself, armed (meaning armored as well) soldiers were forbidden to cross the pomerium, which meant most of the route of a triumphal parade. Soldiers who did take part were given new, white tunics, victory wreaths and such, but no weapons or armor. They might have been allowed to wear their military belts and I would expect shiny, new caligae.The only armor and weapons seen in a triumph were on the trophies carried on floats. The general himself wore a special toga and tunic (toga picta, tunica picta.
Outside of Rome, we just don't know.
Quote:Hahahaha! Naah, I think some bloodyminded optio would have them scrubbing their helmets and plates and mail with sand and leather till it all shone and THEN put them in the middle where no one would notice all the elbowgrease that had gone into their appearance.
Frankly, unless we have a written source indicating there was something like parade armor for the rank and file, the whole topic is a bust from the start IMHO. For bigwigs, who never got anywhere near the frontline if they could help it (well OK maybe Vespasianus), ANY armor could be classed as parade armor.

Also, if I wanted to impress the hell out of the locals, I would indeed shine the armor, polish the hasta, gladii, spatha & pugio, give the standards a good rub en march by 8 deep in step on hobnailed shoeware looking everything an army wants to look, a well oiled, well groomed, well equipted, menacing, not taking ANY shit warmachine which at the drop of a hat could turn very, very nasty indeed.

I can think of a few who fought in the frontlines at least once. Litorius died leading a cavalry charge at the Battle of Tolosa in 439.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head.
Looking at a diiferent martial culture, that of the Zulus. They had a festive uniform for each ibutho that was not worn in battle or on campaign. They also produced special shields for dancing. There is also plenty of European parade armour from Rennaisance times, entirely unsuited for battle, and often grotesque to modern eyes. It was produced only for visual effect.

Producing apparel, including armour where culturally appropriate, purely for ritual or parade purposes is a very widespread phenomenon. Why not the Romans too? A culture which would build ships merely to entertain people with mock naval battles would not baulk at creating some bling armour just for show.
Quote:I can think of a few who fought in the frontlines at least once. Litorius died leading a cavalry charge at the Battle of Tolosa in 439.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head.
I'm fairly sure Titus fought at the front as well during the wars against the Jews, and Julian would later die from battle injuries. The Barracks Emperors in between will almost certainly have had battle experience.

With regards to 'parade' armour, it seems the discussion runs parallel to the 'sports' armour worn by auxiliary cavalrymen during special displays of equestrian skill. The full face helms associated with these would have been impractical in battle so may have been used solely in demonstration roles, although I don't know what the final word on that is.

Decorated armour - tinned, embossed etc - can be sturdier and more resistant to corrosion than stock armour, so that's not necessarily a sign of display use only. However, the two shouldn't be held in opposition; a striking and unique armour design can have a powerful effect on an enemy and appear to emphasise your own skills and stature. That's a pretty powerful and significant material effect.

The same goes for 'decorated' weapons such as the Sword of Tiberius, which it is now being argued is more likely to have been owned by a low-ranking soldier than a senior officer, as it is tinned rather than silvered. Pugio scabbards, also decorated, have the added bonus of being carried on more occasions than the full military outfit.
Quote:Looking at a diiferent martial culture, that of the Zulus. They had a festive uniform for each ibutho that was not worn in battle or on campaign. They also produced special shields for dancing. There is also plenty of European parade armour from Rennaisance times, entirely unsuited for battle, and often grotesque to modern eyes. It was produced only for visual effect.

Producing apparel, including armour where culturally appropriate, purely for ritual or parade purposes is a very widespread phenomenon. Why not the Romans too? A culture which would build ships merely to entertain people with mock naval battles would not baulk at creating some bling armour just for show.
The Chinese also had ceremonial armour that was reserved for court, but I fail to see how it is relevant. It was empty speculation that derailed the last thread. I was hoping that we could stick to an evidence-based discussion here.

So no armour was worn during a triumphal procession and it was forbidden to wear armour in Rome. Is there any evidence at all for Roman parade armour?
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