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Face mask or face guard in late roman period
#16
Quote:Yes, I know, and that's the only occasion, and from the text of Ammianus it's also clear that this was meant to be quite the spectacle. Some parts of the description defy logic ("Thin circles of iron plates, fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs; so that whichever way they had to move their members, their garment fitted, so skilfully were the joinings made.") and seem to be sprouting from fantasy rather than an eye-witness account, which makes me doubt that the passage is 100% trustworthy.
So in fact we have no idea if this was a regular helmet, or perhaps added for dramatic purposes (I mean, even without a face mask, do cataphracts really look like metal statues??) or that we may see a Sassanid Persian or perhaps Ghassanid Syrian cavalry unit here? There's no telling.

Anyway, I'm not prepared to accept 'Late Roman masked cavalry helmets' as a common item, just on the basis of this single passage.
You seem to have overlooked Julian's panegyric to Constantius, already cited by Nathan, which gives you another example. I accept that there is a certain amount of rhetoric in Ammianus' description but there is no need to discount its basic accuracy. He describes Sassanian forces in similar terms (Amm. 24.2.10; 24.7.8; 25.1.12). I see no reason to doubt that the clibanarii mentioned by Ammianus were Roman. On the other hand, such units did not form an overly numerous element of the Late Roman army (only ten units are mentioned in the Notitia) and I don't think that there is any evidence to suggest that regular cavalry units were equipped with masked helmets (those cited in Julian's panegyric being almost certainly clibanarii), so I will go along with you in saying that they were not "a common item".
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
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#17
A face-mask has been found in the Great Palace of the Emperors in Constantinople (Osprey 247, page 11, fig I), but it is undated. Most of what has been found is dated to the early 5th century, but this mask could well be a later, 6th or even 7th century piece of equipment.

By the way, I do not find the descriptions of Ammianus´ cataphracts exceptionally fancifull, and he had seen such cavalry as they were used by Julian during his German and Persian campaigns. At least of the latter campaigns we are sure Ammianus has been an eye-witness. The circlets covering the body are an apt description of the segmented limb-protection used by oriental-style cavalry from the Scythians to the Ottomans.
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#18
Quote:Some parts of the description defy logic ("Thin circles of iron plates, fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs; so that whichever way they had to move their members, their garment fitted, so skilfully were the joinings made.") ...
Could you explain that Robert? To this philobarbaros this seems like a simple description of the banded armour known in Greek as he cheir and Latin as manica. I didn't know it was used so late, but I don't see anything fantastical or impossible about such armour.
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I have not checked this forum frequently since 2013, but I hope that these old posts have some value. I now have a blog on books, swords, and the curious things humans do with them.
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#19
Manica were certainly used in the fourth century and are depicted on the column of Arcadius and the Notitiia Dignitaum as well as an archaeological find in the north of England.
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#20
Quote:I do not find the descriptions of Ammianus´ cataphracts exceptionally fancifull, and he had seen such cavalry as they were used by Julian during his German and Persian campaigns.

I agree. The description of the masked cavalry looking like statues concerns the adventus of Constantius at Rome in 357; Ammianus was not there at the time, but he doubtless witnessed other such imperial pageants. John Mathews (Roman Empire of Ammianus, p.11) suggests that the description of Constantius' parade might have been inspired by the entry of Theodosius into the city in 389, during Ammianus' later residence there - very similar, according to the panegyricist Pacatus.

Either way, Ammianus would have seen clibanarii and cataphracts, both Roman and Persian. He may not have got close enough to examine their armour in detail, but he was aware of the effect of their appearance. Neither he nor Julian would have described these men as 'masked' if they were not, I'd say.

Julian's panegyric clearly refers to 'your cavalry', addressing the emperor, so he was describing Roman and not Persian horsemen.

We can't be sure about what the masks looked like, but I don't think we can doubt that something of the sort was worn by these particular heavy cavalrymen. I suspect it was precisely this 'inhuman' masked appearance that inspired 'terror' and made them 'dreadful to behold'.
Nathan Ross
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#21
Quote:Could you explain that Robert? To this philobarbaros this seems like a simple description of the banded armour known in Greek as he cheir and Latin as manica. I didn't know it was used so late, but I don't see anything fantastical or impossible about such armour.
Gladly.
I don't doubt the armour existed, but the description in that fragment reads 9to me at least) like an exaggeration. Especially the part pf "fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs" makes me think of the depictions of heavy cavalry on Trajan's Column, where man as well as horse are completely covered in scale armour.
I don't doubt the armour (far from it) but the description. Likewise, I don't expect anyone to take the cataphract on TC 100% seriously. There's a difference people. It's called exaggeration for the benefit of the public, and I make a call that this description of this parade does the same this, thereby ruling it out as evidence for Late Roman facemask helmets.
Robert Vermaat
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THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
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#22
Quote: You seem to have overlooked Julian's panegyric to Constantius, already cited by Nathan, which gives you another example.
Same problem, smae explanation: this might have been a theatrical one-off for the spectacular occasion. Hey, it's my explanation. Confusedmile:

Quote: I accept that there is a certain amount of rhetoric in Ammianus' description but there is no need to discount its basic accuracy. He describes Sassanian forces in similar terms (Amm. 24.2.10; 24.7.8; 25.1.12).
Indeed, he is describing Persians here, whom we know (from other descriptions as well as artwork to have used such face coverings. May I remind the court that we do not have such evidence barring this description of this particular parade. Wink

Quote: I see no reason to doubt that the clibanarii mentioned by Ammianus were Roman.
neither do I, but I hope that don't have to remind you that Roman cavalry was seldomly Roman-born but very often drawn from foreign peoples. For our period, that included Srmatians, Alans, Huns and Persians. So in fact 'Roman' clibanarii' could well have been not quite 'Roman'. I assumed this was known to the readers.

Quote:On the other hand, such units did not form an overly numerous element of the Late Roman army (only ten units are mentioned in the Notitia) and I don't think that there is any evidence to suggest that regular cavalry units were equipped with masked helmets (those cited in Julian's panegyric being almost certainly clibanarii), so I will go along with you in saying that they were not "a common item".
Thank you sir.
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#23
Quote: A face-mask has been found in the Great Palace of the Emperors in Constantinople (Osprey 247, page 11, fig I), but it is undated. Most of what has been found is dated to the early 5th century, but this mask could well be a later, 6th or even 7th century piece of equipment.
Exactly so.

Quote:By the way, I do not find the descriptions of Ammianus´ cataphracts exceptionally fancifull, and he had seen such cavalry as they were used by Julian during his German and Persian campaigns. At least of the latter campaigns we are sure Ammianus has been an eye-witness.
People, focus please!
Do I write that I "the descriptions of Ammianus´ cataphracts exceptionally fanciful"? I think not. I limited myself to this fragment, and even gave you an explanation that the description could be correct, but that the cavalry was 'added to' for theatrical purposes for this very parade (Constantius' only visit to Rome, if I recall correctly).

Give me some credit.
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#24
Quote:Manica were certainly used in the fourth century and are depicted on the column of Arcadius and the Notitiia Dignitaum as well as an archaeological find in the north of England.
Very correct, but I don't see anyone denying that? ;-)
Robert Vermaat
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FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#25
Quote:
Caballo post=330775 Wrote:Manica were certainly used in the fourth century and are depicted on the column of Arcadius and the Notitiia Dignitaum as well as an archaeological find in the north of England.
Very correct, but I don't see anyone denying that? ;-)

I can deny that. I don't want to know of any potential 4th c. gear I might have to purchase! ;-)
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#26
Quote:this might have been a theatrical one-off for the spectacular occasion. Hey, it's my explanation. Confusedmile:

Ah, but Ammianus was not a witness to this particular adventus! - therefore his description of the clibanarii must be generic and not individual. He's describing what they usually looked like...

;-)

However, you could argue that the masked helmets were 'parade' items, not worn in battle. Possibly true, although the descriptions in the panegyrics of these troops suggests there was something especially fearsome about their appearance. Plus (I think) the Persian cataphracts wore masks in combat, so it's not an impossible feat or anything...
Nathan Ross
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#27
Quote:Ah, but Ammianus was not a witness to this particular adventus! - therefore his description of the clibanarii must be generic and not individual. He's describing what they usually looked like...
Denied your honour. Wink I know that because Ammianus did probably witness more heavy Roman cavalry elsewhere, and certainly describes them in action elsewhere, but in those cases, facemasks are never mentioned.

Quote:However, you could argue that the masked helmets were 'parade' items, not worn in battle. Possibly true, although the descriptions in the panegyrics of these troops suggests there was something especially fearsome about their appearance. Plus (I think) the Persian cataphracts wore masks in combat, so it's not an impossible feat or anything...
I don't say it's impossible - indeed, Roman cavalry did wear facemasks in earlier periods, likewise do we know them from non-Roman cavalry, but the whole of the evidence for the use with Late Roman cavalry seems to rest on Constantius' parade into Rome and a copy of a vanished monument. :whistle:
Robert Vermaat
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FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
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#28
Quote:Plus (I think) the Persian cataphracts wore masks in combat, so it's not an impossible feat or anything...
Ammianus again (Amm. 25.1.12):

'Moreover, all the companies were clad in iron, and all parts of their bodies were covered with thick plates, so fitted that the stiff joints conformed with those of their limbs; and the forms of human faces were so skilfully fitted to their heads, that, since their entire bodies were plated with metal, arrows that fell upon them could lodge only where they could see a little through tiny openings fitted to the circle of the eye, or where through the tips of their noses they were able to get a little breath.' (Loeb translation)

And he did see them.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
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#29
Quote:
Nathan Ross post=330824 Wrote:Ah, but Ammianus was not a witness to this particular adventus! - therefore his description of the clibanarii must be generic and not individual. He's describing what they usually looked like...
Denied your honour. Wink I know that because Ammianus did probably witness more heavy Roman cavalry elsewhere, and certainly describes them in action elsewhere, but in those cases, facemasks are never mentioned.
But, as far as I recall, he was not describing their armour, so there was no occasion to mention the facemasks.


Quote:I don't say it's impossible - indeed, Roman cavalry did wear facemasks in earlier periods, likewise do we know them from non-Roman cavalry, but the whole of the evidence for the use with Late Roman cavalry seems to rest on Constantius' parade into Rome and a copy of a vanished monument. :whistle:
Plus Julian's panegyric and the whole 'statue' theme. It is my understanding that the Roman clibanarii were based on the Persian model and the Persian's wore facemasks. The sources, though few in number, seem fairly explicit; you can't reject them just because you don't like them.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
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#30
Quote:Ammianus did probably witness more heavy Roman cavalry elsewhere, and certainly describes them in action elsewhere, but in those cases, facemasks are never mentioned.

But why would he? Having provided such a rich and vivid description of the clibanarii in Book 16 of his history, he surely would not have needed to repeat himself? That would have been a major rhetorical faux-pas!


Quote:the whole of the evidence for the use with Late Roman cavalry seems to rest on Constantius' parade into Rome and a copy of a vanished monument.

And Julian's oration to Constantius, which is actually describing the victory over Magnentius at Mursa in 351.

Interestingly, Julian in his oration seems to suggest that Constantius invented this type of cavalry, and practiced in the armour himself:

"What emperor can one cite in the past who first planned and then reproduced so admirable a type of cavalry, and such accoutrements? First you trained yourself to wear them, and then you taught others how to use such weapons so that none could withstand them. This is a subject on which many have ventured to speak, but they have failed to do it justice, so much so that those who heard their description, and later had the good fortune to see for themselves, decided that their eyes must accept what their ears had refused to credit."

This is probably a bit of flattery, since clibanarii were used by Maxentius, and presumably Constantine too. Constantius may have developed the arm somewhat, perhaps.

Nevertheless, Julian clearly foresaw Robert's objections:

"All this I desire to represent in words as vividly as I can, but it is beyond my powers, and I can only ask those who wish to know more about this armour to see it with their own eyes, and not merely to listen to my description."

Sadly, such is not possible for us! Confusedmile:
Nathan Ross
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