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Praetorian shield sizes\shape in the early third century
#1
I am trying to research what shape or size of shield  the praetorians used in the early part of the 3rd century. Would the patterns on the shields still be of those used in earlier centuries or would these have started to change as well?

Any help or guidance would be appreciated .
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#2
Septimius Severus disbanded the old Guard at the end of the 2nd century and reconstituted them with legionaries from his Pannonian army. So the Praetorians of the early 3rd century would most likely have resembled legionaries, albeit perhaps with better quality kit (as they were paid better!). Herodian mentions them wearing scale armour at the battle of Antioch in AD218, but it's unclear whether this was particular to them or not.

Shields would therefore be of the legionary pattern of the day - either the traditional curved rectangle or the newer dished oval. The 'Parthian War' reliefs on the Arch of Severus in the Roman forum appears to show exclusively oval shields in use, although we know the rectangular ones did continue until at least mid century (at Dura Europos, for example).
Nathan Ross
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#3
Thank you for your reply. 

Given what you say that Severus disbanded the praetorians, would it be reasonable to say that they were stripped of their weapons and shields and reused by those Pannonian legionaries who constituted the newly reformed loyal guard, so to speak.

With this in mind it would not be unreasonable to say that the curved oval shields traditionally with bolts, stars and moon emblems would still be in use by the newly reformed guard.

I am of the mind that the Romans reused equipment rather than discard it and it would not be unreasonable to say that a unit or cohort could have a mix of equipment in use but I am not sure it would extend to different shield patterns like oval and rectangular mixed as I think this might of interfered with the operational combat effectiveness and tactics at the time.
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#4
(10-23-2016, 09:24 AM)Garys152 Wrote: would not be unreasonable to say that the curved oval shields traditionally with bolts, stars and moon emblems would still be in use by the newly reformed guard.

Nobody knows for sure, but I would think it unlikely. The 'republican' equipment of the early praetorians was apparently a feature of the earlier empire, Julio-Claudians in particular; by the third century this would have appeared quite antique. None of the depictions of later praetorians show anything like that, as far as I'm aware.

It was actually Dio (79.37) who mentions the scale armour, and he also mentions 'grooved' or 'gutter shaped' shields (the shape of Roman lead guttering, perhaps?), which might refer to the traditional rectangular scutum.

The 'stars and moons' emblem comes, as far as I recall, from a Domitianic frieze from Puteoli. The earlier praetorians also used the scorpion as an emblem, which appears as late as Trajan. There's very little evidence for later insignia, but Ross Cowan (in Osprey's Roman Guardsman 62 BC–AD 324) suggests the lion with a radiate crown that appears on some coins of Gallienus dedicated to the praetorian cohorts might have been one of their emblems in later times.
Nathan Ross
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#5
Thanks for that information.

With regards to the lion, moon and stars emblems as suggested in Ross Cowan Legionary 161-284 AD book I am assuming this is only a suggestion by the artist and author for the Praetoian shield emblems.  Could it be that the cohorts were not entirely uniform and there could have been a mixture of symbols similar to those suggested within a particular cohort?

I am assuming that both types of shields, rectangular and oval were still in use in the early part of the third century within the legions and praetorian cohorts and would not be out of place on the battlefield.
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#6
(10-24-2016, 07:45 PM)Garys152 Wrote: With regards to the lion, moon and stars emblems as suggested in Ross Cowan Legionary 161-284 AD book

Just to clarify, Ross Cowan suggested the 'lion of the sun' emblem for the third century Guard - the moon and stars etc design, and the scorpion, have long been known from imperial monuments from the principiate.


(10-24-2016, 07:45 PM)Garys152 Wrote: Could it be that the cohorts were not entirely uniform...?

Could be! And the same could be true for the legions, in fact...



(10-24-2016, 07:45 PM)Garys152 Wrote: I am assuming that both types of shields, rectangular and oval were still in use in the early part of the third century

Yes, although the oval shelds would not be the old republican pattern - they were probably either like the auxiliary shields of the earlier centuries (flat ovals with round bosses), or the wider and slightly dished shields that we see in the fourth century. The various shields found at Dura Europos would provide a good model for the types in use during the third century generally, I'd say.
Nathan Ross
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