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Macedonians used leather helmets?
#1
Hi, is anyone familiar with that passage from Cassius Dio, where Commodus (I think) reconstructed his 16,000man strong Macedonian phalanx, which he equipped according to all the standard equipment, which included among things a leather helmet...
Multi viri et feminae philosophiam antiquam conservant.

James S.
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#2
Commodus liked spectacular gladiatorial staff.
He would be a Hollywood director if he lived today.
The imperial whim does not reflect the appearence of the real armies that fought against the Romans.

Kind regaRDS
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#3
It simply occurred to me that they might know about period stuff more than re-enactors living thousands of years later.
Multi viri et feminae philosophiam antiquam conservant.

James S.
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#4
Quote:Hi, is anyone familiar with that passage from Cassius Dio, where Commodus (I think) reconstructed his 16,000man strong Macedonian phalanx, which he equipped according to all the standard equipment, which included among things a leather helmet...


Hi

I do not often stray into the Greek section but I am familiar with the passage you are interested in. The Emperor was Caracalla not Commodus and as he was a fan of Alexander he recreated a Macedonian Phalanax for his intended Persian campaign, well it had worked for Alexander so why not him too.

The description is by Cassius Dio who was at one time a military governor so he should know what he is talking about with regards to military equipment. Linen cuirass and leather helmet. It may not have been what the Macedonians actually wore but more like what 3rd century Romans thought they wore!

I did a reconstruction of a 'Phalangite' in Roman military Clothing 2 which was based on a contemporary mosaic figure from Tunisia which uncannily matches the description by Cassius. Art copying reality or reality copying art? Who knows but it was fun to do.
Graham.
"Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream" Edgar Allan Poe.

"Every brush-stroke is torn from my body" The Rebel, Tony Hancock.

"..I sweated in that damn dirty armor....TWENTY YEARS!', Charlton Heston, The Warlord.
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#5
But again, surely they must know more than we do, right? With about a 1000% increase in period sources?
Multi viri et feminae philosophiam antiquam conservant.

James S.
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#6
And with lack of archaeology,too... :roll:
Is he saying LINEN cuirasses,though? WHERE IS PAULUS :?: :lol:
Khairete
Giannis
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
[Image: -side-1.gif]
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#7
Don't get too excited, Giannis! Smile ......This fragment was mentioned in The Great Debate!

Cassius Dio LXVIII.7 ....Dio is describing Caraccalla's excesses and his obsession with all things Macedonian...
"...He organized a phalanx, composed entirely of Macedonians, sixteen thousand strong, named it "Alexander's phalanx," and equipped it with the arms that warriors had used in his day; these consisted of a helmet of raw ox-hide, a three-ply linen breastplate, a bronze shield, long pike, short spear, high boots, and sword."

Even we know (thanks to archaeology that did not exist in Caracalla's day!) that this picture is inaccurate in some respects....don't forget he is writing after 230 AD, some 500 years or so after Alexander, and not long after Pausanias famously tells us that linen is useless for war....

On topic, there is no evidence I know of to suggest that Macedonians ever wore Rawhide (not leather) helmets, other than the above quote...and of course Rawhide/leather helmets don't survive in the archaeological record too well.....
Macedonian grave finds from the Classical era have Hoplite equipment, but the helmets are of bronze, though leather/hide fragments of body armour, almost certainly Tube-and-Yoke corselets, are also present....
(BTW can somebody in Greece please get the excavation reports....Ioannis was going to, but he doesn't seem to be around any more...)

However, as well as Dio, it is generally accepted that many spanish 'helmets' were of rawhide, not to mention that in Latin there are two words for helmet, Cassis and Galea which latter originally meant 'leather/Hide helmet', so such things must have existed, at least in Rome's early days.....
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#8
This passage should not be dismissed so quickly or so easily. David Karunanithy, in his article from the January 2003 issue of Slingshot on this passage, examines the possible veracity of Caracalla's equipment being derived from actual sources relating to Alexander's army that we are not aware of.

Quote:Don't get too excited, Giannis! Smile ......This fragment was mentioned in The Great Debate!

Cassius Dio LXVIII.7 ....Dio is describing Caraccalla's excesses and his obsession with all things Macedonian...
"...He organized a phalanx, composed entirely of Macedonians, sixteen thousand strong, named it "Alexander's phalanx," and equipped it with the arms that warriors had used in his day; these consisted of a helmet of raw ox-hide, a three-ply linen breastplate, a bronze shield, long pike, short spear, high boots, and sword."

Even we know (thanks to archaeology that did not exist in Caracalla's day!) that this picture is inaccurate in some respects....don't forget he is writing after 230 AD, some 500 years or so after Alexander, and not long after Pausanias famously tells us that linen is useless for war....

What in the archaeological record contradicts this description? The shield, pike, boots, and sword are all well-attested, and there is some (ambiguous) evidence for the use of spears by phalangites. The remaining two items, ox-hide helmet and three-ply linen cuirass, cannot be found in the archaeological record, as you yourself stated.

On the helmets, as Karunanithy states in his article, there is no direct evidence for the infantry of Alexander's army campaign wearing metal helmets, and we cannot necessarily extrapolate from the aristocratic graves of Classical Macedonian hoplites. As he himself states, most of the 4th c. metallic helmets found in Macedonian graves seem to belong to officers or wealthier troops. It also doesn't seem unlikely that the kranos omoboeion of Dio could be referring to kausiai- note Antipater of Thessaloniki's mention of the kausia as "the Macedonian's comfortable gear" used as a "helmet in war" (Garland of Philip .41). As he further suggests, the lack of finds of metal helmets from Macedonian graves actually subtly supports this passage- if headgear made of perishable materials was widespread, it would certainly explain the small number of actual finds.

Quote:Macedonian grave finds from the Classical era have Hoplite equipment, but the helmets are of bronze, though leather/hide fragments of body armour, almost certainly Tube-and-Yoke corselets, are also present....
(BTW can somebody in Greece please get the excavation reports....Ioannis was going to, but he doesn't seem to be around any more...)

This is heading off-topic, but in the abovementioned article, Karunanithy mentions the following finds:

Quote:The assumption that a linen or leather material was used in the making of these cuirasses can be reinforced by fragmentary archaeological evidence from Macedonia itself. Hence remnants of a leather corselet with bronze trim were found on the site of ancient Pudna, originating from the 5th century BC; decorative attachments for a long disintegrated linen or leather cuirass found at Katerini, dated to 380-370/350-300 BC; further remains of leather armour from one of the cist-graves at Derveni also dated to the 4th century BC and fragments of a linen or leather cuirass discovered in the so-called "Prince's Tomb" at Vegina, perhaps dateable to c. 310
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#9
Noted something? Leather OR linen! Why do they say so? Because they are only ASSUMING where the attachments were from.No actual piece of leather or linen has been found in most of them. They said leather with bronze trim...is it possible they found only the bronze trim and they assume the rest was leather? In Vergina now the inscriprion under Philip's(whoever Philip that was) guilded armour,including some rings and such fittings, say "linothorax fittings" and I admit I don't think they have evidence for them being from a linothorax,but likewise many other finds that are inscribed as "leather armour fittings" are not justified either.
Khairete
Giannis
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
[Image: -side-1.gif]
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#10
Quote:Noted something? Leather OR linen! Why do they say so? Because they are only ASSUMING where the attachments were from.No actual piece of leather or linen has been found in most of them. They said leather with bronze trim...is it possible they found only the bronze trim and they assume the rest was leather? In Vergina now the inscriprion under Philip's(whoever Philip that was) guilded armour,including some rings and such fittings, say "linothorax fittings" and I admit I don't think they have evidence for them being from a linothorax,but likewise many other finds that are inscribed as "leather armour fittings" are not justified either.
Khairete
Giannis

I'm not holding these mentioned examples up as evidence of leather or linen, as I am just as wary of you when it comes to most archaeologists' identification of fittings as "linen/leather cuirass decoration." All I am saying is that the few more obscure finds mentioned by Karunanithy are worth investigating further to see if they in fact actually yielded traces of leather.

Related to this, Archibald's "The Odrysian Kingdom of Thrace" mentions a few finds of supposed fittings for organic armour and apparent finds of actual traces of leather- in particular:

1. A burial from Golyamata Mogila, Duvanli, apparently included a "leather helmet strengthened with a bronze neckguard, visor, and cheekpieces decorated in low-relief patterns including volutes." This seems a likely case of speculative attribution of fixtures to a leather backing of some sort, but otherwise indicates a helmet made of organic material.

2. A burial from Golyamata Mound (I think this is referring to the same burial above, but Archibald's writing is unclear) of various appliques which were thought to have been attached to a leather jerkin. Archibald notes that "no evidence of such an object [a leather backing] was found, despite the nearby remains of the leather helmet." This implies that the conditions in the tomb were such that at least a trace of the leather was expected to be preserved, and so it seems to indicate that some actual leather was found with the helmet.

3. A burial in a tumulus near Lasar Stanevo (Toros), Lovech was of a warrior who "wore a leather jerkin with a belt to which were fastened thongs for a scabbard, fixed with a bronze ring decorated in the native animal style with a reclining doe." The mention of thongs strongly implies that actual traces of leather were found here.

It's just a shame that we have to go by the vague mentions of authors, almost always mixed with speculation, to try and discern if organic material was actually found in archaeological excavations. It feels like examining ancient writings, but these works were often published only a few years ago!
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#11
Meinpanzer/Ruben wrote:
Quote:This passage should not be dismissed so quickly or so easily.
...I think you misinterpret what I actually said,Ruben. Sad I did not dismiss Dio's passage.....merely said "inaccurate in some respects" ( the 'high boots' for instance, and possibly 'bronze shields', as opposed to 'bronze-faced wooden shields') OTOH, mention of a 'short spear' rings true, for many, including me, believe that the Infantry carried longche for use outside pitched battles,instead of pikes
I also said;
Quote:However, as well as Dio, it is generally accepted that many spanish 'helmets' were of rawhide, not to mention that in Latin there are two words for helmet, Cassis and Galea which latter originally meant 'leather/Hide helmet', so such things must have existed, at least in Rome's early days.....

I have an open mind as to the existence or not of Rawhide helmets in Macedonia, as in other poor economies, and think that, despite the lack of evidence, they probably did exist, certainly among poorer soldiers - if not in Alexander's army, then possibly Philip's or earlier perhaps.... ( Philip's mines could pay for the latest thing in artillery, and he could afford to equip his army with bronze helmets for sure, if he chose to)

Mention of the Thracian 'leather' ( probably rawhide in reality) helmets has jogged my memory, and I have a vague recollection of reading in passing of a bronze rimmed Phrygian/Thracian(?) style helmet of'leather' or supposed 'leather' in IIRC, a Macedonian grave.......wish I could remember where/when... Sad
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#12
Giannis wrote:
Quote:Noted something? Leather OR linen! Why do they say so? Because they are only ASSUMING where the attachments were from.No actual piece of leather or linen has been found in most of them. They said leather with bronze trim...is it possible they found only the bronze trim and they assume the rest was leather? In Vergina now the inscriprion under Philip's(whoever Philip that was) guilded armour,including some rings and such fittings, say "linothorax fittings" and I admit I don't think they have evidence for them being from a linothorax,but likewise many other finds that are inscribed as "leather armour fittings" are not justified either.
.....whilst I agree with you and Ruben that when "leather or linen" is referred to, it means no organic remains have survived and the archaeologist is guessing, in other cases "leather fragments", or "leather corselet with bronze trim" or"remains of leather armour" sound fairly specific......while caution is called for, I think they often mean what they say !!
PLEASE can someone in Greece obtain the reports referred to in the Macedonian Leather Armour thread, then we can all, I suspect, have any doubts removed...... Smile D
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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#13
Quote:Meinpanzer/Ruben wrote:
Quote:This passage should not be dismissed so quickly or so easily.
...I think you misinterpret what I actually said,Ruben. Sad I did not dismiss Dio's passage.....merely said "inaccurate in some respects"

Sorry, I read your post as being a dismissal of the passage, which was incorrect. Nonetheless, I think you are wrong in calling the passage inaccurate, even in some respects, according to the archaeological record.

Quote:( the 'high boots' for instance,

The 'high boots' (krepides) mentioned are one of the three quintessentially Macedonian items of costume- the kausia, chlamys, and krepides. See, for instance, Plutarch Moralia 760a, where the ambitious Argive Phayllos, wishing to use his wife's charms to profit from Philip V during his stay at Argos in 209 BC, smuggled her into the king's quarters as one of the royal pages dressed in chlamys, krepides and kausia. Many of the stelae from Vergina show men wearing high boots, while some hunters on the hunting scene of the facade of the "Tomb of Philip" wear them as well.

Quote:and possibly 'bronze shields', as opposed to 'bronze-faced wooden shields')

When has an ancient author ever written "bronze-faced wooden shields"? References to shields from antiquity almost always refer to just the covering.

So, basically both the literary and archaeological records, insofar as the former can tell us about non-perishable materials and the latter about all materials in a limited manner, support this passage. This further lends credence to the argument that linen was used for cuirasses in Alexander's day.

Quote:Mention of the Thracian 'leather' ( probably rawhide in reality) helmets has jogged my memory, and I have a vague recollection of reading in passing of a bronze rimmed Phrygian/Thracian(?) style helmet of'leather' or supposed 'leather' in IIRC, a Macedonian grave.......wish I could remember where/when... Sad

Archibald mentions that the 'leather' helmet I referred to above '[recalls] the elaborate versions of the 'Thracian' helmet form depicted on mid-fifth-century Attic Red Figure.' Are you sure it wasn't this burial? If there was another parallel example, it would certainly be interesting to look into.
Ruben

He had with him the selfsame rifle you see with him now, all mounted in german silver and the name that he\'d give it set with silver wire under the checkpiece in latin: Et In Arcadia Ego. Common enough for a man to name his gun. His is the first and only ever I seen with an inscription from the classics. - Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
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#14
In one famous macedonian grave(that i shamefully can't remeber which one specifically is) there is that fresco of soldier wearing a linothorax(with pink shoulder ans upper chest covers and a medusa head in the front),a blue chiton,a red cloak wrapped around his waist,holding a spear(who's lenght is not depicted full,so it could be a sarissa?) and long boots.
Khairete
Giannis
Giannis K. Hoplite
a.k.a.:Giannis Kadoglou
a.k.a.:Thorax
[Image: -side-1.gif]
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#15
Mein Panzer/Ruben wrote:
Quote:The 'high boots' (krepides) mentioned are one of the three quintessentially Macedonian items of costume- the kausia, chlamys, and krepides. .......... Many of the stelae from Vergina show men wearing high boots, while some hunters on the hunting scene of the facade of the "Tomb of Philip" wear them as well.
But neither chlamys nor krepides are unique to Macedonia, being commonly worn throughout Greece at the time (though the kausia would seem to be)......nevertheless, I would agree with you that Plutarch may be referring to a type of Macedonian civilian 'national costume', and this possibly influenced Caraccalla's ideas.....

Certainly, the tomb paintings such as the 3 C BC Bella tumulus (which Giannis refers to) and the late 4 C BC Lefkadia tomb show krepides, but these are clearly High-ranking Officers (judging by 'purple' trimmed/'purple' cloaks and 'purple' trimmed armour) - and are mostly later than Alexander's day(like Plutarch's reference).If we look at more contemporary ( to Alexander's day) depictions, we don't see krepides (which you might expect to be costly aristocratic items), such as the so-called 'Alexander sarcophagus', where bare feet (possibly with painted-on footwear) is the norm, but best of all is the late 4 C Agios Athanasios tomb painting showing what are most likely Macedonian ( some wear kausias!) rank-and-file soldiers (no less than 8 of them!), none of whom wear krepides, all being shown in open sandals....

Of course, with so few pieces of evidence, one must not be pedantic about such things, and needless to say more/fresh evidence ( like that wonderful Agios Athanasius painting) could alter our perceptions.....

Quote:When has an ancient author ever written "bronze-faced wooden shields"? References to shields from antiquity almost always refer to just the covering
Well, I could point to Polybius' famous description of the 'scutum' as an example :wink: , but in general you are right.....certainly when it comes to classical greek sources....and that is what makes me think that Caracalla, actually equipped his Phalanx with 'bronze' shields, as described by Dio, possibly in the mistaken belief that they were all bronze.
OTOH one might have thought that some real Macedonian shields ought to have still been around in temples in Caracalla's day....so you may well be right, and that the shields carried were accurate replicas.Impossible to know, alas! Sad

Quote:Archibald mentions that the 'leather' helmet I referred to above '[recalls] the elaborate versions of the 'Thracian' helmet form depicted on mid-fifth-century Attic Red Figure.' Are you sure it wasn't this burial? If there was another parallel example, it would certainly be interesting to look into.
....hhh...mmm both being 'Thracian' sounds like too much of a co-incidence, but the mention I saw (and it was no more than that) did say 'Macedonian' tomb, I'm sure, but that could be a mis-description.....

P.S. I sent you a PM a few days ago, did you get it O.K ?
"dulce et decorum est pro patria mori " - Horace, ODES
(It is a sweet and proper thing to die for ones country)

"No son-of-a-bitch ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country" -GeorgeC Scott as General George S. Patton
Paullus Scipio/Paul McDonnell-Staff
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