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Roman shield
#1
Hey guys,

My fraternity hosts something called Medieval Massacre, where basically everyone takes cardboard and duct tape and make weapons and armor and shields and, frankly, beat the crap out of each other. It's loads of fun and actually a lot of people take it seriously and have loads of fun with it. Why that brings me here is this: I watch Rome on HBO and saw this fight and liked the fighting style - especially the shield. I was wondering if you guys could enlighten me (though I know how much you all hate that series) as to what shield that is.

Also, just a couple of questions if you know... What is the point of a curved shield? I thought it was to help deflect swords but I was reading some sites and they said it was to help defend the side of the body. If you have any tips/sites on ancient shields/armor/weapons I'd greatly appreciate them as well.

Thanks!
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#2
Ave!

Your Massacre sounds like a hoot! If you mean the little rectangular shields in that scene, they are roughly the same size as those used by "Thracian" style gladiators (though everything else in that scene is pretty much fantasy). But of course the real ones would generally be brightly painted wood, not brown plastic. I'm not sure if there is a specific word for that small rectangular shield, though the Latin word for shield in general is "scutum". Curved shields do tend to cover the body a little better, and there can be a certain amount of weapon deflection. They are also a little easier to hold than a flat shield, since the curvature puts much of the weight *behind* the handle, meaning the shield leans back against the arm rather than tipping forwards awkwardly (known as "tabling"). Not as much of an issue with a small shield, but the Roman military scutum was larger. Here's my Legio XX page on shields:

http://www.larp.com/legioxx/scutum.html

Have fun!

Matthew
Matthew Amt (Quintus)
Legio XX, USA
<a class="postlink" href="http://www.larp.com/legioxx/">http://www.larp.com/legioxx/
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#3
Would that style of combat work, though?
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#4
Well, it's a typical Hollywood fantasy brawl! Standing around waiting for a guy sitting down to take away your weapons and kill you isn't really a fighting style. You can't chop off a head with a shield rim, unless it's moving at about the speed of sound. And the whole point of having a shield is to keep it between your enemy's weapon and your tender flesh--Don't wave it around in the classic "kill me" pose. Granted, I wasn't able to watch the whole clip, it was just too agonizing (not just because my Net connection makes it more like a slideshow!), but what I saw wasn't even as realistic as most of the fights in Conan the Barbarian.

Sorry about that! Google up some videos of riot police fighting mobs if you want more realism. Well, in all fairness, there should be some videos around of Roman reenactment groups doing combat of various sorts, and a lot of that is good stuff.

Enjoy the movies and miniseries if you like! Just don't confuse them with reality, in ANY way.

Vale,

Matthew
Matthew Amt (Quintus)
Legio XX, USA
<a class="postlink" href="http://www.larp.com/legioxx/">http://www.larp.com/legioxx/
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#5
Quote: You can't chop off a head with a shield rim, unless it's moving at about the speed of sound.

Not wholey untrue! i'm sure some gladiators would have had modified equipment, i believe in Ben Kanes novels the gaul has a modified scuta with sharpened edges to use the shield in such a fashion, your bog standard legionaries no, but gladiators yes! but with a sharpened enough shield and enough force you might not get the head clean off, but certainly do a fair amount of damage!

But yeh your right, hollywood LOOOVE to dramatise their fight scenes!
Lucius Duccius Rufinus Aka Kevin Rhynas.

"Fortes fortuna adiuvat".
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#6
Quote:Not wholey untrue! i'm sure some gladiators would have had modified equipment, i believe in Ben Kanes novels the gaul has a modified scuta with sharpened edges to use the shield in such a fashion, your bog standard legionaries no, but gladiators yes! but with a sharpened enough shield and enough force you might not get the head clean off, but certainly do a fair amount of damage!

Errrrmmm. Just because something is in a novel, it doesn´t mean that it is historically correct. Paper is patient.
Christian K.

No reconstruendum => No reconstruction.

Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.

LEGIO XIII GEMINA

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#7
Quote:
Quote:Not wholey untrue! i'm sure some gladiators would have had modified equipment, i believe in Ben Kanes novels the gaul has a modified scuta with sharpened edges to use the shield in such a fashion, your bog standard legionaries no, but gladiators yes! but with a sharpened enough shield and enough force you might not get the head clean off, but certainly do a fair amount of damage!

Errrrmmm. Just because something is in a novel, it doesn´t mean that it is historically correct. Paper is patient.

I realise that ! :twisted: but the idea is sound enough, i'm not saying gladiators DID have those, but you can well imagine established gladiators having little nasty modifications to their equipment! Smile
Lucius Duccius Rufinus Aka Kevin Rhynas.

"Fortes fortuna adiuvat".
[url:10c24pem]http://www.ninthlegion.co.uk[/url]
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#8
No, I don´t think so. Gladiators did not have their own equipment, to start with. And modifications were not possible, since they were strictly forbidden.
Christian K.

No reconstruendum => No reconstruction.

Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.

LEGIO XIII GEMINA

[Image: BannerAER-1-1.jpg]
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#9
Quote:No, I don´t think so. Gladiators did not have their own equipment, to start with. And modifications were not possible, since they were strictly forbidden.

Really? even famous gladiators? you hear of gladiators climbing to great heights in popularity and gather great amounts of denarii.

and just because things were forbidden does not mean it wouldnt have happened, even in modern times people still try to get the "edge" be it with equipment, drugs, etc... I guess sometimes my imagination does run away with me...
Lucius Duccius Rufinus Aka Kevin Rhynas.

"Fortes fortuna adiuvat".
[url:10c24pem]http://www.ninthlegion.co.uk[/url]
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#10
Sure it may have happened, but AFAIK there is no evidence to support it... Smile
Christian K.

No reconstruendum => No reconstruction.

Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.

LEGIO XIII GEMINA

[Image: BannerAER-1-1.jpg]
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#11
I would tend to go with Christian on this.

It is the second time I've seen this idea used in a novel, one a novel about gladiators who actually used a deliberately sharpened scutum edge, and another where the edge of a scutum was used to behead an enemy by a Legionary/auxiliary, but no mention of the edge being sharpened. The very nature of scutum edging makes this a bit of a flight of fancy to be sure, usually of a rounded nature I believe, on the whole.I believe. Smile And of no little danger to the soldier carrying it too.
Visne partem mei capere? Comminus agamus! * Me semper rogo, Quid faceret Iulius Caesar? * Confidence is a good thing! Overconfidence is too much of a good thing.
[b]Legio XIIII GMV. (Q. Magivs)RMRS Remember Atuatuca! Vengence will be ours!
Titus Flavius Germanus
Batavian Coh I
Byron Angel
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#12
On the matter of gladiators and their ability to rise to the top of the heap etc, I think a couple of things should be remembered.

Firstly, gladiators were highly trained and thus expensive to hire out for shows, meaning that it would have been in very few people's interests to have them killed, and in fact a close study of some surviving equipment shows that it was well designed to protect the wearer very well, whilst at the same time allowing for exciting visual spectacle. Most of those killed in the arena would have been convicted criminals, some of whom might have been faked up as pretend gladiators in order to be dispatched by actual gladiators. Actual gladiator deaths were probably uncommon.

Secondly, although we know that gladiators could arrange for people to bet on them and collect the winnings on their behalves, enabling some to grow wealthy enough that they could buy their freedom and set up their own gladiator schools, all of the gladiators at the gladiator barracks in Pompeii, presumably including any who were doing well at saving up for better things, were chained up for the night and were unable to escape the effects of the eruption after whoever had chained them up for the night failed to unchain them to let them escape, showing that although they were highly trained and expensive entertainers, they were definitely not free to do as they pleased.

Crispvs
Who is called \'\'Paul\'\' by no-one other than his wife, parents and brothers. :!: <img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_exclaim.gif" alt=":!:" title="Exclamation" />:!:

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#13
Quote:On the matter of gladiators and their ability to rise to the top of the heap etc, I think a couple of things should be remembered.

Firstly, gladiators were highly trained and thus expensive to hire out for shows, meaning that it would have been in very few people's interests to have them killed, and in fact a close study of some surviving equipment shows that it was well designed to protect the wearer very well, whilst at the same time allowing for exciting visual spectacle. Most of those killed in the arena would have been convicted criminals, some of whom might have been faked up as pretend gladiators in order to be dispatched by actual gladiators. Actual gladiator deaths were probably uncommon.

Secondly, although we know that gladiators could arrange for people to bet on them and collect the winnings on their behalves, enabling some to grow wealthy enough that they could buy their freedom and set up their own gladiator schools, all of the gladiators at the gladiator barracks in Pompeii, presumably including any who were doing well at saving up for better things, were chained up for the night and were unable to escape the effects of the eruption after whoever had chained them up for the night failed to unchain them to let them escape, showing that although they were highly trained and expensive entertainers, they were definitely not free to do as they pleased.

Crispvs

Ok i understand your first point, and i know that alot of gladiators wouldnt have been killed in the arena's unlike the hollywoodized thumbs up / thumbs down banter.... however my point was more that like boxers and athletes of today they still wanted to WIN! which means they would have modified their equipment i'm sure to some extent, extra armour, different materials to make their swords lighter, better balanced, extra / less protection depending if they wanted to be heavily armoured or agile, i'm not saying ALL gladiators would have had this privilage, but surely the "star" gladiators of most gladiator schools would have had access to equipment a new gladiator would not??

and yes again point taken about the pompiian evidence Smile
Lucius Duccius Rufinus Aka Kevin Rhynas.

"Fortes fortuna adiuvat".
[url:10c24pem]http://www.ninthlegion.co.uk[/url]
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#14
In terms of modifiying gear, as has been mentioned, it's unlikely. Gladiators were trained in very specific styles and using specific equipment for that style (ie Thracian, Murmulo, Hoplomachus ~ wearing specific pieces of armor like a helmet, a specific sword/dagger, shield, et cetera) - So to have a gladiator modify his gear, would essentially change what kind of fighter/style he was supposed to be. It would be like having a Football player wearing a Lacrosse helmet instead of a football helmet.

(A Retiarius (net & trident guy) wearing a lot of body armor or a helmet is no longer a Retiarius. If he was fighting with a regular spear instead of a trident because he doesn't like a trident, he's no longer the 'standard' Retiarius. If he was to wear a different piece of gear than is "standard" of his style, the audience may not visually recognize him as a Retiarius (remember the audience is up in the stands, for those of us who are near-sighted...)

So much is the same for modern sport - The comment that a fighter wants to win is true, but that doesn't mean he can just modify his gear - Boxers have to have their gloves inspected for modifications, yes? If they were modified they would be against the rules and standards, or even if they were not the correct weight - would be disqualified. Ice Hockey you have the 'rule' where a blade cannot be curved to a certain degree, as that would give an advantage to the shot - but there are allowances for you to tape up your stick (and many players are religious/superstitious about such things) - so in terms of modifying, perhaps to the extent of having the gear properly fitted and comfortable is probably what's allowed, but making changes or adding things (spiked) to the gear was probably not allowed.

As for the fighting seen in the Rome clip - at the begining, where Pullo and the Gladiator are coming up and over their shields thrusting down at each other - that is seen in a number of Roman sculpture and art both of Soldiers and Gladiators. It can be very fast and damn brutal, as it targets the face, neck, chest. At one point you see Pullo do the 'classic' Legionary attack, shoving with the shield and pushing upwards to deflect the blow, while thrusting right into the belly.

Using the shields to smash/check each other is very probable - using the boss/umbo and even the whole shield as a giant brass knuckle, punching and shoving - is certainly possible and quite effective. Using the edge of the shield to knock down a swordblow, or the other's shield, or hitting the oponent with the edge, like a hit to the face, chest, arm, groin - all very possible and very nasty.

As that fight scene goes on, it gets more and more drama-hollywood. You do see some elements of what would be 'traditional' Gladiatorial gear, such as the helmets and arm/shoulder guards, but the big leather 'wrestling' belts and spiked-skull mace...Nope. The producers apparently were on the notion that the 'classic' gladiatorial styles and games as we know and love did not really exist as we currently see it, until Vespasian and the Colosseum. So they were trying to make this 'look' like an earlier, raw, unprofessional, back-alley street fight sort of feel for effect.

The idea of lobbing off limbs and heads I'm sure is as much as Hollywood as it is reference to the gladius hispanesis, where allegedly (Spanish?? I forget) were shocked and horrified at the severed limbs and severe gashes inflicted from that sword by the Romans.

The fight of Verenus and Spiked-Skull-Mace Guy was just silly. All built up from dramatic effect. I seriously doubt Verenus would have been able to really resist that downwards smash of that mace, while holding a (2-edged?) sword in both hands, overhead. And of course, any -real- fight the Gladiator would have just cracked that mace across Verenus' head and smashed it to bits in the first second of that fight. But then, we'd lose our beloved lead character and the fight would have been over in a minute. Boooorrrrinng! Big Grin
Andy Volpe - aka - Titus Vulpius Dominicus
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Legio III Cyrenaica ~ New England U.S.
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Higgins Armory Museum 1931-2013 (worked there 2001-2013)
Collection moved to Worcester Art Museum
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#15
Quote:(Spanish?? I forget)
Greek :-) )
Christian K.

No reconstruendum => No reconstruction.

Ut desint vires, tamen est laudanda voluntas.

LEGIO XIII GEMINA

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