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Aspis Construction Method
#1
Forgive me if this has already been discussed. I did a few searches and couldn't quite find what I was looking for...

But my next project I'm researching is how to make an aspis, and I wanted to construct it out of materials that closely replicate what the ancients would have used and also construct the shield in a similar 'ancient' method.

I do not want to layer circles of plywood of increasing size, glue them together, and then sand the edges down to make a bowl. What I am interested in is how the Greeks would have made shields thousands of years before modern tools and machinery.

I have read about a couple extant shields with a bit of wood remaining, but I can't seem find a ton of information on them. Does anyone have any suggestions? Any insight would be appreciated!

Thank you!
Scott B.
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#2
They were turned on a lathe, reinforced across the grain on the front with thin wooden laths, and reinforced on the back with leather.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#3
http://www.romanarmytalk.com/thread-12755.html
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#4
(07-06-2016, 12:31 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: They were turned on a lathe, reinforced across the grain on the front with thin wooden laths, and reinforced on the back with leather.

What is the evidence for this?
Scott B.
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#5
A good place to start would be the Greek name for shield maker, "torneutoluraspidopêgos". It roughly translates as "one who makes lyres and shields by turning".
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#6
(07-06-2016, 12:31 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: They were turned on a lathe, reinforced across the grain on the front with thin wooden laths, and reinforced on the back with leather.

(07-06-2016, 11:53 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: A good place to start would be the Greek name for shield maker, "torneutoluraspidopêgos". It roughly translates as "one who makes lyres and shields by turning".

Ok, where to go next? What ancient text is this name sourced from? Is there anything from the ancient sources at all that mentions anything about this?
Scott B.
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#7
(07-07-2016, 06:02 PM)rocktupac Wrote:
(07-06-2016, 12:31 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: They were turned on a lathe, reinforced across the grain on the front with thin wooden laths, and reinforced on the back with leather.

(07-06-2016, 11:53 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: A good place to start would be the Greek name for shield maker, "torneutoluraspidopêgos". It roughly translates as "one who makes lyres and shields by turning".

Ok, where to go next? What ancient text is this name sourced from? Is there anything from the ancient sources at all that mentions anything about this?

Aristophanes, The Birds (line 491)
Kis György Márk (by western standards, György Márk Kis)

Legio Leonum Valentiniani

http://www.legioleonum.hu
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#8
(07-06-2016, 12:31 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: They were turned on a lathe, reinforced across the grain on the front with thin wooden laths, and reinforced on the back with leather.

(07-07-2016, 08:48 PM)M. Val. Naso Wrote:
(07-07-2016, 06:02 PM)rocktupac Wrote:
(07-06-2016, 12:31 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: They were turned on a lathe, reinforced across the grain on the front with thin wooden laths, and reinforced on the back with leather.

(07-06-2016, 11:53 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: A good place to start would be the Greek name for shield maker, "torneutoluraspidopêgos". It roughly translates as "one who makes lyres and shields by turning".

Ok, where to go next? What ancient text is this name sourced from? Is there anything from the ancient sources at all that mentions anything about this?

Aristophanes, The Birds (line 491)

Thank you! That was helpful. According to the Greek from LSJ (and used in many English translations), the term used by Aristophanes translates to "lyre-turner and shield-maker." Even the word following 'aspis' simply means "to make fast," "to be solid," "to fasten together/construct/build," "to make solid/stiff/hard." So to me, and seemingly everyone else, this isn't an example of shields being 'turned'. This is pretty flimsy evidence for any method of construction for an aspis.

Any other help would be appreciated!
Scott B.
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#9
Liddell gives τορνεύω as "working on a lathe". It does surface several times in the corpus, notably Plato (finely turned ideas), Euripides (whirl), Plato again (turner as a profession), Plato yet again (something wrought into a round shape), and Plato again (carving out something), and many more.
Kis György Márk (by western standards, György Márk Kis)

Legio Leonum Valentiniani

http://www.legioleonum.hu
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#10
(07-06-2016, 12:31 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: They were turned on a lathe, reinforced across the grain on the front with thin wooden laths, and reinforced on the back with leather.

(07-07-2016, 09:59 PM)M. Val. Naso Wrote: Liddell gives τορνεύω as "working on a lathe". It does surface several times in the corpus, notably Plato (finely turned ideas), Euripides (whirl), Plato again (turner as a profession), Plato yet again (something wrought into a round shape), and Plato again (carving out something), and many more.

But even LSJ lists the word that Aristophanes uses as 'lyre-turner and shield-maker', so why would someone infer any different?
Scott B.
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#11
(07-07-2016, 10:10 PM)rocktupac Wrote:
(07-07-2016, 09:59 PM)M. Val. Naso Wrote: Liddell gives τορνεύω as "working on a lathe". It does surface several times in the corpus, notably Plato (finely turned ideas), Euripides (whirl), Plato again (turner as a profession), Plato yet again (something wrought into a round shape), and Plato again (carving out something), and many more.

But even LSJ lists the word that Aristophanes uses as 'lyre-turner and shield-maker', so why would someone infer any different?

Does the τορνεύω element not govern the two elements that follow, so that a literal translation would be 'turned-on-a-lathe lyre-and-shield maker'? Although I am not entirely sure how you would turn a lyre on a lathe.
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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#12
I imagine that a one-piece lyre frame could be at least partly turned to help achieve symmetry, after being roughly sawn from a flat piece of wood.

I know jack squat about ancient Greek lyres, of course, but I could see it.
Dan D'Silva

Far beyond the rising sun
I ride the winds of fate
Prepared to go where my heart belongs,
Back to the past again.

--  Gamma Ray

Well, I'm tough, rough, ready and I'm able
To pick myself up from under this table...

--  Thin Lizzy

Join the Horde! - http://xerxesmillion.blogspot.com/
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#13
(07-06-2016, 12:31 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: They were turned on a lathe, reinforced across the grain on the front with thin wooden laths, and reinforced on the back with leather.

(07-07-2016, 11:15 PM)Renatus Wrote:
(07-07-2016, 10:10 PM)rocktupac Wrote:
(07-07-2016, 09:59 PM)M. Val. Naso Wrote: Liddell gives τορνεύω as "working on a lathe". It does surface several times in the corpus, notably Plato (finely turned ideas), Euripides (whirl), Plato again (turner as a profession), Plato yet again (something wrought into a round shape), and Plato again (carving out something), and many more.

But even LSJ lists the word that Aristophanes uses as 'lyre-turner and shield-maker', so why would someone infer any different?

Does the τορνεύω element not govern the two elements that follow, so that a literal translation would be 'turned-on-a-lathe lyre-and-shield maker'? Although I am not entirely sure how you would turn a lyre on a lathe.

τορνεύω can mean "to work with a lathe-chisel; to turn neatly; to round off" according to LSJ. Taking the literal "lathe-chisel" meaning, it does not imply on a lathe; or we could read it as someone who 'rounds off' a lyre, and this would make sense considering a lyre is round/semi-circular. I think the extremely literal translation would be something like "lyre-rounder and shield-constructor/fastener." Again, there is no outside evidence from any other source (that I can find) that suggests an ancient lathe.
Scott B.
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#14
A large wooden bowl was found at Mycenae (1200BC) that has a plugged central hole and tool marks consistent with being turned on a lathe. A partial wooden bowl found at Cornetto (Etruscan, 700BC) has the same indicators of being turned on a lathe. I think there was one found in Bavaria dating to the 6-7th C BC as well. There is enough evidence to conclude that the Greeks had wood turning lathes during the time in question and had been using them for a long time.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#15
(07-06-2016, 12:31 PM)Dan Howard Wrote: They were turned on a lathe, reinforced across the grain on the front with thin wooden laths, and reinforced on the back with leather.

(07-08-2016, 12:41 AM)Dan Howard Wrote: A large wooden bowl was found at Mycenae (1200BC) that has a plugged central hole and tool marks consistent with being turned on a lathe. A partial wooden bowl found at Cornetto (Etruscan, 700BC) has the same indicators of being turned on a lathe. I think there was one found in Bavaria dating to the 6-7th C BC as well. There is enough evidence to conclude that the Greeks had wood turning lathes during the time in question and had been using them for a long time.

According to an article published in the MIT Press, the piece from Mycenae does not show signs of turning or grooves. Although, this does not mean it wasn't in fact turned. The "Tomb of the Warrior" pieces from Cornetto were a mix of bowls and vessels; then later in Etruscan history we have turned hairpins, beads, and wooden platters. Two flat dishes were uncovered in Asia Minor from the 7th c. BCE, and bowls and boxes have been found in the Crimea from the 5th c. BCE. The bowl/goblet from Bavaria was found with very primitive tools along with it. These are all very reasonably sized bowls or serving ware.

A block of wood (poplar or willow) that was required for a smallish-sized aspis would have been roughly 375-400 pounds. That's a conservative estimate. This would be a monumental feat to turn on a lathe -- powered manually either by a strap, bow, or pole lathe -- 2,500 years ago. Once again, there is no evidence for an aspis being turned by a lathe in the ancient world.
Scott B.
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