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Sources about the Roxolani/ leather armour
#1
What are the main sources about Roxolanian military tactics and equipment?
I found randomly this quote in Tacitus Historiae  1, 79 that says: " ferreis lamminis aut praeduro corio consertum" ("made of iron plates or hardened leather") about the Roxolani cataphracts' armours and I was curious if anyone of you could give me other sources. Do we have any archeological findings or artworks about it? In the Trajan Column for exemple the Roxolani seem to wear only iron scale armour as far as I have seen, but then again I didn't see everything :-)

In particular Tacitus in that same text, in the following lines, talks about how the armour was restricting the movement of the Roxolani in particular conditions (mud/rough terrain) and generally beeing a disadvantage against the more flexible Roman soldiers. But that wouldn't really be a thing for a "leather armour", wouldn't it? That wouldn't slow them down enough to justify Tacitus' phrases. 

So, did they really use hardened leather for heavy cavalry units? Or is Tacitus exaggerating it?
Giovanni Brambillasca

Non indignemur mortalia corpora solvi:
  cernimus exemplis oppida posse mori.

Rutilius Namatianus, De Reditu Suo,  Liber I, 413-414

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#2
That passage doesn't say anything about hardened leather. A better translation would be something like "plates of iron or very tough hides". The vast majority of armour made from animal skins all over the world was rawhide, not leather. The vast majority of armour made from hide was scale armour. Leather/rawhide armour weighs MORE than metal armour. The whole point of going to the trouble and expense of using metal to make armour is that it was the lightest material available.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#3
Oh, yes, you are right, sorry but my Latin translation skills are really bad! That makes more sense now!  Thank you for the input!
Giovanni Brambillasca

Non indignemur mortalia corpora solvi:
  cernimus exemplis oppida posse mori.

Rutilius Namatianus, De Reditu Suo,  Liber I, 413-414

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#4
(01-30-2017, 07:43 AM)Dan Howard Wrote: That passage doesn't say anything about hardened leather.

Doesn't praeduro corio literally mean 'hardened leather'? Rawhide would be corio crudo.

You could interpret the phrase as a reference to hide, and you would probably be right, but Tacitus isn't specific in the text.

Pausanius and Ammianus also mention Sarmatian armour made from horses' hooves. That may have been a myth, or a literary trope of some sort, but we perhaps shouldn't be too exclusive of other possibilities.
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#5
(01-30-2017, 03:08 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote:
(01-30-2017, 07:43 AM)Dan Howard Wrote: That passage doesn't say anything about hardened leather.

Doesn't praeduro corio literally mean 'hardened leather'? Rawhide would be corio crudo.
 I don't think that Tacitus would have cared about specifying the difference between "leather" and "rawhide" or "bone/hoof scales". Howard is right, if you contextualize the concept of "praeduro corio"  in regards with the successive sentences in which Tacitus asserts that these armours made the Roxolani slow and clumsy in the mud, that can only mean that it was heavy lamellar rawhide and not simple leather.
Giovanni Brambillasca

Non indignemur mortalia corpora solvi:
  cernimus exemplis oppida posse mori.

Rutilius Namatianus, De Reditu Suo,  Liber I, 413-414

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#6
(01-30-2017, 01:34 AM)thucydides93 Wrote: What are the main sources about Roxolanian military tactics and equipment?
I found randomly this quote in Tacitus Historiae  1, 79 that says: " ferreis lamminis aut praeduro corio consertum" ("made of iron plates or hardened leather") about the Roxolani cataphracts' armours and I was curious... Do we have any archeological findings or artworks about it? In the Trajan Column for exemple the Roxolani seem to wear only iron scale armour as far as I have seen, but then again I didn't see everything :-)

In particular Tacitus in that same text, in the following lines, talks about how the armour was restricting the movement of the Roxolani in particular conditions (mud/rough terrain) and generally beeing a disadvantage against the more flexible Roman soldiers.

Tacitus was talking about an ice-battle on the Danube, whereas the Romans (in lighter armor and on foot) had an advantage over the heavy-armored Roxolani (whose horses were slipping and riders were toppled from them). My feeling on "leather armor" and "horse-hoof armor" of Tacitus? It was more of an alliteration than fact and may have come from Herodotus.

The illustrations on Trajan's Column are stylized and do not show Roxolani armor accurately. The Roxolani were heavy horse, cataphracts, and according to Trogus they extended from the Kushan/Yuezhi elite, then based in Bactria. Your best sources are grave goods published in Aleksander Simonenko's Sarmatian Riders of the North Pontic Region, available in PDF with an English addendum in the later pages. Harder to find is his, Chinese and East Asian Elements in Sarmatian Culture (2001).

Basically, the Roxolani swords and armor mentioned by Tacitus can be traced back to Han Chinese origin. So far, the westernmost find is a secondary grave of a Roxolani general in Chatalka, Bulgaria, which included a Type 1 Early Sarmatian sword with a Han jade scabbard slide, and a full set of armor (the latter not described). Simonenko lists heavy armor as a mixed combination of lamellar and scale. It is heavy but not restrictive (my avatar shows me wearing it); and when you fall from your horse you have to roll over and push yourself up before you can stand upright-- precisely as Tacitus described it.


   
Here is a photo of the Chatalka sword and jade scabbard slide (carved with a mother and baby "chilong").

   
And here we have the closest rendition of Roxolani lamellar and scale armor from a frieze in Khalchayan, Bactria.

I hope this clears up a few questions. Big Grin
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#7
I have 2 types one a leather lamellar which has 4mm thick scales and is tanned not rawhide and is less weight than my segmenta. Where as my horn scale lorica weighs as much as my short hamata but is very rigged.
Regards Brennivs Big Grin
Woe Ye The Vanquished
                     Brennvs 390 BC
When you have all this why do you envy our mud huts
                     Caratacvs
Centvrio Brennivs COH I Dacorivm (Roma Antiqvia)
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#8
(01-30-2017, 03:08 PM)Nathan Ross Wrote: Doesn't praeduro corio literally mean 'hardened leather'?

Praedurus, -a, -um means 'very hard, very strong' and corium means 'skin, hide, leather', so praedurum corium, in the sense of 'very hard hide', would seem to have the characteristics of rawhide, if I understand the term correctly.
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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#9
I think Michael describes Tacitus' term quite accurately. Rawhide exposed to the elements-- ie. rain-- becomes stiff and hard, which would then give optimum protection. However, I still consider iron scale and lamellar a superior alternative... and I believe Simonenko came to the same conclusion.

Another reasonably accurate depiction of Roxolani-styled armor can be found on the Orlat belt plaque, which has been dated between the 1st century BC and the 1st century CE, and shows armor derived from Han prototypes.

   
The helmets are designed after Han Dynasty examples. During their migration from "Aorsia," and through the Kuban and Crimea, the Roxolani changed their helmet style to the one I'm wearing (as found on Trajan's Column and in Crimean wall paintings). Notice the high collar on the armor, also seen on the Kalcachyan frieze.
Alan J. Campbell

member of Legio III Cyrenaica and the Uncouth Barbarians

Author of:
The Demon's Door Bolt (2011)
Forging the Blade (2012)

"It's good to be king. Even when you're dead!"
             Old Yuezhi/Pazyrk proverb
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#10
Keep in mind that lamellar and scale armours have a lot of lacing, which is very susceptible to moisture. The weight of these armours can double when they get wet. I like this quote from Sakakibara Kozan, describing the problems with Japanese lamellar:

"When soaked with water the armor becomes very heavy and cannot be quickly dried; so that in summer it is oppressive and in winter liable to freeze. Moreover, no amount of washing will completely free the lacing from any mud or blood which may have penetrated it, and on long and distant campaigns it becomes evil-smelling and overrun by ants and lice, with consequent ill effects on the health of the wearer."

An ice battle on the Danube would involve several of the issues described by Sakakibara and would definitely cause problems for anyone wearing scale/lamellar.

The Romans tried to address the problem by using metal staples. The best solution was to replace the lacing with mail.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mail_and_plate_armour
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#11
Thanks a lot for the sources! This is such an interesting topic!
Giovanni Brambillasca

Non indignemur mortalia corpora solvi:
  cernimus exemplis oppida posse mori.

Rutilius Namatianus, De Reditu Suo,  Liber I, 413-414

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#12
Quote:I have 2 types one a leather lamellar which has 4mm thick scales and is tanned not rawhide and is less weight than my segmenta. Where as my horn scale lorica weighs as much as my short hamata but is very rigged.

It weighs less because it provides a lot less protection. Any hide armour that protects as well as a segmentata weighs a lot more than a segmentata. 4mm isn't thick enough for proper armour unless you use a construction with a dense overlap so that any attack is presented with three layers of scales, or you lace the scales to a leather backing, which provides an additional layer of protection.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#13
Dan my message was not about protection but weight against movement, the images on Trajans column  that show them, the armour could be metal, leather or horn and as Giovanni says that the leather armour would not slow them down? He would be right but metal or horn might, as I have both types I was explaining my experience wearing them from a weight and movement point of view.
Regards Brennivs  Big Grin
Woe Ye The Vanquished
                     Brennvs 390 BC
When you have all this why do you envy our mud huts
                     Caratacvs
Centvrio Brennivs COH I Dacorivm (Roma Antiqvia)
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#14
Trajan's column doesn't tell us anything useful because it doesn't depict armour in a realistic manner. If your armour isn't representative of what was actually worn, then how can it tell us anything about weight or movement or anything else? If a reconstruction doesn't serve to stop spears and arrows then it is a costume, not armour. Realistic leather armour slows a person down more than a similar construction made from metal because it is more bulky (and thus less comfortable), less flexible, and weighs more. Metal scale and lamellar affect movement more than segmentata because they weigh more than segmentata. They get even worse when mud or blood or water or ice is involved and all four are implicated in the battle described by Tacitus.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#15
I agree Dan totally, but what type of armour they are or not wearing, I am just explaing to Giovanni the differences in the types of armour that may have been used. Even if it is very vague by what is carved on the coloumn.
Regards Brennivs Big Grin
Woe Ye The Vanquished
                     Brennvs 390 BC
When you have all this why do you envy our mud huts
                     Caratacvs
Centvrio Brennivs COH I Dacorivm (Roma Antiqvia)
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