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Leather Armor? (NO HOLDS BARRED!!)
#46
Quote:
tlclark:5ug1zdeq Wrote:The early musculata is largely inspired by the late hellenistic linothorax, meaning that in Republican and early imperial times, it is most likely leather or composite.
Why? What makes you think that the Greeks wore leather cuirasses? Virtually all of the evidence points to linen or metal. There is nothing to suggest that leather was used in the linothorax.

Yes and no. I agree that there is probably not any significant use of leather with the musculata, but I never said that there was. I only suggested a tighter link between the linothorax and the musculata. Near the end of the development of the linothorax in the hellenistic period, there are number of modifications that are made, scales and plates are added, as well as other features and decorations. Some of the decoratiosn could be leather, but that's not the same thing of course. When you look at the linothorax it disguises the form of the body, rendering the torso a cylinder. The musculata does not.

The early musculatae look more like the linothorax than the muscled cuirass. At some point the muscled form appears.

Now either the artist intended us to assume that the form was so tight fitting as to reveal the muscles, or the cuirass itself assumed the muscled form.

Rather, the reason I think the musculata uses leather is simple. The evidence suggests it is flexible, and yet it retains something of the muscled shape. What material available in the ancient world could do that? That list is pretty small, leather is the best alternative.
Theodoros of Smyrna (Byzantine name)
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#47
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Matt L:9p8t0ssj Wrote:Woah- two big problems with that one: first pteruges aren't proof of musculatae, and don't by themselves suggest anything at all.

True, he could be wearing chain mail.


Or no armor at all :lol:

Quote:
Quote:And after saying that you disagree that it's bad to assume he must be wearing armor, how can you say it back?

Easily, because there's a context to support my assumption - i.e. everyone's wearing armor. But to assume that he is wearing nothing but a subarmalis is much more shaky because AFAIK, there's never been a subarmalis that can be clearly identified in sculpture. We don't know if pteruges were attached to armor or a subarmalis.

So depending on the context, some assumptions are safer than others, IMO.

Okay, maybe it's just me but to assume anything based on the very minimal 'evidence' just seems to me to be a very bad practice. Hell, the reason these guys are known as Praetorians is probably because someone assumed their dress meant they had to be special somehow :lol: I agree it'd be odd that all the others in the sculpture are armored while this one guy isn't, but as I mentioned before, there are possible explanations for it. It's my understanding that all of them are armored differently- so why couldn't one simply be unarmored?

Quote:
Quote:but the fact is that if you look at the size of the musculatae on the other men, the one who's wearing a tunica doesn't have the same size under it.

Okay, good observation. It may suggest he's wearing chain mail. But like someone said earlier, sculpture isn't a photograph, so maybe the artist didn't catch some detail. Who knows...but those pteruges are attached to something Idea Without all the facts, we need to make assumptions to formulate theories. Sometimes there's no choice.

If it's mail, it's not the usual doubled-shoulder type- that detail in itself makes me doubt it's mail. Certainly it's possible that what we see is simply the dreaded 'artistic licence'. One reason, however, that I find the missing of some detail by the sculptor hard to accept though, is the fact that there is so much detail- if it were a crude tombstone, I could see it, but this one has quite striking detail.

The pteruges may be part of a leather garment the man is wearing, they might be the fabric type, so it may be a fabric garment- but I still don't see why they have to be associated with armor. I don't even see why they have to be associated with a subarmalis- is there any reason to believe the under-armor padding always had the pteruges as an integral part of it, or could they have been attached to a separate garment?

This is part of the problem with assumptions based on assumptions- the more levels you go, the more rapidly the liklihood of the last thing being correct drops off. I really don't see why the simplest explanation is so hard to believe- that he's just not wearing any armor...

One more thing- look at the guy's neck- the outer garment droops a fair bit but you don't see any detail of what's under it save for that odd ovoid thing on his throat (just damage?)- wouldn't we expect to see the neckline of any armor underneath?

Matt
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#48
There is also another problem with the "Praetorian" relief from the Louvre.

It has been heavily restored. I've only ever seen the cast at the Roman Museum of Civilization in Rome so I can't say which parts. In particular, one wears a balteus OVER his musculata, which we see nowhere else, so that makes it suspicious.

Travis
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#49
I have been led to believe that the head of this figure is a complete restoration based on the forms of surviving helmeted heads at the right hand end of the panel. The crack which cuts through his neck and the neck of the man next to him is presumable the point at which the original stops and the resoration begins. Therefore it is not clear to me that this man was originally depicted even wearing a helmet, so I think there is a possibility that the debate about what sort of body armour he may or may or may not be wearing may be redundant.

Crispvs
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#50
Just to add to the discussion, I found this on the web

http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-ca ... l.html#cb3

I was especially interesting in this technque...

Quote:A Variation on Boiling Water Soaking

If you take cold formed leather and while it is still on the form and pour REALLY hot water over it, letting it drain off (say fresh from a coffee maker), it will scald the surface of the leather and harden the outer layer without altering the inner layers at all. By the time the water's soaked the rest of the leather, it has been cooled (by having to heat the leather) sufficiently that the temperature's dropped back down to the 120-140F range.

You can also presoak the leather in water, then pour the boiling water on top. This either heats up the water inside the leather, so you don't have to wait for it to soak in, or the cooler water slows the soaking process, letting the outside of the leather harden more fully. I've tried it both ways and I couldn't tell you which worked better.

This is fascinating... a sort of "case hardening" for leather, giving it a hardened exterior but a more flexible material.

This site lists dozens of variations on the method, all producing different results and varying degrees of hardness vs. rigidity.

Travis
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#51
None of the various leather hardening techniques provide anything that will resist a weapon point unless it is too thick to be flexible. You can't have flexible leather that will resist any sort of threat on the battlefield. So any depiction of a flexible musculata cannot have been intended for combat. Unless you have evidence that a cuirass was sometimes worn over mail like in the Middle Ages. Even using this medieval combination, none of the "cuiries" they wore were flexible.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#52
Quote:None of the various leather hardening techniques provide anything that will resist a weapon point unless it is too thick to be flexible. You can't have flexible leather that will resist any sort of threat on the battlefield. So any depiction of a flexible musculata cannot have been intended for the battlefield. Unless you have evidence that a cuirass was sometimes worn over mail like in the Middle Ages.

Provided the officer who wore it expected to actually get into a tussle with the barbarians, who often carried lesser protection than him anyway. Was his intention to be a practical walking armoured car, or to look spiffy and cool?

I believe metal was the norm, but there are clearly bendy examples of musculata in sculpture, albeit scarce. Why would they be portrayed as such? It surely can't be a fiction of the sculptor, and to sculpt a leading figure with his subarmalis and not the full-on armour just makes no sense. It would be like portraying him in his underpants IMHO. Also, I would be very surprised to see someone able to construct a linen musculata, with all of the anatomical features.

I suspect now that leather musculata existed, but were not the norm.
TARBICvS/Jim Bowers
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#53
Some depictions of armour are flexible purely so that the artist can render the subject in a specific pose. This is especially evident in Renaissance art when the artist is attempting to depict an armoured character in a classical pose. Some poses are not possible in rigid armour so artistic license is necessary.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen & Sword Books
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#54
Could the changes in depiction of musculata from the Augustan to the Antonine eras reflect a degeneration of an armour type? There is an example of that happening in Qing (Manchu) Dynasty China. The court uniforms began as functional reinforced cloth armour, but over many years became cloth suits decorated with lots of gilded rivets that held nothing in place, but were purely decorative. In this case, such suits can be called armour, but lacked real defensive value. This brings up a point noted above - musculata are shown often enough on men of high status, who (generally) were not close to the fighting. If leather is an acceptable armour because it is cheap/available, one would expect to see a lot of it on the lower ranking types, auxiliaries and others.
Felix Wang
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#55
Quote:I often invoke the "Hamblin" rule. Hamblin is a military historian from BYU and my undergraduate professor.

Once he was telling the class about West African armor, which is amazing. One student objected that it would be too hot to use, to which Hamblin replied, "Well one way you're hot, and the other way you're dead" A lot of the judgements about armor today are arbitrary. In reality, you can only judge it against the next best alternative of the circumstances.

Under that standard, leather works fine. It doesn't have to be perfect, it only has to work well enough.

I don't quite follow the "rule". Dan has presented evidence that leather is not perfect, but quite inferior to linen, which was also widely available at the time. So it is not a case of "leather or nothing". The sculptural evidence needs explaining, but the practical arguement is separate.

It is possible that generals and emperors in Rome were sculpted wearing something that no one stationed in the frontier limes would have ever thought of as being armour.

In a mirror image situation, kings and generals in early modern Europe were routinely shown wearing magnificent suits of armour into the 18th century, some time after armour ceased to be worn by anyone on a battlefield. The armour was useless in combat, but expected as "heroic millitary" dress.
Felix Wang
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#56
Quote:None of the various leather hardening techniques provide anything that will resist a weapon point unless it is too thick to be flexible. You can't have flexible leather that will resist any sort of threat on the battlefield. So any depiction of a flexible musculata cannot have been intended for combat. Unless you have evidence that a cuirass was sometimes worn over mail like in the Middle Ages. Even using this medieval combination, none of the "cuiries" they wore were flexible.

Well Dan, it seems you have more experience in this matter, but I have to offer two points. First, your standards may be arbitrary. It's not whether it was insufficient according to our standards, it was whether it was better than the next reasonable alternative at the time, factoring in such issues as design and aesthetics, which were not trivial matters for the officer class.

Second, we have already conceded the point that these may be largely ceremonial, which I think is probably the case during the Antonine period and later.

However, I recently reviewed the "leather Segmentata" thread (recommended to me by Graham Summer) and I was amazed at how many examples of functional leather armor there were in the archaeological record. I think objections to leather armor are therefore largely arbitrary.

This is a lot like the thread about the sufficiency of mail in retarding arrows and projectiles. Some were saying that mail was inadequate while others were arguing that it was adequate. Often times people would quote the number of times it failed or not compared to this test or that and it always struck me that they always looked at things in a very different matter than I would. For example, let's say tests proved mail insufficient in 9 out of 10 times. Not very good to most people's reckoning. Then I think, well, if the alternative is NO armor, then the failure rate is 10 out of 10. In that case, 1 out of 10 success rate looks REALLY good!

The failure rate of munitions during the first gulf war was over 80% according to my brother who designed precision munitions back then. When they reported that on the press the public was aghast. Back at my brother's office the engineers were popping the champagne corks, that was better than they had ever dreamed! Expectations matter a lot.

If as I suggest over in the padded armor thread, the pteruges indicate the the subarmalis was really very similar to the late hellenistic linothorax, then the cuirass would add an increase, no matter how modest, to an existing set of very successful armor.

(Maybe this is why we don't see any leather cuirasses! They were too easily damaged and discarded like the outer layer of some armors today.)

At any rate, I didn't come to this decision easily. Matthew Amt would be happy to believe otherwise as well. I have no dog in this fight. I'm not a missionary looking for converts. I just can't explain the evidence better in any other way.
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#57
Quote:Provided the officer who wore it expected to actually get into a tussle with the barbarians, who often carried lesser protection than him anyway. Was his intention to be a practical walking armoured car, or to look spiffy and cool?

Exactly. Never underestimate the power of "spiffyness"!

Quote:I believe metal was the norm, but there are clearly bendy examples of musculata in sculpture, albeit scarce.

Only if you look on a period by period basis. By the Antonine period, they are in fact quite common. Again, the musculata is a class, not a type. No two are alike, so there are undoubtedly parallel traditions that are always cross-pollinating. Saying which is more common is VERY difficult.

Quote:Why would they be portrayed as such? It surely can't be a fiction of the sculptor, and to sculpt a leading figure with his subarmalis and not the full-on armour just makes no sense. It would be like portraying him in his underpants IMHO.

:lol: I agree.

The flexible form was obviously respectable enough to be used with THE EMPEROR HIMSELF. I can't imagine the emperor would have himself depicted with something that screams "poser who never gets near a real fight" but I could be wrong. I think therefore we have to consider the flexible cuirasses as respectable, if possibly largely ceremonial, examples of armor.

Quote:Also, I would be very surprised to see someone able to construct a linen musculata, with all of the anatomical features.

I agree, but we should certainly try though, just to make sure. A molded linen cuirass would be a fascinating experiment.


Quote:I suspect now that leather musculata existed, but were not the norm.

Hmmm. It depends. Julio-Claudian period, I think I would agree. but I think I could only agree with that with some qualifiers. I think that both traditions exist from the beginning. By the Antonine period, the flexible form is probably the norm, and then quickly thereafter it is reinforced with scales.

Thanks Tarbicus, great posts as always.

Travis
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#58
Quote:Some depictions of armour are flexible purely so that the artist can render the subject in a specific pose. This is especially evident in Renaissance art when the artist is attempting to depict an armoured character in a classical pose. Some poses are not possible in rigid armour so artistic license is necessary.

True, but the variation of poses in the Renaissance is far greater than in the Roman period. Also, there is more variation in pose in the later period than in the earlier periods. So style gets to be a really big thorny problem after the antonine period.

If I was only looking at cuirasses on figures, I would concede this point, (and be a lot happier frankly!) but I have those damned frustrating floppy cuirasses thrown over tree stumps!! Like John Adams said "Facts are stubborn things"
Theodoros of Smyrna (Byzantine name)
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#59
Quote:Could the changes in depiction of musculata from the Augustan to the Antonine eras reflect a degeneration of an armour type?

I think this could be exactly what's happening. If you look up the thread you can see that many times I suggest that the armor by the Antonine period is largely ceremonial.

Travis
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#60
Quote:I don't quite follow the "rule". Dan has presented evidence that leather is not perfect, but quite inferior to linen, which was also widely available at the time. So it is not a case of "leather or nothing". The sculptural evidence needs explaining, but the practical arguement is separate.

Fair point and it must be conceded. Some however dismiss the usefulness of leather out of hand, which I think is arbitrary, and you can't even get to the one argument unless you can get around the objection to ANY leather armor.

Obviously an emperor could afford the best, but in many cases, it's exactly these persons that are shown wearing this "inferior" armor, so we have to assume that the armor was either not inferior, or so sufficiently tied into his status as to overwhelm any military inferiority.

My feeling is that it was not as efficient as was possible but not nearly as worthless as some assume, especially if the subarmalis was layerd linen as seems to be the case.

Travis.
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