Manual The Shield of Rome

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It is important for us to recognize the proper name of this shield, as it was central to the warfare of Archaic and Classical Greece, and indeed the rest of the Mediterranean. Hanson, The Western Way of War second edition, , p. It could have been better suited to use on horseback than earlier designs, thus popular in an Archaic Greece in which cavalry were very important.

Beyond looking at the effectiveness of the aspis in battles between Greeks, or between Greeks and others, its adoption by many other cultures throughout the Mediterranean is indicative of either its effectiveness or its popularity for other reasons. One of the earliest adopters of the aspis outside of Greece were the Etruscans.

From about the middle of the seventh century, this type of shield began to appear throughout Etruria, along with other elements of Hellenic kit, such as the heavy and visually-restrictive Corinthian helmet and its derivatives. This is still a reliable survey, though the same author wrote a more authoritative and comprehensive analysis on arms and armour in central Italy, accessible only to readers of German: idem, Zur eisenzeitlichen Bewaffnun und Kampfesweise in Mittelitalien Stary , Taf.

Because we lack extensive literary evidence from Etruria, we do not know why the shield was adopted.

The Aeneid

Renfrew and J. Cherry eds. See also Stary, Foreign Elements… , p. But, there are problems with this theory. How often would Greek armies actually have been encountered? Certainly, traders and pirates would be fighting in a different way than the large armies of Aegean poleis. Instead, the cavalry encounter takes centre stage in the narrative Dion. But, that the adoption of the aspis was based on military necessity is corroborated by a passage from an unknown historian of Rome, writing in Greek.

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On the surface, this appears to be concrete proof that it was necessary to take up this fighting style when it was encountered in an enemy. But, the explanation found in the Ineditum Vaticanum must be read in context. It is part of a wider Roman topos of being a militarily adaptable people. Even in this otherwise unknown text, it is stated in a speech being delivered by a man named Kaeso to some Carthaginians in the context of the First Punic War.

We find a similar story told in Diodorus Siculus. Here, when the Romans were crossing to Sicily in the First Punic War, envoys were sent to them by Carthage, asking how they planned to do this, seeing as the Carthaginians were in control of the sea.


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What are ungulates? Name some of them. The bottom edge of the shield is uncertain, as the carving has suffered damage at some point and has been restored in recent times. However, it is reasonable to assume the continual symmetry of a rectangle. It is a very unusual shape in respect of most modern accepted conceptions of an auxiliary shield. The stele of Firmus of Cohors Raetorum CIL 13, shows the more typically depicted long oval body shield also with a horizontal handgrip.

Seen on many cavalry tombstones of the first century are hexagonal or pseudo-hexagonal curve-edged centre section shields.

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Probably Celto-Germanic in origin, they do not appear on sculpture of Roman infantry soldiers. Although the hexagonal shield is not represented on Roman soldiers on the Columns, It does however appear as part of trophy items of equipment at the base. It is also seen on the Arch of Orange again showing its origins and ethnicity. Shield components umbones and edging Shield shapes can be reconstructed from the remains of copper-alloy shield edging fragments if large enough. For example a ninety-degree bend would generally be accepted as being part of a rectangular shield board.

The fragment consists of the lower straight portion and the first half of the curved portion. From this we can determine that the shield board was approximately mm thick with parallel sides and hemispherical ends. It is of a type that can be attested to Batavian use which I intend to reconstruct as part of our display. Leather shield covers Tegimen Leather shield covers can tell us a great deal about the original shield shapes and sizes.

Even in some cases, which unit were using certain types of shield.

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Leather covers have been preserved as partial remains large enough to allow the calculation of the board size. From Valkenburg NL we have the remains of a pointed oval and a parallel-sided oval shield cover, along with remains of rectangular covers. One notable example from Roomberg NL belonging to a soldier of Cohors XV Voluntariorum cR pf is particularly interesting in that it is a cover for a rectangular shield with a board wide enough to have been curved in the manner of the legionary scutum contrary to Bishop and Coulston 'The study of Roman military equipment II p The estimated size for the actual shield board according to van Driel-Murray would be in the region of 75cm wide - which would suggest that the board would have been curved to give a face of around 62cm.

Given that the owner of this cover was from an auxiliary cohort not of provincials, but of Citizens raises the question - "Following the Pannonian revolt and the Varian disaster, AD were the Voluntariorum cR, Campestris cR and Ingenuorum cR cohorts raised by Augustus equipped the same as the legionary soldiers"? At this time the Emperor was certainly in need of replacement heavy infantry units. The levies made on the Citizens were considerable. Augustus' will made certain that the Citizen volunteer cohorts were paid the same as their legionary counterparts. They were also commanded by a Tribune as opposed to the Prefect of the provincial cohorts.

Again, from the Roomberg site, we also have the remains of a pilum shaft from the 'Corbulo ditch' also dated to the same period as the shield cover AD.