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3 key Roman armor

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Lorica segmentata
Lorica segmentata

Roman legions conquered more peoples and lands not only thanks to their organization and discipline but also thanks to armament that was really high quality. In addition to offensive equipment (pilum, pugio, gladius) also had very good armour.

The Romans used three main types of armour: lorica segmentata, lorica squamata and lorica hamata.

Lorica segmentata

Lorica segmentata was probably the armour that best protected the bodies of the legionaries and was the most recognizable Roman armour. It was an armour of folga, called segmented, which was composed of wrought iron belts. The armour consisted of metal (iron or bronze) plates covering the chest, arms and back as well as 4 to 7 leather straps. Leather plates held the individual boards together from the inside. Both the front and the back were fastened with metal straps.

This armour, like any other, had flaws. Incorrect or carelessly made fixing caused endless repairs. Segmentata also did not sufficiently protect the lower abdomen and armpits, which had to be protected with a large shield.

Although lorica segmentata was heavy and wiped, it was the most popular Roman armour from the first BCE until the third century CE. It very well protected the soldier’s torso against both cuts and sometimes pushes. Ultimately, it was abandoned because of the cost.

Lorica squamata

Lorica squamata was a scale armour that looked like a fish scale. The rounded scales at the bottom were made of bronze or iron. They were small, on average from 2 by 1, 2 cm or 1, 5 by 1 cm. They had holes at the top that were used to connect individual tiles with a wire into rows and then ready-made rows of scales for leather or material. They were arranged so that they overlapped alternately.

A simple squamata could have been made by less skilled craftsmen. It could be easily repaired even by a soldier and most importantly it was less expensive than hamata (next armour). Its relatively low popularity among the Romans was due to the fact that squamata is neither as flexible nor resistant as chain mail and is also quite heavy. It did not protect as well against cuts as chain mail, but it is better against pushes. Perhaps that is why it was favoured by the barbarian infantry who used the spear as their main offensive weapon.

Lorica hamata

Lorica hamata was a mail armour composed of many rings joined together; it looked like chain mail. Made of steel or bronze rings, it created armour in the form of a vest, sometimes with a short sleeve. It protected well against cuts, much worse against pushes, and arrowheads that could have broken the links.

Hamata, like all armour, had pros and cons. Its basic advantages were flexibility and breathability. It was laborious and relatively heavy. Her weight was mainly on the shoulders of the soldier. This was partly offset by the soldier belt balteus, which took the weight on the lap belt.

  • Historia Armii Rzymskiej, Wydawnictwo Hachette, Paryż 1986
  • Simkins Michael, The Roman Army from Caesar to Trajan
  • Warry John, Armie świata antycznego, Warszawa 1995
  • Żygulski Zdzisław, Broń Starożytna

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