LEGION XXIV MEDIA ATLANTIA
STANDARDS AND GUIDELINES
EQUIPMENT CONSTRUCTION DETAILS
Based on the "Handbook for Legionaries" of Legion XX
by Mathew Amt College Park Maryland
with revisions for Legion XXIV
Last Revised April 01, 2012
ORIGIN and PURPOSE
Legion XXIV Media Atlantia was established in 1997, as a "not-for-profit" educational organization to display the appearance and reenact the activities, military tactics and lifestyle of the ancient Roman Legionary Soldier of the First Century AD; as well as other periods of ancient military history.
The Mid to Late First Century AD era of the Roman Empire is the primary time period represented by Legion XXIV MA during our re-enactment events. However, as we are interested in portraying a wider period of ancient military armor, dress and style in a "Military Through the Ages" format; Republican Romans, Sumarians, Spartans, Macedonians, Greeks, Celts, Barbarians and other ancient military personnel, along with those just interested in ancient military history are also most welcome.
The Legion strives for historical accuracy in its presentations and appearance. However, as there is a derth of historical evidence to draw upon, our presentations are generic in nature and are stated as being accurate to best of our knowledge and belief. All clothing and equipment should be as authentic as the modern world allows, tempered with practicality. Fabric does not have to be hand-woven. Armor is made of mild-steel rather than hand-forged iron.
ADOPTING and USING a ROMAN NAME
Since Legion XXIV MA endeavors to portray an accurate enterpretation of Roman Military Life; it is requested that you choose a "Roman Name", when you enlist with the "Legion".
The use of Roman Names by the Legion's participants will foster a more authentic ambience and realistic atmosphere during our public appearances. When the Legion is on public display, its members are no longer living in the 20th Century; but are representing an encampment of ancient Roman Army soldiers. Using your chosen Roman Name will help in removing yourself from the current (mundane) modern time period and assist you in "getting into character" and obtaining the proper "frame of mind" as a Roman Legionary.
If you've already chosen a Roman name for yourself, advise the Commander when you "sign-up". If you are new to Roman culture, and would like assistance in choosing a Roman name that expresses both you and your interests, consult the Roman Names Page of the Website or contact the Commander at email@example.com It is not necessary to choose a historical name; often people will take elements from several historical names for their own. They may also consider a name of where they were born or raised (ie, Candidianus, Cincinnatus, Columbanus, Philadelphus); or a name relating to their heritage (ie, Germanicus, Germanus, Hispanus, Italicus).
The Roman name you assume will be entered into the membership rolls of the Legion, along with your "given" name. Your Roman Name will be used when contacting you, and we urge you to make your reenactment experience a more authentic one by making use of it in your reenactment correspondence and public participation, as well as during informal conversation when we are together within the encampment. In everyday use, people are referred to by either a combination of the praenomen and nomen or the praenomen alone; or even more usually by just their cognomen. So, "Gallio Velius Marsallas" could be addressed as either just "Marsallas" or "Gallio Velius" or more casually by just his praenomen of "Gallio". "Cordelia Alia Julia" would be either just "Julia" or "Cordelia Alia" or just "Cordelia".
RULES and GUIDELINES
The following rules and guidelines should be observed.
DURING PERIODS OF PUBLIC DISPLAY; or when the public is in the area of our camp; "The Legion is on Parade" and is being judged by the public! Our historical appearance and impression must be properly maintained. You are no longer living in the 20th Century - You are then a Legionary of Legion XXIV MA in ancient Rome. Inappropriate language and/or discussions, actions and conduct within sight or earshot of the public must be avoided! "Out-of-Character" items such as: eyeglasses, wristwatches, non-period finger rings and earrings, modern jewelry or other inappropriate hairsyles or visible body decorations are not permitted during public hours. The use of contact lenses is recommended. Proper headgear could mask a non-historical hairstyle.
CLOTHING Linen or Wool, must be 100%, no blends, polyester or substitutes. Twills were common. Cotton or silk for civilians only. All exposed stitching, hems, etc; should be done by hand.
LEATHER Vegatable tanned, top grain. Avoid leather splits, suede and chrome-tanned leathers. Goatskin and calfskin were common. May be dyed and should be treated with wax or neatsfoot oil for protection from weather and body sweat.
ARMOR and METAL Use mild steel. Stainless steel or galvanized steel is inappropriate, as are pop rivits, split rivits or tubular rivits. Brass may used for bronze items. Brass items may be tinned.
WOOD Ash is best for weapon shafts and tool handles. Plywood is used for shields. Exotic woods like ebony and mahagany should be avoided, unless provable. Exposed modern bolts, hex-nuts and screws should be camoflaged to appear less modern, such as filling screw slots with solder and filing smooth, etc.
Experienced reenactors can find flaws in most everything that we wear and use and we understand that perfection is impossible. A reproduction is good enough if it can be examined by a knowlegeable person without finding any obvious errors or anachronisms. A good reenactor should strive for the highest possible level of authenticity.
The "KIT" ( a soldiers clothing, weapons, gear and equipment ) required for participation as a legionary at public events would be as follows. . .
BASIC KIT ( the minimum required to "turn-out" for public events ) is: Tunica (Tunic), Caligae (footware), a basic waist tie for blousing tunica above the knee, Fibulae (antique pin broach) for pinning tunica to proper fit; along with whatever personal items you may require.
STANDARD KIT ( required for full participation ) The Basic Kit plus Helmet, Armor (Lorica Segmentata or Hamata), Gladius (short sword), Gladius Baldric (shoulder belt), Pilum (javilin), Cingulum (waist belt with apron dags), Subarmalis ( garment worn under armor for comfort), Focale (neck scarf), Satchel (marching pack bag), Paenula or Sagam (cape/cloak).
FULL KIT ( desired ) Standard Kit plus Pugio (dagger), Helmet Crest, Bracia (trousers), Galea (leather helmet), Patera (food plate), Tools and Mess Gear, Carry Pole for Satchel, Pila Muralis (palisade stakes), Lodixicis (dark red or brown blanket).
For chilly weather events you will want to add home-made woolen leggings and socks, along with a wool cloak or cape. As a wool cape or blanket is naturally rain repellent; it could be handy as an emergency cover for keeping your helmet and armor from getting too wet during rain showers, which our events seem to attract with regularity.
Commercial store bought trousers, socks or other clothing items are not appropriate and would be "out of character" with the historical appearance we endeavor to present.
See below or consult the "Equipment", "Weapons" and "Glossary" Pages of the Website for more detailed descriptions of the various items of equipment.
TUNIC This basic garment is of white, off-white or red wool fabric, made of two rectangles 30" to 48" long, according to your height; and 24" to 40" wide, as determined by your body size. A linen tunic instead of wool may be worn in warm weather. These two halves are sewn together, tea-bag fashion' at the sides and shoulders, leaving slits for the arms and neck. The selvage or finished edge of the fabric is best kept at the bottom of the garment. Short sleeves, 6" long by 12" high may be cut with the body panels, although sleeveless tunics are thought to have been more common. Military tunics reached below the knees, but were worn hitched-up by a belt to just above the knee for greater mobility. Civilian tunics were longer, being worn down to the calf or ankle.
FIBULAE Brooches or pins known as Fibulae were used to pin shut tunics and cloaks. They came in a wide variety of styles. Most were bronze, but iron, silver and gold were also utilized. Intricate Fibulae were generally cast, while simpler designs could be hand hammered. Many styles had protected pin points when closed and could be considered as ancient style safety pins. Reenactors may obtain them from merchants at historical events or fabricate their own, following known designs
CALIGAE These heavy sandals are the classic Roman army boot. Numerous examples have been found at first-century sites. Patterns and materials are available, and construction is fairly simple. The upper is cut from a single piece of 2 to 6-ounce leather, well-oiled or waxed to prevent decay. The sole is 1/2" to 3/4" thick and is made of several thick layers, with the upper sandwiched between the top two. The layers are held together with hobnails: lay them on an anvil or flat piece of steel, and drive the nails into the sole so that the points go through the innermost layer and bend over as they hit the steel. Cover the clenched points with an insole of thin leather, securing it in place with a few stitches. Complete the shoe by sewing up the heel seam with a butted or overlapped seam. The domed iron hobnails should be about 1/4" to 1/2" in diameter. The heads need not be perfect hemispheres --irregular, flatter, or more conical shapes are acceptable. World War I or II-style hobnails will work, or "Antique Nails" from some hardware stores. Upholstery tacks are not durable enough. Proper hobnails are available from the Commander. Before cutting good leather, make a working mock-up out of heavy cloth. DO NOT MAKE THE SOLES TOO WIDE - trace your foot and cut the soles narrower by 1/4" on each side. Make the tabs extra long and the slits shorter than necessary, and adjust them later. Consult the Equipment Page for more details and diagrams. E-mail the Commander firstname.lastname@example.org with "snail-mail" address to obtain full-size caligae patterns and assembly instructions.
FOCALE The focale is a scarf or neckerchief worn to protect the neck from being pinched or chafed by the armour. It was apparently introduced at the same time as the lorica segmentata, but quickly became popular even with troops who wore different types of armour. Its shape is difficult to determine but probably varied, and the only known colour depiction of a focale shows it as light green. Legio XXIV treats the focale as a non-standard item. It may be linen or wool of any reasonable colour, and can be triangular (cut or folded from a c. 24" square) or a long strip. Remember to hem the edges by hand.
CLOAK There were two types of cloak in use, the sagum and the paenula. Both seem to have been some shade of brown or yellowish-brown in colour; apparently a particular type of wool was preferred, its natural oils making the fabric nearly waterproof. The cloak doubles as the soldier's bedroll on campaign. The sagum is rectangular, blanket-sized or larger. It is simply pinned with a fibula at the shoulder or throat. The paenula may have been semi-circular, circular, or oval. A circular or semi-circular pattern should be at least 45" in radius, and can be made from 2 or more pieces sewn together with a flat overlap seam. An oval should be about 60" wide by about 3 yards long. In any case, the paenula should be knee-length or longer. A semi-circle is closed at the front either with pins, toggles, or hooks. A circle or oval has a neck hole (c. 6" diameter) and the front is slit open part way or all the way to it, with similar closures. The paenula can have a hood about 12" square sewn to the neck hole, or to a semi-circular cutout in the straight edge of the semi-circular type. About 3 yards of 60"-wide wool is needed for a semi-circular or oval paenula, and c. 6 yards for a circular one. Allow an extra 1/3 yard for a hood, or piece it together from scraps. A semi-circular paenula can often be cut from a blanket. (The large amount of fabric needed for a circular paenula seems to be an argument against its use--it would be difficult to roll into a compact bundle unless the wool was quite thin.) A blanket will also make a decent sagum (remove any modern edging), or simply use 2-3 yards of wool. All cut edges should be finished with a blanket stitch or whip stitch.
MILITARY BELT The plate-covered belt
popularly called a cingulum was actually known as a balteus. In the mid-first
century AD a single belt to support the dagger was most common, but the two crossed
belts worn in Augustan times still appeared.
Belt plates are generally described as either narrow or wide. The narrow plates are the older style, the narrow belts often being worn in pairs. These plates are usually cast brass and frequently tinned or silvered, and inlaid with niello. They range in width from 1" to 1-1/2", and in length from 2" to 2-1/4". Wide plates, measuring 1-1/2" to 2" wide by 1-3/4" to 2-1/2" long, are generally stamped from thin brass sheet (.010"), and are also often tinned or silvered. Frequently the ends are rolled, sometimes with ball-headed pins inserted in the resulting tubes.
The buckle and dagger frogs (or "suspension discs") are cast brass, with hinge tubes. Matching hinge tubes are either cast directly with the appropriate belt plate, cut into a rolled plate end, or made separately (cast or folded) and riveted behind a plate.
The plates are riveted to a leather belt no wider than the plates themselves. Some cast plates have integral pegs on the back to serve as rivets. Round or square washers may be used.
The leather is 4 to 8 ounce and may be left plain, or dyed red, black, or another colour. (In any case it should be well-oiled or greased.)
The buckle is most often seen on the right end of the belt, while the free end is narrowed to fit it. Be sure to position the dagger frogs far enough apart to accept your pugio scabbard. The Velsen belt and at least one sculpture imply that some belts had no plates at the back.
The apron, also called a sporran or groin-guard, was a decorative item derived from split belt ends. It has from 4 to 8 leather strips 3/4" to 1" wide by c. 10"long. Wide belts characteristically have 4 of the wider strips, while a larger number of narrow strips are usually seen only on narrow belts. Each strip ends in a dangling terminal, and has up to 16 disc-shaped studs. Usually these are cast (and occasionally inlaid), with a peg on the back to serve as a rivet. Studs can also be cut from sheet brass and secured with a rivet through the centre. The studs can be placed to form horizontal rows, or staggered (although the terminals all hang at the same height), or even spaced up to 2" apart.
The apron commonly hangs over the top of the belt (being riveted to the back), but can hang down from the bottom edge, especially on narrow belts. In such a case the top of each strip may have a small plate like a miniature belt plate. All apron fittings may be tinned or silvered to match the belt. The leather may be dyed like the belt. There may be a reinforcing stitching of linen thread down each side of a strip, or a decorative tooled line.
It is clear that the balteus was a valuable personal possession. Although made in army workshops and probably a required item of equipment, it was perhaps not issued at random but more carefully chosen by the soldier according to his own tastes, and budget.
HELMETS "CASSIS" There was a wide variety of helmets in use in the mid-first century AD, nowadays known by H. Russell Robinson's classifications (see his Armour of Imperial Rome, long out of print, for the fullest details). The choice of style is up to you. The quality of your helmet must be very good. Roman helmets were forged in one piece complete with the neck guards: reproductions may have welds if they are not visible on the outside. All the appropriate ridges and fittings must be present. Generally, steel is used instead of iron, and either red or yellow brass is fine (the zinc content of Roman brass or "Orichalcum" varied).
Of the Imperial-Gallic helmets, type G is the most popular with
reenactors, but types A through I are all acceptable. Type I is brass,
type A can be iron or brass, while the rest apparently were all iron.
All have embossed steps and ridges on the back of the skull, neck guard,
and cheek pieces, and the distinctive "eyebrows" on the front.
The brow reinforce is a thick iron strip, or brass on brass helmets.
All Imperial-Gallic helmets except type A have applied brass features: edging; stamped decorative bosses; "reeded" brow bands; crest support holders and hooks or rings; chin strap rings (1 under the neck guard, 1 inside each cheek piece); and sometimes carrying handles. Types "E thru I" have ear guards of brass, while type D's are iron, and A & C have none at all. Applied brass work is often tinned or silvered.
The applicable Imperial-Italic helmets, types B, C, and D, are quite similar to the Imperial-Gallic, but have no eyebrows and few decorative bosses if any. the brow reinforce is usually thinner than on the Gallic types, often with the front edge turned down for strength. Type D has brass ear guards, but on B and C the edges of the ear cut-outs are simply flanged outwards. The Italic crest support holder is a raised disc with a slot, rather than the Gallic flat rectangular tube.
Coolus (types C-I) and Montefortino (types C-F) helmets are brass and fairly plain, except for some ridges or raise panels on the cheek pieces. They are globular or hemispherical in shape, not closely fitted to the head like the Imperial types - some were spun on a lathe rather than hammered to shaped. The brow reinforce, not present on some Montefortino types, is either flat and thick or thin with a turned-down edge. There is usually a crest knob, made in one piece with the skull on a Montefortino, but soldered or riveted onto a Coolus. There may be feather tubes at the temples. Chin strap rings are identical to Imperial helmets, although earlier examples have studs outside the cheek pieces instead. There are no ear guards, bosses, edging, or reeded brow bands (although Coolus H has filed decoration to resemble a brow band). Brass helmets may be entirely tinned or silvered.
Fittings and Details
Decorative bosses are usually stamped out of thin brass (.010"), and a number of designs are known. (The CO has a die.) Some examples are silver with red enamelled centres. "Reeded" brow bands were cast, but modern reproductions are often stamped.
Ear guards, whether brass or iron, should at least appear to be made in one piece, even if welded. Chin strap rings are c.1/2" in diameter, each secured with a brass strip folded double and riveted in place. There is one under the centre of the neck guard, and 1 inside each cheek piece, near the bottom. The chin strap thongs start at the neck guard ring, cross under the throat, and are passed through the cheek piece rings to be tied under the chin. Coolus and Montefortino helmets, up to type C, and Imperial-Gallic type A, have projecting studs outside the cheek pieces instead of rings. Normal thongs can be looped around these and tied under the chin, or wider straps can be used, with slits to "button" over the studs
Coolus type crest knobs may be turned or cast, while Imperial crest holders are made of sheet brass. Brass hooks or rings for securing the crest are also present on most Imperial-style helmets.
Most Imperial helmets have brass edging on the cheek pieces and neck guard, which can be made from 1/8" or 3/16" tube. Anneal well and bend to fit, re-heating if necessary to avoid bad puckers. Then slit the tube open around the inside with a Dremel tool and fit it into place, and hammer carefully to flatten it. Brass tabs c.1/4" wide may be riveted on to secure the edging if needed - 2 on each cheek piece and 2 or 3 on the neck guard. The edging might also be made from brass strip c. 3/8" wide, instead of tube.
Examples of brass carrying handles seem to date to the second half of the first century AD. They are secured by 2 brass split pins, rather like cotter pins.
Helmet linings were usually glued in place (with hide glue), but little is known beyond that. Patterns are available for a simple linen cap which can be padded with cotton batting, horsehair, tow, scraps, layers of wool, etc. It can be made adjustable with a drawstring. Thick felt can also be used. The lining can be sewn to a leather band which is then glued into place, so that the lining can be removed for washing or repairs just by cutting the stitching.
LORICA SEGMENTATA "Lorica" is Latin for "armour"; and as we do not know what the Romans called this style of armor, "segmentata" has been adopted as a medieval-modern term for this classic Roman iron cuirass of bands or hoops, introduced by the early first century AD. Its origins are unknown. The following patterns and guidelines are for a Corbridge type A cuirass, followed by options for the type B lorica. (Be aware of the subtle differences in detail.) Complete drawings are found in "Excavations at Roman Corbridge: The Hoard". The terminology used will be from that report. These are purely convenient modern terms and should not be tossed out to the public as if the Romans used the same wording.
Isometric diagrams of the Corbridge A, Corbridge B and Newstead armor are provided on the website.
Construction of a full-scale cardboard mock-up (at least of the collar plates and one pair of girdle plates) is HIGHLY recommended to assure a good fit. The basic material is 18-gauge mild steel, NOT galvanized or stainless, nor aluminum. The outside should be scoured to a satin finish with medium-fine sandpaper before any fittings are attached, and oiled to prevent rust. The inside should be painted black with a rust-inhibiting paint originally the inside would have been black from the forge. There are rolled or folded edges on the collar plates where they lie against the neck, on the upper girdle plates under the arms, and around the entire bottom edge of the bottom girdle plate.
Construction is fairly straight forward and construction involves a lot of careful cutting but is otherwise not too difficult. The edge of the outermost lesser shoulder guard plate can be rolled under or flanged upwards. Rolling edges is not very difficult: simply bend over the edge (c. 1/4" width) with a large pair of pliers, little by little, working back and forth along the piece. When the bend approaches 90 degrees, pound it over the rest of the way with a hammer. Fittings are (and were) made of brass. Metal snips or shears, small chisels, or a Dremel tool can all be used for cutting, and small files are needed for finishing the edges. Brass that is not annealed should be scoured to remove any modern coating. All brass fittings may be tinned or silvered. Be careful when using steel tools on brass, as they can leave permanent marks in the metal.
HINGES are made from .015" to .032" brass--3 sheets of
4"x10" hobby brass will suffice. For 8 hinges cut out 16 halves as shown--a
finished hinge is a double layer. Fold each piece in half with a 1/8" rod at the
fold, and strike with a square edge or clamp in a vise to form the "tube".
(hinge figs.) Cut away alternating sections of the tubes, or "saw" away with a
coarse file, to mate 2 halves together. Remember that the top half will overhang the edge
of its plate, and the lower will sit flat about 1/4" back from the edge of its plate.
File well to make the edges even. Use 1/8" brass rod for the hinge pins, peening or
flattening the ends to keep them from slipping out. Folding the hinges can be made easier
by annealing the brass: heat it red hot in a gas flame and allow it to cool. This will
discolour the metal, but a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water with a little salt will
brighten it in minutes ("pickling"). Buffing or polishing will restore a mirror
polish. Punch or drill the rivet holes in the hinges, then assign each hinge to a specific
place on the armour and mark it accordingly. Trace the holes of each hinge onto its
appropriate plate, and drill or punch carefully. Remember, the hinges are all a little
different, and their hole patterns might not be interchangeable.
The strap and buckle hinges are made in a similar fashion. The buckles can be made from strips of sheet or from rod, the ends flattened and drilled for a 1/16"pin. The tongues are also made from strip. Make 4 hinged strap and buckle sets, plus 4 buckles without hinges for the inside back.
LACING LOOPS are best cut from 18-gauge brass, and 24 are needed. Curl the tongue backwards into a circle. The loops are riveted at the bottom edges of the girdle plates. On the left side plates, the loops overhang the ends slightly, front and back; on the right they are set back about 3/4" from each end. There are no lacing loops on the bottom 2 pairs of girdle plates.
BOSSES are stamped out of thin brass (.010"), and are available from the CO. Rivets Three types of brass rivets are used: flat-headed, small domed, and large domed. The flat-headed type is used for riveting the girdle plates and lesser shoulder guards to their internal leather straps, and about 130 are needed. They are put in place from the inside, first through the leather and then the metal, and hammered flat outside the steel--no washers are used. About 160 small domed rivets (1/8" diam. shank) are needed for the hinges and loops. 24 large ones (3/16" shank) are used for attaching the upper shoulder guards and back plates to their leathers--some of these also secure the stamped bosses. (Optionally, small domed rivets may be used in place of the larger ones.) Since the large domed rivets must be peened (flattened) over leather, about 24 washers are needed. Draw a grid of 1/2" squares on .015"-.032" brass, put a hole through each square, and cut along the lines. Drill all holes no larger than necessary for the rivets to go through. Remove burrs with a file or small grinder. Put each rivet in place and cut off the excess shaft close to the surface of the metal or washer about 1/16", plus any "peak" left by the cutters. Flat-head rivets being peened are simply rested on a convenient hard surface, but for dome-heads, a riveting tool is essential. This is just a chunk of metal with a couple shallow holes drilled into it, in which the rivet heads can rest so that they stay domed. Washers can be held with masking tape to prevent them from jumping off while their rivets are peened.
LEATHER The best leather to use is 5-ounce tooling leather with a good coat of neatsfoot or similar oil. Anything thicker will reduce the flexibility of your lorica. Waxed or chrome-tanned leathers may be stretchy--beware. The 6 girdle plate leathers are c.1-1/2" wide by c. 14" long. The pairs of holes are 1-5/8" to 1-7/8" apart (depending on your height), except that the uppermost pair on the middle leather for each side is a little lower (because of the rolled edge at the middle of the top plate). Each trio of back plates is riveted to a pair of leather strips 7" to 8" long by 3/4" wide. These extend below the bottom back plate to reach the buckles inside the top girdle plate. The shoulder guard leathers (3 on each side) are also 3/4" wide. The back ones are roughly 10" long, the front and middle about 8-1/2".
ASSEMBLY The upper shoulder guards, mid-collar plates, and tops of the breastplates must be curved to fit the shoulders before they are connected by their hinges. Assemble the collar units with the back plates, and put all the strap and buckle sets in place. The lesser shoulder guards are curved to fit, then riveted to their leathers. They are next attached to the collar units, and the upper shoulder guards are riveted on last. The lacing loops and rear buckles are best riveted on before the girdle plates are curved. The girdle plates are more U-shaped than semi-circular - shape the bottom plate first and make each plate fit the one below it. Then check the fit of the top plates. They must not stick out and press against the insides of your upper arms (this can cause discomfort and numbness!). If the girdle plates are slightly too long it is better to reshape them so that any looseness of fit is at front and back rather than at the sides. Finally, assemble the girdle sections, again working from bottom to top. TYPE "B" LORICA Separate patterns for the type B lorica can be provided, but type A patterns can be adapted, if you prefer. HOOKS & EYES connect the collar unit to the girdle plates. Cut 6 hooks out of heavy brass (18-ga), matching the lacing loop
TYPE "B" LORICA Separate patterns for
the type B lorica can be provided, but type A lorica patterns can be adapted, if you
prefer. HOOKS & EYES connect the collar unit to the girdle plates.
Cut 6 hooks out of heavy brass (18-ga), matching the lacing loops but
with tongues 1/2" longer. Also cut 6 eyes, also 18-guage. (On
the type C cuirass the back eyes hung below the plate like those at front, and all
were made of iron.) Place the hooks and eyes however they best align -
symmetry is not crucial.
HINGES are a less refined shape than type A
There are only 7 pairs of girdle plates, so only 20 lacing loops are needed. Loops are NOT mounted flush with the bottom edges of the girdle plates as usually shown, but 3/8" up.
Backplate leathers can be 1/2" strips, or a single 4" square. Upper shoulder guard center plate is pentagonal, with the point towards the neck, simply because the front and rear plates are tapered.
LORICA HAMATA (CHAIN-MAILE)
"Maile" was the "standard" armor before the introduction of the lorica
segmentata, and it continued in use among auxiliaries and legionaries throughout the
imperial period. It is not known what the ratio of hamata to segmentata might
have been in the mid-first century AD, but a minority of maileshirts in the ranks
is certainly acceptable. Maile was also worn by standard-bearers, musicians,
and centurions, and of course by auxiliary troops.
Roman maile was made of either iron or brass, with rings as small as 1/8" in diameter. Frequently, half the rings were solid (either punched from sheet metal, or cut from wire and welded shut) while wht rest were riveted shut. Occasionally the rings were simply butted closed, without rivets.
Reproduction maile is usually made from galvanized steel wire, 16 guage being a good thickness for modern purposes. Rings may be up to 5/8" in outside diameter, but the smaller the better. While the galvanization protects against rust, especially during construction, it is best to remove it when the shirt is done, for a more authentic appearance. Battery acid has been used, but rolling the maile in a barrel of sand should also work.
An alternative to widing and cutting wire for rings is to buy 20 to 30 pounds of small washers, half normal and half split. This is more costly but much quicker than wire, and the flat cross-section of he rings may be more authentic than round wire.
The typical maileshirt is sleeveless or has short (c.5") sleeves, and reaches to about mid-thigh. The shoulder doubling, shaped like a square-bottomed U, is attached to the back by a single row of rings. This doubling can be edged with leather (1-3 ounce), which is folded over the edges and stitched through. Riveted to the center of the chest is a pair of S-shaped hooks of iron or brass (or a single hook of that shape), which hook onto a button or stud on each flap. For auxiliary cavalry and some officers, the shoulder doubling is more of a circular cape, joined to the body around the neckhole. Auxiliary infantry seem to have dispensed with shoulder doublings by this time.
SUBARMALIS (ARMING GARMENT) There are
several historical references to the subarmalis, a garment worn under the armor to
protect clothing and body from chafing and soiling. A 4th century
description, which uses the term thoracomachus, says it is made of thick
cloth, covered with leather (or with a separate leather garment over it) for
waterproofing. However, there are no archeological remains or certain
One important function of the subarmalis is to give the shoulders padding against the weight and abuse of the armor. M.C. Bishop points out that shoulder pads also raise the collar plates up to the narrower part of the neck, alleviating "neck pinch", and causes the breast plates to hang straight, not at an angle. (Original breast plates always have their straps and hooks mounted vertically and horizontally, but do not show evidence of the angled stress suffered by modern reconstructions.) The exact form of your subarmalis is up to you. Padding for the shoulders can be as simple as a 12" to 18" square of sheepskin with a headhole cut in the center, but a more complete garment is recommended. It should fit fairly closely and be more or less hidden by your armor. It may be a pullover like a tunic, or have an opening at the front or side. It may be linen, wool, or leather, and can be padded at the shoulders or all over. Pteruges (rows of flaps) may be attached at the shoulders and hem if you wear mail or scale armor, but they seem not to have been worn with the lorica segmentata very often.
A subarmalis with a linen lining and an outer layer of wool, heavy linen, or leather can be made as follows. Start with a short linen "tunic", a little longer than your lorica and just wide enough to get into, sleeveless, with a narrow neckhole. (Since it is a lining it is made "inside out" - with finished side towards your body.) Pin folded scraps of fabric to the shoulders and adjust them to the desired placement and thickness, trying on your armor for a good fit. (If you have no armor yet, the length should be a few inches below your waist for a lorica segmentata, or about knee-length for a hamata. The shoulder padding should be c. 1/2" thick.) Stitch the padding in place. Make the outer covering a little wiider and a couple inches longer than the lining. Put the layers together and secure at the neckhole by turning in the edges and stitching. Quilting the padding in place is also a good idea.
Now put on your subarmalis and your armor, and make sure that the subarmalis is not bunched up or crooked. Trace around the bottom edge of the lorica, cut off any excess fabric and hem. Also mark and trim at the armholes so that there is only enough subarmalis projecting beyond the metal to protect the tunic, and hem that, too.
SCUTUM (SHIELD) There are many options
for scutum size, shape, and materials. The "standard"
specifications are given below in CAPITALS, followed by options and explanations.
At the end is a summary of historical evidence about the scutum.
RECTANGULAR or curve-sided, 37"-42" tall (about from shoulder to top of knee), 24"-33" wide, corners rounded to c. 1-1/4" radius.
PLYWOOD CORE 1/4" to 3/8" thick, made from 2 layers of wood--e.g.
1/8"-3/16" plywood wall paneling--glued together in a curve. This is best done in a press.
--A press is made of 3 or more pieces cut from 2" lumber as shown, laid in row to the approximate length of the shield. They can be joined together with scrap lumber, or fixed to a plywood base, etc. Glue the 2 layers of the shield together with hide or wood glue and immediately place one edge in the notches of the press. Then use drywall screws and an electric screwdriver to begin screwing the wood down, working from the notches and placing the screws about 2" apart. (Simply bending the free end down may crack the wood.) Allow the glue to dry overnight (some may ooze out), then remove the screws, and trim the edges of the wood if necessary.
CUT CIRCULAR HANDHOLE IN EXACT CENTER, c. 5" in diameter.
HORIZONTAL HANDGRIP of hardwood, cut to match the curve of the shield, c.
18"-24" long, 3/4" wide, 3/4" thick behind hole, c. 1/4" thick for the rest.
Glue in place, and reinforce with 2-4 nails--drill holes first, then put through from the front and clench securely at back. Handgrip can also be steel strip c. 1/8" thick, riveted with nails; wrap grip with leather.
BACK BRACING - Either wood 1/2" to 3/4" wide, c. 1/4" thick, flat or half-round; or steel strip c. 1/8" thick. Arrangement shown above, 3" to 4" in from edges. Horizontal braces can be bent to fit, or cut to match curve like handgrip.
COVER FRONT AND BACK, with LEATHER, linen, felt, canvas, etc. Leather
should be max. 3 oz. thickness, vegetable-tanned or rawhide (chrome-tanned or waxed leathers may be difficult to paint). Glue coverings on with hide or wood glue. (If 2 or more pieces of leather are used, seams can be covered by applied arrows or spines.)
PAINT FRONT AND BACK RED (Red Devil Latex Enamel "Crimson" is typical,
since we don't know what Roman paint was made of) or dye to similar color before gluing facing to wood. Trace emblem using Legion's stencil (ask CO).
Wings and vertical spines should be yellow oxide, or a slightly lighter yellow, outlined in black; lightning bolts and arrows are white with black or blue outlines. Outlines and details are best done last. The various parts of the emblem may optionally be linen or thin leather, either dyed with painted details, or entirely painted, and sewn to the facing before it is glued to the shield. They can even be thin brass, with the white parts either tinned or made of thin steel; nail on with brass brads after covering is in place.
BRASS RIM, c. .015" thick. Corners can be made from 6" lengths of 1/2" to
3/4" tubep-anneal, pack with sand, and bend with spring-type pipe-bender; cut open with Dremel tool or snips. Each side (or top/bottom) can be either single piece of strip or tube, or several pieces (with small overlaps for security) if necessary. (.015" strips can be bent into shape by hand, even directly onto the shield edge, without annealing.) Nail rim on with BRASS ESCUTCHEON PINS or similar steel brads, CLENCHED at back. Optionally, leather or rawhide rim--2" wide strips STITCHED on (drill small holes thru wood first, 1/4" to 1/2" apart, 1/4" to 1/2" in from edge). Cut corner pieces to match curve and avoid puckering. Leather rim is painted or dyed, red, black, or yellow.
BOSS: 18 to 12-ga. brass or steel, c. 5" diameter dome on rectangular base from 8" square to 10"x11". To make a boss: Cut metal to desired size and bend to match curve of shield. Cut a 5" diameter hole in a piece of 2"x8" lumber, and dish the metal into the hole with a large ball-peen hammer. Start at the center and work outwards in a slow spiral, then repeat until dome is at least 1-1/2" deep. Metal should be annealed for easier working.
Watch the curve of the base - it will tend to curl irregularly. After dishing, place a large hammerhead or similar object inside the boss and go over the outside with a small hammer to plannish (smooth) out the dents.
Boss may have punched, engraved, or inlaid decoration.
RIVET boss in place with 4-8 steel or brass nails or bolts, using square washers or nuts at the back. Line up the holes carefully to go through the back bracing - this will reinforce the handle.
Optional corner "L"s--BRASS or steel c. .015" thick, 4"x4", 3/4" wide.
They are aligned with the corners of the back bracing and are riveted on with brass or steel nails, 3 or 5 each. (Lightning bolts may be shortened to fit.)
Optional carrying strap--heavy leather 1-1/4" to 2" wide. Secure ends to boss rivets or directly to grip. The exact form and use of a carrying strap is debated--modern experiments are contradictory! Fayum shield had iron rings on the back, and an iron shield handle from Newstead has loops, possibly for strap attachments.
GLADIUS There were basically 2 types of this
short sword in use in the mid-first century AD.
The older "Mainz" pattern, derived from the Spanish gladius, had a blade 20" to 22" long by about 2-1/2" to 3" wide and being somewhat wider just below the hilt. It was slightly wasp-waisted, with a long point. A variation called the Fulham pattern also had a long point, but was only 2" to 2-1/4" wide with straight edges. The newer "Pompeii" type had parallel edges and a short point, and was c. 2" wide by 18" to 22" long. Both styles of blade were double-edged with a flat diamond cross-section, without grooves or fullers. The hilt was made of wood, bone, or ivory, and the grooved bone grip was usually hexagonal or octagonal in section. A thin brass plate was set into the bottom of the guard.
Scabbards were made of wood covered with thin leather. Those for Mainz
pattern blades were enclosed in a frame of brass "gutters", with decorated plates on the front. Popeii type scabbards had chapes and throats of similar construction, but the edge gutters generally did not extend top to bottom. The decoration could be embossed, stamped, punched, or pierced, and frequently the brass parts were tinned or silvered.
The sword hangs high on the right side on a baldric 1/2" to 1" wide. (The "baldric clasps" shown in some modern reconstructions are horse harness fittings.) The scabbard has 4 suspension rings: at the back the baldric forks and is stitched to both rings, but at the front only the top ring is used, the baldric being either sewn to it or fixed with a small buckle. The baldric may be dyed.
PILUM The javelin or
pilum consists of a long iron head with a small point, and a wooden
shaft. On the most common type, the bottom of the head widens into a
flat tang, which is riveted into the widened top of the wood shaft. The second
type has a socketed head, and a third type, less well-known, has a spike
tang. In the first cent. AD, some tanged pila are shown with a spherical
weight, presumed to be lead, behind the joint block. Apparently
the weapon had become lighter over the centuries, and the weight was added to
increase its "punch".
Heavy Pilum with lead weight behind the joint block to increase range and impact force.
Pilum heads are 14" to
30" long, with pyramidal or barbed points c. 2" long. The iron
shanks are about 1/4" thick near the point, swelling to c. 3/8" or 1/2" at
the base. The wood shaft is 7/8" to 1-1/8" in diameter and 4 to 5 feet
long, making the complete weapon 5-1/2 to 7-1/2 feet in length. The butt is
capped with an iron cone.
The pilum was probably thrown at a range of about 20 yards, just as the Roman line charged. The small point could penetrate a shield and wound the man behind it, or even pierce armor. Any man with a pilum stuck in his shield would find the javelin's weight so cumbersome that he would probably discard the shield. The pilum's head shape prevented its easy removal, and the iron shank prevented its being cut off. (This shield-removing capability has always been over-emphasized - the pilum was designed to kill.)
Finally, no matter what the javelin hit, its iron shank was supposed to bend, if only a little, so that an enemy could not throw it back. When the Romans were finished winning the battle they could gather their pila and straighten them.
During the Republic, each legionary carried 2 pila, one light and one heavy. Most illustrations of Imperial legionaries show only one pilum, but a few show 2, both tanged and apparently identical. It would appear that 2 pila were still carried, but that there was no longer a "heavy" and a "light" version.
PUGIO Like other items of legionary
equipment, the dagger was undergoing some changes in the 1st century AD. Generally,
it had a large, leaf-shaped blade 7" to 11" long and 2" or more in
width. A raised midrib ran the length of each side, either simply standing out
from the face, or defined by grooves on either side. The tang was wide and flat
initially, and the grip was riveted through it, as well as through the shoulders of
About 50 AD a rod tang was introduced, and the hilt was no longer riveted through the shoulders of the blade. This in itself caused no great change in the pugio's appearance, but some ot these later blades were narower (under 1-3/4" wide), and/or had little or no waisting, and/or had reduced or vestigial midribs.
Throughout the period the outline of the hilt remained basically the same. It was made with 2 layers of horn or wood sanwiching the tang, each overlaid with a thin metal plate. Occasionally the hilt was decorated with engraving or inlay. Note that the hilt is 4" to 5" long overall and that the grip is quite narrow--it will always seem to be too small.
Making a pugio can be difficult, since the blade must have the proper shape, with either a simple or grooved midrib.
The flat tang matches the outline of the hilt, and is sanwiched between two "organic" layers: wood, horn, bone, or ivory. Each layer can be several pieces (for guard, grip, and pommel), often pinned or riveted through the tang. On some examples the tang ends at the pommel, so there is a solid organic block in that space instead of two layers. Finally the thin iron (steel) plates are laid over the organic layers and riveted in place, with two or 4 rivets through the guard, two or three through the pommel, and occasionally one through the center swell. The rivet heads can be decorative (even inlaid), and some have small dished washers under them.
The contours of the hilt plates - approximately matched by the organic layers - are often quite pronounced, but reproductions can be more conservative. The effect can be achieved by a shallow ridge down the middle of the grip and another along the guard, plus chiselled accents and some slight dishing out of the pommel and center swell.
For rod-tanged blades, the handle is assembled separately (with a solid organic piece or several), and the tang inserted into a hole through the length of the handle. It is either held simply by friction, or by allowing the tang to project beyond the pommel and peening it flat.
PACKS "SARCINA" The marching pack is
described by Plutarch and Josephus, and is shown on
Trajan's Column, but few remains have been found. Details of these items are therefore undertain and you may deviate from the following specifics as you need or desire.
The pack items are carried on a T-shaped pole "Furca" about 5 feet tall with a crossbar c. 18" long. Construction details are unclear, but the crossbar is best secured 3" to 4" from the top of the pole with a bolt or big nail, cleverly filed or hammered to keep it from looking too modern. Wrap the joint with a leather thong to steady it.
From the crossbar hangs a bundle which is presumably the cloak. It can simply be rolled up and tied, wrapped in a piece of leather or cloth, or held in a bag which is secured to the crossbar. Some of the bundles shown on the Column are tied at one end, some at both.
The rectangular satchel measures approximately 12"x18" and is made from 1 to 3 ounce leather (goatskin, etc.). On the Column it is shown as flat, with no side gores. The best working reconstruction is reinforced with leather strips and has a pointed flap like an envelope. The reinforcements cross on the back (like a vertical line through an X), but on the front they hold a ring which serves as the flap closure. If a plain ring is used the flap can simply be tied to it with a thong; however, bronze rings with raised studs have been found which may have been pack closures, the stud being a button. The side reinforcements (or the crossed strips, as in Simkins' reconstruction) hold a ring at each upper corner to which the strap is anchored. At the middle of the top edge is a carrying handle which can be reinforced with a cord inside it. The strap and handle allow the satchel to be hung from the T-pole in a number of ways, or slung from the shoulder when "marching light". (In fact, one could even substitute a dolabra or entrenching tool for the T-pole, hanging the kit items from the tool's head.) The fragmentary satchel found at Bar Hill apparently had no flap, and may have been a mule's feed bag, but it is a handy reference for some construction techniques.
The most mysterious object seen on Trajan's Column looks like a net bag, which is not mentioned in literature. While it could simply be an open net bag (for food items?), it could also be a reinforcement either for a linen sack (for grain or flour?), or for a leather water flask. The latter interpretation is popular since it is not known how else the Roman soldier might have carried his water. The net may be of linen, wool, or similar
cord, but its exact form and function depends on your personal interpretation of the evidence.
SATCHEL CONSTRUCTION. The body can be made of one piece of 1-3 ounce
leather, or from several pieces. Reinforcing strips are also 1-3 oz., 1/2" to 1" wide. Stitching can be a running stitch or 2-needle method. After the body is assembled and crossed reinforcing sewn on, sew on a reinforcing strip around the sides and bottom edge. At each top corner it is doubled back through a plain metal ring (1-1/4" to 2" diameter) and stitched down.
The handle is sewn to the middle third of the top edge - reinforcing patches inside the satchel are recommended. The edges of the flap can have a turned or bound hem. Optionally, the crossed strips can hold the corner rings and the perimeter strip omitted, as in the reconstruction by Simkins.
HELMET CRESTS "CRISTA" There are
depictions of helmet crests and a few descriptions, but no surviving examples or
fragments (besides the metal attachments). It is believed that crests were not
worn in battle in during the First Century AD, except by Centurions. Red
seems to be the traditional color for helmet crests. In Legion XXIV, red
is probably preferred, but other colors may be used, if shown to be
historically correct and they may be of different styles. The first type described
is for Imperial-style helmets.
The crest block is wood, c. 1-1/2" wide by 1-1/4" thick in height. (It can be cut from a nice 2x6.) The exact size and shape depend on your helmet and preferences, but it is approximately semi-circular. The ends should not quite touch the helmet at the attachment points at front and back, and the center is 1-1/2" to 2" above the crown, supported by the crest support. The placement of the central support and its holder will also influence the crest's shape. (For instance, is the support inserted into the front of the holder or the rear?) Make a cardboard pattern first to be sure of the shape.
Cut the block out carefully and sand it well. Mark the locations for the holes, 1/4" in diameter, 1/4" apart (1/2" on center), and c. 3/8" deep.
Three staggered rows work well. There can be about 100 holes. Drill them carefully, as the wood grain may cause the drill to drift off-target. When the holes are done, sand the top of the block again and paint the whole thing red. You may add carved, painted, or applied decoration to the block.
About 8 ounces of white horsehair is needed. (One ounce will make 12 to 14 twelve-inch tufts.) Cut it to about 12" long, separate it into about 4 bundles tied tightly in the middle, and dye it red with Rit Scarlet fabric dye in a large kettle on the stove (Follow the directions!). Do not substitute leather dye as it is not waterproof! Lay the hair flat and straight to dry. When dry, separate the hair into as many little tufts as there are holes in your block, and tie each tuft in the center with heavy thread. Don't worry about the white middles of the strands. Fold each tuft in half and glue it into a hole. When the glue is dry, comb the hair gently with a fork or coarse comb and give it a light trim.
Feathers can be used instead of horsehair, and red ones are available from Tandy Leather and various craft stores. They may have to be trimmed a couple inches. If your helmet has feather tubes at the sides you may wear a feather in each of them, no matter what your crest is made of.
The crest support for an Imperial-Gallic helmet can be cut from a square-section 1/4" brass or steel rod 5" to 6" long. Make a 2" cut in one end with a hacksaw, and bend the arms down to a T-shape. Then bend up each arm so that your crest block fits between them, and finish the tips by curling them down. Anneal the metal before each step. Making sure that the center post is the right height to support the crest where you want it, bend the bottom end to form the foot or tongue, and grind or hammer it flat to fit the holder on your helmet. Finally, file, sand, and polish it well.
The arms can be squeezed together slightly at the top to give them a firm grip on the crest block.
Imperial-Italic helmets have "twist-on" supports, usually cast: a T-shaped stud on the bottom fits into the slotted disc on the helmet and secures with a quarter-turn. Some have a spike between the arms which would fit into a hole in the crest block - this could be secure enough to dispense with hooks or rings.
Many depictions show a comparatively short block mounted directly on the helmet. Judging by the archeological evidence this would not be the most common style, but a U-shaped support with a T-stud on the bottom has been found. This would result in a "flush-mounted" crest similar to those illustrations, and is an option for some Italic helmets.
Coolus helmet crest knobs often have a slot crossed by a hole. A metal tongue on the bottom of the crest block (or set into a conical hole) fits into the slot and is secured by a pin. The crest block would be quite short in this case. There is also evidence that some Coolus helmets carried a longer crest (c. 1/3 of a circle), anchored to the knob near its front end, while at the back a metal tongue was slid under a strip riveted to the skull just above the neckguard.
Montefortino helmets generally have a knob with a vertical hole. While a Coolus-style crest could be "retro-fitted" to this, it was designed to accept a pin on a simple plume or "tail" of horsehair. This is acceptable for Legion use as long as it is red. Four or five ounces of horsehair, 24 inches long, is needed.
While you will probably want to display your crest when not in use, it is better to store it carefully. It is the one item of equipment which should NOT show wear and tear from campaigning. Keeping it covered and laid flat - or better yet, suspended upside-down - will keep off dust and prevent drooping. The best option is to construct a sturdy cardboard box with strings or wire twist-ties inside to keep the crest from sliding around. Make a place for the crest holder, too.
* HOME * TOP * SITE INDEX * EQUIPMENT * WEAPONS * EVENTS *
* LEGION LINKS * HISTORICAL LINKS * SUPPLIER LINKS *
* ROMAN NAMES * GLOSSARY * CIVILIAN CLOTHING *
Inquiries since June 1999