cuirass. The epithet λινοθώρηξ
two light-armed warriors in the Iliad (2.529
), although it occurs in
the comparatively late catalogue of the Ships, indicates the early use of
the linen cuirass. But with the exception of the passages quoted, all
allusions to the cuirass in Homer imply a defence of rigid metal; for it is
certainly wrong to suppose that the στρεπτὸς
of the Iliad (5.113
) is a hauberk of twisted mail, or that
is more than a poetical
epithet. The Homeric cuirass was usually of bronze (but cf. Il. 11.19
). As regards the parts of the
body protected, it covered the γαστέρα
but there is no proof that it reached lower than this. It consisted of the
viz. the breastplate (pectorale
), which covered the breast and abdomen,
and the corresponding plate which covered the back (Paus. 10.26
; Il. 5.99
). In Homeric times the γύαλα
cannot have been made to fit very closely to the body, for a warrior might
have his cuirass pierced and yet escape unwounded (Il. 3.360
). The Homeric
body-armour consisted of the θώραξ, ζωστήρ,
There is some
uncertainty as to the respective functions of these different pieces. It
seems probable that the annexed woodcut of a bronze statuette of a Greek
warrior found at Dodona (Arch. Zeit.
1882, pl. 1) shows the
form of the thorax. It [p. 2.78]
is clear that at the point of
junction the ζωστὴρ
was upon the thorax,
and the thorax upon the
Ancient Lorica as worn by a Greek warrior. (From bronze statuette
found at Dodona.)
). Probably the ζωστὴρ
was a girdle round the lower part of the
thorax, helping to keep the two γύαλα
together, and itself kept in position by the projecting rim at the bottom of
the thorax, which was the ζῶμα.
It is plain
from a comparison of Il. 4.136
and 187 that
was a part of the thorax. The
was perhaps a metal band,
protecting the lower part of the abdomen, its upper edges lying beneath the
projecting rim of the thorax. Such bands have been found in very early tombs
in Euboea and Italy (Helbig, Das Homerische Epos aus dem
p. 199, fig. 67).
Specimens are in the British Museum. (On the whole question of Homeric
body-armour, see Helbig, loc. cit.
p. 197; W. Leaf,
Journ. of Hellen. Studies,
iv. p. 73; and Leaf's
4.137). A remarkable fragment of a thorax,
apparently of the early form, has incised designs of an archaic character,
with human figures, animals, and conventional patterns (Bull. de
vii. pll. i.-iii.).
In historical times the rigid thorax (θώραξ
because, when placed upon the ground on its lower edge, it stood erect) was
developed as follows. The projecting rim at the bottom of the thorax
disappeared. The lower part was prolonged in the middle to protect the
abdomen. (For an early example of such a prolongation, see Froehner,
Choix de Vases Grecs,
pl. iii. See also below the woodcut
of a Roman emperor.) Round the lower edges of the thorax a series of flaps
was attached, consisting of leather or felt covered with metal, and serving
to protect the hips and groin, while not interfering with the wearer's
freedom of movement. They are well shown in the following woodcut of a
figure of a young warrior from one of Mr. Hope's fictile vases
(Costumes of the Ancients,
Instead of the straps here described, which the Greeks called πτέρυγες
de Re Equest. 12.4
), the Chalybes, who were
encountered by Xenophon on his retreat (Anab.
4.7.15), had in
the same situation a kind of cordage.
Lorica as worn by a Greek warrior. (From a vase.)
Appendages of a similar kind were sometimes fastened by hinges to the lorica
at the right shoulder, for the purpose of protecting the part of the body
which was exposed by lifting up the arm in throwing the spear or using the
sword. (Xen. de Re Equest.
) Other straps were sometimes attached round the holes for the
arms, thus serving as short sleeves (cf. Alt. von Pergamon,
ii., Atlas, pl. xlvii. fig. 2).
were modelled so as to fit
accurately to the form of the body, as may be seen in the representations of
them in the woodcuts at Vol. I. pp. 189, 284. It appears (Xen. Memorabilia,
3.10) that great pains were taken to
secure that the thorax should fit the individual wearer. The two plates were
united on the right side of the body by two hinges, as seen in the
equestrian statue of the younger Balbus at Naples, and in various portions
of bronze cuirasses still in existence. On the other side, and sometimes on
both sides, they were fastened by means of buckles (περόναι,
Roman statues we often observe a band surrounding the waist and tied before.
The breast-plate and the back-plate were further connected together by
leathern straps passing over the shoulders, and fastened in front by means
of buttons or of ribands tied in a bow. In the above woodcut both of the
connecting ribands are tied to a ring over the navel. The breast-plate of
Caligula (see woodcut below) has a ring over each breast, designed to fulfil
the same purpose.
Bands of metal often supplied the place of the leathern straps, or else
covered them so as to become very ornamental, being terminated by a lion's
head, or some other suitable figure appearing [p. 2.79]
each side of the breast. The most beautiful specimens of enriched bronze
shoulder-bands now in existence are those which are reported to have been
found A.D. 1820, near the river Siris in S. Italy, and which are preserved
in the British Museum. They were originally gilt, and represent in very
salient relief two Greek heroes combating two Amazons. They are seven inches
in length, and belong to the description of bronzes called ἔργα σφυρήλατα,
having been beaten into form
with wonderful skill by the hammer. Bröndsted (Bronzes of
London, 1836) has illustrated the purpose which they
served, by showing them in connexion with a portion of another lorica, which
lay upon the shoulders behind the neck. This fragment was found in Greece.
Its hinges are sufficiently preserved to show most distinctly the manner in
which the shoulder-bands were fastened to them (see woodcut).
Lorica. (British Museum.)
The form and appearance of the thorax as worn by Roman generals and emperors
is shown in the annexed woodcut, which is taken from a
Lorica as worn by a Roman emperor. (Statue of Caligula found at
marble statue of Caligula found at Gabii (Visconti, Mon.
No. 38). The gorgon's head over the breast, and the two
griffins under-neath it, illustrate the style of ornament which was common
in the same circumstances (Mart. 7.1
. A classified table
of the designs that occur on imperial cuirasses is given by Wroth,
Journal of Hellen. Studies,
vii. p. 128). [AEGIS
] The execution of these
ornaments in relief was more especially the work of the Corinthians (Cic. Ver. 4.44, 132
Of Grecian cuirasses the Attic were accounted the best and most beautiful
(Aelian, Ael. VH 3.24
). The cuirass was worn
by the heavy-armed infantry and by the horsemen, except that Alexander the
Great is reported to have given to the less brave of his soldiers
breast-plates only, in order that the defenceless state of their backs might
diminish their propensity to flight (Polyaen.
). These were called
The rigid cuirasses which have now been described were sometimes found to be
very oppressive and cumbersome (cf. Tac. Ann.
), and various forms of flexible cuirasses were devised, which
could adapt themselves better to the movements of the body.
In Homer (vide supra
) the only indication of a
flexible cuirass is contained in the epithet λινοθώρηξ
applied to two light-armed warriors, the Locrian
Ajax and the Mysian Amphios.
In later times the linen cuirass continued to be worn, principally amongst
the Oriental nations, especially the Persians (Xen. Cyrop. 6.4
, § 2; Plut.
Alex. p. 1254
, ed. Steph.), the Egyptians
,--description of the famous linen cuirasses of Amasis), the
Phoenicians (Paus. 6.19.4
), and the Chalybes
(Xen. Anab. 4.7
, § 15). One of
the inventories of the Parthenon contains the (conjecturally restored) entry
of thirteen θώρακες λινοῖ καὶ φολιδωτοί
(C. I. A.
2.731, 50.25). Iphicrates endeavoured to
restore the use of it among the Greeks (Nepos,
), and it was occasionally adopted
by the Romans, though considered a much less effectual defence than a
cuirass of metal (Sueton. Galba,
p. 14, ed. Blancardi).
A much stronger material for cuirasses was horn, which was applied to this
use more especially by the Sarmatae and Quadi, being cut into small pieces,
which were planed and polished and fastened, like feathers, upon linen
shirts (Amm. Marcell. 17.12, ed. Wagner). Hoofs were employed for the same
purpose. Pausanias (1.21.8
) having made
mention of a thorax preserved in the temple of Aesculapius at Athens, gives
the following account of the Sarmatians: Having vast herds of horses, which
they sometimes kill for food or for sacrifice, they collect their hoofs,
cleanse and divide them, and shape them like the scales (φολίδες
) of a serpent, or the petals of a
fir-cone. They then bore holes in the scales and sew them together, so as to
produce a cuirass, inferior neither in elegance nor in strength to those of
Greek workmanship. This author adds that the loricae made of these horny
scales are superior to linen cuirasses, which are useful to hunters, as a
protection against the bites of wild beasts, but are not adapted for
fighting. The woodcut on page 80, taken from Meyrick's Critical
Inquiry into Ancient Armour
(plate iii.), exhibits an Asiatic
cuirass exactly corresponding to this description. It consists of slices of
some animal's hoof, which are stitched together, overlapping each other in
perpendicular rows, without being fastened to any under-garment. The
projection nearest the middle must be supposed to have been worn over the
breast, and the other over the back, so as to leave two vacant spaces for
This invention no doubt preceded the metallic [p. 2.80]
armour. The Rhoxalani, a tribe allied to the Sarmatians, defended themselves
Lorica of horn, (Meyrick.)
a dress consisting of thin plates of iron and hard leather (Tac. Hist. 1.79
). The Persians wore a tunic
of the same description, the scales being sometimes of gold (Hdt. 7.61
; θώρηκα χρύσεον
9.22); but they were commonly of bronze (thoraca indutus aënis squamis,
Verg. A. 11.487
). The basis of the cuirass
was sometimes a skin, or a piece of strong linen to which the metallic
scales, or “feathers,” as they are also called, were sewed
(Verg. A. 11.770
; Serv. in loc.;
The New Museum at Oxford contains a remarkable specimen from Kertch of a
piece of a θώραξ λεπιδωτός
: the scales of
bronze are fastened by leather thongs to a lining of hide. (See woodcut from
Journ. of Hellen. Studies,
pl. xvli. fig. 3.)
An armed horseman, on the frieze of the west side of the Parthenon, wears an
interesting combination of a θώραξ στάδιος
On the breast and on the
back are metal plates (handsomely ornamented), which are joined together at
the sides by scale armour.
The epithet λεπιδωτός,
as applied to a
thorax, is opposed to the epithet φολιδωτός
p. 13, 14). The former denotes a similitude to
the scales of fish (λεπίδες
), the latter to
the scales of serpents (φολίδες
resemblance to the scales of serpents, which are long and narrow, is
exhibited on the shoulders of the Roman soldier in the woodcut at Vol. I. p.
190. These scales were imitated by long flexible bands of metal, made to
fold one over another according to the contraction of the body. There is a
specimen in the New Museum at Oxford of this armour in bronze, from Kertch.
are riveted together by bronze wire, and fastened upon a lining of
tough hide, which is still in a wonderfully good state of preservation.
(Journ. of Hellen. Studies,
pl. xlvi. fig. 1: cf.
Compte-rendu de la Comm. Imp. Arch.
1876, pl. ii. figs.
11, 12, 20.) They appear very frequently on the Roman monuments of the times
of the emperors, and the following woodcut places in immediate contrast a
on the right and
on the left, both taken from
Bartoli's Arcus Triumphales.
A lighter and more inexpensive thorax of leather without metal additions was
introduced at an early period (cf. e. g. the archers on the pediments of the
temple at Aegina), and was known as the σπολάς
The hauberk or habergeon of chain-mail (ἁλυσιδωτοὺς
; Ath. 5.220
), which was worn by the Roman hastati,
was also a characteristic weapon of the Gauls (Varro, L. L.
5.116; Poseidonius ap. Diod. 5.30
occur on the reliefs of Gaulish trophies from the temple of Athena Polias at
Pergamon (Alt. von Pergamon,
ii. [p. 2.81]
Atlas, pl. xliv. fig. 1, pl. xlvi. fig. 2, pl. xlix. fig. 4 = woodcut).
The cuirass of chain-mail
Lorica of chain-mail. (Temple of Athena Polias at
appears to have been nearly the same shape as that of horn,
engraved above. The two sides are joined, and the projecting pieces are
brought one over each shoulder, and are fastened by the bar upon the breast.
The whole is made of thick wire twisted in an elaborate pattern. Virgil
several times mentions hauberks in which the rings, linked or hooked into
one another, were of gold ( “loricam consertam hamis, auroque
Verg. A. 3.467
). According to Val.
6.232), the Sarmatae covered
both themselves and their horses with chain-mail.