previous next


PELTA (πέλτη), a small shield. Iphicrates, observing that the ancient CLIPEUS was cumbrous and inconvenient, introduced among the Greeks a much smaller and lighter shield, from which those who bore it took the name of peltastae [EXERCITUS Vol. I. p. 776]. It consisted principally of a frame of wood or wickerwork (Xen. Anab. 2.1, § 6), covered with skin or leather, without the metallic rim. [ANTYX]. (Timaeus, Lex. Plat. s. v.) Light and small shields of a great variety of shapes were used by numerous nations before the adoption of them by the Greeks. The round target or cetra was a species of the pelta, and was used especially by the people of Spain and Mauretania. [CETRA] The pelta is also said to have been quadrangular (Schol. in Thuc. 2.29). A light shield of similar construction was part of the national armour of Thrace (Thuc. 2.29; Eurip. Aloes. 498, Rhes. 410; Max. Tyr. Diss. 19.1, 23.2) and of various parts of Asia, and was on this account attributed to the Amazons, in whose hands it appears on the works of ancient art sometimes elliptic, as in the bronzes of Siris (woodcut, p. 79), and at other times variously sinuated on the margin, but most commonly [p. 2.364]with a semicircular indentation on one side ( “lunatis peltis,” Verg. A. 1.490, 11.663). Varro, L. L. 7.43, compares this to the ancile. [SALII] A vase fragment in the

Peltae, from a vase in the British Museum.

British Museum (No. E 793) shows clearly the form and construction of the lunata pelta; two Persians exhibit the two sides of the shield.

[W.S] [A.H.S]

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: