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CLIP´EUS also CLIPEUM (ἀσπίς, σάκος), the large shield used by the Greeks and the Romans, which was originally of circular shape, and is said to have been first used by Proetus and Acrisius of Argos (Paus. 2.25.6), and therefore is called clipeus Argolicus (Verg. A. 3.637; cf. Pollux, 1.149). According to other accounts, however, it was derived from the Egyptians (Hdt. 4.180; Plat. Tim. 24 B).

One of the earliest extant representations of Greek shields is to be found in the engraving on a sword-blade found at Mycenae, representing a combat between men and lions (Helbig,

Early Greek shield. (Helbig.)

Homerische Epos, p. 232). It will be seen that some of the men carry shields resembling a scutum, others shields which recall the shape of the Boeotian shield, and that each form covers about three quarters of the person, and is partly supported by a strap passing round the shoulders. But the Homeric poems, which are probably of later date, are by no means in complete agreement with this representation.

The heroes of the Iliad carry a shield which is round (3.347; 5.453), and large enough to cover the whole man (αμφιβρότη, 2.389; ποδηνεκής, 15.646; περμιόεσσα, 16.803: the shield of Ajax is like a tower, 7.219; cf. Tyrtaeus, 11.23, Bergk). It is composed by sewing together circular pieces of untanned oxhide (Il. 4.447; 5.452; 7.238; 12.105), varying in number (four in 15.479; seven in 7.245). These are strengthened on both sides by plates of bronze, the outer hides and plates being of smaller diameter, so that on the edge of the shield both hide and metal are thinnest (20.275).

Sarpedon's shield is forged of plates of bronze, to which ox-hides are attached on the inside by golden rods or bolts (ῥάβδοι) running all round the circle (12.294-8). Ten circles of bronze run round Agamemnon's shield (11.32). Achilles' shield is composed entirely of metal in five plates--two of bronze, two of tin, and a central one of gold (20.270). The structure is bound together by a metal rim (ἄντυξ), which in Achilles' shield is triple (18.479). At the centre of the shield is a metal boss (ὀμφαλός). Agamemnon's shield is studded with twenty bosses of tin and a central one of cyanus (11.34). [p. 1.459]Concerning the appliances for wielding the shield, we have no clear indication: the two κανόνες mentioned in 13.407 and 8.193 may be rods running across the hollow part of the shield, and serving as handles. When not in use, the shield is suspended by the τελαμών [BALTEUS], which passes round the breast, the shield hanging at the back (14.404; cf. Hdt. 1.171). The practice of decorating the shield has commenced: for to pass over the wonders of Achilles' shield, in which we probably have the effect of the poet's imagination working on some production of Assyrian or Egyptian art which he had seen, Agamemnon's shield bears a Gorgon's head with figures of Terror and Fear, designed perhaps less as an ornament than to alarm the foe (Il. 11.36).

The λαισήϊα πτεροέντα, which in 5.453 and 12.426 are contrasted with the ἀσπίδες εὔκυκλοι, are explained by the Scholiasts as light and diminutive ἀσπίδες. The epithet πτεροεὶς may refer to some apron, such as is figured below.

Turning from the Iliad to the representations and texts of later times, we observe no shields which, like those of heroic times, protect the whole of the warrior's body: they usually cover him from the neck to the knees. Besides the

Circular Argive shield. (Aegina Marbles.)

circular or Argive shield, we frequently find represented an oval shield with a strong rim and apertures in the middle of each side (κεγχρώματα, Eur. Phoen. 1386), through which to watch the enemy. This is known as the Boeotian shield, being commonly found on the coins of the Boeotian cities (Gerhard, Auserlesenc Vasenbilder, pl. cxcv.).

The shield was now formed entirely of brass (πάγχαλκος). An apron, apparently of leather or thick stuff, was sometimes attached to it to protect in some measure the warrior's legs, especially when he did not wear greaves. It was ornamented with patterns or figures. A shield furnished with this appliance is given on the next column, and another under TUBA

The simplest arrangement for holding the shield consisted of two metal handles, one to pass the arm through, the other to grasp with the hand; but we very frequently observe the

Shield furnished with an apron. (Gerhard, pl. clxv.)

arrangement shown below (from one of the terra-cotta vases published by Tischbein, iv. tab. 20), which may be explained thus:--

A band of metal, wood, or leather, was placed across the inside from rim to rim, like the diameter of a circle, to which were affixed a number of small iron bars, crossing each other somewhat in the form of the letter X, which met the arm below the inner bend of the elbow joint, and served to steady the orb. This apparatus, which is said to have been invented by the Carians (Hdt. 1.171), was termed ὄχανον or ὀχάνη. Around the inner edge ran a leather

Greek shield. (Greek vase.)

thong (πόρπαξ), fixed by nails at certain distances, so that it formed a succession of loops all round, which the soldier grasped with his hand (ἐμβαλὼν πόρπακι γενναίαν χέρα, Eur. Hel. 1396; “πολυρράφῳ πόρπακι,Soph. Aj. 576 ). But it is somewhat difficult to distinguish these terms, for Plutarch tells us that when Cleomenes III. introduced among the Spartans [p. 1.460]the σάρισα,, which employed both hands, in place of the spear, he also made them carry the shield by the ὀχάνη, instead of the πόρπαξ (Cleom. 11), while others (e.g. the Scholiast on Aristoph. Kn. 849) treat them as convertible terms.

At the close of a war it was customary for the Greeks to suspend their shields in the temples, when the πόρπακες were taken off, in order to render them unserviceable in case of any sudden or popular outbreak ; which custom accounts for the alarm of Demos (Aristoph. l.c.), when he saw them hanging up with their handles on. Sometimes shields were kept in a case (σάγμα, Aristoph. Ach. 574; Eur. Andr. 617). In Gerhard (op. cit. pl. cclxix.) we see a σάγμα,, made of some stuff, being removed from a shield.

The ἀσπὶς was the characteristic defensive weapon (ὅπλον) of the heavy-armed infantry (ὁπλῖται) during the historical times of Greece, and is opposed to the lighter πέλτη and γέρρον: hence we find the word ἀσπὶς used to signify a body of ὁπλῖται (Xen. Anab. 1.7, § 10). It was only exceptionally used by cavalry (Xen. Hell. 2.4, 24, 4.4, 10; Aelian. Tact. 2.12; Arrian. Tact. 4.15). It was distinctively a Greek shield. Thus none of the Eastern peoples who served under Xerxes (Hdt. 7.61 ff.) were armed with it.

The Roman clipeus is seen in the accompanying illustration from Trajan's Column. According to Livy (1.43), when the census was instituted by Servius Tullius, the first class only used the clipeus, and the second were armed with the scutum [SCUTUM]; but after the Roman soldier received pay, the clipeus was discontinued altogether for the Sabine scutum. (Liv. 8.8; cf. 9.19; Plut. Rom. 21; Diod. Eclog. 23.3, who asserts that the original form of the Roman shield was square, and that it was subsequently changed for that of the Tyrrhenians, which was round.)

Clipeus, Roman shield. (Trajan's Column.)

The emblazoning of shields with devices (σήματα, σημεῖα) was said to be derived from the Carians (Hdt. 1.171). The bearings on the shields of the heroes before Thebes, as described by Aeschylus in the Seven against Thebes and Euripides in the Phoenissae, exhibit the development of devices in post-Homeric times. Some shields, like Agamemnon's, bear subjects designed to strike terror (Theb. 488, 534: to that of Tydeus bronze bells are attached with this object, ib. 381); others show also the warrior's pride or boastful spirit (ib. 427, 461). Other subjects are purely mythological (ib. 382), or indicate the owner's ancestry (ib. 507), while Amphiaraus is too proud of his real worth to bear any device at all (ib. 587; Eur. Phoen. 1111). The σήματα already serve to distinguish the warriors to those at a distance (ib. 141). This custom of emblazoning shields is illustrated by the following beautiful gem from the

Victory inscribing on a shield. (Ancient gem.)

antique, in which the figure of Victory is represented inscribing upon a clipeus the name or merits of some deceased hero.

From the historians we find that while an individual sometimes attracted attention by an unusual device (Alcibiades' was an ἔρως κεραυνοφόρος, Plut. Alc. 16), cities made use of some common symbol for their shields, which might be easily recognisable by their friends: thus the Lacedaemonians used A, the Sicyonians Σ, the Thebans Hercules' club,--a practice of which the enemy sometimes took a treacherous advantage (Xen. Hell. 4.4, 10, 7.50; Paus. 4.28, 5).

Each Roman soldier also had his own name and a mark indicating his cohort inscribed upon his shield, in order that he might readily find his own when the order was given to unpile arms (Veget. 2.17); and sometimes the name of the commander under whom he fought (Hirt, Bell. Alex. 58).

The practice of emblazoning shields is attested by the extant shields and representations of shields, and is well exhibited in the works illustrative of painted vases. (See cuts under ARMA and LORICA) The decorations vary from the simplest arrangements of lines and curves to the richest engraving of the inside as well as the outside of the shield (Mon. de l'Inst. Arch. 1869, pl. vi.). The shields accompanying famous statues of divinities were often masterpieces of engraving. Thus Pheidias engraved on the outside of the shield of his colossal Athene at Athens, the combat of the Athenians and the Amazons, and on the inside the war of the gods and the giants (Plut. Per. 31; Paus. 1.17.2; Plin. Nat. 36.18).

A victorious army sometimes dedicated their own shields (Paus. 10.19.4; cf. 1.26.2; [p. 1.461]2.17.3), or an engraved shield of gold (ib. v. 10.4; Hdt. 1.92; Aeschin. Cies. 116), as an offering in a temple. In the latter case we have a shield which is expressly made as a work of art, and not for warfare, as Pausanias remarks concerning those set up in the gymnasium at Olympia (6.23.7). These practices, transferred to Rome (e. g. Liv. 25.39), gave rise to the clipei or clipeatae imagines, the history of which is sketched by Pliny (Plin. Nat. 35.2-14), who tells us that Appius Claudius (Consul 495 B.C.) originated the custom, by dedicating in the temple of Bellona clipei bearing portraits of his ancestors, and that his example was followed by M. Aemilius, who thus adorned his own house as well as the basilica Aemilia, as is represented on the coin of the gens Aemilia. (See cut under BASILICA p. 288 b.) Under the empire this became a customary act of adulation to the emperor (Tac. Ann. 2.83; Capitolin. Antonin. 5; Treb. Poll. Claud. 3); and the clipeus aureus of Caligula was annually carried to the Capitol, in a procession composed of the colleges of priests, the senate, and noble youths and maidens singing his praises. (Suet. Calig. 16. See Bronzi d'Ercolano, t. i.; Visconti, Iconogr. Rom. t. xii.; Eckhel, Doct. Num. 6.103, 121.)

Finally, shields of various shapes in metal or marble were suspended from the roofs of porticus, or in the atrium of private houses, round the impluvium, for purely decorative purposes. Many such shields were found at Pompeii and Herculaneum, and are preserved in the Museum of Naples. They are usually engraved on both sides, and most commonly with mythological, especially Bacchanalian, subjects. (M. Albert in Revue Archéologique, 1881.)

Clipeus is also the name of a contrivance for regulating the temperature of the vapour bath [BALNEAE p. 277 b].

[A.R] [J.H.F]

hide References (35 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (35):
    • Aristophanes, Acharnians, 574
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 849
    • Euripides, Andromache, 617
    • Euripides, Helen, 1396
    • Euripides, Phoenician Women, 1111
    • Euripides, Phoenician Women, 1386
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.171
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.61
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.92
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.180
    • Homer, Iliad, 11.36
    • Homer, Iliad, 7.238
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.19.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.25.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.17.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.28
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.5
    • Plutarch, Alcibiades, 16
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 576
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.7
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 4.4
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 2.4
    • Homer, Iliad, 12.105
    • Homer, Iliad, 4.447
    • Homer, Iliad, 5.452
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 3.637
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.83
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 35.2
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.18
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 35.14
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 25, 39
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 43
    • Plutarch, Pericles, 31
    • Plutarch, Romulus, 21
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