Armor Of Ancient Rome Essay

3853 words - 15 pages

Armor of Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome expended a great deal of economic resources and effort upon conquest and
expansion through military means. The role of armor was fundamental in this expansion as it
played a significant role in the success of the Roman armies on the battlefield. There were three
common requirements for armor construction throughout its history: The first was that armor
had to be flexible enough to allow the wearer freedom of movement; second, it also had to be
lightweight enough to be worn without tiring the wearer while providing protection against
opponents' weapons; and third, armor had to be cost effective. These three aspects influenced
the evolution of Roman cuirass (lorica) design throughout Rome’s history. The central concept
in the study of Roman armor is that it was always a compromise between mobility, protection,
and cost.
There were at least four cuirass types in use during the first century A.D. These were the
muscle, scale, mail, and segmented cuirasses with mail and segmented cuirasses being the most
predominant. The study of these armor types relies upon three main sources of evidence:
iconographic (e.g., sculpture, tombstones, monuments); archaeological; and literary sources.
The evolution of Roman lorica was driven by the needs and circumstances of the Roman
Army. Armies of the 1st century A.D. were firmly established within the Empire and control fell
solely under the auspices of the Emperor. Increasingly the main strength of the Roman army, up
to thirty legions, was garrisoned on the frontiers. Only a token military force, the Praetorian
Guard, remained in Rome. The military situation in this period was seldom dormant. In the 1st
century the invasion of Britain (A.D.43) necessitated the reorganization of legions and
auxiliaries over much of north west Europe. Further reorganization occurred after the civil war
of A.D.69, when the victorious Flavian dynasty dispersed disloyal units. As the Empire's
expansion slowed, permanent borders were established. Auxiliaries patrolled the borders and
legionnaires were stationed within the frontiers to act as a strategic reserve and intimidate
potentially rebellious provinces.
The army can be divided into two distinct parts: the legion and the auxiliary ( auxilia), with a
marked social division existing between the two. Only Roman citizens could become
legionnaires, while auxilia were composed of non citizens recruited from Rome's client states
and tribes. These legions were supported by the non citizen auxilia consisting of infantry cohorts
and cavalry (alae). A legion consisted of around 5,000 men which were mostly heavy foot
soldiers. However, it is only possible to attempt a rough estimate of the men who constituted a
legion. It has been estimated that the total number of Roman troops, including legions and
auxilia, numbered more than 300,000 during the first century A.D. It has also been assumed

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