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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 1:51 pm    Post subject: How much did shields weigh?         Reply with quote

Reading up on Greek and Roman warfare, I've seen the claim that their large shields, such as the scutum and hoplon, could weigh 18-20+ lbs. Is this correct? Also, does anyone know what shields in the medieval period weighed? I'm especially interested in shields from the 10th and 11th centuries, the kind used in the shield-wall formations not so different from the ancient method of fighting.
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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 2:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Take a look at this website,

http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/shield/shield.html

Weights aren't given, but based on the thickness of the boards, shields would have been under 10lb. This enables them to be used very agressively in combat but makes them vulnerable to being pierced in a shield wall.

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Stephen

Stephen Hand
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 3:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The heaviest Roman scuta so far found seem to weigh about 22 lbs (10 kg). There have been separate reconstructions of the shields found at Doncaster (England) and Fayoum (Egypt?) and both of them ended up around the 10 kg mark. I would argue that 10 kg is the upper limit for what a man could wield in combat.
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Hank Reinhardt




PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 4:21 pm    Post subject: weight of shields         Reply with quote

They vary a great deal. Medieval period shields weighed between 5 and 10 pounds. I have an exact copy of the shield of the Black Prince and it weighs about 8 pounds. When the original was relegated to a closed permanet environment with temperature controls, and long study was made and the shield was described in detail. I have a copy around here somewhere. A guy on the West Coaqst who was a nut on the Black Prince, made one for Ewart and one for me. IO traded him some swords for it. Beautiful job, and highly accurate. Viking shields also varied in weight, with someof them weighing only about 5 pounds, while other had rather thick boards. Eastern shields also varied, with some of them weighing as little as 3 pounds. Very tough also, Made out of reed or thin rattan, tough, flexible and able to bend and flex under a blow. Have a Chinese shield made from what appears to be thick cord, but very tough and hard. It weighs about 8 pounds. Its a copy of an old Tartar type shield. Nice. I think you will find that that are no absolutes in this field. Everything was made on an individual basis. Hank
Hank Reinhardt
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 7:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting. So, as I suspected, medieval shields were significiantly lighter than Greek and Roman shields. Any thoughts on the reason for this and how it would have affected combat?

Were all scuta around 20 lbs, or were some lighter?
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Hank Reinhardt




PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 7:40 pm    Post subject: shields         Reply with quote

Remember that both Greek and Roman shields were designed for a specific form of combat. It appears that the Greek Shield was actually rested on the shoulder. There being a definite lip on the shield. Mainly a lot of pushing and shoving going on. The Macedonian Phalanx was a much improved version of the standard Greek combat technique. But it did not have the manuverability that the Romans had. The Roman shield has always puzzled me. It has a horizontal bar for the grip, and appears to have been carried with the palm out, wherein I would prefer the palm facing inward. From seveal skeletons that have been foundof Legionaires, they all had heavily developed left arms, and it appears, left biceps. The weight is still uncertain. The construction was similar to plywood, and rimmed with iron, so I imagine that 15-20 pounds was not an unreasonable weight. What we all tend to forget is that these people did not ride in cars, smoked, and worked hard all the time. Makes for a big difference physcially. Hank
Hank Reinhardt
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 8:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hank;

Palm outward seems very awkward to me at first reading in your post above ?Trying to imagine doing this: With the shield on the left side getting the wrist in that position feels almost impossible ! If the shield is brought to the front to cover the whole body the hand is supinated at it's maximum range so this is possible, but there is no range of motion left to rotate the shield to protect the left side only of the body ??? Maybe I'm visualizing the situation inaccurately ?

Palm outward you mean palm away from the body ?

Like you said my natural tendency would be to hold the grip with palm inward: Does this interpretation come from artwork or text ? Are the grips shaped in some way to make the palm outward hold the only one possible ?

Oh any evidence of the use of guige or using the shoulder to support most of the weight ? ( Probably not, at least haven't seen any so far. )

As you can see lots of question marks because the above are questions not a statement of a contrary view supported by research.

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Patrick Kelly




PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 8:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hank,

Is there a written source for this palm outward technique?
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 8:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, supplemental: if I brace my arm against the left front side of my upper body with forearm up in a curling motion the palm out hold, when my hand is down, end up facing me in a still supinated position and I can easily rotate the hand from front to left side with ease. The only problem with this is that a centrally place grip would give me a vey high shield position with the shield hiding my view of what is in front of me and exposing my legs to attack. (From missiles at least. )

Important point for this to work and make even minimal sense the grip would rotate in the hand as the arm does the curling motion or else one would move the arm up and would be smacking oneself in the face with the shield. ( Or, I'm hopelessly confused or confusing. Eek! Laughing Out Loud )

This should be an arm position that might work with a heavy shield.

Now a grip near the top third of the shield might work ! But I don't think this is where the grips were positioned on Roman shields.

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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 15 Nov, 2005 9:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Remember that both Greek and Roman shields were designed for a specific form of combat.


Sure, but 11th century shield-wall combat seems to be reasonably similar to how the Roman fought. Spear, sword, shield and javelin.

Maybe individual combat was more important later on and a lighter shield was better for that purpose? I don't know...

Were the shields of Rome's foes (Gauls and such) equally heavy?
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2005 1:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes a guige is the first thing that springs to mind, some folks shoot submachineguns without a stock, instead pushing out on a sling for stability; I don't care for it, though some swear by it. I suppose if you're pushing away from the body against a strap, palm out would be preferable. Quick, build a scutum and try it!

As far as manuevre, it it a scutum, after all, and if your buddy does his job your flanks are protected. Either way twenty lbs at arms length sounds like a quick trip to a bad back. Roman soldiers may have been fit, but the body has limits. How large was the average Roman? Perhaps the Empire crumbled when SPQR HMO stopped covering chiropractic visits.

But then one wonders if you are using a guige and your shield is rendered inoperable, how fast can you discard it?

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Wolfgang Armbruster




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2005 3:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's an interesting thread! Happy

Quote:
Were the shields of Rome's foes (Gauls and such) equally heavy?


The Roman scutum is actually a Celtic invention, at least the early version with the rounded edges. The same is true for the Helmets and the Mail-Loricas the Romans used.
Most roman weapons are adapted from other peoples then they tweaked the design for their own purposes.
The only thing which is a uniquely Roman invention is the pilum( AFAIK )


Quote:
Roman soldiers may have been fit, but the body has limits. How large was the average Roman? Perhaps the Empire crumbled when SPQR HMO stopped covering chiropractic visits.


They found a battle-site somewhere in southern Europe (don't remember where exactly) from the time of the first Kimber-Teutonic invasion. A lot of skeletons were quite well preserved. The Roman bodies were all in a range from 1,50 - 1,65 meters, which is quite small by modern US-European standards. But all of them were very robust with thick and strong bones. They may have been small but that didn't hinder them in wielding the scutum.
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Malcolm A




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2005 5:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all.
Reference the Roman scutum, my understanding of their use, from various UK TV programs I have seen of re-enactors etc,is as follows.
The scutum was held in the left hand like a suitcase would be held then moved to the from of the body.
It would cover most of the body from shoulder down to the knee [ish]
The legionaires would advance like this with each man providing some protection to his buddies on either side.
The scutum could be raised a bit to protect the head from an overhead strike.
Attack thrusts with the gladius were made between your scutum and the guy on your right's scutum.
Remember that the Romans were taught to mainly stab, not slash with the gladius.
As to weight, the value of 20lbs I believe is accurate,though it mayseem heavy to us.
Remeber of course they didnt run about like some people imagine, they fought as a unit in a formation.
This is one of the reasons for their battle field successes.
Also they practised a lot which would build strength and stamina, which compensated for their lack of height; average legionaire was about 5ft 2in.
I understand that the Romanway of war was based on a lot of Greek tactics / techniques. It was considered a serious offence for a Greek soldier to lose his shield as it opened up the line to the opposition.
Hope this is of interest

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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2005 7:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Avete!

While the Doncaster and Fayum shields were about 20 pounds or a tad more, the larger scutum found at Dura Europas was only about 12 pounds (without a boss). It was clearly larger than some shields, judging by the smaller (incomplete) scutum found there, and by marching covers found in Switzerland, etc., though we don't have a lot of data on thicknesses. So figure a general range of 13 to 15 pounds for the Imperial scutum, and 15 to 20 for the taller Republican oval scutum. Surviving rim pieces are thin metal, so they are really more for finishing the look and preventing wear than reinforcements against weapons.

Both were held with an overhand grip like a suitcase, as Malcom says. This is clearly shown in numerous pieces of artwork such as the Ahenobarbus Altar, the Mainz column bases, and the Aemilius Paulus monument. It is believed that the scutum was slung on the back on the march, though there is also debate about that.

Large oblong shields are shown in Italian artwork long before they appeared in Celtic areas, so it is clear that the Gauls got their big shields from the Romans, not vice versa. Moreover, Gallic shields were flat and made of a single layer of plank, while Roman shields were curved and made of plywood. Republican helmets were either Hellenistic or Italian developments, while many Imperial helmets were indeed derived from Gallic styles. The Romans certainly had no qualms about adapting and improving on other peoples' stuff! The lorica segmentata also seems to be very much a Roman development (though it was certainly not the first used of articulated plate armor).

Average height of a Roman soldier is also a wildly debated topic, but it was probably in the range of 5'5" or so. Remember that the average for an American male today is only 5'9". Celtic burials reveal an average height (probably just for the warrior class!) of 5'10", so yeah, they were definitely larger on average than the Romans, but they even had an inch on us! Most Roman height calculations come from the skeletons found at Herculaneum, since the Romans generally cremated their dead. A Roman soldier found in a well at Velsen was 6'4", though he may certainly have been Gallic rather than Italian.

Wolfgang, do you have any data on that battlefield find? I've never heard of it! There is the Kalkriese battlefield dating to Arminius' revolt in 9 AD, but I had thought that all the bones found there were pretty mixed up, and I haven't seen any height estimations from them. Any signifcant battlefield find from c. 100 BC would rock the archeological world, so I'm very curious!

In any case, yes, constant training meant the legionaries (and auxiliaries!) were quite used to the weight of their equipment. Weapons training was even done with double-weight practice swords and shields, according to Vegetius.

No Greek "hoplon" or aspis survives intact, but reconstructions based on the best research run about 18 pounds. It was the most specialized ancient shield, as I see it, meant to be used in rigid phalanx formations. (Not that it was completely useless in other applications!) My own hoplon rests neatly on my shoulder while at rest, though presumably it would not stay there through an entire battle. But Greek battles were usually not very long, and the men tended to be very fit! And the armband (porpax) makes it pretty easy to handle the weight.

In all of this, there is a lot of variation and unknown factors, so we have to be a little careful about drawing too many conclusions.

Valete,

Matthew/Quintus, Legio XX
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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2005 7:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This may be kind of tangentical (if that is in fact a word), but here goes:

The biggest difference bewteen Roman tactics and Greek was that the Greeks fought in a tighter formation that most definately depended on the guy next to you. In fact, there was (according to Peter Connolly's Greece and Rome at War) a tendency for soldiers (and thus, the whole phalanx) to shift right, as each guy tried to get further behind the shield next to them. Greek shields (hoplons) were designed to work within this formation. They provided good protection, but were not all that maneuverable. Their relatively flat design allowed them to be used in close proximity with other hoplons.

The Romans fought in a looser formation. If I remember correctly (and I am working from memory, so I may not) Julius Caesar figured each man needed and 18 inch front to throw his pila, but a 30 or 36 front to use his gladius. That is still pretty close, but not as close as a Greek phalanx. Like, the hoplon, the scutum functioned well for what it was designed to do. The height and width provided good protection, and because the sides wrapped around a little, the legionare's sides were also covered. The curved nature of these shields (the later ones were even more noticable), however, meant that they were of only limited value when it came to protecting more than one soldier at a time.

Obviously, neither the Romans nor the Greeks fought as individual warriors; their success lay in the fact that they fought as a unit. Both, because of the way they fought, could use a heavier shield effectively, but both were still highly specialized.

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Nathan Bell




PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2005 7:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Avete!

While the Doncaster and Fayum shields were about 20 pounds or a tad more, the larger scutum found at Dura Europas was only about 12 pounds (without a boss). It was clearly larger than some shields, judging by the smaller (incomplete) scutum found there, and by marching covers found in Switzerland, etc., though we don't have a lot of data on thicknesses. So figure a general range of 13 to 15 pounds for the Imperial scutum, and 15 to 20 for the taller Republican oval scutum. Surviving rim pieces are thin metal, so they are really more for finishing the look and preventing wear than reinforcements against weapons.

Large oblong shields are shown in Italian artwork long before they appeared in Celtic areas, so it is clear that the Gauls got their big shields from the Romans, not vice versa. Moreover, Gallic shields were flat and made of a single layer of plank, while Roman shields were curved and made of plywood. Republican helmets were either Hellenistic or Italian developments, while many Imperial helmets were indeed derived from Gallic styles. The Romans certainly had no qualms about adapting and improving on other peoples' stuff! The lorica segmentata also seems to be very much a Roman development (though it was certainly not the first used of articulated plate armor).

Matthew/Quintus, Legio XX


Yep, what Matt said, on most points.

A couple points for breadth or debate:

For large oblong shields, I am more on the order of a "common ancestor" theme. Halstatt contemporary representations (late Bronze early Iron Age) that really predate the Roman or solidly Celtic La Tene cultures show the long, oblong body shields with a spindle-shaped boss. Several of these originate from areas which were later "geographically Celtic" (like Austria and Switzerland) So we have sort of parallel contemporary depictions in the Meditaranean, and also more "celtic" barbaric regions.

Similar thing for helms. Several Bronze-age helms look to be possibly common ancestors for the mid to late Republic Montefortino types.

The Stirnkehlehelme and the Glockenhelm are essentially Bronze Age helms that seem to develop in form and geographic locale to the later "Montefortino" forms--common ancestral helm form. And this of course begs the question of the Republican Montefortino helm---which is an "Italic" helm in that many are found, and it is named for, Northern Italy, but bear in mind Northern Italy was heavily La Tene celtic/Etruscan/Samnite/other in culture.

Point being that old models of "everything originates from Mediterranean culture" and new models of "the Celtc came up with everything first" are both flawed and likely a lot of building on older pre-Roman and pre-Celtic technology occurred. And those BA peoples were quite sophisticated technically speaking, even those in the "barbarian lands" of France, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Northern Italy Happy etc.

Also, some sculptural evidence tend sto suggest that perhaps some celtic shields were laminated. The Mondragon statue and the Pergamon relief show diagonal "bands" with grain-like texture carved on. Several archaeologists suggest this represents slats of wood layered on at angle---and diagonal angles at that, not just right angles. This may be plausible in that sevral of the surviving Celtic shields may be votive deposits (might not be "user" shields). This is a subject for debate however.

Part of why the Fayum shield is 22 lbs because it is bloody enormous, close to 4 1/2' tall. The smaller body shields both celt and Roman are going to run 10-15 pounds, depending upon size and types of wood used.


*edited for spelling and a little clarity Happy


Last edited by Nathan Bell on Wed 16 Nov, 2005 9:31 am; edited 1 time in total
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Hank Reinhardt




PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2005 8:15 am    Post subject: shields         Reply with quote

Let me jump in here. One thing is important to remember. Roman shields were meant to endure more than one battle, whereas later European shields were essentially throwaway items. Roman shields were meant to be tough, consequently they were probably heavier. Any sort of experimentation will show that the only real way to hold the shield is like a suitcase, with the body turned so that the left side is forward. This means that you can only raise it so far to block a blow to the head, But remeber that Roman helmets had a transverse bar across the helmet that could easily protect against a sword blow to the front of the skull. The primary weapon was the Pilum. This was not a purely Roman invention, but was quite in use all through Europe. Many of the early spears had standard wooden shafts, and even later javelins have wood shafts. Greek warfare consisted of the push and shove type with long pikes, the Romans were much more manuverable, and as stated, about a total of 3 feet per man space. The gladius is an excellent cutting weapon as well as a thrusting weapon. Why did the Romans use a pel post in training if not to teach how to cut? You can do both quite easily. Rome adopted the Spanish sword with the waist and the long point. Before long they abandoned the long point and waist for the traditional shape of the gladius.
Why? Because the long point is weak in the cut! You get the same effect with the traditional sword. Too many people never look at the old saying of a thrust in the right place is deadly. Yes, but the operative words are "in the right place" Anything, "in the right place" can be deadly. Whew, and will problaby anser more. Skaol - Hank.

Hank Reinhardt
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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2005 9:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hank;

Maybe I'm confused about what you meant by palm out: Supinated or pronated hand in the early posts on this topic ?

The suitcase hold seems to make sense to me: The arm would be strait down exactly like one would pick up a suitcase next to ones left leg, there shouldn't be a twisting of the hand outward with the back of the hand touching the thigh and the palm facing outward ( Almost impossible to do by the way !? I'm almost sure I misunderstood what you meant. )

Oh, with a 4 foot tall highly curved shield resting it on the ground when not moving or actively engaged should be possible to rest the arm. The shield could almost just stand there by itself: Makes sense to me if a guige was not used and I don't think there is any evidence that guiges were used by the Romans as far as I know.

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Wolfgang Armbruster




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PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2005 9:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all for these very interesting infos Happy
Seems like I was wrong on a couple of things Wink

@Matthew Ant: I got this info from a documentary which was aired on German television a few months ago, so I could be wrong, but here is what I remember:
They were talking about the battle at Noreia (now in Austria). A few weapons were found at this site ( for example a Roman helmet with with a runic engraving, most likely this helmet was a sacrifice)
Concerning the bones: they didn't mention bones found at Noreia in particular but they were rather discussing bone-finds all over Europe. I think they interviewed some Italian Archeologist who said what he had found out about the general heights of Romans at that time.
That's all I can remember. I think Diodorus wrote about this incident.


I find it very interesting to hear that a Roman scutum wasn't meant to last longer than one battle. That suggests that the Romans had lots of "shield-factories", which wouldn't surprise me Big Grin
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Hank Reinhardt




PostPosted: Wed 16 Nov, 2005 10:38 am    Post subject: roman shield         Reply with quote

Maybe I phrased it wrong. Roman shields were meant to last longer than one battle. The Romans always had groups to repair and replenish armor and weapons, but shields took some time to make. Since they were of a type of plywood construction, it would take longer than fixing some boards together. Not sure what I said, and am too energy retentive to go back and look it up, but there were intended to last longer than just one engagement.
Hank Reinhardt
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