Page images
PDF
EPUB

fastened on the sides and shoulders. The bottom edge was turned up to allow free movement of the hips; but the lower parts of the body were at the same time dangerously exposed. A sixth-century Greek statuette in the Bronze Room shows this cuirass with the rest of the early armour (fig. 63). The type is usual on the black-figure vases, and occurs on the earliest of the red-figure style. Its use was contemporary with that of the Corinthian helmet, and it was discarded apparently for the same reason : that the protection afforded by a stiff and unjointed plate of metal was

Fig. 62.-ITALIAN HELMET, FROM THE not enough to compensate BATTLEFIELD OF CANNAE (No. 169). 1:5. the loss of activity which it entailed. But, like the Corinthian helmet, it never quite disappeared. It was improved after the model of the new jointed

cuirass, and appears in ornate forms on later monuments as the armour of parade of Roman generals and emperors.

The cuirasses here exhibited belong to the later type (No. 172). They fit closely to the body, of which the form and modelling are reproduced in free style on the metal plates. The bottom edge follows the waist and hips, and is no longer awkwardly turned up. A fringe of leather or metal was often attached to the rim. This development of the old cuirass is found mostly in Italy, where it occurs on vases of the fourth and third centuries B.C. The illustration is from one of these (fig. 64). The fastenings of these examples are well preserved : rings for laces and pins in sockets to serve either as hinges or clasps.

The more usual cuirass of the classical

period appears first on late black-figure Fig. 63.-ARCHAIC GREEK

vases, and is general on those of the redSTATUETTE, ILLUSTRATING EARLY ARMOUR. 1:4. figure style, from the beginning of the fifth

[graphic]
[graphic]

century B.C. An Etruscan statuette in the Bronze Room shows every detail of the type (fig. 65). Instead of a rigid sheet of metal, it was made of leather plated with bronze, with shoulderstraps to buckle down upon the breast. In scenes of the arming of soldiers, which are frequent in Greek painting, as for instance on a vase by the painter Douris, at Vienna (fig. 66), the method of putting on this cuirass is often represented, and the construction of the various parts is clearly shown. The bronze plating might be in the form of square tabs or round scales, both of which are illustrated. Two fragments of such plating are exhibited (No.173).

The larger consists of six plates of bronze with the lower edge scalloped, sewn with wire on a leathern coat, and overlapping in such a way as everywhere to present three thicknesses of metal. The leather of this example is modern. The other is of five much smaller scales, similarly wired together. The larger fragment is from France, the smaller from Oxyrhynchus, in Egypt Both are of Roman date,

but the same principle of Fig. 64.-ITALIAN VASE-PAINTING, SHOWING

plating was practised by the Greeks.

A peculiar Italian type is represented by a bronze breastplate of triangular shape, filled with three circles in relief (No. 174). This cuirass often occurs on third-century vases of South Italian fabric, and a number of such plates have been found in tombs of the beginning of the Iron Age. It is therefore an ancient pattern, but this example is contemporary with the vases, a drawing from one of which, in the Fourth Vase Room, is reproduced (fig. 67).

Closely connected with this breast-plate, as serving to protect the middle when such armour was worn, is the metal belt (No. 175). The fastening is simple, one end hooking into the other. Many hooks from these belts are exhibited; most are of elaborate design

THE METAL CUIRASS.

gures, a sene third century. But

(No. 176). The oval bronze plaque (No. 177) was probably the cover of a belt of different type. The style of the repoussé. figures, a sea-horse and dolphin and a Pegasos (No. 177*), is Italian of the third century B.C., and almost all the belts of the kind have been found in Italy. On Italian vases of the period they are often represented (fig. 68). For their use in Greece proper there is little evidence after the time of Homer, when the belt,

On Italian vas in Greece propet,

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

in the absence of a metal cuirass, was the soldier's most vital protection.

Remains of Roman cuirasses are as rare as of the helmets, and for the same reason; but the general type of the armour worn by the legionary of Imperial times is illustrated by a small statuette (No. 171; fig. 69). The cuirass is made of overlapping bands of metal, which are fastened down the front. There are shoulderpieces of similar construction, and straps are brought over from the back to hold the armour in place. Underneath is a kilt of leather or metal strips. Two other varieties of Roman cuirass are shown in the cast of the relief representing pieces of armour (No. 178; fig. 77), and a fourth is the coat of mail, which appears in the reliefs of the Trajan Column, and is represented here by a fragment of fine mesh, with pendants on the lower edge (No. 179). In the statuette of the legionary it is interesting to notice the rest of the Roman equipment: the heavy military boots, tight breeches, and helmet of the Attic type.

The third part of the Greek body armour, as represented on the

[blocks in formation]

Rhodian plate (fig. 55), is the greaves. Metal greaves do not appear in art before the end of the eighth century B.C. They may have been worn towards the close of the Mycenaean Age--the pair from Enkomi in Cyprus dates from about 1000 B.C.—but their general use was due, like that of the metal cuirass, to the adoption of the small shield, which necessitated a better covering of the body and legs. On the authority of the poet Alkaeos it is known that the greave was a protection against missiles.

In form it was a thin sheet of bronze, shaped to fit the leg, which it clasped and held of its own elasticity. Only the greaves from Enkomi (No. 180; fig. 70) are laced with a bronze wire, a

metal copy of the leathern gaiter which was worn in the Mycenaean period. Warriors putting on their greaves are often represented on the Attic vases. Fig. 71 is from the same scene as fig. 66. An ankle-pad was worn to keep the bottom edge from chafing. There is little difference of shape or decoration in the existing specimens. Some reach only to the knee, and some extend above it to cover part of the thigh (Nos. 181, 182). With the exception of the pair from Enkomi, all these date from the sixth to the fourth century B.C. Two of the finest (No. 183), from Ruvo in South Italy, are decorated on the knee with a figure of a Gorgon. The tongue was made of ivory, and the eyes were inserted in a similar way. The style points to Ionia as the place, and the sixth century as the time of manufacture. Rather later is the pair with incised palmettes above the knees (No. 184). The only other decoration is the expression of the muscles of the leg to correspond with the similar representation of the body on the breastplate. As in the belt and helmet, there is usually a row of holes along the rim for the

Fig. 69. attachment of a lining.

BRONZE STATUETTE OF A ROMAN Among the Romans the

LEGIONARY SOLDIER (No. 171). 2:3. greave was worn from early times; but under the Empire it became a mark of distinction for the centurions. Gorgons and palmettes were the only ornaments which the Greeks put on their greaves; it remained for the Romans to cover these pieces, like the rest of their armour of parade, with elaborately sculptured reliefs.

Some rare pieces of armour are arranged with the greaves. No. 185 is a thigh-piece, of which the provenance is not known, but a similar piece was found at Olympia. Armour for the thigh is represented on some Corinthian and Attic vases of the sixth

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »