The New Student's Reference Work/Armor
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Ar'mor, is a protection once used for the warior in battle. Armor of some sort was used by almost every nation from the earliest times until the gradual improvement in firearms made it useless. Except in very early times, when skin was used, armor has always been made of metal, usually brass or bronze. This was the sort used in the contest between Goliath and David, which is the most ancient allusion in history to armor. The armor of the Greeks consisted of a crested helmet, which could be drawn down so as fully to cover the face; a small breastplate worn so low as to leave the throat and neck exposed; a plated waistband from which hung a short kilt of cloth or leather covered with metallic plates; and greaves or a sheath of solid metal for the legs from knee to ankle. The shield was a round one, at first large enough to cover the entire body of the warrior, but later a small one was used of the same shape. The Roman soldier’s armor was much the same, except that his shield was oblong, and he often fought without greaves. The earlier nations used armor made of overlapping scales of metal sewn upon leather, fitting the whole body. They also clothed their horses with this armor.
But it was in western Europe, in the middle ages, that complete defensive armor was brought to its greatest perfection. The earliest armor was made of metal rings, then sewn closely together upon leather, or simply of rings woven together like a modern curb-chain. But this mail, as it was called, could be driven by a hard blow into the flesh, and so, piece by piece, plate armor was adopted. For 200 years this change went on, until, by the time of the reign of Henry VII of England, the best and most beautiful armor ever wrought was worn. The whole suit of armor, completely covering the body, was fluted, the helmet fitted the head, and, with the plates guarding the neck, adapted itself to every movement. Every part of the body was protected, and yet motion was comparatively free. The shields were of various shapes. The heads and bodies of the horses were also protected by solid steel. So hard was it to pierce these splendid suits of armor, that at one time two armies in Italy fought from 9 o’clock in the morning until 4’oclock in the afternoon, without a single person being killed or wounded. After firearms were invented, armor was discarded as useless, until at the beginning of the 19th century the only troops still wearing armor were the heavy cavalry of the Austrian, Russian and French armies, who were all covered with plates, called armor-plates. See Navy.