Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/627

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585
ARMS AND ARMOUR

were balls of lead, stones and hardened clay pellets. Between the heavy and the light armed were the peltasts. The pelta, from which they took the name, was a light shield or target, made of skin or leather on a wooden or wickerwork frame. The Athenian Iphicrates armed them with linen corslet and a larger spear and sword than those of the hoplites; he also invented a new footgear (called after him iphicratides) to replace the older greaves.

5. Roman.—The equipment of the Roman soldier, like the organization of the army (see Roman Army), passed through a great number of changes, and it is quite impossible to summarize it as a single subject. In the period of the kings the legion was the old Greek phalanx with Greek armour; the front ranks wore the Greek panoply and fought with long spears and the circular Argolic shield. The early Roman sword, like that of the Greeks, Egyptians and Etruscans, was of bronze. We have no direct statement as to its form, but in all probability it was of the ordinary leaf-shape. We gather from the monuments that, in the 1st century B.C., the Roman sword was short, worn on the right side (except by officers, who carried no shield), suspended from a shoulder-belt (balteus) or a waist-belt (cingulum), and reaching from the hollow of the back to the middle of the thigh, thus representing a length of from 22 in. to 2 ft. The blade was straight, double-edged, obtusely-pointed. On the Trajan column (A.D. 114) it is considerably longer, and under the Flavian emperors the long, single-edged spatha appears frequently along with the short sword.

The second period ending with the Punic wars witnessed a change. The hastati and the principes are both heavily armed, but the round shield has given way to the oblong (scutum), except for one-third of the hastati who bore only the spear and the light javelin (gaesa). The third period—that described by Polybius—is characterized by greater complexity of armour, due no doubt in part to the experience gained in conflicts with a wider range of peoples, and in part to the assimilation of the methods peculiar to the new Italian allies. Thus we find the skirmishers (velites) armed with a light javelin 3 ft. long and ¾ in. thick, with an iron point 9 in. long; this point was so fragile that it was rendered useless by the first cast. For defence they wore a hide-covered headpiece and a round buckler 3 ft. in diameter. The heavy-armed carried a scutum formed of two boards glued together, covered with canvas and skin, and incurved into the shape of a half-cylinder; its upper and lower edges were strengthened with iron rims and its centre with a boss (umbo). A greave was worn on the right leg, and the helmet was of bronze with a crest of three feathers. The wealthier soldiers wore the full cuirass of chain armour (lorica), the poorer a brass plate 9 in. square. For offence they carried a sword and two javelins. The former was the Spanish weapon, straight, double-edged and pointed, for both thrust and cut, in place of the old Greek sword.

The characteristic weapon, however, was the pilum (Gr. ὑσσός). The form of this weapon and the mode of using it have been minutely described by Polybius (vi. 23), but his description has been much misunderstood in consequence of the rarity of representations or remains of the pilum. It is shown on a monument of St Rémy in Provence, assigned to the age of the first emperors, and in a bas-relief at Mainz, on the grave-stone of Quintus Petilius Secundus, a soldier of the 15th legion. A specimen of the actual weapon is in the museum at Wiesbaden. It is a javelin with a stout iron head (7 in.), carried on an iron rod, about 20 in. in length, which terminates in a tang for insertion in the wooden shaft. As represented on the monuments, the iron part of the weapon is about one-third of its entire length (6¾ ft.). It was used primarily as a missile. When the point pierced the shield the weight of the stave pulled the shield downwards and rendered it useless. At close quarters it answered all the purposes, offensive and defensive, of the modern bayonet when “fixed.” Vegetius, in his Rei militaris instituta, describes it in a modified form as used in the armies of the lower empire, and in a still more modified form it reappears as the “argon” of the Franks. This equipment was characteristic of hastati, principes and triarii (save that the latter used the hasta instead of the pilum). We thus see how great is the change from the time when the hastati were the light-armed (from hasta) of the Greek phalanx.

The cavalry, which had originally been protected only by a light ox-hide shield and the most fragile spears, adopted, about Polybius’s time, the full Greek equipment of buckler, strong spear and breastplate.

In the last period of the republic the pilum became the universal weapon of the heavy-armed, while the auxiliaries (all foreigners, the velites having disappeared) used the hasta and the long single-edged sword (spatha). Under the empire the heavy-armed, according to Josephus, had helmet, cuirass, a long sword worn on the left side, and a dagger on the right, pilum and scutum. The special detachment detailed to attend the commander had a round shield (clipeus) and a long spear. The cavalry wore armour like that of the infantry, with a broadsword, a buckler slung from the horse’s side, a long pole for thrusting, and several javelins, almost as large as spears, in a sheath or quiver. Arrian, writing of a period some fifty years later, gives further particulars from which we gather that of the cavalry some were bowmen, some polemen, while others wielded lances and axes.

For the arms and armour of other peoples of antiquity see e.g. Persia: History, Ancient, section v. “The Persian Empire of the Achaemenids”; Britain, Anglo-Saxon, section v. “Warfare”; Etruria; Egypt, &c.  (J. M. M.) 

6. English from the Norman Conquest.—It is unnecessary here to trace in detail the history of European armour in the middle ages and after, but its use and fashion in England may illustrate the broad lines of the gradual perfection and the hurried abandonment of the ancient war-harness. Each country gave its armour something of the national character, the Spanish harness being touched with the Moorish taste, the Italian with the classical note borrowed from the monuments of old time, and the German with the Teutonic feeling for the grotesque.

1911 Britannica - Arms-Bayeux Tapestry.png

Fig. 4.—From the Bayeux Tapestry.

To understand the development of English arms and armour it is well for us to consider carefully the fashion of these things at the time of that landmark of history, the Norman Conquest. Poets, chroniclers and law-makers give 11th-
century Bayeux tapestry.
us material for their description, and in the great embroidery of Bayeux, with its more than six hundred lively figures, we have pictured all the circumstances of war. We find that weapons and war gear have advanced little or nothing beyond the age which saw the Dacian warrior armed from crown to foot. A knight is reckoned fully armed if he have helmet, hawberk and shield; his weapons are sword and lance, although he sometimes carries axe or mace and, more rarely, a bow. The coat of fence, which the Norman called hawberk and the English byrnie, hangs from neck to knee, the sleeves loose and covering the elbow only, the skirt slit before and behind for ease in the saddle. The Bayeux artists (see fig. 4) commonly show these skirts as though they were short breeches, the hawberk taking the fashion at first sight of a man’s swimming dress, but other authorities set us right, and towards the end of the tapestry we see men stripping hawberks from the slain by pulling them over the head. Back and front are so much alike that he who armed Duke William for the fight slipped on the armour hind side before, an omen that he should change his state of a duke for that of a king. The hawberk might be mail of woven rings, of rings sewn upon leather or cotton, of overlapping scales of leather, horn or iron, of that jazerant work which was formed of little plates sewn to canvas or linen, or of thick cotton and old linen padded and quilted in lozenges, squares or lines. There are indications that the