Equipment of a Roman Legionnaire

Fully equipped Roman Legionnaire. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The clothing and weaponry of a Legionnaire in the Roman army are described in  a series of posts. This fits well with this blog’s topic of ancient finances.

You will also find this fits well with the description of the armor of God as described by the Apostle Paul in the sixth chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians.

Posts on Legionnaire equipment and weaponry:

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Gladius, sword used by Roman Legionnaires

Roman Legionnaire wearing chain mail armor, carrying a scutum, holding a gladius at the ready. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The gladius is a short sword, about 2 feet long, used by soldiers in the Roman army. In the hands of trained legionnaires, the gladius was a potent offensive weapon.

Roman soldiers would advance side-by-side with their shield, called a scutum, held in their left hand and a gladius in their right hand. In this position, the sharp tip of the gladius was best used as a thrusting weapon to stab the enemy, aiming for the torso. In ancient times, an abdomen wound was usually fatal.

With a two foot length and sharp double edges, the gladius could also be used as for slashing or cutting. From comments I’ve read, the main use was for thrusting.

Wikipedia describes the various sizes of Gladius:

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Cost of Egyptian chariot

Egyptian chariot. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.

What was the cost of an Egyptian chariot back in around 1500 BC? That was the state of the art offensive weapon at the time.

In Warfare in the Ancient World, Brian Todd Carey gives some hints, which raised my curiosity.

The Sumerians developed the chariot, which was heavy and pulled by wild donkeys, or onagers. The wheels were solid. With that weight and propulsion, it was slow and cumbersome.

The Egyptians refined the concept, using spoked wheels made with bentwood construction and pulled by domesticated horses. This reduced weight and increased speed. Moving the axle to the rear of the chariot improved stability. Their chariots were fast and maneuverable.

Those chariots were also expensive.

The supporting logistics train required plenty of skilled craftsmen. The book says the following trades were needed to get chariots in the field:

  • Horse breeders
  • Horse trainers
  • Wheel makers (wheelwrights)
  • Chariot builders
  • Bow makers (bowyers)
  • Metal workers
  • Armorers

And in the field there would be people to manage the herds of horses and repair chariots.

Ongoing access to lots of light and heavy woods was needed, such as the cedars from Lebanon.

The Chariot in Egyptian Warfare at Tour Egypt provides more background on the construction of a chariot, along with some tidbits about costs.

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Illustration of 16th century armament

All photos by James Ulvog taken at Cabrillo National Monument.

The Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego describes the expedition by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo to explore the west coast of what is now the U.S.  He arrived in San Diego harbor in October 1542.

In the museum, there are two models demonstrating replicas of 16th century arms.

The crossbowman above is wearing a metal helmet and hip length chain mail.

He is armed with a metal cross-bow and is preparing to load it. His foot is in the stirrup. The “goat’s foot” in his left hand will be used to pull the string back and latch it to the trigger catch.

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Viking sword found in 2017

Viking age swords found in Norway, on display at the Bergen Museum. “Viking Swords” by arnybo is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

On 9/5/17, Secrets of the Ice reported Breaking News: A Viking Sword Found at High Altitude. Many other news sites reported this as well, but the articles I read point back to this article and appear to be mostly a rewrite. (I’m slowly catching on to the idea that is what most news reports are – a rewrite of someone else’s report.)

From the report and pictures, the sword appears to be in wonderful condition. It was found at 5,380 feet above sea level in a spot which would be frozen and under snow about six months a year. Article says there would be low humidity in the summer. That provides the environment allowing this sword to be so well preserved.

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Description of Scutum, a Roman Legionnaire’s shield.

This shield is flat. It is also protected on the edges by metal.  “Shield of Roman legionairies ‘Scutum’, after AD 100. Athens War Museum, replica” by Dimitris Kamaras is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Adrian Goldsworthy provides a good description of a Roman shield, called a scutum, in his book The Complete Roman Army on page 129. A well-preserved shield was found at Dura Europus that dates from the 3rd century.

The shield is 3’ 3” tall by 2’ 8” wide in a curved shape.

It is two inches thick, consisting of three layers of wood glued together.

Update: More images added on 4/7/19.

Front and back view of Roman scutum. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

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