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Thread: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

  1. #61
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Please explain your source for the Toledo comment. I know in previous posts you have linked later Toledo steel back to the fabrica (if I remember correctly!) but you have not so far brought forth any evidence to back up this assertion. I would love to read of evidence which explains the evolution of the Hispanic army workshops into the later European-wide renowned weapons made there. Thanks in advance!

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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    What i was saying there that if there was a blast furnace in the empire, it would probably be in toledo as they had been supplying roman army for hundreds of years. but there's abosoluetly no evidence i know of of a blast furnace in toledo. Although i believe there is a fabrica there... I'll look into it as toledo has always been the worlds best steel producer so i'll check.
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Great. Thanks for that - I look forward to see what you find!

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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Yeah, you got a place where i can look at the Notitia digniotatum online? Been lookin around for locations of roman fabricae...
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Looks like toledo started using the damascus steel making methods (where you consistently fold it over and over again) in the 8th century, during the moorish conquests, ill keep looking though...
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    I keep finding mentions of toledo being an important city for making roman swords for the armies, but nothing of an actual fabricae there, but considering there was a pretty large output of swords there must have been a fabrica thaere, ill keep looking.
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Here's a good online version - scroll down to find the Fabricae in the West. I can't see anything for Hispania alas!
    Last edited by SeniorBatavianHorse; July 30, 2010 at 12:19 PM.

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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    thanks, gotta save that link.
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  9. #69

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Magistri Militum FlaviusAetius View Post
    I keep finding mentions of toledo being an important city for making roman swords for the armies, but nothing of an actual fabricae there, but considering there was a pretty large output of swords there must have been a fabrica thaere, ill keep looking.
    Toledo had good quality iron ore that the Moors exploited. But the region became a demilitarized zone in the Empire and I would assume iron work wained. Quite possibly the Visigothic kingdom had something going before the Moors. Oddly the Early Moors favored Frankish swords.

    The problem with iron for the ancient world was cost to weight ratio to transport. After all, poorer sources of iron ore can be found anywhere. If shipping from Toledo required a lot of overland transport the cost might have become prohibitive.

    That's why silver was so important in the ancient world. Silver had such a high value to weight that it was a good trade currency unlike copper. When the silver started running out Roman trade declined.

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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Well, there was illyrian silver and gold deposits (that's why marcellinus had so much power, well, that and 5 fabricae)
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  11. #71

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Onto the subject of armour: They probably used it. Why? Because it's bloody fantastic stuff, and if they were to weak to wield it even over prolonged combat then they were pretty pathetic indeed.
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  12. #72

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Rolling Thunder View Post
    Onto the subject of armour: They probably used it. Why? Because it's bloody fantastic stuff, and if they were to weak to wield it even over prolonged combat then they were pretty pathetic indeed.
    I'm sure a typical Allemannic, Frankish, Burgundian, Gothic, Gallic etc foot warrior would violently disagree with you here! We must remember that most 'barbarian' nations ordinary foot warriors would have had at most a shield and possibly a helmet, but no body armour. Body armour was restricted to nobles/kings due to the fabulous amount of wealth it cost to make even chainmail. It was only when barbarian armies managed to defeat Roman armies that they then had access to larger amounts of metallic armour, in the main gathered by stripping the corpses on the battlefield of their armour!

  13. #73

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Valentinian Victor View Post
    I'm sure a typical Allemannic, Frankish, Burgundian, Gothic, Gallic etc foot warrior would violently disagree with you here! We must remember that most 'barbarian' nations ordinary foot warriors would have had at most a shield and possibly a helmet, but no body armour. Body armour was restricted to nobles/kings due to the fabulous amount of wealth it cost to make even chainmail. It was only when barbarian armies managed to defeat Roman armies that they then had access to larger amounts of metallic armour, in the main gathered by stripping the corpses on the battlefield of their armour!
    As far as I can work out Germanic society was divided between a "professional" class of warriors, nobles and their retinues and the peasant Heerban. Professional warriors of the late Roman period seem have been universally equipped equipped with spatha. 85% of the spatha pulled from Nydam 4th century were pattern welded. The blades were of varied quality, some being excellent, but the majority had faults. This often depended on the quality of the iron ore. Excellent ore tended to produce excellent swords.
    The problem with the mail burnies was the amount of iron used, least 10 kg. Enough to make 10 spatha. These were societies were iron traded as money. But this doesn't mean other materials for body armor weren't used. And I'd think it unlikely professional warriors were without some type of body armor.

    The Heerban was a different story. This was the levy of common freeman who would have been at best equipped with the basics, a spear and shield and peasants axe or utensil short sax.

  14. #74
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Peter Heather argues in his 'Empires and Barbarians' that Germanic society revolved around the nobles and their retinues, mercenary groups, and the peasant/farmer class. The latter were unarmoured and equipped with the basic weapons such as spear, sword, javelins and spears, with possibly a helmet. He goes on to suggest that once a horde had penetrated the Empire, then even these last would have acquired mail vests through the looting of Roman battlefields and plunder from the fabricae.

    The usage of armour would then cease to be so much a matter of prestige among the Germanic horde as a matter of prestige of the overall leader (such as Fritigern or Alaric) in equipping his retainers - and thus attracting even more tribal groups and individuals into his horde.

  15. #75

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by SeniorBatavianHorse View Post
    Peter Heather argues in his 'Empires and Barbarians' that Germanic society revolved around the nobles and their retinues, mercenary groups, and the peasant/farmer class. The latter were unarmoured and equipped with the basic weapons such as spear, sword, javelins and spears, with possibly a helmet. He goes on to suggest that once a horde had penetrated the Empire, then even these last would have acquired mail vests through the looting of Roman battlefields and plunder from the fabricae.

    The usage of armour would then cease to be so much a matter of prestige among the Germanic horde as a matter of prestige of the overall leader (such as Fritigern or Alaric) in equipping his retainers - and thus attracting even more tribal groups and individuals into his horde.
    Pretty much a good argument from what is known of Germanic societies like the Vikings and English.

    The Heerban were a general levy of freeman. However if such manpower remained on a permanent war footing of continuous campaign, then their capability, experience and level of equipment would have improved. But in initial quality the Heerban would have been rather poor.

    The best troops of barbarian infantry formed the front rank with the raw Heerban following after. This helps to explain the brittle behavior of barbarian units. Charging hard and being fearsome in the initial phase of melee and then rapidly loosing capability as the good front rank troops became fatigued.

    I was checking on what would have been the trade price of iron in the ancient world. The Spartans give an insight into this, continuing to use iron money as general currency long after it was given up in the rest of Greece.

    A Spartan iron oboloi seems to have been around a Greeco-Roman pound in weight. Six iron obols were traded to the silver Drachma. These weights varied over time becoming generally lighter towards the end of the Greeco-Roman age.

    But the early Attic "pond" or mina was about 431 metric grams, with a 100 or 96 drachma struck from it. This gives a trade weight of 1 silver to 576 iron. This trade iron wasn't outstanding quality with a carbon content of 0.8 to 0.2 with associated impurities. This wasn't weapons quality wrought iron which would require a lower carbon content of 0.05%

    Still the raw material for weapons and armor in the late Roman period was quite affordable. The weight of the hamata was around 24 pounds. So at the simple level this was about 6 silver drachma /denari worth of iron. Allow more expense for production wastage and cost for weapons quality iron.

    The trade weight of gold to silver was 1 to 14 in Rome. Silver was about 1 to 40 bronze. And bronze about 1 to 15 iron, at a guess.

    These are open market metal trade weights and not the official coin weights that tended to be rigged by government, which had the morals of Evil Roy Slade.

    Affordable but not cheap, a pound or two of trade iron being equal to days wage for a laborer.

    The trade weight of gold to silver was 1 to 14 in Rome. Silver was about 1 to 40 bronze. And bronze about 1 to 15 iron, at a guess.
    Better correct that one, silver was about 1 to 60 the common coin alloy "Billion" which was a bronze or brass mixed or coated with a little silver and seems have valued at least 1 to 2 copper.
    Last edited by wulfgar610; April 02, 2011 at 03:53 AM.

  16. #76
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    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    I thought I'd restart this discussion. By the 5th century most barbarian groups used armor extensively - mostly through scavenging it from dead roman troops.
    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix
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  17. #77

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by ☧ Flavius Aėtius ☧ View Post
    I thought I'd restart this discussion. By the 5th century most barbarian groups used armor extensively - mostly through scavenging it from dead roman troops.
    I imagine in contact between Roman regulars and Barbarians it was the Romans plundering the dead barbarians. Just how major battles did the Barbarians win?, not that many. Also the fabricae would have been in well fortified cities, something barbarians would avoid for softer targets.

    An interesting question is how well armored the troops of Germanic successor kingdoms were which presided over former Roman infrastructure.

    It seems only the African Vandals who were a small class in a very wealthy region had metal armor for all warriors.

    Ultimately a factor would be the availability of iron. This wiki article is interesting.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_metallurgy

    The problem with the mail burnies was the amount of iron used, least 10 kg. Enough to make 10 spatha. These were societies were iron traded as money. But this doesn't mean other materials for body armor weren't used. And I'd think it unlikely professional warriors were without some type of body armor.
    And 10 kg for ordinary mail, stronger double and triple mail could go over 20 kgs. Legionaries most likey wearing the heavy mail and Auxiliaries the light mail.

    Another factor was cost, a good strong mail shirt may have been 12 solidi, a small fortune.

    With at least 10% of the Empires resources going to the Roman military, about 8,000 tons of iron per annum would have available for the army which should have been enough to equip the entire army with mail.

  18. #78

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by wulfgar610 View Post
    I imagine in contact between Roman regulars and Barbarians it was the Romans plundering the dead barbarians. Just how major battles did the Barbarians win?, not that many. Also the fabricae would have been in well fortified cities, something barbarians would avoid for softer targets.

    An interesting question is how well armored the troops of Germanic successor kingdoms were which presided over former Roman infrastructure.

    It seems only the African Vandals who were a small class in a very wealthy region had metal armor for all warriors.

    Ultimately a factor would be the availability of iron. This wiki article is interesting.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_metallurgy



    And 10 kg for ordinary mail, stronger double and triple mail could go over 20 kgs. Legionaries most likey wearing the heavy mail and Auxiliaries the light mail.

    Another factor was cost, a good strong mail shirt may have been 12 solidi, a small fortune.

    With at least 10% of the Empires resources going to the Roman military, about 8,000 tons of iron per annum would have available for the army which should have been enough to equip the entire army with mail.
    We know the Goths equiped themselves with a great deal of Roman arms and armour from 376AD onwards, and some of it was actually given to the Goths by Valens when he began to recruit Goths for his proposed invasion of Sasanid Persia. The Goths also captured a number of fabricae and began to equip themselves from those sources. I should think that coupled with the victories over the Romans kept them well supplied.

  19. #79

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by Valentinian Victor View Post
    We know the Goths equiped themselves with a great deal of Roman arms and armour from 376AD onwards, and some of it was actually given to the Goths by Valens when he began to recruit Goths for his proposed invasion of Sasanid Persia. The Goths also captured a number of fabricae and began to equip themselves from those sources. I should think that coupled with the victories over the Romans kept them well supplied.
    The thing that worries me with metal body armor is the economics of it. The rest of a soldiers equipment would only require about 4 kg of iron. But a mail would take anything from 10 kg to 22 kg of iron.

  20. #80

    Default Re: Usage of Armor in the late roman army

    Quote Originally Posted by wulfgar610 View Post
    The thing that worries me with metal body armor is the economics of it. The rest of a soldiers equipment would only require about 4 kg of iron. But a mail would take anything from 10 kg to 22 kg of iron.
    Someone once pointed out that taking into account tin, copper and iron have been mined for thousands of years for military purposes, one would think the supply would have dried up many years ago. Yet here we are in the year 2011AD and still mining massive amounts of those metals (admittedly tin is now becoming scarce).

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