Results 1 to 10 of 10

Thread: How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

  1. #1

    Default How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

    It seems fairly obviously they were held with the horizontal centre grip but I have seen some depictions of the shield being strapped onto the forearm by leather straps or enarmes as they call them.

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

    scroll down to the rotating roman soldier

    http://youtu.be/trvNo79PsRI?t=2m47s

    look carefully at the shield wielder's

    Now this isn't a great deal of evidence to go on, an animation and a documentary but it has left me curious about something I felt was obvious.

    The only really useful or practical application of the straps I saw was that it allowed you to still use the shield hand to grab stuff, like a ladder during a siege, or to allow the user to perform sideways knocking blows which knock the enemy's attack sideways rather than having to absorb the full blow of the attack.

    Edit: I also know of the major disadvantages with the straps, not being able to perfom a punch block against enemies with big cutting weapons, not being able to form tetsudo or at least as easy and not being able to punch the enemy to unnerve them and throw them off balance.
    Last edited by TR00PER7; May 03, 2013 at 10:18 PM.

  2. #2
    |Sith|Galvanized Iron's Avatar Protector Domesticus
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    I live in Kansas
    Posts
    4,710

    Default Re: How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

    I am too a bit puzzled as to how they efficently climbed ladders with a shield in one hand and sword in other, but perhaps that's why they mostly used ramparts and siege towers?

    Also holding the shield straight out from the body with a horizontal hand grip must have gotten pretty heavy very quickly.
    Also responsible for the Roma Surrectum II Multiplayer mode
    Rest In Peace Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
    Forward to Victory Great Leader Assad!


  3. #3
    Tiro
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Co Kildare, Ireland
    Posts
    234

    Default Re: How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

    The only curved rectangular scutum found was in Dura Europos, and it had a horizontal grip. A fair number of fragments of oval shields have also been found, and those with the centre of the shield surviving also have a horizontal grip. However, shield found in Doncaster, which may have belonged to a native tribesman had a vertical grip. This shield is a flat semi rectangular shield, similar to what is seen on some auxiliary's tombstones, although they seem to have horizontal grips.

    as for climbing up ladders, well maybe they had straps to sling the shields over their backs. But as you said, ladders were far from ideal for siege use.

  4. #4
    torongill's Avatar Praepositus
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Canary Islands
    Posts
    5,779

    Default Re: How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

    When climbing siege ladders, first you can use your fist with the sword in it as a support. Second, you could draw your sword on the last step up. Besides, siege ladders were put at a more acute angle, for stability and easier access. It would be more like stairs instead of a ladder.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hibernicus II View Post
    What's EB?
    "I Eddard of the house Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, sentence you to die."
    "Per Ballista ad astra!" - motto of the Roman Legionary Artillery.
    Republicans in all their glory...

  5. #5
    alex_shields's Avatar Miles
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH - USA
    Posts
    363

    Default Re: How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

    The pictoral and archaeological evidence (from both ancient monuments depicting soldiers and from actual finds) match up in that they both show shields with a center grip over a cut hole which is covered by a metal boss to protect the hand. 'Experiemental archaeologists' (reeanctors) will all confirm that this is the best way to carry the large shields so prevalent in ancient combat as the horizontal grip allows the arm to relax and the shield comfortably carried for long periods without tiring the arm, much like a miodern suitcase. Straps are a modern machination that was never depicted nor described with body shields like the scutum. When a soldier wanted to let his arm down at his side the shield would have been off balance.

    It IS likely however that a strap was affixed which allowed the soldier to shling the shield over his neck and should. It has been suggested that it was carried this way on long marches, slung over the soldiers' back. In combat, if the strap was left in place, it would have been turned around to face forward but then it could also have been returned the back to allow the soldier to free his hands for movement.


    The guys seen climbing in the Carthage walktrhough are probably doing it right.

    The OP mentioned that straps would make it difficult to swing the shield. That's true too, and that's how we know Romans tried to keep formation. If you're in line, forming a shield wall you won't be stepping out to swing your shield around and smack people. You'll hold the line and step out to punch/stab then quickly step back to parry and maintain the formation's integrity.

    Why do they show straps? Because it's shown in movies because attaching two straps is easier than cutting holes in all the shields which is cheaper for production costs. And since game modellers have seen movies and straps make sense to them, they model them into the game. I found it odd that the Rotating Legionary from wikipedia shows an RSII model with ADDED straps. It's like a mutation of the original in which someone took something that was already perfect and went out of his way to make it wrong.

    EDIT: As for seiges, it seems the Romans actually preferred breaching walls and gates or using seige towers to ladders. Not to say ladders weren't used, just not for the primary assault. Maybe the large shield and its awkwardness in a climbing movement is the reason for this?
    Last edited by alex_shields; May 04, 2013 at 07:52 AM.

  6. #6
    torongill's Avatar Praepositus
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Canary Islands
    Posts
    5,779

    Default Re: How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

    Alex, you will note that at least during the Republic the Romans usually tried to storm the city/fortress with ladders. If they couldn't, then they would start a proper siege with a blockade and siege engines. Even so, they usually relied on ramps and towers rather than bringing the walls down. Qart Hadasht/Carthago Nova was taken with ladders; Syracuse as well. So was a Greek town which closed its gates to Caesar's retreating legions before Pharsalus and in case I am not mistaken the assault on Gergovia, which initially went well, was done with siege ladders.
    The truth of the matter is that a proper siege with a blockade and huge siege engines is viable when there's no threat of an army attacking the besiegers. A circumvalation takes a long time to make when your men are not used to the job and the usage of siege engines takes specialists to build.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hibernicus II View Post
    What's EB?
    "I Eddard of the house Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, sentence you to die."
    "Per Ballista ad astra!" - motto of the Roman Legionary Artillery.
    Republicans in all their glory...

  7. #7
    alex_shields's Avatar Miles
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Cincinnati, OH - USA
    Posts
    363

    Default Re: How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

    Torongil,

    That is true, and it's interesting because later on, during the imperial period, legionaries are thought to have mostly used rams, towers and sappers to create gaps in the defenses and then move in under the cover of mantlet, sheds, and the testudo. Maybe it's just that by the imperial era they weren't so worried about reinforcements from the enemy appearing behind them? I'm referring to every seige during the Jewish Revolts, Dacian War and skirmishes in Britain at hillforts. I was also under the impression that specialized seige equipment was designed and put to use during the seige of Syracuse because Archemides is said to have designed several engines to counter the Roman seige tactics at that battle. I really don't know, but I did read that somewhere.
    As for Carthage, Gergovia and then the Wars of the Triumvirate (I think the seige you were referring to before Pharsalus was Dyrhaccium) the latter two depended on Caesar's favorite strategy: Celeritas! - Swiftness! Caesar didn't want to carry a protracted seige because he had other things to do . Carthage was already near-capitulation and Scipio was under pressure from the senate as well as his own men to finish the job.

  8. #8
    torongill's Avatar Praepositus
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Canary Islands
    Posts
    5,779

    Default Re: How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

    No, that was after Dyrrachium, when Caesar was retreating. He came upon a Greek town called Gomphi and after being denied supplies took it by assault and gave it to his starving men.

    IIRC At Syracuse Marcellus tried to use movable ladders(more like stairs) with a platform at the end and put them on ships. These were the most sophisticated engines the Romans used, which is why the siege took two years to finish - the genius of Archimedes and the fortifications of Syracuse were fearsome. As you probably know(I'm putting it for those who don't ) Syracuse was taken because Marcellus found out the Syracusians had religious festival and a portion of the wall was not guarded - he sent men with ladders and they took it. Afterwards it was like the end of the movie Troy.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hibernicus II View Post
    What's EB?
    "I Eddard of the house Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, sentence you to die."
    "Per Ballista ad astra!" - motto of the Roman Legionary Artillery.
    Republicans in all their glory...

  9. #9
    Lord Baratheon's Avatar Decanus
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    United Kingdom.
    Posts
    562

    Default Re: How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzTt2uKUhYk

    Thought this might be useful.If not, it's still an interesting short film.
    Remember, remember, the third of september, the Rome II treason and plot. I know of no reason why pre-order treason should ever be forgot.

  10. #10

    Default Re: How is a Roman shield (scutum) held in combat?

    This might help as well http://youtu.be/yP-SP2YmwTs?t=22s
    If you look at how he wields the scutum crouched angled on his arm and shoulder this would distribute the weight and would not cause fatigue as quickly as holding it straight out would.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •