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Thread: Linen or leather?

  1. #1

    Default Linen or leather?

    This is always a classic mess, on whether the "tube and yolk" cuirass is made of linen or leather. The reason I bring this up here is because EB is a bit inconsistent in the unit descriptions. Most linothorax armored units either don't describe the armor or refer to it as "tube and yolk" without specifying material, even for the classic hoplitai. It seems like some of this might be due avoiding some sort of conflict, but there are a few that get more specific.

    I am pretty sure the Etruscan hoplites mention linen corselets in their unit description. The Cretan peltasts mention wearing "spolas" made of leather. The description for the Iranian spearmen mentions both.

    I have been following this issue for a while, though only recently noticed it in EB. I'm pretty sure the only reference to "spolas" are from Xenophon, who I don't think actually specifies what they are (the attribution of both leather and armor coming from a later lexicographer, as I've read from some good old reddit posts). I also know about Aldrete's Linothorax project, investigating the linothorax and the reconstructions involving glued linen.

    The conflict leads to people advocating for either leather or linen. I'm not impartial, as I've felt that linen has more (as in existing) references supporting it. I'm personally a big fan of the linothorax project. I've also noticed that a lot of leather advocates tend to be hobbyists or re-enactors of some sort, there doesn't seem to be any academic research behind leather because the evidence (as far as I'm aware) is nonexistent. I have always had the understanding that linen was the academically accepted material. That being said, I'm getting information from experimental archaeology, secondhand sources, and people arguing online. I understand that there is no way to confidently say how this armor was made, but I want to know the best guesses based on existing reference/evidence.

    One more personal opinion. I feel whatever the case, EB should be a bit more consistent in the descriptions. As mentioned earlier, the Cretan peltast description has "spolas" and the Etruscan description has "linen". I'm guessing there were two different people behind them with two different positions. I feel that the EB team should take a position or leave it vague.


    My questions for the EB team are:

    Why were the decisions made in the unit descriptions (for both the descriptions involving leather, linen, or mentioning neither)?
    Is there a plan to change them?

    What is the historical evidence behind both leather and linen armor in this time period? This can branch out beyond the "tube and yoke" corselet.
    A more specific question, but how does the EB team feel about glued linen? I know it is speculative and would probably need water proofing.

    How does the EB team feel on the issue?


    I know that there are a number of people that have strong feelings on this. Just in case, I want to remind people to keep it civil.
    Last edited by Hirtius; November 11, 2019 at 03:53 PM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Linen or leather?

    While we're reopening wounds, let's remember overhand vs underhand, unit rotation in battle, the effectiveness of archery, swords and cavalry without stirrups

    Jokes aside, I am open to both materials, but I am leaning to the pro linen side simply because textile armor is well documented in the Middle Ages (my main area of interest) and is noted as being effective.

    Until this question is actually resolved in a satisfactory manner, I'd like to suggest that tube and yolk armor be depicted in a neutral way, so it isn't possible to tell if it's linen or leather. That would of course mean that some units would get a new paint job.
    Last edited by Rad; November 11, 2019 at 04:10 PM.
    I recommend a pugio rather than a spear, because in close quarters combat, a dagger will serve you better than a spear.

    Rad, 2016.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Linen or leather?

    There are several threads on RomanArmyTalk about the linothorax and the consensus over there is that there were people who used linen armor but that in Greece the armor was usually leather instead. They point out that Athens had a massive leather industry as did other Greek cities. Linen armor was generally associated with easterners and was likely quilted rather than glued.

    But that's just what I gathered from their discussions, the sources used in that thread are rather sparse. Leather can be made hard, but then it becomes highly inflexible so any armor made out of it would have to be form-fitting, perhaps akin in fit to a Renaissance plate cuirass since soldiers would need to be able to move around in it.
    Last edited by Slaytaninc; November 11, 2019 at 11:14 PM.
    ORANGE MAN BAD

  4. #4

    Default Re: Linen or leather?

    I know EB1 doesn't really matter much for anything in EB2, but I've noticed that a lot of descriptions in EB1 have say linen, or in some units like hoplites they leave it vague by saying "linen or leather" like with the hoplites. I haven't seen any unit that mentions purely leather or a spolas like with the Cretan peltast.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Linen or leather?

    I just noticed that the Dacian Elite Skirmishers have "studded leather" in their unit description. I'm guessing that it's a holdover from EB 1, as none of the men in the unit have anything like it (thankfully). I'm curious to why it was even put in EB 1.

    On an unrelated note, they also have 5 armor despite not looking any more armored than thureophoroi or machairaphoroi.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Linen or leather?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hirtius View Post
    I just noticed that the Dacian Elite Skirmishers have "studded leather" in their unit description. I'm guessing that it's a holdover from EB 1, as none of the men in the unit have anything like it (thankfully). I'm curious to why it was even put in EB 1.
    I have asked that the "studded leather" description be removed. It's a pop culture invention, not a real piece of military equipment. EB1 had its share of fantasy in it, some of it got carried into EB2.
    I recommend a pugio rather than a spear, because in close quarters combat, a dagger will serve you better than a spear.

    Rad, 2016.

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