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Thread: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

  1. #1

    Default Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    While Western Europeans did use lamellar armor, it never seemed nealy as popular as mail, plate, brigadine, or cloth (gambeson). Why, when it was very popular in the East and Central Asia? The Byzantinez also uzed lamellar. Lamellar seems more protective than mail, and easiermto make, yet never seemed very popular.

    I was trying to think of some reasons, and here isnwhat I came up with:

    1. Initially mail, especially worn over a gambeson, provided adequate protection and was more flexble, so it was performed. If you look at the Bayeux Tapestry, the bows shown are smaller the long bows shown in later medieval illustrations.

    2. While mail may have been more expensive, the nobility who could afford to wear metal armoe could afford mail. Those wbo couldn't afford mail likely couldn't afford metal lamellar made do with cloth, i.e. gambeson.

    3. Arabs seem to prefer mail because it breathed better in a hot climate, and somwas more comfortable.

    4. Later, as bows became bigger as we can see in later medieval pictures, they becsme more powerful. Crossbows too became more powerful, going from footdrawn crossbows of 300 lbs to windlass crossbows with draw weights of as high as 1200 lbs. Also, thr crouched lance starting coming into the picture as well. Simple mail armor no longer was sufficient.

    You then started seeing some knights wearing lamellar over mail. But not long afterwards you started seeing plate armor being worn, which provided even better protection.

    5. When the lower ranks could start to afford armor, they seemed to prefer brigadine over lamellar. You see in China brigadine replacing lamellar as well. I can think of a couple reasons for this:

    a. Brigadine.protected the iron plates from direct exposureto.the weather. If they do rust a little, it is inside the brigadine and rust does not get on you.

    b. Brigadine was more comfortable to wear? And a brigadine coat was easier to put on and off, like a normal vest or.jacket?

    c. In lamellar you see where the plates overlap and a potential a blade in between a wesk spot? You might see where plates have come loose due to repeated battering. In a brigadine the plates are hidden under cloth snd attacker has to guess more.

    Anyone think of other reaons? Or was it possible Western artist just likrd drawing other armors better, and lamellar was really more common thsn we think?

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    Default Re: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    At least initially in western Europe there was simply a vast pile of left over roman mail. Since you can piece together mail is easy to resize etc. Also Rome's decisions lead into path dependency. If mail what you are used, it works and its what people make its hard to change without good reasons. Until as you say somebody starts punching your chain and gambeson compo with ease why go for lamellar that has its own drawbacks and probably is no better.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    At least initially in western Europe there was simply a vast pile of left over roman mail. Since you can piece together mail is easy to resize etc. Also Rome's decisions lead into path dependency. If mail what you are used, it works and its what people make its hard to change without good reasons. Until as you say somebody starts punching your chain and gambeson compo with ease why go for lamellar that has its own drawbacks and probably is no better.
    The Celts were said to have invented mail, and the Romans were said to have got it from them, so the Europeans were already using mail before the Romans. But you do have a point, mail was more fsmiliar to them.

    Still, Europeans switched to plate even though it wouldn't have been familiar at first. And the Romans did use lorca segmentata for a while, although tbey never stopped using mail, and later gave up using segmentata. Why didn't the Romans use lamellar like the later Byzantines. While you might say lorca segmentata is a kind of lamellar, it is quite different from thr typical lamellar armor used by others. But it does show the Romans were willing to consider other types of armor, yet they came back to mail. Why? It isn't just a case of familiarity.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    The Celts were said to have invented mail, and the Romans were said to have got it from them, so the Europeans were already using mail before the Romans. But you do have a point, mail was more fsmiliar to them.

    Still, Europeans switched to plate even though it wouldn't have been familiar at first. And the Romans did use lorca segmentata for a while, although tbey never stopped using mail, and later gave up using segmentata. Why didn't the Romans use lamellar like the later Byzantines. While you might say lorca segmentata is a kind of lamellar, it is quite different from thr typical lamellar armor used by others. But it does show the Romans were willing to consider other types of armor, yet they came back to mail. Why? It isn't just a case of familiarity.
    LS was a problematic armor when it came to maintenance. Mail is easy to maintain and repair, and while it requires more work to create, most of it can be done by unskilled labor, while requiring less attention by smiths than lamellar. It's also more capable of protecting limbs than lamellar, which can be important.
    The Roman choice of armor for troops (notice how officers often wore scale armor instead) was ultimately being a matter of cost-efficiency, while dark ages and early medieval use was mostly a matter of legacy.
    And then, when chainmail protection became insufficient for the knights, it was easier to augment it with coat of plates, brigandine or padded jack style torso armors, eventually evolving into solid breastplate and then, as plates replaced or augmented other parts of armor, into full plate.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sar1n View Post
    LS was a problematic armor when it came to maintenance. Mail is easy to maintain and repair, and while it requires more work to create, most of it can be done by unskilled labor, while requiring less attention by smiths than lamellar.
    Rome had a lot of cheap slave labor, and I have seen some speculation that Romans used draw plates to make metal wire, which would have made mail cheaper for them. I have seen evidence presented also that the Vikings also used wire draw plates as well. So perhaps it was cheaper for them to make metal wire than a lot of metal plates.

    I wonder if the smith's whole family participate making mail? I saw a guy making some mail shirt, and it reminded me of knitting, it that it was something you could do while talking to others around a fire at night. The older members of the family could each make pieces of mail that could later be joined.

    But regular lamellar as opposed to lorca segmentata doesn't seem that hard to maintain, perhaps not as good mail, but easier than LS.

    But the question is raised is who to prevent rust and remove it from lamellar armor. Mail is easy, you can put it a bag and shake it, rust will flake off. Chinese lacquered their lamellarnplates, so rust wouldn't havs been as big a problem for them.

    It's also more capable of protecting limbs than lamellar, which can be important.
    The Roman choice of armor for troops (notice how officers often wore scale armor instead) was ultimately being a matter of cost-efficiency, while dark ages and early medieval use was mostly a matter of legacy.
    True, but Romans really didn't seem to protect the limbs with their mail, although medieval Europeans did cover their limbs with mail.

    Did you the officers wear scale because of styling? The Roman officers also wore metal breastplates, and styling did seem to play a role there. Most people who wore scale seemed to have switched to lamellar. Some scale armor it seems was worn in Western Europe in the early middle ages, although it was never vey popluar. Scale was a bit more.popular in Eastern Europe.

    And then, when chainmail protection became insufficient for the knights, it was easier to augment it with coat of plates, brigandine or padded jack style torso armors, eventually evolving into solid breastplate and then, as plates replaced or augmented other parts of armor, into full plate.
    Brigadine also became popular. While not as protective as plate, it was more convenient. Brigadine was more in parallel to plate, rather than plate evolving from it.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    There's been some quite detailed threads about maille in the past, IIRC. Conons point about existing infrastructure is apposite. I seem to remember maille is more easily repaired than most other armour types, which along with its "easier fit" goes a long way to compensating for its higher time to manufacture initially.

    Is lamellar a steppe armour? Makes sense if it's made from a variety of materials (metal and non metal) and resists arrows, as oppposed to Central European maille and later plate armours from a mineral-rich region with a more humid climate less suited to archery, especially horse archery.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    Is lamellar a steppe armour?
    The earliest is ancient Near Eastern. New Kingdom Egyptian armor sort of sits in a gray area between scale and lamellar.

    For example, Tut's armor:

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Neo-Assyrian soldiers wore lamellar, but it was laced differently than later Central and East Asian lamellars.
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclops View Post
    There's been some quite detailed threads about maille in the past, IIRC. Conons point about existing infrastructure is apposite. I seem to remember maille is more easily repaired than most other armour types, which along with its "easier fit" goes a long way to compensating for its higher time to manufacture initially.

    Is lamellar a steppe armour? Makes sense if it's made from a variety of materials (metal and non metal) and resists arrows, as oppposed to Central European maille and later plate armours from a mineral-rich region with a more humid climate less suited to archery, especially horse archery.
    Someone pointed out that while mail took more time to link up all the rings, relatively unskilled labor could do the work. All the metal plates in lamellar require a smith to make them, and if you made wire by the modern method of using draw plates, as we know medieval and possibly ancient Romans did, making the metal wire might take less labor than making the hundreds of plates needed by lamellar. The labor saving in making wire over hundreds of individual plates might of offset the greater labor of linking all the rings together, so mail might have actually been cheaper or as cheap as lamellar to make for the Europeans. Keep in mind, making all the plates was the work of a skilled smith, while linking the rings together could be be done by anyone.

    Also, lacing all those metal plates together does take some work too, even if not as much as linking the metal rings together. While lamellar itself never became that popular in Europe, brigadine did. By the tine brigadine became popular, water powered hammers were availablenthat not only made plate armor more feasible and cheaper, but they would have saved labor in making the plates too. I suspect riveting the plates to the cloth of a brigadine jacket would takes labor than threading all the lacings of lamear armor, and the rivets were likely more durable than the lacing.



    Lamellar was very popular among the steppe people, but you see lamellar used throughout the world, not just on the steppes. While metal lamellar was likely mkre effective against arrows from high draw weight bows than mail, I don't know if the same can be said for lamellar using leather plates insteas of metal.

    Note, the humid climate of Europe does not make it less suited for archery, but it makes it less suited for using composite bows, which is what you need for shooting powerful bows on horseback. Humidity can make composite bows less effective, reducing their strength. As the English archers showed, the humid climate of Europe is not a problem if you are using simple wood bows. However to get the power needed to be effective against armor, wood bows would be too big and unwieldy to use on horse back. Against lower poundage bows, mail and gambeson was effective, as you can see in the Bayeux Tapestry. The only armored figure you see wounded it was King Harold with an arrow in his unarmored eye. Only when you get more powerful longbows and crossbows do start to see lamellar (coats-of-plates) and plate armor in Europe.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    Usage of large shields imo.

    With a large shield, plated armor is not necessary, and mail armor is far superior when it comes to bodyheat enclosing, so it is by default a better option.

    Also, mail armor is far superior when it comes to coverage of the side parts of the body, armpits and underarm, especially when in use with shields and overhand use of the spear and lance, where these areas are exposed when striking above the shield.

    Lamellar armor, in 99% of cases we know of, was unable to cover the under areas of the arm and armpits, because it was far less flexible and constructing such a thing was nearly impossible. One very problematic modern reconstruction does exist of Han China lamellar doing this, but it is very dubious.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mamlaz View Post
    Usage of large shields imo.

    With a large shield, plated armor is not necessary, and mail armor is far superior when it comes to bodyheat enclosing, so it is by default a better option.
    Archers cannot hold a shield and use their bows at the same time. Also, we see European knights started wearing plated armor in the 13th century and I think that tbey were still using shields at that time. European knights largely stopped using shields when plate armor rendered them unneccessay.

    Also, while mail itself is not hot, the heavy gambeson typical worn under mail was hot. You could skip the gambeson, but the mail would be much less protective.

    However you make a valid point, with a large shield you don't need the extra protection of lamellar armor. The advamtage of using plate is that you don't need a shield, meaning you can more lethal 2 handed weapons like a pollaxe. Lamellar armor would not be quite as protective as European medieval plate armor, since plate can deflect blows better.

    Also, mail armor is far superior when it comes to coverage of the side parts of the body, armpits and underarm, especially when in use with shields and overhand use of the spear and lance, where these areas are exposed when striking above the shield.


    Lamellar armor, in 99% of cases we know of, was unable to cover the under areas of the arm and armpits, because it was far less flexible and constructing such a thing was nearly impossible. One very problematic modern reconstruction does exist of Han China lamellar doing this, but it is very dubious.

    It is true that mail coverage is more complete. But not everyone can use a shield - archers when using a bow, and people using 2 handed weapons. They could benefit from lamellar armor against more powerful bows. From what I have seen, reconstruction test show a powerful bow (160 lbs) will pentrate mail.
    Last edited by Common Soldier; April 14, 2020 at 01:15 PM. Reason: typos

  11. #11

    Default Re: Why didn't Western. European use lanellar that much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Archers cannot hold a shield and use their bows at the same time. Also, we see European knights started wearing plated armor in the 13th century and I think that tbey were still using shields at that time. European knights largely stopped using shields when plate armor rendered them unneccessay.
    Well yeah, but archers rarely wore armor til the mid-late medieval period so when they did start to wear it they had a mountainload of mail armor piled up into circulation over centuries of prior production to buy or pick up.

    As for European knights, they started using smaller and smaller shields, which with their movement no longer covered the entirety of the frontal torso as the large shields did.

    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Also, while mail itself is not hot, the heavy gambeson typical worn under mail was hot. You could skip the gembeson, but the mail would be much less protective.
    They are hotter, but still not nearly as hot as plate or lamellar.


    Quote Originally Posted by Common Soldier View Post
    Lamellar armor would not be quite as protective as European medieval plate mail, since plate.can deflect blows better.
    Yes, lamellar is very poor at deflecting blows, as any single of the plates will suffer the entirety of the impact and the rest of the mesh will give in to the blow, just like mail.

    It is only superior to mail in stopping points.

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