LEG X FRET
Make Roma Great Again
ru | en

Lorica musculata

Evseenkov A.S.

Lorica musculata (Lat. lorica musculata, literally — «muscular cuirasse») is a type of ancient Roman armor, similar to a chest plate, which has an anatomical structure usually consisting of 2 segments fastened together.

Early types of cuirasses and the ancestors of Roman republic-era muscular armor were made out of bronze and consisted from hip-length breast and back plates interconnected by straps. Often the type of armor is referred to as a separate one - cardiophylax. The plates were engraved with the man's torso relief.

Other ancient cultures, such as Greece and the Celts, also had similar armor. Greece has the same armor called the thorax, and mostly because of its influence lorica musculata appeared, depicting chest, back, abs muscles. Later, when Lorica Hamata replaced Lorica Musculata in ordinary legionary's armament, lorica musculata became the armor exclusively for higher military ranks, such lorica musculata began to be richly decorated with engraving. Also, lorica musculata was supposed to be worn with richly decorated underwear- subarmalis, which also increased armor's protection. During the Empire era lorica musculata ultimately became more of an element of dress coat.

There are the biggest number of archeological findings of lorica musculata dating with republic era, and all of them were made out of bronze alloys.

Samnite's short anatomical breastplate. 4th century BCE
Lorica musculata. Metropolitan Museum of Art. 4th century BCE
Lorica musculata. Bronze. 3rd-2nd century BCE

Lorica musculata in Ancient Rome

The lowest military rank in Roman army which still wore lorica musculata were centurions. It is interesting that they also began to wear lorica musculata since Republic era, and this tradition of wearing remained unchanged during the Empire. Unlike the legates and emperors, centurion's lorica musculata wasn't decorated with rich engraving, but they wore faleras over it .

A centurion wearing lorica musculata. Reposited in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn. 1st century CE

The most richly engraved lorica musculata variants belonged to emperors and legates. The most common set of engraving were Jupiter spikes on the shoulder segments, the Gorgon Medusa in the upper part of the chest, and two griffins near the abdomen. That composition hasn't changed much since the Republic era. But there were other options, for example, images of gods, sphinxes, eagles. Also, a special fabric belt was often tied over the lorica musculata called Zona Militaris. In the middle of the lorica musculata, at the navel level, the belt was tied into a special knot, which is sometimes called as "Herculean". It was primarily the attribute of legates and emperors.

Gaius Julius Caesar's statue as an emperor. Rome, Museum of Roman Civilization. Inv. No. MCK 194. The beginning of the 2nd century CE (the statue was created during Trajan)
Trajan's statue. Early 2nd century CE
Marcus Aurelius' statue, Louvre. 2nd century CE

The most explicit example of the preserved image of the Emperor wearing lorica musculata is the two-meter statue of Augustus from Prima Porto. It was found in 1863 in the villa of the emperor's wife, Livia. Villa found near Rome on Flaminia road in the area of Prima Porta. In ancient times, the villa was called Ad Gallinas Albas. The statue is a copy of a Roman bronze original made by order of the Senate in 20 BCE. Some historians believe that the statue resembles the best real Augustus, although some facial features are considered to be idealized. The statue shows the future emperor delivering a speech to ten thousand of his supporters in the Forum, calling on them to start a war with his political opponent Mark Antony. This speech later turned out to be unsuccessful, the listeners refused to declare a war to Caesar's loyal former colleague Antony. Another thing, which caused unsuccess was the age of a young Octavian, so he didn't have sufficient authority to declare war. The magnificent lorica musculata of the emperor is decorated with images of allegorical figures-Earth and Sky, Sun and Moon, in the center there is a Parthian warrior obediently returning the banners once captured from the Romans to the god Mars. The figure of Cupid on a dolphin at the feet of Augustus recalls the divine descent of the emperor's family from Venus and Aeneas, sung by Virgil. The back of the lorica musculata preserved quite bad, but still there are stamped engravings, which can be seen quite rarely on lorica musculata. On the right side of the wall we can see a wing and a tropeum The statue is made out of marble, kept in the Chiaramonti Museums, Vatican City (inv. 2295).

Augustus' statue from Prima Porta. Late first century BCE - Early 1st century CE
Augustus' statue from Prima Porta. Late first century BCE - Early 1st century CE
Augustus' statue from Prima Porta. Late first century BCE - Early 1st century CE

Also there is a quite interesting theory, that part of the lorica musculata weren't made out of bronze, but out of leather. That conclusion can be done from some bas-reliefs, where there is a folded lorica musculata lying on the ground next to the owner. It should be noted that perhaps this is just an image of subarmalis, not the lorica musculata itself.

A statue of Emperor Antoninus Pius with a leather lorica musuclata or subarmalis. Rome, National Roman Museum. 2nd century CE
A statue of Emperor Antoninus Pius with a leather lorica musculata or subarmalis. Rome, National Roman Museum. 2nd century CE
A statue of Emperor Hadrian with a leather lorica musculata or subarmalis. Turkey. Bergamo Museum. 2nd century CE

Greek cuirasses

The two-leaved cuirass in Greece appears in the Bronze Age. It became wide spread in the 8th – 6th centuries BCE. Due to its high production cost, the thorax didn't become a mass type of armor, and due to competition with linen armor. At best, every 10th warrior could afford such an armor. Modern reconstructions of such lorica musculata weighs about 6 kg.

Craftsmen made the cuirass out of bronze, beating a metal sheet on a stone form. The armor consisted of front and back plate, fastened on the shoulders and sides with straps, or poles inserted in loops. The assembled thorax was barrel-shaped, and schematically resembled man's torso muscles. Both plates have cutouts for throat, arms, and waist. The lower part of the cuirass has a so-called bell-shape due to peculiar wide flangs. This form allowed the warrior to sit without removing the armor. The thorax itself was short and protected the warrior's body only to the waist.

The thorax was decorated with engravings and punchwork, which in the most luxurious and expensive thoraxes formed whole compositions. Also, punchwork decorations were usually anatomical.

There is a rare iron lorica musculata's version with gold accessories, which deserves special attentions. It was found in Epirus in the tomb of Prodromi. The finding dates back to 290-270 BCE.

Bronze cuirass. The Axel Guttmann collection. 7th-6th century BCE
Greek bronze thorax, decorated with a Gorgon's relief. The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 6th-5th century BCE

Celtic cuirasses

One of the most ancient ancestor of lorica musculata can be considered Celtic cuirasses. They had completely different symbolic images and anatomy. The "ABS" was almost never depicted, but Celtic traditional drawings were often depicted. They were also made out of bronze, and mainly dated to the 4th-6th century BCE.

Celtic cuirass. Bronze, silver. Vasil Bozhkov Thrace Foundation, Sofia. 6th century BCE
Two Celtic cuirasses Found in Styria, Austria. Eggenberg Castle's Archaeological Museum, Graz. 6th century BCE
Celtic cuirasses. Museum of Saint-Germain, France. 5th-6th century BCE

Similar topics

Lorica Hamata, Subarmalis, Centurion, Legate, Hoplite, The Celts, Ancient Greece, Linothorax, Octavian Augustus, Сardiophylax

Literature

Gallery

Lorica musculata. Bronze. Height: 57.8 cm. 5th-4th century BCE
Facial cuirasse's plate, bronze-silver, IV century BCE Greece
Lorica musculata. Bronze. Found in Apulia, Southern Italy. Milan, Poldi Pezzoli's Museum. Probably part of the trophy. 4th century BCE
Lorica musculata. Lanuvium's warrior tomb. Bronze, there are traces of leather and linen. Maximum height: 40.8 cm, shoulders 50 cm, width: 30 cm, overall thickness: 26 cm. 490-480 year BCE
Lorica musculata. Lanuvium's warrior tomb. Bronze, there are traces of leather and linen. Maximum height: 40.8 cm, shoulders 50 cm, width: 30 cm, overall thickness: 26 cm. 490-480 year BCE
Lorica musculata. Lanuvium's warrior tomb. Bronze, there are traces of leather and linen. Maximum height: 40.8 cm, shoulders 50 cm, width: 30 cm, overall thickness: 26 cm. 490-480 year BCE
Lorica musculata. Lanuvium's warrior tomb. Bronze, there are traces of leather and linen. Maximum height: 40.8 cm, shoulders 50 cm, width: 30 cm, overall thickness: 26 cm. 490-480 year BCE
Lorica musculata. Lanuvium's warrior tomb. Bronze, there are traces of leather and linen. Maximum height: 40.8 cm, shoulders 50 cm, width: 30 cm, overall thickness: 26 cm. 490-480 year BCE
Gaius Julius Caesar's statue as an emperor. Rome, Museum of Roman Civilization. Inv. No. MCK 194. The beginning of the 2nd century CE (the statue was created during Trajan)
Gaius Julius Caesar's statue as an emperor. Rome, Museum of Roman Civilization. Inv. No. MCK 194. The beginning of the 2nd century CE (the statue was created during Trajan)
Emperor's statue. Antalya Museum, Turkey. 2nd century CE
A fragment of the statue wearing lorica musculata. 1-2 century CE
A fragment of the statue wearing lorica musculata. 1-2 century CE
An iron thorax with gold accessories, found in the Prodromi tomb in Epirus. 290-270 BCE
An iron thorax with gold accessories, found in the Prodromi tomb in Epirus. 290-270 BCE
An iron thorax with gold accessories, found in the Prodromi tomb in Epirus. 290-270 BCE
An iron thorax with gold accessories, found in the Prodromi tomb in Epirus. 290-270 BCE