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Okrea

Евсеенков А.С.

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Okrea (or greaves) — a type of antique armor that protects the front of the leg. The length of the perimeter and the protection zones could be different. Greaves were attached to the leg with laces, straps with buckles, often a leather or fabric pad was glued into them, or a cloth was wrapped around the leg before putting on the okrea. Greaves were widely used in the ancient world, especially in the Greco-Roman culture. They came to the Roman army from Greece, where they were actively used by Hoplites. Because of the form hoplon Greek soldiers had open legs that needed to be protected, which contributed to the spread of greaves in the Greek army. Roman greaves are similar in type and structure to Greek greaves. In the Roman army, ocrea was worn by legionnaires, centurions and horsemen, as well as gladiators.

Greaves in the Roman Army

In the Roman army, the use of greaves began during the Republic, they were actively used among ordinary soldiers. However, over time, greaves almost completely disappeared from the equipment of legionnaires, and by the beginning of the principate era they remained attributes of cavalry and centurions. This was most likely caused by the peculiarities of Roman tactics, which did not allow effectively hitting legionnaires in the legs.

A fragment of a bas-relief with a warrior in one greave. The main archaeological museum of Abruzzo-Chieti (dell'Abruzzo-Chieti). 1st century BC
Fragment of an Esquiline fresco. Cortesia Civici Musei Capitolini. 3rd century BC
Two bronze greaves, 36.5 and 37.5 cm long Courtesy Hermann Historica, International Auction - Munich. 5th century BC

At the beginning of the 2nd century AD, greaves again begin to appear in the equipment of legionnaires. The earliest evidence for the use of okra during Imperial times is the trophies of Trajan. Interestingly, legionnaires, like provocateurs , wore only one greave, worn on the leg from the side of the shield. This type of okrei does not cover the knee, unlike the greaves of Greek hoplites, which is associated with the height of the scutum. There was practically no point in covering the knee. Such greaves were found, dating back to the II century AD, made of bronze alloys.

Bas-relief from Adamklisi. On the legionnaire's right, you can see the outline of a greave. Early 2nd century AD
Brass greave. Length-33 cm, weight-195 g. Courtesy Hermann Historica, International Auction-Munich-D. 2-3 century AD
Leather lining for greaves. Vindonis. End of the first century

Centurions in greaves are depicted in bas-reliefs much more often. Always worn on both legs, richly decorated with coinage, the ocrea was anatomically shaped and reached to the knees, like the Greeks. Centurions often had to fight outside the main formation, which is why they had the highest mortality rate in the Roman army.

Fragment of the tombstone of Centurion Marcus Favonius Facilis from the XX (Valeria Victrix) Valerian Victorious Legion. Colchester. Colchester and Essex Museum. 1st century AD (43-50 AD)
Fragment of the tombstone of Quintus Sertorius Festus from XI (Claudua Pia Fidelis) The Claudian Legion. The anatomical greaves are decorated to perfection. Verona. Museo Maffeiano.

Also in the Roman army, greaves were worn by horsemen, as there was an urgent need to protect the legs. The blows came mostly from below, the shield was small, and there was no formation. All this led to vulnerability in hand-to-hand combat, and greaves often saved their owner. The riders, being wealthy people, could afford richly decorated armor, including elaborately forged okrea.

There are many archaeological finds of presumably equestrian okreys, which have rich chiseled decoration. The main material from which such ocrea are made is bronze alloys, there are instances with a silver coating. Both short greaves and knee protectors were found, with composite cups fixed on hinges.

Greaves from Straumbing (Sorviodudum). Bronze. Hauboden Museum. Germany. First half of the 3rd century.
Greave with the image of Mars from Slavonski Brod, Slovenia. Silver-plated bronze. Slavonsky Brod, Museum of Brodsky Posavye. 2-3 century AD
Greaves from Regensburg, Germany. Bronze. Regensburg, City Museum. Inv. No. A 3471. 2nd century AD

Gladiator greaves

Greaves were widely distributed among gladiators-provocateurs, Thracians, Murmillons, etc. The general appearance of ocrea and their number differ for each type of gladiator. For example, the Thracians always had two of them, they were long, and protected the knees. This is due to the size of the Thracian shield, which did not cover the kneecaps during the combat stance. At the same time, the provocateurs who wore large shields had only one short greave with an open knee. All archaeological finds attributed to gladiators are made of bronze alloys and are richly decorated. There were also quilted greaves, which could be worn separately or together with metal okreyami.

Fragment of a floor mosaic with a metal greave on top of a quilted one. Nennig on the Moselle. Germany. Roman villa. Mid-3rd century AD
Short gladiator greave. Bronze, Pompeii, portico of theaters, National Archaeological Museum, Naples. First half of the 1st century AD
Long gladiator greaves. Bronze, Pompeii, portico of theaters, National Archaeological Museum, Naples. First half of the 1st century AD

Greaves for the Greeks

As mentioned above, greaves first appeared in ancient Greece, and passed from Hoplite warriors to the Romans. The Greek shield hoplon did not protect the legs, which led to the appearance of greaves in the Greek army.

Greek greaves. Bronze. Archaeological Museum in Patras. 7th-6th century BC

Reconstruction

Greaves are perfect for reconstructing images of a gladiator, horseman, hoplite or centurion. Legionnaires of the Imperial era also wore greaves, but here the reenactor should be careful – the appearance of one greave on the left leg is characteristic of a legionnaire of a later period and has been relevant since the 2nd century AD.

You should pay attention to the type of greaves: the area of protection (with or without a knee), the material (almost everywhere – bronze), the number (many soldiers wore only one greave). It is also important to create shock absorption for greaves, since it is wrong and impossible to wear metal armor on a naked body. Shock-absorbing parts can be windings, fabric or leather linings glued inside the greave, or another quilted greave (acceptable when reconstructing the image of a gladiator).

Provocateur's greaves, stylization
Centurion's greaves, stylization
Thracian greaves, stylization

Related topics

Hoplite, Legionnaire, Centurion, Gladiator, Riders, Scutum, Hoplite, Hoplon

Literature

A. E. Negin. Roman ceremonial and tournament weapons. 2010

Roman Army Gallery

Roman armor greaves of the Republic. Vatican City Museum. 2-1 century BC
Greaves from southern Italy, Apulian, 4th-3rd century BC
Bronze short greave. Mainz Museum. 200-230 A.D.
Greaves from AQUINCUM, Hungary. Silver-plated bronze. Aquinas Museum. Inv. No. 30 293. 2nd century AD
Bronze Greaves, Southern Italy (Apulian), 330 BC
Bronze greave. Height 36 cm, weight 135 g. Private collection. 2nd century AD
Bronze greave. Height 36 cm, weight 135 g. Private collection. 2nd century AD
Composite bronze greave with the image of Pegasus. Courtesy Römisches Museum, Augsburg-D. 2nd century AD
Greave with the image of Mars from the Aquincum legionary fortress (Budapest-Hungary). Courtesy Aquincum Museum-Budapest-N. Bronze. 2-3 century AD
Brass greave. Length-33 cm, weight-195 g. Courtesy Hermann Historica, International Auction-Munich-D. 2-3 century AD
Fragment of an Esquiline fresco. Cortesia Civici Musei Capitolini. 3rd century BC
Leather lining for greaves. Vindonis. End of the first century
Bronze greave. Courtesy Hermann Historica, International Auction-Munich-D. 2nd-3rd century AD
Bronze greave. Found in the Roman settlement " Pchelina”, Razgrad, Bulgaria. Mid-3rd century AD
Leather lining for greaves. Vindonis. End of the first century AD
Knee pads (part of a composite greave) from Bad Auch-Altenburg (Brygeiion, Carnuntum). Lower Austria. Bronze. Munich, Prehistoric State Collection, Inv. no. 1981, 3198. Late 2nd, early 3rd century AD
A fragment of a bas-relief with a warrior in one greave. The main Archaeological Museum of Abruzzo-Chieti (dell'Abruzzo-Chieti). 1st century BC
Bas-relief with the image of two greaves that are attached to buckles. Cortesia Musei Civici di Reggio Emilia. 1st century BC
A pair of short leg protectors, 22.5 cm and 23.7 cm long. Courtesy Hermann Historica, International Auction-Munich-D. 5th-4th century BC
Bronze greave. Height 36 cm, weight 135 g. Private collection. 2nd century AD

Gladiator Gallery

Short gladiator greave. Bronze, Pompeii, portico of theaters, National Archaeological Museum, Naples. First half of the 1st century AD
Fragment of a bas-relief with gladiators ' greaves. Pompeii, Stabian Gate, National Archaeological Museum, Naples. 20-50 AD
Fragment of a bas-relief with gladiators ' greaves. Pompeii, Stabian Gate, National Archaeological Museum, Naples. 20-50 AD
Bronze short greave. Pompeii. 1st century AD