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Евсеенков А.С.

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Balaclava - a small cap that was worn under the helmet for shock absorption. The helmet protected them from stabbing or cutting blows and fatal injuries, but without the balaclava, the warrior was in danger of concussion or stunning. For the manufacture of balaclavas in antiquity, fabric and felt bases were used, which were sometimes glued directly into the helmet.

The earliest references to balaclavas can be found among the Etruscans and ancient Greeks.

Image of Patroclus wearing a cap from the Etruscan city of Vulci. Collection of the Pegramon Museum in Berlin. 5th century BC
Image from an Etruscan burial urn. 2nd century BC

Most balaclavas and similar caps were found by archaeologists in Egypt, although it is not certain that all of them were used as balaclavas. Among the finds there is a cap made of green felt, and a cap made of triangular pieces of fabric in red, green and yellow colors. Both finds date back to the early 2nd century. An interesting example is a cap made of Didymoi (Didymoi) with cheek pads, repeating the shape of a helmet, which is evidence in favor of its use as a balaclava.

Also, several pictorial sources have come down to us, where legionnaires stand in headdresses, which could be both balaclavas and ordinary caps. There is a mention of such headdresses in written sources, Ammianus Marcellinus (359) writes:

"The heat made us terribly thirsty, and for a long time we crawled around looking for water and finally found a deep well. The depth of it would not allow us to descend into it, we had no ropes, and extreme need prompted us to cut the linen dress in which we were dressed into long strips; after tying them together, we attached to one end a woolen cap, which one of us wore under a helmet; by lowering it into the well and letting it soak in water like a sponge, we quenched

Liner. Mons Claudianus. 100-120 AD
Segmental headdress from Mons Claudianus. 100-120 AD
Hat made of Didymoi with cheek pads. Egypt. 1st century AD


The balaclava is made of felt (piled sheep wool) or several layers of fabric. It is customized individually, taking into account the size of the head and the shape of the helmet. The main thing is the comfort of wearing and shock-absorbing properties: the helmet should fit snugly and well dampen blows to the head with a properly selected balaclava. Hats sewn in the same way as antique balaclavas can also be used as ordinary headdresses.

Felt balaclava, reconstruction
Auxilarium in a felt balaclava, reconstruction

Related topics

Roman Army helmets, Legionnaire, Hoplite, The Celts, Gladiator helmets, Helmets of the ancient Greeks, Helmets of the ancient Greeks