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Lorica segmentata

Абрамков А.О.

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Lorica segmentata (Latin: lorica segmentata, segmented lorica) is an armor made of metal segments that protects the torso and partially the shoulders. It was used in the Roman army from about the end of the Republic to the 3rd century AD.

The main difference between the lorica segmentata and other armor of the Roman army is that the armor consists of iron segments (which is reflected in the name), fastened in pairs with leather belts on the chest and back. This design forms a hoop that protects the legionnaire's torso. Additional plates were used to protect the shoulders and upper back. The segments were held together with hooks, straps, or buckles.

Lorica Segmentata Construction

History

The original Roman name of this armor is unknown. The name "Lorica segmentata" was given by the first explorers of Ancient Rome in the Victorian era. There is also the term Lorica Laminata, but it is not recognized by all historians, since this term is based on the morphology of the Latin word Lamina (sheet metal). Critics of this name refer to one well-known mention of the word Lamina in a military sense, in the Berlin papyrus, which is the report of a legionnaire (probably Trajan's II Dauntless Legion).

Lorica segmentata was easy to store and transport, as it was easily disassembled and folded. During excavations at the Roman fort Corbridge, archaeologists found a wooden box. Inside it were armor segments, scorpion bolts , sword scabbards, and spearheads tied together with rope. The box was probably hidden by the legion hastily leaving the fort.

Image of a crate found at Fort Corbridge

The weight of the segmentata was about 9 kg, which was significantly less than the weight of the traditional Roman long chain mail with shoulder pads (10-14 kg). At the same time, this armor provided the maximum possible protection of the body from all types of piercing, chopping, crushing and throwing weapons.

Modern experiments show that even a dart fired from a small catapult (scorpion) is not able to completely penetrate the exact copy of the lorica segmentata and deliver a fatal blow to the legionnaire. However, the disadvantage of this armor can be considered a complete lack of protection for the lower part of the body. Part of this problem was solved by a military belt- cingulum with a wide "apron" of 4-8 leather suspensory belts, upholstered with metal rivets, covering the groin of legionnaires. But such protection was rather symbolic and did not protect against direct stabbing blows, unlike the segmentata itself.

Segmental armor from other nations

Segmental type armor was known before the Roman period. So, as an example, we can cite the armor from the Arboretum, dating from the Mycenaean era (XV-th century BC). As you can see, the lower part of the armor consists of segmental hoops that expand downwards, the top is a pot-shaped cuirass with attached shoulder pads on the sides. Such a design protects well, but it deprives the warrior of mobility on the battlefield, unlike the lorica segmentata,which is much less constraining to move.

Also worth mentioning is the use of segmentata by krupelarii, who are mentioned by Tacitus, who describes Krupelarii as gladiators recruited from Gaulish slaves and equipped in the tradition of warriors of Lugdunian Gaul. They took part in the Trever rebellion led by Florus and Sacrovir in AD 21.

Segmental Dendra Armor, 15th century BC, Archaeological Museum of Nafplio

On Trajan's column, you can also find images of segmental armor from the Sarmatian tribes. This indicates that other peoples have armor of a similar type, but different structures.

Sarmatians on Trajan's column. The image of segmental armor can be seen slightly to the right of the center, the beginning of the II century AD.

Segmental armor in Ancient Rome

There is a theory that the creation of segmental armor of the Romans was inspired by the Hellenic type of armor, the image of which can be found in the golden house of Nero.

Fresco of the Golden House of Nero, 1st century AD, Rome

Historians associate the appearance of the segmentata in the Roman army with the Germanic Wars (12 BC - 12 AD) of the Emperor Octavian Augustus, when it became necessary to provide better protection for the torso of legionnaires in battles with German tribes. The earliest fragments of the Lorica segmentata were found by archaeologists at the battle site in the Teutoburg Forest (9 AD) and belong to the Kalkrize type.

Throughout the history of Rome, the segmentata has been repeatedly modified. Leather fasteners in the form of a system of belts and laces were gradually replaced by metal studs and pins, which increased the reliability of the design and at the same time simplified the manufacture and maintenance of armor. There are several most common types of segmentation based on archaeological sites:

Kalkrize Type

The Kalkriese-type lorica segmentata is considered the earliest type of this armor (12 BC-50 AD). It was found on the Kalkriese Hill near Osnabrück, Germany. One of the key features of segmentata is the presence of brass edging around the perimeter of metal plates. To this day, it has not been completely preserved, but only individual elements: the chest plate and fasteners.

In 2020, archaeologists found a full suit of armor. Despite the poor preservation conditions due to the sand and high acidity of the soil in Kalkriz, the armor is in good condition. Bronze loops, buckles, and other fasteners are visible and recognizable. Even organic materials, such as leftover leather, are present in a small volume. The uniqueness of the find lies not only in its good preservation, but also in the fact that the found segmentata is in the form of a vest and does not have shoulder pads compared to later types.

Reconstruction of the Kalkrize type
Graphic reconstruction of the found lorikitipa Kalkrize without shoulder pads

Korbrizhd type A

The Cobridge type (40 A.D. — 120 A.D.) is the most well-studied, as two well-preserved lorics were found in 1964 in the town of Corbridge near Hadrian's Wall. This discovery made it possible to refine the design of the armor, previously known only by individual elements and images. The found segmentates differ in the device of fastenings, so there are two types A and B. Type A is characterized by fastening the bib with a strap on loops.

Lorica segmentata of the Corbridge A type

Korbrizhd type B

Another type of segmentata found, Corbridge B, is characterized by attaching the breastplate with hooks. Otherwise, it practically does not differ from type A.

On the left-reconstruction of B-type segmentata, on the right-fragments of the found B-type lorica

Newstead Type

Newstead is the latest type of segmentata (110 AD-250 AD). The design is much simplified compared to Corbridge, which is most likely due to optimization of production. The number of brass ornaments is reduced to a minimum, and the fastening of the chest plates between each other is carried out using conventional latches. This armor was found in the early 20th century in Newstead.

Newstead reconstruction, front view
Newstead reconstruction, rear view

The lorica segmentata was used only by legionaries and Praetorians in the Roman army. Moreover , centurions or legates did not wear such armor at all (there are no surviving images from bas-reliefs). Auxiliary troops and cavalry wore the hamata lorica (chain mail) and squamata lorica (scale armor).

Lorica segmentata on Trajan's column, early 2nd century AD
Lorica segmentata on Trajan's column, early 2nd century AD

In the IV century AD, the Lorica segmentata was removed from service by the Roman army. Vegetius points out that this happened in the reign of Gratian, noting with regret that modern Roman infantrymen go into battle without armor or even a helmet. Historians often attribute this to the general decline of the Roman Empire, as well as the strong barbarization of the army.

Reconstruction

The main period of reconstruction of our club is the middle of the first century-the beginning of the second century (50-125 years). Accordingly, the Corbridge type is best suited for the earlier type of legionnaire, and the Newstead type is best suited for the later type (early second century). The main materials required for its production are iron, brass (bronze), leather, and rivets.

Legionnaire in lorica type Corbridge In
Legionnaire in lorica type Corbridge A
A legionnaire in a Newstead-type loric

Related topics

Legionnaire, Lorica Squamata, Cingulum, Lorica hamata, Gladiator, Krupelarium

Literature

Gallery-Bas-Reliefs

Battle of Actium. Marble relief of Avellino. AD 14-37
Lorica segmentata on Trajan's column, early 2nd century AD
Detail of the "sarcophagus of Portonaccio" with a soldier in the lorica segmentata. There is an assumption that the lorica depicted on the sarcophagus could be leather, 180 AD, National Roman Museum
Lorica segmentata on Trajan's column, early 2nd century AD
A Praetorian in the segmentate. Column of Antoninus Pius. Second half of the 2nd century AD
Marcus Aurelius, 2nd century AD, detail from the Arch of Constantine

Gallery-Archeology

National Museum of Scotland, 1st-2nd centuries AD
Detail of Corbridge segmentates, I-II centuries AD
Segmental details, Cortesia Archaeologisches Museum Carnuntinum-Bad Deutsch-Altenburg-A, 1st-2nd century AD
Segmental details, Cortesia Archaeologisches Museum Carnuntinum-Bad Deutsch-Altenburg-A, 1st-2nd century AD
Cortesia Museum und Park Kalkriese - Kalkriese-Bramsche-D, I-II-й век н.э.
Drawings from Roman Military Equipment by Bishop & Coulston, Edition 2, 2006 © M. C. Bishop
Lorica segmentata, Corbridge Museum, 1st-2nd centuries AD
Pryazhka, Catalog of finds of the Croatian part of the Danube Limes, I-th century AD.
Connecting loop, Catalog of finds of the Croatian part of the Danube Limes, I-th century AD.
Pryazhka, Catalog of finds of the Croatian part of the Danube Limes, I-th century AD.
Part of the left breast plate and collar, Type A, Corbridge Museum, 1st-2nd centuries AD.
Left upper arm Type B, Corbridge Museum, 1st-2nd century AD
Left breastplate Type B, Corbridge Museum, 1st-2nd centuries AD
British Museum, A.D. 43
Cortesia Museum und Park Kalkriese - Kalkriese-Bramsche-D, I-II-й век н.э.
Lorica mounts segmentata, Corbridge, 1st-2nd century AD
Shoulder armour, Scottish National Museum, Edinburgh, 1st-2nd centuries AD
Details of Calcrise-type segmentata, from Lorica Segmentata Volume I: A Handbook of Articulated Roman Plate Armour
Corbridge type lorica decoration, Catalog of finds of the Croatian part of the Danube Limes, 1st century AD.
Corbridge type lorica decoration, Catalog of finds of the Croatian part of the Danube Limes, 1st century AD.
Details of Newstead type segmentata, from Lorica Segmentata Volume I: A Handbook of Articulated Roman Plate Armour
Lorica segmentata, Corbridge Museum, 1st-2nd centuries AD
Right rear plate Type A, with mount, Corbridge Museum, 1st-2nd centuries AD.
Hoop Segmentates, Corbridge Museum, I-II centuries AD
Small Scapular Type A, Corbridge Museum, 1st-2nd centuries AD
Vertical bindings, from LoricaSegmentataVolume II: A Catalog of Finds
Buckles, from the book LoricaSegmentataVolume II: A Catalog of Finds
Shoulder attachments, from the book LoricaSegmentataVolume II: A Catalog of Finds
For example, from the book LoricaSegmentataVolume II: A Catalog of Finds
Horizontal hooks, from the book LoricaSegmentataVolume II: A Catalog of Finds
Vertical hooks, from the book LoricaSegmentataVolume II: A Catalog of Finds
Chest and shoulder section of a Kalkrize-type lorica found in 2020, 1st century AD.
Side plates, with fixings of a Kalkrize-type lorica found in 2020, 1st century AD.
Chest and shoulder section of a Kalkrize-type lorica found in 2020, 1st century AD.
Parts of lorica are segmented. Found in Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa. Muzeul National de Istorie a Transilvaniei. 2nd century AD
Parts of lorica are segmental and manica. Found in Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa. Muzeul National de Istorie a Transilvaniei. 2nd century AD
Parts of lorica are segmented. Found in Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa. Muzeul National de Istorie a Transilvaniei. 2nd century AD