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The Roman Soldier's Belt:
balteus or cinglium

The belt


Balteus Reproduction by Matt Lukes

The terms "cingulum" and the "balteus" are often confused and/or used inter-changeably… For us, we will use the term "balteus." The balteus is the traditional Roman soldier's military belt. The term "balteus" can also refer to the baldric-style belt used to carry a gladius, pugio, loculus, etc. When you think of the Roman soldeir, one of the things you think of, is the dangling straps (called baltea) hanging at he front of his belt.

The Mark of a Soldier

The balteus is a mark of a soldier—not only that, it’s really a status symbol of being a soldier. Worn at all times, even off duty, only soldiers were allowed, by law, to wear this unique belt. It may have had some defensive capabilities; it may represent rank or awards…we just don’t know. The archaeological evidence suggests that many of these belts were were intricately elaborate. One theory is that since Roman soldiers did not have a lot to spend their pay on, they spent it on making their gear fancier. Is this the way it was? We don’t know, but modern soldiers sure do this kind of thing — think about it…

nOMENCLATURE OF A rOMAN SOLDIER'S BELT

SOME NEW WORDS

For a long time, Roman reenactors didn't know the correct term for the belt parts—using made up terms like "damglium" or "jinglium" but now, through the work of Mark Graef, we have the actual terms.

The ACTUAL Roman military word for the hanging straps is baltea. A strap, including an apron strap, in Latin is: balteum (pl. baltea). This is the diminutive form of balteus, thus, a "little belt."

The studs on the baltea are called bulla like the child's pendant.

The pendant at the very end of the "apron" strap:  pensilium (pl. pensilia). Pensilium is a substantiative neuter adjective, meaning "a pendent thing."

It is attested as piece of military gear in Granius Licianus 26.1.1, describing a type of cavalry harness pendant used by equestrian nobles.

If you are talking about the plates on the terminal of each apron strap that hold the pensilia, it is: lamna (pl. lamnae) for "plates" or balteum lamna for "strap plate" -- better is balteum lamna (pl. balteum lamnis) for "strap plates."

Roman soldier and his equipment Roman Military Sandal (Caligae)The helmet (Galea)The sword (Gladius)The daggerThe shield (Scutum)Roman Military Sandal (Caligae)The Curiass (Lorica Segmentata)The belt (Cinglium)Select an area on the photo to see a description of that item

All photographs were taken by the author, Victius Maximus
My thanks to Optio Gaius Allius of Legion XIV and Verulamium Museum for their assistance


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