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The Roman Soldier's Cuirass - Lorica Segmentata

The lorica segmentata

Roman soldier's breastplate A Brief History of The Lorica Segmentata

The term, lorica segmentata, is relatively modern, coined to describe this particular type of Roman armor. More recent studies suggest that the term “lorica laminata” may be more correct, but because of a long tradition of use the phrase “lorica segmentata” has become the embedded term used by historians and reenactors alike.

The lorica segmentata was in use for only a relatively short period of time. The various versions are named after the places they were first found, e.g.: the “Kalkriese” segmentata is named after the site where pieces of it were found: Kalkriese, Germany (it was found at the site of the Varian disaster which happened in 9AD at Kalkriese). This is the earliest that lorica segmentata has been known to have been used and it is very incomplete — it is different enough from the Corbridge models.

The “Corbridge” segmentata, early 1st Cen. AD through early 2nd Cen. AD was found at Corbridge, England.

Construction

Roman soldier's breastplate - close up showing strapsThe lorica segmentata was made from strips of iron put together with leather strps in an overlapping fashion.

It's these leather strips that give the lorica segmentata it's strength and flexibility, and thus is a great defence against enemy swords and stabbing weapons.

With this flexibility the soldier could move freely and use his shield and sword without the armor getting in his way.

The lorica segmentata is also much lighter than the lorica hamata (chain mail) which was used before the lorica segmentata and even after. The lorica segmentata eventually disappeared from Roman use and we really don't know why, but most likely it was due to the high cost of manufacture and difficult maintenance -- despite its good qualities. Although it appears that lorica segmentata was still in use into the early 4th century, being depicted in the Arch of Constantine erected in 315 during the reign of Constantine I to commemorate his military achievements. (However, it has been argued that these depictions are from an earlier monument by Marcus Aurelius, from which Constantine incorporated portions into his Arch.). Recently there has been evidence of a lorica segmentata found in Spain, dating from the third century. What is more surprising is that it was found in an area where, as far as we know, only limitanei operated. (Limitanei are seen as poorer-quality troops than the contemporary mobile field armies of the comitatenses.)

Some photos of a hyper-authentic reproduction Corbridge "A" lorica segmentata made by Matt Lukes. Matt is one of the premier craftsman in the Roman reenactment world. His website is at: 


Front

Back

Front Quarter

Innards

Detail

The lorica segmentata in ancient stautary

Here are a few photos of Roman friezes that show the lorica segmentata being worn by soldiers in Roman times.

*Note: Realize that artists are not always detail-minded, so some things we now know to be true about the Roman soldier are not correct in a couple of hese shots -- it's more to give you an idea HOW they wore the lorica segmentata

Kit Detail Map

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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