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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 5:15 am    Post subject: The transition back to plate         Reply with quote

This is a split off from the shied myths thread, where we sort of touched on the transition to plate and the decrease in the use of the shield. To not derail the thread with my endless questioning, I put this one up.

I have heard many reasons as to why we suddenly started adopting plate defenses for the limbs around the 13th century, and for a while (I wouldn't say a long time as I am amongst the youngest members here) I was a believer in the "metallurgy got better, so armor did as well" line of thought. However, after only a short read into the equipment of the armies under Charlemagne, I noticed one of the articles of equipment worn (required?) was greaves, or at least splints, to protect the shins. These seem to have been worn over breeches, though if I am not mistaken (and I often am) chaussess also existed along with these plate leg defenses.

Thinking back further, I also recalled that segmentata, manaca, and some of the stuff the gladiators apparently wore were also plate defenses. This pretty much instantly dispelled the "Metallurgy was not good enough before" position I held before. With that position gone, I began trying to figure out why plate seemed so rare before the latter portions of the middle ages. I say rare because after the introduction to iron, during which bronze defenses waned away, maille, if anything, became the armor of choice. Plate defenses for the head (helmets) seemed to never go away and transitioned to iron right with the weapons, but we don't see plate defenses for the rest of the body reemerge in Europe until around the 1st century AD, with the segmentata. Before then we had squamata but it seemed very cost restrictive and I have only seen a few examples of it, all on nobles.

Unfortunately, segmentata apparently was never issued outside of the auxiliary (a few sources I've read state that it has not been found in legionary fortresses). I figure this was a position of pragma; whine shining plates are impressive looking, they're hard to maintain, and for forces on the march constantly it's out of the question. I concluded (simply, as I am no expert in anything) that since aux forces are more commonly observed in garrison near subjugated or accumulated people, that it was propaganda -- "Rome has shiner armor than you." Also, if you spend most of your time sitting in a fort, you probably have time to spend shining those plates and cleaning the rust off. As the Empire fell apart in the west, it was apparently abandoned, as more and more mercenaries replaced fewer and fewer real Romans, who equipped himself in the manner of his people.

The so-called "dark ages" saw Europe's warriors clad in maille and helms of spagen construction if they could afford it, much like the last remnants of Romes armies. Rome itself had gotten maille from her northern European foes, so it's no surprise that it stayed in use there. During this time they also had access to plate defenses for the legs that I mentioned before. So why not adopt that for the body? In the least, similarly formed plates protecting the arms, which at this time were exposed outside of the sleeves of the maille? Why is there nothing protecting particularly vulnerable parts, like the kidneys (rigged to seat on the maille) or the neck? I have been told that in the earlier middle ages the mentality of war was different, resulting more in the capture than the death of the enemy ("Good war" vs "Bad war"), but was this mentality in place during the time of Charlemagne and the time just after, when the rise of the knight began?

Having been told that labor was cheap but materials expensive in the ages after Rome (which is the inverse of today), I was confused at first because plate appeared to require the same material (iron) but take less labor (no riveting). Then I learned of the heat treating that plate required to become hard enough to be protective. Even so, it seemed to require less labor still until I realized the pool of people who knew how to heat treat was very small, if still existing (do Roman plate defenses show evedence of heat treating? Were they work hardened instead?). Also, maille and plate iron are two diffent beasts, or so I concluded from another thread here on metallurgy in the middle ages. In order to get plate, you need to refine iron to a high level, which requires a lot of time (read: slow output) before you get anything usable as armor. The process of drawing out wire from iron is in and of itself a refinement of the iron, as the slag inclusions which form weak portions that would ruin plate, would break in the drawing process. At best, you would still have a good portion of wire to form into a link, or so I'd assume. It's also a simple concept, meaning the training period is measured in hours, not days, weeks, or years. The tools involved also simple, and there isn't the fuel cost for forge work that plate requires.

The "weapons and armor" race also seemed to be imaginary.

Knowing all that, however, doesn't seem to help me to a conclusion. While it's more obvious why we didn't have full harness earlier, because of specialized labor requirements, it still doesn't tell me why what plate we DID have was so localized and why it simply didn't last. Charlemagne's horsemen had it, but none of the knights on the Bayoux embroidery are shown wearing any, nor do literary sources mention it. So I turn to the more experienced members here with the remaining questions of why we apparently lost the plate we had and added yet more maille instead of trying to build off the concepts of plate already in place, and why it didn't seem to catch on with the Romans, who did possess it and the technology to make it.

M.

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Michael S. Rivet





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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Let me throw another question into the mix. Why would those early warriors want plate? What would motivate the upgrade?

We seem to have the mentality that plate is just all around "better" and therefore everyone who could acquire it should want to, but that may not be the case. I know I've read tales of conquistadores preferring fabric armor on campaign because they didn't believe the threat level was high enough that they needed plate. (Although that's not my best period or region, and I had problems with my sources in other areas, so someone feel free to slap me for that one.)

Apparently, the migration era and early medieval warrior were quite satisfied with the defense provided by maille and shield. I find it interesting that some of the earlier plate defenses were for the knee and elbow. Were those joints, perhaps, vulnerable to dislocation or severe impact trauma even though the maille prevented them from being cut? Plate defenses would distribute the impact force over a wider area or cause a blow to skip off the surface entirely.
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Jason G. Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think we may also be forgetting the span of a few hundred years where metallurgy was all but lost in Europe - the "Dark Ages." Some would argue it wasn't lost, but in any case the large production centres were no more. There's a huge gapthere between Rome and Charlemagne that you cite as requiring greaves.

As for maille being adequate - it likely was against the weapons in use at the time. given all kinds of variables - availability of plate, cost, etc. Remember - only the wealthy actually had maille, the rest made due with fabric armour.

I'd like to go into more detail, but my break's over, and I gotta get back to my students...

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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the amount of custom fitting required for a full harness to provide both good protection and good mobility made it impractical to develop until a combination of changing tactics and weaponry , and a "social class" of relatively wealthy professional fighters created a fertile environment for it's development. When you look at the complexity of encasing a human in rigid armor while still allowing him the mobility to fight effectively, it is no small concept. Seeing it in the hindsight of history makes it seem like a natural progression but it did not happen until there was a real need for it (and a customer base who could afford it) that outweighed the very extensive cost and trouble of developing it, not to mention the trouble of maintaining it for the individual, even if the technology did already exist.
To put it in perspective, one could say that the technology exists today for us all to be driving alternative-fueled vehicles, and there are certainly some compelling reasons why one would want to drive one, but it is not yet a refined concept , and the demand for them is just now hitting a point where it is profitable to develop into a consumer market. It will likely be some years yet before I or my next-door neigbor can afford one. Keep in mind that this is the modern age where new technology ( and new uses for old technology) are generally developed very rapidly compared to medieval times.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Romans did have furnaces that could make large enough billets for large plates. That is what enabled their plate based armour and such. This technology dies out because it is greatly expensive in costs of materials, machinery, fuel and manpower. As the empire loses more and more of their main locations of fabrication the more reliance on lesser centres would grow but being smaller have more limited machines/technology. Mail can be made fairly easily and the materials would be cheap as you can get many small ingots of iron for some rings and when that is up get a new one, while plates, even splints require larger pieces, though earlier multipiece helmets and such show that this disadvantage perhaps could have been gone around.

I am not sure how I feel about the idea only Auxiliary troops used segmentata argument myself. Why were plates not found at garrison fortresses? Two comments: My first guess is that plates are just harder to loose than links and easier to reuse.... Second…. Some plates have been found at military installations/forts. In the end I doubt this discussion on who used what armour in Roman armies if far from over.

I think generally the idea that the metal working technology did get better in the 13th-14th allowing for plate is right. You begin to see more and more single piece helmets by the 14th and 15th that are much larger than past helmet and of one piece. This would not have been possible with small bits of iron. The comparison of why do they not make similar torso defences over limb defences is missing scope. The torso is massive compared to the limbs. You need much bigger plates and/or many more to make a difference. Many semi solid defences, splints, lamellar, scale, etc in many places are used combined with mail or alongside them, perhaps interchangeable.

The idea that plate is less time consuming to make than mail is not encompassing the place it comes from. Until the 14th getting large enough plates for certain objects would have been a fortune to impossible. Mail would not have that issue as they could get what they needed from many small chunks of iron. So once you include expense in materials cost I bet, especially earlier on, mail is much cheaper. This changes in the 14th and 15th as plate costs taper down it becomes more available. Also the actual working of the plates to a protective form is much more work related than mail which would make it more costly in this sense.


Sorry this is garbled but I spent all day writing an article and your initial post was pretty massive.

RPM
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 7:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Were those joints, perhaps, vulnerable to dislocation or severe impact trauma even though the maille prevented them from being cut?


Exactly, one could be rendered lame for life and immediately vulnerable by a hard blow to these joints without ever breaking the skin.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 10:37 am    Post subject: Re: The transition back to plate         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Thinking back further, I also recalled that segmentata, manaca, and some of the stuff the gladiators apparently wore were also plate defenses. This pretty much instantly dispelled the "Metallurgy was not good enough before" position I held before. With that position gone, I began trying to figure out why plate seemed so rare before the latter portions of the middle ages. I say rare because after the introduction to iron, during which bronze defenses waned away, maille, if anything, became the armor of choice. Plate defenses for the head (helmets) seemed to never go away and transitioned to iron right with the weapons, but we don't see plate defenses for the rest of the body reemerge in Europe until around the 1st century AD, with the segmentata.


Plate armor came into use late in the Bronze Age and remained in use straight through into the late Roman period. While mail certainly became more common in some cultures and times, the classic bronze muscled cuirass stuck around for many aristocrats, not just Roman and Greek. But yes, I agree with those who refer to the Late Roman and early medieval periods as the "Age of Mail"! That was definitely the armor of choice.

Quote:
Unfortunately, segmentata apparently was never issued outside of the auxiliary (a few sources I've read state that it has not been found in legionary fortresses).


Well, according to Roman artwork, it was the legionaries who wore segmentata, while auxiliaries wore mail or scale. This is a generality, of course, since segmentata parts have been found at some sites we believe to have been garrisoned by auxiliaries. Problem is, they may have had contingents of legionaries as well! And it should be remembered that NO complete legionary fortress has been fully excavated, though many have been identified and a few small sections dug up. So we have no idea how many tons of lorica parts have been permanently buried under concrete cities, or lost in later construction, etc. However, I again agree that it is likely that some auxiliaries did wear segmentata, just as legionaries would wear either segmentata or mail.

Quote:
I figure this was a position of pragma; whine shining plates are impressive looking, they're hard to maintain, and for forces on the march constantly it's out of the question.


What?? Why hard to maintain? Oil or grease would keep most of the rust off, and a segmentata is lighter than the hamata of the time. Mail rusts, too! Sure, we all agree that busted fittings and popped rivets and torn leathers are a nuissance, but if your armor is in good shape before you go on campaign, you should be able to keep it together for a few weeks on the march. If something breaks, there are always armorers available. Again, the artwork of the times shows us Roman soldiers on campaign in segmentata, so it seems to me they felt this was not impossible.

Quote:
Also, if you spend most of your time sitting in a fort, you probably have time to spend shining those plates and cleaning the rust off.


If you spend all your time in garrison, nothing's going to rust in the first place. But it's true that all the brass fittings on a lorica were probably designed to keep the soldier busy, polishing his armor. Keeps the officers happy.

Quote:
As the Empire fell apart in the west, it was apparently abandoned, as more and more mercenaries replaced fewer and fewer real Romans, who equipped himself in the manner of his people.


The abandonment of the segmentata came in the third century AD, at the height of the professional army. Equipment production moved to centralized factories, and gear was state-issued for the first time. Mail is more suitable for this sort of set-up, since you can make just 2 or 3 sizes of shirt that are sure to fit most of your troops just fine, and toss them in barrels of oil to keep them safe for months or years. Much easier than trying to mass-produce and store lorica segmentata in that sort of volume.

Quote:
The so-called "dark ages" saw Europe's warriors clad in maille and helms of spagen construction if they could afford it, much like the last remnants of Romes armies. Rome itself had gotten maille from her northern European foes, so it's no surprise that it stayed in use there. During this time they also had access to plate defenses for the legs that I mentioned before. So why not adopt that for the body? In the least, similarly formed plates protecting the arms, which at this time were exposed outside of the sleeves of the maille? Why is there nothing protecting particularly vulnerable parts, like the kidneys (rigged to seat on the maille) or the neck?


"Why" is always a perilous question! All we can say for certain is that a shirt of mail was considered adequate protection by those who could get it, while most others made do with just a shield and maybe a helmet. Heck, a mailshirt was considered top of the line and state of the art! The whole torso is covered, and usually the upper arms and thighs. The shield covers the left arm, while the right is swinging a sword or spear--and even that stays behind the shield as much as possible. Sure, greaves of some sort existed, and they make sense for mounted man, but I doubt they were universal among armored men. Many surviving helmets from the Migration era seem to have had mail neckguards. The neck is a problem, since it moves a lot--hard to armor.


Quote:
(do Roman plate defenses show evedence of heat treating? Were they work hardened instead?).


As far as I know, the jury is still out. Surviving lorica segmentata plates are consistently harder on the outside than on the inside, but I don't know if that involved heat treatment or just hammering. Complex bit of metalworking, but obviously routine.

Quote:
In order to get plate, you need to refine iron to a high level, which requires a lot of time (read: slow output) before you get anything usable as armor.


Nah, not really. Helmets were still perfectly common, some of them quite ornate, and all fully functional. They just made small pieces of iron and riveted them together. I've even heard that 13th century great helms are generally iron, not steel. A few slag inclusions here and there are not going to be any significant problem, but as you point out any slag in wire (for mail-making) IS a problem.

Jason G. Smith wrote:
I think we may also be forgetting the span of a few hundred years where metallurgy was all but lost in Europe - the "Dark Ages."


No it was not! As I mentioned, helmets were still perfectly common, and often very ornate. Mail was common among the upper class, and requires very refined iron. Sword technology was advancing, with quite a bit more heat-treatment than is evident in Roman-era blades. There are numerous gold and silver items from the early middle ages which show incredible workmanship, difficult to reproduce today. The whole concept of the "Dark Ages" is largely a Victorian invention.

Justin King wrote:
I think the amount of custom fitting required for a full harness to provide both good protection and good mobility made it impractical to develop until a combination of changing tactics and weaponry , and a "social class" of relatively wealthy professional fighters created a fertile environment for it's development...it did not happen until there was a real need for it (and a customer base who could afford it)


But there was a numerous and fully developed upper class from Late Roman times. They had plenty of money, and they certainly did a lot of fighting. They fought on horseback with spears, swords, and axes, fundamentally the same as they did in the 13th century. I hate to say, "If they'd a-had it, they'd a-used it", but that's how it looks to me.

The reintroduction of plate starting in the 13th century was not really sudden, nor did it happen everywhere at the same rate. I have heard that as late as 1346, when many English and French knights could be mostly covered in plate, most German knights still had only mail. Sure, the appearance of early pieces of plate are on vital organs or vulnerable joints--hey, knees hurt!--but the overall use of it seems to have been more a social and fashion thing. The development of larger pieces of plate follows the growth of the iron industry and town economy--compare to the use of lorica segmentata by a huge centrally-governed empire with an urban economy and massive resources. So I'm not sure you can attribute it all to the size of the iron bloom that the ore workers were able to obtain, particularly since smaller pieces of iron can pretty easily we welded together, or at least riveted.

Bottom line, Mail worked for them! Most of the time, it was good enough that nothing else seemed to be needed.

Valete,

Matthew
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 1:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What Matt said. Segmentata was the "munitions armour" of the Roman period - peasant armour. Those with the means wore mail, or scale, or musculata. IMO segmentata was phased out of the legions because the state could start outfittting the lower ranks in mail, which seems to have been preferred to segmentata for a variety of reasons.

The evidence seems to suggest that there was no such thing as a garrison for legionaries and a separate garrison for auxilliaries. Both served in the same garrisons. Which makes sense when you think about it.

There are plenty of reasons why plate supplanted mail and none of them relate to an "arms race". This is a summary of many threads both here and on other forums.
http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?t=41041
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 2:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allan Senefelder wrote:
Quote:
Were those joints, perhaps, vulnerable to dislocation or severe impact trauma even though the maille prevented them from being cut?


Exactly, one could be rendered lame for life and immediately vulnerable by a hard blow to these joints without ever breaking the skin.


So how does segmentata help in this situation? It doesn't cover any joints at all except the shoulders. Mail provides far greater coverage than any plate armour. Segmented and solid plate leaves the stomach, groin, armpits, etc completely vulnerable. Personally I'd rather risk blunt trauma with mail than having my guts spilled on the ground because my segmentata or breastplate never covered them in the first place.
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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 5:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Justin King wrote:
"I think the amount of custom fitting required for a full harness to provide both good protection and good mobility made it impractical to develop until a combination of changing tactics and weaponry , and a "social class" of relatively wealthy professional fighters created a fertile environment for it's development...it did not happen until there was a real need for it (and a customer base who could afford it) "

Matthew Amt wrote:
"But there was a numerous and fully developed upper class from Late Roman times. They had plenty of money, and they certainly did a lot of fighting. They fought on horseback with spears, swords, and axes, fundamentally the same as they did in the 13th century. I hate to say, "If they'd a-had it, they'd a-used it", but that's how it looks to me."


If who'd have had what, they'd a used it? Just because the had money and fought with swords and axes and spears does not mean that there were no differences in weapons and tactics, or in the social and military structures which created the respective fighting environments which they were developing armor to counter. I'm not sure how your comparison is intended to be useful?
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sorry, I meant that the nobles of the Migration era and "Dark Ages" (I actually use that term, too!) would certainly have worn plate armor if it had been the fashion of the day, as it had been used by nobles hundreds of years before then. Sure, there were some differences in tactics, but honestly the actual weapons in use were not functionally much different. A whack with a sword is a whack with a sword, when you're talking about armor protection. Doesn't matter if you're Charles Martel or William the Conqueror or Alexander the Great. There were plenty of nobles in all those eras, all with plenty of money to equip themselves with whatever they wanted, often several times over. And the existence of helmets during the early middle ages--and the scattered pieces of plate that we have references to--implies that there was no insurmountable technological reason for the rarity of plate armor. I really think fashion and military conservatism had a lot to do with it. But I also like what Dan also points out, that you can cover yourself very nicely with mail, without leaving the gaps that are necessary with plates. Mail also goes on and comes off very quickly and easily, and is the most comfortable metal armor to wear. Breathes nicely, too!

Someone else already mentioned, but it's worth repeating--we keep looking at this as a mail versus plate thing, in other words, we can't figure why they didn't just make their armor better. But maybe to them, armor *was* mail (with a few rare exceptions), and the alternative was no armor. Easy choice.

Valete,

Matthew
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 8:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Allan Senefelder wrote:
Quote:
Were those joints, perhaps, vulnerable to dislocation or severe impact trauma even though the maille prevented them from being cut?


Exactly, one could be rendered lame for life and immediately vulnerable by a hard blow to these joints without ever breaking the skin.


So how does segmentata help in this situation? It doesn't cover any joints at all except the shoulders. Mail provides far greater coverage than any plate armour. Segmented and solid plate leaves the stomach, groin, armpits, etc completely vulnerable. Personally I'd rather risk blunt trauma with mail than having my guts spilled on the ground because my segmentata or breastplate never covered them in the first place.


I think that might just be it. You can afford mail over soft parts of the body, but not the harder parts.

Plate armours re-evolve in the 13th c. to cover brittle parts of the body: upper body and limbs. A stout blow can shatter an arm or leg bone. The lower body, with mail and a modicum of padding, can suck up some of that, because it's soft tissue.

This is likely why we find abbreviated breastplates first, without faulds initially. You want to protect the sternum and ribcage.

As for the point raised earlier - why the legs first? For that we might turn to the knight's primary role until the very late Middle Ages. He's a cavalryman. His shield can't cover the shins when mounted. Later, as the shield shrinks in size, the knee and thigh are now more exposed. That might be a clue.

Overall though, our answer likely lies in the increasing power of archery on the field, coupled with more polearms in the hands of increasingly important infantry.

All the best,

Christian

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Nov, 2008 11:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It seems I still have a few misconceptions of my own, which is fine -- it's why we're all here, right?

I sort of rambled on and kind of confused myself as to what my own point was (next time, I will attempt to better organize my thoughts). I think what I was originally trying to ask was why plate defenses that we see around the time of Charlemagne disappeared before Hastings.

Good point on the size of iron billets though; I had not thought of that (simple) concept -- I thought iron as just iron, and didn't consider volume of order. I would assume the normal bloomery would be producing smaller chunks of refined iron, wouldn't it?

M.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 19 Nov, 2008 12:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
Overall though, our answer likely lies in the increasing power of archery on the field, coupled with more polearms in the hands of increasingly important infantry.

If you read the link to which I posted you'll find that this is the LEAST likely reason. Ecomonical and social changes are far more important.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 19 Nov, 2008 12:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
I sort of rambled on and kind of confused myself as to what my own point was (next time, I will attempt to better organize my thoughts). I think what I was originally trying to ask was why plate defenses that we see around the time of Charlemagne disappeared before Hastings.
What plate defenses? Armour used during the time of Charlemagne was very similar to that used at Hastings. Predominantly mail, perhaps a little scale, and that is all.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Wed 19 Nov, 2008 2:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
M. Eversberg II wrote:
I sort of rambled on and kind of confused myself as to what my own point was (next time, I will attempt to better organize my thoughts). I think what I was originally trying to ask was why plate defenses that we see around the time of Charlemagne disappeared before Hastings.
What plate defenses? Armour used during the time of Charlemagne was very similar to that used at Hastings. Predominantly mail, perhaps a little scale, and that is all.


Greaves were present amongst the soldiers under Charlemagne's control.

M.

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PostPosted: Wed 19 Nov, 2008 4:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
It seems I still have a few misconceptions of my own, which is fine -- it's why we're all here, right?

I sort of rambled on and kind of confused myself as to what my own point was (next time, I will attempt to better organize my thoughts). I think what I was originally trying to ask was why plate defenses that we see around the time of Charlemagne disappeared before Hastings.

Good point on the size of iron billets though; I had not thought of that (simple) concept -- I thought iron as just iron, and didn't consider volume of order. I would assume the normal bloomery would be producing smaller chunks of refined iron, wouldn't it?
A small field bloomery still produces blooms of 10-20kg easily (with the right person operating it that is of course). That's a pretty big plate if you hammer that down Happy And like Matthew said, small pieces can be welded together. Particularly for wrought iron, if you can get it hot enough to forge, you can get it hot enough to weld.

B.t.w. didn't segmentata phase out in the 3rd century? That's well before the end of the Roman period, so the end of the Roman period itself has nothing to do with the transition from plate to mail.

Matthew had a great point about mail being really easy to transport, as it can be stored in a very small volume carried along easily, whereas full plate armour you don't just carry along with you. And traveling large distances fast when needed isn't really practical in full plate armour, unless you're on horseback perhaps. So that may be a very important factor behind the choice of armour as well. No use being fully protect if you arrive to the battlefront when the battle is already over Happy
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 19 Nov, 2008 7:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeroen,

I think if you look at Williams Knight and the Blast Furnace chapter 1 sections 3-5 you will find that the sections from the average forge before blast furnaces were not that big. He also mentions it requires toward the upper end of your figure for something like a breastplate. For a 2.5-4.5kg piece of plate armour he states you need a 10kg billet. Possible at times perhaps but not to be a real viable method for major manufacture. The idea of welding comes up all the time on forums but we see so few historic examples I'd wager welding big enough pieces into a breastplate or helmet unlikely as well. Williams covers this issue too. As far as I know there are 0 historic examples of helmets or Breastplates welded together in this fashion.

RPM


Last edited by Randall Moffett on Wed 19 Nov, 2008 9:09 am; edited 1 time in total
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Wed 19 Nov, 2008 9:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Dan,

Dan Howard wrote:
Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
Overall though, our answer likely lies in the increasing power of archery on the field, coupled with more polearms in the hands of increasingly important infantry.

If you read the link to which I posted you'll find that this is the LEAST likely reason. Ecomonical and social changes are far more important.


That's presuming I agree with the information on the link. I'll check it later (I can't access SwordForum from work, unfortunately) and comment further.

All the best,

Christian

Christian Henry Tobler
Order of Selohaar

Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

Author, In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Wed 19 Nov, 2008 9:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On a more general note...

I think the idea of a "transition back to plate" is a bit misleading. If we look at late 14th century harness, there's no analogue for them in Antiquity. The ancients had elements of such harness, but not integrated in the way late medieval armours were.

Fully articulated plate armours covering 80% of the body (with mail filling the gaps) are unheard of before the 14th century. This is a technological change and one that goes far beyond the metallurgies involved - it's a design change. There's no plate armour design in antiquity even remotely as sophisticated as these defenses become by the mid-15th c.

The differences in protection between full mail harnesses and those of plate are enormous. Mail is flexible and it's ability to deflect a blow is inferior - its sucks up the blow, rather than deflecting it. It's much easier to 'stick' the blow against mail than plate. A powerful sword stroke against a mail-clad arm can break bones beneath the armour; the same stroke produces a dent or scratch in a plate arm harness - it's all but completely sword proof. Replace the sword with a pollaxe and these contrasts become even more stark.

I've been struck in mail by *padded* sword simulators and been pretty badly bruised up. Conversely, I've been struck by steel swords in plate armour and not even known it until a judge notified me of the hit. And I'll never fight a pollaxe match again wearing only mail on my arms.

For an idea of how readily these advantages were perceived in period, we need turn no further than the techniques designed for overcoming a man in full harness. There's no benefit in a judicial duel to attacking the plate elements, so we're directed instead in fighting treatises to seek the gaps in the armour - even when they're defended by mail.

Doubtless, there are numerous factors, worthy of our discussion, for the hows and whys of the switch from mail to mail reinforced with plate and finally to full plate armours, but there's little doubt that one of those reason was: the latter worked better.

All the best,

Christian

Christian Henry Tobler
Order of Selohaar

Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

Author, In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts
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