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Gavin Kisebach




Location: Lacey, Wa US
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PostPosted: Thu 10 Sep, 2009 11:29 pm    Post subject: The color of the Scutum         Reply with quote

Just a quick question here, but one that I cannot seem to find a clear answer anywhere.

Is there any literary or extant evidence of scutii painted any color other than red? I've seen black, blue, green and white scutii on miniatures and in computer games, but I've never seen it discussed in a historical context. I know that very late roman round shields have a multitude of designs, but I'm specifically asking about Cesarean through Marian shields.

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Romulus Stoica




Location: Hunedoara, Transylvania, Romania
Joined: 26 Oct 2006

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PostPosted: Fri 11 Sep, 2009 12:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know about republican or imperial era scutum patterns but there a lot of late roman shield painting designs in the late roman manuscript "Notitia Dignitatum", here:
http://www.ne.jp/asahi/luke/ueda-sarson/NotitiaPatterns.html
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Adam Rudling




Location: Coventry, England
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PostPosted: Fri 11 Sep, 2009 1:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is little to no evidence for what colour the scuta are during the republican period.

Most reenactors use the size of the scutum fround in the Dura Europas excavations where a number of shields where found, however this was a third century find & supposedly out of use by then ! The shields found at Dura where all highly decorated & most had a red couloured background.

Please remember that at the time of Marius the republic scutum was being used which was basically a tall curved oval, by Ceasars time the top & bottoms where apparently starting to be clipped off, leaving a curved side still. The classic square scutum appears around the turn off the millenia (ish).

Adam
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Gavin Kisebach




Location: Lacey, Wa US
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PostPosted: Fri 11 Sep, 2009 2:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wait a minute; there's little to no evidence that the scutum was painted red? Or that it was any other color? How did we arrive at the almost universal conclusion that Romans carrier red shields?
There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

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PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 8:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
Wait a minute; there's little to no evidence that the scutum was painted red? Or that it was any other color? How did we arrive at the almost universal conclusion that Romans carrier red shields?


Oh, it's not quite that bad! As was stated above, the big scutum from Dura Europas has a red background, as do several of the other shields from that site. There are very few color depictions of (definite) Roman soldiers from around the first century BC/AD, but I think at least one of those shows a red shield (have to dig around to be certain!). One shield on the Palestrina mosaic is half brown and half pink, with a big scorpion, though we are still arguing if those soldiers are even Roman or not. There are gladiators shown with red shields, but also yellow and other colors. So red is at least a viable option, documentation-wise.

There are more frescoes and mosaics from the early Republic, but again it is often hard to say just which soldiers or warriors in those scenes are Romans, if any!

Hollywood is probably at least partly to blame for the current wide use and acceptance of red shields. Though most movies these days seem to prefer an overall dung-brown look for some reason... (Well, with dull gray and black highlights!) Partly it's just that you have to pick something, whether you are painting one soldier for a book illustration or equipping a reenactmen group. There is SOME variation out there, but I agree that red is by far the most popular. When my group was first forming, we basically decided that red might be a stereotype but did have some backing, so there was no reason to fight the stereotype and have to keep explaining it! There was enough debate and controversy already.

Vale,

Matthew
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
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PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 11:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know too much about dyes, but wasn't red a very expensive colour to produce?

If so, it could be unlikely that all legionaries had red shields, perhaps leaving brown as a valid alternative?

Just guessing...
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Gavin Kisebach




Location: Lacey, Wa US
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PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 2:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Though most movies these days seem to prefer an overall dung-brown look for some reason...


I call that Burlap Syndrome (abbreviated B.S. Laughing Out Loud ) - the common logical fallacy that anyone who didn't have microwaves and cars must have been primitive, and couldn't possibly have worn any fabric better than burlap covered in poo. Hollywood calls this "gritty" and "real".

I had a look at the Palestrina soldiers - I think the brown and pink is supposed to be an effect, not the actual color. The shield on the far left is pretty clearly yellow, but the artist tried to add some depth to it by shading it on one end. The shield that looks pink and brown ( I suspect) was a less successful attempt at the same thing.

Here's what I'm talking about:

http://www.easypedia.gr/el/images/shared/6/60...ldiers.jpg

Thanks for that tip Matthew, I'll add yellow to my personal list of acceptable colors.

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Nathan Beal





Joined: 02 Apr 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 13 Sep, 2009 4:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
I don't know too much about dyes, but wasn't red a very expensive colour to produce?

If so, it could be unlikely that all legionaries had red shields, perhaps leaving brown as a valid alternative?

Just guessing...


Red is available from both lead (minium) and iron oxide (III) both could be mined iirc.

Expense is very subjective, all paint takes effort to prepare and requires ingredients, but i don't think either of these would have been particularly difficult to acquire within the Roman world.

N.

Beware of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Sep, 2009 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Beal wrote:
Paul Hansen wrote:
I don't know too much about dyes, but wasn't red a very expensive colour to produce?

If so, it could be unlikely that all legionaries had red shields, perhaps leaving brown as a valid alternative?

Just guessing...


Red is available from both lead (minium) and iron oxide (III) both could be mined iirc.

Expense is very subjective, all paint takes effort to prepare and requires ingredients, but i don't think either of these would have been particularly difficult to acquire within the Roman world.

N.


Right, pigments like red ochre are pretty cheap. You might be thinking of red cochineal dye for fabrics which was relatively expensive. However, you can also get red dye from madder root which was really cheap (if not as nicely bright bloody red!). Also, some colors might be very cheap and easy as dyes but not as pigments, or vice versa.

When you start looking at all the time and effort the Romans put into stupid little brass armor fittings, hinges on belts, and other unnecessarily complicated stuff, a little bright paint for the shield is nothing!

Thanks for that link, Gavin! Interesting idea about the shading, hmmm.... I heard recently that this mosaic had some restoration work done to it, but I have no idea how much, or if this section was involved. Just another reason to distrust one of the most important sources we have...

Valete,

Matthew
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
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PostPosted: Mon 14 Sep, 2009 7:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:

Right, pigments like red ochre are pretty cheap. You might be thinking of red cochineal dye for fabrics which was relatively expensive. However, you can also get red dye from madder root which was really cheap (if not as nicely bright bloody red!). Also, some colors might be very cheap and easy as dyes but not as pigments, or vice versa.

Matthew


Well, the cochineal is native to the americas, so that would have been quite unontainable for the Romans Wink

*edit* pointed out to me that we have "Porphyrophora polonica" also known as polish cochineal used from at least medieval times...I'll don my dunce cap for a few minutes WTF?!

But otherwise spot on with the madder! (And you might be confusing cochineal for kermes, that is also a little bug giving red dye that was found and used in the mediterranean)

Also some pigments using minerals conatining tin (cinnobar?)

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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