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Kevin S.





Joined: 25 Aug 2009

Posts: 54

PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2012 10:43 am    Post subject: The Most Optimal (Largest But Still Light) Metal Shields         Reply with quote

Historically speaking, combat metal shields always have a problem with weight. Because of this, it has always been stated that combat metal shields can never get large.

The Greek Round Shield covers only the torso when you stand up straight; you need to crouch a little in order to have more protection. The Roman Scutum is larger, but it is essentially made out of wood; only the boss and the rim are made of metal.

But are there any exceptions? Are there any historical pure metal shields that were larger than the Greek Round Shields? If there are, what kind of metals were they made out of (bronze, iron, steel)? Yes, I am interested in hand-to-hand combat shields, not decorative shields or siege shields.

Thank you
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Peteris R.




Location: Latvia
Joined: 11 Apr 2012

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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2012 10:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Greek aspis is not a metal shield. It's a heavy wooden shield usually covered with a thin decoration of bronze.
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Matthew Amt




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

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PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2012 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Right, Greek and Roman shields were wood, and not all Greek shields even had the thin bronze facing. There are numerous surviving Bronze Age shields made of bronze sheet, and some of them are in the range of 3 feet in diameter, about the same as the later Greek aspis. But we don't know if they were meant to be used in battle as is, or if they had a leather backing, or if they were meant to be ceremonial. They aren't all the same--a couple at least clearly had backings, while some apparently did not. And for many we do not have accurate data on their thickness or alloy. Some of the smaller ones, in the 12 to 24 inch diameter range, do seem to be battle shields, complete with visible weapon damage. But I've never heard of one larger than about 3 feet.

For later eras, I know of iron and steel bucklers and "targets", up to about 24" in diameter, but I've never heard of metal siege shields such as mantlets or pavises.

Matthew
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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
Joined: 07 Aug 2011

Posts: 580

PostPosted: Sat 05 May, 2012 4:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i've seen face shields in the wood cuts of Albrect Durer i've always thought those were of metal construction - some depicted in his art work are rather large but i've never seen too much exploration into the topic before. i only bring it up because Durer was known to have drawn from life for the most part.
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Johan Gemvik




Location: Stockholm, Sweden
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PostPosted: Mon 07 May, 2012 2:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peteris R. wrote:
The Greek aspis is not a metal shield. It's a heavy wooden shield usually covered with a thin decoration of bronze.


I'm agreeing this must have been the most common aspis by far, but I've actually seen one made with at least fairly heavy gauge facing bronze in a museum. I think it was in Athens, but definitely somewhere in Greece and I was all over the mainland in my late teens visiting museums.
If I remember correctly from 20 years ago it looked like it was made from about 1 mm thick bronze and inside it had residue of organic material. Definitely a multi component shield where the bronze might have been just the outer layer with a base of wood, but the bronze had the full aspis shape and not just decoration.

Still, this was a long time ago and I might remember wrong.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2012 5:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Huh! That's intriguing, but I have a feeling you must be misremembering. There has been a lot of study on the aspis in the last couple years, with all the known remains being studied pretty closely, and I don't think anyone has mentioned a bronze facing that thick. Certainly a few are known that cover the whole shield bowl and rim, but I'm not sure if that is considered to have been "common" or "less common".

Part of the problem, of course, is that it is very difficult to find any actual accurate measurements of thicknesses of shields, shield facings, armor parts, helmets, etc., at least for ancient pieces. Modern writers will often throw out casual measurements, with no indication of whether it was done with a micrometer at several spots on the piece or just eyeballed from outside a museum case. So "1 mm" could mean anything from tissue paper to an eighth of an inch... Plus there are modern authorities who consider 1mm bronze to be "too thin and flimsy" for armor (which it is not!), and those who consider it "too thick and heavy" for armor (also untrue!).

Khairete,

Matthew
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2012 6:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

8% tin bronze has a density of around 8,800 kg/m3

A circular shield facing with a diameter of 1 m and thickness of 1 mm would weigh 0.5 x 0.5 x pi x 8800 x 0.001 = 6.9 kg.
That's before you add a wooden or leather backing and all of the furniture.
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Ahmad Tabari





Joined: 15 Jun 2008

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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2012 10:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My knowledge of the hoplite panpoly is rudimentary at best, but nevertheless I think we should not jump the gun and assume that the bronze facing was merely decoration. Even if we are to assume that the aspis' bronze facing is no more than 0.5 mm, according to the above calculation it would still weigh roughly 3.45 kg. The wooden and leather components of an aspis are heavy enough as it is, and it is highly doubtful to me that any rational soldier would be willing to add even 2 kilos to the weight of his shield simply to make it look cool and shiny.

I am not saying that appearence wasnt a factor for the popularity of bronze shield facing, but there must have been more to it that just decoration. In my opinion the bronze should be viewed as a reenforcement as it gave the aspis shield additional structural strength and longevity.
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Ryan S.





Joined: 04 May 2012

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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2012 1:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suppose it would be a simple matter of math to find out what the largest metal shield could be. Although, I wonder how thick a piece of metal has to be to provide the required protection.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2012 2:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahmad Tabari wrote:
My knowledge of the hoplite panpoly is rudimentary at best, but nevertheless I think we should not jump the gun and assume that the bronze facing was merely decoration.

Agreed. Even a thin veneer of bronze adds a noticable difference to the shield's capacity to stop weapons.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2012 7:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ryan S. wrote:
I suppose it would be a simple matter of math to find out what the largest metal shield could be. Although, I wonder how thick a piece of metal has to be to provide the required protection.


That's the problem. Very subtle differences in thickness can have a significant influence on the overall weight. And of course different alloys will have different properties (low-tin bronze versus high-tin, iron versus steel, etc.). And then you need to decide how heavy is "too heavy", which of course is rather subjective! Easier just to find all the known metal shields and pick out the largest one--it probably won't be the largest ever used, but it will probably be in that ballpark.

Matthew
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 08 May, 2012 11:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By most accounts, targets of proof had gotten too heavy by the late sixteenth century. Military writers noted how soldiers refused to bear them except very briefly. Unfortunately, I've never seen any numerical figures for such shields.
Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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