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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jul, 2012 8:43 pm    Post subject: Segmentata vs mail - thought exercise         Reply with quote

Proposal: Diocletian ascends the Imperial throne in 284 AD. He orders his bureaucrats to take over the privately-owned armour fabricas. They need to standardise armour production - they could make segmentata or mail but not both. If you were a logistician or a commander trying to decide which armour to produce, what factors would you want? Which armour would be most appropriate given that criteria?

This is what I come up with.
* Good protection from anything likely to be faced in battle
* Easy/quick to maintain and repair
* Longevity so the same item can easily be re-issued over and over again
* Being able to fit a range of bodies without having to stock a large range of sizes
* Cheap and quick to make

Mail meets all the critera except for the last one. Segmentata only meets the first and last one. I would have to decide whether the increased cost to produce mail would negate all the other criteria.
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Perry L. Goss




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jul, 2012 9:22 pm    Post subject: bureaucrat versus warrior         Reply with quote

Very interesting post. McNamara. Vietnam War. .30-06 & .308 versus 5.56 or .223 and .45 versus 9mm. Same type of issue. Might help you figure out which way the bureaucrats versus the soldiers would go.

This should be interesting!

Scottish: Ballentine, Black, Cameron, Chisholm, Cunningham, Crawford, Grant, Jaffray, MacFarlane, MacGillivray, MacKay-Reay/Strathnaver, Munro, Robertson, Sinclair, Wallace

Irish/Welsh: Bodkin, Mendenhall, Hackworth

Swiss: Goss von Rothenfluh, Naff von Zurich und Solland von Appenzel
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jul, 2012 10:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For standardization sake probably go with the segmentata but maybe try to improve it as I believe that even though easy to repair it may have had issues with closures and leather holding it together needing frequent replacement. ( Not sure about the last ).

Maybe some sliding rivets and improving coverage with some sort of fauld.

Even if the cost was increased a bit by improvements they would be worth it if maintenance was reduced so that in the long run it would be cost effective. Obviously I'm bringing in some later armour concepts back into a Roman parallel universe history.

Also, the idea is to be able to armour and field large numbers.

Cheating a little: Rich officers might still be able to commission maille armour or supplement the segmentata with maille voiders under the vulnerable armpits or even maille neck defences. I could also make exceptions for a few elite units like a type of Roman special forces.

But this could be done by private contractors maybe ?

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Matthew Bunker




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jul, 2012 11:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
For standardization sake probably go with the segmentata?


Really? But surely mail in 'standard' sizes makes much more sense. Segmentata needs to be well fitting to avoid chaffing, cutting, gaps etc whereas mail doesn't. I understand what you're saying about using sliding rivets and other methods to increase it's suitability but that would give very limited room for adjustment.

And I don't know that mail fares so badly on the last point either. Whilst I admit that the whole process is extremely time consuming, have you factored in the fact that segmentata requires leather, copper alloy hinges, buckles, washers etc as well as the iron plates themselves. Taken all of the costs into account, material and production, would segmentata really be that much cheaper?

Especially if the solid links can be made by cutting them from tube stock?

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jul, 2012 11:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Bunker wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
For standardization sake probably go with the segmentata?


Really? But surely mail in 'standard' sizes makes much more sense. Segmentata needs to be well fitting to avoid chaffing, cutting, gaps etc whereas mail doesn't. I understand what you're saying about using sliding rivets and other methods to increase it's suitability but that would give very limited room for adjustment.

And I don't know that mail fares so badly on the last point either. Whilst I admit that the whole process is extremely time consuming, have you factored in the fact that segmentata requires leather, copper alloy hinges, buckles, washers etc as well as the iron plates themselves. Taken all of the costs into account, material and production, would segmentata really be that much cheaper?

Especially if the solid links can be made by cutting them from tube stock?


I confess apart from it's looks I don't know much about the practical aspects of wearing Segmentata, you also bring up valid issues about all the rest of the hardware needed to assemble a suit of Segmentata.

We can assume that in period the Romans would have all the costs of each option in hand to make a decision as well as veterans with experience with each type of armour. But they might have interminable arguments like in the 19th century about what is best a strait sabre or a curved sabre. Wink Big Grin Cool

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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jul, 2012 11:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd like to vote for the segmentata. Given that at the period that the segmentata was actually used Rome was at it's zenith, then the various fabrica that were set up could construct segmentata on a 'production line style of manufacture. It would be fairly easy to produce the various parts of the armour using fairly unskilled labour at a fairly rapid rate. Also the various individual plates could be easily distributed to the individual legions, along with the standardised hinges, lacing hooks, etc for final construction "on-site" , as it were. There is nothing inherantly difficult in having the legionaires themselves doing the final construction and fitting - all it requires is for the plates to be bent into shape and to have the hinges, hooks and leather straps rivetted in. Once they had been shown how to do it..I suspect it would have only taken an hour or two's work to make the final set., possibly less it the work was spread between a few individuals..say one rivetting on the lacing hooks, one doing the same for the hinges, another the internal leathers, another bending the plates themselves into shape. Also the segmentata is easily repairable by "non-skilled" labour..assuming the parts are available on hand. I suspect that it was the breakdown of the Empire's "distribution systems" that was the main reason for the demise of the segmentata..parts needed to make field repairs just weren't available where they were needed.. Also as the Empire relied less on the old-style legions then regional styles of armour became more prominent and used.
As far as costs are concerned..it's hard to judge which was 'cheaper" at the time. I suspect that the segmentata was cheaper in the long run, given that the actual labour involved could be fairly unskilled. Yes..mail required fewer basic parts..but the actual construction was a fairly time consuming and skilled affair..and skilled labour always costs more than unskilled.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jul, 2012 11:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ralph Grinly wrote:
I'd like to vote for the segmentata. Given that at the period that the segmentata was actually used Rome was at it's zenith, then the various fabrica that were set up could construct segmentata on a 'production line style of manufacture.

The empire seemed on the brink of collapse before Diocletian. It was after Diocletian ascended the throne and segmentata stopped being used that Rome embarked on a 50 year campaign during which the empire won virtually all of its battles and returned it to its former glory. The Roman empire remained stable for a century after the Diocletian reforms. I doubt that this stability had much to do with whether segmentata or mail was worn by legionaries but the type of armour being issued might have effected the logistical efficiency of military operations.

Quote:
As far as costs are concerned..it's hard to judge which was 'cheaper" at the time. I suspect that the segmentata was cheaper in the long run, given that the actual labour involved could be fairly unskilled. Yes..mail required fewer basic parts..but the actual construction was a fairly time consuming and skilled affair..and skilled labour always costs more than unskilled.

Actually I think that segmentata was cheaper in the short term but mail was cheaper in the long run after all other costs are accounted for. It costs more to manufacture, but was cheaper to maintain and repair, and needed to be replaced less frequently.

Note that nobody is sure exactly when segmentata stopped being issued but it was around Diocletian's time. Obviously there would be a period of overlap when older armours worked their way through the system. We also know that the fabricas were taken over by the state during this time. For the sake of the hypothesis, my assumption in this thread is that Diocletian was the one who stopped segmentata production as part of his fabrica reforms.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Jul, 2012 12:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well we know what the Romans did. All we can do is try and work out why.

Matthew Bunker wrote:
Especially if the solid links can be made by cutting them from tube stock?

This clinches it for me - Greiner's article is the final piece of a puzzle I've been struggling with for a while. According to Greiner, this innovation occurs around the same time as the reforms mentioned above. Assuming that segmentata was developed in the 1st century BC as a cheaper alternative to other types of metal armour, new methods of making mail made it cost effective enough to render segmentata obsolete.
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Matthew Bunker




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Jul, 2012 12:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ralph Grinly wrote:
Also the segmentata is easily repairable by "non-skilled" labour..assuming the parts are available on hand.


That's another factor in favour of mail though. You only need to carry the rings and rivets (and sometimes not even those as some field repairs seem to have been made with butted rings) whereas you need to carry a wide variety of components, some of which might never be used, in order to be able to carry out repairs to segmentata.

Standardisation of design and reduction in component variability are key to an efficient supply chain and driving down costs.

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Jul, 2012 2:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Well we know what the Romans did. All we can do is try and work out why.

Matthew Bunker wrote:
Especially if the solid links can be made by cutting them from tube stock?

This clinches it for me - Greiner's article is the final piece of a puzzle I've been struggling with for a while. According to Greiner, this innovation occurs around the same time as the reforms mentioned above. Assuming that segmentata was developed in the 1st century BC as a cheaper alternative to other types of metal armour, new methods of making mail made it cost effective enough to render segmentata obsolete.


wait.. the Romans had iron tubing and the ability to cut servicable maille links from it in a way that was economically feasible than drawing and coilng wire around a mandrel.
Eek! Eek! forgive me if i remain a tad skeptical..
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Jul, 2012 4:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

People had no problem believing that Roman links were punched from plate so why not cut from iron tubing? Matthew has already said that they had iron tubing for other applications during the same time period.

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=26364&start=0

I would think that tool marks would be completely different if the links were punched from plate.

Apologies for derailing my own thread. Could these be moved to the one on tubing?
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Jojo Zerach





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PostPosted: Tue 10 Jul, 2012 10:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would vote for mail. Although it would take more effort to make initially, it would be much more durable and much lower maintenance than segmenta. Remember that the hinges on segmenta were weak, and would have needed replacing on a regular basis, while you could probably toss a mail shirt around all day with no ill effect.
And except for blunt trauma protection, mail probably provided better protection all around.
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Matthew P. Adams




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PostPosted: Tue 10 Jul, 2012 12:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The mail is made from two different parts, solid and riveted links. With those two components you can make any size you want.

Segmentata need many different sized plates, that need to be put together in the right place and order to function. They also, as has been mentioned, need various other parts made from different materials to be assembled.

From a production standpoint, it seems like mail all the way.

"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training" Archilochus, Greek Soldier, Poet, c. 650 BC
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Joshua McGee





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PostPosted: Tue 10 Jul, 2012 11:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another vote for mail here for all the reasons already mentioned (easier sizing, easier repairs/upkeep). In addition, mail is easier to store and transport, which makes for a huge logistics plus.

I would also argue that mail is definitely not harder to make than a plate segmentata. It seems to me that making a good segmentata has more margin of error in creation due to the number of precision parts included that have to come together almost perfectly to make a single garment. An expert smith would have to form each plate and buckle specially, whereas setting a rivet and weaving rings can be done by virtually anyone with little training. It may take slightly more time per garment, but when you have a crew constantly making sheets of it, while another crew tailors it, it doesn't seem that it would take that much longer.

Also, the number of expert smiths who could hammer out the pieces to a segmentata would be far fewer than those who could cut rings and assemble a lorica hamata, so, in reality, it would probably be faster to produce more mail garments than plate; 30 men working around the clock in shifts can likely do more than or the same as 6 smiths who can hammer our precision segmentata pieces in the same time.To me, segmentata seems more like an expert craftsman's job while mail seems more like division of labor.

As far as defense, the hamata may not had been able to stand up to blunt trauma as well, but it could cover more of the body (including the groin, and this is important) and, with appropriate padding, could be quite resilient.

So yeah, I think that hamata is actually more practical for mass production than segmentata, which is probably one reason why history went that direction.


Last edited by Joshua McGee on Tue 10 Jul, 2012 11:29 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Ahmad Tabari





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PostPosted: Tue 10 Jul, 2012 11:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about this. At first I was absolutely in favour of mail simply because it is an all round superior armour. But then labour concerns popped into my head. Most would agree that Segmentata required far less labour than mail which is highly labour intensive and time consuming to make. In the days of the late republic labour was never an issue since the supply of slaves was plentiful. I dont think this was the case in the 3rd and 4th centuries. So labour costs made me lean towards Segmentata. But then when I took the costs of maintenance as well as the durability of armour into consideration, I couldnt help but feel that mail would have been a better choice for an increasingly centralized state taking control of its arms production. And when I took this in consideration with the fact that mail provided far better coverage against archery than did Segmentata (especially since the abandonment of the scutum), I was overwhelmingly in favour of mail.

So my vote goes to mail. It had better coverage and flexibility than segmentata and provides no less protection for the areas that would be covered by the Segmentata. Yes Segmentata is cheaper, but if it is quality you are after then mail is the winner.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jul, 2012 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Do we have any idea truly how much time was spent in the making of each? Perhaps at least some educated opinions?
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Jojo Zerach





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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jul, 2012 10:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joshua McGee wrote:
Another vote for mail here for all the reasons already mentioned (easier sizing, easier repairs/upkeep). In addition, mail is easier to store and transport, which makes for a huge logistics plus.

I would also argue that mail is definitely not harder to make than a plate segmentata. It seems to me that making a good segmentata has more margin of error in creation due to the number of precision parts included that have to come together almost perfectly to make a single garment. An expert smith would have to form each plate and buckle specially, whereas setting a rivet and weaving rings can be done by virtually anyone with little training. It may take slightly more time per garment, but when you have a crew constantly making sheets of it, while another crew tailors it, it doesn't seem that it would take that much longer.

Also, the number of expert smiths who could hammer out the pieces to a segmentata would be far fewer than those who could cut rings and assemble a lorica hamata, so, in reality, it would probably be faster to produce more mail garments than plate; 30 men working around the clock in shifts can likely do more than or the same as 6 smiths who can hammer our precision segmentata pieces in the same time.To me, segmentata seems more like an expert craftsman's job while mail seems more like division of labor.

As far as defense, the hamata may not had been able to stand up to blunt trauma as well, but it could cover more of the body (including the groin, and this is important) and, with appropriate padding, could be quite resilient.

So yeah, I think that hamata is actually more practical for mass production than segmentata, which is probably one reason why history went that direction.


Actually, segmenta could have been constructed and assembled by fairly unskilled labor. Authentic Roman segmenta is notoriously haphazard, sometimes even sloppy, in it's construction, which would further suggest the bulk of the work was being done by unskilled workers. Buckles and hinges are also fairly simple to make.
The only part that would have required real expertise would have been the forming of the sheet that the individual plates were cut from, and that was probably done in a separate workshop altogether.
A single worker could easily construct and assemble a segmenta armour in a week, while a riveted hamata would probably take at least 6 months. Though in both cases, multiple workers were likely working on a single piece.
My theory is that segmenta was intended as a cheaper, easier to produce armour, but that mail was still preferred. The Romans used mail before segmenta, alongside it, and after it, which would indicate it was the more successful armour.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jul, 2012 10:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
A single worker could easily construct and assemble a segmenta armour in a week, while a riveted hamata would probably take at least 6 months. Though in both cases, multiple workers were likely working on a single piece.


So we are looking at a 24 to 1 ratio in labor to produce? That would make a segmentata clearly cheaper.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jul, 2012 11:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan,

I could see Diocletian doing something like this, even if we cannot prove he did. He was into managing things in a very hands on way. I am fairly sure he was not a short term sort of gent. In fact in most ways he takes the hard way for what he thinks will be a lasting or long term solution. Breaking regional or local power from military leaders, creating a succession system (albeit not working 100% but better than had been to that time in Rome), the guy does all sorts of things that were geared for 50 years or more over 5 years or less. I still do not think mail can be made easier even with tubing than lorica segmentata. Making a tube is not easy by hand and the thinner the more difficult, which is true till machines take it over. This is before the 20+ to one ratio of actual armour creation. That said I am not sure Diocletian would not have pushed for it even if it were much more costly in at least manufacture. He literally took the empire apart and tried rebuilding it with some success as well but it was not an easy job. Mail over lorica, if he or his top officers felt strongly on it to being a long term solution to financial costs for military spending over the long term they could have made it happen if they could save the Empire. The years to 284 were bad. 25 Emperors in 26 years. Aurelian having the longest reign of 270-5 when he was assassinated. Not a great time for sweeping change but Diocletian did it.

I do think the segmentata can have longevity. It is mostly the silly fittings that eat it. These may have been something they mass produced and had in the baggage. The plates seem fairly durable. Simply refitting them at need. Not as easy as mail but still I think they posses a great degree of durability.

Over all your points are largely in favor of mail. I'd like to know if there might be other factors like Diocletian's brother of something owning several of the mail fabricae.... Wink

Valete!

RPM
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jul, 2012 11:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I might add that if a lorica segmentata could be produced in a week, it would make it even less labor intensive than clothing. The materials for armour were more expensive, but the time to produce was less than clothing, if going from fibers to finished clothing product.

As far as maintenance goes, you could make a handful of segmentata (24 perhaps?) in the time it took to make mail, so that would seem to make the higher soct of maintenance on a segmentata matter less.

Was not there a problem in the size of a forge operation needed to make a segmentata? I had read that a segmentata required a much larger forging operation, and that was one of the reasons it was not produced towards the end of the Roman era.
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