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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Apr, 2014 7:28 am    Post subject: boiled leather in ancient Rome         Reply with quote

hello guys, i would like to ask you for your opinion. There seems to be some movement which tries to suggest that Roman Mail was not that effective against weapons, and instead Romans might used leather cuirasses.

one of the backer of this theory is Raffaele D'Amato in his book: ARMS AND ARMOUR OF THE IMPERIAL ROMAN SOLDIER: From Marius to Commodus.

another backer of this theory is Mike Loades, who made several TV shows (i know how that sounds) about how effective boiled leather was, and he made some live fire tests to prove his points.

Can you point me to some more info on this topic?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Apr, 2014 1:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There isn't a shred of evidence to support the argument for "boiled leather" being used by the Romans. D'Amato has a long-standing infatuation with leather armour and tends to look at any ambiguous illustration as evidence to support his irrational ideas. There are two extant examples of rawhide armour (not boiled leather) dating to the Roman period but both were found in the Middle East so it is impossible to tell whether they were worn by Roman or foreign soldiers. One is a scale/lamellar thigh guard found at Dura Europos, Syria and the other was a scale corselet found at Karanis, Egypt. I have no difficulty believing that small amounts of rawhide scale was worn by Roman troops but D'Amato pushes the unsupportable argument that their Segmentata and Musculata typologies were made of leather. All of the available evidence suggests that they were made of metal only.

There have been some good discussions on RAT about this subject
http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/index.html

D'Amato's book is good for all of the photos of hard to find artefacts but you should ignore the text. It sets back research into this subject by decades.

Mail was more than adequate to protect Roman troops from any known threat. All metal armour was. It was also a lot lighter than any alternative. Leather is a very poor substitute. In fact it provides the worst protection of all the available alternatives. Layered textile armour provides far better protection than hardened leather or rawhide armour. In order for leather to provide the same protection as metal or textile armour it has to be made a lot thicker and heavier.

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Last edited by Dan Howard on Tue 01 Apr, 2014 1:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Apr, 2014 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A good place to start:-
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...mour+roman

And then here perhaps :-
http://www.romanarmytalk.com/68-wanted/319976...p;start=30

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Apr, 2014 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What I suggest to test the theory is go and get any bit of halfway decent thickness veg tan leather and boil it. Then you will see why the theory holds little water (forgiving the phrase).

IF you make a hand carved (assuming you want to copy ancient world technology) wooden former to fit the specific person and IF you have the right leather of the right grade and quality and thickness to offer protection better than steel and IF you heat treat it carefully you will get a result that might work. But that's an awful lot of work to make something a lot less useful than what was plainly readily available and commonplace.

Its a different era but Chris Dobsons article on hardened leather armour of the middle ages is one of the best attempts to make this type of defense, if not the definitive article. Can't recall if its online but the work that went it to making it was pretty detailed and complicated, kitting out a legion of nearly 5,000 men (times by number of legions).

I've heard a reasonably rational argument for the muscle cuirass, based on some statues where there is lacing visible which kind of suggests its not metal. However once you are using hardened leather than adding buckle is a perfectly valid option so maybe the sculptor didn't know what he was doing. At the rank level of someone wearing such an item then the hassle of making it becomes more possible.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Apr, 2014 2:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Look at every illustration/sculpture that D'Amato claims is leather armour and ask two questions:
1. Is this leather or could it be metal or textile?
2. Is this armour or could it simply be clothing?

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Apr, 2014 2:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Griffin wrote:
IF you have the right leather of the right grade and quality and thickness to offer protection better than steel

Yep. The only way to get leather to provide the same protection as metal (including mail) is to make it a lot thicker and heavier than a metal alternative. The reason that metal was preferred was because it was the lightest material available for a given level of protection. There are plenty of examples of leather armour all over the world but they either provide a lower level of protection compared to metal or they are a lot thicker and heavier than metal.

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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 7:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

one of the common replies i get on this topic elsewhere, is that Roman Mail was not as effective as Medieval mail, due to lighter small rings, so hardened leather would be better alternative than mail. personally, i find this argument a bit strange, if ancient mail was not effective enough then why would they even bother with something that requires so many work hours to manufacture.

anyway, are there any tests done against Roman mail reproductions to test how effective they actually were? From those few pictures i saw, Roman rings are way smaller than medieval rings, so there must be some reason behind it why rings increased in size over time (was it to increase protection or to reduce weight and speed up the manufacture process? )
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Raman A




Location: United States
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 9:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Griffin wrote:

I've heard a reasonably rational argument for the muscle cuirass, based on some statues where there is lacing visible which kind of suggests its not metal..


I'm not familiar with the sources you're referencing, but why would this suggest a non-metal material? What's the problem with punching metal and lacing it? Medieval armor had punched holes to fasten liners, and to lace to arming garments.

Also, in which show or book does Mike Loades say that boiled leather was a better alternative to mail in the Roman period?
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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 9:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Raman A wrote:
Mark Griffin wrote:

I've heard a reasonably rational argument for the muscle cuirass, based on some statues where there is lacing visible which kind of suggests its not metal..


I'm not familiar with the sources you're referencing, but why would this suggest a non-metal material? What's the problem with punching metal and lacing it? Medieval armor had punched holes to fasten liners, and to lace to arming garments.

Also, in which show or book does Mike Loades say that boiled leather was a better alternative to mail in the Roman period?



you see, that what's you get if you don't check your claimant sources... you are right, Mike Loades was not backing this theory, he was just used as a source of a man that made some live fire tests against Boiled Leather. he didnt suggested it was more effective than mail. that portion was added by the man i'm having an argument with. (my apologies to Mike Loades)
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 10:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jaroslav Jakubov wrote:
one of the common replies i get on this topic elsewhere, is that Roman Mail was not as effective as Medieval mail, due to lighter small rings, so hardened leather would be better alternative than mail. personally, i find this argument a bit strange, if ancient mail was not effective enough then why would they even bother with something that requires so many work hours to manufacture.
)


Reducing the size of links, all other factors constant, creates denser, heavier coating on given surface.

Smaller rings are also pretty obviously harder to make and connect together. No one would likely be making them without reason then.

Most modern manufactures of mail(ish products) rarely go below 8mm inner diameter for cost/effort reasons, after all.

So I find this argument rather strange indeed.
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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 26 Aug 2008

Posts: 48

PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 10:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
Jaroslav Jakubov wrote:
one of the common replies i get on this topic elsewhere, is that Roman Mail was not as effective as Medieval mail, due to lighter small rings, so hardened leather would be better alternative than mail. personally, i find this argument a bit strange, if ancient mail was not effective enough then why would they even bother with something that requires so many work hours to manufacture.
)


Reducing the size of links, all other factors constant, creates denser, heavier coating on given surface.

Smaller rings are also pretty obviously harder to make and connect together. No one would likely be making them without reason then.

Most modern manufactures of mail(ish products) rarely go below 8mm inner diameter for cost/effort reasons, after all.

So I find this argument rather strange indeed.


but wasnt the Roman Mail rings a bit thinner than those used in medieval period? D. Sim and Kaminski in their book about Roman armor mentioned variable thickness of 0.8-1.3mm (if i remember correctly), wasn't medieval mail rings much thicker? also i suppose different metallurgy would also play some role here, but this might be kinda counter-balanced as Roman Mail would face weapons made with similar level of metallurgy.
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Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 10:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Medieval armor had punched holes to fasten liners, and to lace to arming garments.


I'll see if i can find a pic, but its lacing to join the front and back of a cuirass together, very different to the holes used to sew a lining into a helmet or point holes.

Its very similar to the same system used to lace mediavl leather armour, as seen on greaves on effigies etc.

Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 12:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jaroslav Jakubov wrote:
but wasnt the Roman Mail rings a bit thinner than those used in medieval period? D. Sim and Kaminski in their book about Roman armor mentioned variable thickness of 0.8-1.3mm (if i remember correctly), wasn't medieval mail rings much thicker? also i suppose different metallurgy would also play some role here, but this might be kinda counter-balanced as Roman Mail would face weapons made with similar level of metallurgy.


Medieval mail is, if anything, more varied. Most Roman mail seems to have been standardized with rings having an external diameter of 7-7.5 mm, though there are always exceptions. The mail backing of the scales in the lorica plumata or lorica hamata squamataque (depending on your reference source) are smaller than most all medieval mail, but that's a rare exception. Medieval and Renaissance mail can have outer diameters smaller or larger than the 7mm range, and wire can be thicker or thinner than the range given.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Arbeia hamata seems to have been pretty typical of Roman mail and it is in very good condition. The thickness of the wire compared to the link diameter is very high - resulting in a density that is better than a lot of surviving medieval mail. It was a very substantial armour and easily capable of stopping any threat the Romans faced in battle.

Even if you pay attention to the OPs claim and falsely assume that Roman mail was of a lighter variant, these variants are still far superior in protective capacity to an equivalent weight of hardened leather. The people who push the above reasoning have no idea how real armour actually functions (they seem especially ignorant of the functionality of properly riveted mail). This is the problem with letting arts graduates like D'Amato dominate the field who don't have the right background. I'm an arts graduate but that wasn't till I was in my thirties. Before that I was exclusively studying science and engineering and thought that arts students were academic lightweights who didn't have the mental capacity to get a "real" degree. Now I realise that you need both disciplines to properly study this subject.



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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Tue 08 Apr, 2014 7:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

my discussion with my opponent took predictable way. his main argument now is that mail alone in not effective, because dr Williams when testing mail was able to penetrate it with just 80 joules when padding was not used. Opponents argument is, that padding used was actually responsible for the resistance, and it would alone prove to be more effective than the mail alone.

Is there any study available which clearly described the effect padding had on mail rings? (anyway, i think I'm just putting way too much energy into that debate, as my opponent is just ignoring what i say anyway)


Last edited by Jaroslav Jakubov on Wed 09 Apr, 2014 6:51 am; edited 1 time in total
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 08 Apr, 2014 8:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Personally, I can't help thinking that all the detailed calculations of joules are a waste of time. The question is really: Did this armor work for the guys who wore it? And the answer is YES.

The other question which never gets asked: How many of these joules does it take to penetrate flesh? I'm guessing it's a lot less than 80. In other words, even armor which we don't think is effective enough forces your opponent to spend 5 times or 10 times the energy to wound you. Which presumably means he needs to wind up more before he strikes, telegraphing his blows, and will have to put more effort into recovering from the blow as well. And he's going to fatigue himself faster. Those are assumptions on my part, I'm not a martial artist!

The Romans used a LOT of mail for about 600 years before the first hint of padding shows up (the thoracomachus description). It was clearly the most popular armor in that era, while the evidence for leather or hide armor clearly shows that it was quite rare. (And not a trace of boiled/hardened leather, either!)

Those who blow hard and long about how ineffective mail was have stirred up a lot of leaves and dust. But so far they have failed to reverse the rotation of the planet. Nice thing about mail--the wind goes right through it.

Matthew
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 08 Apr, 2014 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stopping 80J sounds good enough to stop a sword [1]. It'll even do OK against arrows; it's about what's needed to stop Medieval longbow arrows at long range, and might do well against Roman arrows at all ranges. (What's the draw weight of Roman military bows? I've seen Parthian bows estimated at 60-70lbs.) Javelins should penetrate 80J mail.

But the mail isn't the main defensive armour; the shield is the main defensive armour. Having the backup armour being able to stop swords, daggers, and most arrows sounds quite adequate.

[1] The usual reference people cite on stabbing force is I. Horsfall, P.D. Prosser, C.H. Watson, S.M. Champion, An assessment of human performance in stabbing, Forensic Science International 102 (1999) 7989. The tests were done under ideal conditions, by stabbers who were less fit and trained than one would hope ancient warriors were. The overarm stab is not something easy to deliver to a moving and resisting enemy. See http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?p=275517#275517 for pics.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Tue 08 Apr, 2014 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Apparently your opponent hasn't actually read Williams. In Ch.9 he tested a simulated lance point against a 15th century mail voider and a replica made by Erik. He tested the same point against two samples of 5mm of cuirbouilli and 16 layers of linen. It required 140J to compromise the voider (which was lighter than Roman mail) and over 200 J to compromise Erik's piece. The same lance-head only needed 50J to compromise the linen, 30J to compromise one sample of cuirbouilli and 20J for the other. He tested a bodkin point against mail (120J was needed to compromise it and the padding) but not against the leather or linen so no comparison can be made, but other experiments suggest that leather provides virtually no protection at all against these points unless it is multi-layered and very thick - weighing a lot more than even the heaviest mail.

So using your opponent's own evidence, the mail and padding combination can resist 140-200+ J while the padding resists 50J, so the padding provides one quarter to one third of the total.

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Jaroslav Jakubov




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PostPosted: Wed 09 Apr, 2014 11:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan, if I may ask, what is the typical gauge of Roman mail? my opponents keep repeating it was very light, 18 gauge. Is there any info for example how heavy was piece found at Arbeia?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 10 Apr, 2014 2:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The thickness of the wire is less important than the ratio of wire thickness to link diameter. The higher the ratio, the denser the weave. A lot of the Arbeia links are of wire that is 1.6-1.8mm thick and the inside diameter of the links are 5-6mm. That produces a weave density that is higher than a lot of medieval mail. It is a very heavy type of mail.

http://www.themailresearchsociety.erikds.com/pdf/tmrs_pdf_18.pdf

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