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J. Reinbold




Location: United States
Joined: 13 Aug 2016

Posts: 1

PostPosted: Sat 13 Aug, 2016 1:25 am    Post subject: What is the difference between a Parma and a Clipeus?         Reply with quote

Well, I've done a little looking into these two shield types, but not much (mostly due to not knowing where to look), but the information I have says the following:

A Parma is a round or oval shield with Iron in its frame. Used by Velites in the Roman Republic, and later used also by Cavalry and the Auxilia as a whole. Generally a meter or less in width. Includes a central handle and boss.

A Clipeus on the other hand is a round or oval shield sometimes mentioned as being from the Republic era(s) but also as replacing the Scutum. Possibly with a boss and handle and or possibly straps?


So, can anyone please add more clarity as to the difference between these shields, in era, construction, etc? is it an interchangeable term? or do does the Clipeus for example refer to two different shields from separate eras?

I apologize in advance for my idiosyncratic grammar and likely poor spelling.
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Matthew Amt




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

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PostPosted: Sat 13 Aug, 2016 12:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't want to sound *too* authoratative, since I'm not exactly sure how picky the Romans were in how they used those terms. Both can just be used to mean "shield", without implying a specific shape or construction. Though I don't think they used just any old word!

I can tell you a little more about the *modern* definitions. Clipeus is typically used for an *oval* shield, clearly derived from Celtic styles. It has a single horizontal hand grip and a boss. It's the common shield for Roman auxiliaries, and is also seen carried by some standard bearers and musicians in artwork (funerary reliefs).

The parma, on the other hand generally seems to refer only to a circular shield. By the Empire, this is a small round shield used by standard bearers, but otherwise constructed the same as a clipeus.

But "parma" is an older term, going way back to the earlier Republic, and possibly into the Monarchy. It was used to describe a particular round shield with a bossed center that was apparently somewhat convex, and was carried by horsemen. Here's the famous relief of the Roman hero Curtius:



Trying to remember if it was Polybius or Livy who discussed the problems with early Roman cavalry--I know the spear they used was considered no good because it was too thin and lacked a buttspike, but I think they might have criticized the shield, as well. Made of hide, maybe?

Roman velites, legionary light infantry skirmishers, also carried round shields, though I don't know offhand if those are called parma or clipeus or what. Of course, Polybius used a lot of Greek terms, which doesn't help! If he said thureos or pelte, that'll really confuse the issue.

So meanings and definitions did change!

I'm not sure about the "Iron in its frame" part, never heard of that. If you have an ancient reference to that, I'll believe! Just seems odd.

Also remember that "scutum" means "shield" and is not necessarily specific to a rectangular or oblong legionary shield. So it may get used for things that a modern enthusiast doesn't think of as a "scutum". This can get confusing in the later Empire as the rectangular shields are giving way to round and oval shields (which are NOT the same shape as the Republican oval scutum!) which are still called "scutum". Sometimes it's easier just to describe something rather than pick a Latin word that everyone can agree on!

Does that get you started?

Matthew
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Jaroslav Jakubov




Location: Slovakia
Joined: 26 Aug 2008

Posts: 48

PostPosted: Wed 17 Aug, 2016 8:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Isn't Clippeus just a different name for Aspis?
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Matthew Amt




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

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PostPosted: Thu 18 Aug, 2016 10:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jaroslav Jakubov wrote:
Isn't Clippeus just a different name for Aspis?


Hoo, not sure how the usage might have gone on that. Aspis is just Greek for shield, while clipeus is a Latin word that might have been used to describe a Greek hoplite shield, but I don't know!

Matthew
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Sun 18 Sep, 2016 10:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Roman velites, legionary light infantry skirmishers, also carried round shields, though I don't know offhand if those are called parma or clipeus or what. Of course, Polybius used a lot of Greek terms, which doesn't help! If he said thureos or pelte, that'll really confuse the issue.


I'm pretty sure he used "thyreos/thureos" for the oblong scutum. He even called legionaries "thureophoroi" at times.


Jaroslav Jakubov wrote:
Isn't Clippeus just a different name for Aspis?


"Clipeus" is a much broader term. Yes, it was a pretty consistent name/translation for the Greek-style aspides used by the earliest Roman armies and many of their enemies. But it wasn't just used for the aspis-style large round shield.
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Matthew Amt




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

Posts: 1,247

PostPosted: Mon 19 Sep, 2016 5:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Matthew Amt wrote:
Roman velites, legionary light infantry skirmishers, also carried round shields, though I don't know offhand if those are called parma or clipeus or what. Of course, Polybius used a lot of Greek terms, which doesn't help! If he said thureos or pelte, that'll really confuse the issue.


I'm pretty sure he used "thyreos/thureos" for the oblong scutum. He even called legionaries "thureophoroi" at times.


Aha, thanks! I probably knew that at some point...

Just to muddy the waters, there are Greek writers who use the word "hoplite" for Roman legionaries, too! Nothing to get excited about, though, since strictly speaking that just means "armed man".

Matthew
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Sep, 2016 11:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Polybius rarely used the proper Latin terms -- he translated most of them into Greek. Along the way he might have misunderstood Roman numerology (the esoteric part that wasn't based on Greek mathematics, that is) and its implications to the number of men in a standard legion, although that doesn't really distract from his relatively high accuracy in other matters.
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