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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 15 Oct, 2009 6:00 pm    Post subject: help with Latin translation         Reply with quote

I have a phrase from Varro that I would like translated if any here can do so.
“Lorica a loris, quod de corio pectoralia faciebant, postea succuderunt Galli e ferro sub id vocabulum, ex annulis ferream tunicam.”
I believe this to be an early description of maille armour or a byrnie observed in use by the "Gauls" by Varro. I have been trying to collect some history on early existence of maille armour, even if circumstantial in terms of art, descriptions, or minute finds of rings. It seems to have been around, at least sporadically, continuously from pre-Roman through medieval era over a broad range of territories and peoples.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 5:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan is in the final stages of editing an article I wrote. It will cover all the early references to mail armour including this one by Varro. The cite is de Lingua Latina, V, 24, 116. The essay also discusses the likely origins of mail armour.

This is the sentence I have, which is slightly different to yours:
Lorica, quod e loris de corio crudo pectoralia faciebant; postea subcidit gallica e ferro sub id vocabulum, ex anulis ferrea tunica
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Cam H.





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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 7:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan's is the correct version of the sentence.

It's part of a series of passages in which Varro is speculating about the origins of terms for weapons, armour, etc.

Loosely translated:

The Lorica takes its name because they used to make chest-pieces out of leather strips [i.e. lora] from crude hides. Afterwards, the "Gallic" lorica of iron -- an iron tunic of rings -- fell under this name.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 1:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan!
I look forward to the essay. I guess I should ease up on my own study....

I had always assumed that because maille does not seem to wash up in rivers or be found in tombs, that it probably was extremely rare in Migration Era. After reading Alan Williams assumption in "the Knight and the Blast Furnace" (I don't think he even considered it a theory, but more of an obvious fact) that maille was simply always recycled I became intriqued and see some possibilities in the idea that mail was valued too highly to bury, and generally not as personalized as ornamented items and named swords that were ritually buried. In fact, Thuringian law near 600 A.D. forbade it to be ritually buried and required it to be inherited by eldest son. There should have been between 100,000 and 400,000 mail shirts in existence at the fall of the Roman empire in 4th century A.D. (Combination of authors' assumptions and records that it was the most prevalently produced form of armour in the fabricae at that time.)

Anyhow, I am eager to read your opinions on both the translation of Varo's text, and plausible continued existence of maille between Roman era and well known usage in late Medieval era.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 11:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cam's translation is right. It is clear that Varro thinks that mail is Gallic. IIRC Strabo reckons that it is Gallic too though I can't find the cite.

However the earliest examples of mail were not found in Gallic regions of Europe. They were found further east in Central Europe. One was found at Cuimesti, Romania and another was found in Slovakia. They date to the 3rd-4th centuries BC. The earliest Celtic example so far found was in Tiefenau, Switzerland and dates to the 2nd century BC.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Oct, 2009 4:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with you Dan. My notes have it that Strabo wrote in Volume 5 of his Geography works that an unspecific form of armour was “Celtic”. I think I ran across a photo (on the internet in the last two days) of a (later 2nd century A.D.?) Roman maille fragment that was found in Switzerland. The first thing that came to mind was "perfectly round mass produced rings!"

That said, the Romans recorded the locations and products of their fabricae (arms productions centers.) All of their 3rd and 4th century hamata style lorica were produced in Gaul (One location corresponding to Trier, the other I think something like Cologne or Xanthium / Colonia Agripa. I am not sure how far to the East/Danube it may have occurred as well.) This was derived from the Romans own records/ Notitia Oreins Title XI I think, discussed in “The later Roman Empire: a social economic and administrative survey”, Arnold Jones, 1986. The Romans continued to produce the segmented armour only at the Augustodunum fabricae at Autun, and issued it primarily to cavalry in the 4th century. (Art and monuments usually seem to show scale/ lamellar or segmenta on the majority of soliders, but this seems to be one of those cases of stylistic art not being consistent with written technical records and inventories.)

My problems with the above "theory" is that production quality and scale would depend upon mass produced drawn wire. (Not to mention some clever tooling as well.) The Romans were supposed to have had access to wire drawing technology. I suppose the wire could have been exported or furnished to Gaulish craftsmen. It does not look like similar quality or scale was feasible in Migration era. And in fact, I am not aware of continued European access to mass produced iron wire at that time. It could explain an apparent decrease in quality and coverage of maille for a few centuries. We don't firmly know specific North European production sites of wire drawing again until roughly 13th century. I would guess that it had to have re-emerged along with obvious resurgence of maille somewhere between Carolingian and Norman period.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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