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Dan D'Silva wrote:
Ben Joy wrote:
Maybe the whole tactic was putting this giant out there, with the fabricated reputation of being invincible, bully the enemy army, and get them to submit because they couldn't/wouldn't sent forth a champion to face Goliath?

Gotta say, wagering your country's independence on a paper tiger sounds like an act of either extreme desperation or stupidity. It may work for a schoolyard bully, but if you're challenging a whole other nation, you ought to expect they'll produce someone willing to call your bluff.

Settling a dispute and deciding the winner of a war with a duel of champions instead of a set battle likely to cause many casualties seems to have been an option in the time period ?

I don't think that it would have been acceptable, instead of fighting a battle, if the losing side of the duel was to be enslaved or massacred, this would be a war to the death or complete subjugation ! But if the losing side became a vassal state to the winning state, or the dispute was to resolve a specific land or political issue, having a duel to resolve the dispute would seem like a logical way to arrive at at least a temporary resolution ?

One thing I wonder about is the assumption ( Maybe based on religious sources ? ) that Goliath was chosen as the Philistine Champion because he was a huge scary guy heavily equipped with the best heavy armour of the time, but that he was just a big stupid guy with no real fighting skills or reputation as a winner of such duels in previous disputes with other peoples the Philistines might have had conflicts with.

So do the religious texts give a full and complete biography of Goliath before his failed duel with David ?

I would assume that choosing a champion would involve picking your best fighter, or what one perceived as one's best fighter ? One might get this wrong by picking the biggest and scariest guy in one's army who might not be your very best fighter.

David certainly didn't seem to be or look like the best fighter the Israelis could find, but he seems to be the only one courageous enough to volunteer ! If no champion could be found the choice would be fighting the battle or conceding defeat without battle and giving the Philistines what they wanted without resistance.

David if I remember correctly was offered Saul's armour and weapons that would have been of the conventional types, but David probably realized that he couldn't win fighting in the conventional manner and surprised everyone by choosing to fight unarmoured and with only his sling.

Now, I'm sure that this looked insane to everybody on both sides and Goliath was mightily displeased and insulted, he probably had his shield and his guard down in disbelief and exposed his forehead in a way that lead to David having a good vulnerable target of opportunity killing Goliath.

David obviously had skills with the sling where he was confident in being able to hit a very small target as long as he managed to keep his nerves in check and aim calmly.

Disclaimer: I haven't read the Bible story in a very very long time as a lapsed catholic, but I'm basing this above mostly on partial memory of Bible stories and on the logic behind the situation: So, I'm not approaching the topic from a religious mind set and only in a tactical and logical way. ( [i]After all this is a site for discussion of arms and armour and not a religious discussion group, although we can still discuss thing respectfully
:cool: ).
Oh, I understand the principle of combat by champions. But I still say that picking as your champion someone who looks scary but hasn't proven himself to be much of a fighter, when the potential opponents who might call his bluff number in the hundreds or thousands, is either very desperate or very stupid, and taking the story at its face, that's what it was. Personally... I'd prefer to think that if something like this story happened, then Goliath was a large man, but not an extreme giant, and was actually a warrior rather than a Warrior-Like Object. So the Dead Sea version seems instinctively more plausible to me.

As for the setup and aftermath of the combat, that's a whole other discussion that I'd prefer to hold my tongue about.
Jean Thibodeau wrote:

Settling a dispute and deciding the winner of a war with a duel of champions instead of a set battle likely to cause many casualties seems to have been an option in the time period ?.

No it wasn't. Sometimes champions would fight before a battle but the battle still took place regardless of who won.
Dan Howard wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:

Settling a dispute and deciding the winner of a war with a duel of champions instead of a set battle likely to cause many casualties seems to have been an option in the time period ?.

No it wasn't. Sometimes champions would fight before a battle but the battle still took place regardless of who won.

Interesting to know, but I did write " An Option " and not " Always the case ". :cool:

Just speculating for the sake of argument that at times this was a way for " Heroes " on each side to build a reputation or fight for glory/honour before the battle ?

Also the duel winning side might get a morale boost and the duel losing side a morale deficit before the battle, although the way the fight ended might just have made the losing side angrier if honour wasn't served or cheating perceived.... a lot of psychology involved.

Although, I think that in some cases there might have been an agreement that the duel would settle the issue ? And maybe cases where the losing side would break their word and force a battle anyway ?

In the case of David versus Goliath I think the duel resolved the issue at least for a time and the Philistines withdrew without there being a battle.
Hello guys!

Before I get hung, drawn, and quartered by one of the weapons from this site for reviving this thread on my first post, I wanna say why. While researching this topic that caught my attention a little on the side, I decided to try and figure out Goliath's height based on the details given in the Bible (1 Samuel 17:4-7). This forum had 10 times more information than every other place: book or internet put together, so I can see people here are not only polite but professionals at their weaponry!

Special shoutout to Henrik for his replica: bro it is amazing!

And props to Sheldon for putting in this effort! Like Sheldon, I'm a biblical literalist: talking donkeys included (if they can have an app that translates your dog's barks, why not). I subscribe to a more naturalistic approach, where God orchestrates most events in a sort of semi-Deism fashion: they have direct impact, but they're not usually directly. For example the parting of the Red Sea was because of a very strong east wind (Exodus 14:21). Exceptions would be various prophets (Moses' healing with the wood, Elijah, Jesus).

First let me give my (unsolicited) opinion on some of the ideas I read here. I did read the entire topic, every reply, and I did research too:

-The Septuagint (LXX) does give Goliath a shorter height than the 9'9". But they were frequently correcting what they thought were problems like exactly the kind we're wondering here: how could Goliath be that tall. They do this often (e.g. Exodus 12:40). And the Dead Sea Scrolls may be the oldest copies we've found, but the Alexandrian manuscript tradition that has the 9'9" height is considered more original. Be that as it may, it's not like someone couldn't have used an expression. When someone says, "dude, this weighs a ton," I won't consider it to be a technical, literal statement! "six cubits and a span" could've been an expression of the time, the way the British expression, "left him a shilling" means someone was disinherited. "raining cats and dogs", or Hellen of Troy having a face that "launched ten thousand ships".

-Goliath would've been coming out of the Philistine ranks on his own initiative to taunt the Israelites; maybe he was a commander to give the promise of slavery if he was defeated (nobody went for that anyway). He's noted as a warrior by Saul (the Israelite king) from his youth, but Saul could be just guessing.

-Also I do believe, like Erik, that Goliath maybe held his spear like the Assegai shorter iklwa, but Henrik's reconstruction doesn't seem to necessitate that.

So here's my idea. I decided to try and compare known armor size and weight for the average human, and see what estimate can be made about Goliath's height from that, given the biblical weight. Here's the relevant text:


1 Samuel 17:4-7

4Then a champion named Goliath, from Gath, came out from the Philistine camp. He was six cubits and a span.
5 and wore a bronze helmet and bronze scale armor that weighed 125 pounds.[5000 shekels]
6 There was bronze armor on his shins, and a bronze sword was slung between his shoulders.
7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s beam, and the iron point of his spear weighed 15 pounds.[600 shekels] In addition, a shield-bearer was walking in front of him.


-Goliath's armor is 125 lbs = c.57 kg. This is either his helmet and cuirass, or possibly the entire panoply (shin guards mentioned in verse 6, for example, could've been sidenotes to additional armor for the weight in verse 5) and maybe weapons too. I'll explore both options


-Density of bronze/brass: 8.73g/cm3. Brass has identical properties to it in this regard [Gabriel and Metz, From Sumer to Rome (1991), p.xx]

-Ancient bronze cuirass weight was between 5kg, 1mm thick - 10kg, 2mm thick. [Aldrete et al. Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor (2013), p.147] with at least one example from Plutarch (2nd century writer) of a 13-18kg cuirass. [p.146]

-The total panoply was 20-25kg [Aldrete et al. ibid., p.147]

-The helmet was about 1/3 the weight of the cuirass [Aldrete et al. ibid., p.147]


-My main estimate is how I measure the dimensions of the cuirass (the more likely scale armor would be similar I suppose). I imagine cutting it at the side from the bottom to the armpit and stretching it out so I can get a rectangular plate (see attachment below). I calculated on my own body and the distance from below the navel to the top of the sternum was approximately half my waist. So I give the length (2X) as twice the width (X) for convenience. It's irrelevant that there are big holes in it because I base my starting point on the 10kg actual measured ancient cuirass by Aldrete, and any increases would be of similar, but bigger objects.

-The ancient height being ~170cm (5'7"). I didn't bother finding a source for this because I remember reading some history book in high school saying the Romans were 5'6" and then I saw someone on the internet giving 167-172, so I felt it was more or less accurate.


For those of you that don't like math, I'm sorry. It seemed much simpler the first time I tried the calculations than when I "simplified" them here. The issue is to convert weight (in grams!) into volume (cm3) and then relate that to proportionate height. So we have:

length (2x) times width (x) times thickness (T: 1mm-2mm= 0.1-0.2: this can be adjusted, some armors could have been thicker), which equals the weight W (e.g. 10kg=10,000) divided by the density (8.73): T2x^2=W/8.73

Let's get a proportion of the armor waist-to-height ratio. I plug in 10000 for W and 0.2 for T:

0.4x^2=10,000/8.73; x=c.53.5cm for a 170cm tall guy. Remember x is half the waist, so (irrelevant, but fewer decimals), 53.5/170 becomes 107/340. The actual waist is 107 and height is 170, but that's not a discrepancy because our starting point is finding the "half-waist" to height ratio so we don't waste time multiplying around.

We need another formula here that we can now get: the relationship between height "H" and "X" (half-waist). We just established that the half-waist to height ratio is 107/340. so:

2X/H = 107/170

[minor side note: I know this gives a waist to height ratio of 0.64, which means these guys were obese, but as you all know the cuirass is not the stomach: it has to come down and be a little looser, like how they measure your clothes. Many of the soldiers fought into their 60's: Caesar's veterans were already old by the time he fought Pompey, which made them slower (and lazier), and maybe fatter. Veterans from Alexander served well into their 60's in the subsequent Diadachoi civil wars. Roman soldiers were old as well, into their 60's (Tiberius Abdel Ben Pantera and his comrade tombstones). Goliath I guess could've been no older than his 30's/40's, but again, the waist-height ratio shouldn't be a problem, because I based it from the 10kg cuirass and 170cm height ancient constants]

We need to find X: X=(107H)/340

So our formulas:

Weight (W) + Thickness (T) to Height (H): T2x^2=W/8.73
Half-waist (X) to Height (H): X=(107H)/340

SCENARIO 1: Helmet and Armor only = 57kg (125lbs)

-Earlier we noted that the helmet was around 1/3 the weight of the cuirass. This would make it 1/4 of the whole if both are weighed. This would make the cuirass 3/4 of the 57kg = approximately 42kg. The biblical author probably rounded (5000 shekels), so let's say Goliath's cuirass in this case is 40kg, or 40,000g.


Solving for X:

x=sqrt( 20000/8.73T )

We know the formula for X to Height H:

107H/340 = sqrt( 20,000/8.73T)


We now have a formula for Goliath's height given a 40kg (90lb) cuirass. Plugging in various thicknesses (I start from 2mm, because 1mm makes him 15 feet 9 inches tall! (480 cm)):

-2mm (T=0.2), Height=340cm (11'2")
-2.5mm (T=0.25), H=304cm (10 feet)
-3mm (T=0.3), H=278cm (9'1")
-3.5mm (T=0.35), H=257cm (8'5")
-4mm (T=0.4), H=227cm (7'5")

I'm no expert, but the last one would be my only bet. Could he have had 4mm armor? Ancient precedents? Feasibility (making as well as wearing in battle)?

SCENARIO 2: All armor is 57kg (125lbs)

Now let's say that his WHOLE armor weighed 57kg. In that case, compared with the 20-25kg estimate given by Aldrete above, his cuirass would be maybe about twice the high (10kg) normal range, or 20kg (20,000 grams). The new formula for the height H would be:

x=sqrt( 10,000/8.73T ) = 100/sqrt(8.73T)

So plugging in from 1mm-4mm armor thickness:

1mm (T=0.1), H=340cm (11'2")
1.5mm (T=0.15), H=278cm (9'1")
2mm (T=0.2), H=240cm (7'11")
2.25mm (T=0.225), H=227cm (7'5")
2.5mm (T=0.25), H=215cm (7'1")
2.75mm (T=0.275), H=205cm (6'9")
3mm (T=0.3), H=196cm (6'5")

As we can see, starting from around 2mm cuirass thickness, Aldrete's upper bound (but notes thicker armor could've been made, pp.146-7), we get realistic sizes. My bet is something around 2.25-2.5mm, or something like 220cm / 7'3" tall, because they'd want him to have thicker armor for such a giant cuirass.

Goliath was probably part of the "Sea Peoples" who caused the bronze age collapse around 1200 BC in the Ancient Near East. This actual episode takes place in the late 11th century BC. David began his reign at 30, c.1012 BC, and he would've been around 15-20 in this episode, putting this scene around 1025 BC. Goliath's name is Greek (Colliades), so his height is not impossible (also his children are called giants - 2 Samuel 21:15-22).
For someone who was 5'6", a 7 foot man would indeed be described as a giant. Marbot, an officer under Napoleon refers to the "giant Russians" in his battles with them. Calls a 6 foot hussar a "giant" as well. David based his confidence on the fact that he trained with the sling against lions and bears who stole his lambs (1 Samuel 17:34-37).

It wouldn't have been the first or last time the bravery and preparation of a smaller opponent defeated a larger colossus (Battle of Tegyra, Leuctra; Alexander the Great; Battle of Okehazama).

 Attachment: 7.05 KB

At the risk of repeating myself, where to start?

Well, a good start is taking Aldrete's book and throwing it in the trash. The utter lack of evidence for glued linen armor is irrelevant here, but he's flat-out wrong about armor weights. There are no surviving bronze cuirasses (even in near-perfect condition) that weigh more than 10 pounds, in fact the heaviest one I can think of offhand is about 8. The lightest is about 5 pounds. Yes, there is the one description of that very heavy cuirass, but it was specifically designed to stop catapult bolts and was presumably meant to be worn on horseback, so it was not typical in any way.

Next, skip the math. There are simply too many variables in armor to try to calculate anything that way, especially if you're assuming overweight veterans and an incorrect fit for armor. It's much easier to look at original pieces or reconstructions and work from there. You can see the various cuirasses I've made on my websites:



Note that my reconstructions, like many others, are too heavy compared to the real thing. My cuirasses are not thinner at the back than the front, and they are not as well-fitted to my body as they should be, and that adds weight. But if you're looking to exaggerate size and weight anyway, that shouldn't be a problem.

One nice thing about Goliath's era is that body armor could cover more than just the torso, so you might take a look at my own scale armor. It is about knee-length and has shoulder guards, and was made from c. 1mm bronze scales mixed with rawhide scales, for a total weight of 30 pounds. Scale that up to 1.5mm, use all bronze instead of some rawhide, make it Goliath-sized, and you've got your hundred pounds of armor, I would think. Why complicate things?

There are no surviving ancient helmets (bronze, iron, or brass) that weigh much over 3 pounds. Again, exaggerate and scale up as you like to get something heavier. The advantage of scale armor is that fairly small increases in the thickness of the scales can add a LOT of weight, as can increasing the amount of overlap (sideways as well as vertically). So you never have to mess with horribly thick pieces of solid plate.

Just as an aside, the "Sea People" is largely a 19th century invention, and there was no sweeping invasion across 3 continents to cause any massive cultural collapse. But that's another discussion entirely, as is the very existence of such a collapse, or even the dates involved. Just sayin'.

Anyway, I hope that's a start.

Ah, I see. Well thanks for the info. It seems much more reasonable exactly because of the numerous variables and assumptions in my voodoo mathematics. I appreciate it and will add it to my notes. I sincerely disdained those calculations because of all the unknowns and assumptions. And I totally believe that slight increases in the thickness massively increase the weight of the armor, because it inversely massively reduced the height in the table above (0.5mm increase takes off half to a whole foot!).

I suppose I didn't bring anything new here to interest anybody, the only reason I posted :( . but I'm really glad for your reply! If there's anything else that could've been missed, by all means reply again. As far as the Sea Peoples go, I may have read some articles doubting it was any kind of mass migration like Germanic tribes in Late Antiquity, or the Norse in the Viking Age, I'm not really sure what to think.

And your reconstructions are really awesome. I love the Romulus helmet, and the boar tusk one is a really cool project. (just to let you know, your two swordforum links at the BAarmor page don't work)

I actually looked at some replicas of ancient Greek armor - is $400-500 a reasonable price for the helmet and cuirass ($400) ($500)? I know it's not in those links, but my favorite is the Corinthian helmet
A decent Corinthian will cost you at least a thousand dollars.
Dan Howard wrote:
A decent Corinthian will cost you at least a thousand dollars.

Got it, thanks!
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