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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Help Decipher Ferdiad's Armour Reply to topic
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Wed 17 Aug, 2016 5:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Len I hope that you are still interested in this topic. Anyways today I read an article called "Native Irish Arms and Armour in Medieval Gaelic Literature 1170 to 1600" by Peter Harbison. In this article are two interesting accounts. The first is an early 15th description of Fionn mac Cúmhaill

"Then rose the royal chief of the fiana of Ireland and Scotland and of the Saxons and Britons, of Lewis and Norway and of the hither islands, and put on his battle-dress (erred) of combat and contest, even a thin silken shirt (léne) of wonderful choice satin of the fair-cultivated Land of Promise over the face of his white skin; and outside over that he put his twenty-four waxed, stout shirts of cotton (cotúin), firm as a board, about him, and on the top of those he put his beautiful, plaited, three-meshed coat of mail (lúirech) of cold refined iron, and around his neck his graven gold-bordered pisane (sgaba), and about his waist he put a stout corslet with a decorated, firm belt (clárchóilér cressa) with gruesome images of dragons, so that it reached from the thick of his thighs to his arm-pit, whence spears and blades would rebound"

The armour described here is very similar to Cú Chulainn's, especially 24 layered aketon/cotún and the stout corslet. The big difference of course is the addition of a mail shirt and pisane.

The second interesting account is an early 17th century description of Cú Chulainn.

"Thereupon Cú Chulainn put his shinning shirt (léine) of white delicately-soft satin next to his fair skin and his gold-bordered aketon (cotún) of orange silk over the shirt. He put on two light, weak buskins (assa) of blue-green silk on his royal handsome calves, he put his two new shoes of brown leather, bound and decorated with beautiful refined gold, on his fair feet. He put over his aketon (cotún) his 27 shirts (léinte), waxed, board-like, stitched, which were a protection against wound of javelin or bright blade. Over these shirts he put his doublet (fúathbróic), bright and strong of brown leather of skins of seven oxhides, arranged and decorated with brilliant shinning gems, which was a protection against darts, and sharp points, and against the wounding of spears and javelins. Outside that doublet (fúathbróic) he put the large-hooked, engraved, coat of mail (lúireach), with workmanship of noble gold, close, strong, pressed together, long, sheltering, ringed, bound and arranged by the hands of seers and noble artisans, which was a protection against wound of dart, sword and steel blade, spears, javelins, and sharp points. He put on his pisane (sgabal), with golden edges, round his fair neck, and the hard strong collar (muince) of refined silver over that pisane. He put on his head the fairy helmet. (síth-bhárr) of Manaannán, to with the shinning, splendid, bright helmet (cathbhárr) which Manannán brought to him from the Land of Promise, full of precious stones and gems of the land of Africa, namely, diamond, topaz, beryl and onyx, and in which were engraved the forms of many various terrible beasts. And he put his two strong protective gauntlets (lámhuinn) of hard iron, strong and unbreakable, on his fair, supple, strong hands. And having encased his body thus in his battle-armour (cathéideadh), he went valiantly, proudly, haughtily, into his chariot and sat in the midst of the arms and feats and edged weapons."

As you can see, as time goes on, the amount of armour worn be these mythical heroes grows. Also note the author uses the word doublet instead of apron as a translation for fúathbróic.

Mr. Harbison suggests that these stories were sometimes mis-remembered or added to by successive generations of poets. As long as the rhythm was kept, the poet could change small details and still make the story work.

Éirinn go Brách
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Wed 17 Aug, 2016 6:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Now looking back at the descriptions of Cú Chulainn and Ferdiad which we discussed earlier. The order in which Cú Chulainn's armour was put on never made sense to me. First he puts on his 27 linen shirts, then his leather battle girdle (cathchriss), then on his lower body, his silk apron (fúathbróic), then his leather apron (fúathbróic). You would not think that Cú Chulainn would have started with lower body and worked his way up, so why not here? Perhaps to keep the rhyme scheme?

Because Cú Chulainn's fúathbróga were put on his lower body, it makes sense that Ferdiad's would be also, but perhaps neither Cú Chulainn's nor Ferdiad's fúathbróga were worn on his lower body.

In the version which I quoted in my last post the word fúathbróic (which worn on his upper body) is used instead of cathchriss, which is used in the earlier version. If these kinds of mistakes could be made (one piece of armour mistaken for another), and pieces of armour were added over time, then perhaps the earliest versions we have also contain mistakes and additions.

In every poem I've seen where Irish Chieftain's armour is described, it goes silk or satin shirt, then an aketon, then mail. So getting back to Ferdiad, I think he is wearing a satin shirt, then a leather faced aketon, then a mail shirt. I haven't seen mention of a leather faced aketon in the poetry, but I know three 16th sources which speak of the Irish using leather faced aketons. There is also a surviving 12th piece of leather (found in Dublin ), which appears to have been the outer layer of an aketon. I still don't have any idea about the "great stone the size of a milestone".

Éirinn go Brách
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 18 Aug, 2016 5:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well I said there could be mistakes and additions in the earlier versions of the Táin, and I believe I've found some. First let's look at the original text alongside the translation from the CELT Project.

"Is and sin ro gab in caur & in cathmílid & in t-innellchró Bodba fer talman, Cú Chulaind mac Sualtaim, ro gab a chatheirred catha & comraic & comlaind imbi. Ba don chatheirred catha sin & comraic & comlaind ro gab-som imbi secht cneslénti fichet cíartha clárda comdlúta bítís ba thétaib & rothaib & refedaib i custul ri gelchnes dó arnacha ndechrad a chond nach a chiall ó doficed a lúth láthair. Ro gabastar a chathchriss curad taris anechtair do chotutlethar crúaid coirtchide do formna secht ndamseiched ndartada congabad dó ó thana a thaíb co tiug a oxaille. Ro bíth imbi ic díchur gaí & rend & iaernn & sleg & saiget, dáig is cumma focherdditis de & marbad de chloich nó charraic nó chongna ro chiulaitis."

"Then the champion and warrior, the marshalled fence of battle of all the men of earth who was Cú Chulainn, put on his battle-array of fighting and contest and strife which he put on were the twenty-seven tunics worn next to his skin, waxed, board- like, compact, which were bound with strings and ropes and thongs close to his fair skin, that his mind and understanding might not be deranged when his rage should come upon him. Over that outside he put his hero's battle-girdle of hard leather, tough and tanned, made from the best part of seven ox-hides of yearlings, which covered him from the thin part of his side to the thick part of his arm-pit; he used to wear it to repel spears and points and darts and lances and arrows, for they glanced from it as it they had struck against stone or rock or horn."

"Is and sin ro gabastar a fúathbróic srebnaide sróil cona cimais de bánór bricc friá fri móethíchtur a medóin. Ro gabastar a dondfúathbróic ndondlethair ndegsúata do formna cethri ndamseiched ndartada cona chathchris do cholomnaib ferb fua dara fúathróic srebnaide sróil sechtair."

"Then he put on his apron of filmy silk with its border of variegated white gold, against the soft lower part of his body. Outside his apron of filmy silk he put on his dark apron of pliable brown leather made from the choicest part of four yearling ox-hides with his battle-girdle of cows' skin about it."

Ok so you will notice that I separated each version into two parts. This is because I believe the person who wrote down this poem drew from multiple earlier versions and combined them to from a complete story. The words "Is and sin" literally translate to "And now". The problem is, it has been translated into English as "and then". This might not sound like a big deal but "Is and sin / And now", is how Irish poems always start the section where he hero puts on his armour. Nowhere else have I seen it used twice, as it is here. This leads me to believe that, as I said, the person who wrote down the poem drew from multiple earlier versions. More evidence for this is Cú Chulainn's battle-girdle (cathchris) is described as ox hide in the first paragraph, and cow hide in the second.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 18 Aug, 2016 6:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the second paragraph above, when talking about Cú Chulainn's silk fúathbróic, the text says:

"friá fri móethíchtur a medóin"

This has been translated as:

"against the soft lower part of his body"

I believe the word medóin has been mistranslated. Instead of lower body it should be waist or abdomen.

Medón = middle, waist, or abdomen
http://www.dil.ie/31746

This suggests that a fúathbróic is probably a shirt or tunic style garment, rather than an apron, or a skirt, or a pair of trews.

This means that in the first paragraph (one version), Cú Chulainn is wearing 27 shirts (cneslénti) under a battle-girdle (cathchris) made of the choicest parts of 7 ox hides of yearlings.

And in the second paragraph (another version) Cú Chulainn is wearing a silk tunic (fúathbróic srebnaide sróil), then a brown lether tunic (dondfúathbróic ndondlethair) made of the choicest parts of 4 ox hides of yearlings, then a battle-girdle of cow hide, and then (at least if my translation is correct) a second silk tunic
(dara fúathróic srebnaide sróil).

dara = the second one of two
http://www.dil.ie/14634

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 19 Aug, 2016 4:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Seems like a decent interpretation. The armour on his chest would be as rigid as a metal cuirass. He would need separate, more flexible armour for his abdomen that would act like a fauld.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Fri 19 Aug, 2016 6:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan. Well in the version with the 27 cneslénti and chathchris of 7 ox hides. Cú Chulainn's cathchris is said to have:

"covered him from the thin part of his side to the thick part of his armpit"

"congabad dó ó thana a thaíb co tiug a oxaille"

This seems right to me.

con gabad = covers / fits
t(h)ana = slender / thin / waist
t(h)aib = side (of the body)
tuig = thick / dense
oxaille / ochsal = armpit

Now the fact that it mentions covering Cú Chulainn from the slender part of his side up to his armpit, it gives the impression that the side of the body was a vulnerable target. Of course this makes sense for warriors fighting with spears and large shields. It doesn't mention the frontal coverage however, possibly because this was a less vulnerable target? So it's possible that Cú Chulainn's cathchris also covered his chest and the area between his neck and his shoulders. If this is correct then Cú Chulainn's cathchris might have been a cuirass style armour which covered his torso from the natural waist up.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Aug, 2016 12:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It covers his entire body, not just the side. It is just a way of describing the reach of the armour.
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Aug, 2016 2:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
It covers his entire body, not just the side. It is just a way of describing the reach of the armour.


I know Dan. That's what I was saying. If you take the text literally it only goes as high as the level of the armpit. Also the name cathchris (literally battle belt/girdle) implies the armour wrapped around the body, perhaps similar to the tube part of a Greek spolas. There is no mention of something akin to a spolas' yoke however.

My last post just tried to explain how a cuirass style armour is also possible, and why it was described the way it was.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sun 21 Aug, 2016 4:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edited: Sorry double post. I don't seem to have the option to delete this one though.
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Last edited by Stephen Curtin on Sun 21 Aug, 2016 5:53 am; edited 1 time in total
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sun 21 Aug, 2016 4:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thinking more about this. If "the choicest parts of seven ox hides of yearlings" were needed to make a cathchris, then I see two possibilities for how it was constructed.

1) The ox hides were layered to make a thick heavy cuirass.

2) Each ox hide only produced a small amount of leather thick enough to be suitable for armour, so they were cut into small pieces to make a scale/lamelar armour.

The text doesn't give any clues as to any of this, so this is all just speculation. Personally I think the scale/lamelar idea sounds the more plausible of the two.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sun 21 Aug, 2016 6:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well it appears I spoke too soon. The phase "is and sin" is not only used to start paragraphs. It appears 48 times in the text. 26 times at the start of a paragraph, and 22 times in the middle of a paragraph. Also I mis-remembered. It's not "and then" or "and now", it should be "and here"

However, I still think that the arming of Cú Chulainn was taken from two different sources, for these reasons:

Firstly because the cathchris is described as both made from seven ox hides, and from cow hide, it can't be both.

Secondly the word "medón" has been mis-translated. Instead of lower body, it should be waist or abdomen. Now I doubt that Cú Chulainn wore; 27 layers of linen, an ox hide armour, a layer of silk, a layer of pliable leather, a cow hide armour, and possibly another layer silk, all around his waist.

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Len Parker





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PostPosted: Mon 03 Oct, 2016 7:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just catching this. Stephen, I would say your's and Mr. Harbison's conclusion makes sense. Generations of poets adding to the poem created a jumble of war gear that's confusing to us. Great job digging up more stuff!

And for the record, I'm no longer believing the carolingian images are showing war belts. The crossed straps on the stomach are probably just holding up the skirt.
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PostPosted: Mon 03 Oct, 2016 7:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glad you found it interesting Len.
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PostPosted: Thu 24 May, 2018 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure if anyone here is still interested in this subject, but if so, I've found another reference to a cathchris that might shed a bit more light on how they were made. It seems that glue or some form of adhesive was involved somehow. The reference comes from a 15th century text called In Cath Catharda, an Irish adaptation of Lucan's Pharsalia. The sections which describe Pompey and Caesar arming for battle read much like the descriptions of Cu Chulainn and Ferdiad in the Táin. Both Pompey and Caesar wear caithcreasa (plural of cathchris) over their mail hauberks, but Caesar's is described in better detail.

Here's the original text which describes Caesar's cathchris;

Quote:
Tuccad a caithchris cathae & comlainn im Cesair dano.  Clarchris columdha glaeta glolethair sin do druimlethar teora n-daimseicheth n-dartada arna n-acomal & arna n-daingendluthachadh do glaed & do sechim & do bitumin.


Which translates to;

Quote:
His caithchris of battle and conflict was then put round Caesar. It was a steadfast glued polished leather clarchris, of the back-leather of three ox-hides of yearlings, bound together and joined by glue and pitch and bitumen.


As a side note this text suggests clarchris was a synonym for cathchris.

So what do you guys make of this? Has this altered your perception of what form Irish leather armour might have taken?

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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Thu 24 May, 2018 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good Lord!! Hey, Dan--it's a GLUED LEATHER ROMAN MUSCLED CUIRASS! Razz

Ahem. Sorry. Hate to think how far back in time some of those bits might go. Very baffling. Without *some* hint from pictoral sources, I seriously would not want to speculate on the form of this item. I mean, there's all kinds of things it *could* be, but...

Matthew
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 24 May, 2018 11:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What you say is true Matthew, but with this new information I'm now leaning more towards the leather being layered and glued together, rather than some form of scale which used to be my best guess.
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PostPosted: Fri 25 May, 2018 2:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Good Lord!! Hey, Dan--it's a GLUED LEATHER ROMAN MUSCLED CUIRASS! Razz


You're a funny guy Sully, I like you. That's why I'm going to kill you last.

FWIW the only place we see glued leather armour anywhere in the world is up near the Arctic Circle where the humidity level is zero. Glue simply isn't practical for this kind of application in more normal climates.

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Len Parker





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PostPosted: Fri 25 May, 2018 5:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Remember this: http://forums.armourarchive.org/phpBB3/viewto...p;t=131492
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Sun 27 May, 2018 2:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
FWIW the only place we see glued leather armour anywhere in the world is up near the Arctic Circle


Hey Dan. So for the sake of comparison I've been looking into this type of armour. All I've been able to find are some images of an armour constructed of wide hoops of leather, with a wing like defence on the back, and a big flared out skirt almost like a 16th century tonlet armour. I haven't seen anything about how glue was involved with this armour, is it that the leather lames made of multiple layers glued together, or something else?

Incidentally the above armour reminded me of some tomb effigies from Ireland which you can see here;

http://www.megalithicireland.com/St%20Canice'...Tombs.html

Now I not getting ahead of myself or anything like that but I will say that these Anglo Irish tomb effigies could possibly be depicting what Irish literature calls a cathchris.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 27 May, 2018 5:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
Dan Howard wrote:
FWIW the only place we see glued leather armour anywhere in the world is up near the Arctic Circle


Hey Dan. So for the sake of comparison I've been looking into this type of armour. All I've been able to find are some images of an armour constructed of wide hoops of leather, with a wing like defence on the back, and a big flared out skirt almost like a 16th century tonlet armour. I haven't seen anything about how glue was involved with this armour, is it that the leather lames made of multiple layers glued together, or something else?


All the ones I've seen have the layers sewn together with rawhide thong or sinew.



Stone's Glossary has about a dozen hide cuirasses from Alaska and Siberia that have glued layers - IIRC they are all two or three layers thick

Quote:
Incidentally the above armour reminded me of some tomb effigies from Ireland which you can see here;

http://www.megalithicireland.com/St%20Canice'...ombs.html.


404 not found.

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