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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 9:27 am    Post subject: Aketons are they really necessary?         Reply with quote

Ok, so because the meaning of the word aketon was never used with any consistency in period, I'm first going to define what I mean when I say aketon. By aketon I mean a garment intended to be worn under a mail hauberk. It was made by sandwiching fluffy material (cotton, tow, etc.) between layers of cloth (usually linen) and then quilted. I know that other people's definition might differ from mine, but for the sake of this thread, please indulge me.

There are numerous, often heated, discussions about whether aketons were worn in the Viking Age, so let's not go there again. Even after the Viking Age, I can't remember seeing evidence for aketons before about 1300 AD (please note my definition of aketon, I know that there is literary evidence for the word aketon before this). This might seem absurd, but ask yourself, were aketons really all that necessary?

Here are two of the most common arguments why people think aketons must have existed during the early middle ages.
1, mail is significantly less effective without an aketon because of blunt force trauma.
2, the Romans wore a garment similar to an aketon called a subarmalis, so it make sense that some form of aketon was always worn under mail.

Here's a post from another thread which I think didn't get enough attention at the time of its posting, so I'm adding it here.

Rod Walker wrote:
A couple of years ago myself and Joram Van Essen ran a mid 13thC joust as accurately as we could. This meant tailored rivetted mail, solid wooden lances with steel coronels etc etc. We both searched around for proof of a padded garment under the mail and couldn't come up with anything conclusive. I wore a lined linen tunic and Joram wore a thin felt tunic under our mail, and that was it.

We ran the joust passes perfectly fine and even did some mounted sword combat ala the tournament. We both landed full power blows upon each other and we both pulled up fine. Bruised and battered, but fine. The swords were blades made by Peter Lyon and have a thin edge.

What this showed us was that you don't neccasarly need much in the way of padding under mail. In fact our testing showed that padding over the mail worked better than under. Even just having the surcoat helped with dissapating the sword blows.


If the blunt force of a lance isn't enough to injure a person through mail worn without an aketon, then I don't think that it can be argued that you absolutely need an aketon.

Apart from a few references we have to the subarmalis, which don't give us any details of their construction, there is the one Roman source which describe an arming garment in detail.

De Rebus Bellicis (late 4th / early 5th century)

Quote:
"Inter omnia quae ad usum bellicum provida posteritatis cogitavit antiquitas, thoracomachum quoque mira utilitate ad levamen corporis armorum ponderi et asperitati subiecit. Hoc enim vestimenti genus, quod de coactili ad mensuram et tutelam pectoris humani conficitur, de mollibus lanis timoris sollicitudo sollertia magistra composuit ut hoc inducto primum lorica vel clivanus aut his similia fragilitatem corporis ponderis asperitate non laederent. Membra quoque vestientis inter armorum hiemisque discrimen tali solatio adiuta labori sufficiant. Sane ne idem thoracomachus pluviis verberatus ingravescente pondere adficiat vestientem, de Libycis bene confectis pellibus ad instar eiusdem thoracomachi faciem conveniet superinducere. Hoc igitur, ut diximus, thoracomacho inducto, qui Graeca appellationne ex tuitione corporis nomen assumpsit, soccis etiam, hoc est calciamentis, et ferratis ocreis inductis, superposita galea et scuto vel gladio lateri aptato, arreptis lanceis in plenum pedestrem subiturus pugnam miles armabitur"

"Among all those things which antiquity has thought of with an eye to postery for wartime use, it also conceived the thoracomachus of remarkable usefulness as relief for the body of the weight and discomfort of arms. For this kind of clothing, which is made of felt to the size and care of the human chest, the concern for fear has made of soft wool strands with utmost care in order that after this was put on first a body armour or cuirass or things similar to these would not damage the frailty of the body through the discomfort of the weight. The limbs as well will up to the work in the moment of arms or bad weather helped through the relief provided by such a garment. In order to prevent this thoracomachus from hampering the wearer when drenched in rains through increasing weight, it is useful to put on on top a garmant made from well prepared Libyan hides to the precise specification of the thoracomachus. Therefore, having put on this thoracomachus, as we say, which has taken up its name from the Greek expression because of the protection of the body, and his boots, that is shoes, and having put on iron greaves, with the helmet put on top and with shield or sword at the side, with spears grasped the soldier will be armed in full to enter the infantry battle."


Pliny (1st century) doesn't say anything specific about arming garments, but he has this to say about garments made from felt.

Quote:
"Moreover, wool of it selfe driven togither into a felt without spinning or weaving, serveth to make garments with: and if vinegre be used in the working therof, such felts are of good proofe to bere off the edge and point of the sword; yea and more than that, they will checke the force of the fire."


So we have evidence for Romans using arming garments, but these were not like aketons, they sound more like felt tunics, similar to what was used in the joust mentioned by Rod Walker.

AFAIK there are Byzantine sources which speak to arming garments, but I can't seem to find any at the moment. I do remember that one of these texts (6th century anonymous military manual) mentioned that armour should be worn over an arming garment, and not over regular clothing, but that many soldiers didn't follow this advice.

Another argument often made in these kinds of threads is, "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". Well even in the middle of the 13th century we have evidence of absence. The Maciejowski Bible clearly shows mail worn over tunics, not aketons. Now these tunics were made from at least two layers of material, but not quilted. We can tell that these tunics were made from multiple layers by the different colours on the inside and outside. Similarly surcoats are also made from at least two layers of material.

Now some will say we have evidence for aketons in The King's Mirror, the 13th Norwegian text. What this text says is that one should wear a soft panzar under the hauberk, and a firm panzar over it. The firm panzar is made like the soft panzar, except without sleeves. The text never states that these panzars were padded or quilted, it only states the they were made from thoroughly blackened linen (whatever that means). I think that this soft panzar was most likely more like a tunic rather than an aketon, and the firm panzar was probably a surcoat. Again, Rod Walker's anecdote would suggest a mail hauberk sandwiched between a tunic and a surcoat provides very good protection.

Now we don't have any surviving examples of aketons, but we have something similar in the linings of mail garments from the Middle East, India, and Japan. For example kote (japanese armoured sleeves), had a cloth foundation of a layer of stout hemp material, sandwiched between two layers of finer material such as cotton or silk.

All of this taken into account. I think that the idea that aketons are needed under mail is untrue. All that is needed is a couple of layers of cloth.

Éirinn go Brách


Last edited by Stephen Curtin on Sun 19 Mar, 2017 5:16 pm; edited 7 times in total
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J. Douglas





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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 10:33 am    Post subject: Re: Aketons are they really necessary?         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
Ok, so because the meaning of the word aketon was never used with any consistency in period, I'm first going to define what I mean when I say aketon. By aketon I mean a garment intended to be worn under a mail hauberk. It was made by sandwiching fluffy material (cotton, tow, etc.) between layers of cloth (usually linen) and then quilted. I know that other people's definition might differ from mine, but for the sake of this thread, please indulge me.

There are numerous, often heated, discussions about whether aketons were worn in the Viking Age, so let's not go there again. Even after the Viking Age, I can't remember seeing evidence for aketons before about 1300 AD (please note my definition of aketon, I know that there is literary evidence for the word aketon before this). This might seem absurd, but ask yourself, were aketons really all that necessary?

Here are two of the most common arguments why people think aketons must have existed during the early middle ages.
1, mail is significantly less effective without an aketon because of blunt force trauma.
2, the Romans wore a garment similar to an aketon called a subarmalis, so it make sense that some form of aketon was always worn under mail.

Here's a post from another thread which I think didn't get enough attention at the time of its posting, so I'm adding it here.

Rod Walker wrote:
A couple of years ago myself and Joram Van Essen ran a mid 13thC joust as accurately as we could. This meant tailored rivetted mail, solid wooden lances with steel coronels etc etc. We both searched around for proof of a padded garment under the mail and couldn't come up with anything conclusive. I wore a lined linen tunic and Joram wore a thin felt tunic under our mail, and that was it.

We ran the joust passes perfectly fine and even did some mounted sword combat ala the tournament. We both landed full power blows upon each other and we both pulled up fine. Bruised and battered, but fine. The swords were blades made by Peter Lyon and have a thin edge.

What this showed us was that you don't neccasarly need much in the way of padding under mail. In fact our testing showed that padding over the mail worked better than under. Even just having the surcoat helped with dissapating the sword blows.


If the blunt force of a lance isn't enough to injure a person through mail worn without an aketon, then I don't think that it can be argued that you absolutely need an aketon.

This is all I have time to write for now, so I'll address the second point in my next post.


Let's say I have a...sword. You have mail. The example above tells about cutting. AND REMEMBER, THEY WERE BRUISED. but anyway, what is I ran at you and thrusted my sword or spear into you. Let's say it is either a strong sword or a thinly tipped spear. I may well, if hitting you with enough power, BREAK your mail. If I do, you're TOAST. let's say you have a Gamberson. I stab through the mail, but the spear or sword will either be slowed down and the blow not as strong, or my thrust may be stopped altogether.

We're talking Viking, Norman, and Anglo Saxon ages here, right?

What about small one handed axes or maces? If I hit you with a small axe, and it breaks your mail, your not going to have a nice day. If you have an aketon, then the axe will probably not cut/smash thought that as well, and the burn trauma impact will be sofend. Similar thing with maces.

Lastly- arrows. A arrowhead may break mail, or go thought without breaking the rings if it is thin enough. A Gamberson would be another layer of protection.

And.... Another thin. These are Viking ages, so many axes, maces, and spears and just about anything you can think of would be thrown in your direction. Even stones. (As mentioned in most accounts of Hastings) and whilst you say an aketon perhaps didn't provide much defence against trauma, I doubt you could say they provided nothing. They must have been pretty good at their job- why else would they have been invented?

And what about the poorer soldiers? Those who couldn't afford mail? Well I have heard (from secondary sources, mind you) that they layered up on clothing. Must have been for something.

And...another thing. During the Napoleonic age many cavalrymen rolled up their greatcoats and slung them across their bodies, there are tales from these men of even one or two layers extra saving them from saber cuts, sometimes even musket balls (on Naplun.com [i believe it was] I read one account of a soldier who was hits in the rolled up greatcoat by a bit of cannon shrapnel. He said he nearly fell from his horse. But the coat softened the blow enough so that he didn't go flying backwards.

I wondered why he was unscrewing his pommel.

Then it hit me.

~JD (call me James if you want to quote me)
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 12:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Of course it's not necessary. Let's talk 12th or 13th century... You probably have linen undertunic, thicker, maybe even made of two layers, overtunic under your mail even without aketon. That's one thin and one thick or maybe even one thin and two thicker layers of cloth under your mail. That's already enough to wear your mail comfortably. If you add a very thin aketon made of two layers with thin padding between them, you have 5-6 layers of cloth on you. That's plenty enough, more than necessary. We know that they liked to add more textile armour over the mail rather than under if they felt they need more protection. Surcoats may well have also been lightly padded or at least made of two layers of cloth. King's mirror from Norway recommends one soft padding under mail and one heavy sleeveless over the coat of plates. That's a lot of protection. So I don't think aketon is "must have" but they might have liked it for comfort. Primary protection of any 11th to 13th century warrior was a shield. Mail is secondary and padding tertiary. So aketon was probably a very personal choice.
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 2:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The only padding I use is a padded high-collar gorget and a hand-made cotton padded long-sleeve tunic. The tunic was originally fairly long on me, but I cut it down to about hip-level. I used the left over material and some fairly thin cotton padding to make a sleeveless 'vest' that is sewn onto the tunic. The long sleeves of the tunic are unpadded. I find this combination to work quite well...for me, that is. I wear this UNDER my mail. The padded gorget lets the mail 'hang' just right, and the high collar keeps it from rubbing my neck. Over the mail, I wear a thick linen tabard--sleeveless and open on the sides. I feel pretty well 'armored-up' with a mail coif or Bishops mantle over it all. My mail isn't really what most would consider 'battle-ready' (I hate that term, in general), but it IS riveted--just thin gauge. I feel fairly confident it would take a sword slash okay...a very pointed bodkin arrowhead.... Surprised ....not so confident. Worried Historically speaking, they would -have to wear something- under mail. It wouldn't be very nice on bare skin. Laughing Out Loud The way I see it...a thickly padded garment worn OVER mail would be the way to go. I'm sure some would argue that statement...but as I said-that's the way I see it. Wink Then you have the whole issue of an arrow or lance-point penetrating and pushing mail rings and (probably dirty) padding into a wound...but that's another thread entirely. Happy .........McM
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 5:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Instead of making new posts, I edited my OP. I did this so all of my information would be in the one place and hopefully more coherent than if I'd made numerous posts.

Good points Mark and Luka. Thanks for your replies. J. I'll address your reply in a separate longer post.

Éirinn go Brách


Last edited by Stephen Curtin on Thu 16 Mar, 2017 6:35 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 5:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Larson's translation of the King's Mirror is lacking in this area. The cloth armor worn next to the body is the blautan panzara, where blautan can be translated as soft, though the word seems to be derived from damp or wet ground - squishy, boggy, etc.. Over this, Larson gives "strong breastplate" for góđar brjóstbjörg, which would most literally be good breast defenses where the shift from single to plural seems to follow bjargi - bjorg. Over the soft gambeson and plates goes the "well-made hauberk" or góđar brynju, literally good byrnie. Finally comes the sleeveless "firm gambison", which uses the same descriptor, góđan panzara, simply good gambeson. I really think "firm" is misleading, as the same adjective is used to describe the mail and plates. "Good quality" or "well made" might be a better, if less literal, translation.

Further the text explains the panzara, as well as the breeches over the mail hose, as being made in the manner previously described. Going back to the chapter on ship combat, we only see specific mentioning of strong linen (lérepti) which is distinguished within the text from fine linen (linklćđi) used in clothing, and hemp (hampi) cloth (canvas > cannabis) The stout linen always described for this purpose as being "soft" (blautan) and "well balckened" (svörtuđum), i.e swarthy. Although the King's Mirror doesn't say the gambeson is stuffed or sewn through, other contemporary accounts describe fabric armor stuffed with tow, rags, or cotton, so the use of soft, heavily woven linen rags used as a filler can not be dismissed.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 6:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi J thanks for the reply.

J. Douglas wrote:
Let's say I have a...sword. You have mail. The example above tells about cutting. AND REMEMBER, THEY WERE BRUISED. but anyway, what is I ran at you and thrusted my sword or spear into you. Let's say it is either a strong sword or a thinly tipped spear. I may well, if hitting you with enough power, BREAK your mail. If I do, you're TOAST. let's say you have a Gamberson. I stab through the mail, but the spear or sword will either be slowed down and the blow not as strong, or my thrust may be stopped altogether.


Well I can't speak as to how bruised and battered they were, but I don't think this really matters, as neither one of them was badly injured. Yes pointy things sometimes did defeat mail, but mail wasn't worn on its own. If we use the Maciejowski Bible as an example, then mail was worn under at least two layers (surcoat), and over at least three layers (1 for the undershirt and 2 for the tunic). Do we know how well thrusts perform against mail sandwiched between at least five layers of cloth?

J. Douglas wrote:
We're talking Viking, Norman, and Anglo Saxon ages here, right?


I'm talking about any time before roughly 1300 AD.

J. Douglas wrote:
What about small one handed axes or maces? If I hit you with a small axe, and it breaks your mail, your not going to have a nice day. If you have an aketon, then the axe will probably not cut/smash thought that as well, and the burn trauma impact will be sofend. Similar thing with maces.


How hard do axes and maces hit in comparison to lances? I don't know, but I would think that lances hit harder. Also don't forget that preferably you would block these weapons with your shield.

J. Douglas wrote:
Lastly- arrows. A arrowhead may break mail, or go thought without breaking the rings if it is thin enough. A Gamberson would be another layer of protection.


AFAIK no tests have been done with arrows against mail worn with a undershirt, tunic, and surcoat. Without such a test all we can do is speculate.

J. Douglas wrote:
And.... Another thin. These are Viking ages, so many axes, maces, and spears and just about anything you can think of would be thrown in your direction. Even stones. (As mentioned in most accounts of Hastings) and whilst you say an aketon perhaps didn't provide much defence against trauma, I doubt you could say they provided nothing. They must have been pretty good at their job- why else would they have been invented?


I never said that aketons don't provide protection from blunt force trauma. What I'm saying is that mail in combination with a stout tunic protected you well enough, without the need for an aketon. AFAIK aketons (see definition in OP) don't show up until about 1300. I'm not sure why they show up at this time, but maybe someone else here has a good explanation.

J. Douglas wrote:
And what about the poorer soldiers? Those who couldn't afford mail? Well I have heard (from secondary sources, mind you) that they layered up on clothing. Must have been for something.


This thread is about arming garments worn under mail. What poorer people who couldn't afford mail did is a topic for a different thread. Hopefully my response didn't come across badly. These threads often end up in heated agreements, and that's not my intention. I welcome opinions which go against mine as they force me to think harder on the subject.

Éirinn go Brách
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 6:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Aketons are they really necessary?         Reply with quote

J. Douglas wrote:
Let's say I have a...sword. You have mail. The example above tells about cutting. AND REMEMBER, THEY WERE BRUISED. but anyway, what is I ran at you and thrusted my sword or spear into you. Let's say it is either a strong sword or a thinly tipped spear. I may well, if hitting you with enough power, BREAK your mail. If I do, you're TOAST. let's say you have a Gamberson. I stab through the mail, but the spear or sword will either be slowed down and the blow not as strong, or my thrust may be stopped altogether.

We're talking Viking, Norman, and Anglo Saxon ages here, right?

What about small one handed axes or maces? If I hit you with a small axe, and it breaks your mail, your not going to have a nice day. If you have an aketon, then the axe will probably not cut/smash thought that as well, and the burn trauma impact will be sofend. Similar thing with maces.

Lastly- arrows. A arrowhead may break mail, or go thought without breaking the rings if it is thin enough. A Gamberson would be another layer of protection.


I dunno, you seem to think that a one-handed weapon *breaking* through mail is some sort of common thing. From the tests and historical accounts I've seen, I'm not sure that's the case. It *is* true that there are Viking-era battle accounts that result in mailshirts being badly damaged, but the wearer is still alive. No broken bones mentioned. So mail can be penetrated without a fatal injury.

I definitely agree that padding helps! But enough padding to really soak up a weapon that can *penetrate mail* is going to be so thick and bulky that it negates many of the mail's wonderful advantages, like flexibility and ventilation. Don't get rained on, either...

Quote:
And.... Another thin. These are Viking ages, so many axes, maces, and spears and just about anything you can think of would be thrown in your direction. Even stones. (As mentioned in most accounts of Hastings) and whilst you say an aketon perhaps didn't provide much defence against trauma, I doubt you could say they provided nothing. They must have been pretty good at their job- why else would they have been invented?


To keep the armor off the body. SHIELDS were invented to keep all those thrown items off you, and *they* were pretty good at their job.

Quote:
And...another thing. During the Napoleonic age many cavalrymen rolled up their greatcoats and slung them across their bodies, there are tales from these men of even one or two layers extra saving them from saber cuts, sometimes even musket balls (on Naplun.com [i believe it was] I read one account of a soldier who was hits in the rolled up greatcoat by a bit of cannon shrapnel. He said he nearly fell from his horse. But the coat softened the blow enough so that he didn't go flying backwards.


Weren't wearing mail, were they? Wink I think we all agree that padding is useful and beneficial. All we're saying is that at certain times it looks like many warriors with mail didn't feel the need for a lot of padding under it.

Note that the rather thorough description of the thoracomachus does *not* mention defense against blunt trauma! Yet it is a Late Roman source, long after the famous iron plate lorica segmentata has gone out of use. Mail was the usual armor. Also note that there are no other descriptions of padding used by Romans, yet the use of mail goes back to 300 BC. There are several artistic depictions which *might* be interpreted as Romans wearing some kind of quilted garments, but they are never wearing mail over them.

It also looks to me like padding became more common when 2-handed weapons became more common, such as pikes and polearms. Of course, since it was the grunts on foot using these, and they were the ones wearing heavy gambesons, maybe they were able to use 2-handed weapons *because* they had padding?

Matthew
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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 6:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Mart. I was hoping you would show up here. Do you know of any literary evidence for what I've defined as "aketon" in the first paragraph of my OP from before 1300?

Good point, good quality or well made panzar is probably a better translation than firm panzar.

The reason that I think that the panzar worn under mail was not stuffed or quilted is because the it is described as being made in a similar manner to the hoes worn under the mail chausses.

Now I've never heard anyone argue that such hoes should be stuffed and quilted, so maybe the panzar wasn't either. Also this is what we see in the Maciejowski Bible, mail over what appears like regular clothing. I speculate the clothing in the Maciejowski Bible is probably much stouter (made from more layers perhaps) than clothing worn by civilians.

Éirinn go Brách
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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 9:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
Hi Mart. I was hoping you would show up here. Do you know of any literary evidence for what I've defined as "aketon" in the first paragraph of my OP from before 1300?

One problem is that we read of aketons/gambesons/panzara, etc. being used in conunction with mail, but the source doesn't also explain the construction of the garment, or whether it's worn beneath the mail or above it, or as the King's Mirror and Diu Crône mention, both. The Cornmarket, Dublin fragment from the late 12th century shows evidence of stitching, but we have no evidence if it was used in conjunction with mail or alone. The 13th century 'Sleeve of St. Martin' is constructed in the manner you describe, but, again, we have no evidence for how it was worn. The 1296 Paris Ordinances and 1322 London Ordinances give details of construction, but don't explain how the gambesons and aketons are used. Perhaps some of my responses on this thread at Armour Archive might shed some more light on the issue.
http://forums.armourarchive.org/phpBB3/viewto...p;t=180604

Quote:
The reason that I think that the panzar worn under mail was not stuffed or quilted is because the it is described as being made in a similar manner to the hoes worn under the mail chausses.

The item made "in a similar manner" are the "armored breeches" (brynbrśkr) worn over the good mail hose (góđar brynhosur). This sounds like gamboissed cuisses with steel knees.
King's Mirror: en utan yfir ţat ţá ţarf hann at hafa góđar brynbrśkr görvar međ lérepti at ţeim hćtti sem fyrr hefi ek sagt; en ţar um utan ţarf hann at hafa góđar knébjargir, görvar međ bykku járni ok međ stálhörđum nöddum.
Larson's Translation: over these he must have good trousers made of linen cloth of the sort that I have already described; finally, over these he should have good knee-pieces made of thick iron and rivets hard as steel.
My attempt: but outside of them he then needs to have good armored breeches made with linen-canvas in the manner I have said before; but on the outside he needs to have good reinforced knees, made with proven iron and steel hard nodes.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Mart Shearer




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Mar, 2017 9:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Although it's past 1300, the 1311 Inventory of John fitz Marmaduke, Lord of Horden is worth noting in this regard. What distinction is historically being made between the aketons and gambesons? Are the aketons worn beneath plates or mail and the gambesons being worn above, even though they are made in the same manner, as detailed by the 1322 London Armourers?


Apud Sylkesworth
In Silksworth
……..
j aketon coopertum cam viridi samet xl s.
1 aketon covered with green samite, 40s.
j gaimbeson rubeum cum tribus cathenis argenteis l s.
1 red gambeson with three silver chains, 50s.
j gaimbeson cum alleccys liij s. iiij d.
1 gambeson with protector, 53s. 4d. (A reinforcing chest plate?)
j aketon rubeum cum manucis de Balayn xl s.
1 red aketon with sleeves of baleen, 40s. (Similar to panzerhose, aketoners, or jacks of plates.)
j gaimbeson coopertum de panno cerico xl s.
1 gambeson covered with silk cloth, 40s.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Mar, 2017 12:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aketons were worn to stop chafing and to improve the fit of the armour, not to reduce damage to the wearer.

Personally I use "aketon" to describe underarmour and "gambeson" to describe standalone armour, but the sources make no distinction. As Mart said, we can't tell which terms are used to describe which items.

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Stephen Curtin




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Mar, 2017 1:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Dan. Thanks for posting.

Dan Howard wrote:
Aketons were worn to stop chafing and to improve the fit of the armour, not to reduce damage to the wearer.


I Agree. In fact this is a point that I meant to bring up. The De Re Bellicis and the anonymous 6th century Byzantine military manual, state that arming garments were worn to help you deal with the weight and discomfort of wearing armour.

Dan Howard wrote:
Personally I use "aketon" to describe underarmour and "gambeson" to describe standalone armour, but the sources make no distinction. As Mart said, we can't tell which terms are used to describe which items.


Yes I know Dan. I did say that these words were never used with any consistency in period. For the sake of making communication easier and clearer, on this thread,
gambeson refers to a garment intended to be worn, either over mail or by itself as a stand alone textile armour. It's made from fluffy material (cotton, tow etc.), sandwiched between layers of cloth, and quilted.
aketon refers to a similarly constructed garment, only thinner and intended to be worn under a mail hauberk.

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PostPosted: Fri 17 Mar, 2017 1:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
It *is* true that there are Viking-era battle accounts that result in mailshirts being badly damaged, but the wearer is still alive. No broken bones mentioned. So mail can be penetrated without a fatal injury.
Matthew Amt wrote:
I definitely agree that padding helps! But enough padding to really soak up a weapon that can *penetrate mail* is going to be so thick and bulky that it negates many of the mail's wonderful advantages, like flexibility and ventilation. Don't get rained on, either.
Matthew Amt wrote:
Note that the rather thorough description of the thoracomachus does *not* mention defense against blunt trauma! Yet it is a Late Roman source, long after the famous iron plate lorica segmentata has gone out of use. Mail was the usual armor. Also note that there are no other descriptions of padding used by Romans, yet the use of mail goes back to 300 BC. There are several artistic depictions which *might* be interpreted as Romans wearing some kind of quilted garments, but they are never wearing mail over them.


I Agree with all of this. Thanks for posting Matthew.

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PostPosted: Fri 17 Mar, 2017 3:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Curtin wrote:
It's made from fluffy material (cotton, tow etc.), sandwiched between layers of cloth, and quilted..

Some were. Others were made just with layers of cloth.

A good example of mail being damaged and the wearer being left uninjured is in King Olaf Trygvason's Saga in the Heimskringla. It was written that King Hakon was hit with so many spears and arrows that his mail was completely destroyed. He threw the remains off onto the deck of his ship and continued to fight without it. Afterwards he carried a piece around with him as a souvenir to show people how fierce the fighting was.

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PostPosted: Fri 17 Mar, 2017 4:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good reference Dan.

Mart. So although its entirety possible that aketons (see OP for definition) were worn prior to 1300, we don't actually have proof beyond doubt that most people think that we have.

To anyone here who doesn't already know here's a link to the relevant parts of King's Mirror, with both the original text and a translation.

https://bookandsword.com/armour-in-texts/the-norwegian-kings-mirror/

So here's my take on the text. First we have the description of arms and armour for naval combat. Here the father states that the chief protection is a [panzarar] "made of soft linen thoroughly blackened" [görvir af blautum léreptum ok vel svörtuđum]

Later we get the description of how a man preparing for mounted combat should arm himself. We start with the legs where he puts on a pair of good lined hoes [góđar hosur ok linar] "made of soft and thoroughly blackened linen cloth" [görvar at blautu lérepti ok vel svörtuđu]. He then puts on mail chausses [brynhosur], and over these a good pair of trousers [góđar brynbrćkr] "made of linen cloth of the sort that I have already described" [görvar međ lérepti, at ţeim hćtti sem fyrr hefi ek sagt], over these he then puts on a pair of knee cops [knébjagir].

Ok so the good pair of trousers [góđar brynbrćkr], which seem to be some kind of textile cuisses, are said to be "made of linen cloth of the sort that I have already described". Which cloth is the author referring to, the the cloth of the good lined hoes [góđar hosur ok linar] from the sentence before last, or to the cloth of the [panzarar] from the previous section? I think that it doesn't matter which, as both are described as soft and thoroughly blackened / soft and well darkened. So the hoes and cuisses are made from the same material. If the cuisses were stuffed and quilted, wouldn't the hoes be also? I've never seen evidence for stuffed and quilted arming hoes.

On the upper body he first puts on a [blautan panzara], over this goes some form of iron armour [góđa brjóstbjörg], then over this a mail hauberk [góđa brynju], and finally a [góđan panzara] "made in the manner which I have already described but without sleeves" [görvan međ sama hćtti sem áđr var sagt, ok ţó ermalausum].

So in this section we have a [blautan panzara] worn under the hauberk, and [góđan panzara] worn over it. There is no real description of the [blautan panzara] only that it's soft. The [góđan panzara] however, is said to be "made in the manner which I have already described". Well again both the [pamzarar] and the [góđar hosur ok linar] are said to be made from soft and thoroughly blackened linen.

the [blautan panzara] intended for under the mail hauberk, might not be described, but the horses shabrack is. The shabrack is said to be "made like a gambison of soft and thoroughly blackened linen cloth" [gört sem panzari, af blautum léreptum ok vel svörtuđum]. Now this shabrack serves the same purpose for horse, as the [blautan panzara] serves for the man. They are both to be worn under mail. So it's possible the the [blautan panzara] was also made of "thoroughly blackened linen cloth", but the author neglected to mention it.

BTW I'm not saying that none of the garments in the King's Mirror were stuffed and quilted. I'm saying that since there is no evidence in the text of stuffing or quilting, we can't be certain. Maybe instead of stuffing and quilting, these garments were made from multiple layers of linen. This is what I suspect the Maciejowski Bible is showing us.

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PostPosted: Fri 17 Mar, 2017 5:52 am    Post subject: Aketons ,etc.         Reply with quote

Greetings all ,
It has always been my understanding that mail was worn over some type of padded/quilted garment (call it what you will)the thought process being the iron rings negate the edge or point of the weapon and somewhat distribute the force while the padded garment underneath helps to distribute and/or absorb some of the force of the blow. I have had several discussions with scholars who point out that wearing another padded garment on top of the mail is referenced in manuscripts and artwork - My reply has been that there is always a give and take between protection and maneuverability . The weight and heat caused by the gear would render the wearer severely impeded after the exertion of hand to hand combat. Plus - it seems to me that the stabs and slashes to a padded garment over the mail would leave it at best severely damaged and at worse an impediment to further fighting.
This is only my opinion but it has been influenced by wearing the stuff.
I will be interested in hearing your thoughts.

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PostPosted: Fri 17 Mar, 2017 8:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Tim thanks for the reply. Yes it is commonly believed that the mail does not protect you well enough from blunt force, and so a padded arming garment is required to absorb said blunt force. Modern experimentation suggests that this blunt force isn't as big an issue as many think it is, and that a couple of stout layers of clothing are sufficient. Yes there definitely is evidence for padded and quilted garments worn over mail in this period. The Maciejowski Bible clearly shows this, and the King's Mirror might be referencing this also.
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Mar, 2017 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What tests are you talking about? Stephen. The only worthwhile testing I know of shows mail does indeed allow for some pretty bad injuries through it.

I disagree Dan. I think aketons were intended to provide some level of protection when used with mail, more than just against rubbing and fit. I think we have several accounts from period such as the examples of multilayers being penetrated and the impressive nature of this which to me shows this was an expectation or protection for each layer.

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PostPosted: Fri 17 Mar, 2017 9:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Stephen Curtin"]Hi J thanks for the reply.

I'll start off by saying

1- sorry if that came across agressivly!

And

2. Whilst I still agree with some points I made, I did not read your question careful enough, and five or so cloth layers would DEFINITLY give you some of the advantages of an aketon.


quote wrote:
Well I can't speak as to how bruised and battered they were, but I don't think this really matters, as neither one of them was badly injured. Yes pointy things sometimes did defeat mail, but mail wasn't worn on its own. If we use the Maciejowski Bible as an example, then mail was worn under at least two layers (surcoat), and over at least three layers (1 for the undershirt and 2 for the tunic). Do we know how well thrusts perform against mail sandwiched between at least five layers of cloth?






quote wrote:
How hard do axes and maces hit in comparison to lances? I don't know, but I would think that lances hit harder. Also don't forget that preferably you would block these weapons with your shield.


well my point here was that these weapons were designed for hitting you through mail, even without breaking it.

Whilst it's true that shields were used for these things, I still do think that I wouldn't want to leave it up to my sheild. Happy

Qoute wrote:
no tests have been done with arrows against mail worn with a undershirt, tunic, and surcoat. Without such a test all we can do is speculate.


This is were I have to apologise. Most of my points were made based on mail alone, I was a bit silly and did not take into account the five layers of fabric and what not. (Just wondering- do we have evidence of surcoats at this time? Sorry for my ignorance)



Stephen Curtin wrote:
I never said that aketons don't provide protection from blunt force trauma. What I'm saying is that mail in combination with a stout tunic protected you well enough, without the need for an aketon. AFAIK aketons (see definition in OP) don't show up until about 1300. I'm not sure why they show up at this time, but maybe someone else here has a good explanation.


I reckon they showed up because after 100 years of fighting against soldiers with mail and thin layers of fabric the weapons designers had come up with weapons that made this armour very weak, so the armour makers made the aketon, something that the weapons designers and soldiers would not really know how to deal with.


Stephen Curtin wrote:
This thread is about arming garments worn under mail. What poorer people who couldn't afford mail did is a topic for a different thread. Hopefully my response didn't come across badly. These threads often end up in heated agreements, and that's not my intention. I welcome opinions which go against mine as they force me to think harder on the subject.


Yeh, I went a bit off topic, but my point (I think) was that they were somuseful so it was natural for them to be utilised with mail.

But since posting the comment my opinion has changed.

They do, so sorry if I came across badly. Happy and once more this is me not reading the question closely enough. My main point here was that if aketon still were great on their own, then it would be more natural for them to be worn under mail. Happy

I wondered why he was unscrewing his pommel.

Then it hit me.

~JD (call me James if you want to quote me)
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