It may not be a shield, but it’s definitely ancient and very interesting.
Picture 1 is from Zahhak Castle in Iran and shows a Parthian relief of either ‘Zahhak’ (character from Parthian mythology), or it shows a Parthian infantryman from its heyday. Whats interesting is that the shield is identical to the republican Roman infantry shield that was used around the same time. Picture 2 is from the Ahenobarbus relief in the Louvre and shows identical shields carried by Roman infantry
Iberian Shields part 2
The Iberian peoples also used another type of shield, one that earned the title of ‘scutum’ by the Romans. We don’t actually know what the various Iberian peoples called it, but it was described in the same light as the Roman scutum (shield), i.e. its size. It is debatable whether the shield board was flat or curved but what is for definite was that it was meant to be a full body shield, protecting the user from neck to ankle.
Iberian mercenaries were known as ‘Scutarii’ to the Romans due to their use of the scutum rather than the caetra and the style of fighting was inevitably going to be different than a caetra carrying warrior. From ancient literary sources the Roman scutum was heavy and modern reconstructions confirm this. The result of this means that the user is going to be a slow mover, but with a massive boost in protection. The use of such tactics leans toward a more defensive style of fighting or used in close quarter formations to create an unbreakable wall of shields (on paper).
Most evidence is archaeological and comes from Iberian pottery, that strangely resembles Greek style pottery with warrior scenes painted on them. One thing is for sure, the overall shape of this type of shield are all portrayed in the same way with straight sides and curved tops & bottoms. It is no surprise why the Romans called it a scutum as well. There are a minor number of stone-work depictions and they also suggest the same in terms of shape and size. Considering that the neighbouring peoples of the Iberians (Gallic, Italic and Balkan) also used similar shape shields, there must have been an revolutionary development of this type at some point.
The designs on the shields vary but in a very particular ‘Iberian’ style that just isn’t present outside of the peninsula. The shield bosses are also varied and also uncertain. In some images there seems to be a lack of a shield boss in total where other images show them in relative detail, with spine. Picture 1 is part of the Osuna relief and shows a realistic Iberian warrior with his scutum and wielding a falcata sword. The shield boss stretches from side to side which is unique to the Iberian peninsula. Pictures 2 & 3 are Iberian kalathoi and show scenes where warriors are holding large shields with ‘s’ shape designs on them and in picture 3 there seems to be a clear image of the shield spine. Picture 4 is the LIbisosa vase and again shows an Iberian warrior wielding a falcata and holding a shield with a spine like in picture 3. Picture 5 is from the so-called Liria vase collection while picture 6 is a vase from Archena. Both pictures 5 & 6 show shields without shield bosses and on the Archena vase (picture 6) the shield is shown to be carried by two separate parallel straps that are tied to the sides of the shield and held together to form a taut handle. The design on the same shield back is either a striped pattern or is a sketch of the construction of it, i.e. strips of wooden planks held together.
Iberian Shields part 1b
Examples of the caetra, picture 1: from the Osuna relief, picture 2: Outeiro de Lezenho statue, pictures 3 & 4: from Porcuna. Pictures 3 & 4 shows a rare detailed look at the reverse of a shield from antiquity, displaying native proof of the use of a central handgrip and how this type of shield was transported (via strap).
Wow I’m back after a dry spell and straight back into it!
Iberian Shields part 1a
First I would like to state that when I’m talking about ‘Iberian’ shields I mean from the Iberian peninsula and not a group of people called that.
Known to the Romans as the ‘caetra’ pronounced kie-tra (kie rhymes with pie) was a type of round shield with a central handgrip used by various ethnographic peoples within the Iberian peninsula and both literary and archaeological evidence points out that it was the most popular type used. It measured around 30-60cm in diameter and can be categorised as a ‘buckler’ type shield. From the archaeological evidence the caetrae were made out of a wooden base from which a bronze or even an iron shield boss would cover the front leaving a small gap to the edge. These shield bosses were decorated and stylised with different patterns and perhaps had a significance to the individual user. Picture 1 is of the Griegos caetra boss, picture 2 is of the Alcoi caetra boss and picture 3 is of the Albacete caetra boss.
The use of the caetra in combat was generally complimented with a short cut and thrust sword called the ‘falcata’. The falcata itself (picture 4) was a versatile weapon with the ability to inflict massive wounds with virtually little effort. The shape of the falcata, with its heavy curved tip would have given the user a choice wielding the sword as a stabbing weapon or as a sharp bludgeoning weapon.
As a result, the warrior using this combination of caetra and falcata would have had speed, agility and quick movements as part of their meleé style similar to the Illangam (Sri Lankan martial art).
Anonymous asked: I bought what looks like a shield from yard sale. It is small, approximately 11 inches. Heavy, maybe bronze. Definitely hand decorated and had made. Metal, hand cut tabs connect the outside rim to the dome-like middle piece. Is there a way a could send you a picture to get your opinion of it. The lady that sold it said she traveled the world with her husband and his construction company. She said locals would knock on the door and offer items for sale to make money.
Hello ‘anonymous’, you can show me your shield picture by clicking on the ‘submit’ button on my tumblr.
This mid 2nd century BC terracotta figurine comes from Myrina on the isle of Lemnos, Greece, and it’s a detailed scene of a war elephant trampling on a warrior. The trampled warrior is a Galatian with his typically celtic oval shield.
This scene is from the so called ‘Elephant battle’ when Antiochos I of the Seleucid Empire defeated them in battle using 16 elephants of which the Galatians had never seen before in battle. As a result Antiochos I gained the title of ‘Soter’ which meant ‘Saviour’
The use of elephants in battle was a common site on hellenistic battlefields in this period and this practice originated from Alexander the Great’s encounter of them in India at the battle of the Hydaspes. The devastating force and power of an angry elephant cost his army many losses and as a result his successors began to train and use elephants in future Hellenistic battles.
Anonymous asked: do you know of any serious 'enactment' groups in the Somerset region of the UK who try to reconstruct bronze/iron age fighting styles?
Not really. For Iron age, the next local one is ‘Brigantia’ in Portsmouth. But i’m not sure if they’re still around or not. Another Iron age society is the ‘The Silures’ in S Wales, but again I’m not sure they’re around anymore.
Hittite Shields part b
To back up the previous statement on Hittite shields being circular, here is more archaeological evidence but from Azatiwataya, modern day Karatepe in southern Turkey. There is an open air museum there which show cases Hittite bas reliefs.
I love the ‘figure of eight’ shield used by the Mycenaean era greeks. It is also known as the ‘Achaean’ shield because of the Iliad’s usage of calling Greeks as Achaeans. The structure is so unusual and intricate. Modern stereotypical understanding of the bronze age is of primitive technology and thinking, but in actual fact the bronze age is one of the golden ages of human civilisation and cultures. The two pictures are of the front and back of the ‘figure of eight’ shield.
Courtesy of Nikos A Panos for the first picture.
Hittite Shields part a
I like to clarify first that the following information about Hittite shields are from the Hittite and neo-Hittite time period. It is a broader perspective of them.
I have read and seen many academic opinions on Hittite war gear and most of the time I get a little confused with it, as might some of you do. When explanations and illustrations of Hittite shields are presented, they mostly all seem to depict that they used either a ‘violin’ shaped shield or an unusual shaped shield that comes from an Egyptian military relief that looks more like a flat rectangular form of the ‘violin’ shield. But very little archaeological evidence can support these claims.
Another type of shield can be found archaeologically and from not only the Hittites themselves, but also from foreigners. The circular shield appears to be more numerous in depictions of Hittite infantry. The two Pictures above are from Carchemish, a city that’s situated on the Turkish and Syrian border. Picture 1 is a relief depicting a Hittite warrior from 11th-9th century BC. The carving is of the Assyrian school of art and it’s why it looks similar to reliefs from the neighbouring Mesopotamian peoples. Picture 2 is what looks like a scene depicting a military victory of some sort. Their raised hands are supposedly meant to be a gesture: perhaps a victory gesture. The two shields cant be coincidence because the reliefs are two different styles of workmanship. The soldiers are even wearing them in the same way.
Just to let you lot know that some of the pictures from the Galatian warriors post can be found in the Nick Secunda books, ‘Seleucid and Ptolemaic reformed armies 168-145BC’. They are divided into two volumes, ‘The Seleucid Army’ and ‘The Ptolemaic Army’. They also contain some very convincing recontructed colour pictures.
Anonymous asked: more galatian warrior from egypt
These Galatian warriors are all depictions made by non-Galatian peoples, but they all correlate a similar image of what a Galatian warrior looked like and this cannot be coincidence. Literary evidence points out that the Galatians were a Celtic people that migrated and settled into Asia Minor from Europe. This statement also has firm archaeological evidence to back this up by these depictions. Naturally, some of the Galatian equipment used would have been of Hellenistic influence and even manufacture due to the location of their settlement in Anatolia. But the base ‘celtic’ style of warfare is still obvious and a clear similarity between them and their Gallic cousins is seen.
Picture 1: Infantryman. Egyptian terracotta, Warrior wears trousers, carrying thureos (shield), wears and holds sword on the right, has long hair.
Picture 2: Infantryman. Egyptian terracotta, naked, carrying thureos (shield), wears and holds sword on the right, has long hair.
Pictures 3 & 4: Cavalryman. Hellenistic terracotta (maybe Seleucid) from Mount Carmel - El-Bi’ne near Acre. Clothes and equipment are a clue of his Galatian ethnicity
Picture 5: Infantryman. From Myrina, Asia Minor. Seleucid influenced equipment, remnants of pink and black paint on the helmet with light blue on the cloak.
Picture 6: Infantryman. From Asia Minor. Very similar equipment to picture 5 apart from the gorgon’s head on the shield.
Picture 7: Infantryman. From Myrina, Asia Minor. naked apart from sword belt and sword worn and held on right side.
Picture 8: Pergamon relief, shows lower part of a hexagonal shield a typical shape shield for the Galatians as well as the oval shape. The rest of the panoply also might have been used by the Galatians
Picture 9: Pergamon relief, Shows spoils of war. the oval thureoi together with the chariot wheels are definite evidence for Galatian battle equipment. This suggests that the rest of the spoils belonged to the Galatians
Picture 10: Infantryman. Egyptian terracotta, naked, carrying thureos (shield), sword belt and wears and holds sword on the right, has long hair, cloak. best example of a Galatian warrior with celtic equipment
Gallic Shields part 1b
Yes! There is another section for part 1 as this section talks about Gallic shield sizes and the topic of size is extensive. The point made earlier in part 1a about the ‘Vachères’ warrior can be explained in more depth. The picture above (thanks to ‘Les Leuki’ reenactment) is the best example of a trained Gallic infantry battle formation. Due to ancient stereotype, most people to this day still believe that the Gallic peoples fought in a wreckless undisciplined manner, with a mentality of ‘every man for himself’ in a foolish ‘heroic’ sense. The territorial span of Gallic peoples was extensive and even though they were heavily divided into tribal groups and confederations, they could not have achieved this with battle cohesion at least. They lived next to well attested battle drilled and diciplined mediterranean peoples such as the Greeks and Italic peoples. The fact that they managed to survive for centuries next to them, invading their territories and defeating them in pitched battles, proves that their style of warfare was not primitive and disorganised.
Here is where the size of the Gallic shield comes into it. To pull off military victories against well organised and equiped armies, the Gallic peoples must have had shields that were large enough to give them sufficient protection. I also believe that the Gallic style of warfare was predictable and well known throughout europe, in the same way that Greek hoplite warfare was well known. The Gallic shield could also have been used in a Gallic style of phalanx, like the picture above portrays. If they did, I would speculate that they were drawn into a similar kind of manipular formation that was more ‘loose’ or flexable in look. The Romans started defeating the Gallic peoples at about the same time as they were defeating hoplite armies. In this light the Gallic style of wafare could be correlated to the phalanx type of warfare. The Gallic shields in literary sources point out that they were large enough to offer a standard unarmoured user with adequate protection, and from experimental reenactment the Gallic shield does work in a phalanx and provides a lot of protection. On this evidence I believe that the average Gallic shield size was from ground to waist high.