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Author Topic: Roman shields question?  (Read 459 times)

Offline Harry Faversham

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Roman shields question?
« on: October 18, 2019, 10:16:29 PM »
I'm reading a novel at the moment by Ben Kane about 'The Lost Legion'. Magnificent hokum, about a Legion captured and forced to fight for the Parthians. They come upon savage enemies who use poison tipped arrows. The tale makes the claim that the silk covered/faced Roman shields were particularly effective at deflecting arrows. What's this silk faced shield stuff all about, I've never heard it before, is it fact or scribbler's licence?

???
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Offline jamesmanto

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Re: Roman shields question?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2019, 12:54:28 AM »
Not silk.
But the wooden shields were covered with leather.

Offline vtsaogames

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Re: Roman shields question?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2019, 02:11:51 AM »
Not Roman and not shields, but Mongol warriors wore silk under garments so that arrows that hit them would be swathed in silk and could be extracted by pulling the silk out of the wound (ouch).
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Offline zippyfusenet

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Re: Roman shields question?
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2019, 02:40:29 AM »
Silk was a luxury fabric in Rome, imported all the way from China over the Silk Road. Transport over-land by caravan from one end of Eurasia to the other was incredibly expensive. Silk would not have been used to cover soldiers' shields.
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Offline FierceKitty

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Re: Roman shields question?
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2019, 07:37:38 AM »
Not Roman and not shields, but Mongol warriors wore silk under garments so that arrows that hit them would be swathed in silk and could be extracted by pulling the silk out of the wound (ouch).

I understand European duelists did much the same to get pistol bullets out with minimal trouble.
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Offline tin shed gamer

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Re: Roman shields question?
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2019, 10:54:04 AM »
Except it doesn't work in the way the myths portrayed.
In fact it doesn't stop an arrow .Theres multiple tests done on this to disprove it.(I did write a very long explanation out it just looked like preaching. ::) ) basically Monoglian bow verses Mongolian armour and clothing. Head on at 30m-40m bow wins every time No silk in the wound other than the edge of the hole being dragged in by friction on the arrow shaft.The arrows at 30m are getting well over 30cm penetration .On a body in armour there's simply not enough loose fabric or room for the material to travel even if it could these are more than fatal depths of penetration.

The myth has more than likely a basis in truth .But it simply had to be an arrow which had spent a great deal of it's energy before impact ,enough loose silk fabric,and a shallow wound. Similar effect with dueling distance and power charge play a part plus these myths never mention those who were wear silk and were turned into a colander. ;)

The reality is silk has very good thermal properties and it gets bloody cold out that way and on occasion baking hot.Silk is pretty good in both extremes.
As mentioned silk is and was a luxury item .The odds of every nomad on the steppe having silk are pretty low.

Offline FierceKitty

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Re: Roman shields question?
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2019, 02:04:24 PM »
What about not stopping but being driven in with the missile without breaking (a blunt ball might have been less effective than a cutting and piercing arrowhead)? This might have made extraction relatively easy.

Note I say "might". When I fight a duel, I use a sword anyway.

Offline vtsaogames

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Re: Roman shields question?
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2019, 02:16:41 PM »
As mentioned silk is and was a luxury item .The odds of every nomad on the steppe having silk are pretty low.

A nomad who has looted the cities of conquered nations might.

Also, while still a luxury item, in the east it didn't have to get moved along the Silk Road first.

Offline A Lot of Gaul

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Re: Roman shields question?
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2019, 09:21:46 PM »
Returning to the original question, according to Polybius 6.23, the Roman scutum was made from two layers of wood, and covered with first a layer of linen, and then a layer of calfskin. The 3rd century A.D. scutae found at Dura Eiuropos were constructed in much the same way, with an early kind of layered ‘plywood’ covered in leather. The novel’s mention of silk is pure fiction.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2019, 02:39:53 PM by A Lot of Gaul »
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