A Mysterious Armour from Verona
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A Mysterious Armour from Verona

Front view of a painted marble statue of a torso from Verona. Photo by Sean Manning, April 2017.

I was travelling last week and am sick this week, so don’t have time for a full post. Instead, I thought I would post some photos of a statue in the Museo Archaeologico, Verona.

Side view of a painted marble statue of an armoured torso from Verona. Photo by Sean Manning, April 2017.

This style of armour is a mystery, because none of it survives and no text clearly refers to it. Armour from the Roman imperial period usually survives because it was deliberately buried when a fort was abandoned or deposited in water as an offering to the gods. This favours armour worn by common soldiers (especially kinds which left a trail of broken parts as they were worn), and small objects like helmets and greaves. Written sources are not interested in distinguishing muscled armours from shoulder-flap armours or armours with a cape which wraps over the shoulders from behind, and in the imperial period they rarely describe materials in detail. So whether they were made of iron plate, or bronze plate, or hardened leather, or something else is a mystery, despite many people having loud and angry opinions on the subject. Whether at some point they fell out of use, and just survived in art because they looked old and Greek, is a mystery. Just how they opened and closed, and what function the straps over the shoulders served, is a mystery. What the feathers at the shoulder and waist were made of is a mystery, although woven braid is a plausible guess.

Studying ancient armour is full of mysteries: types which are common in art but invisible in finds, kinds which are common in archaeological sites but difficult to identify in art, helmets which usually have cheek pieces in paintings but rarely have them in museums.

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