Why did the armor of the Romans imitate musculature?

Armor the Romans called the word Loric. In ancient Rome there were several types of armor, from a simple leather shirt (Lorika lintea) to the lorika of the segmentate, known from historical films. The last type of armor made of wide steel plates became the “calling card” of the Roman army. But this is a relatively late type of armor; it gained distribution only in the 1st century. AD It is believed that this type of armor, which best protects against blows of swords and spears, began to be used during wars with Germanic tribes. In any case, the earliest fragments of the lorica of the segmentate were found by archaeologists at the site of the battle in the Teutoburg Forest, which occurred in 9 A.D.

Before the transition to the lorika of the segmentate, Roman warriors fought in chain mail (lorika of a hamat) and scaly armor. Against an arrow or a slashing strike, such armor provided quite reliable protection. But a stabbing blow could pierce them. One of the most effective types of armor, known to the Romans too, which reliably protects the body of a fighter, is a cuirass. That is, lorike muscle. This type of armor was known to the Romans from ancient times and survived until the last centuries of the Roman Empire. Where did he come from and what was he like?

The Romans borrowed this type of armor from their enemies – the tribes of Samnites and Etruscans, with whom Ancient Rome constantly fought. Etruscan and Samnite armor, in turn, was a borrowing of the Greek “thorax”, that is, armor covering the chest (thorax in Greek means “chest”). For greater beauty, as well as to give the thorax chest plate additional rigidity, the Greeks made it not just convex, but repeating the muscles of the human chest. The polished bronze sparkling in the sun gave the impression that the warrior was cast from metal and was invulnerable to any weapon.

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The Etruscan cuirass has preserved some of the decorative elements of the Greek thorax, but the patterns on it are more abstract. The early Roman cuirasses were about the same. But later, in the second century BC, they acquire a really “muscular” look, then this armor gets its Roman name “lorica musculata”. Why did such a design change happen? At this time, the Romans actively traded and periodically fought with Greek policies. It was the Greek influence that the Roman cuirass owed its appearance. Considering that the Greeks’ cuirasses look prettier, and their protection is no worse, the Romans certainly wanted the same armor for themselves.

Over time, the material of lorica muscles changed from bronze to iron, and then steel. This armor, of course, was not worn on a naked body – it required a leather armor, a kind of sleeveless jacket with “pterygs” (strips of skin) that protected the shoulders and hips. However, by the 1st century AD BC. this type of armor loses its popularity, being replaced by the lorika of the hamat, that is, chain mail. Why did it happen?

The fact is that with excellent protection of the torso, the lorica of the muscle practically does not protect the limbs. Unlike chain mail, which can be made with sleeves and long floors, for lorica muscles will need separate bracers and leggings. In addition, because of its “anatomical” shape, the lorica of the muscle should fit the figure of the soldier who will wear it. Too long chain mail can be reduced, too short – to build up. But the whole shell – except forging the whole. For the mass army, which by that time had become the Roman legions, this is a serious problem.

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For this reason, the lorica of the musculature became a hallmark of high command, down to the emperor. That is, those people who could afford armor for an individual order, with fit to their figure and height. In addition, they did not go in the front row in battle and did not stand under a hail of arrows or darts, so the protection of the limbs by the Roman military commanders was not too critical. Not to mention the fact that the golden bronze armor, depicting a muscular torso, looked great and gave a masculine look. In this capacity, as the armor of the highest army command staff, the lorica of the musculature was used until the very end of the Roman Empire.

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