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Lorica Segmentata – legendary Roman armor. History of Roman armor. Parts of Roman armor. Roman legions and their equipment.

History of Lorica Segmentata

Lorica Segmentata “laminated” type body armor was adopted by the Roman Legions in the early part of the First Century AD and was in use into the early Third Century AD, when it fell out of favor. This type of armor was particuarly protective against slashing and piercing weapons; as opposed to the earlier Lorica Hamata – chain “ring” maile type armor; which was only marginally defensive against long-pointed swords and arrows.

Roman Legionary with Lorica Segmentata - roman armor

Roman armor: Roman Legionary with Lorica Segmentata

With such a strange name, one couldn’t help but wonder where the lorica segmentata got its name. It was best known from the spiral reliefs on Trojans Column in Rome and it was sculptures of this type that first led scholars to study it. In order for scholars to study this piece, they had to think of a name for it. Since most scholars at that time wrote in Latin, they decided on the phrase (armor in pieces). This Latin name was first used in the 16th century. It is still referred to by that name but you may also find it described as segmental, articulated, plate armor, or even Schienenpanzer.

This particular armor was made up of four sections: two for shoulders and two for torso. The Lorica Segmentata  armor itself consists of broad ferrous (iron or steel) strips fastened to internal leather straps. The strips were arranged horizontally on the body, overlapping downwards, and they surrounded the torso in two halves, being fastened at the front and back. The upper body and shoulders were protected by additional strips (shoulder guards) and breast and back plates. This form of armor allowed it to be stored very compactly since it could be separated into four sections. The main concern with this type of armor was its complexity leaving it vulnerable to attrition and corrosion.

Roman armor: Lorica segmentata vs older chain mail armor

Roman armor: Lorica segmentata vs older chain mail armor

Around the time of Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 14-37), lorica segmentata began to replace the older lorica hamata (mail cuirass) in many legionary formations. This new armor was generally considered to be superior to the lorica hamata because of it’s greater flexibility, lighter weight, and its comparative ease to manufacture. It is believed that only legionaries (heavy infantry of the Roman legions) were issued with the armor. After Commodus (Marcus Aurelius’s son and successor) died, the empire erupted into civil war, eventually won by Septimus Severus. These wars of succession (193 A.D.-197 A.D.) can be viewed as the last gasp of the armor. It was no longer a necessity to new recruits and had already become a very rare sight although similar armoring techniques were still used during the 16th century, employing sliding rivets and this was known as Anima.

Parts of Roman armor

Lorica segmentata: Parts of Roman armor

Lorica segmentata: Parts of Roman armor

Roman ArmorLorica Segmentata