At its peak the Roman army was probably the most effective fighting force in the ancient world. It conquered and maintained an empire that, by the 1st century CE, stretched from Britain to North Africa and from Spain to Egypt. At the heart of this formidable organization were the legionaries - tough professional infantry equipped with sword, shield and javelin. Equally dominant in pitched battles and in siege warfare, they were used to cow or destroy the enemies of Rome in campaigns of ruthless efficiency.
The Roman legionary's armor was a compromise between protection and mobility. Head, shoulders, and torso were well protected by the iron helmet and cuirass, but arms and legs were uncovered. Sometimes soldiers wore greaves to protect their legs and even flexible arm guards of overlapping plates. Although there was considerable uniformity in the appearance of the legions across the empire, especially in the 1st century CE, legions must often have been fitted out in a variety of different styles of armor and helmets. From ACI is coming this 1/6 scale Roman Legionary 12-inch action figure fitted with what he needs to do battle! Scroll down to see the pictures.
The design of the helmet was based originally on Gallic styles. It gave good protection to the legionary's cheeks and to the back of the neck. Helmets were fitted with a means of attaching a crest, but it seems that the ordinary legionary did not wear one in battle, so they were perhaps a feature of ceremonial parades.
Before charging the enemy, legionaries normally unleashed a terrifying volley of javelins (pila). At over 6 ft (2m) long, the pilum (javelin) was tipped with a heavy iron shank ending in a pyramidal spearhead.
The cuirass was body armor made of overlapping iron plates, articulated by means of leather straps and secured with brass fittings tied with leather thongs.
It may have weighed as much as 20 lb (9 kg) and for the armor to sit comfortably, there was probably some kind of padded lining worn underneath.
When a legionary was not wearing armor, it was his ornate belt (balteus) and apron of studded straps which hung from it that marked him out as a soldier. And when a legionary was given a dishonorable discharge, he was formally stripped of his belt.
At short range, the pilum (javelin) was capable of penetrating shields and armor. A spike at the butt end enabled soldiers to stand their javelins in the ground.
The legionary's durable, iron-nailed sandals were known as caligae (boots). They were all cut from a single piece of leather and joined at the top.
The short, pointed sword (gladius) was an effective stabbing weapon for fighting at close quarters from behind shields in well-disciplined ranks. It was the legionary's main weapon.
The curved rectangular shield with slightly rounded corners evolved in the 1st century CE. The iron boss (umbo) in the center served as an offensive weapon enabling legionaries to batter their way through their enemies' ranks.
I doubt the Roman legionary could fly through the air with his armor, shield and sword like those Chinese warriors or ninjas we see in television or on the big screen ;p
Legionaries also carried a dagger (pugio) worn at the left hip. What's missing is the soldier's marching pack which would have included his leather bag, blanket, woolen cloak, cooking pan, flask for water or wine, leather bag for personal possessions plus three days' rations.
September 2, 2011 - ACI 1/6 scale "Flamma" Gladiator of Rome 12-inch Figure REVIEWed HERE and HERE
April 8, 2013 - Reviews of ACI Toys 1/6 scale Warriors III Russell Crowe as Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius 12-inch action figure posted on my toy blog HERE, HERE and HERE