Body Armour

Roman soldiers wore armour to protect their bodies and shoulders. There are a few different types. Ordinary legionaries of the 1st century AD (when the Romans conquered Britain) wore armour made of metal plates fixed together. We call this lorica segmentata (a modern name - we don't know what the Romans called it).

More important soldiers like officers and emperors wore a metal suit shaped to the body which we call a muscle cuirass (because it shows the muscles).

Auxiliary soldiers (who were not Roman citizens) usually wore chain mail, made from lots of small metal rings joined together. This was called lorica hamata. Some soldiers also wore armour made of scales, like a fish, called lorica squamata.

Lorica Segmentata

The photo to the right shows a man wearing lorica segmentata, armour made of iron bands wrapped around the chest and over the shoulders. This armour gave good protection and allowed some movement. Also the strips of metal could be replaced if they got damaged.

The bands were fixed together with leather strips on the inside, as well as hinges on the shoulders, and buckles to attach the shoulders to the chest. The chest bands were fixed together at the front and back with leather thongs passed through bronze loops.

Lorica segmentata is shown on stone carvings like Trajan's column in Rome (see right). A suit was found at Corbridge (a Roman town near Hadrian's Wall) in 1964. It was rusted, but in good enough condition to show us how the armour was made. The photos below show the armour (the left side is a modern reconstruction). It was made some time between AD122 and 138, during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.

The Corbridge armour


A section of the Corbridge armour


Chain Mail


Chain mail, or lorica hamata, was made of lots of small iron rings linked together. The Romans and Celts were the first to wear chain mail, and it remained popular right up to the middles ages.


Auxiliary soldiers, who were not Roman citizens but still fought for Rome, usually wore chain mail. It was very flexible and allowed a lot of movement in battle.


An auxiliary soldier wearing chain mail


A reenactor wearing chain mail


Roman chain mail - you can see the joins in the rings, where they were closed over each other.


Reenactors wearing chain mail


Muscle Cuirasses

The muscle cuirass was a suit of armour made from two plates - front and back - which were shaped to show muscles. They were often decorated with pictures, such as a gorgon (a mythological monster which turned you to stone if you looked at it). Below is a statue of the emperor Trajan showing a muscle cuirass. The thighs and shoulders were protected by leather strips called pteryges.

Scale Armour

Scale armour, or lorica squamata, was made of lots of scales called squamae. These were rectangluar with a curve on one end. Each scale had six holes in so they could be strung together. This armour was popular as it gave better protection against heavy blows than chain mail, but it still allowed flexibility of movement.

Carving showing a soldier wearing scale armour on the left, and a soldier wearing lorica segmentata on the right

Roman scale armour

Reenactor wearing lorica squamata