Skip to main content

History of Medieval Armor

After a good, long run, we have decided to close our forums in an effort to refocus attention to other sections of the site. Fortunately for you all, we're living in a time where discussion of a favorite topic now has a lot of homes. So we encourage you all to bring your ravenous love for discussion to Chuck's official Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. And, as always, you can still post comments on all News updates. Thank you for your loyalty and passion over the years. These changes will happen June 1.

[center][size=4]History Of Medieval Armor[/size][/center]

In the beginning there was no armor for protection against enemies. There were only weapons. Humans have fought over possessions or land ever since early humans began to grow crops or keep domestic animals. The earliest weapons were probably rocks, sticks, and animal bones and were used in one of two ways. Some were carried to strike a blow or to cut. Other weapons were made to be thrown or shot at the enemy from a distance.

Later, humans developed specially shaped weapons from stone and flint, and by about 5000 b.c., copper was being used. After this came bronze, then iron, and finally steel, which made the hardest armor and sharpest blades. Many other materials have also been used, such as leather, whalebone, and horn.

Soon, those who had to fight began to protect themselves by carrying shields. Sometimes they also wore body armor. Armor was designed to give the best possible protection against increasingly powerful weapons. The armor could not be too heavy or so difficult to wear that a sol*dier could not move properly. This con*stant struggle between attack and defense has continued right up to the present day with each manufacturer trying to produce better equipment than his or her rivals.

[b]The first armor was introduced by the Sumerians.[/b]
The first soldiers to use bronze were the Sumerians of the ancient Middle East around 3000 b.c. The Sumerians carried spears and large rectangular shields. By about 1400 b.c., Egyptian soldiers, among others, were wearing armor of stiffened fabric and coats covered in small scales, which also protected their shoulders. The Assyrians, who rose to power in the Middle East in the late 10th century b.c., were ruthless soldiers. The Assyrian Empire fell around 612 b.c., by which time the Greek city-states were becoming powerful. Greek soldiers wore bronze helmets that covered almost the whole head, and they carried large, round bronze shields. .

[b]The Greeks and their armor.[/b]
The Greeks used armor that was made of small bronze plates joined tightly by red laces. The armor on the shoulders and stomach had lacing on the outside and moved easily.
The Greeks sometimes used a muscled bronze greave, or lower leg armor.

[b]The Chinese armor used bronze armor.[/b]
The Chinese had discovered how to cast bronze by 1500 b.c. By 1300 b.c., they were using bronze body armor made of many small plates or one large piece. Around 500 b.c. iron weapons began to appear, but for a long time the metal was brittle and of poor quality.

The uniform of all imperial Qin soldiers seems to have been of similar colors. This made soldiers instantly recognizable as members of a unit and helped boost comradeship within the ranks.

The crossbow shot a bolt, an arrow shorter than the one used by bowmen. The bronze heads of both arrows and bolts often had three or four sides, which pierced armor well.

[b]The Roman armor incorporated special helmets.[/b]
In Italy the Romans developed armies that were finally able to defeat the Greeks and break up their phalanxes. A phalanx may be defined as being a tight formation of foot soldiers usually carrying spears or pikes. After the 2nd century b.c., the Romans gradually conquered much of Europe with disciplined legions of men in armor. Each legion contained several thousand regular troops plus auxiliaries who were not Roman citizens. Legionnaires at first wore mail, made of small metal rings, or a metal plate on the chest. In the 1st century a.d., the lorica segmentata came into use. The large shield and tunic were colored to match the soldier's unit.

The Roman armor also called lorica was made from iron strips held together by laces, straps, and buckles. These often wore out, so metal fastenings were introduced.

The iron helmet, tied under the chin, had cheek pieces to guard the face and a broad neck armor. Ear cutouts allowed the Roman soldier to hear.

Mail was armor made from interlinked iron rings (looked like mesh)
Because mail is not rigid, blows can break bones without actually cutting through the rings. More and more steel plates were therefore added, and by 1400, knights were covered from head to foot in plate armor. The pieces could be held together by leather strips attached underneath or by rivets. A rivet on one plate slid in a slot in another plate, or two plates pivoted on a single rivet. Battle armor, like this weighed about 1400, weighed about 44 pounds (20 kg). Because the weight was distributed evenly over the body, a man could sit, lie down, run, or mount his horse without help. Plate armor was
used until the 17th century.

[b]The Age of Mail as armor and the Saxon warrior[/b]
Armor was first introduced in England during the 1066 Battle of Hastings. The mail armor was the forerunner of what the great knights of England later wore during battles and jousts. By the 12th century a knight attacked with the lance tucked under his arm, using the momentum of the galloping horse to drive the pointed steel head into the target. Mail was made from many small iron rings joined together, each closed with a tiny pin called a rivet. Sometimes every other row was made of welded rings.

A mail coat might weigh 20-27 pounds (9-13 kg) and had split skirts to make riding easier. A flap guarded the throat, and a padded tunic might be worn underneath to deaden blows.

The steel helmet was shaped to make blows slide off, while the nose guard protected the face from a slashing cut. The knights used this type of helmet until the 13th century.

The wooden kite shaped shield became popular with mounted knights. Unlike the older round shield, it guarded the left side of both horse and rider.

Mail continued to be worn by some of the wealthy warriors after the Roman Empire split in a.d. 395. By the 10th century, attacks by raiders, such as the Vikings, had begun. Armored horsemen called knights resisted them. The cost of mail, a sword, and a trained war-horse meant that only wealthy men could be knights. When Norman knights invaded England in 1066, most of them wore long mail coats. From the 12th century, mail often covered the whole body and included stockings of mail. It continued to be worn until the 14th century, by which time better-equipped knights were adding steel plates. Less well-off soldiers continued to use mail until the 17th century.

[b]The Armor of the medieval knight[/b]
Since mail was not rigid, more steel plates were therefore added and by 1400 knights were covered from head to foot in plate armor. This type of medieval armor is what we see in museums as being representative of the romance and bravery of England’s medieval knight.

Because the weight was distributed evenly over the body, a knight could sit, lie down, run, or mount his horse without help. Plate armor like the knights of the roundtable was used until the 17th Century.

[b]Today’s Armor[/b]
In today’s world, we have helmets and bullet-proof vests made of Kevlar. It is light to wear and can stop shrapnel. Ceramic plates are sometimes added to stop high-powered bullets. One piece suits protect against gas or chemical attacks.

A new range of armor is available for police forces. Helmets and vests are similar to military types. Some body armor can protect against knife thrusts and dangerous dogs.

[url=]medieval suit of armor and weapons[/url] from