Parma (shield)

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A parma or parmula (the diminutive of parma) was a type of round shield used by the Roman army, especially during the later period of imperial history since 3rd century. [1]

Ancient Rome History of Rome from the 8th-century BC to the 5th-century

In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom, Roman Republic and Roman Empire until the fall of the western empire. The civilization began as an Italic settlement in the Italian Peninsula, conventionally founded in 753 BC, that grew into the city of Rome and which subsequently gave its name to the empire over which it ruled and to the widespread civilisation the empire developed. The Roman Empire expanded to become one of the largest empires in the ancient world, though still ruled from the city, with an estimated 50 to 90 million inhabitants ) and covering 5.0 million square kilometres at its height in AD 117.

The military history of ancient Rome is inseparable from its political system, based from an early date upon competition within the ruling elite. Two consuls were elected each year to head the government of the state, and in the early to mid-Republic were assigned a consular army and an area in which to campaign.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome, consisting of large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, it was a principate with Italy as metropole of the provinces and its city of Rome as sole capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when it sent the imperial insignia to Constantinople following the capture of Ravenna by the barbarians of Odoacer and the subsequent deposition of Romulus Augustus. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to Germanic kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Contents

Characteristics

The parma was about 36 inches (91 cm) across (or less) and had iron in its frame, making it a very effective piece of armor. Parmas had handles and shield bosses (umbos).

Shield boss

A shield boss, or umbo, is a round, convex or conical piece of material at the centre of a shield. Shield bosses are usually made of thick metal but could also be made of wood. The boss was originally designed to deflect blows from the centre of round shields, though they also provided a place to mount the shield's grip. As time went on and heater shields with curved bodies became more popular, and enarmes superseded the bar grip, the boss became more of an ornamental piece.

The parma was used by legionnaires in the early republican period of Rome's history, by the lowest class division of the army— the velites . Their equipment consisted of a parma, javelin, sword and helmet. Later, the parma was replaced by the body-length scutum as velites were phased out with the Marian reforms.

Velites were a class of infantry in the Roman army of the mid-Republic from 211 to 107 BC. Velites were light infantry and skirmishers who were armed with a number of darts, each with a 30-inch wooden shaft the diameter of a finger, with a c. 10-inch narrow metal point, to fling at the enemy. They also carried short thrusting swords, or gladii, for use in melee. They rarely wore armour as they were the youngest and poorest soldiers in the legion and could not afford much equipment. They did carry small wooden shields called parma for protection, and wore headdresses made from wolf skins so their brave deeds could be recognized. The velites were placed at the front partly for tactical reasons, and also so that they had the opportunity to secure glory for themselves in single combat.

<i>Scutum</i> (shield)

The scutum was a type of shield used among Italic peoples in antiquity, and then by the army of ancient Rome starting about the fourth century BC. The Romans adopted it when they switched from the military formation of the hoplite phalanx of the Greeks to the formation with maniples. In the former, the soldiers carried a round shield, which the Romans called a clipeus. In the latter, they used the scutum, which was a larger shield. Originally it was an oblong and convex shield. By the first century BC it had developed into the rectangular, semi-cylindrical shield that is popularly associated with the scutum in modern times. This was not the only shield the Romans used; Roman shields were of varying types depending on the role of the soldier who carried it. Oval, circular and rectangular shields were used throughout Roman history.

Marian reforms Reforms of the Roman military implemented by Gaius Marius

The Marian reforms of 107 BC were a group of military reforms initiated by Gaius Marius, a statesman and general of the Roman Republic.

War use

PraetorianVexillifer 1.jpg
Signifer with a parmula

It was used mainly by auxiliary infantry and cavalry, with the legionaries preferring the heavier but more protective scutum, during earlier periods. It was used also by signifers (standard bearers).

Legionary professional soldier

The Roman legionary was a professional heavy infantryman of the Roman army after the Marian reforms. These soldiers, alongside auxiliary and cavalry detachments, would first conquer and then defend the territories of the Roman Empire during the late Republic and Principate eras. At its height, Roman legionaries were viewed as the foremost fighting force in the Roman world, with commentators such as Vegetius praising their fighting effectiveness centuries after the classical Roman legionary disappeared.

Signifer

A signifer was a standard bearer of the Roman legions. He carried a signum (standard) for a cohort or century. Each century had a signifer so there were 59 in a legion. Within each cohort, the first century's signifer would be the senior one.

In Virgil's Aeneid , the parma is cited as a weapon utilised by the Teucrians in defence against the Greeks (Battle of Troy), and later against the Rutulians.

Virgil 1st-century BC Roman poet

Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English, was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He wrote three of the most famous poems in Latin literature: the Eclogues, the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid. A number of minor poems, collected in the Appendix Vergiliana, are sometimes attributed to him.

<i>Aeneid</i> epic poem by Virgil

The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It comprises 9,896 lines in dactylic hexameter. The first six of the poem's twelve books tell the story of Aeneas's wanderings from Troy to Italy, and the poem's second half tells of the Trojans' ultimately victorious war upon the Latins, under whose name Aeneas and his Trojan followers are destined to be subsumed.

Other uses

The parmula was the shield used by thraex gladiators. It was also used by the Roman vexillifers or flag bearers that carried the standard that marked the cohort, as well as by most early auxiliaries.

Thraex gladiator, modeled after a Thracian soldier, with a small shield and a very short curved sword

The Thraex, or Thracian, was a type of Roman gladiator, armed in the Thracian style with small rectangular, square or circular shield called a parmula and a very short sword with a slightly curved blade called a sica, intended to maim an opponent's unarmoured back. His other armour included armoured greaves (necessitated by the smallness of the protector for his sword arm and shoulder, a protective belt above a loin cloth, and a helmet with a side plume, visor and high crest.

Cohort (military unit) Roman military unit

A cohort was a standard tactical military unit of a Roman legion, though the standard changed with time and situation, and was composed of between 360-800 soldiers. A cohort is considered to be the equivalent of a modern military battalion. The cohort replaced the maniple following the reforms attributed to Gaius Marius in 107 BC. Shortly after the military reforms of Marius, each legion formed 10 cohorts. The cohorts were named "first cohort," "second cohort" etc. The first cohort gathered the most experienced legionaries, while the legionaries in the tenth cohort were the least experienced. Until the middle of the third century AD, 10 cohorts made up a Roman legion.

In the Pyrrhic dance it was raised above the head and struck with a sword so as to emit a loud ringing noise.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Peltast type of infantry

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Roman military personal equipment Ancient Roman soldiers equipment

Roman military personal equipment was produced in small numbers to established patterns, and it was used in an established manner. These standard patterns and uses were called the res militaris or disciplina. Its regular practice during the Roman Republic and Roman Empire led to military excellence and victory. The equipment gave the Romans a very distinct advantage over their barbarian enemies, especially so in the case of armour. This does not mean that every Roman soldier had better equipment than the richer men among his opponents. According to Edward Luttwak, Roman equipment was not of a better quality than that used by the majority of Rome's adversaries.

Clipeus large, round shield carried by Ancient Greek and Roman soldiers

In the military of classical antiquity, a clipeus was a large shield worn by the Greek hoplites and Romans as a piece of defensive armor, which they carried upon the arm, to secure them from the blows of their enemies. It was round in shape and in the middle was a bolt of iron, or of some other metal, with a sharp point.

The structural history of the Roman military concerns the major transformations in the organization and constitution of ancient Rome's armed forces, "the most effective and long-lived military institution known to history." From its origins around 800 BC to its final dissolution in AD 476 with the demise of the Western Roman Empire, Rome's military organization underwent substantial structural change. At the highest level of structure, the forces were split into the Roman army and the Roman navy, although these two branches were less distinct than in many modern national defense forces. Within the top levels of both army and navy, structural changes occurred as a result of both positive military reform and organic structural evolution. These changes can be divided into four distinct phases.

Javelin light spear, designed to be thrown

A javelin is a light spear designed primarily to be thrown, historically as a ranged weapon, but today predominantly for sport. The javelin is almost always thrown by hand, unlike the bow and arrow and slingshot, which shoot projectiles from a mechanism. However, devices do exist to assist the javelin thrower in achieving greater distance, generally called spear-throwers.

Hastati were a class of infantry employed in the armies of the early Roman Republic who originally fought as spearmen, and later as swordsmen. These soldiers were the staple unit after Rome threw off Etruscan rule. They were originally some of the poorest men in the legion, and could afford only modest equipment—light chainmail and other miscellaneous equipment. The Senate supplied their soldiers with only a short stabbing sword, the gladius, and their distinctive squared shield, the scutum. The hastatus was typically equipped with these, and one or two soft iron tipped throwing spears called pila. This doubled their effectiveness, not only as a strong leading edge to their maniple, but also as a stand-alone missile troop. Later, the hastati contained the younger men rather than just the poorer, though most men of their age were relatively poor. Their usual position was the first battle line. They fought in a quincunx formation, supported by lighter infantry. The enemy was allowed to penetrate the first battle line consisting of hastati, after which the enemy would deal with the more hardened, seasoned soldiers, the principes. They were eventually disbanded after the Marian reforms of 107 BC.

Principes were spearmen, and later swordsmen, in the armies of the early Roman Republic. They were men in the prime of their lives who were fairly wealthy, and could afford decent equipment. They were the heavier infantry of the legion who carried large shields and wore good quality armor.

Triarii

Triarii were one of the elements of the early Roman military manipular legions of the early Roman Republic. They were the oldest and among the wealthiest men in the army and could afford high quality equipment. They wore heavy metal armor and carried large shields, their usual position being the third battle line. They were equipped with spears and were considered to be elite soldiers among the legion.

Leves were javelin-armed skirmishers in the army of the early Roman Republic. They were typically some of the youngest and poorest men in the legion, and could not afford much equipment. They were usually outfitted with just a number of light javelins and no other equipment. There were 300 leves in a legion, and unlike other infantry types they did not form their own units, but were assigned to units of hastati — heavier sword-armed troops. Their primary purpose on the battlefield was to harass the enemy with javelin fire and support the heavy infantry who fought in hand-to-hand combat. Accensi and rorarii were also light missile troops and had similar roles.

Roman cavalry

Roman cavalry refers to the horse-mounted forces of the Roman army throughout the Regal, Republican, and Imperial eras.

Roman army of the mid-Republic

The Roman army of the mid-Republic, refers to the armed forces deployed by the mid-Roman Republic, from the end of the Samnite Wars to the end of the Social War. The first phase of this army, in its manipular structure, is described in detail in the Histories of the ancient Greek historian Polybius, writing before 146 BC.

Roman army of the late Republic

The Roman army of the late Republic refers to the armed forces deployed by the late Roman Republic, from the beginning of the first century B.C. until the establishment of the Imperial Roman army by Augustus in 30 B.C.

References

  1. "Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome - Lesley Adkins, Roy A. Adkins, Both Professional Archaeologists Roy A Adkins - Google Książki".