The Linothorax Body Armor

fabiorem

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The linothorax is a type of upper body armor used by the ancient Macedonians. The modern term linothorax is based on the Greek λινοθώραξ, which means "wearing a breastplate of linen"; the actual ancient term for this type of armour is unclear. The term "thorax" was the word for breastplate during this era and was traditionally made of metal in most contexts. The "linothorax" were made of linen glued in layers with animal fat, and eventually adopted by many armies. The earliest attested account of a linothorax used for battle is recorded in Book 2 of Homer's Iliad (2.529 and 2.830). It is worn by Ajax the Lesser and is described in brief. Homer, composing stories long before the great armies of Athens, Thebes, Sparta and Macedon, surely understood what the armor was. However, the extent to which it was used can not be fully determined as the texts were not accurate accounts of specific time periods. An educated guess can be made, however, based on its use by Alexander the Great, and its mention by other sources such as Herodotus (2.182, 3.47, 7.63), Livy (4.19.2–20.7), Strabo (Geography, 3.3.6, 13.1.10), and many other minor sources. The linothorax appears to have been used in place of the bronze "bell cuirass" as the popular choice of armour for Greek hoplites, starting perhaps around the late seventh century and early sixth century B.C. This could have been due to the lower price, lesser weight, and cooler material. Its high point in vase paintings, sculptural reliefs and artistic depictions corresponds with the time of the Persian Wars. By the time of the Peloponnesian War it was still used, and continued to seemingly flourish well into the Hellenistic period.

Source: Linothorax

So, how do I put it? The greeks used this armor in antiquity, replacing the older bronze cuirass with a armor that was made of glued linen. If you played Total War games, you probably already saw this armor. Its usually of a white color, and have the same design used by the celts and romans for chainmail. According to official history, this armor is lighter than any metal armor, but have the same resistance.

But then, comes the question, if this armor was better than metal, why the celts and romans used chainmail some decades later? Chainmail was more heavy and cumbersome, and more expensive to make (even than the bronze cuirass, as chainmail have all those rings, that you have to cast separately and then tie them together), so why they changed it?

This questioning goes in the same vein as the romans marching 20 kilometers a day in sandals, and building palisades at the end of a day of marching (and in these same sandals). This dont make any sense. We dont have a clue that the linothorax was really made of linen and was as resistant as any metal armor.

Here someone do some tests on YouTube, but notice he is going slowly with his blows:


I cant imagine this holding on during the heat of battle.

My understanding is that this armor never existed and its a modern attempt at reconstruction, using very limited evidence.
 

whitewave

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Ancient armor was supposedly made out of all sorts of things that had varying degrees of effectiveness. The Chinese had paper armor that was tested on MythBusters and shown to be as effective as steel plate (against some weapons). Effectiveness diminished greatly when it got wet. Aztecs made an armor of brine-soaked cotton that was effective against atlatl darts whereas the steel plates of the conquistadors could be pierced by atlatl darts. (I find that difficult to believe, myself, but that's the story we're given). I don't know that there has been any testing of brine-soaked cotton to see how good an armor it is but we're told that's what they used. The Japanese apparently used boiled leather and bamboo.

My first thought when reading about these types of armor is that the swords probably weren't very sharp but we know that the Japanese made some highly sophisticated and very sharp swords so who knows?

Here's a 9 minute video of the linothorax armor being field tested against arrows. You only need to watch the first 60 seconds to see the effectiveness of linothorax armor.
 

ISeenItFirst

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Armors and weapons. I'm going to try not to get into any of the chronology etc, because I think it's all bunk and it confuses me.

You can make a good knife out of jello, or paper fairly easily. See the Utoobs, lots of em. Point is that armor can take many many forms depending on what you are defending against. The same bullet that will punch through a mild steel plate may well get stopped by a phone book. Context is everything.

As for chain mail, that is WAY easier to make than described. You don't cast rings, that is silly. You draw a billet into a wire, then coil the wire around a rod, and cut the coil lengthwise and you have lots and lots of rings, no casting required.

Cloth "armor" was (supposedly) very common in hot environments and the heavier straight blades had a harder time dealing with it. This is way Arabian swords developed the shorter curved form, so as not to get tangled on the robes of enemies.

Just some random thoughts after reading.
 

whitewave

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As for chain mail, that is WAY easier to make than described. You don't cast rings, that is silly. You draw a billet into a wire, then coil the wire around a rod, and cut the coil lengthwise and you have lots and lots of rings, no casting required.
My husband makes chain mail for outfits to go to the medieval faires and that's how he makes his. He "cheats" and buys the wire, though, rather than drawing it into a billet of wire. Then he removes the wound wire from the rod and cuts it making little rings which he squeezes together. Some of the better chain mail is welded together or riveted. Dang heavy, though, and I usually wind up having to schlep it back to the car because it's too heavy for him and my son to walk around all day in chain mail; they get tired of wearing it. And it's hot. When you're in 100 degree F weather, you don't want to be wearing metal anything.
 
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fabiorem

fabiorem

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About the climate, the ottomans used mail armor, mixed with plate in some parts (kind of a disc for protection of the torax), and at the same time, it is said that even the greeks on the northern shore of the black sea (crimeans) were using linothorax by ancient times. Climate there is colder than in the middle east, so how can we explain the climate excuse for certain types of armor? Also the sassanid cataphracts used mail from head to toe, in the hot climate of the middle east. Maybe the so-called "mini-ice age" in the middle ages is being downplayed? Maybe it had a wider range than what is believed? The romans also started using pants after the third century AD.
 

ISeenItFirst

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About the climate, the ottomans used mail armor, mixed with plate in some parts (kind of a disc for protection of the torax), and at the same time, it is said that even the greeks on the northern shore of the black sea (crimeans) were using linothorax by ancient times. Climate there is colder than in the middle east, so how can we explain the climate excuse for certain types of armor? Also the sassanid cataphracts used mail from head to toe, in the hot climate of the middle east. Maybe the so-called "mini-ice age" in the middle ages is being downplayed? Maybe it had a wider range than what is believed? The romans also started using pants after the third century AD.
Exactly why I was trying to avoid the topic. If the climate is accurate, the armor may not be. Or if the dating is accurate the climate may not be. I don't take any of these things for granted anymore, but weapons and countermeasures are something I can wrap my head around.

Just put of curiosity, what did they use before pants? Ya know the Chinese had talking pants hundreds of not thousands or years prior. :eek:
 

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