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Open Book Roman Plate Armour

Discussion in 'Reviews , Video Reviews and Open Book' started by Helm, Nov 20, 2022.

  1. Helm A Fixture

    Country:
    England
    Written by M.C. Bishop and illustrated by Giuseppe Rava.

    This is the usual Osprey product, the only difference is the larger colour illustrations are no longer grouped in the centre but scattered through the text., with accompanying text next to them as opposed to at the back. Personally, I think this is a better way of doing it.

    The book cover the main period of Rome at its height of power. While mainly concentrating on the Army, there is also a section on Gladiatorial armour as well. As is usual with Osprey there is a decent amount of text coupled with a lot of good illustrations both photographic and b/w and colour drawings.

    Overall, it's an excellent reference book for modellers and anybody with an interest in the subject. As usual, it's a short book, but if you know Osprey you'll be familar with the style. I would give it 5 stars for what it brings to the subject.

    IMG_5846.JPG
    Redcap, 1969, Trep and 3 others like this.
  2. Nap A Fixture

    Country:
    England
    Hi Steve

    I got my copy on Friday , interesting read and really good illustrations as well

    A good addition to the library

    This is on the list for publication from Osprey as well

    IMG_5847.JPG

    Nap
    Oda likes this.
  3. Bundook Active Member

    Country:
    Scotland
    You can't get a better authority than Mike Bishop. He works professionally in the field and doesn't propagate hearsay and re-enactorisms like amateur experts tend to. His books are some of Osprey's better offerings.

    Hey! How do you guys have copies already? It's still on pre-order on ospreypublishing.com
    Oda and Nap like this.
  4. Oda A Fixture

    Agree on all accounts but the last.It's definitely on the shelves here in Greece too.

    Oda.
    Nap likes this.
  5. Bundook Active Member

    Country:
    Scotland
    Ok, so I finally got my grubby hands on this. [if it's not the done thing here to add to a review thread like this, somebody please let me know and I'll delete this, or maybe a mod could do so].

    Bishop, M.C. and Rava, G. (2022) Roman Plate Armour. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. Order direct from the publisher here.

    This volume is very much to the high standard one has come to expect from Mike Bishop and follows on from his earlier works (from the same publisher) presenting Roman swords, shields and armour-piercing javelins. Much of this new book on plate armour is an abridgement of the author's earlier monograph [Bishop, 2002] except that this new Osprey book is better illustrated and has coverage brought bang up to date by mentioning, and providing colour photos of, the 2018 finds from Kalkriese.

    The book devotes most space to tracing the supposed origins, the development and the technical details of the articulated plate cuirasses (the types collectively given the modern appellation lorica segmentata), but other Roman plate armours are not neglected. We also get sections on 3rd century BC metal chest protectors, muscled cuirasses, armguards, greaves, horse armour and gladiatorial armour.

    There is a discussion of metallurgy indicating the sophisticated way the articulated plate cuirasses appear to have been designed to deflect and resist impacts. The padding undoubtedly worn underneath is also mentioned, illustrating the effect on the appearance of the cuirass when worn and how this resolves long standing puzzles over apparently poor design choices by the Roman inventors.

    There is much interesting discussion and illustration that emphasizes that cuirasses might well have been asymmetrically assembled, with mismatched parts, pieces cannibalized from condemned sets, and repairs executed with startlingly varying degrees of skill. It has long been acknowledged that the notion of uniformity in the modern sense did not exist in ancient times and the evidence presented by these cuirasses reinforces the conclusion that Roman troops cared little for sophistication in the appearance of functional pieces of their equipment. Troops equipped with this armour could well have presented an exceedingly varied and irregular aspect even when (notionally) wearing the same type of cuirass.

    The in-text illustrations are all clear and directly relevant (something which cannot always be said for Osprey books). Some are even the author's own forensically detailed archaeological drawings.

    Osprey books have always been appreciated for their specially commissioned colour artwork. Some of the painted reconstructions in this volume are particularly satisfying for anyone who has studied Roman military equipment. They include a scene of kit being dumped down the well in the HQ building of the fort at Newstead [the find site of the type specimen of the so-called Newstead type], a scene portraying the armaments workshop in the fort at León [the find site of some of the latest attested pieces] and a third scene showing the interior of the well-stocked armoury of the fort at Carnuntum [the find site of the pieces that enabled the 19th century archaeologist Max von Groller to attempt the first reconstructions].

    Another painting shows the three principal known types of the cuirass [Kalkriese, Corbridge and Newstead] (plus one very speculative type that has scale shoulder guards [the Alba-Iulia type]). These would undoubtedly have been better presented as detailed line drawings (in the manner of Peter Connolly's in [Bishop. 2002] which are a model of clarity), but the painting still shows the details acceptably enough. In particular, the Corbridge variants are shown with the upper shoulder guards authentically fitted as found in situ. This is not a feature of the "off the shelf" Indian-made reproductions worn by many re-enactors (and, as a direct result, many model figures of Roman soldiers feature shoulder guards that are assembled differently from the originals too). Since only one unequivocal instance has survived, though, insufficient evidence exists to indicate whether or not this might have varied in reality. The cuirasses in the painting are all shown completely unfastened at the front to reveal some of the internal construction, but at the same time implying that they are to be donned like a modern jacket. An alternative interpretation suggests that these could have been donned by entering from below in the same manner as a mail shirt.

    Another painting is a somewhat unremarkable scene of men rubbing their armour with rags. Apart from the caption's mention of the prevention of galvanic corrosion and the removal of its effects (although no suggestion is made of the materials or substances that might actually have been used to remove the said corrosion), this scene really tells us little other than that it could be stripped down into four parts. Quite what the figure on the left of the scene is doing down on all fours is not clear. If he's meant to be kneeling on the unit's tent inspecting the panels, then the representation is not at all convincing.

    The other three paintings are the seemingly obligatory "battle scenes", which representations are rarely especially convincing. Perhaps the one showing action in Trajan's Dacian war is not quite as imaginary as the others, based, as it is, on the reliefs from the Roman war memorial at Adamclisi in Romania. This one, unfortunately, includes an instance of the "re-enactor's favourite" shoulder-high en garde pose. The art style of the paintings is not "photo realistic" and some included details could certainly be contested, but they could still certainly offer inspiration for figure modellers.

    This is a carefully constructed and concise account, well-illustrated and with an impeccably authoritative text. Highly recommended to those interested in the topic.

    Bishop, M.C. (2002) A handbook of articulated Roman Plate Armour. Duns, Berwickshire: Armatura Press. (Available free from Mike's own website https://lorseg.mcbishop.co.uk/)
    Redcap and Tecumsea like this.

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