Q&A: Cuirasses

So my characters wear armor like gladiators and Amazon warriors and I have no idea how to describe the things that they wear. All I can think of is “Chest plate” Please help me.

I think we’ve talked about Roman gladiators before. The short version is that most gladiators didn’t actually wear chest armor.

There was one exception, the Provocator wore a cardiophylax. The cardiophylax is a simple metal plate held in place with leather straps, and worn over the heart. Often they’re paired with a second plate that is worn over the back. This was the case with the Provocator, but it wasn’t universal for this style of armor.

The Provocator gladiator was specifically modeled on late republic military units. They would only be matched against each other. (There was an overt theme in the Roman arena where gladiators were designed to represent various defeated enemies of the state. Apparently, pairing someone designed to be a character of the standing Roman military against a defeated foe and losing would have been “off-message.”) Over time the designs apparently changed to reflect arena spectacle more than their original militaristic theme.

The formal name (or at least one of the formal names) for a full breastplate is the cuirass, (from the Latin: coriaceus). though there are other names. A cuirass is two seperate metal plates (usually Iron or Steel), designed to protect the torso, fastened to one another.

Worth noting that depending on the era, Roman Legionaries wore cardiophylaxes or coriaceus.

Moving over to the Amazons, we’re probably, effectively talking about Hellenistic civilization, here.

The Hellenic Greeks often used a bronze breastplate called a linothorax. Because they lacked standing professional militaries (with a notable exception in Sparta), instead favoring a volunteer system. Individuals were responsible for purchasing and maintaining their arms and armor. As a result, there was no uniform equipment for Greek soldiers, though the linothorax was apparently widely used, to the point that it’s discussed in passing by several writers without going into much detail.

You’ll sometimes see these presented as a metal breastplate with contoured abs molded in. This probably didn’t exist, or at least didn’t see battlefield use if it did. Primarily because you never want armor with a molded intent in the surface. That will lead strikes into the body, rather than deflecting them away. This is the primary problem with boob plate, incidentally. Actual Linothoraxes were bulky, with layers of cloth, leather, and other materials built up over the bronze.

That should be enough to get you started, also there’s a lot more information on Hellenistic era armor, and of course gladiators, if you want to do some digging online.

-Starke

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