Saturday, November 21, 2020

Roman cavalry masks

 According to Arrian of Nicomedia, a Roman provincial governor and a close friend of Hadrian, face mask helmets were used in cavalry parades and sporting mock battles called “hippika gymnasia“.  Both men and horses wore elaborate suites of equipment on these occasions, often in the guise of Greeks and Amazons. Parades or tournaments played an important part in maintaining unit morale and fighting effectiveness. They took place on a parade ground situated outside a fort and involved the cavalry practising manoeuvring and the handling of weapons such as javelins and spears (Fields, Nic; Hook, Adam. Roman auxiliary cavalryman: AD 14-193).

Calvary helmets were made from a variety of metals and alloys, often from gold-coloured alloys or iron covered with tin. They were decorated with embossed reliefs and engravings depicting the war god Mars and other divine and semi-divine figures associated with the military.

To see a fascinating selection of these masks and read more about them check out:

Image: Face mask of a cavalry helmet, second century, from Durnomagus (Dormagen), Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn (Germany) courtesy of Carole Raddato.

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