Armor and Weapon Comparison: Europe, Asia and others

Jan 2019
89
Southeast Asia
#1
I hope this thread could be a reference source for comparison of armor and weapons, probably for Vs thread and so on.
I am planning to make Youtube channel about this.

There is this assumption that European armor is always better than Asian one, regardless of period. I know this is probably a reaction to the katana hype.

In my opinion, it is more of a back and forth and even during the age of plate armor, we could still find example of Asian armor that should have been adopted for plate armor to make it even better.

This comparison is just not about Asia though, I will also show my finding on European armor. It is also not my intention to belittle or insult anyone's history.

To prevent bias from my opinion, I really need your opinions on my conclusion.

There are several things I found that I suppose are quite interesting:

1. It is possible to make full body armor that cover the armpit and other joints without using mail, some even seems to be mass produced.

2. Manica is widely known and worn in Asia, China, Korea, Mongol and Indian use it too, not just the Greco-Roman and Persian.


Although I would focus more on Asia and Europe, I could also post African or Native American armor too.

Below is my listing of groups of non-Medieval European full body armor I found interesting:

Originally I want to rank them based on their design and coverage, but now I found it hard, as all of them will have advantages and disadvantages.

1. Mongol/Mughal

2. China/Central Asia

3. Japan/Three Kingdom Korea/Kofun Japan

4. Greco-Roman/Parthian/Sassanid

5. Indo-Persian/Ottoman/Russia

6. Byzantine/Georgia and Armenia/Ruthenia

I know that classifying widely different time period and places is just generalizing, but I hope I could explain it during the comparison.

Of course I would also put their weapons on the comparison.

Alright, I hope you guys enjoy the thread.

For the opening, here is 2 picture, the first is what the first full plate armor look like in the beginning of 15th century, the second is European painting of Koxinga's Tie Ren in 17th century.

Armor Europe 15th century 1401 England Sir Thomas Braunstone.jpg

Armor China Ming Dynasty 17th century 1669-1682 Reise nach Batavia by Georg Franz Muller Tie R...jpg
 
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Sep 2017
635
United States
#2
It's quite a big topic to discuss, since the range and diversity within each sphere is so great.

It's also hard to determine sometimes which is better. I'm sure a stab to the chest would be easily repelled by a legionary's armor, but there are accounts of legionaries not wearing metal to have a speed and maneuverability advantage and instead just opting for their padded undershirt. You can't say the padded undershirt (subermalis?) was more effective than Roman hamata/segmentata/squamata at stopping attacks, but you could say it allowed for faster movement, was cooler (in a temperature sense), and fatigued the wearer less.

To continue off of that, different ways of warfare and weapons lead to different armor developments. Mongol armor had to be strong enough to provide good protection, but light enough to be maneuverable and light so the horse could move fast; after all, their (early at least) armies relied on the horse archers to be able to effectively disengage and kite enemy forces. On the other side, European knights got right into the thick of things, having to deal with crossbows, lances, and so on as they engaged in melee. Thus, not only them, but their horses needed heavy protection too.
 
Oct 2013
6,078
Planet Nine, Oregon
#3
Plate armour is not new; from the Dendra armour forward there was plate armour, used right alongside scale armour. Some of the earliest armour appears to be lamellar armour of bone and also probably of wood; the technology to beat out large plates of bronze took a while to appear. Scale armour arose in in the middle east among the Hurrians perhaps in the 17th century BC., though it possibly arose independently in other places. The seams and joins of any armour where it requires articulation are weak points; even in Egypt the weak points of scale corselets were the armpits and neck, where you can see arrows entering in depictions. The horses were armoured at an early period, e.g. Egypt, where they needed to be protected from the powerful bows as they pulled chariots. Scale armour is heavy, as is textile armour; much heavier than medieval steel plate armours, unless it is made from hide or leather --it is then quite light, but not as protective as metal armour.
 
Jan 2015
2,843
MD, USA
#4
It's quite a big topic to discuss, since the range and diversity within each sphere is so great.
A massive understatement!

...but there are accounts of legionaries not wearing metal to have a speed and maneuverability advantage and instead just opting for their padded undershirt. You can't say the padded undershirt (subermalis?) was more effective than Roman hamata/segmentata/squamata at stopping attacks, but you could say it allowed for faster movement, was cooler (in a temperature sense), and fatigued the wearer less.
Just as a minor quibble, *are* there accounts of anything like this? The discussions over the very existence of padding under armor have been going on for decades, and such accounts have never been mentioned, that I know of. I do seem to recall mentions of soldiers not wearing their armor, but any details beyond that are very much supposition. The only description of padding worn under Roman armor does not describe anything remotely meant to stop weapons, but only to keep the metal from chafing and dirtying the clothing.

Minor point, like I said! Otherwise, the OP's proposal is just too huge and debatable, I'd say.

Matthew
 
Jan 2016
1,065
Victoria, Canada
#5
It's quite a big topic to discuss, since the range and diversity within each sphere is so great.

It's also hard to determine sometimes which is better. I'm sure a stab to the chest would be easily repelled by a legionary's armor, but there are accounts of legionaries not wearing metal to have a speed and maneuverability advantage and instead just opting for their padded undershirt. You can't say the padded undershirt (subermalis?) was more effective than Roman hamata/segmentata/squamata at stopping attacks, but you could say it allowed for faster movement, was cooler (in a temperature sense), and fatigued the wearer less.

To continue off of that, different ways of warfare and weapons lead to different armor developments. Mongol armor had to be strong enough to provide good protection, but light enough to be maneuverable and light so the horse could move fast; after all, their (early at least) armies relied on the horse archers to be able to effectively disengage and kite enemy forces. On the other side, European knights got right into the thick of things, having to deal with crossbows, lances, and so on as they engaged in melee. Thus, not only them, but their horses needed heavy protection too.
To add on to this, armour (and military kit in general) really should be analyzed in its full context, in terms of tactics and strategy but also military, administrative, and even broader societal structures and trends. In practice, it didn't tend to matter if your soldiers had higher quality kit if the enemy spent the same amount of resources equipping 5 times as many men with slightly lower quality equipment, especially if there's little difference in training. Now I think you can call certain armours better or worse than others -- I'd call lamellar a direct improvement over scale, for example, and late medieval munitions armour a direct improvement over lamellar -- but you have to give ease and cost of manufacture, ease of customization, ease of repair, etc. their due weight, which very often isn't done. You can't just directly compare a high medieval French knight to a professional Chinese heavy cavalryman, for example; the armour of one might be more protective than the other, but the resources available to each are drastically different, as are the priorities of the military structures they exist within.
 
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Oct 2013
6,078
Planet Nine, Oregon
#6
Scale is more flexible than lamellar; you can sometimes see both being used in the same armour; e.g. Chinese armour. Scale was used for the flexible portions of some spolioi, too. for chariot archers or horse archers, it provided good flexible protection, presenting two or three layers of metal or hide to arrows, javelins and sling shot.
 
Sep 2017
635
United States
#7
A massive understatement!



Just as a minor quibble, *are* there accounts of anything like this? The discussions over the very existence of padding under armor have been going on for decades, and such accounts have never been mentioned, that I know of. I do seem to recall mentions of soldiers not wearing their armor, but any details beyond that are very much supposition. The only description of padding worn under Roman armor does not describe anything remotely meant to stop weapons, but only to keep the metal from chafing and dirtying the clothing.

Minor point, like I said! Otherwise, the OP's proposal is just too huge and debatable, I'd say.

Matthew
I may be getting in confused with just linen, but there were multiple mentions in a book on the evolution of the Roman army from 700 B.C.-500 A.D. that I've been reading recently of legionaries not wearing armor purposefully. When I get home I'll try to find the passages, though I think it's likely that I got the subermalis detailed mixed in somehow.
 
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Jan 2016
1,065
Victoria, Canada
#8
Scale is more flexible than lamellar; you can sometimes see both being used in the same armour; e.g. Chinese armour. Scale was used for the flexible portions of some spolioi, too. for chariot archers or horse archers, it provided good flexible protection, presenting two or three layers of metal or hide to arrows, javelins and sling shot.
Well I'll concede to the armour experts there, but for something like torso armour especially (the most common and important kind), traditional scale would be inferior to lamellar in almost every way, no? It would be heavier, harder to maintain, harder to customize and repair, and generally not quite as protective for it. I know that scale completely disappears from the Byzantine military manuals and accounting lists from at least the 7th century on (even if it maintains something of an anachronistic place in Byzantine art, like muscle armour), so they must not have found it particularly relevant in a lamellar-dominated context (although in their case maille and/or quilted/silk armour could always fill in the gaps or reinforce vulnerable areas if the budget was high enough), and I haven't been able to find any clear depictions of at least medieval Chinese scale armour. I am mostly talking about iron lamellar in a medieval context though, since that's what I'm familiar with, so the benefits and drawbacks of scale and lamellar (especially of bronze/leather) in the context of classical and bronze-age antiquity might be very different.
 
Oct 2013
6,078
Planet Nine, Oregon
#9
I myself am not an armour expert, just an enthusiast! Some varieties of scale armour don't even need a backing and the scales can be linked to each other with metal links or lacing; there are Scythian examples and Roman examples of "locking scale" etc. that are very much like lamellar, so there is a wide variety of armour under the "scale" umbrella. Some of the depictions of "Mountain Pattern" armour show the individuals also wearing regular scale armour, the "Mountain Pattern" being used for pauldrons and thigh protection.
 
Jan 2016
1,065
Victoria, Canada
#10
Some varieties of scale armour don't even need a backing and the scales can be linked to each other with metal links or lacing; there are Scythian examples and Roman examples of "locking scale" etc. that are very much like lamellar, so there is a wide variety of armour under the "scale" umbrella.
This is true, but it kind of proves my point. If you look at the timeline of Roman armour, you start off with traditional scale armour, with plates attached to a backing on the top, start linking those plates together and spacing them further, creating a lighter and more protective armour, and ultimately end up with plates woven together on all sides without a backing, creating lamellar. Essentially, lamellar is the ultimate evolution of scale, almost entirely superseding it in weight, effectiveness, ease of manufacture, ease of repair, and ease of alteration, hence the linear and total transition from one to the other in the Roman military. It wasn't that much of a leap from this:



To this:



To this:







But once they made it the Romans never went back.

Some of the depictions of "Mountain Pattern" armour show the individuals also wearing regular scale armour, the "Mountain Pattern" being used for pauldrons and thigh protection.
I wouldn't doubt it, but I haven't been able to find many examples of this. The only one I've come across so far is this statue, from the Ming period:



And it only has scale in that middle hanging bit, and on the very edges of the thigh guards, so not really as a key component. I can understand how it might make sense for scale to continue being used in medieval China though, since, as I understand it, other more flexible armours, such as cloth and maille, weren't common there (this statue being one of the notable exceptions).
 
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