Lorica Hamata vs Lorica Segmentata

Which type of armour do you think was the best?

  • Lorica Hamata

    Votes: 28 45.2%
  • Lorica Segmentata

    Votes: 34 54.8%

  • Total voters
    62

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
It takes a certain amount of energy to compromise armour. It takes considerably more to compromise armour AND incapacitate the wearer
As I said the lorica segmentata tested was about twice as thick as the real thing, yet it still nearly penetrated by 113 joules. If the armor had the same thickness as the real thing, then 113 joules is more than enough to not only penetrate the armor, but lodge the projectile deeply into the person wearing the armor. From the penetration tests done by Knight and the Blast Furnace, it also didn't seem like your second sentence is correct, unless if you definition of "considerable" is different from that of mine.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,966
MD, USA
113 joules isn't that high, can probably be reached by a javelin or a very strong bowman. Alan Wilkin's replica ballista was on the very small side and wasn't that powerful.

I made the statement because some said the segmentata was just as protective as the hamata, which I disagree with. Decent chainmail with under-padding probably could resist a 113 joule quarrel. If the segmentata had the optimal weight to protection ratio, then the hamata was seriously overweight. The Romans could have saved a lot of iron by making them lighter, if that was the case.
Well, all I can do is shrug and say, "It seems to have been good enough for the Romans!" Interestingly, the few Kalkriese-type segmentata plates that have been published all seem to be considerably thicker than the later Corbridge and Newstead types. It appears that the earliest form of segmentata was therefore thought to be too heavy, so they lightened it. Hard to believe that if it was too thin to stop a common weapon that they'd keep on using it for a couple more centuries.

Also, I've seen other tests of ballista bolts against segmentata plates that only caused dents. So which test is a better reflection of reality?

Mind you, I DO agree that mail is perfectly good and effective armor! The very fact that it is still in use today for some purposes is a true testament to its capabilities.

Matthew
 

HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
What other tests is it? Do you know the joules and thickness of the armor? Because if not, it's not very telling. What is the thickness of the Kalkriese-type segmentata plates?
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,966
MD, USA
What other tests is it? Do you know the joules and thickness of the armor? Because if not, it's not very telling.
Oh, gosh--I'm *remembering* an article either in Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies, or possibly in Mike Bishop's ARMA (Newsletter of the ROMEC), with photos of a segmentata dented by ballista bolts. Most other backyard tests are more likely to get done with pila, granted, but people who own catapults can't *help* shooting anything in sight, ha!

It's funny, I tend to be a little dismissive of detailed caluculations of joules and such, because to me it's ARMOR, and it wouldn't have been worn if those warriors and soldiers didn't think it was effective enough. I doubt any of them really thought it was going to stop every conceivable weapon or blow, but then no one getting into a modern automobile thinks they can hit a utility pole or another car without serious damage. So when some brilliant test concludes that such-and-such a weapon was 8.4 percent more likely to penetrate whatever armor, I just shrug and say, "Okay, so what?" The folks making and wearing and hitting it back then couldn't calculate joules.

THOUGH of course, as you say, if we're just testing modern weapons of unknown strength against modern armor reproductions, we're not necessarily going to get ancient results in any case!

What is the thickness of the Kalkriese-type segmentata plates?
The actual Kalkriese breastplate varies from 1 to 3mm, according to Mike Bishop in Vol. I of "Lorica Segmentata". Lorica Segmentata Volume I: A Handbook of Articulated Roman Plate Armour

I would have *sworn* that Vol. II by Mike Thomas showed a spread of surviving plates with their cross-sections, but it doesn't! Gah... Might have been in the Vindonissa catalog? Hmmm... In any case, it was mostly Corbridge pieces, with thin lines for cross-sections, and a couple Kalkriese plates identifiable by their rectangular hinges, all drawn much thicker.

Basically, I should emphasize that I am not trying to argue or disagree with you! It just needs to be pointed out that subtle differences in thickness or metallurgy can easily make one example of a certain type of armor better than an example of another type, without meaning that one type is always better than the other. It varied! And for the most part, it all worked well enough anyway.

Matthew
 
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HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
Oh, gosh--I'm *remembering* an article either in Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies, or possibly in Mike Bishop's ARMA (Newsletter of the ROMEC), with photos of a segmentata dented by ballista bolts. Most other backyard tests are more likely to get done with pila, granted, but people who own catapults can't *help* shooting anything in sight, ha!

It's funny, I tend to be a little dismissive of detailed caluculations of joules and such, because to me it's ARMOR, and it wouldn't have been worn if those warriors and soldiers didn't think it was effective enough. I doubt any of them really thought it was going to stop every conceivable weapon or blow, but then no one getting into a modern automobile thinks they can hit a utility pole or another car without serious damage. So when some brilliant test concludes that such-and-such a weapon was 8.4 percent more likely to penetrate whatever armor, I just shrug and say, "Okay, so what?" The folks making and wearing and hitting it back then couldn't calculate joules.

THOUGH of course, as you say, if we're just testing modern weapons of unknown strength against modern armor reproductions, we're not necessarily going to get ancient results in any case!


The actual Kalkriese breastplate varies from 1 to 3mm, according to Mike Bishop in Vol. I of "Lorica Segmentata". Lorica Segmentata Volume I: A Handbook of Articulated Roman Plate Armour

I would have *sworn* that Vol. II by Mike Thomas showed a spread of surviving plates with their cross-sections, but it doesn't! Gah... Might have been in the Vindonissa catalog? Hmmm... In any case, it was mostly Corbridge pieces, with thin lines for cross-sections, and a couple Kalkriese plates identifiable by their rectangular hinges, all drawn much thicker.

Basically, I should emphasize that I am not trying to argue or disagree with you! It just needs to be pointed out that subtle differences in thickness or metallurgy can easily make one example of a certain type of armor better than an example of another type, without meaning that one type is always better than the other. It varied! And for the most part, it all worked well enough anyway.

Matthew
The 1-3 mm thickness of the Kalkriese breastplate is a breastplate, and that's the thickest section of lorica segmentata, probably in no small part because a significant part of the breastplate don't overlap with other plates. The 1.25 mm thick plates I mentioned for Alan Wilkin's test is that of the girth hoops, not the breastplate. These plates tend to be less thick than the breastplate, but on the other hand they overlap, at least partially offsetting the weakness of thinner plates.

The 3 mm thick sections of the Kalkriese plate would have no problem resisting a 113 joule projectile, but the 1 mm part would not, considering how in Wilkin's test a 113 joule projectile managed to penetrate the 1.25mm thick outer plate, and severely dented the plate underneath. However, I assume that the parts of the Kalkriese breastplate which are 1 mm thick would be overlapped (just my educated guess), whereas the 3 mm part wouldn't have overlapping plates and that's why it's so thick.
Anywy, I entered this thread because I don't think it's fair to say that lorica segmentata is just as protective as mail but also lighter. It's lighter, but it's not more protective. The mail could resist harder hitting projectiles, and for the lorica segmentata to be able to resist harder hitting projectiles, then it needs to have thicker plates, resulting in a heavier armor. Whether those wearing lorica segmentata mostly encountered weapons that wouldn't penetrate it is really besides my point. The point is that lorica hamata (with underpadding) would probably resist a projectile hitting harder than 113 joules, whereas the typical lorica segmentata (1 mm breastplates, .7mm overlapping girth hoops, compared with the tested armor with 1.25 mm girth hoops) would not. Ergo saying that lorica segmentata is just as protective as mail while being lighter isn't very fair. Plus this is disregarding that the mail provides more coverage, which would increase its weight. If it provided only just as much coverage as segmentata, then its weight would decrease accordingly.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,756
Australia
If they needed the other plates to be thicker, they would have made them thicker. In fact, the opposite occurred. As Matt said, the earlier seg versions used thicker plates than later ones so they obviously saw no disadvantage in making them thinner. It actually takes more work to make those plates thinner and wastage was higher so cost was not the issue. I am biased towards mail and have been studying this subject for decades but there is no way I would claim that mail provided better weapon resistance than Roman segmented plate. It provided more COVERAGE, but not more resistance. The simple fact is that both types of armour worked or they would not have bothered with the burden and expense.
 
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HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
If they made lorica segmentata thicker, then it would have been heavier. Nobody said they couldn't make them thicker, but thicker plates reduces or negates its light weight advantage.

I just showed you a test in which a replica segmentata with girth hoops nearly twice as thick as authentic ones barely managed to resist a 113 joules projectile, ergo the usual 0.7mm girth hoops of lorica segmentata wouldn't have stood a chance. So if you are claiming that mail don't provide any more resistance protection, then you saying mail armor couldn't resist a 113 joules projectile either.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,756
Australia
The original thicker segmentatas still weighed less than mail so how was weight an issue?

We know for a fact that the armour was fit for purpose or they would not have used it for three centuries. If the test does not support this then the test is obviously flawed.
 
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HackneyedScribe

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
6,494
The test shows that authentic lorica segmentata can't resist projectiles of 113 joules <---- That contradicts the "fact that the armour was fit for a purpose", how? That contradicts that the armor was used "for three centuries", how? Did the Romans record that Lorica Segmentata was designed to resist projectiles of 113 joules?
And why the sudden dismissive attitude to field testing? You were demanding testing for Chinese crossbows replicas, yet they were built for a specific purpose too, and have been used for near 2000 years, which is way longer than 300 years.
 
Last edited:
Mar 2018
790
UK
We know for a fact that the armour was fit for purpose or they would not have used it for three centuries. If the test does not support this then the test is obviously flawed.
I agree with you in that general statement. Both would have been good, but the question is which was better? Personally I think there are too many variables in armor for one to be always better than another, so the better question is: at which things is one of the armour better than the other?

Sure, the Romans used the lorica segmentata for 300 years. That tells us that they thought it was good enough. We can't infer from this that it couldn't be improved in anyway, or that it was even a local maxima in the trade off between coverage, strength, weight, flexibility, cost, and the other aspects of armor. Just because they did it for 300 years doesn't mean that there is no room for improvement otherwise. For all we know, the switch from hamata to segmentata happened because someone's friend ran a factory that made it, and got one of the military contracts for it that way.
 
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