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Scutum -- Shield

Last Updated: 10-03-13

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Their are two different types of shield available for use during the time period we recreate.  The first is what modern historians call the Augustan shield.  The Augustan is a large, curved, rectangle but with curved sides.  The other type is a large, curved, rectangle.  We know that both types of shields were in use for long periods.  The curved rectangular shield is on reliefs from the mausoleum of Munatius Plancus at Gaeta built in 10 BC, and both types can be seen on Trajan's Column in Rome.

Using the shields found at Qasr al-Harit in Egypt, Doncaster in England, and Dura Europos in Syria the height ranges from 37" to 42", about from the shoulders to the top of the knee, and the width is 24" to 33".  They are made by gluing three strips of wood (such as birch or oak) together at right angles.  After all the strips were put together the thickness of the wood is 1/4" to 3/8" thick.  The corner of the shield are not rounded off, but were at right angles. The shield was carried by a single horizontial grip in the center. 

The shield was covered by either linen on both front and back of the shield or by leather on the front and linen on the back.  The rim of the shield was protected by either a leather edgeing or brass, brass being more common.  The center hand grip was protected by an iron boss called an umbo.  This umbo took the shape of the shield itself and was attached to the shield by as little as four nails and up to eight nails.

Now, the best off the shelf shield is the one made by Deepeeka.  However, the Imperial Legionary shield carried by Deepeeka is not accurate.  The corners are rounded off and not squared off and the back bracing is purely ornamental and not functional.  Now, with that said this shield is acceptable to be carried by our recruits. 
 
The design that we have chosen to cover our shield with is not the one used by Legio VI F during the 1st century AD.  To be honest we don't rightly know what design they used, as this design was used during the 1st century AD but was used by Legio XIV Gemina, as shown on Trajan's Column. Shield designs varied from place to place, and although some Legion's shield designs are distinguishable, others' aren't.


 

Here is what “Roman Military Equipment: From the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome” by M.C. Bishop & J.C.N. Coulston has to say about the scutum.
 
A relief on the mausoleum of Munatius Plancus at Gaeta shows that the curved rectangular shield was already in use by 10 BC.  An adlocutio coin of the emperor Gaius shows solodiers of the Praetorian Guard equipped with it (fig. 91), so it was obviously widespread well before the invasion of Britian in AD 43.  However, thei form, so familiar from Trajan's Column, was by no means the only type of legionary shield.  Oval shields are shown on the tombstones of Flavoleius Cordus of legio XIIII Gemina (fig. 150a) from Mainz (probably before AD 43) and C. Castricius Victor of legio II Adiutrix (fig. 3b).  There are problems in identifying intermediate shapes due to the ROmans' difficulty in portraying perspective, but a Praetorian carrying a shield with curved rectangular shield seems to have been exclusive to Praetorians and legionaries; no representation accompanied by a diagnostic inscription shows an auxiliary equipped with one.
    Auxiliaries, both foot and mounted, used flat shields that might be rectangular, oval, or hexagonal.  The relief of Annaius Daverzus from Bingen (Fig. 150d) has a large, flat, rectangular shield sculpted in low relief, as does Licaius at Wiesbaden.  Such a flat shield board was found at Doncaster.  Oval shields are often associated with auxiliaries (as at Adamclisi, or on the Mainz column base) and leather covers of this shape have been found.  The cavalryman Vonatorix from Bonn has a hexagonal shield, as do several other riders.
    bosses for the legionary shield frequently reflected its shape, being rectangular and curved around the central hemispherical boss, although theyare comparatively rare as archaeological finds (the two well-known copper-alloy pieces of legio VIII Augusta being 2nd-century (Fig. 49) and the three iron examples from the weapons storeat Carnuntum of uncertain date).  A curved circular boss was found in a grave at Nijmegen, along with a Roman helmet.  Circuloar bosses from flat auxiliary shields are more common, a particulary fine piece with a punched  ownership inscription coming from Zwammerdam, closely comparable with the example depicted on a Mainz column base.  Bosses could be of iron or copper alloy, the advantage of the latter being that they could be spun.
 


 

Recommended Suppliers:
 
Soul of the Warrior: Carries Deepeeka's linen and leather covered shield as well as their Republican shield.  Also, a very nice parma that can be completely customized.
 
Manning Imperial: Has an Imperial shield that is covered in leather and brass rimmed lined.  You only have to paint it.  **Overseas Company**
 
Armamentaria: Has shields from Republican to Auxilary.  Some are Deepeeka, Danyial Steel Craft, and of his own design.  **Overseas Company**
 
Old Fashioned Milk Paint: Is the place to go to get authentic paint.
 
Marrow's Blade and Blacksmith: Can make shield bosses of any shape, size, and metal.

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