Byzantine lamellar

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In the Roman East’s tenth-century economic revival two earlier, more sophisticated, forms of armour came back into fashion as the empire could again afford the specialised craftsmen to make them. Lamellar and scale armour offered better protection than maille, but required greater production infrastructure.

Armour made up of leather, horn or metal segments forming a protective layer was relatively common in the East, especially among the tribes of the steppe. Metal lames were frequently used in the Roman East as they offered the best quality protection, although leather could be hardened by boiling or waxing to provide considerable protection without adding much weight.

Lamellar armour (klivanion) consists of a large number of leather, horn or metal plates (‘lames’), typically rectangular or with slightly rounded corners, frequently around 1½” x 3½” (though different sized lames could be used in different parts of the same armour), laced together with leather thonging. Lames should be laced together first as rows, overlapping horizontally in both directions from the centre of the chest to the middle of the spine. The rows should then be assembled so that they overlap upwards (i.e. start from the top, with the second row on top of the one above it) and should be continuous (i.e. no distinction between body, skirt and sleeves). A distinctive feature of Roman lamellar in the eleventh and twelfth centuries was that the vertical fastening used a single rivet.

As with maille hauberks, the length of lamellar armour varied. Cavalry typically used a straightforward ‘cuirass’ covering the torso, leaving the arms uncovered, and generally not extending below the belt. By the twelfth century, infantry lamellar often included a ‘skirt’ of inverted lames covering the groin and extending to mid-thigh or knee-length. Similarly inverted lamellar sections often provided elbow-length sleeves.

Lamellar armour may be as a single cuirass, held together by lamellar sections over the shoulders, which may extend to cover the upper arms.

Note that the riveted lamellar used by Byzantine regulars was a distinctive form. The lamellar popular among steppe tribes and the Turkish military elites of the Islamic world was generally wholly laced together.

Byzantine vambraces in the Vikings Society

Logo.gif Use of Byzantine lamellar in the Vikings Society

  • Please note that Byzantine lamellar may only be used as part of a full Byzantine kit, ie at an event where the Society is portraying Byzantine regulars. Byzantine lamellar may not otherwise be used.