Further Development of Roman Helmets
I got some more helmets for you, but since the first post about Roman helmets was going to become pretty long already, I saved them for another one. So here we go.
One feature of Imperial Gallic helmets I didn't mention before is the 'eyebrow' decoration above the brow reinforce ridge. Since I mostly photographed the Weisenau helmets from the side because you can better see the neckguard and cheek pieces, the front decoration remained invisible. But here's a front shot that shows this particular fashion of Roman helmet design. Those eyebrows could flare out to the sides of the skull (see the second helmet, the Weisenau from Haltern, in the first post where they almost meet in the back - must have been the Lagerfeld version).
Imperial Gallic helmet with 'eyebrow' decoration; Xanten
The next helm type that became popular and replaced - at least partly - the Imperial Gallic models - was the intercisca
or ridge helmet (Bügelhelm
in German). The intercisca is made of two separate pieces that are held together by a riveted ridge along the skull; that ridge can end in a noseguard. The bowl shaped helmet usually has cheek pieces and a neck protection as well, though the neckguard is much smaller than on the Weisenau types and the additional pieces are always connected by leather thongs, no longer by hinges.
Ridge helmets were usually made of iron and often decorated with silver or gilt sheathing. The first depiction of an intercisca appears on coins issued by Constantine the Great (AD 272 - 337) and became increasingly popular during the 4th century with a number of finds spread all over the empire, until they were replaced by the Spangenhelm
, a model that would last into the early Middle Ages. Late Roman ridge helmet, originally silvered; Worms
(yes, another word the English language met and liked) further developed the technique of riveting several pieces together. A spangenhelm consists of a metal headband and 4 -6 metal strips (Spangen
) that curve up into a conical shape and end in a point. The segments betweeen those strips are filled by bronze or steel plates. Those helmets could be gilded or otherwise decorated.
The front part of the headband often included a nasal and brow protection ridges. Cheek pieces made of leather or metal were added as well as a mail neckguard which was more flexible than the older plate ones. Some spangenhelms included a face mask - the famous helmet of Sutton Hoo is a fine example of an intricately decorated spangenhelm with eyebrow ridges and face mask. We're almost back to the 1st century AD Roman cavalry helmets. 6th century Spangenhelm; Landesmuseum Mainz
The spangenhelm was the most common helmet in Europe from Late Antiquity to the early Middle Ages. The example I got for you is from an early 6th century Merovingian grave - the Fürstengrab
of Planig. The burial included a number of precious items, among them the gilded spangenhelm, a jewel incrusted sword, and other weapons and shiny things; surely the grave of a nobleman or prince. A reconstruction shows the helmet with a horsetail crest but I'm not sure how accurate that is.
There are some depictions of what looks like spangenhelmets worn by the Sarmathian cataphracti
, the heavy armoured cavalry, on the Traian Column. Thus that sort of helmet seems to have been known already in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD though no finds from that earlier time have yet come to light.