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The evolution of shields in China (with references also to Korea and Japan) part III

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Shang Dynasty warriors with shields and bronze masks (reconstruction by the archaeologist A.I. Colovbeva)

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CONTINUED FROM PART II

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In this last part, I go on with modern reliable images of Chinese troops bearing shields from the Shang Dynasty Era up to the 19th century in order to demonstrate specifically the evolution of the Chinese shields. There are also a few examples of Korean and Japanese shields which are closely related to the Chinese ones, sometimes being almost identical with them.

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The evolution of shields in China (with references also to Korea and Japan) part II

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A clash between Tang Chinese (on the left) and Koreans (The Tang Army, Montvert publications). Note the shield of the Chinese infantryman on the left.

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CONTINUED FROM PART I

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I go on with modern reliable images of Chinese troops bearing shields from the Shang Dynasty Era up to the 19th century in order to demonstrate specifically the evolution of the Chinese shields. There are also a few examples of Korean and Japanese shields which are closely related to the Chinese ones, sometimes being almost identical with them.

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The evolution of shields in China (with references also to Korea and Japan) part I

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I chose to start with a Japanese example: Yayoi princess/queen Himiko with her guards, c.230 CE (Osprey publishing). Note the shield of the Yayoi warrior.

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            The question of the limited presence of shields or evidence of them in the archaeological finds of China, Korea and Japan, and in the artistic depictions of any kind of the respective cultures is well known to the researchers of ancient and pre-modern warfare of these nations [actually the European historical terms “ancient”, “medieval” etc cannot be applied adequately to the Chinese-Korean-Japanese History but the Western historians have to use them for convenience].

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THE HOPLITE SHIELDS

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vase painti
A  vase  painting  depicting  a  hoplite,  5th  century  BC.  He  is  armed  with  a  bronze  cuirass,  a  hoplite  sword  and  a  hoplite  shield  of  the  Argive  type.  In  the  interior  of  the  hoplite  shield, you  can  see  the  “antilave” («αντιλαβή»,  handle/handgrip),  the  “porpax” («πόρπαξ»,  fastener  for  the  elbow)  and  the  “telamons” («τελαμώνες»,  shoulder  belts)/ (Paris,  Louvre  Museum)

By  Periklis    Deligiannis

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The  Geometric  Period  (11th-8th  centuries  BC)  preceded  the  invention  of  the  hoplite  warfare  and  the  hoplite  phalanx (about  700  BC).  The  shields  of  the  Geometric  period  belonged  to  two  main  types:  the  “Dipylon” type  shield  and  the  “Herzsprung”  type.  The  Dipylon  shield  is  named  after  the  Athenian  Dipylon  gate,  where  a  number  of  pottery  with  depictions  of  that  type  of  shield,  was  discovered.  It  was  a  large  and  long  shield,  covering  the  warrior  from  chin  to  knees.  It  was  made  of  wicker  and  leather,  without  excluding  further  strengthening  of  wooden  parts.  Despite  its  size,  the  Dipylon  shield  was  light  due  to  its  materials.  It  had  a  curved  form  in  order  to  embrace  the  warrior’s  body.  In  the  middle  of  its  surface,  the  Dipylon  shield  had  two  semicircular  notches  for  the  easier  handling  of  the  offensive  weapons (spear  or  sword).  Notches  also  facilitated  the  hanging (suspension)  of  the  Dipylon  shield  on  the  warrior’s  back,  in  order  not  to  restrict  his  elbows  when  he  walked.  The  shield  had  at  least  one  central  handle  for  its  holding  by  the  warrior  in  battle,  and  one  or  more  shoulder  belts,  in  order  to  hang  it  on  his  back  when  not  used.  These  belts  were  called  “telamones” (τελαμώνες).  The  shape  of  the  Dipylon  shield  denotes  its  origins  from  the  famous  Minoan  and  Mycenaean  eight-shaped  shield.  During  the  Greek  Archaic  Era (7th cent – 479  BC),  the  Dipylon  shield  was  made  mostly  of  bronze  and  had  a  smaller  size:  that  is  the  “Boeotian”  type  of  shield,  named  after  Boeotia,  where  it  was  popular.

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Two significant representations of ancient Greek vase-paintings and frescoes on military topics

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The sea-battle scene from the Aristonothos Vase on the left (of the reader) and on the right the “Battle in the River” fresco, along with the modern representations by Angel G. Pinto (image credit: Angel G. Pinto)

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By Periklis Deligiannis

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In this article, I would like to note two significant representations of ancient Greek paintings by one of my favourite artists on military topics, namely Angel G. Pinto. The image of the two representations came from his website (angelgpinto.blogspot.gr).

I was interested (rather lured) in the ad hoc themes that he chose for these two artistic representations, that is to say the “Battle in the River” – a Mycenaean fresco of the 13th century BC from the palace of Pylos – and the sea-battle scene from the “Aristonothos vase” of the Archaic Era (about 700-650 BC).

I will start from the chronologically earlier fresco, the “Battle in the River”. This artwork was found in the palace of Pylos, the administrative center of a Mycenaean state in the south-west Peloponnesus. It was one of the most potent states of the Mycenaean ‘Commonwealth’ and probably the best organized. Pylos was a power counterbalance to the state of Mycenae, although it seems to have been usually its ally.

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The figure-of-eight shield and other shield types of the Bronze Age Aegean (part II)

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Reconstruction of the so-called “Shield frieze” fresco in the Old Palace at Tiryns with depicted figure-of-eight shields (photo credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art)
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I
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Most scholars believe that also the Dipylon shield of the Geometric period (10th-8th centuries BC) came from the evolution of the full-body figure-of-eight shield. The Dipylon shield, which was named after the Athenian Dipylon gate where the first pottery with images of the former, was discovered, had much in common with the figure-of-eight shield. It had a large size, covering the warrior from the chin to the knees. It was made of wicker branches and leather, without excluding its further enhancing with more wooden parts. It was curved to a degree that “encapsulated” the body of the warrior, like the figure-of-eight shield. In the middle of its surface, it had two semicircular notches which facilitated the handling of the spear and the sword. But many other scholars believe that the Dipylon and the Boeotian shield came from the main Hittite type of shield which had roughly the same shape.

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