SANNITI

SAMNITES METALWORK
BRONZE TRIPLE DISC BREASTPLATE
Stanley Castlehow

 

Samnite cuirass

Samnite bronze triple disc breastplate.
 
This breastplate (Connolly Type 1) is composed of three bronze discs set in a smooth bronze sheet forming a roughly triangular shape overall. This is curved slightly to fit over a body. Two of the slightly convex discs are on the top and the third is placed below and between them. The top two are about 111 mm in diameter while the lower one is slightly larger, about 117 mm. Each is enclosed within a raised ridge. The top of the breastplate has been turned over, producing a reinforced border at the front of the top edge that is about 9 mm in width. It is also patterned, with the edge cut in a scallop pattern that is repeated in an incised line that runs along it. The reverse surface of each disc is slightly concave and grooves run around their circumference. When complete, this breast plate would have formed one side of the complete piece of armour with the other side being similar in shape and size. There are four loops riveted to the top edge of this piece, two on each side, for the attachment of bronze hinged shoulder straps.
Also, on each side between upper and lower disc, there is an attachment point for chains that would have joined onto a side plate that connected front and back. Each consists of two attachment plates, one on the front and another on the back, that are rectangular in shape, riveted to the breastplate with two rivets and connected by a loop through which the chain passes. On the front, the inner edge of each attachment plate is scalloped and has an incised scalloped pattern. Three chain links made from thick bronze wire, round in cross section, are still attached to each side of the breastplate. The piece is in very good condition, dark bronze in colour with some mottled green patina and a slightly rough surface that has been coated with lacquer.



Function:

Part of the panoply of a warrior, providing protection for the chest area.

Manufacture:

Made by cutting the basic shape from a sheet of bronze and then working it with the relief achieved by hammering (probably using a matrix) while incision was used for the decorative scalloping.

Bibliography:

Connolly, P., Greece and Rome at War, London, Macdonald, 1981, 105-112.

Connolly, P., "Notes on the development of breastplates in Southern Italy", Italian Iron Age Artefacts in the British Museum: Papers of the Sixth British Museum Classical Colloquium, ed. J. Swaddling, London, British Museum, 1986, 117-118 (typology); see also 117-125.

Kanowski, M. G., The Antiquities Collection, catalogue, Department of Classics and Ancient History, The University of Queensland, St. Lucia, 1978, 61.

Hill, D. K., "Bronze Working: Sculpture and Other Objects", The Muses at Work: Arts, Crafts, and Professions in Ancient Greece and Rome, ed. C. Roebuck, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, The MIT Press, 1969, 60-95, especially 81-82.

Reich, J., Italy Before Rome, Oxford, Elsevier-Phaidon, 1979, 101-109 ("The Samnites").

Warry, J., Warfare in the Classical World, New York, St. Martin Press, 1980, 102-103.

Comparanda:

Connolly, P., "Notes on the development of breastplates in Southern Italy", Italian Iron Age Artefacts in the British Museum: Papers of the Sixth British Museum Classical Colloquium, ed. J. Swaddling, London, British Museum, 1986, Figs. 5 and 6b.

Comstock, M. and C. Vermeule, Greek, Etruscan & Roman Bronzes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Greenwich, Connecticut, New York Graphic Society, 1971, No. 585 (more ornate piece, with relief faces decorating the discs).

Connolly, P., Greece and Rome at War, London, Macdonald, 1981, Illustration 1, p. 108, Illustration 1, p. 110.

Warry, J., Warfare in the Classical World, New York, St. Martin Press, 1980, illustration p. 102.


 

Taken from the website of The University of Queensland - Australia.


 

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