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(Version with shoulder doubling in use ca. 225 BC-AD 130)
The Celts pioneered the usage of linked wire rings to form a flexible form of armor since approximately the middle of the 1st millennium BC. After some attested usage by Greek armies during the Hellenistic period, the Romans adopted chain mail as their optimal form of infantry armor shortly before the Second Punic War (218-202 BC). The evidence for its use is both artistic, such as the so-called Altar of Domitius Ahenobarbus, which shows mail-clad legionaries ca. 100 BC, and also literary. The historian Polybius, in his discussions of the Roman legions during the 2nd century BC, states that the wealthier legionaries were able to afford chain mail armor to complete their panoplies (Histories VI, 23). According to the artistic evidence, the lorica hamata of that time was cut very much like the Greek linothorax, with sleeveless torso, ending mid-thigh, and having a shoulder doubling that added protection to the torso against overhead blows. In the early Imperial period, the artwork attests to the addition of short sleeves to the armor, protecting the deltoid and upper arm of the wearer. In the second century, the shoulder doubling appears to have disappeared, as seen in the artwork, and the sleeves grew in length. While the use of segmental plate armor was quite widespread, chainmail never disappeared, due to its versatility and overall protection. Even against the dreaded war scythe, the Dacian falx, many of Emperor Trajan’s soldiers appear to have been equipped with chainmail, as seen on the Adamklissi monument. Roman non-citizen soldiers, or auxiliaries, appear to have worn chainmail almost exclusively, although their mail shirts are usually shown as lacking shoulder doubling and as sometimes having a dagged (or zig-zag) hem, as seen at right.
Some Celtic mail was fashioned of rings butted at their closure. Roman mail was predominantly constructed of round-wire riveted rings interspersed with solid punched or welded rings of a flat cross-section. Up until recently, commercially available versions have featured only butted links, as it was too expensive to offer fully accurate Roman mail. Daniyal Steel Crafts was the first to offer interwoven riveted and stamped styles of mail. So, when they contacted us to collaborate, we were honored. Other commercial versions that are currently available are still produced in galvanized steel, which was unavailable to the Romans. Our versions are produced in blackened or oil finishes, to maintain our high standards of accuracy. Our version conforms most nearly to the pattern in use during the middle Republic to early Imperial period (3rd century BC to 1st/2nd centuries AD), sporting short sleeves and shoulder doubling.
For reenactors willing to spend a bit more and compromise less, we offer a new Roman mail shirt of highly accurate construction–that is, riveted round-wire links interspersed with flat solid rings. The studs and chest-hooks, are based on an actual archaeological find. Other sizes and patterns may be available on request. Our shirt also comes with leather-lined shoulder doubling. The shirt comes in two ring sizes: 8mm interior diameter, and 6mm ID. These shirts are amazingly accurate, and the prices are astonishingly affordable.