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"Mail Edges" Topic


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Hobhood422 May 2020 8:13 a.m. PST

When did mail coats/shirts with 'vandyked' edges first appear? (the triangular cuts, not Bert from Mary Poppins).

Were they in use in late antiquity?

Cerdic22 May 2020 10:28 a.m. PST

I feel this is going to be one of those 'absence of evidence is not evidence of absence' kind of deals…

Damion22 May 2020 7:14 p.m. PST

Auxiliary soldiers have mail or leather shirts like this on Trajan's column which was finished in AD 113. There are also depictions of scale armour on the column with the same dagged edging.

Here's a bronze statue which is apparently 1st century AD so a little earlier. It's glossed as a Gallic Captive.

link

The clothing and armour is pretty much the same as the auxiliaries on Trajan's Column.
Whether they were still in use in late antiquity I can't answer but they were appearing in manuscripts in the 11th century but that's several centuries later.

Tarantella23 May 2020 9:16 a.m. PST

If the start date of the introduction of lorica segmentata to some legions and the upgrading of early auxiliaries to mail armour are close could a case be made for auxiliaries reusing the ex legionary armours.

Does the scalloping at the sleeves and hemline of the mail allow the "larger sort of gentlemen" from the provinces to get into mail armour previously designed for the trim but equally fit and effective legionary?

Or perhaps it's just the case that scalloping not only takes a few pounds off the weight of the armour but it also gives more freedom of movement required for the role of the auxiliary.

Damion23 May 2020 4:14 p.m. PST

Both happened in the late 1st century bc when Rome went from a republic to an empire and both happened under Augustus.
The dagged edges are decorative only, chainmail is inherently flexible and the early shirts of the auxiliaries are rather short compared to the shirts of the legionaires which were also straight edged and typically had shoulder doubling or at least flaps depending on how the shirt was constructed suggesting a different style. The short shirts which were basically vests would not have needed any additional flexibility considerations as the arms and hips which are the things that move the most weren't covered.
It was common amongst northern peoples to have decorative fringes on their clothing so having a decorative border on their mail shirts would fit in with that aesthetic.

As for giving a mail shirt to a much larger framed person, that wont work. Mail is flexible but you still need to work with a basic circumference as the standard shirt was a tube. Any extra flexibility that dagging might provide would only apply to a few centimetres back from the edge. You don't want soldiers with chaffing or breathing problems because the armour is too tight, better to cut the front and back and add extra rings, another advantage of mail over solid armour, it could be fixed or adapted in the field relatively easily.

Later mail armour that included arms such as the medieval period was often tailored to a degree with gussets under the arms to improve movement and different sized rings to make the mail more form fitting though the latter would have been for wealthier people.

Hobhood423 May 2020 4:31 p.m. PST

OK – great response, thanks. I'd overlooked the 1st century depictions maybe because modern illustrations and miniatures don't seem to show them much. My main reason for asking is because there are plastic Saxon/Viking figures from GB and Victrix which have these dagged edges, although they are depicted as wider triangles. I was wondering whether to use these figures for migration era Goths etc…

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