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"Changes in Dress & Equipment, ca 6th-7th Century" Topic

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Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2021 10:28 a.m. PST

Having become interested in this time period through my purchase of the "Commands & Colors – Medieval" game, I've been reading various books to increase my knowledge. One book that I've started is Belisarius: The Last Roman General by Ian Hughes, a British scholar, historian, and wargamer. Although I'm not far into it, I have found several intriguing statements by Hughes which I have not before encountered.

Hughes states that in earlier periods, the Imperial factories (fabricae) provided all of the weapons, shields, armor, and weapons used by the Roman soldiers, all constructed to certain patterns and designs. But as the western part of the empire was overrun by the various Germanic tribes, this ability was greatly diminished with the eastern fabricae being unable to take up the slack.

He goes on to state that this changed with the eastern Emperor Anatasius I who changed the method of "paying" for the soldiers equipment in ca. 498. He went from a deduction in the soldiers' pay to a 'full-pay' where the soldiers were individually responsible for obtaining their own equipment within certain guidelines. So each soldier in a particular unit would then get what he felt he could afford as long as he could fulfill his duties. There would be a great deal of flexibility according to the soldier's particular tastes in such items as helmets, swords, and body armor. Helmet crest colors and shield patterns/colors would have been standardized to identify individual units.

He finishes by writing: "Therefore the common image on units wearing exactly the same equipment should no longer be considered the norm. There was likely to be a variety of helmets, shields and armour within each unit, with only the colours of crests and/or shields defining the parent unit of the soldier. The main limiting factor would be availability. The equipment needed to re-equip the army, following both the defeat at Adrianople and the decision to change the armament of the cavalry [adding bows as a primary weapon], had to be manufactured in the eastern fabricae: the fabricae of the west having by now been lost. This would have greatly reduced production and is likely to have caused shortages in some areas for at least some time."

So those of us (me definitely included) who have their units all wearing exactly the same armor and helmet and carrying the same shield need to rethink how we construct our forces from the available figure choices. It may not be easy, but it might be more accurate. Of course that is easier said than done!

Just food for thought and further debate.


P.S. My 15mm 6th-7th Century forces can be examined here: link

P.P.S. I'll have more to report about this book as I get deeper into it.

Perris070710 Apr 2021 11:03 a.m. PST

Given the plethora of 15mm manufacturers for this period I think that you will be able to find a suitable mix of figures. I have mixed Minifigs, Old Glory 15's, Essex, Touller, and Gladiator/Black Hat figures in my Eastern Roman armies with no problem at all. I like the look of varied forces. I do paint regular units with similar shields though.

Gkzhukov10 Apr 2021 11:04 a.m. PST

According to the book I am currently reading and enjoying (J. Soto Chica, "Imperios y Bárbaros/Empires and Barbarians" published 2019), the wages for an Eastern Roman soldier from the mobile armies (comitatenses) still included 10 solidi per annum for food and the maintenance of weapons and equipment as late as 588. When emperor Maurice tried to switch to payments in kind in 588 and 594, mutinies happened…

The above is supported by Maurice's Strategikon and Theophylact Simocatta's History of Maurice's reign, according to the book's bibliographic notes.

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