Helmet

HELMET (Cassis or Galea)

The helmet is one of the most important pieces of Roman armor, and one of the most difficult to make. Roman helmets of our period were generally beaten out of a single sheet of iron or brass, a process that takes enormous skill. Some modern armorers are fully capable of turning out an extremely accurate Roman helmet made in the same fashion, and we encourage those with the means and patience to pursue this route if they wish (just be prepared to shell out upwards of $600 and wait for up to two years). However, we are also extremely fortunate to live in an age when a surprisingly large-scale industry has arisen to supply Roman reenactors with reasonably accurate off-the-shelf helmets at highly affordable prices ($200-325). Made in India, these helmets use some manufacturing shortcuts (neck guards, for example, are generally welded on) and have a few minor accuracy problems, but most of these are either easily corrected or concealed.


By the early second century AD, the venerable Coolus helmet, a direct descendant of the types originally used by Rome’s Celtic enemies and adopted by the Romans in the mid-first century BC, seems to have fallen out of use. The Coolus, seen at left, was replaced by a type also derived from a Celtic original, but with more advanced features such as a sloped neck guard with ribbing at the nape, projecting ear guards, brass trim and decorative bosses. German experts classify these helmets as “Weisenau” types, while H. Russell Robinson divided them into Imperial Gallic and Imperial Italic types. Imperial Gallic helmets, which Robinson believed were the products of Celtic craftsmen in Gaul, featured a pair of distinctive embossed eyebrows on the forehead region and tended to be carefully made and elaborately decorated. Imperial Italic helmets, which Robinson saw as the product of less-skilled copycats in Italy and elsewhere in the Empire, lacked the eyebrows and were somewhat more roughly made. The differences in decoration and workmanship tended to diminish as time went on; the last two Italic types classified by Robinson, the Hebron (Italic G) and Neidermorter (Italic H) helmets, were as carefully crafted and well-decorated as any Imperial Gallic helmet.


The Roman combat experience in Dacia under Domitian (AD 81-96) and Trajan (AD 98-117) produced further developments in helmet design. The ability of the wicked Dacian falx, a two-handed sickle-like sword, to reach over the Roman shield wall and pierce a helmet like a can-opener forced the Romans to come up with countermeasures in the form of two iron bars riveted crosswise across the helmet scull (alternatively, two thick bronze strips might be riveted to the top of a bronze legionary or auxiliary helmet). This started as a field modification, as seen on several Imperial Gallic helmets with the crossbars hastily riveted right over the decorative eyebrows. An illustration by Peter Connolly, seen above right, depicts this type of modification to an Imperial Gallic H helmet. Crossbars are seen on some, though not all of the legionary helmets on Trajan’s Column.

The crossbars quickly became a standard feature of Roman helmet design and are found on all helmets produced from ca. AD 125 through the latter third century AD. Consequently, Legio VI favors use of helmets with crossbars, either as an added “field retrofit” (as seen on Gil’s Imperial Gallic G helmet at left) or as a feature of the original construction, as with the Italic G described below. As Britain was rather far from Dacia and the crossbar modification may not have been seen as quite so necessary, Legio VI accepts the use of non-reinforced helmets as well.

The following types of helmets are acceptable for use with Legio VI Victrix
(photos courtesy Albion Armorers):

Imperial Italic G


The original example of this distinctive helmet was found in a cave near Hebron, Israel, and was thought to be captured war booty of the Jewish Zealots of the Bar Kochba Revolt during the reign of Hadrian, ca. AD 133-135. Consequently, it is the one helmet that can be convincingly dated to the period covered by Legio VI Victrix and is the preferred helmet of our legion. The Imperial Italic G represents the earliest Roman helmet discovered in which the post-Dacian Wars crossbars were probably part of the original construction, as evidenced by the brass lunate decorations applied between the crossbars. Finally, this is probably the most accurate helmet made by the Deepeeka group in India and is widely available at prices from $200-$275 from a variety of sources in the United States. Another version of the Italic G is made by Windless Steelcrafts and marketed through Museum Replicas and other firms; while not as accurate as the Deepeeka version (and quite a bit bigger), is is also acceptable.

Note: For some odd reason, a few Deepeeka versions of the Italic G sold through U.S. firms arrive with the crossbars and brow guard held on by (inaccurate) screws instead of (proper) rivets. Fortunately, the screws are easily replaced with rivets, and this modification can be performed at one of our fabricums in less than 20 minutes.

Imperial Gallic G

Robinson considered this the “typical mid-first century legionary helmet” (although the Coolus was probably more common) and it seems to have continued in use on into the early second century AD. The best example was found in the Rhine River at Mainz-Weisenau and is now exhibited in Worms, Germany. Helmets of this style can definitely be dated to the Boudican revolt of AD 61 based on fragments found in rubbish pits at Colchester (now reassembled and displayed at the Colchester Castle Museum). The carrying handle seen on the Weisenau original (and our reproduction) may date it slightly later, as none were present with the Colchester fragments. The brass rosettes on this resemble those found on the Corbridge type lorica segmentata. Therefore these two pieces of equipment are often portrayed together in modern reconstructions.

The Deepeeka Gallic G seen here is acceptable for use with Legio VI, although if a reenactor wanted to take it to the next level, there are some minor modifications can be made to improve accuracy.

Imperial Gallic H


This helmet is similar in design to the Gallic G, but features a different style of eyebrows and a more sloping neck guard. The most complete example of this type is from Lech, near Augsburg, Germany. Other datable helmets indicate a trend toward these more sloping neck guards in the last half of the first century, which continued through the second and third centuries. However, as both styles of neck guard were clearly used side by side, it was likely a matter of personal preference and/or armory issue of what type could be worn by a particular Roman soldier.

As with the Gallic G, the Deepeeka version of this helmet is acceptable for Legio VI use, but there are a few inaccurate features which can be improved through modification.

Imperial Gallic I

This helmet dates to the same period as the Imperial Gallic H, and is essentially the same design, but is made in the cupric alloy “orichalcum” (brass) instead of iron. Like several other helmets, the original was found in the Rhine River at Mainz, and the original of this particular helmet bears the inscription of a soldier named L. Lucretius Celeris of Legio I Adiutrix. This Legion was stationed at Mainz from 71 to 86 AD, dating the helmet to this period. Although its crest attachment was missing, a round imprint suggests a soldered on disc, indicating it had either an Italian style “twist on” crest holder, rather than the Gallic style “slide-on” crest. Three orichalcum helmets of this style are known. All three show evidence of feather holders, which occur only rarely on iron ones, and it may be possible that in the late first century when iron helmets seem more common, the brass helmets and feather tubes suggest a higher rank, perhaps that of optio.

The Deepeeka Gallic I is one of the group’s more accurate helmets and usually requires little or no no modification. Windless Steelcrafts also makes a version out of steel, not brass, which is sometimes seen on eBay for $150-200; while there is no direct evidence such a helmet existed, it is not implausible and acceptable for use with Legio VI. Be aware that the Windless Steelcrafts version fits an extremely large head!

Imperial Italic D


This highly decorated helmet seems like it may be unique at first glance; however, it was apparently mass produced, as a second very similar cheek piece has been found, as well a another complete helmet (Imperial Italic E), which apparently had the same style decoration, though most had been stripped off when it was discarded. This helmet is often depicted in modern artwork as a centurion’s headpiece, but the surviving fore and aft crest attachment hooks suggest it belonged to a regular soldier. Because it is so distinctive, it is sometimes stated that it may have been a special item for a particular unit such as the Praetorian Guard. More likely, the Italic D was the product of a single workshop producing a more decorative type for soldiers who might wish to shell out a bit more for splashy headgear. Since the Italic D has integral brass cross-braces placed flat against the skull, providing a double-thickness of metal at a critical point, it is tempting to speculate that the superior performance of this type versus the Dacian falx is what led to the decision to retrofit cross bracing to all helmets in the Dacian theater.

The Deepeeka version of the Italic D, illustrated above left, has a few minor authenticity problems, but is acceptable for use with Legio VI.

Imperial Italic H

The Neidermormter helmet, classified by Robinson as Imperial Italic H, is one of the best-preserved Roman Imperial helmets to have survived from antiquity and is a beautiful piece of the armorer’s craft all around. Made of bronze (an iron version reportedly resides in a private collection), the helmet is heavily decorated and features and enormously deep neck guard. The cross bracing across the skull is actually embossed, rather than applied, and there is a rather unusual dome-shaped knob where the braces meet at the crown of the head. This helmet is typically dated to the late Antonine or Severan eras, ca. AD 180-235, but the find context of the helmet is unknown and the dating is based solely on its typology (i.e. it looks about 40-60 years down the evolutionary trail from the Italic G), providing enough leeway to allow its use for Legio VI Victrix.

Early versions of the Deepeeka version of the Italic H, seen at right, reportedly had some significant problems with fit and finish. There are reports that these have been corrected, and if true, this helmet is now acceptable for use by our legion.

Caveat Emptor


Some of the Roman helmets offered by Albion and other providers, such as the Montifortino and Coolus models, are too early for the time period we represent. The Imperial Gallic I helmet (Aquincum type), discovered at Ravenna, is not recommended because it is thought to have belonged to a Marine.

Alas, there is also one widely available helmet that is simply not allowed. This is the so-called Roman Trooper’s Helmet (shown below), offered by Museum Replicas, on eBay, and at internet sites everywhere. It is often seen with a permanently mounted crest (also inaccurate). The neck guard is in the form of a lobster tail, unlike any true Roman neck guard, the cheek guards are of the wrong shape, the florate bosses are incorrectly positioned, the peak is of improper form, and, to top it off, the eyebrows are soldered on. There is simply no way to turn this into an accurate Roman helmet. Please do not purchase it! For the same price or only a little more, you can buy an accurate helmet that won’t cause the authenticity optio to smite you with his baton!

Crests?

Crests are generally not worn by our legion, except by officers such as Centurions and Tribunes. Cross-braced helmets seem to lack provisions for mounting a crest, and crests are not seen on Trajan’s Column (although they are seen on Antonine monuments and the Column of Marcus Aurelius, these are usually described as an artistic convention and do not reflect reality). Equipment displays, timeline presentations or specialist film work may present opportunities for the wearing of crests, however. If you wish to use a crest with your helmet at a Legio VI event, please seek permission first from the Centurion or Authenticity Optio.

Suppliers

We strongly recommend the following suppliers for off-the-shelf Roman helmets:

Imperium Ancient Armory: Arik Greenberg and Dave Michaels, 28039 Promontory Lane, Valencia, CA 91354. Phone: (310) 417-8229. Website: http://www.imperiumancientarmory.com. Email: info@imperiumancientarmory.com. Imperium enjoys “most-favored supplier” status with Legio VI not because two legio members run the business (well, maybe that has something to do with it…), but because everything they sell in the way of Roman armor is Legio VI approved as fully authentic. In addition to the newly improved Deepeeka helmets, armor and weapons, Imperium also makes its own highly accurate body armor (including the Newstead and Kalkriese lorica segmentata types, currently unavailable anywhere else), weapons (including a great pilum and/or kit), shields, and belt components. Imperium rates everything it sells according to an “accuracy scale,” which makes it much easier to pick from among the available products. Paid Legio VI members also get price breaks on all weapons, armor and shields!

La Wren’s Nest: Lawrence and Julie Brooks, 233 Route 197, Woodstock, CT 06281, 860-928-6908, fax 860-928-6701, lbrroks@sbcglobal.net, http://www.lawrensnest.com. They offer Deepeeka helmets, mail shirts, weapons, and accessories. They fill orders in a prompt and courteous manner. Please check with the Authenticity Officers or Centurio before buying anything.

RPG / Soul of the Warrior: Rusty Myers, 1700 Misty Court, Hanahan, SC 29406-8560. 843-437-5587, fax 843-797-7266, Info@SouloftheWarrior.com, http://www.SouloftheWarrior.com. He carries both Deepeeka gear and a growing line of custom products, most of which looks pretty good from the photos on the site. Please check with the Authenticity Officers or Centurio before buying anything.

These are modern armorers who can produce custom Roman helmets to your specifications (lead time required is one-two years):

Lonely Mountain Forge: http://members.aol.com/gijchar/forge.html

HReplikate (Germany): http://www.hr-replikate.de/

For more information on each, visit our SUPPLIERS PAGE.