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p822 Ocrea

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p822 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

OCREA (κνημίς), a greave, a leggin. A pair of greaves (κνημῖδες) was one of the six articles of armour which formed the complete equipment of a Greek or Etruscan warrior [Arma], and likewise of a Roman soldier as fixed by Servius Tullius (Liv. I.43). They were made of bronze (Alcaeus, Frag. I ed. Matthiae), of brass (Hes. Scut. 122), of tin (Hom. Il. XVIII.612, XXI.592), or of silver and gold (Virg. Aen. VII.634, VIII.624, XI.488), with a lining probably of leather, felt, or cloth. Another method of fitting them to the leg so as not to hurt it, was by the interposition of that kind of sponge which was also used for the lining of helmets [Galea], and which Aristotle describes as being remarkable for thinness, density, and firmness. The greaves, lined with these materials, as they were fitted with great exactness to the leg, probably required, in many cases, no other fastening than their own elasticity. Often, nevertheless, they were further secured by two straps, as may be seen in the woodcut at p135. Their form and appearance will be best understood from the accompanying woodcut. The upper figure is that of a fallen warrior represented among the sculptures, now at Munich, belonging to the temple at Aegina. In consequence of the bending of the knees, the greaves are seen to project a little above them. This statue also shows very distinctly the ankle-rings (ἐπισφύρια), which were used to fasten the greaves immediately above the feet. The lower portion of the same woodcut represents the interior view of a bronze shield and a pair of bronze greaves, which were found by Signor Campanari in the tomb of an Etruscan warrior, and which are now preserved in the British Museum. These greaves are made right and left.

An engraving of a statue of a naked ancient warrior, who has fallen on his shield, stretched out on the ground, and with his right arm is trying to protect himself against blows from above. He is, however, wearing a caplike helmet and a large pair of greaves. The woodcut depicts a sculpture from the temple of Aegina in Greece, and is an illustration of ancient Greek and Roman greaves.
An engraving of a round shield with a handle, looking very much like the lid of a modern cooking pot; and on either side of it, a metal object of similar size, that follows the shape of a human leg: they are ancient Etruscan greaves.

That the Greeks took great delight in handsome and convenient greaves may be inferred from the epithet εὐκνημῖδες, as used by Homer, and from his minuteness in describing some of their parts, especially the ankle-rings, which were sometimes of silver (Hom. Il. III.331, XI.18). The modern Greeks and Albanians wear greaves, in form resembling those of their ancestors, but made of softer materials, such as velvet, ornamented with gold, and fastened with hooks and eyes.

Among the Romans, greaves made of bronze, and richly embossed, were worn by the gladiators. Some such have been found at Pompeii [see woodcut, p576]. It appears that in the time of the emperors, greaves were not entirely laid aside as part of the armour of the soldiers (Lamprid. Al. Sever. 40). At an earlier period, the heavy-armed wore a single greave on the right leg (Veget. de Re Mil. I.20). Leggins of ox-hide or strong leather, probably of the form already described and designated by the same names both in Greek and Latin, were worn by agricultural labourers (Hom. Od. XXIV.228; Plin. H. N. XIX.7; Pallad. de Re Rust. I.43) and by huntsmen (Hor. Sat. II.3.234).


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