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p870 Parma

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p870 of

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

PARMA, dim. PARMULA (Hor. Carm. II.7.10), a round shield, three feet in diameter, carried by the velites in the Roman army. Though small, compared with the Clipeus, it was so strongly made as to be a very effectual protection (Polyb. VI.22).º This was probably owing to the use of iron in its frame-work. In the Pyrrhic dance it was raised above the head and struck with a sword so as to emit a loud ringing noise (Claud. de VI. Cons. Honor. 628). The parma was also worn by Equites (Sallust, Frag. Hist. IV); and for the sake of state and fashion it was sometimes adorned with precious stones (Propert. IV.2.21).

We find the term parma often applied to the target [Cetra], which was also a small round shield, and therefore very similar to the parma (Propert. IV.2.40; Mela, I.5 §1; Virg. Aen. X.817). Virgil, in like manner, applies the term to the clipeus of the Palladium, because, the statue being small, the shield was small in proportion (Aen. II.175).


[image ALT: A woodcut of a circular object with a busily carved design: a central boss with the head of a lion and an outer band with a battle scene. It is an illustration of an ancient Roman votive shield or 'parma'.]

The annexed woodcut represents a votive parma, embossed (σφυρήλατον) [Malleus] and gilt, representing on its border, as is supposed, the taking of Rome by the Gauls under Brennus and its recovery by Camillus. It belonged formerly to the Woodwardian Museum, and is supposed by antiquaries to have been made in the time of Claudius or Nero. The boss (umbo) is a grotesque face, surrounded with ram's horns, foliage, and a twisted beard (Dodwell, de Parma Woodwardiana, Oxon. 1713). Compare Bernd, Das Wappenwesen der Griechen und Römer, Bonn, 1841.


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Page updated: 30 Jun 09