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p1012 Scutum

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp1012‑1013 of

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


[image ALT: Two soldiers seen from the rear, wearing very short tunics and protecting themselves with long rectangular shields. It is a woodcut illustrating the Roman shield known as a scutum.]

SCUTUM (θυρεός), the Roman shield, worn by the heavy-armed infantry, instead of being round like the Greek Clipeus, was adapted to the form of the human body, by being made either oval or of the shape of a door (θύρα) which it also resembled in being made of wood or wicker-work, and from which consequently its Greek name was derived. Two of its forms are shown in the woodcut at p711. That which is here exhibited is also of frequent occurrence, and is given on the same authority: in this case the shield is curved p1013so as in part to encircle the body. The terms clipeus and scutum are often confounded; but that they properly denoted different kinds of shields is manifest from the passages of several ancient writers (Liv. VIII.8; Plut. Rom. 21; Diod. Eclog. XXIII.3). In like manner Plutarch distinguishes the Roman θυρεός from the Greek ἀσπίς in his life of T. Flamininusº (p688, ed. Steph.). In Eph. vi.16 St. Paul uses the term θυρεός rather than ἀσπίς or σακός, because he is describing the equipment of a Roman soldier. These Roman shields are called scuta longa (Virg. Aen. VIII.662; Ovid. Fast. VI.393; θυρεοῦς ἐπιμηκεις, Joseph. Ant. Jud. VIII.7 §2). Polybius (VI.21) says their dimensions were 4 feet by 2½. The shield was held on the left arm by means of a handle, and covered the left shoulder. [Comp. Exercitus, p496B.]


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Page updated: 29 Mar 12