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 p565  Galea

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp565‑566 of

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

GA′LEA (κράνος, poet. κόρυς, πήληξ), a helmet; a casque. The helmet was originallyº made of skin or leather, whence is supposed to have arisen its appellation, κυνέη, meaning properly a helmet of dog-skin, but applied to caps or helmets made of the hide of other animals (ταυρείη, κτιδέη, Hom. Il. X.258, 335; αἰγείη, Od. XXIV.230; Herod. VII.77; compare κράνη σκύτινα, Xen. Anab. V.4 § 13; galea lupina, Prop. IV.11.19), and even to those which were entirely of bronze or iron (πάγχαλκος, Od. XVIII.377). The leathern basis of the helmet was also very commonly strengthened and adorned by the addition of either bronze or gold, which is expressed by such epithets as χαλκήρης, εὔχαλκος, χρυσείη. Helmets which had a metallic basis (κράνη χαλκᾶ, Xen. Anab. 1.2 § 16) were in Latin properly called cassides (Isid. Orig. XVIII.14; Tacit. Germ. 6; Caesar, B. G. VII.45), although the terms gala and cassis are often confounded. A casque (cassis) found at Pompeii is preserved in the collection at Goodrich Court,  p566 Herefordshire (Skelton, Engraved Illust. I. pl. 44). The perforations for the lining and exterior border are visible along its edge. A side and a front view of it are presented in the annexed woodcut.

An engraving of three ancient metal helmets.

Two casques very like this were fished up from the bed of the Alpheus, near Olympia, and are in the possession of Mr. Hamilton (Dodwell, Tour, vol. II, p330). Among the materials used for the lining of helmets were felt (πῖλος, Hom. Il. X.265) and sponge (Aristot. H. A. V.16).

The helmet, especially that of skin or leather, was sometimes a mere cap conformed to the shape of the head, without either crest or any other ornament (ἀφαλόν τε καὶ ἄλοφον, Il. X.358). In this state it was probably used in hunting (galea venatoria, C. Nep. Dat. III.2), and was called καταῖτυξ (Hom. Il. l.c.), in Latin Cudo. The preceding woodcut shows an example of it as worn by Diomede in a small Greek bronze, which is also in the collection at Goodrich Court (Skelton, l.c.). The additions by which the external appearance of the helmet was varied, and which served both for ornament and protection, were the following:—

1. Bosses or plates, proceeding either from the top (φάλος, Hom. Il. III.362) or the sides, and varying in number from one to four (ἀμφίφαλος, διφάλος, Hom. Il. V.743, XI.41; Eustath. ad loc.; τετράφαλος, Il. XII.384. It is however very doubtful what part of the helmet the φάλος was. Buttman thought that it was what was afterwards called the κῶνος, that is, a metal ridge in which the plume was fixed; but Liddell and Scott (Lexs.v.) maintain with more probability that the φάλος was the shade or fore-piece of the helmet; and that an ἀμφίφαλος helmet was one that had a like projection behind as well as before, such as may be seen in the representations of many ancient helmets.

2. The helmet thus adorned was very commonly surmounted by the crest (crista, λόφος, Hom. Il. XXII.316), which was often of horse-hair (ἴππουρις, ἱπποδάσεια, Hom. ll.cc.; λόφων ἔθειραι, Theocr. XXII.186; hirsuta juba, Propert. IV.11.19), and made so as to look imposing and terrible (Hom. Il. III.337; Virg. Aen. VIII.620), as well as handsome (Ib. IX.365; εὔλοφος, Heliod. Aeth. VII). The helmet often had two or even three crests (Aesch. Sep. c. Theb. 384). In the Roman army of later times the crest served not only for ornament, but also to distinguish the different centurions, each of whom wore a casque of a peculiar form and appearance (Veget. II.13).

3. The two cheek-pieces (bucculae, Juv. X.134; παραγναθίδες, Eustath. in Il. V.743), which were attached to the helmet by hinges, so as to be lifted up and down. They had buttons or ties at their extremities for fastening the helmet on the head (Val. Flacc. VII.626).º

4. The beaver, or visor, a peculiar form of which is supposed to have been the αὐλῶπις τρυφάλεια, i.e. the perforated beaver (Hom. Il. XI.353). The gladiators wore helmets of this kind (Juv. VIII.203), and the specimens of them, not unlike those worn in the middle ages, have been found at Pompeii. See the wood-cut to Gladiatores.

The five following helmets are selected from antique gems, and are engraved of the size of the originals.

An engraving of 5 ancient Roman cameos, 2 of which show helmeted human heads, and the 3 others just a helmet. All 5 helmets are rather elaborate and have a crest and protective ear-pieces.

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Page updated: 21 Apr 18