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Galic F Besancon
#1
This may be a silly question but I am a beginner regarding etiquette etc and the various ranks of a soldier. Would there be any circumstances that a legionary could wear any plume or feathers?

Thanks.
Geoff.
Geoff
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#2
In Caesar's De Bellum Gallicum he states that on one occasion the army was attacked so suddenly that: "The soldiers had no time to remove the covers from their shields nor add the plumes to their helmets". This is usually taken to mean that (at least in the mid 1st century BC) it was normal practice for plumes to be worn on helmets, except when on the march. Both the Montefortino and Coolus types of helmet had crest knobs for attaching feathers. The former seems to have used lead as a means of securing the feathers in place. I think that somewhere in Livy it's mentioned that the soldiers wore three feathers in their helmets, two black and one purple.

Feathers on the sides of the helmet are assumed usually (can't give you a literary reference for this, though - but there are helmets known where the fitments at the sides to hold the feathers can clearly be seen, as a mark of rank for the junior officer of a century (the optio). There is one such in the British Museum, for example. Of course they were also a 'badge' of rank for the centurion, where they were worn transversely across the helmet. There are at least three tombstones where this last can be seen.

Mike Thomas
(Caratacus)
visne scire quod credam? credo orbes volantes exstare.
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#3
Plumes, Tassles, and Feathers are still used in the 6th Century Strategikon.
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#4
Mike, what are those three tombstones exactly? Since I don't really know of any definite evidence, that centurions wore it on the short axis, I consider it a reenactorism, a heavy one. From a practical standpoint, for an officer in the front line, a long axis crest is much more plausible (cf. late roman helmet crests).

I know of that one tombstone with the greaves and the helmet, but then again, the helmet has its cheekplates shown at a peculiar angle as well.
Kis György Márk (by western standards, György Márk Kis)

Legio Leonum Valentiniani

http://www.legioleonum.hu
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#5
I see. It`s just that I have the Galic F Besancon and it has attachments for feathers, on the sides and for a crest on the top with a small metal ring front and back.

geoff.
Geoff
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#6
Sorry to bother you guys again but can early, first century legionaries, wear greaves?

Once again, apologies for my ignorance.

Geoff.
Geoff
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#7
No Grieves Geoff, not unless you are doing Centurion impression..
Kevin
Kevin
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#8
Does Caesar actually mention plumes? I was under the impression that he says that the soldiers had no time to remove the covers from their shields or don their insignia. 'Insignia' surely, is an ambiguous term which defies positive identification. I think the assumption is normally that he is referring to helmet crests or plumes, but unfortunately the word he chose to use is not helpful to us (much in the same way as Arrian's use of the term 'contoi' [poles] when describing his battle line against the Alans).
I think that the reference for the black and purple feathers is Polybius, in his description of the look of the soldiers he saw in Scipio Aemilianus' army.

Side plumes on helmets are often assumed to signify rank, but I believe that this is an idea which emanates from the practice adopted by the Ermine Street Guard three decades or so ago. As far as I am aware, the only actual symbol of rank mentioned for an optio in the sources is the optio's ring, with funerary sculpture adding the detail of a knob ended staff. Sufficient numbers of helmets survive with feather tubes, in fact, that it seems hard to believe that they could all be the helmets of junior officers, when only a couple of helmets survive which appear to have belonged to centuriones.

A stronger possibility is that feather tubes are indicative of particular crest arrangements used by specific units. Caesar refers to his fifth legion being referred to as 'the Larks' on account of their distinctive crests, and the brush crest and feathers sported by Gaius Castricius Victor of Legio II Adiutrix from Aquincum seem to be confirmed as a unit style of cresting by the Aquincum helmet and other 'Imperial Gallic type 'I' helmets (including the example from Mainz, which belonged to a soldier of Legio I Adiutrx), and would suggest that it may have been typical to see soldiers of the two Adiutrix legions wearing copper-alloy helmets fitted with central brush crests and side plumes. Feather tubes on helmets of other types may indicate other unit crest styles.

As for transverse crests on the helmets of centuriones, the leterary source of Vegetius and there are two depictions that I am aware of, namely the stele of Titus Calidius Severus, which shows what appears to be a brush crest attached transversely to the helmet, and the stele of Marcus Petronius Classicus, which show a transverse crest of very large feathers attached to the helmet. There is also another stele dating to somewhat earlier which shows a horsehair crest which seems to be divided to as to hang down on both sides of the helmet, which may be a proto-form of transverse centurio crest, although there are earlier, Greek, depictions of transverse crests on helmets. Polybius makes no mention of crests on the helmets of centuriones at the time he was writing, saying instead that their helmets were tinned or silvered in order to stand out from their men's helmets. This practice seems to have continued after the transverse crest was introduced, as the helmet from Sisac which transverse crest attachments was also (at different times) tinned and covered with decorated silver foil.

As for greaves, we don't know the answer to that one, but the probability is that they may have been but we do not know under what circumstances. Certainly, the depiction of greaves on the stelae of both Severus and Classicus, suggests that they may have been seen as distinctive symbols of rank, which would suggest that if the rank and file could wear greaves, then they would probably be of a different form, perhaps similar to those seen later on the metopes of the Tropaeum Traiani.

Crispvs
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#9
Nope. I'm happy as I am Kevin.

Geoff.
Geoff
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