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Roman military helmets
My first post here. Hello! Confusedmile:

I have been studying Ancient Rome as an amateur for about 13 years now. Read all the classics; Caesar, Polybius, Tacitus, Plutarch, Livy. I also have read considerable modern material regarding Rome and in particular, the Army.

From what I have read, the Legions used the 'Montefortino' until the late republic period, to be replaced by the 'Gallic' types in the 1st century AD.

Was the 'Coolus' helmet used by the legions or the Auxilla?

Is there any recent source material, or books, magazines that differs from the conventional views?

I don't think we can truly say we really know - I believe the Coolus represents a transition from the Montefortino to the Gallic helmets, and it is dated (I think) from Early 1st Century BC to Late 1st Century AD.

We know for certain that Coolus/Hagenau helmets were worn by legionaries because several have been found with inscriptions referring to legions (and many more with the name and century of the owner inscribed which would also imply use by Roman citizens). We have no direct evidence for use of Coolus/Hagenau helmets by auxiliaries unless one counts a column base from Mainz with a relief of a soldier with oval shield and two spears (which would imply an auxiliary) and a helmet with a straight lower rim which may or may not be a Coolus.

We also know that the earlier Coolus helmets which were traditionally believed to be a Celtic development were (also) used (and developed?) by Romans (e.g. from a Roman shipwreck). However, such helmets are also found in native contexts (e.g. Trier-Olewig). Whether such helmets were local copies or of Roman production is impossible to say.

With respect to the "Gsllic" helmets, some the earliest finds would indicate auxiliary use (graves with native grave goods) which does not exclude use also by legionaries at this time. Helmets of this type are found in legionary contexts from early on but in view of the fact that legions were regularly accompanied by auxiliary cavalry, we do not know whether they were worn by legionaries or auxiliaries. Legionary inscriptions only start much later in the 1st century AD.

I believe that the most recent developments in this respect are that with the finds from Oberaden, Kalkriese, Zurzach etc. we know that the fully developed "Imperial Gallic" was already present around the birth of Christ. Also, French scholars in particular discuss whether the predecessors of the "Imperial Gallic" helmets, namely the Port type may actually have been a Roman development which was taken over by the Celts and not vice versa. We do know of Port helmets from native contexts (votive offerings (Kessel-Lith) or graves (Thür)) but we have a number of early reliefs in Italy (e.g. Aquileia) clearly showing this helmet type.

Jens Horstkotte
Munich, Germany
Thanks Jens. Wink Never heard of the "Port" helmet.. :-?

Always wondered how scholars interpreted data for helmet armor types. I guess more information has come out since "Warfare in the Classical World" was published. They say that the Coolus was possibly both a legionary and an auxilla helmet. Smile

Don't the reliefs depict helmets much smaller than in actuality? Are the reliefs mostly "Attic' types as well?
The "Port" helmets are more commonly known as "Agen-Port", from two different sites originally but supposedly related as to type. The common assumption used to be that these were of Celtic origin and were made of iron, not copper alloy. As such they were regarded in some quarters as being the precursors to the Imperial Gallic types.

I think that Jens is quite right in saying that the Coolus type represents a transition between the Montefortino and the Gallic series. You can see this in the shapes of the helmet bowls, where the Coolus and IG are much more hemispherical in form that the rather conical Montefortino types. Also, in Robinson's classification it is very difficult to separate the later pattern Montefortino helms from the later Coolus varieties (D & E).

Unless the helmet carries some sort of inscription that shows you precisely who owned it, it's really impossible to be dogmatic about who wore what. There are numerous examples of Coolus and IG helmets that have multiple names scratched or punched into them (sometimes as many as four different owners). So far as I know, all these inscriptions relate to legionary owners, and not to the auxiliary regiments.

Mike Thomas
visne scire quod credam? credo orbes volantes exstare.

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