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Plume/Crest Colors?
I am planning on purchasing a centurion helmet and am curious as to what different colors on the crest/plume signify. Is there any sort of reference material available?

Thanks in advance
Hello Charles,

Not much details are known about this.Vegetius mentioned that centurions crests were silvered but problem is that Vagetius was late Roman 4/5 century writer and moreover he was not soldier but a mere amateur and compiler of many older military books which not preserve to our time so we can't be sure if he is right and in what era were those crests silvered because Vegetius often mix in his description situation of the late roman army with high imperial and possibly with republican as well and only very scarcely mentions it.
The other problem is what exactly he meant with silvered crest-Plumes(feathers)itself or just a crest holder?

I recommend you books From Raffaele D'amato about Centurions:
Roman Centurions 753-31 BC:The kingdom and the age of Consuls
Roman Centurions 31 BC-AD 500:The Classical and Late Empire
D'amato also notes that more then one different pre-imperial(I think even pre- republican)representations of the person who were probably of centurion rank(although not necessarily and directly Roman-it is Etruscan)having their transverse crest repeatedly in white with red endings schema like reenactor in this photo:

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Polybius tells that legionaries (hastati, principes & triarii) of the Republican time had three feathers as their helmet crest. The colour of the plumes were either red purple or black. Red, black and white were the most common colours of crests and plumes in all times. White would be either pure white, as in white swan feathers, or off-white, natural colour of white horse hair.
All the crests were made either of horse hair or plumes, from a swan or from a goose. Natural colours of the materials are always suitable, like white, black and brown, or brownish red. I've heard that horse hair is difficult to dye, so non-normal colours like blue would be rare.
One fresco shows the war god Mars wearing a helmet with a central horse hair crest in purple, and side plumes in white. Purple would be a suitable crest colour for high ranking officers, probably for senatorial class, like legates and consuls, and then of course emperors in the imperial time.
Vegetius mentions the crista argentata (silvered crest) for centurions, but most likely the crest itself was not silvered, since how could the horse hair or feathers be silvered? It was rather the crest box, where the hair or plumes were attached, which was silvered. That was done so that soldiers would recognise their centurion in the battlefield more easily, by his shining crest. Raffaele D'Amato suggests that if the crest holder was silvered, the crest itself would be of white colour, to go with the silver. Many re-enactors have also painted their wooden crest holders with the same colour of the crest, like red.
Yellow was the colour of cavalry crests according to Arrian(us) at the second century. Maybe yellow crests were used in cavalry also in previous times.
It has been suggested that blue was the colour for marines' helmet crests (since it's the colour of the sea, and they used grey-blue tunics too), but this is not certain.

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Antonius Insulae (Sakari)
Furthermore, I would like to mention that the Intercisa-IV was a metal crest and 90% or so of survivng Late Roman Helmets were all guilded.

Many Late Roman Helmets also had slots for a Crest Box, and the Berkasova-I had a principate-style crest attachment point.
Some Berkasovo late Roman helmets also had crests, of the same metal type as Intercisa ones. Metal, gilded or covered in a sheathing and attached through slots (folding over the inside) on the ridge piece. If Vegetius mentions silver crests, he very likely meant the metal crests of the late roman army if that was the context of his writing.
Markus Aurelius Montanvs
What we do in life Echoes in Eternity

Roman Artifacts
[Image: websitepic.jpg]
Thank you everyone! your contributions were very informative and helpful! I am new to the forums here and am looking to make Roman military collectables my new hobby. If anyone has any links or advice for making Lorica Segmentata or a Scutum I would appreciate it!

They have a full size pattern and some tips to help out. There are lots of places that will sell the buckles, and hinges as required. Good luck. It can be challenging but fun at the same time :grin:
Markus Aurelius Montanvs
What we do in life Echoes in Eternity

Roman Artifacts
[Image: websitepic.jpg]

Segmentata DIY by Alex of Legio XI Claudia
For several years a friend of mine has been trying to dye fabrics using dyes that would have been available to the Romans, as an exercise to see just what would be possible. The results have been fascinating. Reds of just about any shade can be obtained using madder with various mordants and with different pH levels (acidity). Reds can also be obtained using Ladies Bedstraw (but the reds are much duller). The only blue colour that would be cheap enough for mass use would have been woad (actually indigo). Yellows can be done using either weld (which has a greenish tinge) or saffron (much more expensive, but a deeper colour, more like chrome yellow oil paint). Other colours can result from using two successive dye baths (e.g. black using iron tannate from oak galls over-dyed with woad and purple from a combination of red and blue - madder and woad).

From the point of view of this question, horse hair is relatively easy to dye using madder and again, several different shades can result from minor changes in the dye-bath conditions (see below). Feathers, however, were a different matter. Only very pale shades could be obtained and the colour would easily wash out. This really should not be a surprise as feathers are not fibrous in nature and (although a protean material) there is little that can be done chemically to attach the dyestuff. Indeed, in several instances in an effort to get the dye to 'stick', values of pH from each end of the scale (i.e. high values of acidity close to pH3 and alkalinity, pH9-10) caused the feathers to decompose.

One wonders how the yellow feathers that Arian mentions for the cavalry were dyed. The conclusion we came to was that the feathers were probably not 'feathers' at all - but could possibly have been strips of cloth, dyed yellow, and attached to a wire armature. The Romans we know could produce wire as the draw plates have been found at several sites.

I've attached pictures here to show the sort of results that were achieved, including those from the horse hair experiments.

Mike Thomas

[attachment=8065]Horsehairmaddervariousexperiments.jpg[/attachment] Horse hair dyed using madder root under various conditions.

[attachment=8066]indigo.jpg[/attachment] Indigo (woad) shades

[attachment=8067]madderwoadweld.jpg[/attachment] Wool dyed with madder, indigo (woad) and weld.

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visne scire quod credam? credo orbes volantes exstare.
Hi all, found this thread while looking for crests on google. Figured I may as well bump this instead of starting a new thread.

I'm in a similar position as the OP. I have a Gallic H helmet that I use just for display purposes and am looking to replace the metal crest I have for it. How historically accurate are Deepeeka's new wooden crests compared to the old metal ones? What about the bicoloured crests? Is there any historical basis for crests in black/white, black/red, or white/red colour combinations? I'm thinking of getting a white horsehair crest and dying it purple, but would a purple crest look ridiculously out of place on a centurion's Gallic H helmet?

Maybe it is difficult to dye horsehair – but a least the ancient Scythians knew how to do it, like shown on the saddle with horsehair fringes dyed red and blue.
It is therefore safe to assume. that the Romans were able to do it, too.

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Andreas Strassmeir
Since Caratacus was so kind to share the results of some of his dying experiments …
here some samples from my collection:

1. cochineal (top) & madder (bottom)
2. (from left to right) undyed dark wool, madder, walnut, weld and dyer’s-broom

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Andreas Strassmeir
This is a message for Caratacus... or anyone else that would have this information.

What exactly is "Madder" and where do you get it?

Thank you

Madder is a plant. The root is used to dye stuff. It can be purchased on-line. Google is your friend for instructions and vendors (apparently used a lot in 18th century re-enacting).

Cheryl Boeckmann
Looking at the results posted above I take it that green was a very difficult colour for them to get with the resources that they had?

No man resisted or offered to stand up in his defence, save one only, a centurion, Sempronius Densus, the single man among so many thousands that the sun beheld that day act worthily of the Roman empire.

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