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Author Topic: Body Armor - Linothorax  (Read 2324 times)

Offline night_wrtr

Body Armor - Linothorax
« on: July 18, 2016, 08:20:30 PM »
I have been hording many materials and books in recent months for my writing and have come across an interesting video from Prof. Gregory Aldrete regarding linen body armor. He has done extensive research and reconstruction of the linothorax that was in use by some Mediterranean cultures, including the Macedonians and Alexander the Great.

Hope some of you find it as interesting as I did.

[youtube]SLBMupbqo2I[/youtube]

tl;dw:
1 - linen body armor seemed to be very strong and held several advantages over other armor, such as being lightweight and cooler.

2 - had a long history despite archaeological evidence of any surviving examples. was referenced many times in literature (since homer and on through 300s), and art such as pottery. it fell out of use when weapons technology advanced and became too powerful.

There is also a book that he has published for further reading. I will probably read through this at some point in the near future. 
Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor: Unraveling the Linothorax Mystery


Offline Rostum

Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2016, 12:03:14 AM »
A strange lack of Germanic ranting about this.

Composites are really good protection and linen makes a great composite.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2016, 01:39:52 AM »
Interesting. As a soldier with some experience in difficult environs, I can see this being a go-to option, in its day.

One observation: heavy clothing + rain/water = a ton of weight, and unlike other, heavier armors, there is no support structure to manage it. So, if your opponent wears cloth armor, seek water, and keep it between you. And storming a castle with a moat, well, you might do well to drop it.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Rostum

Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2016, 09:45:09 AM »
Quote
One observation: heavy clothing + rain/water = a ton of weight, and unlike other, heavier armors, there is no support structure to manage it. So, if your opponent wears cloth armor, seek water, and keep it between you. And storming a castle with a moat, well, you might do well to drop it.

From memory this is a type of armour mentioned in classical literature with no surviving examples and we are not sure exactly how it is made but the glue use to hold it together would either be waterproof or water soluble. If its waterproof go swimming in it. You are carrying less weight than they guys wearing the bronze armour.
If the glue is not the layers will unravel if they get wet, but as it was developed in a very arid part of the world that's less of an issue.

1500 years later and jacks are used in the UK which were 30-40 folds of linen soaked in oil and sealed between two facing pieces of waxed linen.

Offline night_wrtr

Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2016, 01:12:38 PM »
Reverse engineering makes it difficult to determine the actual methods, but like Rostum said, the glue would be crucial. I think they used rabbit glue, but that's all speculation. I agree there must have been an addictive to the glue that would have helped waterproofing.

Also, I wonder about the waxing idea to coat the outside. Like he said, a hot day would begin melting the wax as much as the glue. I also go back to Alexander's depiction of his ornamented lino. I doubt it would be covered in wax, and if not, he wouldn't go into battle with less sound armor than any one else. There must have been something that protected against heat and water that we are missing. The battle of Hydaspes was fought on a flooded river bank/plain, so water must not have been a major issue. Again, all speculation, but just some points of thought.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2016, 01:21:30 PM by night_wrtr »

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2016, 05:51:59 PM »
My comment about wet cloth armor was a bit ambiguous. I did not mean that it would fall apart, but that the way the weight lays on the body would be very different than 1) the way it was when dry and 2) the way the weight of metal or stiff leather armor would lay.

This is important because it impacts balance. Metal armors spread the weight between the shoulders and the waist, with some residual weight conveyed to the torso. Cloth armor relies much more on the shoulders. When wet, the additional weight (and it can be a lot - cloth armor can probably absorb 1 to 2 gallons of water, at 8 pounds each - most of that 8 to 16 pounds would be on the shoulders, and make one extra-top heavy. Combined with the shift in center of balance, that makes for difficulties in fighting, especially on broken terrain.

So it's not only that there's added weight (problem 1), it's also that you've changed the amount and center of gravity (problem 2), and moved it higher, leading to instability (problem 3). Problem 4 is less obvious - because the armor isn't always heavy, you never grow stronger and more able to carry that weight while doing all the things soldiers do, of which fighting is only 2% or far less.

I am not judging one form of armor over another, I am simply describing useful details for writers.

For example, If you want your lance-bearing hero to pitch off his horse so he must fight the baddy (who has neither horse nor lance) sword-to-sword, you have a problem: no one in their right mind gives up that kind of advantage. But putting him in cloth armor and making him soaking wet and top heavy makes it possible for him to fall, despite his excellent horsemanship.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline night_wrtr

Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2016, 06:43:22 PM »
MWhen wet, the additional weight (and it can be a lot - cloth armor can probably absorb 1 to 2 gallons of water, at 8 pounds each - most of that 8 to 16 pounds would be on the shoulders, and make one extra-top heavy. Combined with the shift in center of balance, that makes for difficulties in fighting, especially on broken terrain.

Interesting point.

I wonder what the change in weight would be if they soaked one of their finished reconstructions for a set period. If it were vulnerable to absorb that much water, that certainly would cause some problems as you say. He discussed some of the weight comparisons with other armor, but nothing really about soaking weight or the change in balance. Definitely something ponder. 

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2016, 05:46:05 AM »
We know the people of the past were smart and practical. They would know about linseed oil and other water-proofers. Of course, all oils are vulnerable to fire... it's always been a vicious cycle. You can never eliminate danger, you just move it around.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2016, 06:07:45 AM by The Gem Cutter »
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Yora

Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2016, 02:02:09 PM »
That damn thin again. ;D

As experimental  archeology goes, this thing is highly controversial, especially over the durability of gluing layers together.

But this new presentation improves a lot on earlier ones that were around. A lot more sources are provided (which used to be difficult to find reference to a few years ago) and they also adress the water problem. Still not fully convinced that gluing was the primary method. Quilting is just as effective and seems to have many advantages, but a practical solution to water proofing (at least for short term trials) makes it now look much more plausible.

But I still don't believe the Alexander mosaic shows fabric armor. The one that the artist depicted clearly is covered in bronze. There's a really nice depth effect by using different shades of stones to create the appearance of light gleaming off curved sheets of bronze.
However, the mosaic was made centuries after Alexander's death and who knows how much the artist knew about armor from the past?

Still, fabric is a great material for armor, especially for the masses for whom metal armor just wasn't possible in such huge quantities.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2016, 02:59:53 PM by Yora »
Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

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Offline Rostum

Re: Body Armor - Linothorax
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2016, 05:15:53 PM »
welcome Back Yora!