THE ANCIENT GREEK HOPLITE

HELMETS                         1/31/16

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       Let's face it, the most popular Greek helmet, today as well as in ancient times, was the Corinthian.  It was the epitome of the armorer's art, and is considered the hallmark of the hoplite.  Many versions are available, but as always, shop carefully!  Don't bother with steel ones, or black, or antiqued, or green.  (Or plastic or "cold cast"!)  Brass is widely accepted (though not universally!), but bronze helmets can be found.  (Note that this will usually not be an actual ancient alloy of copper and tin, but instead will contain silicon, phosphorus, or zinc.)

    Other types of helmets included Chalcidian, Illyrian, Thracian, and the humble pilos or bell helmet.  In fact, by the time of the Persian Wars, the Corinthian is near the end of its popularity and is beginning to be superseded by Thracian and Chalcidian styles.  By the Peloponnesian War it would have been uncommon, and the pilos very popular.  Hellenistic helmets included the Boeotian (especially for cavalry), Phrygian, and other variants of the Thracian. 


       My Corinthian helmet, made by Joe Piela of Lonely Mountain Forge.  I got the bronze as scrap, and it is probably "commercial bronze", actually a low-zinc brass.  Nice color and very easy to work!  Joe did this in 3 pieces brazed together, bowl, face, and back.
       Side view of helmet with very exciting crest.  For more information on building a crest, see the Legio XX page on Roman Helmet Crests.  Some early Greek crests were supported on projections above the crown, but most in the Classical period were mounted directly on the bowl.  Some very early crest boxes made of bronze survive, but none from the Classical period, implying that wood was used.  Those shown on vase paintings have painted decoration (but then, so do some helmets!).

       Detail of my crest attachments.  Not wanting to make any irreversable holes or the like, I soldered a pin to the back of the helmet and a tab to the top, and made a corresponding hole and slot in the wood block to match.  Then I drilled a hole through the block and the tab for a lockpin.  Just how crests were attached on the original helmets is difficult to tell.  Many have holes, pegs, or little rings in various locations, but no crests have survived to show any corresponding features.

       Thomas Daniels made this thick, luscious crest for his Deepeeka brass Corinthian helmet.  The wood block is not yet painted.

       An early Corinthian helmet at the British Museum, dating about 550 BC, at a guess.  As far as I know there is no off-the-shelf version of a helmet like this, lacking the later ridge or step around the crown, but Manning Imperial has a GORGEOUS one, http://www.manningimperial.com/item.php?item_id=604&g_id=3&c_id=56 
See Connolly's Greece and Rome at War for even earlier styles.

       Pilos that I made out of a spun brass dome.  I dished the top out deeper and to a point, added the ridge, and flanged out the bottom edge.   Glued inside is a simple round pad made of multiple layers of scrap wool, there's a hole in the rim at each side for a chin tie.  Finished weight is about 2-1/4 pounds.

       An Archaic Corinthian helmet that I made from a spun brass dome.  There are only 3 or 4 such helmets that are made in two pieces that I know of, all the rest being one piece.  Here is the original that this one is based on.  It dates to c. 650 BC, and would not likely to have been seen by the Persian Wars.  Mine weighs 3-1/2 pounds, and is brass rather than bronze, but it basically cost nothing!  The edging is red wool felt.  I still need to add a lining.

       I trimmed the cheekpieces on a standard Deepeeka Corinthian helmet with metal snips to make a Chalcidean helmet.  For variety's sake!

Gold mine for original helmets, all neatly arranged by type: http://www.thefakebusters.com/greek%20bronze%20helmets/ancient%20Greek%20hoplite%20bronze%20helmets%201.htm 

Ancient Greek Armour, Shields and Helmets--Great links and photos, but beware of the links to equipment vendors!
http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/war/Armor2.htm

       See the usual vendors and craftsmen listed on the front page.  Obviously, Jeffrey Hildebrandt (Royal Oak), Matt Lukes, Craig Stitch (Manning Imperial), Joe Piela (Lonely Mountain Forge), and other experienced custom armorers will be able to make you a much better helmet than anything coming from India, and obviously a custom helmet will cost more and take much longer to get. 

http://www.royaloakarmoury.com/2014/08/19/illyrian-helmet/ 

Deepeeka
--"Italo-Corinthian" helmet AH6058B, generally just called a Corinthian (correctly!) by vendors.  It is decent even though it is brass; the cheekpieces are rather long.  Skip the steel version and don't bother with the crest.  NOTE: There are "spinoff" versions of this helmet made by other manufacturers, which I would avoid since they add more flaws.  Some carry the ridge around the eyeholes straight across the top of the nasal, making them easy to spot.
--"Spartan Early Corinthian" AH6111, not as appealing to *me*, though other people find it acceptable.
--"Early Chalcidian" AH6065B, looks good.
--Boeotian helmet, AH6118, should not have the medial ridge; rather large but good for big heads.  Good for Peloponnesian War and after, especially for cavalry.
--Alexander the Great helmet, AH6124.  Can be a good Hellenistic helmet, but needs modification--move cheekpieces back, remove ear flaps, and trim droopy bits off just behind that.

Daniyal/DSC
--Corinthian A and B, both excellent, brass or bronze.
--Illyrian--Wonderful!  Brass or bronze.
--Chalcedian--Um, not sure about this one, it *looks* like a modified Corinthian.  Just hits me the wrong way!  But for all I know it could be a direct copy of an original!  (Daniyal does that!)
--Crests!  A nice variety, made to fit their helmets, good prices!  Don't know how durable they are.

Armae--http://www.armae.com/Zenglish/greek_and_roman/antiquity_frame.htm 
--Corinthian HL101--Standard Deepeeka brass Corinthian
--"Thracian" HL123 (actually Phrygian) and Hellenistic HL137 are e
xcellent Hellenistic helmets.  Attic HL144 is really a Thracian style, and is good at least as early as mid-5th century.


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GREEK HELMETS IN THE HIGGINS ARMORY MUSEUM
, Worcester, MA 

       The Higgins Museum, now closed, had 8 Corinthian helmets on display when I visited, seven in one case and one in its own.  The seven were arranged roughly chronologically, and I have numbered them 1 through 7 from oldest to youngest.  Most show damage (probably post-usage) or have holes or missing portions.  I'll make comparisons to similar helmets in Greece and Rome at War, pp. 60-61.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get any photos.

       One crucial bit of information is on one of the labels: "Most Corinthian helmets weighed two to four pounds without crests."  This agrees with listed weights from the Guttmann Collection and other helmets--it is clear that heavier guesses are incorrect.

   #1 is the oldest, 650-600 BC, similar to Connolly #9.  The nasal is very straight and rectangular, and flairs at the top where it is RIVETED on!  It could be a repair, but is very cleverly and subtly done.

   #4 clearly has rather thick metal at the nasal and cheekpieces.   A couple others seem to, but might just have thicker or turned-back edges.

   #5 has a rather vague ridge where the bowl meets the sides, and a bold set of eyebrows that actually cross the ridge!  (Sort of like Connolly's #11.)  There was more embossed decoration at the center front of the bowl, now mostly a large hole.

   On #6 the ridge is also fairly vague, but in the center front it dips down to a point instead of up (Connolly #14 and #17).

   #2 and #3 both seem to have one or two rivets at the front of the bowl, probably for crest attachments, but there are no surviving crest fittings or visible solder marks.

   #7's bowl is "bullet" shaped, taller than the other rounder ones.  The cheekpieces are very close together, probably due at least in part to post-loss squashing.  The gap is about a quarter inch at the bottom, and at the top the right cheekpiece is actually bent out slightly where it has collided with the nasal.  The nasal itself is small and slim.

     Helmet #8 is on its own in a different case, and dates to c. 550 BC.  At the top of the bowl are 2 pairs of small holes about 2 inches apart; the holes in each pair are about a quarter inch apart (front to back) and c. 1/16" in diameter.  Running through each pair of holes is a wire loop or ring--these must be crest attachments.  At the center back of the neckguard, near the edge, is an irregular hole c. 3/8" in diameter which could just be damage, but could have been a rivet hole.


Hoplite Home Page
Clothing Helmets Photos Other Greeks, and Others
Shield--Aspis/Hoplon Armor Weapons
Bibliography The BRONZE AGE