GREAVES (OCRAE) 10/22/05
|During the Republican period, when legionaries had to provide their own gear, most of them wore a single bronze greave (ocra) on the left leg. Wealthier soldiers wore two. At first these were very similar to the Classical Greek style, wrapping around the leg and extending over the kneecap. At left is a bad photo of a pair in the British Museum, shown with a very rare pair of footguards! At right are Kevin Hendryx's very nice early Classical Greek greaves, made by Darkheart Armory. (Also see my Greek Hoplite Page) In Italy it was common to have straps and buckles at the bottom and near the top, rather than simply pulling the greave onto the leg and relying on its own springiness to keep it in place.|
Philip II's Greaves, http://www.macedonian-heritage.gr/HellenicMacedonia/en/img_B1273b.html. Another original greave is shown on the Legio VI site at the bottom of their "Real Gear" page, http://www.legionsix.org/Real%20Gear.htm.
During the 5th century BC a new style started to appear, which covered only the front of the shin and knee, being held on entirely by the straps. These straps often went around the front of the greave and can be seen in artwork. By the end of the Republic, legionaries had given up wearing greaves, probably just because they had to march longer distances and considered their shields to be sufficient protection. Centurions still wore them, however, as much an indication of rank as for defense.
Some Imperial cavalry troops
had greaves, and a new feature developed for them. The part
the knee was now hinged to the top of the lower section, and the whole
thing was secured by crossing straps at the back. At the ankle,
greaves were squared off at a uniform length as on earlier styles, but
some extended lower at the sides to cover the anklebones, forming an
over the instep. Some greaves from the second and third centuries
AD were very ornate, with high embossed relief.
Some legionaries also re-adopted greaves early in the second century AD, a simple shinguard (apparently iron or brass) with squared ends and no knee covering. (Those at left by Matt Lanteigne, Legio XXX.) This appears at the same time as the segmented manica or armguard. Rather than being rounded across the face or having embossed decoration or stylized muslces, this type was generally plain and had a medial ridge from top to bottom. Like the manica, we don't know how many legionaries might have worn these greaves. They might have been issued in response to the Dacian falx, a weapon which was a greater danger to the limbs because of its ability to get around or through a shield, but they seem to have been used in regions where the falx did not exist. They don't seem to have been worn by all legionaries, but perhaps were issued only to front-rankers, or some more heavily-armored shock troops.
| At right
are Matthew Amt's greaves, made by Alan Senefelder of Mercenary's
Tailor Armoury at Albion Swords, Ltd.
They are padded with wool and linen, and the leather straps are more
comfortable than cords or thongs.
Even the simplest greaves were
usually slightly curved to fit the leg, making them more complex than
metal "gutters". The shaping on the early wrap-around styles
great skill to match the leg closely. Greaves are also assumed to
have been lined with leather, etc., glued in like a helmet
lining. One other important point is that the weight of the
greave must be supported by the top of the calf muscle, so that it does
not rest on the top of the foot! The strap at the bottom is
merely to control the lower end of the greave, while the top strap
holds it up.
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