HELMETS                             3/14/11

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      There was a wide variety of helmets in use in the mid-first century AD, nowadays known by H. Russell Robinson's classifications (see his Armour of Imperial Rome for the fullest details).  The choice of style is up to you, and does NOT depend on whether you plan to wear lorica segmentata or mail armor (hamata).  (Photo at left copyright Jane Walker.)

       The historical accuracy of your helmet must be very good.  Roman helmets were forged in one piece complete with the neckguards:  reproductions my have welds if they are not visible on the outside.  All the appropriate ridges and fittings must be present.  Generally, steel is used instead of iron, and either red or yellow brass is fine (the zinc content of Roman brass or orichalcum varied).  Rivets are generally copper, and may be domed or flat-headed.

Click for Hints on Spun Helmets
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       Of the Imperial-Gallic helmets, type G is the most popular with reenactors, but types A through I are all acceptable.  Type I is brass, type A can be iron or brass, while the rest apparently were all iron.  All have embossed steps and ridges on the back of the skull, neckguard, and cheekpieces, and the distinctive "eyebrows" on the front.  The brow reinforce is a thick iron strip, or brass on brass helmets--this may have a tab in the center which projects through a slot in the bowl to prevent movement (though it should not poke you in the forehead!).

       All Imperial-Gallic helmets except type A have applied brass features: edging; stamped decorative bosses;  "reeded" browbands; crest support holders and hooks or rings; chinstrap rings (1 under the neckguard, 1 inside each cheekpiece); and sometimes carrying handles.  Types E-I have earguards of brass, while type D's are iron, and A & C have none at all.  Applied brasswork is often tinned or silvered.  Most of these fittings are riveted on with copper rivets, though an iron brow reinforce may be secured with iron rivets at either end.
       Gallic type A by Joe Piela, Lonely Mountain Forge.  The occipital ridges are more rounded than later types, and the brow reinforce is quite thick and heavy.  The cheekpieces have studs on the outside rather than interior rings, for the chinstrap.  There are no crest attachments, following the iron example from Nijmegen.  But a tinned brass example from Eich has a crest knob similar to those on Coolus helmets. It had also been retrofitted with earguards at some point, with the front edges of the neckguard trimmed back to make space.  The Gallic type A is believed to date back to the reign of Augustus.
       Imperial Gallic type C by Scott Martin of Illusion Armoring.  The original had no earguards, the brass edging being carried around the ear opening as shown.  That and the narrow eyebrows suggest a date in the early first century AD.

       A fabulous Imperial Gallid D helmet by Joe Piela, owned by Todd Kofchur.  I think he's out-done himself this time.  There is also a view from above, and a close-up of the front showing the wire inlay on the brow reinforce.  The bosses above the cheekpieces are silver, and the earguards are steel.

   Two Gallic type G helmets by the late Michael Luznicky.  Brass browband, edging, and bosses were done "in-house".  Their neckguards are about 2-3/4" wide at the center, and they weigh about 4 pounds each.  Note that Gallic G is very over-used by reenactors today, as only one example has been found.
       Imperial Gallic type G helmet by Joe Piela of Lonely Mountain Forge.  The bowl, with the neckguard, is authentically raised from a single piece of steel. 

       There are photos of the original Imperial-Gallic type G from Mainz (the only complete example known) on the Roman Hideout site,


       Imperial-Gallic type H helmet by Peter Fuller of Medieval Reproductions.  The original is missing all its fittings except for a large flat rivet in the middle of the neckguard, where we have placed a stamped boss.  Another fine replica (By Scott Martin of Illusion Armoring) can be seen on the Roman Hideout site, http://www.romanhideout.com/Armamentarium/H_Imp_Gall_H.asp 
       First is a Deepeeka Gallic type I (Mainz version) with cheekpieces and feather crest by Jeff Crean.  Farther right is another Deepeeka Gallic I with its cheekpieces unchanged, but the rings on the neckguard have been exchanged for proper flat studs.  Note the Italic-style slotted disc crest support holder.  For photos of all the Deepeeka helmets, see http://www.deepeeka.com/armoury/documents/shop_page.php?cat=7&subcat=Roman.
       Deepeeka Gallic I, Acquincum version, with crest by Owen Hutchins.  This helmet has a rather fancy crest knob (far right) rather than the usual Gallic style crest attachments.
       Imperial-Gallic type E is very similar to type H (eyebrow shape and neckguard width) except that the neckguard is flat rather than sloped.

       Type F has a flat narrow neckguard like type G, but with narrow two-ridge eyebrows.  The cheekpieces are more tapered in shape.

       Photographs of a reproduction Gallic D helmet by Jurgen (who is not making them for sale, unfortunately!):

       It is very difficult to find accurate dimensions for most of the popular helmets.  The brass Imperial-Gallic type A from Eich:  Height (doesn't say exactly where to where!) 16.2 cm (6-3/8"); length of bowl excluding neckguard 21.4 cm (8-1/2"), including neckguard 30.5 cm (12"); bowl at widest 18.5 cm (7-3/8"); neckguard across widest point 28.5 cm (11-1/4").

       The applicable Imperial-Italic helmets, types B, C, and D, are quite similar to the Imperial-Gallic, but have no eyebrows and few decorative bosses if any.  The brow reinforce is usually thinner than on the Gallic types, often with the front edge turned down for strength.  Type D has brass earguards, but on B and C the edges of the ear cutouts are simply flanged outwards.  The Italic crest support holder is a raised disc with a slot, rather than the Gallic flat rectangular tube.

       Italic type B is iron, very clean and simple.  The neckguard is quite narrow with only a single step, slightly sloped.

       Italic type C by Dean Cunningham.  The originals of this type are of rough construction, with visible hammer and chisel marks, and Dean is proud to have captured that feeling!  The earguards are simply the edges of the ear cut-outs flanged outwards.  The crest support holder and hooks are soldered in place.
       Italic type D by Joe Piela of Lonely Mountain Forge.  Excellent work, with all the appropriate engraving on the applied brass temples.  All of the brass decorations and the crest support holder are soldered in place.  Note that the brow reinforce is brass and rather thin, and the front edge has a number of small nicks evenly spaced, possibly to help secure an edging which is now missing?  The brow reinforce rivets (brass) are rather tall and ornate, and since there are no crest hooks at front and back (though these are often added to reproductions), it is possible that these rivets served as tie-down points for a transverse crest.
       Helmet from Alem, Germany, made by Matthew Amt from a spun bowl.  It is basically a Coolus type I, but can be classed with Italic helmets as well.  The original was spun and the neckguard crudely hammered out flat, causing Michael Simkins to classify it as an auxiliary helmet.  But it has crest attachments and feather tubes, and buffs up rather nice, so there is no reason to doubt that it was a legionary helmet.  The original was missing its cheekpieces, so these are "type 21" from Nijmegen.  (Photo copyright Jane Walker.)

       The Roman Hideout also has photos of Imperial-Italic type D (note that originally the iron surface would have been bright steel, not dark), http://www.romanhideout.com/Armamentarium/H_Imp_Ita_D.asp 
       Coolus (types C-I) and Montefortino (types C-F) helmets are brass and fairly plain, except for some ridges or raise panels on the cheekpieces. They are globular or hemispherical in shape, not closely fitted to the head like the Imperial types--some were spun on a lathe rather than hammered to shaped.  The brow reinforce, not present on some Montefortino types, is either flat and thick or thin with a turned-down edge.  There is usually a crest knob, made in one piece with the skull on a Montefortino, but soldered or riveted onto a Coolus.  There may be feather tubes at the temples.  Chinstrap rings are identical to Imperial helmets, although earlier examples have studs outside the cheekpieces instead.  There are no earguards, bosses, edging, or reeded browbands (although Coolus H has filed decoration to resemble a browband, below).  Brass helmets may be entirely tinned or silvered.

     Right, Coolus E made from spun dome by Matthew Amt.  (Photo copyright Jane Walker.)

       The Coolus types C and E seem to have been by far the most common helmets of the early and mid-first century AD.  In fact, they may be considered essentially the same type, since their bowls and neckguards are all in the same range of size and shape.  It is only the shape of the cheekpieces which distinguishes them, and most helmets are found without their cheekpieces.  According to Robinson's classification, Coolus C has no crest knob, following the two complete examples he shows, but bowls with crest knobs have been found associated with (unattached) type C cheekpieces, so the distinction is becoming blurred.
       Coolus type C made from a spun dome by Vince Thomas and Matthew Amt.  Many Type C cheekpieces were nearly flat, with no raised edge.  This very clean and functional helmet may be used by legionaries or auxiliaries.  Legio XX also permits crest knobs on Coolus C helmets.

       Coolus G helmet by Stallari Armory (no longer in business).  This follows the Burlafingen example rather than the more popular Drusenheim, the main difference being the shape of the neckguard (which is just under 4 inches wide at center).  Crest knob by John Novicki.  Total weight 5-1/2 pounds.
       The actual Drusenheim helmet was spun, and is 8-1/2" in diameter.  It is circular in shape, not "squashed" or re-shaped after spinning to give a closer-fitting oval shape.   The neckguard, like that on the Burlafinen helmet, is perfectly flat.
       The Coolus G from Nijmegen, shown in the drawing below, has a slightly sloped neckguard which is only about 3" wide.  As on the other two examples, the neckguard continues into a narrow flat flange around the front of the helmet brim.
       Coolus H by Matthew Amt, made from a spun dome.  Flat neckguard very similar to Coolus G, but has filed lines across the front brim which mimic the brass browbands on Gallic helmets.  The crest support holder is an Italic slotted disc style, and the brow reinforce has an L-shaped cross section.  The cheekpieces are "type 24" from Carnuntum.  (Photos copyright Jane Walker.)

       Coolus E from Berkhamstead, in the British Museum.  The bowl was spun on a lathe, and the internal diameter is 8-1/2" from front to back, and 8-1/4" from side to side.  That might be tinning on the outside.  The top of the crest knob has been sawn off, leading to speculation that this piece might have been a legionary helmet that was "retired" to an auxiliary unit.  Photo by Orton Begner.
       At far left (35 K.) is a lovely Gallic H by Stallari, owned by Legio III Gallica.  Right is Greg Fabic with the Coolus G he made from a spun brass bowl.   Center is an "iron Coolus C" made by Matthew Amt from a civil defense helmet--very cheap!   Simply trim the brim to make the neckguard, add cheekpieces and a brow reinforce, and replace the lining.  I went the extra step of soldering small discs into the holes left by the suspension rivets to make them less visible.  Even so, this type is based only on one lump of rust which Robinson calls Coolus C, so its existence is dubious.  Legio XX uses this helmet only to loan to soldiers who would otherwise have none.
       Montefortino helmets made from spun brass bowls.  The left-hand one is at type A by Stallari, dating to the 4th or 3rd century BC (and therefore too early for our usual Imperial impression).  The crest knob was cast by lost-wax technique and is soldered on.  The brim may be a little too wide around the sides and front.  The right-hand helmet is a type C based on the Buggenum helmet, made by Matthew Amt.  The crest knob was from an old porch light, and is brazed on to look like it is one piece with the bowl.  This helmet would be perfect for a Caesarian impression, but would be rather outdated by the reign of Claudius.  Both of these helmets have studs on the cheekpieces rather than rings, and the chinstraps are narrow strips each with a slit in the end for buttoning over the stud.  (Note--objects in helmet are closer than they appear...)

Fittings and Details
       Decorative bosses are usually stamped out of thin brass (.010"), and a number of designs are known.  (Consult the Commander.)  Some examples are silver with red enameled centers.  "Reeded" browbands were apparently cast, but modern reproductions are often stamped.  Earguards, whether brass or iron, should at least appear to be made in one piece, even if welded.  Coolus-type crest knobs may be turned or cast, while Imperial crest holders are made of sheet brass.  Brass hooks or rings for securing the crest are also present on most Imperial-style helmets, as well as on a few Coolus helmets (often regarded as later types or modifications).  (See the Crests page.)

       Most Imperial helmets have brass edging on the cheekpieces and neckguard, which can be made from 1/8" or 3/16" tube.  Anneal well and bend to fit, re-heating if necessary to avoid bad puckers.  Then slit the tube open around the inside with a Dremel tool and fit it into place, and hammer carefully to flatten it.  Brass tabs c.1/4" wide may be riveted on to secure the edging if needed--2 on each cheekpiece and 2 or 3 on the neckguard.  The edging might also be made from brass strip c. 3/8" wide, instead of tube.

       Examples of brass carrying handles seem to date to the second half of the first century AD.  They are secured by 2 brass split pins, rather like cotter pins.

       Chinstrap rings are c.1/2" in diameter, each secured with a brass strip folded double and riveted in place.  There is one under the center of the neckguard, and one inside each cheekpiece, near the bottom.  The chinstrap thongs start at the neckguard ring (as shown at left), cross under the throat, and are passed through the cheekpiece rings to be tied under the chin.  

       Coolus and Montefortino helmets, up to type C, and Imperial-Gallic type A, have projecting studs outside the cheekpieces instead of rings.  Normal thongs can be looped around these and tied under the chin, or wider straps can be used, with slits to "button" over the studs.

       Detail of the cheekpiece hinge.  The hinge plate was more often rectangular (and often rather irregular) instead of ovoid.  Note the small brass tabs riveted in place to secure the cheekpiece edging.  Hammer and chisel marks are also visible!

       Helmet linings were apparently usually glued in place (with hide glue), but little is known beyond that.  The only known reference to helmet padding is best translated as a "wad of rags"!   Shown here is a simple linen cap which can be padded with cotton batting, horsehair, tow, scraps, layers of wool, etc.  It can be made adjustable with a drawstring.  Thick felt can also be used.  An alternative is a folded or rolled strip around the brim, and a folded square or rectangle at the top.  The lining can be sewn to a leather band which is then glued into place, so that the lining can be removed for washing or repairs just by cutting the stitching.

Original Roman helmets can be seen on the Legio VI Victrix page on "Real Gear", http://www.legionsix.org/Equipment/Real%20Gear/Real%20Gear%202.htm, and the Roman Numismatics site, http://www.romancoins.info/MilitaryEquipment.html.  Some earlier types at Dan Diffendale's Helmets of Ancient Italy, http://www.freewebtown.com/italica/italic_military/general_italic/armor/helmets/helmets.html.

Also visit the British Museum site at www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk, click on "Compass" for their search engine, and search "Roman helmets", etc.

Click for Hints on Spun Helmets

       There are several custom armorers who make good helmets listed on the Suppliers page

       Most of the usable "off the shelf" helmets at the moment are made by Deepeeka in India, sold by a number of vendors on the Suppliers page. (All product numbers start with "AH".)   Deepeeka has just improved many of their products, including most of their Roman helmets.  See the Deepeeka subsection of the Marketplace at the Roman Army Talk Board for details and photos of the new items.  Soon all the new products will be shown on the Deepeeka site, http://www.deepeeka.com/.

The following Deepeeka helmets have also been improved and are all fully acceptable for Legio XX use.  Be sure to specify the "N" in the catalog number to avoid the older versions (which may still be stocked by some vendors).

#6306N Imperial Gallic A
#6307N Imperial Gallic C
#6052N Imperial Gallic G (Over-used by reenactors!)
#6053N Imperial Gallic H
#6059BN Imperial Gallic I (Mainz)
#6055BN Coolus C
#6051BN Coolus E
#6308BN Coolus G
#6057BN Imperial Italic C
#6054N Imperial Italic D

New helmets which have been added to the Deepeeka line, all approved for Legio XX use, include Coolus D, Imperial Gallic F, and Imperial Italic B.

#6060B "Acquinson" (actually Imp. Gal. I, Aquincum) (brass) -- The shape of the crest knob is not exactly like the original, but it can either be altered, replaced, or simply left as is.  The slot in the knob is often too wide, but that really can't be helped much.  Overall excellent.  (I don't know if this helmet is going to be upgraded or discontinued.)

#6050 Montefortino B (not to be confused with 6063, below!) was much too large, but has recently been improved and now looks very good.  At least one other Montefortino is under development.

       #6062B "Attic Greek" is a passable Republican Attic helmet, c. 3rd century BC.  Might even be used for later tribunes and legates with some modifications.  #6303B Auxiliary Infantry B is excellent for auxiliary infantry

       The Deepeeka "Special Command" helmets are simply their Gallic G and H with different crests, but unfortunately the crests are not good.  See the page on Helmet Crests for better ideas.

       Also, #3801 Trooper, #3815 Imp. Italic Centurian, #3816 Imp. Italic Guard, and the entire "Royal" line are all junk, and should be avoided at all costs.  Similarly, none of the helmets from Windlass Steelcrafts/Museum Replicas are usable, even with modification.  (See page on Things to Avoid.)

       Please use caution when buying even the improved Deepeeka helmets from ebay vendors or other places.  If the description does not specify an improved Deepeeka product, check with the Commander first!  Many companies are making bad imitations of these pieces.

       Daniyal Steelcrafts in India has begun production of an excellent Gallic A helmet in tinned bronze or steel. The helmet comes with chinstraps and a liner kit is also available.  It is available in the USA from Soul of the Warrior:  http://legvi.tripod.com/armamentarium/id289.html 
Compare to the original, from the Axel Guttmann collection: http://www.legionsix.org/images/gallicAfront.jpghttp://www.legionsix.org/images/gallicAleft.jpg 


From Rusy Myers, Soul of the Warrior, regarding sizes of the Deepeeka helmets:  "[Measuring your head] side to side and front to back as well as circumference helps.  Some (Like the [Gallic] B for example) are shaped different and fit a bigger head better than others, and there is a LITTLE wiggle room (as long as you remove the browband first).  I find the new F, G, and H's fit up to a US [hat size] 7.5 very well, (23-24.5 inch circumference I think) but if you have a "large neck" for lack of a better term, the back can pinch a bit (these three helms are almost identical for sizing purposes).  Size 8 to 8.5 can try a Gallic A, as it is shaped totally different and a little larger.  Unfortunately if you have over an 8.5 US, you will be hard to fit.  Under a 6.75, I would recommend a Gallic F.  It is still sized the same as the G and H, but the smaller cheek pieces and smaller neck guard mean it disguises being too big.  My 12 year old son wears one, and it looks proportional, as opposed to the other helms.  Just some suggestions. If you wear anything in the the US 7's you will not have too much trouble fitting nearly all Deepeeka helms, over or under that you need to email your:

US Hat Size
Front to back
Side to Side

Just to make sure we can make a solid recommendation.  I prefer inches... less conversion from metric."

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