By Matthew R. Amt
Commander, Twentieth Legion
matthew_amt AT yahooo DOT com
The Online Handbook has grown far beyond the original printed version, and is continually being updated. Illustrations are added whenever possible. More pictures can be found elsewhere on the Legion website (particularly the Photos and Roman Days pages), on various linked sites, and in the books in our Bibliography. You may feel free to download, copy, or print any part of our Handbook, as long as you give credit where credit is due and do not attempt to use it for profit.
Although we place a strong emphasis on historical accuracy, the shortage of unit-specific evidence forces us to conjecture on some aspects of our impression. Indeed, it will become clear that what we are recreating is simply the "typical" first-century legionary, since it is not known how uniform or distinctive different Roman units might have been. New evidence could bring changes to various details of our kit. We try to avoid presenting the conjectural aspects of our impression as fact--it's all right to tell the audience that we need to add our best guesses to our best evidence.
Minimum equipment for participation at public events includes sandals, tunic, armor, helmet, shield, and sword (caligae, tunica, lorica, cassis, scutum, gladius). Once these are completed, purchased, or borrowed, a soldier may take the field with the Legion. New members usually borrow gear until their own is complete (see Membership). A scarf, javelin, belt, and dagger (focale, pilum, balteus, pugio) complete the basic field kit. For marches, campouts, or cold-weather events, however, you will want to add more: cloak, helmet crest, pack, tools and mess gear, shield cover, palisade stakes, personal effects, etc. Descriptions of (most of) these items are found herein. Whenever a section is revised or updated, the date at the top of that section will be changed, so that you can tell if you have the most recent edition.
The Commanding Officer will need to approve your equipment before it can be used, in order maintain our standards of authenticity. Using the Legion's guidelines and recommended sources will help to assure the accuracy of your kit. See also the Suppliers page, and the page of Things to Avoid.
In accordance with our Bylaws
and Philosophy, all clothing and equipment should be as authentic
he modern world allows, tempered by some practicality. Our goal
to recreate Roman soldiers and civilians, not necessarily the
industries that produced their clothing and accessories.
fabric does not have to be hand-woven, and armor is made of mild sheet
steel. Bearing that limitation in
the best way to make something is the way it was made in Roman
If a dagger scabbard, for example, was made of thin sheet metal, a
of it should not be cast. Resist the urge to "fake it"--such
are usually unconvincing, fragile, or both. It is always
to see someone go to great effort to make something wrong! When
a project, take time to study the Handbook and other photos, drawings,
and descriptions of original examples that you can find. Don't
to "reinvent the wheel", and stick to copying excavated artifacts
than interpreting pictoral evidence, whenever possible.
You are always encouraged to
exceed or surpass our minimum standards of accuracy, of course!
The use of such things as hand-forged metal or hand-woven cloth can
give results that are surprising, or teach us things we could not learn
from the modern equivalents.
"Burden of Proof"--It is up to you to provide historical evidence for any item or technique you wish to use which is not covered in the Handbook--you may not use something just because it cannot be proved wrong! The Handbook is not exhaustive or omniscient, but it should indicate whether some conjecture or extrapolation is necessary. More information can be found in the books listed in the Bibliography, so please read! It is also impossible to list the countless ways NOT to do something--ask the Commander if you have any doubts.
The following rules of thumb should give a good idea of our goals:
Clothing--Linen or wool--must be 100%, no blends or
Twills were common. Cotton and silk for civilians
only, and must
be approved before use. All
exposed stitching (hems, etc.) must be done
Leather--Vegetable-tanned, top grain. Avoid splits, suede, and chrome-tanned leathers. Goatskin and calf were common. May be dyed, and should be treated with oil. Click here for Leatherworking Tips.
Metal--Mild steel, NOT galvanized or stainless. Brass may be used for bronze items. No tubular, split, or pop rivets. Click here for Armoring Hints.
Wood--Ash is best for weapon shafts and tool handles. Plywood is used for shields. Exotic types like ebony should be avoided unless provable.
Our more experienced members can find flaws in virtually everything we wear and use, but we understand that perfection is impossible. A reproduction is good enough if a reasonably knowledgeable person can pick it up and try it on without finding any anachronisms. And a good reenactor will always strive to improve even beyond that point.
HANDBOOK TABLE OF CONTENTS--There are guidelines for each item below, plus patterns or extra "Hints" for some. At the top of each page is the date of its last update.
--Tunic Color Debate
Caligae and Focale
Cloak and Fibulae
--Hints on Spun Helmets
--Lorica Segmentata Patterns
--Notes on the Kalkriese Lorica
--Notes on the Newstead Lorica
--Segmented Manica (Armguard)
--Scutum Emblem Patterns
--Scutum Marching Cover
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