MANICA--Segmented Armguard                 3/16/08
       The segmented metal armguard that is commonly seen on depictions of gladiators was also used by some legionaries, at least occasionally.  It is clearly shown on the Adamklissi Monument, which shows scenes of Trajan's campaigns against the Dacians, and it also appears on a couple other reliefs of legionary equipment.  It is possible that armguards were issued to at least some legionaries during the Dacian campaigns to protect them specifically against the Dacian falx, a 2-handed weapon with a curved blade like a pruning hook.  It was apparently a very devastating weapon, able to go through or around the scutum, and may have inspired the army to issue more limb protection to the troops.  (The Adamklissi monument also shows greaves on a number of men.)  However, finds and depictions from other areas suggest that use of the manica was not unique to the Dacian campaigns, though there is likewise little to suggest that it was issued to all or even most legionaries.

       Fragments of what Bishop and Coulston interpret as a manica were found at Newstead, though H. Russell Robinson believed it was a thigh guard.  It would function well as either, though Bishop says that the curvature of the plates makes it an armguard.  Bishop and Coulston show a figurine of a fully armored gladiator known as a crupellarius which has segmented armor on both arms and both thighs.

       At left is a drawing of Robinson's reconstruction of the Newstead piece. It was made of rather thin brass.  The top plate is about 10" by 3-1/2" with the top edge turned down.  The 13 narrow plates are about 1-1/8" wide and taper in length down to about 4-1/4" at the bottom.  The plates are shown edge-to-edge, not overlapped as they would be when assembled.  The smaller dots are rivet holes c. 1/8" in diameter, flat-head rivets being used to secure the internal leather strips (the rivets were put in place from the inside, first through the leather and then through the metal, being peened flat on the outside as on a lorica).  Note that there are 4 leathers, one of which extends only halfway down.  Also note that the plates overlap upwards, not downwards as on a lorica.
       The larger dots are holes (c. 3/16" diameter) which are apparently for lacing the assembled plates to a leather or fabric lining.  This lining would then be strapped or laced to the arm.  If all of the laceholes are used to lace the manica directly to the arm, there will not be enough flexibility at the elbow.  It has been suggested that Robinson's reconstruction is incomplete and that some sort of larger elbow plate is necessary, but none are shown on the Adamklissi monument, nor on depictions of gladiator armguards.  Robinson's reconstruction may also be too short, since he believed it was a thigh guard.  The placement of the internal leathers is curious, since they will cover the laceholes, though that may not have been the case with some of the Carnuntum fragments.

       Dr. Bishop also tells of a recent find of a complete iron manica from Romania, as yet unpublished.  It has about 27 plates including a wider top plate like the Newstead example, and no distinctive elbow couter, and it wraps more than halfway around the arm.   Three complete or partial manicae were also unearthed at Carlisle early in 2001, but they have yet to be conserved or published.
       Click on the thumbnail at left to see a larger image of my reconstructed manica (15 K).  It has 20 plates, the narrow ones 1-1/8" wide and the large one 3-1/2" wide.  (The metal is not blued, it's just reflecting the sky!)  There are three internal leathers, not four as in Robinson's version.  There are 4 straps and buckles (sorry, one set has gotten folded under in this photo), though the second set from the bottom needs to be moved down a little to allow the best flexibility. 
       This thumbnail leads to a photo of the inside.  It is lined with calfskin, and the straps are sewn to the lining.  Leather tabs have been added to keep the buckles from digging into the skin.  The lining is held in by a leather thong that runs in a spiral through all the plate holes on each side.  Flexing makes a scissors-like action which tends to cut the thongs at the elbow, hmmm...
       (Photos courtesy of George Metz)

        There is some debate on how the manica was worn.  While shown above worn on the outside of the arm, it might have been worn covering the inside of the arm, giving better coverage to the more exposed top of the arm while thrusting with the gladius.  This also alleviates any trouble with the elbow.  But it does not seem to be certain just what is shown in Roman illustrations.

       RMRS page on Manica, http://www.romanarmy.net/manica.htm 
       Roman Army Talk discussion on the manica, http://www.romanarmy.nl/rat/viewtopic.php?t=19881 

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