Day 1 (Wednesday, 17 May 2023)

Opening speeches


Conference Textiles and War in Europe and the Mediterranean from Prehistory to Late Antiquity


Keynote lecture

Margarita Gleba (Padua, Italy):  Textiles for war: archaeological evidence and approaches


Panel 1

From garments and armor to ropes and sails: the use of military textile items and the effects of military campaigns over the acquisition and consumption of textiles


Emil Nankov (Sofia, Bulgaria): The Sling – an Overlooked Example of a ‘Weaponized Textile’ in Action


Military textiles are normally associated with pieces of armor, e.g. breastplates, greaves, etc., and almost never with weapons. This paper reviews the archaeological evidence for the sling construction. Other types of data come from iconographic representations, classical texts and modern ethnographic parallels. Here the focus is on the simplest kind, i.e. the sling with retention cords and a pouch in the middle designed to accommodate the projectile or the slingshot. It was called in Greek σφενδόνη, and in Latin funda. Extant specimens or archaeological discoveries of actual slings are discussed, with particular reference to Egypt, the Levant and Central Europe. The available data is cross-referenced with the written accounts known from the Greek and Roman historiography. The dataset shows the use of various organic materials (mainly plant fibres, such as flax, hemp and rush) and different techniques of manufacture, from plaiting to weaving. Although historical accounts also mention the use of leather thongs, hair or sinews, the archaeological finds from the 2nd and 1st millennium BC accounts for the fact that there was a preference for plant fibres. Despite the common perception of being the cheapest weapon to make throughout human history, the closer examination of the manufacturing techniques, especially of the pouch, testifies to the great care that went into the construction of the sling.


Gianluca Tagliamonte (Lecce, Italy): Memories of War. The linen cuirass of Lars Tolumnius and the milit use of linen in Italic equipment and armour


According to ancient tradition, Octavian personally examined in Rome the linen cuirass of the king of Veii, Lars Tolumnius, which the Roman commander Aulus Cornelius Cossus had deposited as spolia opima in the temple of Jupiter Feretrius, after killing in 437 3 BC the Etruscan king in a cavalry duel. Starting with this episode, the paper aims at providing a general overview on the use of linen in the military equipment and armour of pre-Roman peoples of Italy, particularly with reference to the peoples of Central and Southern Italy. The research is based on the scarce evidence derived both from the ancient writers and the archaeological record (especially from funerary context).


Fabio Spagiari, Elisabetta Malaman (Padua, Italy): Protecting the legionary’s head: analysis of the evidence of lining in Roman helmets from the Imperial age


In the ancient world, the helmet was an essential element of military equipment as it protected one of the soldier's most vulnerable points. Therefore, over the centuries the helmet changed according to different morphologies based on evolution of fighting techniques. The spread of metal helmets led to the development of further auxiliary protective systems: linings, probably called centones in Latin (Amm., 19.8.8). These were also employed to avoid direct contact between the soldier's head and the inner surface of the helmet. The use of linings is difficult to detect and, apart from a few sporadic finds in some specific contexts such as Germany or Egypt, only indirect traces of their presence remain. The contribution aims to emphasise the importance of these components from the analysis of the documentation of Roman helmets from the Imperial age (from the 1st century AD to the 5th century AD). Textile finds of these padding systems will be taken into account in order to unveil the morphology of these elements and how they were made and attached to the helmet. Moreover, the study will focus on indirect evidence of the use of linings: the presence of perimeter holes located along the edges of the helmet bowl, the check-pieces, or the neckguard of the helmet for edging or sewing the padding will be marked. The analysis will be supported by the examination of literary and iconographic sources. In particular, the latter show in some cases soldiers wearing a cap probably used as helmet liner: a representative case is the pileus pannonicus. In conclusion, thanks to the integration of the above-mentioned sources, it will be possible not only to highlight the use of lining for helmets, but also to hypothesise the use of different lining systems during the Imperial age.


Panel 2

Elite cloaks and standard uniforms: the iconography of Greek and Carthaginian military textile items and dress


Paulina Lebiedowicz (Toruń, Poland): Iconographic representations of sails and ropes of Greek warships depicted on ancient ceramics


This work focuses on iconographic representations of ropes and sails used on Greek military ships depicted on ancient ceramics. Aspects related to the acquisition and processing of natural resources in order to obtain goods necessary for sail and rope-making were discussed and analyzed. The importance of sails as a necessary support for large ships, which for the most part used oars as the main propulsion power, was also discussed. The ropes held the mast and sails in place, provided stability and the ability to quickly roll the sail up and down when necessary. From archaic times on ceramics one can find various arrangements of the two objects, differing in their number and position, which change with the development of shipbuilding and the increase of Greek war conquests. The possibility of recognizing and 5 characterizing them on ceramics allows for closer recognition of the state of the Greek naval military unit in ancient times.


Alina Iancu (Bucharest, Romania): A Few War-Related Representations on Ancient Textile Tools


Weaving and spinning constitute some of the most common activities carried out by ancient artisans, as garments and other textile fabrics were commodities widely needed for everyday use. The time and energy required by these crafts were substantial and they implied the use of various sets of tools (Ulanowska 2016, 44). An important component of the ancient textile kits was made out of clay (e.g. spindle whorls, epinetra, spools and loom weights) and sometimes these implements were impressed with ring seals while the clay was still crude or they were decorated with molded representations or even beautifully painted. The repertoire of symbols, motifs and scenes which were documented on many of these tools is vast and their exact meaning is still a matter of debate among scholars. Sometimes, they were interpreted as elements showing personal ownership (Quercia – Foxhall 2014, 96; Erikson 2018, 176), as trademarks (Davidson 1952, 156-160; Schilbach 1999 and others), decoration (Goldman 1940) or even as having a votive role (Smith 2015). From simple incisions to detailed ring stamps or exquisite painted scenes – all of them show the desire of toolmakers (and their clients, if the tools were produced in workshops) to mark and/or to embellish the tools. From the vast range of representations, the war-related scenes observed on some spools, loom weights and epinetra in the Aegean are some of the most unexpected motifs to be found on some objects which were commonly used in household, where mostly women were engaged in textile production. In this paper I aim to give a preliminary account of spinning and weaving tools bearing military motifs (e.g. the spool SF.9 from Keramidia, Peloponnese, impressed with a ring seal showing a warrior with helmet and shield, see Jones – Kouka 2015, 89, no. SF. 9, Fig. 41.9 and a conical loom weight from Olynthus stamped in a similar way, see Robinson 1930, 123, no. 2) and to discuss some possible meanings of these unusual associations.


Amine Hadj Taieb (Sfax. Tunisia): A technical description of the Carthaginian military dress


By the late 4th century BC, after the Phoenician city-states in the Levant were politically sidelined due to Alexander’s the Great conquest, Carthage, which is located in North Africa, on the present territory of Tunisia, flaunted both its commercial and military significance. The city took over the remnants of many of the various Phoenician colonies and trade factories, especially along the western Mediterranean coasts, ranging from North Africa to Sicily and Iberia (Spain and Portugal), thus establishing itself as the predominant maritime power in this part of the world, based on its commercial colonies, military outposts, and charismatic generals (including the great Hannibal Barca). The military of Carthage was one of the largest military forces in the ancient world. Although Carthage's navy was always its main military force, the army acquired a key role in the spread of Carthaginian power over the native peoples of northern Africa and southern Iberian Peninsula from the 6th to the 3rd century BC. Unfortunately, most indigenous records about Carthage were lost in the wholesale destruction of the city after the Third Punic War, so that unlike for the contemporary civilizations of Rome and Greece, the sources of knowledge are limited to ancient translations of Punic texts into Greek and Latin, Punic inscriptions on monuments and buildings, and archaeological finds of Carthage's material culture. Contemporary foreign accounts of Carthage usually reflect significant bias, especially those written during or after the Punic Wars, because their authors came from cultures that were nearly always in competition with Carthage. Inevitably, many of the iconographic and archaeological finds remain ambiguous. However, in this survey, the military dress and accessories of the Carthaginians during the 3rd-2nd centuries BC and particularly during the second Punic war are described and interpreted from a technical point of view, using the various available historical, iconographic and archaeological sources.


No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment