Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Sundiata

Rectangular Ptolemaic Shields

Recommended Posts

In order to distinguish Hellenistic units between the various Hellenistic factions, it's nice to include those little details that are unique to each faction.

I noticed that Ptolemies used pretty unique looking, curved rectangular shields alongside the more traditional types. 

I first noticed them in the Palestrina Nile Mosaic from Italy, quite a while ago, but didn't know what to make of them. Now I've come across enough examples, including local Egyptian sources to feel relatively confident in my suggestion. 

The examples from the Palestrina Nile Mosaic, with 2 soldiers, left and centre, carrying rectangular shields with depictions of scorpions.  

Palestrina Ptolemaic rectangular shields.jpg

 

Primary Ptolemaic Egyptian references in the form of terracotta warriors, including a cavalry man and an infantry man:

Ptolemaic figurine square shield.jpgPtolemaic square shield idea.png

 

Actual rectangular terracotta model shields from Ptolemaic Period Egypt:

The first shield has a depiction of "Antaios, god of the Antaiopolite Nome, the Tenth Upper Egyptian Nome"   

AN00171252_001_l.jpg

 

The second one bears an image of Harpokrates. 

Ptolemaic rectangular model shield from the Fayum Egypt with figure of Harpokrates 1st century BC.jpg

At a first glance, they actually look similar to the rectangular scutum of the murmillo gladiators of Imperial Rome, but the Ptolemaic examples seem to predate them.

@Alexandermb, @wackyserious

@Nescio, any thoughts? 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The important question is when those sculptures are dated. If it's closer to 300 BC, then you're on to something; if it's closer to 100 BC, then it's probably Roman influence. Furthermore, the archaeological record from Ptolemaic Egypt tends to be virtually indistinguishable from Roman Egypt, hence the term Greco-Roman Egypt (332 BC to AD 641).

4 hours ago, Sundiata said:

Primary Ptolemaic Egyptian references in the form of terracotta warriors, including a cavalry man and an infantry man:

Ptolemaic figurine square shield.jpgPtolemaic square shield idea.png

They appear to be naked, so maybe Celtic mercenaries?

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
46 minutes ago, Nescio said:

The important question is when those sculptures are dated. If it's closer to 300 BC, then you're on to something; if it's closer to 100 BC, then it's probably Roman influence. Furthermore, the archaeological record from Ptolemaic Egypt tends to be virtually indistinguishable from Roman Egypt, hence the term Greco-Roman Egypt (332 BC to AD 641).

Dating is indeed incredibly difficult, and Roman influence tangible in the 1st century BC, but not entirely relevant. Cleopatra VII is one of the Ptolemaic heroes, which suggests that our Ptolemies go all the way up to the Roman conquest. 

The Palestrina mosaic with scorpions (a typical Egyptian symbol) also suggest indigenous origin. So do the depictions of Harpocrates and Antaios. Do these shields actually appear in a pre-Imperial Roman context to suggest Roman influence anyway? I honestly don't know, I personally only know them from the murmilo gladiators which post-date these pieces.

 

53 minutes ago, Nescio said:

They appear to be naked, so maybe Celtic mercenaries?

Perhaps, but again, the Palestrina mosaic places them among units equipped in a typical Hellenistic fashion, not Celtic. Although I won't rule out Galatian influence, although they were specifically known for their Thyreos shields, weren't they...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Nescio said:

if it's closer to 100 BC, then it's probably Roman influence.

Until the first half of the 1st century AD, I don't think the rectangular scutum has been popular among the legions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, Sundiata said:

The Palestrina mosaic with scorpions (a typical Egyptian symbol) also suggest indigenous origin.

Romans associated cats, crocodiles, and scorpions, all exotic animals not living in Italy, with exotic Egypt; see e.g. iconography on Roman coins.

Praeneste (Palestrina) was already under Roman influence long before Rome made its first conquest (Veii). The Palaestrina Mosaic is magnificent, but it is a Roman mosaic depicting what some Romans imagined Egypt, an exotic place for most, would look like; it's rather similar to chinoiserie and other forms of orientalism in the Early Modern Period.

The mosaic is an artistic Roman fantasy, not a reliable source from Ptolemaic Egypt.

10 minutes ago, Sundiata said:

Dating is indeed incredibly difficult, and Roman influence tangible in the 1st century BC, but not entirely relevant. Cleopatra VII is one of the Ptolemaic heroes, which suggests that our Ptolemies go all the way up to the Roman conquest. 

While Ptolemaic Egypt was officially conquered only in 30 BC, it was de facto a Roman vassal state since c. 200 BC, with Roman advisors and legions being sent to Egypt to defend it against Seleucid expansionism.

11 minutes ago, Genava55 said:

Until the first half of the 1st century AD, I don't think the rectangular scutum has been popular among the legions.

That's true. The question is when and where curved, rectangular tower shields originated. Perhaps an occassional variant of the thureos? I'm not claiming it definitely originated by the Romans, but I'm not convinced it's Ptolemaic invention either.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 minutes ago, Nescio said:

Romans associated cats, crocodiles, and scorpions, all exotic animals not living in Italy, with exotic Egypt; see e.g. iconography on Roman coins.

Praeneste (Palestrina) was already under Roman influence long before Rome made its first conquest (Veii). The Palaestrina Mosaic is magnificent, but it is a Roman mosaic depicting what some Romans imagined Egypt, an exotic place for most, would look like; it's rather similar to chinoiserie and other forms of orientalism in the Early Modern Period.

The mosaic is an artistic Roman fantasy, not a reliable source from Ptolemaic Egypt.

While Ptolemaic Egypt was officially conquered only in 30 BC, it was de facto a Roman vassal state since c. 200 BC, with Roman advisors and legions being sent to Egypt to defend it against Seleucid expansionism.

That's true. The question is when and where curved, rectangular tower shields originated. Perhaps an occassional variant of the thureos? I'm not claiming it definitely originated by the Romans, but I'm not convinced it's Ptolemaic invention either.

tower shield and similar big shields  are more old than Romans.

image.jpeg.6d62bade5779d1051637a4e25f4bcdab.jpeg

Sumerians did it first.

So is normal see an older version.

Resultado de imagen para sumerian shields

Mycenean.

Resultado de imagen para tower shield history

image.jpeg.2d5b7e3f7e060a57954cd15038b19de9.jpeg

Edited by Lion.Kanzen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Lion.Kanzen said:

tower shield and similar big shields  are more old than Romans.

Sumerians did it first.

So is normal see an older version.

Mycenean.

True though probably irrelevant: if such shields didn't appear in Egypt for multiple centuries prior, then those Hellenistic ones are most likely a reinvention rather than a continuation of Bronze Age tradition.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Nescio said:

Romans associated cats, crocodiles, and scorpions, all exotic animals not living in Italy, with exotic Egypt; see e.g. iconography on Roman coins.

Praeneste (Palestrina) was already under Roman influence long before Rome made its first conquest (Veii). The Palaestrina Mosaic is magnificent, but it is a Roman mosaic depicting what some Romans imagined Egypt, an exotic place for most, would look like; it's rather similar to chinoiserie and other forms of orientalism in the Early Modern Period.

The mosaic is an artistic Roman fantasy, not a reliable source from Ptolemaic Egypt.

Huh? But I said that the mosaic is from Italy, and that I didn't know what to make of it until I saw the same shield type appearing in primary references from Ptolemaic Egypt itself. 4 of them from Egypt. Only one from Italy, depicting an Egyptian scene. Is there anything fantastical about the warriors depicted in the Palestrina mosaic? I've criticised the fantasy (fantastical monsters) in the mosaic myself, but not the warriors, which seem to be on point from what I can tell. 

Also i said:

2 hours ago, Sundiata said:

So do the depictions of Harpocrates and Antaios.

 Especially the depiction of Harpocrates is relevant. 

 

2 hours ago, Nescio said:

While Ptolemaic Egypt was officially conquered only in 30 BC, it was de facto a Roman vassal state since c. 200 BC, with Roman advisors and legions being sent to Egypt to defend it against Seleucid expansionism.

Yes I know, but what's the relevance if we have Cleopatra VII as a recruitable hero? Our Ptolemies go until 30 BC, not 200 BC. Otherwise we should remove Cleopatra, and might as well remove Romanized units from the Seleucid roster as well. 

 

2 hours ago, Nescio said:

That's true. The question is when and where curved, rectangular tower shields originated. Perhaps an occassional variant of the thureos? I'm not claiming it definitely originated by the Romans, but I'm not convinced it's Ptolemaic invention either.

I don't think they qualify as tower shields, they're significantly smaller. Either way, rectangular tower shields were used by Persians, who occupied Egypt as well. We're also not arguing about who invented these types of shields. Just whether or not they were used by Ptolemies, whether they were under Roman protection or not. Also, if we have primary references of these shields from Ptolemaic Egypt, the question is if we actually have any such references from pre-Imperial Rome? Either way, I don't think it's relevant because I'm convinced these shields aren't in any way related to Roman shields to begin with...  

These guys didn't take any issue with the references it seems:

See the 4th reference in the orignal post for this particular type:

NI8TeqH.jpg

(so we're actually talking about two distinct types of rectangular shields)

 

This one uses the mosaic as reference:

7e5f25817a6e849463096232089a0bff.jpg

"Libyan" after a terracotta "from the Fayoum"

744503f0645c7d89ebad277126610154-1.jpg.ce93926a8d33aab5a6ee85a68d73e217.jpg

 

Looks good, believable and even probable to me. I like it :) 

2rSbn5k.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Lion.Kanzen said:

so is a Scutum? but is small or is only an error by artist?

No it's not a Roman scutum and it's not an error by the artist. It's deliberately depicted as small, after the primary references.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
48 minutes ago, Sundiata said:

No it's not a Roman scutum and it's not an error by the artist. It's deliberately depicted as small, after the primary references.

That ehy im asking? Where we have this source?

Is some Egyptian adaptation?

Imagen relacionada

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Sundiata, you know I don't necessarily disagree with you. What I'm fundamentally saying is be careful and critical (as the approach should be towards all sources). If something appears in 2nd C BC Egypt or later then it doesn't automatically mean it's an Egyptian innovation; it could easily be the result of Roman, Celtic, Macedonian, Persian, Kushite, etc. influence. If it's from 3rd C BC or earlier, we could discount Roman influence; if from the 4th C, Celtic; if from the 5th C, Macedonian; if from the 7th C, Persian.

As for those smaller rectangular shields, you might be on to something; now find more references, preferably with proper dating. :)

14 hours ago, Sundiata said:

Yes I know, but what's the relevance if we have Cleopatra VII as a recruitable hero? Our Ptolemies go until 30 BC, not 200 BC. Otherwise we should remove Cleopatra, and might as well remove Romanized units from the Seleucid roster as well.

Roman influence does not mean Roman. Using things from the 1st C BC for 0 A.D.'s Ptolemies is fine. The Ptolemaic kingdom was de facto a Roman “ally” for longer than it was an independent great power (c. 170 vs 120 years). I do wonder though why the Seleucids have Romanized champions but not the Ptolemies.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...