Homer and His Age
Andrew Lang

Part 3 out of 6

whereas, from the eighth century B.C. onwards, such shields were
not in use (disregarding Tyrtaeus, and the vase of Aristonothos on
which they appear conspicuously, and the Dodwell pyxis), where are
we? Either we have a harmonious picture of war from a very ancient
date of large shields, or late poets did not introduce the light
round buckler of their own period. Meanwhile they are accused of
introducing the bronze corslets and other defensive armour of
their own period. Defensive armour was unknown, we are told, in
the Mycenaean prime, which, if true, does not affect the question.
Homer did not live in or describe the Mycenaean prime, with its
stone arrow-tips. Why did the late poets act so inconsistently?
Why were they ignorant of small circular shields, which they saw
every day? Or why, if they knew them, did they not introduce them
in the poems, which, we are told, they were filling with non-
Mycenaean greaves and corslets?

This is one of the dilemmas which constantly arise to confront the
advocates of the theory that the _Iliad_ is a patchwork of
many generations. "Late" poets, if really late, certainly in
every-day life knew small parrying bucklers worn on the left arm,
and huge body-covering shields perhaps they rarely saw in use.
They also knew, and the original poet, we are told, did not know
bronze corslets and greaves. The theory of critics is that late
poets introduced the bronze corslets and greaves with which they
were familiar into the poems, but scrupulously abstained from
alluding to the equally familiar small shields. Why are they so
recklessly anachronistic and "up-to-date" with the corslets and
greaves, and so staunchly but inconsistently conservative about
keeping the huge shields?

Mr. Leaf explains thus: "The groundwork of the Epos is Mycenaean,
in the arrangement of the house, in the prevalence of copper" (as
compared with iron), "and, as Reichel has shown, in armour. Yet in
many points the poems are certainly later than the prime, at
least, of the Mycenaean age"--which we are the last to deny. "Is
it that the poets are deliberately trying to present the
conditions of an age anterior to their own? or are they depicting
the circumstances by which they are surrounded--circumstances
which slowly change during the period of the development of the
Epos? Cauer decides for the latter alternative, _the only one
which is really conceivable_ [Footnote: Then how is the alleged
archaeology of the poet of Book X. conceivable?] in an age whose
views are in many ways so naive as the poems themselves prove them
to have been." [Footnote: _Classical Review, ix. pp. 463,

Here we entirely side with Mr. Leaf. No poet, no painter, no
sculptor, in a naif, uncritical age, ever represents in art
anything but what he sees daily in costume, customs, weapons,
armour, and ways of life. Mr. Leaf, however, on the other hand,
occasionally chides pieces of deliberate archaeological pedantry
in the poets, in spite of his opinion that they are always
"depicting the circumstances by which they are surrounded." But as
huge man-covering shields are _not_ among the circumstances
by which the supposed late poets were surrounded, why do they
depict them? Here Mr. Leaf corrects himself, and his argument
departs from the statement that only one theory is "conceivable,"
namely, that the poets depict their own surroundings, and we are
introduced to a new proposition. "Or rather we must recognise
everywhere a compromise between two opposing principles: the
singer, on the one hand, has to be conservatively tenacious of the
old material which serves as the substance of his song; on the
other hand, he has to be vivid and actual in the contributions
which he himself makes to the common stock." [Footnote:
_Ibid._, ix. pp. 463, 464.]

The conduct of such singers is so weirdly inconsistent as not to
be easily credible. But probably they went further, for "it is
possible that the allusions" to the corslet "may have been
introduced in the course of successive modernisation such as the
oldest parts of the _Iliad_ seem in many cases to have passed
through. But, in fact, _Iliad_, XI. 234 is the only mention
of a corslet in any of the oldest strata, so far as we can
distinguish them, and here Reichel translates _thorex_
'shield.'" [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_, vol. i. p. 578.] Mr.
Leaf's statement we understand to mean that, when the singer or
reciter was delivering an ANCIENT lay he did not introduce any of
the military gear--light round bucklers, greaves, and corslets--
with which his audience were familiar. But when the singer
delivers a new lay, which he himself has added to "the kernel,"
then he is "vivid and actual," and speaks of greaves and corslets,
though he still cleaves in his new lay to the obsolete chariot,
the enormous shield, and, in an age of iron, to weapons of bronze.
He is a sadly inconsistent new poet!

Meanwhile, sixteen allusions to the corslet "can be cut out," as
probably "some or all these are additions to the text made at a
time when it seemed absurd to think of a man in full armour
without a corslet." [Footnote: _Ibid_, vol. i. p. 577.] Thus
the reciters, after all, did not spare "the old material" in the
matter of corslets. The late singers have thus been
"conservatively tenacious" in clinging to chariots, weapons of
bronze, and obsolete enormous shields, while they have also been
"vivid and actual" and "up to date" in the way of introducing
everywhere bronze corslets, greaves, and other armour unknown, by
the theory, in "the old material which is the substance of their
song." By the way, they have not even spared the shield of the old
material, for it was of leather or wood (we have no trace of metal
plating on the old Mycenaean shields), and the singer, while
retaining the size of it, has added a plating of bronze, which we
have every reason to suppose that Mycenaean shields of the prime
did not present to the stone-headed arrow.

This theory of singers, who are at once "conservatively tenacious"
of the old and impudently radical in pushing in the new, appears
to us to be logically untenable. We have, in Chapter I, observed
the same inconsistency in Helbig, and shall have occasion to
remark again on its presence in the work of that great
archaeologist. The inconsistency is inseparable from theories of
expansion through several centuries. "Many a method," says Mr.
Leaf, "has been proposed which, up to a certain point, seemed
irresistible, but there has always been a residuum which returned
to plague the inventor." [Footnote: _Iliad_, vol. ii. p. X.]
This is very true, and our explanation is that no method which
starts from the hypothesis that the poems are the product of
several centuries will work. The "residuum" is the element which
cannot be fitted into any such hypothesis. But try the hypothesis
that the poems are the product of a single age, and all is
harmonious. There is no baffling "residuum." The poet describes
the details of a definite age, not that of the Mycenaean bloom,
not that of 900-600 A.D.

We cannot, then, suppose that many generations of irresponsible
reciters at fairs and public festivals conservatively adhered to
the huge size of the shield, while altering its material; and also
that the same men, for the sake of being "actual" and up to date,
dragged bronze corslets and greaves not only into new lays, but
into passages of lays by old poets who had never heard of such
things. Consequently, the poetic descriptions of arms and armour
must be explained on some other theory. If the poet, again, as
others suppose--Mr. Ridgeway for one--knew such bronze-covered
circular shields as are common in central and western Europe of
the Bronze Age, why did he sometimes represent them as extending
from neck to ankles, whereas the known bronze circular shields are
not of more than 2 feet 2 inches to 2 feet 6 inches in diameter?
[Footnote: Ridgeway, _Early Age of Greece, vol. i pp. 453,
471._] Such a shield, without the wood or leather, weighed 5
lbs. 2 ozs., [Footnote: _Ibid., vol._ i. p. 462.] and a
strong man might walk or run under it. Homer's shields would be
twice as heavy, at least, though, even then, not too heavy for a
Hector, or an Aias, or Achilles. I do not see that the round
bronze shields of Limerick, Yetholm, Beith, Lincolnshire, and
Tarquinii, cited by Mr. Ridgeway, answer to Homer's descriptions
of huge shields. They are too small. But it is perfectly possible,
or rather highly probable, that in the poet's day shields of
various sizes and patterns coexisted.


Turning to archaeological evidence, we find no remains in the
graves of the Mycenaean prime of the bronze which covered the ox-
hides of Homeric shields, though we do find gold ornaments
supposed to have been attached to shields. There is no evidence
that the Mycenaean shield was plated with bronze. But if we judge
from their shape, as represented in works of Mycenaean art, some
of the Mycenaean shields were not of wood, but of hide. In works
of art, such as engraved rings and a bronze dagger (Fig. 2) with
pictures inlaid in other metals, the shield, covering the whole
body, is of the form of a bellying sail, or a huge umbrella "up,"
and pinched at both sides near the centre: or is like a door, or a
section of a cylinder; only one sort of shield resembles a big-
bellied figure of 8. Ivory models of shields indicate the same
figure. [Footnote: Schuchardt, _Schliemann's Excavations_, p.
192.] A gold necklet found at Enkomi, in Cyprus, consists of a
line of models of this Mycenaean shield. [Footnote: _Excavations
in Cyprus_, pl. vii. fig. 604. A. S. Murray, 1900.]


[Illustration: FIG. 3.]

There also exists a set of small Mycenaean relics called Palladia,
found at Mycenae, Spata and in the earliest strata of the
Acropolis at Athens. They resemble "two circles joined together so
as to intersect one another slightly," or "a long oval pinched in
at the middle." They vary in size from six inches to half an inch,
and are of ivory, glazed ware, or glass. Several such shields are
engraved on Mycenaean gems; one, in gold, is attached to a silver
vase. The ornamentation shown on them occurs, too, on Mycenaean
shields in works of art; in short, these little objects are
representations in miniature of the big double-bellied Mycenaean
shield. Mr. Ernest Gardner concludes that these objects are the
"schematised" reductions of an armed human figure, only the shield
which covered the whole body is left. They are talismans
symbolising an armed divinity, Pallas or another. A Dipylon vase
(Fig. 3) shows a man with a shield, possibly evolved out of this
kind, much scooped out at the waist, and reaching from neck to
knees. The shield covers his side, not his back or front.
[Footnote: _Journal of Hellenic Studies_, vol. xiii. pp. 21-

[Illustration: FIG. 4.]

One may guess that the original pinch at the waist of the
Mycenaean shield was evolved later into the two deep scoops to
enable the warrior to use his arms more freely, while the shield,
hanging from his neck by a belt, covered the front of his body.
Fig. 4 shows shields of 1060-1160 A.D. equally designed to cover
body and legs. Men wore shields, if we believe the artists of
Mycenae, when lion-hunting, a sport in which speed of foot is
desirable; so they cannot have been very weighty. The shield then
was hung over one side, and running was not so very difficult as
if it hung over back or front (_cf._ Fig. 5). The shields
sometimes reach only from the shoulders to the calf of the leg.
[Footnote: Reichel, p. 3, fig. 5, Grave III. at Mycenae.] The
wearer of the largest kind could only be got at by a sword-stab
over the rim into the throat [Footnote: _Ibid_., p. 2, fig.
2.] (Fig. 5). Some shields of this shape were quite small, if an
engraved rock-crystal is evidence; here the shield is not half so
high as an adjacent goat, but it may be a mere decoration to fill
the field of the gem. [Footnote: Reichel, p. 3, fig. 7.]


Other shields, covering the body from neck to feet, were sections
of cylinders; several of these are represented on engraved
Mycenaean ring stones or on the gold; the wearer was protected in
front and flank [Footnote: _Ibid._, p. 4, fig II, 12; p. I,
fig I.] (Fig. 5).

In a "maze of buildings" outside the precincts of the graves of
Mycenae, Dr. Schliemann found fragments of vases much less ancient
than the contents of the sepulchres. There was a large amphora,
the "Warrior Vase" (Fig. 6). The men wear apparently a close-
fitting coat of mail over a chiton, which reaches with its fringes
half down the thigh. The shield is circular, with a half-moon cut
out at the bottom. The art is infantile. Other warriors carry long
oval shields reaching, at least, from neck to shin. [Footnote:
Schuchardt, _Schliemann's_ Excavations, pp. 279-285.] They
wear round leather caps, their enemies have helmets. On a
Mycenaean painted _stele_, apparently of the same relatively
late period, the costume is similar, and the shield--oval--reaches
from neck to knee. [Footnote: Ridgeway, vol. i. p. 314.] The
Homeric shields do not answer to the smaller of these late and
ugly representations, while, in their bronze plating, Homeric
shields seem to differ from the leather shields of the Mycenaean

Finally, at Enkomi, near Salamis, in Cyprus, an ivory carving (in
the British Museum) shows a fighting man whose perfectly circular
shield reaches from neck to knee; this is one of several figures
in which Mr. Arthur Evans finds "a most valuable illustration of
the typical Homeric armour." [Footnote: _Journal of the
Anthropological Institute, vol. xxx. pp. 209-214, figs. 5, 6,
9._] The shield, however, is not so huge as those of Aias,
Hector, and Periphetes.

I can only conclude that Homer describes intermediate types of
shield, as large as the Mycenaean but plated with bronze, for a
reason to be given later. This kind of shield, the kind known to
Homer, was not the invention of late poets living in an age of
circular bucklers, worn on the left arm, and these supposed late
poets never introduce into the epics such bucklers.

What manner of military needs prompted the invention of the great
Mycenaean shields which, by Homer's time, were differentiated by
the addition of metal plating?


The process of evolution of the huge Mycenaean shields, and of the
Homeric shields covering the body from chin to ankles, can easily
be traced. The nature of the attack expected may be inferred from
the nature of the defence employed. Body-covering shields were,
obviously, at first, _defences against showers of arrows_
tipped with stone. "In the earlier Mycenaean times the arrow-head
of obsidian alone appears," as in Mycenaean Grave IV. In the upper
strata of Mycenae and in the later tombs the arrow-head is usually
of bronze. [Footnote: Tsountas and Manatt, p. 206.] No man going
into battle naked, without body armour, like the Mycenaeans (if
they had none), could protect himself with a small shield, or even
with a round buckler of twenty-six inches in diameter, against the
rain of shafts. In a fight, on the other hand, where man singled
out man, and spears were the missiles, and when the warriors had
body armour, or even when they had not, a small shield sufficed;
as we see among the spear-throwing Zulus and the spear-throwing
aborigines of Australia (unacquainted with bows and arrows), who
mainly use shields scarcely broader than a bat. On the other hand,
the archers of the Algonquins in their wars with the Iroquois,
about 1610, used clubs and tomahawks but no spears, no missiles
but arrows, and their leather shield was precisely the [Greek:
amphibrotae aspis] of Homer, "covering the whole of a man." It is
curious to see, in contemporary drawings (1620), Mycenaean shields
on Red Indian shoulders!

In Champlain's sketches of fights between French and Algonquins
against Iroquois (1610-1620), we see the Algonquins outside the
Iroquois stockade, which is defended by archers, sheltering under
huge shields shaped like the Mycenaean "tower" shield, though less
cylindrical; in fact, more like the shield of the fallen hunter
depicted on the dagger of Mycenae. These Algonquin shields
partially cover the sides as well as the front of the warrior, who
stoops behind them, resting the lower rim of the shield on the
ground. The shields are oblong and rounded at the top, much like
that of Achilles [Footnote: Iliad, vol. ii p. 605] in Mr. Leaf's
restoration? The sides curve inward. Another shield, oval in shape
and flat, appears to have been suspended from the neck, and covers
an Iroquois brave from chin to feet. The Red Indian shields, like
those of Mycenae, were made of leather; usually of buffalo hide,
[Footnote: _Les Voyages de Sr. de Champlain_, Paris, 1620, f.
22: "rondache de cuir bouili, qui est d'un animal, comme le
boufle."] good against stone-tipped arrows. The braves are naked,
like the unshielded archers on the Mycenaean silver vase fragment
representing a siege (Fig. 7). The description of the Algonquin
shields by Champlain, when compared with his drawings, suggests
that we cannot always take artistic representations as exact. In
his designs only a few Algonquins and one Iroquois carry the huge
shields; the unshielded men are stark naked, as on the Mycenaean
silver vase. But in his text Champlain says that the Iroquois,
like the Algonquins, "carried arrow-proof shields" and "a sort of
armour woven of cotton thread"--Homer's [Greek: linothoraex]
(_Iliad_, II. 259, 850). These facts appear in only one of
Champlain's drawings [Footnote: Dix's _Champlain_, p. 113.
Appleton, New York, 1903. Laverdiere's _Champlain_, vol. iv.,
plate opposite p. 85 (1870).] (Fig. 8).

These Iroquois and Algonquin shields are the armour of men
exposed, not to spears, but to a hail of flint-tipped arrows. As
spears came in for missiles in Greek warfare, arrows did not
wholly go out, but the noble warriors preferred spear and sword.
[Footnote: Cf. Archilochus, 3.] Mr. Ridgeway erroneously says that
"no Achaean warrior employs the bow for war." [Footnote: _Early
Age of Greece_, i. 301.] Teucer, frequently, and Meriones use
the bow; like Pandarus and Paris, on the Trojan side, they resort
to bow or spear, as occasion serves. Odysseus, in _Iliad_,
Book X., is armed with the bow and arrows of Meriones when acting
as a spy; in the _Odyssey_ his skill as an archer is
notorious, but he would not pretend to equal famous bowmen of an
older generation, such as Heracles and Eurytus of OEchalia, whose
bow he possessed but did not take to Troy. Philoctetes is his
master in archery. [Footnote: Odyssey, VIII. 219-222.]

[Illustration: FIG. 7. FRAGMENT OF SIEGE VASE]

The bow, however, was little esteemed by Greek warriors who
desired to come to handstrokes, just as it was despised, to their
frequent ruin, by the Scots in the old wars with England. Dupplin,
Falkirk, Halidon Hill and many another field proved the error.

There was much need in Homeric warfare for protection against
heavy showers of arrows. Mr. Monro is hardly correct when he says
that, in Homer, "we do not hear of _BODIES_ of archers, of
arrows darkening the air, as in descriptions of oriental warfare."
[Footnote: _Ibid._, vol. ii. 305.] These precise phrases are
not used by Homer; but, nevertheless, arrows are flying thick in
his battle pieces. The effects are not often noticed, because, in
Homer, helmet, shield, corslet, _zoster_, and greaves, as a
rule prevent the shafts from harming the well-born, well-armed
chiefs; the nameless host, however, fall frequently. When Hector
came forward for a parley (_Iliad_, III. 79), the Achaens
"kept shooting at him with arrows," which he took unconcernedly.
Teucer shoots nine men in _Iliad_, VIII. 297-304. In XI.
_85_ the shafts ([Greek: belea]) showered and the common
soldiers fell--[misprint] being arrows as well as thrown spears.
[Footnote: _Iliad_, IV. 465; XVI. 668, 678.] Agamemnon and
Achilles are as likely, they say, to be hit by arrow as by spear
(XI. 191; XXI. 13). Machaon is wounded by an arrow. Patroclus
meets Eurypylus limping, with an arrow in his thigh--archer
unknown. [Footnote: _Iliad_, XI. 809, 810.] Meriones, though
an Achaean paladin, sends a bronze-headed arrow through the body
of Harpalion (XIII. _650_). The light-armed Locrians are all
bowmen and slingers (XIII. 716). Acamas taunts the Argives as
"bowmen" (XIV. 479). "The war-cry rose on both sides, and the
arrows leaped from the bowstrings" (XV. 313). Manifestly the
arrows are always on the wing, hence the need for the huge Homeric
and Mycenaean shields. Therefore, as the Achaeans in Homer wore
but flimsy corslets (this we are going to prove), the great body-
covering shield of the Mycenaean prime did not go out of vogue in
Homer's time, when bronze had superseded stone arrow-heads, but
was strengthened by bronze plating over the leather. In a later
age the bow was more and more neglected in Greek warfare, and
consequently large shields went out, after the close of the
Mycenaean age, and round parrying bucklers came into use.

The Greeks appear never to have been great archers, for some vases
show even the old heroes employing the "primary release," the
arrow nock is held between the thumb and forefinger--an
ineffectual release. [Footnote: C. J. Longman, _Archery_.
Badminton Series.] The archers in early Greek art often stoop or
kneel, unlike the erect archers of old England; the bow is usually
small--a child's weapon; the string is often drawn only to the
breast, as by Pandarus in the _Iliad_ (IV. i 23). By 730 B.C.
the release with three fingers, our western release, had become
known. [Footnote: Leaf _Iliad_, vol. i. p. 585.]

[Illustration: FIG. 8.--ALGONQUIN CORSLET. From Laverdiere,
_Oeuvres de Champlain_, vol. iv. fol. 4. Quebec, 1870.]

The course of evolution seems to be: (1) the Mycenaean prime of
much archery, no body armour (?); huge leather "man-covering"
shields are used, like those of the Algonquins; (2) the same
shields strengthened with metal, light body armour-thin corslets--
and archery is frequent, but somewhat despised (the Homeric age);
(3) the parrying shield of the latest Mycenaean age (infantry with
body armour); (4) the Ionian hoplites, with body armour and small
circular bucklers.

It appears, then, that the monstrous Mycenaean shield is a
survival of an age when bows and arrows played the same great part
as they did in the wars of the Algonquins and Iroquois. The
celebrated picture of a siege on a silver vase, of which fragments
were found in Grave IV., shows archers skirmishing; there is an
archer in the lion hunt on the dagger blade; thirty-five obsidian
arrow-heads were discovered in Grave IV., while "in the upper
strata of Mycenae and in the later tombs the arrow-head is usually
of bronze, though instances of obsidian still occur." In 1895 Dr.
Tsountas found twenty arrow-heads of bronze, ten in each bundle,
in a Mycenaean chamber tomb. Messrs. Tsountas and Manatt say, "In
the Acropolis graves at Mycenae... the spear-heads were but few...
arrow-heads, on the contrary, are comparatively abundant." They
infer that "picked men used shield and spear; the rank and file
doubtless fought simply with bow and sling." [Footnote: Tsountas
and Manatt, zog. [sic]]. The great Mycenaean shield was obviously
evolved as a defence against arrows and sling-stones flying too
freely to be parried with a small buckler. What other purpose
could it have served? But other defensive armour was needed, and
was evolved, by Homer's men, as also, we shall see, by the
Algonquins and Iroquois. The Algonquins and Iroquois thus prove
that men who thought their huge shields very efficient, yet felt
the desirableness of the protection afforded by corslets, for they
wore, in addition to their shields, such corslets as they were
able to manufacture, made of cotton, and corresponding to the
Homeric [Greek: linothoraex]. [Footnote: In the interior of some
shields, perhaps of all, were two [Greek: kanones] (VIII 193;
XIII. 407). These have been understood as meaning a brace through
which the left arm went, and another brace which the left hand
grasped. Herodotus says that the Carians first used shield grips,
and that previously shields were suspended by belts from the neck
and left shoulder (Herodotus, i. 171). It would be interesting to
know how he learned these facts-perhaps from Homer; but certainly
the Homeric shield is often described as suspended by a belt. Mr.
Leaf used to explain the [Greek: kanones] (XIII. 407) as "serving
to attach the two ends of the baldrick to the shield"
(_Hellenic_ Society's _Journal_, iv. 291), as does Mr.
Ridgeway. But now he thinks that they were two pieces of wood,
crossing each other, and making the framework on which the leather
of the shield was stretched. The hero could grasp the cross-bar,
at the centre of gravity, in his left hand, rest the lower rim of
the shield on the ground, and crouch behind it (XI. 593; XIII
157). In neither passage cited is anything said about resting the
lower rim "on the ground," and in the second passage the warrior
is actually advancing. In this attitude, however-grounding the
lower rim of the great body-covering shield, and crouching behind
it--we see Algonquin warriors of about 1610 in Champlain's
drawings of Red Indian warfare.]

Mr. Leaf, indeed, when reviewing Reichel, says that "the use of
the Mycenaean shield is inconsistent with that of the metal
breastplate; "the shield" covers the wearer in a way which makes a
breastplate an useless encumbrance; or rather, it is ignorance of
the breastplate which alone can explain the use of such
frightfully cumbrous gear as the huge shield." [Footnote:
_Classical Review_, ix. p. 55. 1895.]

But the Algonquins and Iroquois wore such breastplates as they
could manufacture, though they also used shields of great size,
suspended, in Mycenaean fashion, from the neck and shoulder by a
_telamon_ or belt. The knights of the eleventh century A.D.,
in addition to very large shields, wore ponderous hauberks or
byrnies, as we shall prove presently. As this combination of great
shield with corslet was common and natural, we cannot agree with
Mr. Leaf when he says, "it follows that the Homeric warriors wore
no metal breastplate, and that all the passages where the [Greek:
thoraes] is mentioned are either later interpolations or refer to
some other sort of armour," which, _ex hypothesi_, would
itself be superfluous, given the body-covering shield.

Shields never make corslets superfluous when men can manufacture

The facts speak for themselves: the largest shields are not
exclusive, so to speak, of corslets; the Homeric warriors used
both, just as did Red Indians and the mediaeval chivalry of
Europe. The use of the aspis in Homer, therefore, throws no
suspicion on the concomitant use of the corslet. The really
surprising fact would be if late poets, who knew only small round
bucklers, never introduced them into the poems, but always spoke
of enormous shields, while they at the same time did introduce
corslets, unknown to the early poems which they continued. Clearly
Reichel's theory is ill inspired and inconsistent. This becomes
plain as soon as we trace the evolution of shields and corslets in
ages when the bow played a great part in war. The Homeric bronze-
plated shield and bronze corslet are defences of a given moment in
military evolution; they are improvements on the large leather
shield of Mycenaean art, but, as the arrows still fly in clouds,
the time for the small parrying buckler has not yet come.

By the age of the Dipylon vases with human figures, the shield had
been developed into forms unknown to Homer. In Fig. 3 (p. 131) we
see one warrior with a fantastic shield, slim at the waist, with
horns, as it were, above and below; the greater part of the shield
is expended uselessly, covering nothing in particular. In form
this targe seems to be a burlesque parody of the figure of a
Mycenaean shield. The next man has a short oblong shield, rather
broad for its length--perhaps a reduction of the Mycenaean door-
shaped shield. The third warrior has a round buckler. All these
shields are manifestly post-Homeric; the first type is the most
common in the Dipylon art; the third survived in the eighth-
century buckler.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.-GOLD CORSLET]



No "practicable" breastplates, hauberks, corslets, or any things
of the kind have so far been discovered in graves of the Mycenaean
prime. A corpse in Grave V. at Mycenae had, however, a golden
breastplate, with oval bosses representing the nipples and with
prettily interlaced spirals all over the remainder of the gold
(Fig. 9). Another corpse had a plain gold breastplate with the
nipples indicated. [Footnote: Schuchardt, _Schliemann's_
Excavations, pp. 254-257, fig. 256.] These decorative corslets of
gold were probably funereal symbols of practicable breastplates of
bronze, but no such pieces of armour are worn by the fighting-men
on the gems and other works of art of Mycenae, and none are found
in Mycenaean graves. But does this prove anything? Leg-guards,
broad metal bands clasping the leg below the knee, are found in
the Mycenaean shaft graves, but are never represented in Mycenaean
art. [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_, vol. i. p. 575.] Meanwhile,
bronze corslets are very frequently mentioned in the "rarely
alluded to," says Mr. Leaf, [Footnote: _Iliad_, vol. i. p.
576.] but this must be a slip of the pen. Connected with the
breastplate or _thorex_ ([Greek: thoraex]) is the verb
[Greek: thoraesso, thoraessethai], which means "to arm," or
"equip" in general.

The Achaeans are constantly styled in the _ILIAD_ and in the
_ODYSSEY_ "_chalkochitones_," "with bronze chitons."
epics have therefore boldly argued that by "bronze chitons" the
poet pleasantly alludes to shields. But as the Mycenaeans seem
scarcely to have worn any _CHITONS_ in battle, as far as we
are aware from their art, and are not known to have had any bronze
shields, the argument evaporates, as Mr. Ridgeway has pointed out.
Nothing can be less like a _chiton_ or smock, loose or tight,
than either the double-bellied huge shield, the tower-shaped
cylindrical shield, or the flat, doorlike shield, covering body
and legs in Mycenaean art. "The bronze _chiton_," says
Helbig, "is only a poetic phrase for the corslet."

Reichel and Mr. Leaf, however, think that "bronze chitoned" is
probably "a picturesque expression... and refers to the bronze-
covered shield." [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_, i. 578.] The
breastplate covered the upper part of the _chiton_, and so
might be called a "bronze _chiton_," above all, if it had
been evolved, as corselets usually have been, out of a real
_chiton_, interwoven with small plates or rings of bronze.
The process of evolution might be from a padded linen
_chiton_ ([Greek: linothooraes]) worn by Teucer, and on the
Trojan side by Amphius (as by nervous Protestants during Oates's
"Popish Plot"), to a leathern _chiton_, strengthened by
rings, or studs, or scales of bronze, and thence to plates.
[Footnote: Ridgeway, _Early Age of Greece_, vol. i. pp. 309,
310.] Here, in this armoured _chiton_, would be an object
that a poet might readily call "a _chiton_ of bronze." But
that, if he lived in the Mycenaean age, when, so far as art shows,
_CHITONS_ were not worn at all, or very little, and scarcely
ever in battle, and when we know nothing of bronze-plating on
shields, the poet should constantly call a monstrous double-
bellied leather shield, or any other Mycemean type of shield, "a
_bronze chiton_," seems almost unthinkable. "A leather cloak"
would be a better term for such shields, if cloaks were in

According to Mr. Myres (1899) the "stock line" in the
_Iliad_, about piercing a [Greek: poludaidalos thoraex] or
corslet, was inserted "to satisfy the practical criticisms of a
corslet-wearing age," the age of the later poets, the Age of Iron.
But why did not such practical critics object to the constant
presence in the poems of bronze weapons, in their age out of date,
if they objected to the absence from the poems of the corslets
with which they were familiar? Mr. Myres supposes that the line
about the [Greek: poludaidalos] corslet was already old, but had
merely meant "many-glittering body clothing"--garments set with
the golden discs and other ornaments found in Mycemean graves. The
bronze corslet, he says, would not be "many glittering," but would
reflect "a single star of light." [Footnote: _Journal of
Hellenic Studies._ 1899] Now, first, even if the star were a
single star, it would be as "many glittering" when the warrior was
in rapid and changeful motion as the star that danced when Beatrix
was born. Secondly, if the contemporary corslets of the Iron Age
were NOT "many glittering," practical corslet-wearing critics
would ask the poet, "why do you call corslets 'many glittering'?"
Thirdly, [Greek: poludaidalos] may surely be translated "a thing
of much art," and Greek corslets were incised with ornamental
designs. Thus Messrs. Hogarth and Bosanquet report "a very
remarkable 'Mycemean' bronze breastplate" from Crete, which "shows
four female draped figures, the two central ones holding a wreath
over a bird, below which is a sacred tree. The two outer figures
are apparently dancing. It is probably a ritual scene, and may
help to elucidate the nature of early AEgean cults." [Footnote:
_Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. xx_. p. 322. 1899.] Here,
[Greek: poludaidalos]--if that word means "artistically wrought."
Helbig thinks the Epics silent about the gold spangles on dresses.
[Footnote: Helbig, p. 71.]

Mr. Myres applauds Reichel's theory that [blank space] first meant
a man's chest. If _thorex_ means a man's breast, then
_THOREX_ in a secondary sense, one thinks, would mean
"breastplate," as waist of a woman means, first, her waist; next,
her blouse (American). But Mr. Myres and Reichel say that the
secondary sense of _THOREX_ is not breastplate but "body
clothing," as if a man were all breast, or wore only a breast
covering, whereas Mycenaean art shows men wearing nothing on their
breasts, merely drawers or loin-cloths, which could not be called
_THOREX_, as they cover the antipodes of the breast.

The verb [Greek: thoraesestai], the theory runs on, merely meant
"to put on body clothing," which Mycenaeans in works of art, if
correctly represented, do not usually put on; they fought naked or
in bathing drawers. Surely we might as well argue that a
"waistcoat" might come to mean "body clothing in general," as that
a word for the male breast became, first, a synonym for the
covering of the male buttocks and for apparel in general, and,
next, for a bronze breastplate. These arguments appear rather
unconvincing, [Footnote: _Journal of Hellenic Studies_, vol.
xx. pp. 149, 150.] nor does Mycenaean art instruct us that men
went into battle dressed in body clothing which was thickly set
with many glittering gold ornaments, and was called "a many-
glittering _thorex_."

Further, if we follow Reichel and Mr. Leaf, the Mycenaeans wore
_chitons_ and called them _chitons_. They also used
bronze-plated shields, though of this we have no evidence. Taking
the bronze-plated (?) shield to stand poetically for the
_chiton_, the poet spoke of "_the bronze-chitoned
Achaeans_" But, if we follow Mr. Myres, the Mycenaeans also
applied the word _thorex_ to body clothing at large, in place
of the word _chiton_; and when a warrior was transfixed by a
spear, they said that his "many-glittering, gold-studded
_thorex_," that is, his body clothing in general, was
pierced. It does seem simpler to hold that _chiton_ meant
_chiton_; that _thorex_ meant, first, "breast," then
"breastplate," whether of linen, or plaited leather, or bronze,
and that to pierce a man through his [Greek: poludaidalos thoraex]
meant to pierce him through his handsome corslet. No mortal ever
dreamt that this was so till Reichel tried to make out that the
original poet describes no armour except the large Mycenaean
shield and the _mitre_, and that all corslets in the poems
were of much later introduction. Possibly they were, but they had
plenty of time wherein to be evolved long before the eighth
century, Reichel's date for corslets.

The argument is that a man with a large shield needs no body
armour, or uses the shield because he has no body armour.

But the possession and use of a large shield did not in the Middle
Ages, or among the Iroquois and Algonquins, make men dispense with
corslets, even when the shield was worn, as in Homer, slung round
the neck by a _telamon_ (_guige_ in Old French), belt,
or baldric.

We turn to a French _Chanson de Geste--La Chancun de Willem_
--of the twelfth century A.D., to judge by the handwriting. One of
the heroes, Girard, having failed to rescue Vivien in battle,
throws down his weapons and armour, blaming each piece for having
failed him. Down goes the heavy lance; down goes the ponderous
shield, suspended by a _telamon: "Ohitarge grant cume peises al
col_!" down goes the plated byrnie, "_Ohi grant broine cum me
vas apesant_" [Footnote: _La Chancun de Willame_, lines

The mediaeval warrior has a heavy byrnie as well as a great shield
suspended from his neck. It will be remarked also that the
Algonquins and Iroquois of the beginning of the seventeenth
century, as described by Champlain, give us the whole line of
Mycenaean evolution of armour up to a certain point. Not only had
they arrow-proof, body-covering shields of buffalo hide, but, when
Champlain used his arquebus against the Iroquois in battle, "they
were struck amazed that two of their number should have been
killed so promptly, seeing that they wore a sort of armour, woven
of cotton thread, and carried arrow-proof shields." We have
already alluded to this passage, but must add that Parkman,
describing from French archives a battle of Illinois against
Iroquois in 1680, speaks of "corslets of tough twigs interwoven
with cordage." [Footnote: _Discovery of the Great IV_,
[misprint] 1869.] Golden, in his _Five Nations_, writes of
the Red Indians as wearing "a kind of cuirass made of pieces of
wood joined together." [Footnote: Dix, _Champlion_ [misprint]]

To the kindness of Mr. Hill Tout I also owe a description of the
armour of the Indian tribes of north-west America, from a work of
his own. He says: "For protective purposes in warfare they
employed shields and coat-armour. The shields varied in form and
material from tribe to tribe. Among the Interior Salish they were
commonly made of wood, which was afterwards covered with hide.
Sometimes they consisted of several thicknesses of hide only. The
hides most commonly used were those of the elk, buffalo, or bear.
After the advent of the Hudson's Bay Co. some of the Indians used
to beat out the large copper kettles they obtained from the
traders and make polished circular shields of these. In some
centres long rectangular shields, made from a single or double
hide, were employed. These were often from 4 to 5 feet in length
and from 3 to 4 feet in width--large enough to cover the whole
body. Among the Dene tribes (Sikanis) the shield was generally
made of closely-woven wicker-work, and was of an ovaloid form
(exact size not given).

"The coat armour was _everywhere used_, and varied in form
and style in almost every centre. There were two ways in which
this was most commonly made. One of these was the slatted cuirass
or corslet, which was formed of a series of narrow slats of wood
set side by side vertically and fastened in place by interfacings
of raw hide. It went all round the body, being hung from the
shoulders with straps. The other was a kind of shirt of double or
treble elk hide, fastened at the side with thongs. Another kind of
armour, less common than that just described, was the long elk-
hide tunic, which reached to and even _below the knees and was
sleeved to the elbow."_

Mr. Hill Tout's minute description, with the other facts cited,
leaves no doubt that even in an early stage, as in later stages of
culture, the use of the great shield does not exclude the use of
such body armour as the means of the warriors enable them to
construct. To take another instance, Pausanias describes the
corslets of the neolithic Sarmatae, which he saw dedicated in the
temple of Asclepius at Athens. Corslets these bowmen and users of
the lasso possessed, though they did not use the metals. They
fashioned very elegant corslets out of horses' hoofs, cutting them
into scales like those of a pine cone, and sewing them on to
cloth. [Footnote: Pausanias, i. 211. [misprint] 6.]

Certain small, thin, perforated discs of stone found in Scotland
have been ingeniously explained as plates to be strung together on
a garment of cloth, a neolithic _chiton_. However this may
be, since Iroquois and Algonquins and Dene had some sort of woven,
or plaited, or wooden, or buff corslet, in addition to their great
shields, we may suppose that the Achaeans would not be less
inventive. They would pass from the [Greek: linothoraex]
(answering to the cotton corslet of the Iroquois) to a sort of
jack or _jaseran_ with rings, scales, or plates, and thence
to bronze-plate corslets, represented only by the golden
breastplates of the Mycenaean grave. Even if the Mycenaeans did
not evolve the corslet, there is no reason why, in the Homeric
times, it should not have been evolved.

For linen corslets, such as Homer mentions, in actual use and
represented in works of art we consult Mr. Leaf on _The
Armour_ of _Homeric_ Heroes.' He finds Memnon in a white
corslet, on a black-figured vase in the British Museum. There is
another white corsleted [Footnote: _Journal_ of
_Hellenic_ Studies, vol. iv. pp. 82, 83, 85.] Memnon figured
in the _Vases Peints_ of the Duc de Luynes (plate xii.). Mr.
Leaf suggests that the white colour represents "a corslet not of
metal but of linen," and cites _Iliad_, II. 529, 5 30.
"Xenophon mentions linen corslets as being worn by the Chalybes"
(_Anabasis_, iv. 15). Two linen corslets, sent from Egypt to
Sparta by King Amasis, are recorded by Herodotus (ii. 182; iii.
47). The corslets were of linen, embroidered in cotton and gold.
Such a piece of armour or attire might easily develop into the
[Greek: streptos chitoon] of _Iliad_, V. 113, in which
Aristarchus appears to have recognised chain or scale armour; but
we find no such object represented in Mycenaean art, which, of
course, does not depict Homeric armour or costume, and it seems
probable that the bronze corslets mentioned by Homer were plate
armour. The linen corslet lasted into the early sixth century B.C.
In the poem called _Stasiotica_, Alcaeus (_No_. 5)
speaks of his helmets, bronze greaves and corslets of linen
([Choorakes te neoi linoo]) as a defence against arrows.

Meanwhile a "bronze _chiton_" or corslet would turn spent
arrows and spent spears, and be very useful to a warrior whose
shield left him exposed to shafts shot or spears thrown from a
distance. Again, such a bronze _chiton_ might stop a spear of
which the impetus was spent in penetrating the shield. But Homeric
corslets did not, as a rule, avail to keep out a spear driven by
the hand at close quarters, or powerfully thrown from a short
distance. Even the later Greek corslets do not look as if they
could resist a heavy spear wielded by a strong hand.

I proceed to show that the Homeric corslet did not avail against a
spear at close quarters, but could turn an arrow point (once), and
could sometimes turn a spear which had perforated a shield. So
far, and not further, the Homeric corslet was serviceable. But if
a warrior's breast or back was not covered by the shield, and
received a thrust at close quarters, the corslet was pierced more
easily than the pad of paper which was said to have been used as
secret armour in a duel by the Master of Sinclair (1708).
[Footnote: _Proceedings in Court Marshal held upon John, Master
of Sinclair_. Sir Walter Scott. Roxburghe Club. (Date of event,
1708.)] It is desirable to prove this feebleness of the corslet,
because the poet often says that a man was smitten with the spear
in breast or back when unprotected by the shield, without
mentioning the corslet, whence it is argued by the critics that
corslets were not worn when the original lays were fashioned, and
that they have only been sporadically introduced, in an after age
when the corslet was universal, by "modernising" later rhapsodists
aiming at the up-to-date.

A weak point is the argument that Homer says back or breast was
pierced, without mentioning the corslet, whence it follows that he
knew no corslets. Quintus Smyrnaeus does the same thing. Of
course, Quintus knew all about corslets, yet (Book I. 248, 256,
257) he makes his heroes drive spear or sword through breast or
belly without mentioning the resistance of the corslet, even when
(I. 144, 594) he has assured us that the victim was wearing a
corslet. These facts are not due to inconsistent interpolation of
corslets into the work of this post-Christian poet Quintus.
[Footnote: I find a similar omission in the _Chanson de

Corslets, in Homer, are flimsy; that of Lycaon, worn by Paris, is
pierced by a spear which has also perforated his shield, though
the spear came only from the weak hand of Menelaus (_Iliad_,
III. 357, 358). The arrow of Pandarus whistles through the corslet
of Menelaus (IV. 136). The same archer pierces with an arrow the
corslet of Diomede (V. 99, 100). The corslet of Diomede, however,
avails to stop a spear which has traversed his shield (V. 281).
The spear of Idomeneus pierces the corslet of Othryoneus, and the
spear of Antilochus perforates the corslet of a charioteer (XIII.
371, 397). A few lines later Diomede's spear reaches the midriff
of Hypsenor. No corslet is here mentioned, but neither is the
shield mentioned (this constantly occurs), and we cannot argue
that Hypsenor wore no corslet, unless we are also to contend that
he wore no shield, or a small shield. Idomeneus drives his spear
through the "_bronze chiton_" of Alcathous (XIII. 439, 440).
Mr. Leaf reckons these lines "probably an interpolation to turn
the linen _chiton_, the rending of which is the sign of
triumph, into a bronze corslet." But we ask why, if an editor or
rhapsodist went through the _Iliad_ introducing corslets, he
so often left them out, where the critics detect their absence
because they are not mentioned?

The spear of Idomeneus pierces another feeble corslet over the
victim's belly (XIII. 506-508). It is quite a surprise when a
corslet does for once avail to turn an arrow (XIII. 586-587). But
Aias drives his spear through the corslet of Phorcys, into his
belly (XVII 311-312). Thus the corslet scarcely ever, by itself,
protects a hero; it never protects him against an unspent spear;
even when his shield stands between his corslet and the spear both
are sometimes perforated. Yet occasionally the corslet saves a man
when the spear has gone through the shield. The poet, therefore,
sometimes gives us a man pierced in a part which the corslet
covers, without mentioning the flimsy article that could not keep
out a spear.

Reichel himself came to see, before his regretted death, that he
could not explain away the _thorex_ or corslet, on his
original lines, as a mere general name for "a piece of armour";
and he inclined to think that jacks, with metal plates sewn on,
did exist before the Ionian corslet. [Footnote: _Homerische
Waffen_, pp. 93-94. 1901.] The gold breastplates of the
Mycenaean graves pointed in this direction. But his general
argument is that corslets were interpolated into the old lays by
poets of a corslet-wearing age; and Mr. Leaf holds that corslets
may have filtered in, "during the course of successive
modernisation, such as the oldest parts of the _Iliad_ seem
in many cases to have passed through," [Footnote: Leaf, Iliad, i.
p. 578.] though the new poets were, for all that, "conservatively
tenacious of the old material." We have already pointed out the

The poets who did not introduce the new small bucklers with which
they were familiar, did stuff the _Iliad_ full of corslets
unknown, by the theory, to the original poet, but familiar to
rhapsodists living centuries later. Why, if they were bent on
modernising, did they not modernise the shields? and how, if they
modernised unconsciously, as all uncritical poets do, did the
shield fail to be unconsciously "brought up to date"? It seems
probable that Homer lived at a period when both huge shield and
rather feeble corslet were in vogue.

We shall now examine some of the passages in which Mr. Leaf,
mainly following Reichel, raises difficulties about corslets. We
do not know their mechanism; they were composed of [Greek: guala],
presumed to be a backplate and a breastplate. The word
_gualon_ appears to mean a hollow, or the converse, something
convex. We cannot understand the mechanism (see a young man
putting on a corslet, on an amphora by Euthymides. Walter, vol.
ii. p. 176); but, if late poets, familiar with such corslets, did
not understand how they worked, they were very dull men. When
their descriptions puzzle us, that is more probably because we are
not at the point of view than because poets interpolated mentions
of pieces of armour which they did not understand, and therefore
cannot have been familiar with, and, in that case, would not

Mr. Leaf starts with a passage in the _Iliad_ (III. 357-360)
--it recurs in another case: "Through the bright shield went the
ponderous spear, and through the inwrought" (very artfully
wrought), [Greek: poludaidalou] "breastplate it pressed on, and
straight beside his flank it rent the tunic, but he swerved and
escaped black death." Mr. Leaf says, "It is obvious that, after a
spear has passed through a breastplate, there is no longer any
possibility for the wearer to bend aside and so to avoid the
point...." But I suppose that the wearer, by a motion very
natural, doubled up sideways, so to speak, and so the spear merely
grazed his flesh. That is what I suppose the poet to intend. The
more he knew of corslets, the less would he mention an impossible
circumstance in connection with a corslet.

Again, in many cases the late poets, by the theory--though it is
they who bring the corslets in--leave the corslets out! A man
without shield, helmet, and spear calls himself "naked." Why did
not these late poets, it is asked, make him take off his corslet,
if he had one, as well as his shield? The case occurs in XXII.
111-113,124-125. Hector thinks of laying aside helmet, spear, and
shield, and of parleying with Achilles. "But then he will slay me
naked," that is, unarmed. "He still had his corslet," the critics
say, "so how could he be naked? or, if he had no corslet, this is
a passage uncontaminated by the late poets of the corslet age."
Now certainly Hector _was_ wearing a corslet, which he had
taken from Patroclus: that is the essence of the story. He would,
however, be "naked" or unprotected if he laid aside helmet, spear,
and shield, because Achilles could hit him in the head or neck (as
he did), or lightly drive the spear through the corslet, which, we
have proved, was no sound defence against a spear at close
quarters, though useful against chance arrows, and occasionally
against spears spent by traversing the shield.

We next learn that no corslet occurs in the _Odyssey_, or in
_Iliad_, Book X., called "very late": Mr. Leaf suggests that
it is of the seventh century B.C. But if the Odyssey and Iliad,
Book X., are really very late, their authors and interpolators
were perfectly familiar with Ionian corslets. Why did they leave
corslets out, while their predecessors and contemporaries were
introducing them all up and down the _Iliad_? In fact, in
Book X, no prince is regularly equipped; they have been called up
to deliberate in the dead of night, and when two go as spies they
wear casual borrowed gear. It is more important that no corslet is
mentioned in Nestor's arms in his tent. But are we to explain
this, and the absence of mention of corslets in the Odyssey (where
there is little about regular fighting), on the ground that the
author of _Iliad_, Book X., and all the many authors and
editors of the _Odyssey_ happened to be profound
archaeologists, and, unlike their contemporaries, the later poets
and interpolators of the _Iliad_, had formed the theory that
corslets were not known at the time of the siege of Troy and
therefore must not be mentioned? This is quite incredible. No
hypothesis can be more improbable. We cannot imagine late Ionian
rhapsodists listening to the _Iliad_, and saying, "These
poets of the _Iliad_ are all wrong: at the date of the
Mycenaean prime, as every educated man knows, corslets were not
yet in fashion. So we must have no corslets in the

A modern critic, who thinks this possible, is bringing the
practice of archaising poets of the late nineteenth century into
the minds of rhapsodists of the eighth century before Christ.
Artists of the middle of the sixteenth century always depict
Jeanne d'Arc in the armour and costume of their own time, wholly
unlike those of 1430. This is the regular rule. Late rhapsodists
would not delve in the archaeology of the Mycenaean prime. Indeed,
one does not see how they could discover, in Asia, that corslets
were not worn, five centuries earlier, on the other side of the

We are told that Aias and some other heroes are never spoken of as
wearing corslets. But Aias certainly did put on a set of pieces of
armour, and did not trust to his shield alone, tower-like as it
was. The description runs thus: The Achaeans have disarmed, before
the duel of Aias and Hector. Aias draws the lucky lot; he is to
'meet Hector, and bids the others pray to Zeus "while I clothe me
in my armour of battle." While they prayed, Aias "arrayed himself
in flashing bronze. And when he had now clothed upon his flesh
_all_ his pieces of armour" ([Greek: panta teuchae]) "he went
forth to fight." If Aias wore only a shield, as on Mr. Leaf's
hypothesis, he could sling it on before the Achaeans could breathe
a _pater noster_. His sword he would not have taken off;
swords were always worn. What, then, are "all his pieces of
armour"? (VII. 193, 206).

Carl Robert cites passages in which the [Greek: teuchea], taken
from the shoulders, include corslets, and are late and Ionian,
with other passages which are Mycenaean, with no corslet involved.
He adds about twenty more passages in which [Greek: teuchea]
include corslets. Among these references two are from the
_Doloneia_ (X. 254, 272), where Reichel finds no mention of
corslets. How Robert can tell [Greek: teuchea], which mean
corslets, from [Greek: teuchea], which exclude corslets, is not
obvious. But, at all events, he does see corslets, as in VII. 122,
where Reichel sees none, [Footnote: Robert, _Studien zur
Ilias_, pp. 20-21.] and he is obviously right.

It is a strong point with Mr. Leaf that "we never hear of the
corslet in the case of Aias...." [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_,
vol. i. p. 576.] Robert, however, like ourselves, detects the
corslet among "_al_ the [Greek: teuchea]" which Aias puts on
for his duel with Hector (Iliad, VII. 193, 206-207).

In the same Book (VII. 101-103, 122) the same difficulty occurs.
Menelaus offers to fight Hector, and says, "I will put on my
harness" [Greek: thooraxomai], and does "put on his fair pieces of
armour" [Greek: teuchea kala], Agamemnon forbids him to fight, and
his friends "joyfully take his pieces of armour" [Greek: teuchea]
"from his shoulders" (_Iliad_, VII. 206-207). They take off
pieces of armour, in the plural, and a shield cannot be spoken of
in the plural; while the sword would not be taken off--it was worn
even in peaceful costume.

Idomeneus is never named as wearing a corslet, but he remarks that
he has plenty of corslets (XIII. 264); and in this and many cases
opponents of corslets prove their case by cutting out the lines
which disprove it. Anything may be demonstrated if we may excise
whatever passage does not suit our hypothesis. It is impossible to
argue against this logical device, especially when the critic, not
satisfied with a clean cut, supposes that some late enthusiast for
corslets altered the prayer of Thetis to Hephaestus for the very
purpose of dragging in a corslet. [Footnote: Leaf, Note to
_Iliad_, xviii. 460, 461.] If there is no objection to a line
except that a corslet occurs in it, where is the logic in excising
the line because one happens to think that corslets are later than
the oldest parts of the _Iliad_?

Another plan is to maintain that if the poet does not in any case
mention a corslet, there was no corslet. Thus in V. 99, an arrow
strikes Diomede "hard by the right shoulder, the plate of the
corslet." Thirteen lines later (V. 112, 113) "Sthenelus drew the
swift shaft right through out of Diomede's shoulder, and the blood
darted up through the pliant _chiton_." We do not know what
the word here translated "pliant" [Greek: streptos] means, and
Aristarchus seems to have thought it was "a coat of mail, chain,
or scale armour." If so, here is the corslet, but in this case, if
a corslet or jack with intertwisted small plates or scales or
rings of bronze be meant, _gualon_ cannot mean a large
"plate," as it does. Mr. Ridgeway says, "It seems certain that
[Greek: streptos chitoon] means, as Aristarchus held, a shirt of
mail." [Footnote: _Early Age of Greece_, vol. i. p, 306.] Mr.
Leaf says just the reverse. As usual, we come to a deadlock; a
clash of learned opinion. But any one can see that, in the space
of thirteen lines, no poet or interpolator who wrote V. i 12, i 13
could forget that Diomede was said to be wearing a corslet in V.
99; and even if the poet could forget, which is out of the
question, the editor of 540 B.C. was simply defrauding his
employer, Piaistratus, if he did not bring a remedy for the stupid
fault of the poet. When this or that hero is not specifically said
to be wearing a corslet, it is usually because the poet has no
occasion to mention it, though, as we have seen, a man is
occasionally smitten, in the midriff, say, without any remark on
the flimsy piece of mail.

That corslets are usually taken for granted as present by the
poet, even when they are not explicitly named, seems certain. He
constantly represents the heroes as "stripping the pieces of mail"
[Greek: teuchea], when they have time and opportunity, from fallen
foes. If only the shield is taken, if there is nothing else in the
way of bronze body armour to take, why have we the plural, [Greek:
teuchea]? The corslet, as well as the shield, must be intended.
The stripping is usually "from the shoulders," and it is "from his
shoulders" that Hector hopes to strip the corslet of Diomede
(Iliad, VIII. 195) in a passage, to be sure, which the critics
think interpolated. However this may be, the stripping of the
(same Greek characters), cannot be the mere seizure of the shield,
but must refer to other pieces of armour: "all the pieces of
armour." So other pieces of defensive armour besides the shield
are throughout taken for granted. If they were not there they
could not be stripped. It is the chitons that Agamemnon does
something to, in the case of two fallen foes (_Iliad_, XI.
100), and Aristarchus thought that these _chitons_ were
corslets. But the passage is obscure. In _Iliad_, XI. 373,
when Diomede strips helmet from head, shield from shoulder,
corslet from breast of Agastrophus, Reichel was for excising the
corslet, because it was not mentioned when the hero was struck on
the hip joint. I do not see that an inefficient corslet would
protect the hip joint. To do that, in our eighteenth century
cavalry armour, was the business of a _zoster_, as may be
seen in a portrait of the Chevalier de St. George in youth. It is
a thick ribbed _zoster_ that protects the hip joints of the

Finally, Mr. Evans observes that the western invaders of Egypt,
under Rameses III, are armed, on the monuments, with cuirasses
formed of a succession of plates, "horizontal, or rising in a
double curve," while the Enkomi ivories, already referred to,
corroborate the existence of corslet, _zoster_, and
_zoma_ as articles of defensive armour. [Footnote: _Journal
of Anthropological Institute_, xxx. p. 213.] "Recent
discoveries," says Mr. Evans, "thus supply a double corroboration
of the Homeric tradition which carries back the use of the round
shield and the cuirass or [Greek: thoraex] to the earlier epic
period... With such a representation before us, a series of
Homeric passages on which Dr. Reichel... has exhausted his powers
of destructive criticism, becomes readily intelligible."
[Footnote: Ibid., p. 214.]

Homer, then, describes armour _later_ than that of the
Mycenaean prime, when, as far as works of art show, only a huge
leathern shield was carried, though the gold breastplates of the
corpses in the grave suggest that corslets existed. Homer's men,
on the other hand, have, at least in certain cases quoted above,
large bronze-plated shields and bronze cuirasses of no great
resisting power, perhaps in various stages of evolution, from the
byrnie with scales or small plates of bronze to the breastplate
and backplate, though the plates for breast and back certainly
appear to be usually worn.

It seems that some critics cannot divest themselves of the idea
that "the original poet" of the "kernel" was contemporary with
them who slept in the shaft graves of Mycenae, covered with golden
ornaments, and that for body armour he only knew their monstrous
shields. Mr. Leaf writes: "The armour of Homeric heroes
corresponds closely to that of the Mykenaean age as we learn it
from the monuments. The heroes wore no breastplate; their only
defensive armour was the enormous Mykenaean shield...."

This is only true if we excise all the passages which contradict
the statement, and go on with Mr. Leaf to say, "by the seventh
century B.C., or thereabouts, the idea of a panoply without a
breastplate had become absurd. By that time the epic poems had
almost ceased to grow; but they still admitted a few minor
episodes in which the round shield" (where ?) "and corslet played
a part, as well as the interpolation of a certain number of lines
and couplets in which the new armament was mechanically introduced
into narratives which originally knew nothing of it." [Footnote:
_Iliad_, vol. i. p. 568.]

On the other hand, Mr. Leaf says that "the small circular shield
of later times is unknown to Homer," with "a very few curious
exceptions," in which the shields are not said to be small or
circular. [Footnote: _Iliad_, vol. i. p, 575.]

Surely this is rather arbitrary dealing! We start from our theory
that the original poet described the armour of "the monuments"
though _they_ are "of the, prime," while he professedly lived
long after the prime--lived in an age when there must have been
changes in military equipment. We then cut out, as of the seventh
century, whatever passages do not suit our theory. Anybody can
prove anything by this method. We might say that the siege scene
on the Mycenaean silver vase represents the Mycenaean prime, and
that, as there is but one jersey among eight men otherwise stark
naked, we must cut out seven-eighths of the _chitons_ in the
_Iliad_, these having been interpolated by late poets who did
not run about with nothing on. We might call the whole poem late,
because the authors know nothing of the Mycenaean bathing-drawers
so common on the "monuments." The argument compels Mr. Leaf to
assume that a shield can be called [Greek: teuchea] in the plural,
so, in _Iliad_, VII. 122, when the squires of Menelaus "take
the [Greek: teuchea] from his shoulders," we are assured that "the
shield (aspis) was for the chiefs alone" (we have seen that all
the host of Pandarus wore shields), "for those who could keep a
chariot to carry them, and squires to assist them in taking off
this ponderous defence" (see VII 122). [Footnote: _Iliad_,
vol. i. p. 583.]

We do "see VII. 122," and find that not a _single_ shield,
but pieces of gear in the plural number were taken off Menelaus.
The feeblest warrior without any assistance could stoop his head
and put it through the belt of his shield, as an angler takes off
his fishing creel, and there he was, totally disarmed. No squire
was needed to disarm him, any more than to disarm Girard in the
_Chancun de Willame_. Nobody explains why a shield is spoken
of as a number of things, in the plural, and that constantly, and
in lines where, if the poet means a shield, prosody permits him to
_say_ a shield, [Greek: therapontes ap oopoon aspid elonto].

It really does appear that Reichel's logic, his power of
visualising simple things and processes, and his knowledge of the
evolution of defensive armour everywhere, were not equal to his
industry and classical erudition. Homer seems to describe what he
saw: shields, often of great size, made of leather, plated with
bronze, and suspended by belts; and, for body armour, feeble
bronze corslets and _zosters_. There is nothing inconsistent
in all this: there was no more reason why an Homeric warrior
should not wear a corslet as well as a shield than there was
reason why a mediaeval knight who carried a _targe_ should
not also wear a hauberk, or why an Iroquois with a shield should
not also wear his cotton or wicker-work armour. Defensive gear
kept pace with offensive weapons. A big leather shield could keep
out stone-tipped arrows; but as bronze-tipped arrows came in and
also heavy bronze-pointed spears, defensive armour was necessarily
strengthened; the shield was plated with bronze, and, if it did
not exist before, the bronze corslet was developed.

To keep out stone-tipped arrows was the business of the Mycenaean
wooden or leather shield. "Bronze arrow-heads, so common in the
_Iliad_, are never found," says Schuchardt, speaking of
Schliemann's Mycenaean excavations. [Footnote: Schuchardt, p.

There was thus, as far as arrows went, no reason why Mycenaean
shields should be plated with bronze. If the piece of wood in
Grave V. was a shield, as seems probable, what has become of its
bronze plates, if it had any? [Footnote: Schuchardt, p. 269] Gold
ornaments, which could only belong to shields, [Footnote:
_Ibid_., p. 237.] were found, but bronze shield plates never.
The inference is certain. The Mycenaean shields of the prime were
originally wooden or leather defences against stone-headed arrows.
Homer's shields are bronze-plated shields to keep out bronze-
headed or even, perhaps, iron-pointed arrows of primitive
construction (IV. 123). Homer describes armour based on Mycenaean
lines but developed and advanced as the means of attack improved.

Where everything is so natural it seems fantastic to explain the
circumstances by the theory that poets in a late age sometimes did
and sometimes did not interpolate the military gear of four
centuries posterior to the things known by the original singer.
These rhapsodists, we reiterate, are now said to be anxiously
conservative of Mycenaean detail and even to be deeply learned
archaeologists. [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_, vol. ii. p. 629.]
At other times they are said to introduce recklessly part of the
military gear of their own age, the corslets, while sternly
excluding the bucklers. All depends on what the theory of very
late developments of the Epic may happen to demand at this or that

Again, Mr. Leaf informs us that "the first rhapsodies were born in
the bronze age, in the day of the ponderous Mycenaean shield; the
last in the iron age, when men armed themselves with breastplate
and light round buckler." [Footnote: _Ibid_., vol. ii. p. x.]
We cannot guess how he found these things out, for corslets are as
common in one "rhapsody" as in another when circumstances call for
the mention of corslets, and are entirely unnamed in the Odyssey
(save that the Achaeans are "bronze-chitoned"), while the Odyssey
is alleged to be much later than the _Iliad_. As for "the
iron age," no "rhapsodist" introduces so much as one iron spear
point. It is argued that he speaks of bronze in deference to
tradition. Then why does he scout tradition in the matter of
greaves and corslets, while he sometimes actually goes behind
tradition to find Mycenaean things unknown to the original poets?

These theories appear too strangely inconsistent; really these
theories cannot possibly be accepted. The late poets, of the
theory, are in the iron age, and are, of course, familiar with
iron weapons; yet, in conservative deference to tradition, they
keep them absolutely out of their rhapsodies. They are equally
familiar with bronze corslets, so, reckless this time of
tradition, they thrust them even into rhapsodies which are
centuries older than their own day. They are no less familiar with
small bucklers, yet they say nothing about them and cling to the
traditional body-covering shield. The source of the inconsistent
theories which we have been examining is easily discovered. The
scholars who hold these opinions see that several things in the
Homeric picture of life are based on Mycenaean facts; for example,
the size of the shields and their suspension by baldrics. But the
scholars also do steadfastly believe, following the Wolfian
tradition, that there could be no _long_ epic in the early
period. Therefore the greater part, much the greater part of the
_Iliad_, must necessarily, they say, be the work of
continuators through several centuries. Critics are fortified in
this belief by the discovery of inconsistencies in the Epic,
which, they assume, can only be explained as the result of a
compilation of the patchwork of ages. But as, on this theory, many
men in many lands and ages made the Epic, their contributions
cannot but be marked by the inevitable changes in manners,
customs, beliefs, implements, laws, weapons, and so on, which
could not but arise in the long process of time. Yet traces of
change in law, religion, manners, and customs are scarcely, if at
all, to be detected; whence it logically follows that a dozen
generations of irresponsible minstrels and vagrant reciters were
learned, conscientious, and staunchly conservative of the archaic
tone. Their erudite conservatism, for example, induced them, in
deference to the traditions of the bronze age, to describe all
weapons as of bronze, though many of the poets were living in an
age of weapons of iron. It also prompted them to describe all
shields as made on the far-away old Mycenaean model, though they
were themselves used to small circular bucklers, with a bracer and
a grip, worn on the left arm.

But at this point the learning and conservatism of the late poets
deserted them, and into their new lays, also into the old lays,
they eagerly introduced many unwarrantable corslets and greaves--
things of the ninth to seventh centuries. We shall find Helbig
stating, on the same page, that in the matter of usages "the epic
poets shunned, as far as possible, all that was recent," and also
that for fear of puzzling their military audiences they did the
reverse: "they probably kept account of the arms and armour of
their own day." [Footnote: La _Question Mycenienne_, p. 50.
_Cf_. Note I.] Now the late poets, on this showing, must have
puzzled warriors who used iron weapons by always speaking of
bronze weapons. They pleased the critical warriors, on the other
hand, by introducing the corslets and greaves which every military
man of their late age possessed. But, again, the poets startled an
audience which used light bucklers, worn on the left arm, by
talking of enormous _targes_, slung round the neck.

All these inconsistencies of theory follow from the assumption
that the _Iliad_ _must_ be a hotch-potch of many ages.
If we assume that, on the whole, it is the work of one age, we see
that the poet describes the usages which obtained in his own day.
The dead are cremated, not, as in the Mycenaean prime, inhumed.
The shield has been strengthened to meet bronze, not stone-tipped,
arrows by bronze plates. Corslets and greaves have been
elaborated. Bronze, however, is still the metal for swords and
spears, and even occasionally for tools and implements, though
these are often of iron. In short, we have in Homer a picture of a
transitional age of culture; we have not a medley of old and new,
of obsolete and modern. The poets do not describe inhumation, as
they should do, if they are conservative archaeologists. In that
case, though they burn, they would have made their heroes bury
their dead, as they did at Mycenas. They do not introduce iron
swords and spears, as they must do, if, being late poets, they
keep in touch with the armament of their time. If they speak of
huge shields only because they are conservative archaeologists,
then, on the other hand, they speak of corslets and greaves
because they are also reckless innovators.

They cannot be both at once. They are depicting a single age, a
single "moment in culture." That age is certainly sundered from
the Mycenaean prime by the century or two in which changing ideas
led to the superseding of burial by burning, or it is sundered
from the Mycenaean prime by a foreign conquest, a revolution, and
the years in which the foreign conquerors acquired the language of
their subjects.

In either alternative, and one or other must be actual, there was
time enough for many changes in the culture of the Mycenaean prime
to be evolved. These changes, we say, are represented by the
descriptions of culture in the Iliad. That hypothesis explains,
simply and readily, all the facts. The other hypothesis, that the
_Iliad_ was begun near the Mycenaean prime and was continued
throughout four or five centuries, cannot, first, explain how the
_Iliad_ was _composed_, and, next, it wanders among
apparent contradictories and through a maze of inconsistencies.


We are far from contending that it is always possible to
understand Homer's descriptions of defensive armour. But as we
have never seen the actual objects, perhaps the poet's phrases
were clear enough to his audience and are only difficult to us. I
do not, for example, profess to be sure of what happened when
Pandarus shot at Menelaus. The arrow lighted "where the golden
buckles of the _zoster_ were clasped, and the doubled
breastplate met them. So the bitter arrow alighted upon the firm
_zoster_; through the wrought _zoster_ it sped, and
through the curiously wrought breastplate it pressed on, and
through the _mitre_ he wore to shield his flesh, a barrier
against darts; and this best shielded him, yet it passed on even
through this," and grazed the hero's flesh (_Iliad_, IV. I 32
seq.). Menelaus next says that "the glistering _zoster_ in
front stayed the dart, and the _zoma_ beneath, and the
_mitre_ that the coppersmiths fashioned" (IV. 185-187). Then
the surgeon, Machaon, "loosed the glistering _zoster_ and the
_zoma_, and the _mitre_ beneath that the coppersmiths
fashioned" (IV. 215, 216).

Reading as a mere student of poetry I take this to mean that the
corslet was of two pieces, fastening in the middle of the back and
the middle of the front of a man (though Mr. Monro thinks that the
plates met and the _zoster_ was buckled at the side); that
the _zoster_, a mailed belt, buckled just above the place
where the plates of the corslet met; that the arrow went through
the meeting-place of the belt buckles, through the place where the
plates of the corslet met, and then through the _mitre_, a
piece of bronze armour worn under the corslet, though the nature
of this _mitre_ and of the _zoma_ I do not know. Was the
_mitre_ a separate article or a continuation of the
breastplate, lower down, struck by a dropping arrow?

In 1883 Mr. Leaf wrote: "I take it that the _zoma_ means the
waist of the cuirass which is covered by the _zoster_, and
has the upper edge of the _mitre_ or plated apron beneath it
fastened round the warrior's body. ... This view is strongly
supported by all the archaic vase paintings I have been able to
find." [Footnote: _Journal of Hellenic studies, vol. iv. pp.
74,75_.] We see a "corslet with a projecting rim"; that rim is
called zoma and holds the _zoster_. "The hips and upper part
of the thighs were protected either by a belt of leather,
sometimes plated, called the _mitre_, or else only by the
lower part of the _chiton_, and this corresponds exactly with
Homeric description." [Footnote: _Journal of Hellenic_
Studies, _pp. 76, 77_.]

At this time, in days before Reichel, Mr. Leaf believed in bronze
corslets, whether of plates or plated jacks; he also believed, we
have seen, that the huge shields, as of Aias, were survivals in
poetry; that "Homer" saw small round bucklers in use, and supposed
that the old warriors were muscular enough to wear circular
shields as great as those in the vase of Aristonothos, already
described. [Footnote: _Ibid., vol. iv p. 285_.]

On the corslet, as we have seen, Mr. Leaf now writes as a disciple
of Reichel. But as to the _mitre_, he rejects Helbig's and
Mr. Ridgeway's opinion that it was a band of metal a foot wide in
front and very narrow behind. Such things have been found in
Euboea and in Italy. Mr. Ridgeway mentions examples from Bologna,
Corneto, Este, Hallstatt, and Hungary. [Footnote: _Early Age of
Greece, p. 31 I_.] The _zoster_ is now, in Mr. Leaf's
opinion, a "girdle" "holding up the waist-cloth (_zoma_), so
characteristic of Mycenaean dress!" Reichel's arguments against
corslets "militate just as strongly against the presence of such a
_mitre_, which is, in fact, just the lower half of a
corslet.... The conclusion is that the metallic _mitre_ is
just as much an intruder into the armament of the _Epos_ as
the corslet." The process of evolution was, Mr. Leaf suggests,
first, the abandonment of the huge shield, with the introduction
of small round bucklers in its place. Then, second, a man
naturally felt very unprotected, and put on "the metallic
_mitre_" of Helbig (which covered a foot of him in front and
three inches behind). "Only as technical skill improved could the
final stage, that of the elaborate cuirass, be attained."

This appears to us an improbable sequence of processes. While
arrows were flying thick, as they do fly in the _Iliad_, men
would not reject body-covering shields for small bucklers while
they were still wholly destitute of body armour. Nor would men arm
only their stomachs when, if they had skill enough to make a
metallic _mitre_, they could not have been so unskilled as to
be unable to make corslets of some more or less serviceable type.
Probably they began with huge shields, added the _linothorex_
(like the Iroquois cotton _thorex_), and next, as a rule,
superseded that with the bronze _thorex_, while retaining the
huge shield, because the bronze _thorex_ was so inadequate to
its purpose of defence. Then, when archery ceased to be of so much
importance as coming to the shock with heavy spears, and as the
bronze _thorex_ really could sometimes keep out an arrow,
they reduced the size of their shields, and retained surface
enough for parrying spears and meeting point and edge of the
sword. That appears to be a natural set of sequences, but I cannot
pretend to guess how the corslet fastened or what the _mitre_
and _zoster_ really were, beyond being guards of the stomach
and lower part of the trunk.


No helmets of metal, such as Homer mentions, have been found in
Mycenaean graves. A quantity of boars' teeth, sixty in all, were
discovered in Grave V. and may have adorned and strengthened
leather caps, now mouldered into dust. An ivory head from Mycenae
shows a conical cap set with what may be boars' tusks, with a band
of the same round the chin, and an earpiece which was perhaps of
bronze? Spata and the graves of the lower town of Mycenae and the
Enkomi ivories show similar headgear. [Footnote: Tsountas and
Manatt, pp. 196, 197.]

This kind of cap set with boars' tusks is described in
_Iliad_, Book X., in the account of the hasty arraying of two
spies in the night of terror after the defeat and retreat to the
ships. The Trojan spy, Dolon, also wears a leather cap. The three
spies put on no corslets, as far as we can affirm, their object
being to remain inconspicuous and unburdened with glittering
bronze greaves and corslets. The Trojan camp was brilliantly lit
up with fires, and there may have been a moon, so the less bronze
the better. In these circumstances alone the heroes of the Iliad
are unequipped, certainly, with bronze helmets, corslets, and
bronze greaves. [Dislocated Footnote: Evans, _Journal of the
Anthropological Institute, xxx. pp._ 209-215.] [Footnote:
_Iliad, X._ 255-265.]

The author of Book X. is now regarded as a precise archaeologist,
who knew that corslets and bronze helmets were not used in
Agamemnon's time, but that leather caps with boars' tusks were in
fashion; while again, as we shall see, he is said to know nothing
about heroic costume (cf. The _Doloneia_). As a fact, he has
to describe an incident which occurs nowhere else in Homer, though
it may often have occurred in practice--a hurried council during a
demoralised night, and the hasty arraying of two spies, who wish
to be lightfooted and inconspicuous. The author's evidence as to
the leather cap and its garnishing of boars' tusks testifies to a
survival of such gear in an age of bronze battle-helmets, not to
his own minute antiquarian research.


Bronze greaves are not found, so far, in Mycenaean tombs in
Greece, and Reichel argued that the original Homer knew none. The
greaves, [Greek: kunmides] "were gaiters of stuff or leather"; the
one mention of bronze greaves is stuff and nonsense interpolated
(VII. 41). But why did men who were interpolating bronze corslets
freely introduce bronze so seldom, if at all, as the material of

Bronze greaves, however, have been found in a Cypro-Mycenaean
grave at Enkomi (Tomb XV.), _accompanied_ by _an early
type_ of _bronze_ dagger, while bronze greaves adorned
with Mycenaean ornament are discovered in the Balkan peninsula at
Glassinavc. [Footnote: Evans, _Journal of the Anthropological
Institute, pp. 214, 215, figs. 10, 11.] Thus all Homer's
description of arms is here corroborated by archaeology, and
cannot be cut out by what Mr. Evans calls "the Procrustean method"
of Dr. Reichel.

A curious feature about the spear may be noticed. In Book X. while
the men of Diomede slept, "their spears were driven into the
ground erect on the spikes of the butts" (X. 153). Aristotle
mentions that this was still the usage of the Illyrians in his
day. [Footnote: _Poctica_, 25.] Though the word for the spike
in the butt (_sauroter_) does not elsewhere occur in the
_Iliad_, the practice of sticking the spears erect in the
ground during a truce is mentioned in III. 135: "They lean upon
their shields" (clearly large high shields), "and the tall spears
are planted by their sides." No butt-spikes have been found in
graves of the Mycenaean prime. The _sauroter_ was still used,
or still existed, in the days of Herodotus. [Footnote: Tsountas
and Manatt, p. 205; Ridgeway, vol. i. pp. 306, 307.]

On the whole, Homer does not offer a medley of the military gear
of four centuries--that view we hope to have shown to be a mass of
inconsistencies--but describes a state of military equipment in
advance of that of the most famous Mycenaean graves, but other
than that of the late "warrior vase." He is also very familiar
with some uses of iron, of which, as we shall see, scarcely any
has been found in Mycenaean graves of the central period, save in
the shape of rings. Homer never mentions rings of any metal.



Taking the Iliad and Odyssey just as they have reached us they
give, with the exception of one line, an entirely harmonious
account of the contemporary uses of bronze and iron. Bronze is
employed in the making of weapons and armour (with cups,
ornaments, &c.); iron is employed (and bronze is also used) in the
making of tools and implements, such as knives, axes, adzes, axles
of a chariot (that of Hera; mortals use an axle tree of oak), and
the various implements of agricultural and pastoral life.
Meanwhile, iron is a substance perfectly familiar to the poets;
it is far indeed from being a priceless rarity (it is impossible
to trace Homeric stages of advance in knowledge of iron), and it
yields epithets indicating strength, permanence, and stubborn
endurance. These epithets are more frequent in the Odyssey and the
"later" Books of the Iliad than in the "earlier" Books of the
Iliad; but, as articles made of iron, the Odyssey happens to
mention only one set of axes, which is spoken of ten times--axes
and adzes as a class--and "iron bonds," where "iron" probably
means "strong," "not to be broken." [Footnote: In these
circumstances, it is curious that Mr. Monro should have written
thus: "In Homer, as is well known, iron is rarely mentioned in
comparison with bronze, but the proportion is greater in the
Odyssey (25 iron, 80 bronze) than in the Iliad" (23 iron, 279
bronze).--Monro, Odyssey, vol. ii. p. 339. These statistics
obviously do not prove that, at the date of the composition of the
Odyssey, the use of iron was becoming more common, or that the use
of bronze was becoming more rare, than when the _Iliad_ was
put together. Bronze is, in the poems, the military metal: the
_Iliad_ is a military poem, while the _Odyssey_ is an
epic of peace; consequently the _Iliad_ is much more copious
in references to bronze than the _Odyssey_ has any occasion
to be. Wives are far more frequently mentioned in the Odyssey than
in the _Iliad_, but nobody will argue that therefore marriage
had recently come more into vogue. Again, the method of counting
up references to iron in the Odyssey is quite misleading, when we
remember that ten out of the twenty references are only _one_
reference to one and the same set of iron tools-axes. Mr. Monro
also proposed to leave six references to iron in the _Iliad_
out of the reckoning, "as all of them are in lines which can be
omitted without detriment to the sense." Most of the six are in a
recurrent epic formula descriptive of a wealthy man, who possesses
iron, as well as bronze, gold, and women. The existence of the
formula proves familiarity with iron, and to excise it merely
because it contradicts a theory is purely arbitrary.--Monro,
Odyssey, vol. ii. p. 339.]. The statement of facts given here is
much akin to Helbig's account of the uses of bronze and iron in
Homer. [Footnote: Helbig, _Das Homerischi Epos_, pp. 330,
331. _1887_.] Helbig writes: "It is notable that in the Epic
there is much more frequent mention of iron _implements_ than
of iron _weapons of war_." He then gives examples, which we
produce later, and especially remarks on what Achilles says when
he offers a mass of iron as a prize in the funeral games of
Patroclus. The iron, says Achilles, will serve for the purposes of
the ploughman and shepherd, "a surprising speech from the son of
Peleus, from whom we rather expect an allusion to the military
uses of the metal." Of course, if iron weapons were not in vogue
while iron was the metal for tools and implements, the words of
Achilles are appropriate and intelligible.

The facts being as we and Helbig agree in stating them, we suppose
that the Homeric poets sing of the usages of their own time. It is
an age when iron, though quite familiar, is not yet employed for
armour, or for swords or spears, which must be of excellent
temper, without great weight in proportion to their length and
size. Iron is only employed in Homer for some knives, which are
never said to be used in battle (not even for dealing the final
stab, like the mediaeval poniard, the _misericorde_), for
axes, which have a short cutting edge, and may be thick and
weighty behind the edge, and for the rough implements of the
shepherd and ploughman, such as tips of ploughshares, of goads,
and so forth.

As far as archaeological excavations and discoveries enlighten us,
these relative uses of bronze and iron did not exist in the ages
of Mycenaean culture which are represented in the _tholos_ of
Vaphio and the graves, earlier and later, of Mycenae. Even in the
later Mycenaean graves iron is found only in the form of finger
rings (iron rings were common in late Greece). [Footnote: Tsountas
and Manatt, pp. 72, 146, 165.] Iron was scarce in the Cypro-
Mycenaean graves of Enkomi. A small knife with a carved handle had
left traces of an iron blade. A couple of lumps of iron, one of
them apparently the head of a club, were found in Schliemann's
"Burned City" at Hissarlik; for the rest, swords, spear-heads,
knives, and axes are all of bronze in the age called "Mycenaean."
But we do not know whether iron _implements_ may not yet be
found in the sepulchres of _Thetes_, and other poor and
landless men. The latest discoveries in Minoan graves in Crete
exhibit tools of bronze.

Iron, we repeat, is in the poems a perfectly familiar metal.
Ownership of "bronze, gold, and iron, which requires much labour"
(in the smithying or smelting), appears regularly in the recurrent
epic formula for describing a man of wealth. [Footnote:
_Iliad_, VI. 48; IX. 365-366; X. 379; XI. 133;
_Odyssey_, XIV. 324; XXI. 10.] Iron, bronze, slaves, and
hides are bartered for sea-borne wine at the siege of
Troy? [Footnote: _Iliad_, VII. 472-475.] Athene, disguised as
Mentes, is carrying a cargo of iron to Temesa (Tamasus in
Cyprus?), to barter for copper. The poets are certainly not
describing an age in which only a man of wealth might indulge in
the rare and extravagant luxury of an iron ring: iron was a common
commodity, like cattle, hides, slaves, bronze, and other such
matters. Common as it was, Homer never once mentions its use for
defensive armour, or for swords and spears.

Only in two cases does Homer describe any weapon as of iron. There
is to be sure the "iron," the knife with which Antilochus fears
Achilles will cut his own throat. [Footnote: _Iliad_ XVIII.
34.] But no knife is ever used as a weapon of war: knives are
employed in cutting the throats of victims (see _Iliad_, III.
271 and XXIII. 30); the knife is said to be of iron, in this last
passage; also Patroclus uses the knife to cut the arrow-head out
of the flesh of a wounded friend. [Footnote: _Iliad_, XI.
844.] It is the _knife_ of Achilles that is called "the
iron," and on "the iron" perish the cattle in _Iliad_, XXIII.
30. Mr. Leaf says that by "the usual use, the metal" (iron) "is
confined to tools of small size." [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_,
xxiii. 30, Note.] This is incorrect; the Odyssey speaks of
_great axes_ habitually made of iron. [Footnote: Odyssey, IX.
391.] But we do find a knife of bronze, that of Agamemnon, used in
sacrificing victims; at least so I infer from Iliad, III. 271-292.

The only two specimens of _weapons_ named by Homer as of iron
are one arrow-head, used by Pandarus, [Footnote: _Iliad_, IV.
123.] and one mace, borne, before Nestor's time, by Areithous. To
fight with an iron mace was an amiable and apparently unique
eccentricity of Areithbus, and caused his death. On account of his
peculiar practice he was named "The Mace man." [Footnote: Iliad,
VII. 141.] The case is mentioned by Nestor as curious and unusual.

Mr. Leaf gets rid of this solitary iron _casse tete_ in a
pleasant way. Since he wrote his _Companion to the Iliad_,
1902, he has become converted, as we saw, to the theory,
demolished by Mr. Monro, Nutzhorn, and Grote, and denounced by
Blass, that the origin of our Homer is a text edited by some
literary retainer of Pisistratus of Athens (about 560-540 B.C.).
The editor arranged current lays, "altered" freely, and "wrote in"
as much as he pleased. Probably he wrote this passage in which
Nestor describes the man of the iron mace, for "the tales of
Nestor's youthful exploits, all of which bear the mark of late
work, are introduced with no special applicability to the context,
but rather with the intention of glorifying the ancestor of
Pisistratus." [Footnote: Iliad (1900), VII. 149, Note.] If
Pisistratus was pleased with the ancestral portrait, nobody has a
right to interfere, but we need hardly linger over this hypothesis
(cf. pp. 281-288).

Iron axes are offered as prizes by Achilles, [Footnote: Iliad,
XXIII. 850.] and we have the iron axes of Odysseus, who shot an
arrow through the apertures in the blades, at the close of the
Odyssey. But all these axes, as we shall show, were not weapons,
but _peaceful implements_.

As a matter of certain fact the swords and spears of Homer's
warriors are invariably said by the poet to be of bronze, not of
iron, in cases where the metal of the weapons is specified.

Except for an arrow-head (to which we shall return) and the one
iron mace, noted as an eccentricity, no weapon in Homer is ever
said to be of iron.

The richest men use swords of bronze. Not one chooses to indulge
in a sword said to be of iron. The god, Hephaestus, makes a bronze
sword for Achilles, whose own bronze sword was lent to Patroclus,
and lost by him to Hector. [Footnote: _Iliad_ XVI. 136; XIX.
372-373.] This bronze sword, at least, Achilles uses, after
receiving the divine armour of the god. The sword of Paris is of
bronze, as is the sword of Odysseus in the Odyssey. [Footnote:
_Iliad_, III. 334-335] Bronze is the sword which he brought
from Troy, and bronze is the sword presented to him by Euryalus in
Phaeacia, and bronze is the spear with which he fought under the
walls of Ilios. [Footnote: _Odyssey_, X. 162, 261-262] There
are other examples of bronze swords, while spears are invariably
said to be of bronze, when the metal of the spear is specified.

Here we are on the ground of solid certainty: we see that the
Homeric warrior has regularly spear and sword of bronze. If any
man used a spear or sword of iron, Homer never once mentions the
fact. If the poets, in an age of iron weapons, always spoke of
bronze, out of deference to tradition, they must have puzzled
their iron-using military patrons.

Thus, as regards weapons, the Homeric heroes are in the age of
bronze, like them who slept in the tombs of the Mycenaean age.
When Homer speaks of the use of cutting instruments of iron, he is
always concerned, except in the two cases given, not with [blank
space] but with _implements_, which really were of iron. The
wheelwright fells a tree "with the iron," that is, with an axe;
Antilochus fears that Achilles "will cut his own throat with the
iron," that is, with his knife, a thing never used in battle; the
cattle struggle when slain with "the iron," that is, the butcher's
knife; and Odysseus shoots "through the iron," that is, through
the holes in the blade of the iron axes. [Footnote: For this
peculiar kind of Mycenaean axe with holes in the blade, see the
design of a bronze example from Vaphio in Tsountas and Manatt,
_The Mycenaean Age_, p. 207, fig. 94.] Thus Homer never says
that this or that was done "with the iron" in the case of any but
one weapon of war. Pandarus "drew the bow-string to his breast and
to the bow." [Footnote: Iliad, W. 123.] Whoever wrote that line
was writing in an age, we may think, when arrow-heads were
commonly of iron; but in Homer, when the metal of the arrow-head
is mentioned, except, in this one case, it is always bronze. The
iron arrow-tip of Pandarus was of an early type, the shaft did not
run into the socket of the arrow-head; the tang of the arrow-head,
on the other hand, entered the shaft, and was whipped on
with sinew. [_Iliad_, IV. 151.] Pretty primitive this method,
still the iron is an advance on the uniform bronze of Homer. The
line about Pandarus and the iron arrow-head may really be early
enough, for the arrow-head is of a primitive kind--socketless--and
primitive is the attitude of the archer: he "drew the arrow to his
breast." On the Mycenaean silver bowl, representing a siege, the
archers draw to the breast, in the primitive style, as does the
archer on the bronze dagger with a representation of a lion hunt.
The Assyrians and Khita drew to the ear, as the monuments prove,
and so does the "Cypro-Mycenaean" archer of the ivory draught-box
from Enkomi. [Footnote: Evans, Journal of the Anthropological
Institute, vol. xxx. p. 210.] In these circumstances we cannot
deny that the poet may have known iron arrow-heads.

We now take the case of axes. We never hear from Homer of the use
of an iron axe in battle, and warlike use of an axe only occurs
twice. In _Iliad_, XV. 711, in a battle at and on the ships,
"they were fighting with sharp axes and battle-axes" ([Greek text:
axinai]) "and with great swords, and spears armed at butt and
tip." At and on the ships, men would set hand to whatever tool of
cutting edge was accessible. Seiler thinks that only the Trojans
used the battle-axe; perhaps for damaging the ships: he follows
the scholiast. [Greek text: Axinae], however, [Footnote:
_Iliad_, XIII. 611.] may perhaps be rendered "battle-axe,"
as a Trojan, Peisandros, fights with an [Greek text: Axinae], and
this is the only place in the _Iliad_, except XV. 711, where
the thing is said to be used as a weapon. But it is not an
_iron_ axe; it is "of fine bronze." Only one bronze
_battle-axe_, according to Dr. Joseph Anderson, is known to
have been found in Scotland, though there are many bronze heads of
axes which were tools.

Axes ([Greek text: pelekeis]) were _implements_, tools of the
carpenter, woodcutter, shipwright, and so on; they were not
weapons of war of the Achaeans.

As implements they are, with very rare exceptions, of iron. The
wheelwright fells trees "with the gleaming iron," iron being a
synonym for axe and for knife. [Footnote: _Iliad_, IV. 485]
In _Iliad_, XIII. 391, the shipwrights cut timber with axes.
In _Iliad_, XXIII. 114, woodcutters' axes are employed in
tree-felling, but the results are said to be produced [Greek text:
tanaaekei chalcho], "by the long-edged bronze," where the word
[Greek text: tanaaekaes] is borrowed from the usual epithet of
swords; "the long edge" is quite inappropriate to a woodcutter's
axe. On Calypso's isle Calypso gives to Odysseus a bronze axe for
his raft-making. Butcher's work is done with an axe. [Footnote:
_Iliad_, XVII. 520; Odyssey, III. 442-449.] The axes offered
by Achilles as a prize for archers and the axes through which
Odysseus shot are _implements_ of iron. [Footnote:
_Iliad_, XXIII. 850; Odyssey, XXI. 3, 81, 97.]

In the Odyssey, when the poet describes the process of tempering
iron, we read, "as when a smith dips a great axe or an adze in
chill water, for thus men temper iron." [Footnote: Odyssey, IX.
391-393.] He is not using iron to make a sword or spear, but a
tool-adze or axe. The poet is perfectly consistent. There are also
examples both of bronze axes and, apparently, of bronze knives.
Thus, though the woodcutter's or carpenter's axe is of bronze in
two passages cited, iron is the usual material of the axe or adze.
Again we saw, when Achilles gives a mass of iron as a prize in the
games, he does not mean the armourer to fashion it into sword or
spear, but says that it will serve the shepherd or ploughman for
domestic implements, [Footnote: Leaf, _Iliad_ (1902), XXIII.
line 30, Note.] so that the men need not, on an upland farm, go to
the city for iron implements. In commenting upon this Mr. Leaf is
scarcely at the proper point of view. He says, [Footnote:
_Iliad_, XXIII. 835, Note.] "the idea of a state of things
when the ploughman and shepherd forge their own tools from a lump
of raw iron has a suspicious appearance of a deliberate attempt to
represent from the inner consciousness an archaic state of
civilisation. In Homeric times the [Greek: chalceus] is already
specialised as a worker in metals...." However, Homer does not say
that the ploughman and shepherd "forge their own tools." A Homeric
chief, far from a town, would have his own smithy, just as the
laird of Runraurie (now Urrard) had his smithy at the time of the
battle of Killicrankie (1689). Mackay's forces left their
_impedimenta_ "at the laird's smithy," says an eye-witness.
[Footnote: Napier's _Life_ Of _Dundee_, iii. p. 724.]

The idea of a late Homeric poet trying to reconstruct from his
fancy a prehistoric state of civilisation is out of the question.
Even historical novelists of the eighteenth century A.D. scarcely
attempted such an effort.

This was the regular state of things in the Highlands during the
eighteenth century, when many chiefs, and most of the clans, lived
far from any town. But these rural smiths did not make sword-
blades, which Prince Charles, as late as 1750, bought on the
Continent. The Andrea Ferrara-marked broadsword blades of the
clans were of foreign manufacture. The Highland smiths did such
rough iron work as was needed for rural purposes. Perhaps the
Homeric chief may have sometimes been a craftsman like the heroes
of the Sagas, great sword-smiths. Odysseus himself, notably an
excellent carpenter, may have been as good a sword-smith, but
every hero was not so accomplished.

In searching with microscopes for Homeric discrepancies and
interpolations, critics are apt to forget the ways of old rural

The Homeric poems, whether composed in one age or throughout five
centuries, are thus entirely uniform in allotting bronze as the
material for all sorts of warlike gear, down to the solitary
battle-axe mentioned; and iron as the usual metal for heavy tools,
knives, carpenters' axes, adzes, and agricultural implements, with
the rare exceptions which we have cited in the case of bronze
knives and axes. Either this distinction--iron for tools and
implements; bronze for armour, swords, and spears--prevailed
throughout the period of the Homeric poets or poet; or the poets
invented such a stage of culture; or poets, some centuries later,
deliberately kept bronze for weapons only, while introducing iron
for implements. In that case they were showing archaeological
conscientiousness in following the presumed earlier poets of the
bronze age, the age of the Mycenaean graves.

Now early poets are never studious archaeologists. Examining the
[blank space] certainly based on old lays and legends which
survive in the Edda, we find that the poets of the
_Nibelungenlied_ introduce chivalrous and Christian manners.
They do not archaeologise. The poets of the French _Chansons de
Geste_ (eleventh to thirteenth centuries) bring their own
weapons, and even armorial bearings, into the 'remote age of
Charlemagne, which they know from legends and _cantilenes_.
Again, the later _remanieurs_ of the earliest _Chansons de
Geste_ modernise the details of these poems. But, _per
impossibile_, and for the sake of argument, suppose that the
later interpolators and continuators of the Homeric lays were
antiquarian precisians, or, on the other hand, "deliberately
attempted to reproduce from their inner consciousness an archaic
state of civilisation." Suppose that, though they lived in an age
of iron weapons, they knew, as Hesiod knew, that the old heroes
"had warlike gear of bronze, and ploughed with bronze, and there
was no black iron." [Footnote: Hesiod, _Works and Days_, pp.
250, 251.] In that case, why did the later interpolating poets
introduce iron as the special material of tools and implements,
knives and axes, in an age when they knew that there was no iron?
Savants such as, by this theory, the later poets of the full-blown
age of iron were, they must have known that the knives and axes of
the old heroes were made of bronze. In old votive offerings in
temples and in any Mycenaean graves which might be opened, the
learned poets of 800-600 B.C. saw with their eyes knives and axes
of bronze. [Footnote: _Early Age of Greece_, i. 413-416.] The
knife of Agamemnon ([Greek: machaira]), which hangs from his
girdle, beside his sword, [Footnote: _Iliad_, III. 271; XIX.
252.] corresponds to the knives found in Grave IV. at Mycenae; the
handles of these dirks have a ring for suspension. [Footnote:
Tsountas and Manatt, p. 204.] But these knives, in Mycenaean
graves, are of bronze, and of bronze are the axes in the Mycenaean
deposits and the dagger of Enkomi. [Footnote: _Ibid._, pp.
145, 207, 208, 256. _Evans, Journal of the Anthropological
Institute_, vol xxx. p, 214.]

Why, then, did the late poetic interpolators, who knew that the
spears and swords of the old warriors were of bronze, and who
describe them as of bronze, not know that their knives and axes
were also of bronze? Why did they describe the old knives and axes
as of iron, while Hesiod knew, and could have told them--did tell
them, in fact--that they were of bronze? Clearly the theory that
Homeric poets were archaeological precisians is impossible. They
describe arms as of bronze, tools usually as of iron, because they
see them to be such in practice.

The poems, in fact, depict a very extraordinary condition of
affairs, such as no poets could invent and adhere to with
uniformity. We are accustomed in archaeology to seeing the bronze
sword pass by a gradual transition into the iron sword; but, in
Homer, people with abundance of iron never, in any one specified
case, use iron sword blades or spears. The greatest chiefs, men
said to be rich in gold and iron, always use swords and spears of
_bronze_ in _Iliad_ and _Odyssey_.

The usual process of transition from bronze to iron swords, in a
prehistoric European age, is traced by Mr. Ridgeway at Hallstatt,
"in the heart of the Austrian Alps," where a thousand old graves
have been explored. The swords pass from bronze to iron with
bronze hilts, and, finally, are wholly of iron. Weapons of bronze
are fitted with iron edges. Axes of iron were much more common
than axes of bronze. [Footnote: _Early Age of Greece_, i.
413-416.] The axes were fashioned in the old shapes of the age of
bronze, were not of the _bipennis_ Mycenaean model--the
double axe--nor of the shape of the letter D, very thick, with
two round apertures in the blade, like the bronze axe of Vaphio.
[Footnote: Monro, Odyssey, vol. ii. 176.] Probably the axes
through which Odysseus shot an arrow were of this kind, as Mr.
Monro, and, much earlier, Mr. Butcher and I have argued.
[Footnote: _Ibid_. (1901), vol. ii. Book XIX. line 572. Note.
Butcher and Lang, Odyssey, Appendix (1891).]

At Hallstatt there was the _normal_ evolution from bronze
swords and axes to iron swords and axes. Why, then, had Homer's
men in his time not made this step, seeing that they were familiar
with the use of iron? Why do they use bronze for swords and
spears, iron for tools? The obvious answer is that they could
temper bronze for military purposes much better than they could
temper iron. Now Mr. Ridgeway quotes Polybius (ii. 30; ii. 33) for
the truly execrable quality of the iron of the Celtic invaders of
Italy as late as 225 B.C. Their swords were as bad as, or worse
than, British bayonets; they _always_ "doubled up." "Their
long iron swords were easily bent, and could only give one
downward stroke with any effect; but after this the edges got so
turned and the blades so bent that, unless they had time to
straighten them with the foot against the ground, they could not
deliver a second blow." [Footnote: _Early Age of Greece_,
vol. i. 408.] If the heroes in Homer's time possessed iron as
badly tempered as that of the Celts of 225 B.C., they had every
reason to prefer, as they did, excellent bronze for all their
military weapons, while reserving iron for pacific purposes. A
woodcutter's axe might have any amount of weight and thickness of
iron behind the edge; not so a sword blade or a spear point.
[Footnote: Monsieur Salomon Reinach suggests to me that the story
of Polybius may be a myth. Swords and spear-heads in graves are
often found doubled up; possibly they are thus made dead, like the
owner, and their spirits are thus set free to be of use to his
spirit. Finding doubled up iron swords in Celtic graves, the
Romans, M. Beinach suggests, may have explained their useless
condition by the theory that they doubled up in battle, leaving
their owners easy victims, and this myth was accepted as fact by
Polybius. But he was not addicted to myth, nor very remote from
the events which he chronicles. Again, though bronze grave-weapons
in our Museum are often doubled up, the myth is not told of the
warriors of the age of bronze. We later give examples of the
doubling up, in battle, of Scandinavian iron swords as late as
1000 A.D.]

In the _Iliad_ we hear of swords breaking at the hilt in
dealing a stroke at shield or helmet, a thing most incident to
bronze swords, especially of the early type, with a thin bronze
tang inserted in a hilt of wood, ivory, or amber, or with a slight
shelf of the bronze hilt riveted with three nails on to the bronze

Lycaon struck Peneleos on the socket of his helmet crest, "and his
sword brake at the hilt." [Footnote: _Iliad_, XVI. 339.] The
sword of Menelaus broke into three or four pieces when he smote
the helmet ridge of Paris. [Footnote: _Iliad_, III. 349,
380.] Iron of the Celtic sort described by Polybius would have
bent, not broken. There is no doubt on that head: if Polybius is
not romancing, the Celtic sword of 225 B.C. doubled up at every
stroke, like a piece of hoop iron. But Mr. Leaf tells us that, "by
primitive modes of smelting," iron is made "hard and brittle, like
cast iron." If so, it would be even less trustworthy for a sword
than bronze. [Footnote: _Iliad_ (1900), Book VI, line 48,
Note.] Perhaps the Celts of 225 B.C. did not smelt iron by
primitive methods, but discovered some process for making it not
hard and brittle, but flabby.

The swords of the Mycenaean graves, we know, were all of bronze,
and, in three intaglios on rings from the graves, the point, not
the edge, is used, [Footnote: Tsountas and Manatt, p. 199.] once
against a lion, once over the rim of a shield which covers the
whole body of an enemy, and once at too close quarters to permit
the use of the edge. It does not follow from these three cases (as
critics argue) that no bronze sword could be used for a swashing
blow, and there are just half as many thrusts as strokes with the
bronze sword in the _Iliad_. [Footnote: Twenty-four cuts to
eleven lunges, in the _Iliad_.] As the poet constantly dwells
on the "long edge" of the _bronze_ swords and makes heroes
use both point and edge, how can we argue that Homeric swords were
of iron and ill fitted to give point? The Highlanders at Clifton
(1746) were obliged, contrary to their common practice, to use the
point against Cumberland's dragoons. They, like the Achaeans, had
heavy cut and thrust swords, but theirs were of steel.

If the Achaeans had thoroughly excellent bronze, and had iron as
bad as that of the Celts a thousand years later, their preference
for bronze over iron for weapons is explained. In Homer the
fighters do not very often come to sword strokes; they fight
mainly with the spear, except in pursuit, now and then. But when
they do strike, they cleave heads and cut off arms. They could not
do this with bronze rapiers, such as those with which men give
point over the rim of the shield on two Mycenaean gems. But Mr.
Myres writes, "From the shaft graves (of Mycenae) onwards there
are two types of swords in the Mycenaean world--one an exaggerated
dagger riveted into the front end of the hilt, the other with a
flat flanged tang running the whole length of the hilt, and
covered on either face by ornamental grip plates riveted on. This
sword, though still of bronze, can deal a very effective cut; and,
as the Mycenaeans had no armour for body or head," (?) "the danger
of breaking or bending the sword on a cuirass or helmet did not
arise." [Footnote: _Classical Review_, xvi. 72.] The danger
did exist in Homer's time, as we have seen. But a bronze sword,
published by Tsountas and Manatt (_Mycenaean Age_, p. 199,
fig. 88), is emphatically meant to give both point and edge,
having a solid handle--a continuation of the blade--and a very
broad blade, coming to a very fine point. Even in Grave V. at
Mycenae, we have a sword blade so massive at the top that it was
certainly capable of a swashing blow. [Footnote: Schuchardt,
_Schliemann's Excavations_, p. _265, fig._ 269.] The
sword of the charioteer on the _stele_ of Grave V. is equally
good for cut and thrust. A pleasanter cut and thrust bronze sword
than the one found at Ialysus no gentleman could wish to handle.


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