Ancient Warfare at the museum - 3

Ancient Warfare X.4 contained an image of a Roman Coolus-type helmet found on one of the Dutch Wadden Islands, Texel. That is, to say the least, a somewhat odd location for a weighty bronze item. The clue, as listed in the caption of the article, is in the punched lettering in the neckguard of the helmet. It reads: Piron (or Firon) of the hexere Hirundo. This is an altogether interesting helmet.

This general type of helmet, the Hagenau or Coolus, is of a type that seems to have been in use in the Roman army from about the end of the Civil Wars in the very late Republic to the end of the Julio-Claudian era. It’s a transitional type between the by-then age-old Montefortino and the new Imperial Gallic helmets, featuring a neck guard that gradually increases in size and sometimes sporting a brow guard as well as this one seems to have had. They are often equipped with crest holders (as in this case) and cheeck pieces. Though both the latter and their attachments have disappeared on this helmet, the rivet holes are clearly visible. Many of these bronze helmets were tinned or even silvered all over, but it’s not immediately obvious that this was the case here.

The obviously interesting part about this helmet is the punched text. That in itself is not rare. Many helmets, as well as other pieces of equipment, were marked by their owners in this way. In fact some carry several such inscriptions, proving that the helmet was passed on from miles to miles. For this see Mike Bishop’s article in our Core of the Legion Special issue (one that - excuse the chest-thumping - is actually very good). What about the actual text? It’s pretty unique.

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