attic helmet

Samno-Attic Bronze Helmet, Late 5th-Early 4th Century BC

This type of helmet is so-called because of its close association with the Samnite warriors of central and southern Italy, and its derivation from the Greek Attic and Chalcidian type helmets. The form of any helmet was first and foremost functional, and its evolution was entirely dependent on the type of warfare fought and the cultural and artistic traditions of those who utilized it. Greek and Italic helmets of the fifth and fourth centuries BC, such as this example, evolved with new features to adapt to changing tactics in warfare, with the increasing importance of lighter equipment and tactical flexibility. This prompted the development of open-faced helmets, which gave the soldier greater visibility and ventilation with the inclusion of apertures for the ears. The Samno-Attic helmet was essentially a further development of the Chalcidian/Attic type that saw the disappearance of the nasal guard and a more spherical dome.

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Δεκάτη Ὑστέρα- Δεκάτη Φθίνοντος/ Μετεικὰς- Ἀμφιδεκάτη, XXI day
From today’s sunset: twenty-first day of Gamelion.
The twenty-first day is always sacred to Athena.

(Distater of Thourioi, Lucania, with head of Athena. Athena, profile to right, wearing necklace and crested Attic helmet, on which is Skylla, with dog’s heads springing from her waist. On the neck piece of the helmet a griffin. Lucania, about 400–350 BCE. Now in the Boston Museum…)

Samno-Attic Bronze Helmet, 4th Century BC

Decorated with unusual bronze wings or ears. Similar helmets have been found in south Italic tombs. This type of helmet was influenced by Attic Greek types. The Samnites were an Italic people living in Samnium in south-central Italy who fought several wars with the Roman Republic.

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Tetradrachm from Herakleia ad Latmon, Ionia, C. 140-135 BC

Stephanophoric type. Head of Athena Parthenos right, wearing crested Attic helmet decorated with Pegasos above the foreparts of five galloping horses / Herakles’ club; HPAKΛEΩTΩN above; below, Nike walking left, holding wreath in right hand, flanked by two monograms; all within oak wreath.

With the collapse of Seleukid authority in Asia Minor in 189 BC, many communities of northwestern Asia Minor celebrated their liberation from regal authority by issuing series of large and impressive tetradrachms. All of these coins were struck on the reduced Attic standard, and were struck on broad, thin flans that were influenced by the Athenian New Style coinage. These series also copied a feature on their reverses, a large wreath that formed the border encompassing the entire reverse type. We know from the Delos inventory lists that these coins were referred to as stephanophoroi, attesting to the ubiquity of these series. The types appearing on the coins clearly indicated their civic nature, depicting the city’s patron deity on the obverse and various aspects of the city’s culture on the reverse.

Chalkidian Helmet and Greaves, 4th-5th century BC

The Chalkidian (Chalcidian) helmet was especially popular in Greece in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. The helmet was also worn extensively in the Greek (Southern) parts of Italy in the same period. The helmet is so-called because it was first, and is most commonly, depicted on pottery once thought to derive from the Euboean city of Chalcis. The helmet appears to have been a development of the Corinthian helmet, its improvements in design giving the wearer better hearing and vision, resulting in a lighter and less bulky helmet.

By the time of Alexander the Great, the helmet was still worn by armored soldiers, especially Hoplites, the spear-armed heavy infantrymen (other than those of the Spartans, who instead wore the much plainer Pilos type helmet). It is likely that some of the Macedonian soldiers who ruled the rest of Greece and went on to forge a substantial Hellenistic empire also wore the Chalcidian helmet. The helmet is thought to have developed in turn into the Attic helmet which is iconic of classical soldiers.


Attic Black-Figure Epinetron Depicting Dionysus, Athena and Hermes, C. 500-490 BC

This large black-figure epinetron fragment depicts three of the most celebrated mythological personalities of ancient Greece in fine detail. An enthroned Dionysus, god of wine and fertility, is represented on the left hand side, identified by his drinking horn (keras). He looks on to Athena, patron goddess of Athens and warfare, wisdom, and handicrafts, who steps on to her war chariot clad in her customary goatskin aegis, wearing an Attic helmet, and heavily armed with a spear and a goad. The goddess appears to have received some urgent news from Hermes, the multi-faceted messenger god that urges her to take swift action. The deity carries a caduceus, a characteristic attribute that served as his staff, and was the symbol of commerce, an additional role of the god.

Epinetra are one of the more unusual painted pottery forms, in the sense that they did not function as vessels, but were exclusively used by women, placed over the thigh during the preparation of wool for weaving in order to protect the leg. They were a popular wedding present and were sometimes used as votive offerings dedicated to Athena. Later examples are decorated in red-figure.