Late Attic Helmet
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Reenactors portraying late Roman troops, note the late attic helmet in the middle[1]
Type: Helmet
Designation: Unknown
Place of origin: Roman Empire
Produced: Unknown
Manufacturer(s): Unknown
Material(s): Unknown
Evolved from: Attic Helmet, Boeotian Helmet[2]
Evolved into: Unknown
Used by: Late Roman army, Himyarite army
Wars: Unknown
The Late Attic Helmet is a helmet of Roman origin.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Overview and historyEdit

The Late Attic Helmet is an attested helmet which is purported to have developed independently from the Imperial Gallic/Italic and Ridge helmets. Although, there is no archeological evidence of its existence, this purported helmet appears in many monuments and artistic depictions from the Imperial Roman period up to the Medieval era.

It is hypothesized that the earliest depictions of the early development of this type of helmet are from the tombstone of Aelius Septimus dating to late 2nd or early 3rd century AD, the tombstone of Ares from circa 160-190AD, the tombstone of Severius Acceptus probably dating to mid 3rd century AD and the Dura-Europos synagogue paintings which was constructed prior to 244 AD.

The next proposed stage of development of the late Attic style is allegedly depicted on the Arch of Constantine built in 315 AD and on the Column of Theodosius built during the reign of Theodosius (379-395). The most significant proponents of the late Attic helmet theory are Simon MacDowall, David Nicolle and Raffaele D’Amato.[9][10] However, critics of the theory point out to the lack of actual archeological finds related to this type of helmet and suggest that the artworks are simply product of artistic convention.

Similar helmets continue to be depicted on ivory pyxides from the early Byzantine period and in Byzantine iconography in general. The late Attic helmet also appears in Carolingian manuscripts and according to Ewart Oakeshott they are so similar to late Roman art that “one wonders whether they are not debased copies of these and not of contemporary helmets”.[11] There are also claims that the Franks copied Byzantine art style and iconography, even though, it remains inconclusive whether the Franks actually used this type of helmets or they just copied Roman or Byzantine art.[12] Late Attic depictions can be found also in Medieval Bulgarian iconography likely influenced by Byzantine art.[13]

Case studyEdit

Tombstone of Aelius SeptimusEdit

The tombstone of Aelius Septimus, an optio of the legio I adiutrix found in Brigetio, Hungary. It is dated to late 2nd or early 3rd century AD and is attested to be one of the earliest depictions of the so called late Attic helmet. The soldier is depicted wearing what appears to be a one-piece bowl helmet with the characteristic brim rising to an inverted V in the front.

Tombstone of AresEdit

The marble tombstone of a soldier named Ares. It was made in Alexandria and is dated to circa 160-190AD (probably 188-189). Exhibited in the British Museum. An apparently Attic style helmet with distinctive crest attachment is shown between the two figures.[14]

Tombstone of Severius AcceptusEdit

Viii aug severius iam1

The Tombstone of Severius Acceptus

The tombstone of Severius Acceptus of Legio VIII Augusta. It is dated to probably mid 3rd centudy AD and shows the inverted V at the front as an Attic style brow guard. The helmet is very similar to gladiatorial helmets and late Boeotian types.

Dura-Europos synagogueEdit

Dura Europos, IIIe siecle

The Murder of Zechariah ben Jehoiada scene

The Dura-Europos synagogue which was constructed prior to 244 AD. The "Murder of Zechariah ben Jehoiada" painting depicts soldiers wearing strange helmets with a ridge bisecting the helmet bowl, either an extension of the rather elaborate crest or an indication that the bowl was made in two halves. The helmets bear resemblance to late Hellenistic helmets like the late Boeotian types and overall the shown equipment is very Hellenistic in style, considering the geographical location of the synagogue it is likely that the artists were influenced by the Hellenistic traditions.

Arch of ConstantineEdit

According to Simon MacDowall in Late Roman Cavalryman AD 236–565, the Arch of Constantine depicts a siege scene in which the soldiers wear a "late Roman style Attic" helmets of single bowl construction. He also states that these helmets are similar to the classical Attic style, but different enough to make artistic convention unlikely.

This is further supported by Raffaele D’Amato in The Eastern Romans 330-1461 AD. The scene "Triumphal Entry of the Emperor Constantius II into Rome, 356 AD." appears to be clearly based on the Arch of Constantine reliefs, depicting the late Attic helmets complete with the Cornuti horns.[15]

The particular relief located at the obsidio of the arch depicts the Battle of Verona in 312. The soldiers wearing the late Attic helmets with horns/feathers and fighting on the first line are considered to be the Cornuti, an auxilia palatina unit probably of barbarian origin. Even though according to D’Amato and Speidel, the helmets had distinctive horns hence the "Cornuti" name for the unit, some propose that they are actually feathers. Wearing feathers on the front of the helmet was typical for Batavian warriors.

Column of TheodosiusEdit


In popular cultureEdit

  • The Late Attic Helmet is featured in the video game Total War: Attila. It is worn by the Sahnegohrim and Khahyahlim units.