Parma (shield)

Characteristics

The parma was about 36 inches (91 cm) across (or less) and had iron in its frame, making it a very effective piece of armor. Parmas had handles and shield bosses (umbos).

The parma was used by legionnaires in the early republican period of Rome's history, by the lowest class division of the army— the velites. Their equipment consisted of a parma, javelin, sword and helmet. Later, the parma was replaced by the body-length scutum as velites were phased out with the Marian reforms.

War use

Signifer with a parmula

It was used mainly by auxiliary infantry and cavalry, with the legionaries preferring the heavier but more protective scutum, during earlier periods. It was used also by signifers (standard bearers).

In Virgil's Aeneid, the parma is cited as a weapon utilised by the Teucrians in defence against the Greeks (Battle of Troy), and later against the Rutulians.

Other uses

The parmula was the shield used by thraex gladiators. It was also used by the Roman vexillifers or flag bearers that carried the standard that marked the cohort, as well as by most early auxiliaries.

In the Pyrrhic dance it was raised above the head and struck with a sword so as to emit a loud ringing noise.

See also

References


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