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The  Threskourion

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The Thracian hero wearing the Ahigol greavesSome early Thracian cavalry wore greaves, like the golden Thracian hero shown here.   Some greaves were highly decorated, though it is not known if these were more than just ceremonial gear.  Although not worn by early Thracian infantry, some later peltasts wore greaves. They are nothing near as heavy and cumbersome as they look, being of very thin springy bronze, held in place by its own elasticity.  

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Late 4th century shield, Chalcidian helmet, and greaves found in the Dolna Koznitza mound near Kyustendil in 1989 (south-western Bulgaria).  It has a short inscription on it.  It is on display at theKyustendil Museum.

5th Century armour on display at the National History Museum Protective armament, bronze, end of 6th-4th century BC.  Helmet - Tchelopechene, Sofia district; armour - Ruetz, Turgovishte district; greaves - Assenovgrad district.   The armour is three-part...   Its parts are jointly connected which allows it to be used by horsemen...   The greaves are shaped anatomically and bear the producer's seal.  Text and picture: No. 68 from the Sofia National History Museum guide.  Archibald (p255) continues:

"A pair of greaves from the cist tomb at Pletena was not only heavily repaired, and lengthened in the process, but the left one had originally been made for the right leg.  They had also been fitted with iron chains at the back... The only other pair of greaves found in Thrace comes from a soldier's burial near Assenovgrad, which also contained a Phrygian-type helmet and a torc... These too show signs of repair. On the upper edge is the Doric inscription AGAQANWP.  As in Skythia, greaves of Greek type were rarer than other pieces of imported armour, although parade versions, such as those from Vratsa and Agighiol, were manifestly modelled on old-fashioned Greek decorated greaves such as that from Ruvo in the British Museum.  Similarly a modified form of the Chalkidian helmet probably formed the basis of the Thraco-Getic type."

The markings on the face of this greave may represent tattoosFigure 66 - see the Warriors page.Right: a later peltast wearing greaves, a reconstruction by Duncan Head.  Left: the Vrasta Greave, shown worn by the Thracian hero above.  It depicts the Thracian mother goddess.



The Vratsa greave, 380 - 350 BCFigure 16: The Vratsa greave, 380 - 350 BC (Thracian Treasures no. 292)
Figure 17: Greave from the tomb of a Thracian prince at Aghighiol, 5th or 4th century (Berciu)



A later Thracian peltastA later Thracian with helmet, "thureos'', greaves and "machaira" - a reconstruction from literary and archeological sources by Charles Grant.

It is Plutarch who tells us greaves were worn by the new style peltast: At Pydna (168 BC) he says: "First marched the Thracians, who … inspired… the most terror; they were of great stature, with bright and glittering shields and black frocks under them, their legs armed with greaves, and they brandished as they moved straight and heavily ironed rhomphaias over their right shoulders." (Life of Aemilius Paulus)

On one of the Letnisa plaques, which you can see at the top of this page, the rider wears greaves, with a face at the knee. Two greaves of this type have been found, one at Vratsa in Triballian territory, and one at Aghighiol north of the Danube. Both were silver, partly gilt, and extremely elaborately decorated; they are obviously ornamental rather than practical, but the depiction on the plaque, in a hunting scene, suggests that similar ones, no doubt less splendid, may have been used in service (Figs 16 and 17A).

Figure 19 represents the possible appearance of a Thracian noble heavy cavalryman of this period. He is based on Figure 15; the Aghighiol-style greave is inspired by that plaque, the helmet by its association with the greave.

Thracian ceremonial greaves Click here to see four black and white photographs of Thracian greaves (271 K)

Items 38 & 39 from the Helsinki Exhibition: Bronze 4th century greaves, from Pletena, Blagoevgrad region.Greaves.jpg (8217 bytes)

Right: Blagoevgrads region: bronze helmet, bronze greaves,  three bronze torques, and an iron rhomphaia (all found together): end of the 4th, beginning of the 3rd century BC.    Items 35, 40, 39, and 41 from the Helsinki exhibition.  The rhomphaia was found in fragments and eventually restored. Click for a closer look.


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Above: Greave from the tomb of a Thracian prince at Agighiol, 5th or 4th century, with detail at right.  Figure 6, p39 from Ancient Gold Wealth of the Thracians and A. Fol, Thrace and the Thracians.   The two colour pictures are items 151 and 152 from I Daci.  They are 47.8 and 46 cm high, respectively.   The drawing is from Vladimir Dumitrescu & Alexandru Vulpe, Dacia Before Dromichaites, Bucharest, 1988.

Mounted Thracian chief on a helmet from AgigholLeft: the mounted warrior from the Agighiol helmet, showing what the warrior on the greave probably looked like.














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This page last updated on Monday, 07 January 2002 by Christopher Webber

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