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Ancient Roman Armor Comes to Life

Experts reconstructed an ancient Roman arm guard that’s nearly 2,000 years old.

A man and woman look at a reconstructed Roman arm guard on display on a table.

© Duncan McGlynn, Courtesy National Museums Scotland

Conservator Bethan Bryan (left) and curator Dr. Fraser Hunter with an ancient Roman arm guard Bryan helped reconstruct from more than 100 pieces.

Thousands of years ago, the Roman Empire ruled over much of Europe and North Africa—and maintained its power with the help of armed soldiers. Now, a piece of Roman armor that was discovered in more than 100 pieces in Scotland has been reconstructed.

The arm guard was designed to be worn on the right arm of a soldier as he held a sword in that hand. The metal, along with attached leather padding, would have helped cushion blows from enemy weapons. Experts say that, while most arm guards were made of less expensive and more durable iron, this one was made of brass, suggesting that its owner was of a high military rank.

“It’s absolutely amazing. You get the sense of the protection this person had—and also the prestige,” Fraser Hunter of National Museums Scotland told the Observer. “It would have gleamed gold and would have looked absolutely spectacular when he was wearing it.”

© Duncan McGlynn, Courtesy National Museums Scotland

Richard Abdy, an expert on ancient Roman coins from the British Museum, noted that this style of arm guard would more commonly be worn by gladiators—men who were trained to fight other men or animals in arenas for public entertainment.

“The flexible arm guard is an iconic piece of equipment for Roman gladiators, so it is unusual to see it as a sword-arm protection for Roman soldiers, too,” Abdy said in a statement.

The arm guard was discovered in 1906 by British archaeologist James Curle at the site where a Roman military fort called the Trimontium once stood. The Romans attempted to conquer Scotland, but the local people fought back. The Romans left the area in about 180 CE due to violence and unrest—and abandoned the fort with the arm guard and other artifacts inside.

The arm guard is now on display at the British Museum in London, England, as part of an exhibit called “Legion Life in the Roman Army.” It will later be on permanent display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, Scotland.


Happy Lunar New Year!

An Asian family of four in a living room decorating a flowered branch with citrus fruit.

© hxyume—E+/Getty Images

Lunar New Year, a major holiday in China and around the world, begins on February 10, 2024. This annual holiday takes place on the day of the year’s first new moon—sometime in late January or February.

Lunar New Year is celebrated over the course of 15 days. Celebrations take place in several countries. The best known is Chinese New Year.

Lunar New Year is an opportunity for a fresh start. People often clean their homes before the new year to remove any bad luck from the previous year. They also decorate their homes in. red, which is said to ward off bad luck.

The holiday is a time to gather. Families get together for a feast, and children receive red envelopes filled with money.

In the traditional lunar calendar, each year is represented by an animal. The year 2024 is the Year of the Dragon.

Did You Know?

A map of Europe and northern Africa shows much of the region highlighted in yellow.

© Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

All the areas in yellow were part of the Roman Empire at its peak.

At its height, in 117 CE, the Roman Empire stretched 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from north to south and over 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) from east to west. 

The Reach of the Romans

A brown brick aqueduct spans a river.

© Zechal/

The ancient Romans built this aqueduct in the 1st century CE to carry water from one location to another.

The ancient Romans influenced the languages, literature, laws, government, roads, and buildings of all the places they ruled.

  1. Politics. Between 509 BCE and 27 BCE, a period called the Roman Republic, the Romans replaced their monarchy with a democracy, though only free men could vote.
  2. Language. The modern languages of French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian have their roots in Latin, the language of the ancient Romans.
  3. Architecture. The Romans designed and constructed great buildings. Some, like the Colosseum in Rome, are still standing.
  4. Engineering. The Romans took on huge engineering projects. They built hundreds of miles of roads that connected their empire and aqueducts to carry fresh water to their cities.
  5. Warfare. Rome’s army was so effective because it was highly trained and organized. The Roman army influenced later warfare.
  6. Literature. Rome produced great poets, such as Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. Their works influenced later writers, including Shakespeare.

Armor Through the Ages

Illustration showing European armor from 500 BCE to the 1600s.

Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

By the time Roman soldiers put on their armor, protective clothing had been in existence for hundreds of years. You can read about the evolution of armor at Britannica.






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