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An early Corinthian helmet in the Manchester Museum1

  • A. H. Jackson (a1)

Abstract

The article concerns a helmet of Corinthian type, of the seventh century BC, very plain and without a crest or decoration but with small holes round the rim for stitching in a lining. It belonged for many years to Charterhouse, until that school recently sold its Museum's contents. Manchester Museum acquired it thanks to a most generous bequest from the estate of the late Professor Robert Cook. Here the helmet's dimensions and state are given; it had suffered damage particularly to the cheek-guards and the nose-guard (which is now a modern replica). Details of its design are examined, some confirming its date, others illustrating its strengths and weaknesses as a helmet. The historical significance of helmets of this plain design is briefly discussed. Finally it is suggested, on the grounds of the damage to its cheek-guards and nose-guard, that it ended its career as a victory thank-offering in a sanctuary, possibly Olympia where many helmets so damaged have been found.

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2 For this type and its associations with Corinth, where it may have originated, AAG 50–1. But it appears to have spread quickly and by c. 650 BC not all Corinthian helmets need have been made in Corinth; see n. 27 below.

3 I am extremely grateful for information on this and related points to Dr I. Mertling-Blake, MA, who served for many years as Curator of the school Museum at Charterhouse.

4 Jackson 1987 deals with a broadly comparable helmet, also dedicated at a temple, perhaps Olympia. Scientific discussions of our helmet include: Belle Dumé (2004) ‘Physicsweb; Physics meets archaeology in ancient Greece’, http://physicsweb.0rg/article/news/8/5/2 (accessed May 31st 2004); W. Kockelmann, A. Kirfel (Universität Bonn, Germany), R. Linke, M. Schreiner (Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien, Austria,), R. Traum (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Austria), E. Pantos (Daresbury Laboratory), R. Garner and A.J. N. W. Prag (University of Manchester) (2003) ‘ISIS 2003 science highlights. Genuine or fake? Neutron diffraction for non-destructive testing of museum objects’, http://www.isis.rl.ac.uk/isis2003/pdf/H15.pdf (accessed May 31 st 2004). For a non-technical account of the helmet and of scientific investigation of it, Tim Radford, ‘Death, glory and particle physics’, The Guardian 27.05.04, Life p. 4.

5 The nose-guard can be seen to be a modern replica for these reasons: (i) scientific testing has shown that its metal is unlike that of the rest of the helmet (n. 4 above); (ii) its edges are not worn as those elsewhere on the helmet are; (iii) the edges of its lining holes are smooth on the inside, not rough as elsewhere; (iv) the shape of the tip is hard to parallel among other Corinthian helmets; (v) most surviving Corinthian helmets have shorter nose-guards.

6 EGAW 23; AH 69 fig. 3 (late 8th c. BC); Dörig, J., ‘Ein korinthischer Helm in Athener Privatbesitz’, Ol. Ber. x (1981), 109–10; pl. 12 (early 6th c. BC).

7 Early features namely steep brows, concave sides: Ol. Ber. iii (1938/1939), pls. 38–9; AH 71 figs. 5–6. These and convex baseline, Ol. Ber. i (1936/1937), pl. 8.

8 Myros’ helmets: Ol. Ber. vii (1961), 77116; pls. 21–55; EGAW 23–7 Group 3, pl. 13; AH 73–6, 395. Related helmets: Amandry pl. 22;Jackson 1987, 110 fig. 1. 4–5; AH 76–86. Later plainer helmets: AH 73–8, 396, 401–2.

9 These are seen in Van Wees 2000, 137 fig. 9; 141 figs. 10–11; Salmon 1977, 86 figs. 1–2; 88 fig. 3; Lorimer 81 fig. 2; 84 fig. 3; also Cook, R. M., Greek Painted Pottery (London, 1960), pl. 9 c (Macmillan Aryballos); Boardman, J., Greek Art (London, 1973), 42–3, figs. 36–7 (Macmillan and Chigi Vases). A magnifying glass may be helpful in making out detail in some of these illustrations.

10 Salmon 1977, 88 fig. 3; Lorimer 102–4 fig. 10.

11 e.g. Salmon 1977, 86 fig. 1 and Lorimer 84 fig. 3.

12 Salmon 1977, 86 fig. 2 and Boardman Greek Art (n. 9 above), 43 fig. 37. In Boardman 1978, 42 fig. 41 the Boston Painter's aryballos of c. 650 BC seems, despite the worn paint, to show similar brows and nose-guards, but some helmets appear to have quite steep brows.

13 Earlier helmets: AH 69 fig. 3; Ol. Ber. iii (1938/1939), pls. 38–9. Later: Ol. Ber. x (1981), 109–10; pl. 12. See also Jackson 1987, 109 n. 7. Mid-7th c. helmets: AH 398, 400.

14 Wider-set holes AH 396, 402.

15 Kegelhelms and early Illyrian helmets: EGAW 13–20; AH 11–22, 42–8. Glancing surfaces: ffoulkes 3–4, 73. Thickness: ‘Dimensions’ above.

16 Crest-grabbing: EGAW pl. 15 a–b = AAG fig. 26; Arias, P. E., Hirmer, M. and Shefton, B. B., A History of Greek Vase Painting (London, 1961), 293 pl. 48 top right.

17 The stitching used was doubtless, as my wife informs me, not a simple running stitch but a firmer back stitch or saddle stitch. The lining might have been made of leather as is commonly thought but was probably of fabric, cf. Robinson, H. Russell, The Armour of Imperial Rome (New York, 1975), 144. For a pessimistic view of Greek linings, Hanson 1989, 73–4.

18 The fighting season: Hanson, V. D., Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1998), 3241. Helmets worn up before battle: EGAW 23.

19 Medieval European helmets e.g.: ffoulkes, pls. 7, 10, 12, 13, 29, 30; Ashdown, C. H., Armour and Weapons in the Middle Ages (London, 1975), 42–5, 60–3, 98–9; Contamine, P., War in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1984), figs. 12, 13, 15, 19, 23.

20 AAG figs. 30, 42, 43, 46; Van Wees 2000, 129 figs. 3 b and 4 b, 137 fig. 9, 141 figs. 10–11.

21 Hanson 1989, 71–5. Weight of helmets like ours cf. Jarva 134 n. 917; GH Kat. no. 33: 1.475 kg (AH 397, nose-guard lost); GH Kat. no. 91: 1.507 kg (AH, 398 nose-guard and left cheek-guard partly missing).

22 Ol. Ber. vii (1961), 110–11 figs. 56–7; pls. 28–9, 30–1, 39.2, 48. Very acute cheek-guards: ibid., pl. 23. 3–4; 46.5.

23 Lighter helmets: Jarva 134 n. 917. 1. GH Kat no. 51: 1.335 kg (Athens Nat. Mus. 7630, Ol. Ber. vii (1961), 84, 106–7 figs. 52–3); 2. GH Kat. no. 56: 1.224 kg (BM 2819, Ol. Ber. ibid., 85, 108–9 figs. 54–5). But the weight of GH Kat. no. 55 is 1.505 kg (BM 1904.10–10.2, Ol. Ber. ibid., 85, 110–11 figs. 56–7). I owe information on GH 55–6 to the courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.

24 Raking brows and nose-guards: Ol. Ber. vii (1961), 77116, pls. 21–55; Amandry 438–40; pls. 2a, 24. On a similar principle many modern tanks have sloping frontal armour plate. Thicknesses: Ol. Ber. vii (1961), 7884, e.g. no. 18; crown 0.1–0.15; rim of cheek-guard 0.3; nose-guard up to 0.7.

25 AH 398, 401–2; Dörig, J., Ol. Ber. X (1981), 109–10; pl. 12.

26 e.g. Ol. Ber. viii (1967), 87 n. 7, 94. B 6081 pl. 32.

27 AH 100–4 with distribution map; North Greece: Chronique des fouilles 1961’, BCH 86 (1962), 795 fig. 1; Ionia: Walter, H.AM 72 (1957), 43 Beil. 62, 1 (on the date Kunze, E., Ol. Ber. vii (1961), 76–7 n. 27).

28 Prices: Connor, W. R., ‘Early Greek land warfare as symbolic expression’, Past and Present, 119 (1988), 1011 n. 30; Jackson 1991, 229; Jarva 145–54 (Jarva probably overestimates the efficacy of leather as armour); Raaflaub 135–6 n. 30. In Aristophanes' Peace 1208–64 the mockery of arms-makers and -sellers depends partly on the costliness of their wares.

29 Jarva 148–57; Storch, R. H., ‘The Archaic Greek “phalanx”, 750–650 BC’, The Ancient History Bulletin, 12 (1998), 17; Raaflaub 135–6.

30 Among many important studies: Snodgrass 1965; Wheeler, E. L., ‘The general as hoplite’, in Hanson, V. D. (ed.), Hoplites: The Classical Battle Experience (London, 1991), 121–70; Snodgrass, A. M., ‘The hoplite reform revisited’, DHA 19. 1 (1993), 4761; Van Wees 2000.

31 Illustrated e.g. Salmon 1977, 85–92; figs. 1–2; Van Wees 2000, 137–41; figs. 9–11.

32 Among the most important studies of this are Snodgrass 1965; Cartledge, P., ‘Hoplites and heroes’, JHS 97 (1977), 1127; Salmon 1977 esp. 93–101; Raaflaub 129–41.

33 Hdt ii. 152. 3–5.

34 Jeffery, LSAG 2 95, Boiotiano. 11; pl. 8 (script dated to c. 550–525 by Jeffery; near 525 by Ducat, J., BCH 97 (1973), 66).

35 Gauer, W., Ol. Forsch. viii (1975), 14 Brunnen 16 StN, B 4501, 230–1, 243, latest possible date late first quarter of 5th c. BC.

36 Jackson, A. H., ‘Some deliberate damage to Archaic Greek helmets dedicated at Olympia’, LCM 8. 2 (Feb. 1983), 22–7; Jackson 1987, 113–14; Jackson 1991, 246.

37 The pointed dent in the back of our helmet's crown may be from an abandoned effort to nail it to a display post from the inside outwards (above, ‘Preservation’); it is too narrow to be from a spear thrust. For a nail-hole made by punching through the back of the helmet from inside outwards cf. Ol. Ber. vii (1961), 81 no. 23 (there wrongly described).

38 Victors' votive inscriptions. Ol. Ber. viii (1967), 91106 pls. 34–42, pls. 44–9. 2–3. Baitinger, H., Die Angriffswaffen aus Olympia (Ol. Forsch. 29; Berlin, 2001), 80–92, 239–46.

39 Helmets with bent cheeks, some with bent nose-guards e.g.: Ol. Ber. vii (1961) pls. 25; 26. 1; 28–9; 32. 3; 33; 37; 39; 44. 3; 45; 48–9; 51. 2. A helmet from Athens also has bent cheeks: Schröder, B., ‘Thrakische Helme’, Jdl 27 (1912), 340 Beil. 16. 2. But bent cheeks and nose-guards are most commonly found at Olympia, on present evidence.

40 Bends cutting across votive inscriptions: in Ol. Ber. viii (1967) e.g. (i) 92–3, no. 2 B 4504 fig. 32. 3, pls. 35; 36. 2; (ii) 104 with n. 39 B 499 fig. 35. 2, pl. 40. 2; (iii) 104–5 with n. 41 B 4882 fig. 35. 3 pl. 42. 2.

41 See also Jackson 1991, 249 with n. 38 and Brunaux, J. L., The Celtic Gauls: Gods, Rites and Sanctuaries (London, 1988), 125–7.

42 Several helmets from the Alpheios have similar multiple dents in the crown, possibly from contact with stones in the river bed: Ol. Ber. vii (1961), 7884 e.g. nos. (7) pl. 26. 1; (12) pl. 32. 3; (23) pl. 39. 2; (36) pl. 48.

1 This article was written in memory of Professor R. M. Cook. Other generous assistance was given by the National Art Collections Fund and by the Resource/Victoria and Albert Purchase Grant Fund. I am most grateful to the authorities of the Museum, especially to Dr A. J. N. W. Prag, for inviting me to publish this account of the helmet, Manchester Museum Inv. No. 2002.2, and to the anonymous reader for his or her comments. The plates were very kindly supplied by the Director, Manchester Museum.

Special abbreviations (dates are given in some cases to avoid possible confusion):

AAG = A. M. Snodgrass, Arms and Armour of the Greeks (London, 1967).

AH = Antike Helme: Sammlung Lipperheide und andere Bestände des Antíkenmuseums Berlin (Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Monographien 14; Mainz, 1988).

Amandry = P. Amandry, ‘Casques grecs à décor gravé’, BCH 73 (1949), 437–46.

Boardman 1978 = J. Boardman, Greek Sculpture: The Archaic Period (London, 1978).

EGAW = A. M. Snodgrass, Early Greek Armour and Weapons (Edinburgh, 1964).

ffoulkes = C. ffoulkes, The Armourer and his Craft (London, 1912).

GH = E. Kukahn, Der griechische Helm (Marburg, 1936).

Hanson 1989 = V. D. Hanson, The Western Way of War (New York, 1989).

Jackson 1987 = A. H.Jackson, ‘An early Corinthian helmet in the Museum of the British School at Athens’, BSA 82 (1987), 107–14.

Jackson 1991 = A. H.Jackson, ‘Hoplites and the gods: the dedication of captured arms and armour’, in V. D. Hanson (ed.), Hoplites: The Classical Greek Battle Experience (London and New York, 1991), 228–49.

Jarva = E. Jarva, Archaiologia on Archaic Greek Body Armour (Rovaniemi, 1995).

Lorimer = H. L. Lorimer, ‘The hoplite phalanx with special reference to the poems of Archilochus and Tyrtaeus’, BSA 42 (1947), 76–138.

Raaflaub = K. Raaflaub, ‘Archaic and Classical Greece’, in K. Raaflaub and N. R. Rosenstein (eds), War and Society in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds (Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard University; Cambridge, MA, 1999), 129–61.

Salmon 1977 = J. B. Salmon, ‘Political hoplites?’, JHS 97 (1977), 84–101.

Snodgrass 1965 = A. M. Snodgrass, ‘The hoplite reform and history’, JHS 85 (1965), 110–22.

Van Wees 2000 = H. van Wees, ‘The development of the hoplite phalanx: iconography and reality in the seventh century’, in H. van Wees (ed.), War and Violence in Ancient Greece (London, 2000), 125–68.

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An early Corinthian helmet in the Manchester Museum1

  • A. H. Jackson (a1)

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