Detail of bronze corinthian helmet

Early Warfare

Early War covers the period from ancient Greeks and Romans to Early Middle Ages, just after the fall of the Roman Empire.

There are a only few artefacts from the period of the Greeks and Romans but together with illustrations a real sense of the arms and armour of that period can be gained.

The period of the Early Middle Ages is often referred to as the ‘Dark Ages’ because it came just after the fall of the Roman Empire which resulted in large scale movement of Barbarian tribes such as the Saxons, the Angles, and Norsemen across Europe.

What we know about their weapons mostly comes from archaeological excavations of burial sites. Spears, swords, shields and helmets have been unearthed.

The infantry of these armies fought in dense and ordered formations. By the 10th century, the usual formation was the ‘shield wall’, a solid defensive line of infantry spearmen with interlocking shields, supported by small numbers of light infantry and some cavalry, who usually dismounted for battle. Armour was usually a padded tunic or a mail shirt if you could afford it.

Explore some of the objects in this gallery. Click on the images to enlarge.

Did you know?

Going off half-cocked

Many older guns have a form of safety that prevents the gun from being fired when the hammer is pulled halfway back. Sometimes a fault develops which allows the gun to fire when the hammer is in the half-cocked position, before a proper aim can be taken.