Detail of bronze corinthian helmet

Early Warfare

Early Warfare covers the period from Ancient Greece and Rome to the Early Middle Ages, just after the fall of the Roman Empire.

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

The Early Middle Ages is more commonly referred to as the ‘Dark Ages’, a period starting just after the fall of the Roman Empire, during which large amounts of Barbarian tribes such as the Saxons, the Angles, and Norsemen moved 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.

Associated objects

Did you know?

Female soldiers

The Nizam of Hyderabad raised two battalions of 1000 women each for his war against the Marathas in 1795. They were taught French drill and fought at the battle of Khurda.