Illyrian Bronze Helmet - LA.511
Origin: Mediterranean
Circa: 600 BC to 500 BC
Dimensions: 8.5" (21.6cm) high
Collection: Classical
Style: Illyrian
Medium: Bronze


Illyria refers to an ancient region situated along the Eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea. The ancient historian, Appian, wrote that the Illyrians inhabited the lands beyond Macedon and Thrace, roughly equivalent to modern Serbia and Albania. The Illyrians were a tribal society governed by chieftans. Traditionally, they raised livestock, mined the hills, and traded their commodities with other linguistically linked neighboring tribes.

Historical records indicate that the Illyrian army was composed primarily of infantryman. Through archaeology, we have extensive knowledge of their arms and armor. Excavations have produced swords, bows and arrows, javelins, and battle-axes that would have been wielded by the soldiers. On defense, the Illyrian military was equiped with wooden and leather shilds that were embossed with metal. More refined armor, including pieces such as breastplates, leg protectors, and helmets such as this one, were most likely reserved for the commanding officers and the military elite.

This gorgeous green-patinated bronze helmet is a stunning example of the Illyrian type. This type of helmet is identified as Illyrian not because of its origins, for it was likely first created in the Peloponnese, but because the type became extremely popular with Illyrian cheiftans. Thus, many helmets were forged in Greek workshops and imported into the lands of the Illyrians. Originally, these helmets were composed of several sections riveted together. By the end of the 6th Century B.C., the manufacturing process evolved to reflect the influential design of Corinthian helmets that were hammered out of one sheet of metal.

The Illyrian helmet type is broadly characterized by a quadrangular cut-out for the face and fixed cheek pieces. Unlike their Corinthian counterparts, the Illyrian helmet lacks a nose piece. However, like the Corinthian, the Illyrian is close fitting and would have given good cover to the head and the sides of the face. A layer of leather or linen padding on the inside would have added comfort to the wearer as well as further protecting him from blows to the head. This specific example is remarkably well preseved. The helmet features a decorative band of hammered studs framing the face and flowing along the rim of the cheek pieces and the curving neck guard.

This helmet was produced from a single sheet of metal, requiring a great degree of technical sophistication on the part of the smith. The helmet also has two distinctive raised ridges beaten out of the bronze that run along the crown. This striking feature is derived from earlier examples of the type that were made from seperate sheets of metal that were seamed together. The raised ridges would have protected the central seam from a striking blow. These ridges were retained as part of the design long after they ceased to serve a purpose. A horse hair crest may have run along the ridges. - (LA.511)



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