Illyrian Bronze Helmet - LO.657
Origin: Illyria
Circa: 450 BC to 350 BC
Dimensions: 9.875" (25.1cm) high
Collection: Classical
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 helmet, molded from sheet bronze, belongs to a very prominent style of Greek military head protection. The open-faced, Illyrian style of helmet developed parallel to other forms of Greek helmet, including the Corinthian and Attic styles. Elements held in common with these others can be detected here. One may notice the short, gently sloping neck-guard at the rear of this example, which is shared with both the Corinthian and Attic styles, as well as the integral cheek-guards held in common with the Corinthian type. One of the distinguishing features of the Illyrian style is the open-faced design which provided less protection for the face, but afforded much more visibility than the closed-faced, Corinthian style. The origins of the Illyrian style can be seen in similar examples that date as far back as the eighth or ninth centuries B.C.

Another distinguishing feature of the current model of Illyrian helm is the raised, central ridge that sits longitudinally along the center of the cranium. This feature, along with the stud and ring that are affixed in front of the brow and in the rear at the occiput, may indicate that this helmet was intended originally to be worn fitted with a crest of horsehair, a common feature of many ancient helmets that was used to intimidate the enemy. Around the eges of the helm, there is a decorative border of dots flanked by lines, in repoussee, effectively framing the face.

Judging by the date of the current example, one is tempted to wonder what armies the original wearer may have served with. Perhaps a helm such as this witnessed the rise of the Macedonian Kingdom, or the fall of various city states in its wake. - (LO.657)



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