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SUB-ROMAN BRITISH INFANTRYMAN

An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath

29.      SUB-ROMAN BRITISH INFANTRYMAN

This figure wears a leather corselet with pteruges called a caenet and his clothing is of checkered wool, though upper classes could wear silk; checkered, striped and spotted clothing is mentioned in a number of sources. He is armed with a spear and a circular shield, though the large, nearly round shield of the late Roman legionarius may still have been carried by some. The cross it carries is implied by an entry in the 10th century Annales Cambriae for the Battle of Mons Badonicus. Likewise a passage in the 8th century chronicle of Nennius implies a shield with an image of the Virgin Mary. His secondary armament would have been a hand-axe (possibly a securis), mentioned in the Gododdin, or a long knife. Some substituted a bow for the spear and shield, but archery was not popular.

Hair ranged from yellow to light brown and was always long, the British being inordinately fond of their tresses. Most men wore moustaches and some had beards.

The sub-Roman Britons continued to use Roman-style draco standards. According to old traditions Arthur's father, Utha Pendragon, had a golden dragon standard, while Cadwaldr, a mid-7th century king of Gwynedd, seems to have used such a standard as late as 678. In old Celtic sources 'dragon' is even used as a word for a chieftain, undoubtedly because of the standards they carried. It is probably no coincidence that the dragon is the present-day emblem of Wales, and it is claimed that even this was originally red-gold rather than red.



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