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THE CHRISTIAN'S COAT OF MAIL.
WISDOM AND PRUDENCE.
Stand but your ground, your ghostly foes will fly-
In the first book of Samuel, chapter seventeen, we have a graphic description, perhaps the earliest on record, of “a man of war,' Goliath of Gath, who is expressly styled “a champion,” or, to modern term, a dueller; one who came between the two armies, as wishing to distinguish himself in single combat. Goliath was of the race of Anak. On the most moderate computation, he was above ten feet high ; and the weight of his armour shews that his bulk and strength were proportionable ; for his coat of mail weighed above two hundred pounds troy weight, and his spear's head in proportion. Some indeed suppose that the price or value was meant; but the value of anything is generally, if not always, computed by shekels of silver or gold, not of brass. Probably, men in general were about the same size as at present, for such giants then caused as much surprise as they would now. -SCOTT.
use a more
We have in the description of Goliath, the first account of what we may call a complete suit of defensive armour; which naturally gives occasion to some remarks on the subject generally, and on the several parts of armour which we find here specified. Sir Samuel Meyrick says, that body-armour had its origin in Asia. The warlike tribes of Europe at first contemned all protection but their innate courage; and considered any other defence but the shield, as a mark of effeminacy. He adds, that all the European armour, except the plate, which was not introduced till the fourteenth century, was borrowed from the Asiatics. This is of importance, because it enlarges our range of illustration ; since the ancient armour being borrowed from the east, its condition there, is more distinctly illustrated by the information we possess concerning the derived armour of the ancient European nations. The present notice of a suit of armour is the earliest on record, and, to those who interest themselves in the matter, is an important indication of the period when armour had arrived at a state of some completeness, though it does not enable us to ascertain the period when its several parts were invented. It is evident that armour had, at this time, become not uncommon. Saul himself had armour composed of nearly the same articles as that of Goliath, the use of which he offered to David, who being, from his youth and manner of life, unaccustomed to such warlike harness, preferred to act without such defence. This fact helps to the conclusion, that, as Saul was himself a giant, taller by the head and shoulders than any other Israelite, while David was but a stripling, his intention to make David wear his armour proves that the armour then in use was not so nicely adapted to the size or form of the person destined to wear it, as we find it to have been in later times.
When men had realized a means of protecting their heads by strong caps and helmets, they naturally began soon to think of extending the same protection to other parts of the body. It would be absurd to suppose that every nation adhered to the same rule of progression ; but it may, perhaps, be stated as a general rule, with large variations, that the progressive kinds of armour were – 1. The skins of various animals, and even, in some countries, of birds and fishes. 2. Hides, mats,
linen or woollen, padded or folded; strong twisted linen. 3. Leather, bordered with metal. 4. Entire plates of metal ; but, as these were heavy and inflexible, various contrivances were resorted to, in order to obtain the security which metal gives, without its rigidity, and without all its weight. For this purpose, the leather was covered with square pieces of metal, riveted on; or else, embossed pieces of metal were fastened on so as to
protect the more important parts of the person, and to serve at once for ornament and use. Sometimes, also, the defence was formed of bands, or hoops of metal, sliding over each other, and therefore yielding to the motions of the body. 5. We then come to what is properly mailed armour, by which 'a higher degree of flexibility was obtained, than a metallic covering might be supposed capable of affording. This armour was of several kinds. Leather, linen, or woollen, was covered with rings, or with scales. The rings were of various kinds or sizes, and variously disposed. Sometimes they were fixed independently of each other: in other instances, the rings were twisted into each other, like the links of a chain ; and, in some cases, the rings were set edgeways, as shown in the Egyptian hauberks, which Denon copied from the walls of Carnac, and which, in sir S. Meyrick's opinion, affords the earliest known specimen of this kind of armour. Scale-armour was that which obtained the same effect by arranging small pieces of metal, cut into the shape of leaves, scales, etc., in such manner that they fell over each other like the feathers of a bird, or the scales of a fish. This kind of armour had grown into extensive use long before it was adopted by the Romans, who regarded it as a characteristic of barbarians—that is, of any nations except themselves and the Greeks. In the time of the emperors, they were, however, led to adopt it from the Dacians and Sarmatians. This scaled armour was not, however, always of metal ; for the last-named people had none such. They were without proper metals, and, therefore, they collected the hoofs of horses, and, after purifying, cut them into slices, and polished the pieces, so as to resemble the scales of