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Roman Shields – History of a Nation

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Since the earliest ages of the human civilizations, humans have been waging wars, and one of the basic tools used in fighting from the earlier times of human civilizations were shields. They were made of different materials and they were shaped differently, depending on the nation that used them. This will be the story of Roman ones.

Why are they so important?

It can be said that Romans had shields just like any other nation. However, Roman army would not be such a force and power without its specific shields. The strength of the Roman army actually relied on organization, training and, yes, shields.


Roman shields had the dual purpose. Namely, they were there to protect a soldier, and they were also used for pushing back the enemy. The shields were designed in such a way that an entire group of soldiers could protect themselves and actually seal themselves inside those shields. In this way, no spear, arrow or spear could hurt them, if one of the shields is broker, removed or similar, the entire unit is compromised and exposed to enemy It is said that the attack is as strong as its defense. This practically means that both Roman attack and defense relied on those shields. Sometimes, soldiers would simply line up and hold shields straight and up so that soldiers with arrows and spears, as well as catapults, can attack an enemy from their behind. Cavalry would wait protected behind shields and wait for the command to shields to be moved so that the cavalry can launch its attack.


Roman history is a long and rich one. Throughout its millennial history, the Romans have used and developed several types of shields. However, there were three that were the most battle-efficient and used the most.

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1 – Scutum

This shield was made as oval or rectangular. These shields were very large and most widely used in Roman campaigns since they were the best protection for warriors, i.e. legionaries and foot soldiers, because they could protect an entire soldier from enemy attacks and those behind the shield as well. They were usually of red background with some decorative ornaments. It is well-known that the Romans used turtle formations in waging wars, well, this shields was ideal and designed for this formation.

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2 – Parma

This type of shields were used mostly used by all those who needed to move fast and needed to perform quick attacks. Some of them were cavalry men who found these shields easy and very convenient. This shields were round and they were not massive.

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3 – Clipeus

This started to be used after 3AD. These shields were vertical and they were most usually made of wood and they were vertical. These shields were used for fights in the arenas but also by soldiers. The shields were covered by leather that was painted.

Battle Shields

During the course of their history, the Romans have realized that mere numbers were not enough to win a battle or conquer a new territory. This was the reason why they have started developing new war tactics. This ultimately led to the development of new war tools, and shields were not an exception. Quite the contrary, they were designed and made on the different types of wars, depending on the terrain and the type of unit that was using them.

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Turtle Always Wins

It is widely known that the Roman infantry formations are best known for their Turtle-like formations. These were also called Testudo Formations. They used large and strong shields that protected all the members of the formation. These shields were also used by soldiers for approaching and sieging fortresses. The strength of the unit depended on a soldier who held a shield. As we have said, these formations were great for defense, but they were also great in attack for pushing the enemy backward.


A lot have been told about Romans, their lifestyle and war skills. It just needs to be noted and remembered that shields played a great role in their success to conquer most of the Europe, Africa and Asia at that time. However, it should be remembered that a shield was good as a man who was holding it.