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Cuirass

leather, front, body, armor, straps, lames and breastplate

CUIRASS, kwE-r3s'. Defensive armor pro tecting the body from neck to hips. The word undoubtedly is derived from the French word cuir (leather), probably from the fact that, at the time of its coining, the piece of armor was made of cuir bouith (leather hardened by boiling or steeping in oil) ; a method practised in several periods. When the cuirass is made up of two parts (front and 'rear) the fore part is known as the breastplate, plastron, pectoral, or (rarely) mameiliere; the rear por tion is termed dossier,. Perhaps the earliest body armor was the jazeran, of linen, or other strong material, to which were attached scales of bronze or leather. They appear to have originated among the Eastern nations. In the Heroic Age of Greece the cuirass was made of bronze and was worn over a linen tunic. It, apparently, consisted of a breast plate with arm and neck protection composed of lames (strips). From ancient descriptions it was often highly ornamented with repousse (embossing by hammer) work and sometimes inlaid with gold. About 400 a.c. the Greeks adopted a lighter tunic defense (used by the Egyptians and Asiatics) made of layers or folds of linen glued together. The early cuirasses were moulded to the figure and had straps of leather (lambrequins) hanging from the lower edge to afford protection to the lower part of the body. These straps were often studded with metal plaques. Etruscan cui rasses were (like the Grecian) made up of a breastplate (plastron) and back piece (dossiere) but the overlapping shoulder-guards, as Etrus can pottery discloses, tend to meet in front, thus differing from the Greek method. They also appear to have worn cuirasses made up of metal discs or plates (scales) or strips sewn on to a padded ground.

The heavily armed troops of the Romans wore a laminated cuirass made up of about seven steel lames encircling the trunk. Each lame was in two parts joined in the centre of the front and back with clasps and hinges, respectively. Four or more curved lames passed over the shoulders, being joined to the corselet at its upper lame front and rear, and moving freely on their pivots at each end. Fixed to the lower edge of the bottom body lame but one, in front, hung three or four lames vertically to protect the middle of the lower part of the body. The body lames were

attached to a tightly fitting leather jacket or waistcoat. This armored garment opened in front. Two layers of leather with notched edges attached to the lowest lame and the lambrequins hung below. In the Republican period the Roman cuirass or lorica (termed also thorax) followed the Greek style with a plastron and dossiere held together by straps at the sides and having broad straps passing over the shoulders. These latter fastened to a ring on the breastplate, with permanent attachment to the dossiere below the shoulder-blades. The lorica was, usually, of bronze and modeled to the configuration of the body's surface. Straps passed over the shoulders above, while below were two bands of leather, the nether one longer and extending below the upper. And the lambrequins hanged over these, often studded with metal plates, and with a plaited or curled fringe. A tunic was worn under the lorica. The officer of the Imperial period wore the same style of lorica modeled to the figure but it was shorter, few reaching below the waist. The scaled cuirass (squamata) was a favorite among the leaders as was also the laminated cuirass. The mediaeval period styles and forms of the cuirass will be found under title PLATE ARMOR.

In the ((half time (early 17th century), when firearms made armor ineffective, only the cavalry retained the cuirass, wearing it over a buff coat. By the reign of Charles I of Eng land these troops were called cuirassiers. Lancers wore a breastplate, close helmets, gor get, pauldrons (shoulder protection), etc. Arquebusiers wore a back and breastplate as did also the pikemen and musketeers.

In modern times, despite the weight, cui rasses were carried in the German army in 1888, but for parade and show. In France the cui rassiers have existed to this day. And the royal bodyguard ("Horse of England still wears a bright, plain steel cuirass and helmet on parade.

Bibliography.— Ashdown, C. H., and Foreign Arms and (London 1909) ; Demmin, A., An Illustrated History of Arms and (London 1877) Hewitt, J., Armour and Weapons in (Oxford 1855-60).