A cestus or caestus is an ancient battle glove, sometimes used in pankration. They were worn like today's boxing gloves, but were made with leather strips and sometimes filled with iron plates or fitted with blades or spikes, and used as weapons.
The word caestus is Latin, a deverbal noun derived from the verb caedere, meaning "to strike", and can be reasonably translated as "striker". The Latin plural is caestūs, since this is a fourth declension noun; whereas cestus in the second declension (nominative plural cestī) means a girdle or belt. In English, "cestuses" can be used.
Early Greek cestuses
The Greeks also invented a variation called the sphaerae (σφαῖραι), which were sewn with small metal balls covered with leather.
The Roman variant included straps of different lengths, many reaching to the elbow, in order to protect the forearm when guarding heavy blows. Caestūs were frequently used in Roman gladiatorial bouts, both against each other and against other weapon-wielding gladiators. Despite being seemingly outmatched by other types of gladiators, a single hit from a cestus would have incapacitated most fighters. The cestus-fighter would have otherwise had no body armour.
Boxer of Quirinal
The most famous depiction of cestuses is the Hellenistic sculpture The Boxer of Quirinal. The sitting figure is wearing cestuses on his hands. It is part of the permanent collection of the National Museum of Rome.
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