In the military of classical antiquity, a clipeus (Ancient Greek: ἀσπίς) was a large shield worn by the Greeks and Romans as a piece of defensive armor, which they carried upon the arm, to secure them from the blows of their enemies. It was round in shape and in the middle was a bolt of iron, or of some other metal, with a sharp point.
Pliny the Elder also describes the custom of having a bust-portrait of an ancestor painted on a clipeus, and having it hung in a temple or other public place. From this round bas-reliefs in a medallion on sarcophagi and in other forms are known as clipeus portraits.
The legionary scutum, a convex rectangular shield disappeared during the 3rd century. All troops adopted the auxiliary oval (or sometimes round) shield (clipeus). Shields, from examples found at Dura and Nydam, were of vertical plank construction, the planks glued, and faced inside and out with painted leather. The edges of the shield were bound with stitched rawhide, which shrank as it dried improving structural cohesion. It was also lighter than the edging of copper alloy used in earlier Roman shields.
Clipeus virtutis, Latin for 'shield of bravery' was awarded to Augustus for his "courage, clemency, justice and piety" by the senate and displayed in the Curia Iulia. (Res Gestae 34)
- Hall p. 78.
- Elton (1996) 115
- Bishop & Coulston (2006) 217
- Bishop and Coulston, M.C. & J.C.N. (2006). Roman Military Equipment From the Punic Wars to the Fall of Rome, 2nd ed. ISBN 1-84217-159-3.
- Elton, Hugh (1996). Warfare in Roman Europe, AD 350–425. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-815241-5.
- Hall,James. A History of Ideas and Images in Italian Art, John Murray, London, 1983, ISBN 0-7195-3971-4, p. 78.
- William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D. "Clipeus". A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. John Murray, London, 1875.
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