Cavalry sports helmet
Roman Britain, late 1st or early 2nd century AD
From Ribchester, Lancashire
Helmet worn by élite trooper in the colourful cavalry sports events
In 1796 a clogmaker's son, playing behind his father's house in Ribchester, Lancashire, discovered a mass of corroded metalwork. This proved to be a hoard of Roman military equipment, mainly cavalry sports equipment and military awards.
Cavalry sports (hippika gymnasia) were flamboyant displays of military horsemanship and weapons drill. They served both as training sessions and to entertain the troopers. The most colourful events were mock battles among the élite riders of the unit, often in the guise of Greeks and Amazons. Both men and horses wore elaborate suites of equipment on these occasions. The helmet, decorated with a scene of a skirmish between infantry and cavalry, is the most spectacular piece. When used, the head-piece and face mask of embossed bronze would be held together by a leather strap. A crest-box and a pair of trailing streamers or 'manes' would have been attached to the head-piece.
R.P.J. Jackson and P.T. Craddock, 'The Ribchester Hoard' in Sites and sights of the Iron A (Oxford, 1995), pp. 75-102
B.J.N. Edwards, The Ribchester Hoard (Preston, Lancs, 1992)