Pteruges (also spelled pteryges, from Greek πτέρυγες, meaning "feathers") refers to the defensive skirt of leather or multi-layered fabric (linen) strips or lappets worn around the waists of Roman and Greek warriors and soldiers, as well as the similarly-fashioned epaulette-like strips worn on the shoulders, that protected the upper arms. Both sets of strips are usually interpreted as belonging to a single garment worn under a cuirass, though in a linen cuirass (linothorax) they may have been integral. The cuirass itself could be variously constructed: of plate-bronze (muscle cuirass), linothorax, scale, lamellar or mail. Pteruges could be arranged as a single row of longer strips or in two or more layers of shorter, overlapping lappets of graduated length.
During the Middle Ages, especially in Byzantium and the Middle East, such strips are depicted depending from the back and sides of helmets, to protect the neck while leaving it reasonably free to move. However, no archaeological remains of leather strip defences for helmets have been found. Artistic depictions of such strip-like elements can also be interpreted as vertically-stitched quilted textile defences.
Pteruges of leather on the back of a reconstruction of a Byzantine helmet
- Aldrete et al., cited throughout
- Dawson, Timothy: Byzantine Infantryman, Oxford (2007), pp. 20–21
- Gregory S. Aldrete; Scott Bartell; Alicia Aldrete. (2013). Ancient linen body armor : unraveling the linothorax mystery. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9781421408194.
- Dawson, Timothy (2007). Byzantine Infantryman. Eastern Roman Empire c.900–1204. Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-105-2.
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