How to make a Roman shield

Roman soliders with their shields

© Matthias Kabel via Wikimedia Commons

    • Here's a quick and easy Roman soldier's shield in 8 steps - perfect for your school project.

      A photograph of a home made Roman shield
      You will need:

      • Card - a big box is great or you can stick card or empty cereal boxes together
      • scissors
      • a ruler
      • glue and sticky tape
      • tin foil
      • red wrapping paper - we used leftover Christmas wrapping paper (you can use paint) and if you haven't got that - you could cover the whole shield in foil.

      Make a shield in minutes

      A photograph showing a cornflake box and a piece of cardboard
      1. Draw out the shield shape on cardboard. Make it curved up at the top.

      Our shield is 46cm wide and 56cm in height or two cereal packets plus the side of the packet across and two boxes high.

      2. Then cut it out.
      A photograph showing a piece of cardboard covered in red paper with sellotape and scissors
      3. Cover the shield in red paper and sticky tape it down at the back of the shield.

      Now for the straps (see photo below)...

      A Roman shield only had one strap at the back for the soldier's hand to go into but you can have two for added comfort.

      4. Cut out two rectangular straps out of cardboard - the top strap where your hand goes can be shorter than the other one.

      5. Secure the straps with sticky tape, or something stronger like duck tape if you've got it, to the shield's back.

      A picture showing the back of the shield with a child's hand holding two handles
      Do you know what the metal bit on the front of the Roman shield was called? It's called a shield boss.
      A photograph showing a home-made shield boss
      The shield boss was in the centre of the shield and would help make it stronger and protect the soldier's hand.

      Can you see in the photo how the back of the shield boss on this replica Roman shield is concave in shape like a small bowl so that the soldier's fist can fit inside?
      Photo showing the back of a cardboard make and do Roman shield showing the concave area - the back of the iron shield boss - where the fist could fit and be protected.
      See how this shield boss of Junius Dubitatus in the British Museum collection is decorated?

      Shield Boss of Junius Dubitatus in the British Museum collection© Trustees of the British Museum
      If you look closely, you can see Mars , the Roman God of War (top middle).

      Now it's time to make your own shield boss...

      Make your shield boss

      6. Make your shield boss out of a square of tin foil.

      A photograph showing a tin foil square with a convex dome in the centre
      7. Then stick some scrunched up tin foil to make a dome-shaped piece to the middle of the shield boss.

      Some foil and some pictures of Roman objects
      8. Click on the links below to Roman objects from museum collections, print them out and stick them on your foil shield boss - like we've done.

      You can choose from:

      We copied the picture of Pegasus on the Roman intaglio from the Museum of London collection.

      Photo showing a drawing of the Roman winged horse Pegasus that has been copied from an intaglio in the Museum of London collection with a black marker pen on to tin foil.
      We drew the shape lightly with a pencil onto our tin foil shield boss, then went over it with a permanent black marker pen.

      You now have a basic Roman shield.

      Roman shield facts

      A Roman soldier's shield - or 'scutum' - was rectangular in shape and curved to fit and protect the body down to the knees.

      The shield was made of lightweight wood, then covered with leather or linen material and held together with metal.

      If you were a Roman legionary you would hold your sword in one hand to attack the enemy and your shield in your other hand to protect your body and to push back the enemy.

      There was a single handle at the back of the shield and the soldier's hand was protected at the front of the shield by an iron shield boss. The boss was in the centre of the shield and would help to make the shield stronger.

      All images copyright Culture24 unless stated otherwise
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