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Home  > News  > How to make a Roman shield for kids
 

How to make a Roman shield for kids

February 07 2011

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

All photos unless otherwise stated © Rachel Hayward

Photo showing a Roman shield made out of cardboard and re wrapping paper and tin foil for the shield boss with Roman victory images on objects printed off from museum collections.

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 and 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

1. Get an adult to help you draw out the shield shape on cardboard. Make it curved up at the top (see photo right).

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.

Photo showing the cardboard cut out of a make and do Roman shield with a cereal packet on the cardboard to give an idea of the size of the shield.

Photo showing the back of the cardboard make and do Roman shield to show where the red paper has been sticky taped to the back of the shield.



3. Cover the shield in red paper and sticky tape it down at the back of the shield like we've done in the photo on the left.

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 (see photo right).

Photo showing the back of a cardboard make and do Roman shield showing with a hand holding the shield from inside the two cardboard straps.

Photo showing the make and do shield boss for a Roman shield made out of tin foil and pictures of Roman objects printed off from museum website collections.



Q: Do you know what the metal bit on the front of the Roman shield was?
A: A 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 concaved 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?

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...

Photo © Trustees of the British Museum



Make your shield boss

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

7. Then stick some scrunched up tin foil to make a dome-shaped piece to the middle of the shield boss.

Photo showing tin foil shield boss for a make and do Roman shield with a smaller dome shape in the middle.

Photo showing tin foil shield boss for a make and do Roman shield with images for the shield printed off from museum website collections.

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.

A statuette of Mars, god of war, from the British Museum.

A coin from Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery showing a victory monument..


Pegasus - the winged horse and symbol of immortality.

Read about Pegasus in Perseus's story in the Heroes' section on the Museum Network.

Roma wearing a helmet from the Museum of London. Fortuna, the goddess of fortune - she could bring you good luck.

Another great picture to use for your shield would be this Roman Phalera baldric fitting.

It would have been worn on a soldier's cross strap on his armour. Can you see the golden eagle on it - the symbol of the Roman army - and the inscription OPTIME MAXIME CON - which means: "Jupiter (king of the gods) - the best and greatest protect us"?

Screenshot from Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery website showing a Roman metal attachment in the shape of a golden eagle for Roman soldier armour.

Screenshot above right from Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery website.

More time or haven't got a printer?

Instead of printing, why not copy the pictures onto your tin foil shield boss instead?

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

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!

As you can see from our Roman shield, we added some strips of bronze paper to make a cross shape on the front of our shield. We also cut small circles out of bronze paper and stuck them on to look like they were rivets holding the shield together.

You can always do the same out of yellow paper or with paint.

Read on and see more shield decoration ideas...

Photo showing two boys with two re-enactor Roman soldiers and the boys are trying on Roman soldier outfits including a shield and helmet.

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.



Dress the Roman Centurion in this fun game from Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery.

Play Roman games and more on our Show Me Roman Topic page.

Screenshot courtesy Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

See Rockcliffe CE Primary school in action with their Roman shields.

See some more lovely Roman shields from Stubbins Primary School.

We'd love to see photos of your Roman shield make and do - why not get in touch?

See Roman objects in the museums we've mentioned:

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

British Museum

Museum of London

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery

By Rachel Hayward