Description & Technical information

The design of the Chalcidian helmet evolved from developments in the Greek Empire in the 6th Century B.C.[1] At the end of the Archaic period growth in commerce and manufacturing led to rapid economic expansion and great improvements in the living standards of the population. This in turn gave rise to increased production of luxury items which formed a catalyst for advances in style and technique in arts and crafts. With a rapidly increasing population Greek colonies were also growing; this expansion gave rise to conflict and we see a series of battles particularly around the Greek cities of Sicily especially, Syracuse and Carthage. The combined conditions of economic prosperity, expansion and conflict led to a number of developments in the design of weaponry in this period; the Chalcidian helmet is representative of this.

With flexible hinged cheek pieces, the Chalcidian helmet was an improvement on the more cumbersome Corinthian and Illyrian types. The eased construction made putting the helmet on easier, while the open face offered improved vision and less weight than the Corinthian covering the whole face with only slits for the eyes. Curves around the ears maximised soldier’s ability to hear, from what had previously been an ‘echo chamber’. Unlike the Illyrian helmet the Corinthian retained a protective nose bar, shielding the face. The helmet would have had an inner lining of leather and adornments such as combs were often placed on top. This is a very early example; the Chalcidian Helmet came to greater prominence in the British Museum.

This piece is a superb example of Greek armour with ornamental details such as the deeply contoured inverted ‘V’ above the brow, and silver like quality of the high tin content within the bronze alloy show that this was not a common object; the owner had money to invest in armour that was more than just protective. This fine example is in excellent condition; however, the two original cheek pieces have been lost to antiquity. It is a fascinating object combining the practicalities of functional armour with the clean shapes of excellent craftsmanship; it has a very strong presence.

[1] The name ‘Chalcidian’ derives from the pottery on which helmets such as this were first shown, that were thought to be from the Euboean city of Chacis, it is no longer known if the helmet actually originated here or if the pottery itself was Chalcidian.

Date:  6th Century B.C
Period:  Antiquity
Origin:  Greece

Previously in a UK Private Collection, London, acquired prior to the mid-1950’s.

US Art Market

With David Aaron, 2012-2014.

Private Collection.

Categories: Arms & armour