Study the evolution of armor throughout the Middle Ages. How did the armor of the barbarians differ from that of the Carolingian period? Describe the armor of a knight depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry. What tactical and technological factors in the thirteenth century led to a transformation in armor construction? Describe the benefits and liabilities of full plate armor in warfare.
As DeVries notes, the most dramatic impact on Roman armor was not an introduction of technological advances, but a modification in attitude towards the wearing of armor itself. Most notably, this attitude was formed by the invasion of the barbarians into the Empire--thus, leading to the eventual 'barbarization' of the entire Roman army (and the forerunners of the Empires that spawned at the Empire's end). Because most of the Germanic barbarian armies were outfitted with neither breastplate armor nor even a helmet, they tended to enjoy the advantage of maneuverability over the 'weighted-down' Roman soldier.
Therefore, the Romans quickly sought to gain the same freedom of maneuver and opted to shed their own armaments, relying as the barbarians did, solely upon their shields (in early medieval times, known as the buckler) for protection. However, even though critics of the new unarmored troops, like Vegetius, expressed the vulnerability of unarmored soldiers to archer fire, it must be understood that the Romans were facing an enemy in the barbarians that were just as stripped of self-defense, and since the Romans had enjoyed such vast victory in the first encounters, were easily rallied to commence battle against an obviously 'inferior' foe.
In 792, Charlemagne altered the course of defensive armament when he required that all benefice and office holders were required to possess full armor and a shield, and then again in 803 further dictated that nobles would own their...