Bronze cuirass (body armor)

Period: Classical

Date: 4th century B.C.

Culture: Greek, Apulian

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: H. (front): 19 5/8 in. (49.8 cm)
H. (back): 20 1/16 in. (51 cm)

Classification: Bronzes

Credit Line: Gift of Estée Lauder Inc., 1992

Accession Number: 1992.180.3


This muscled cuirass is typical of the body armor worn by Greek warriors in the fourth century B.C. Its date is suggested by the fine articulation of musculature, which illustrates how much body armor had in common with contemporary sculpture–it characteristically provides a sensitive rendering of the male physique. Carefully made to fit the human torso, the cuirass reproduces, often with minute details, the nipples and muscles of the chest and abdomen. In the front, the lower rim of the armor curves over the stomach and up again to the hips. Typically, this piece consists of a front and rear plate with slotted attachments along the sides.
Body armor of this type was made by the metalworker Pistias, whom Socrates visits in an anecdote by Xenophon (Memorabilia III, 10, 9). Pistias' customers stress their need for a proper fit and are willing to pay the price for it.