Chain mail is a body armor that looks like a cloth, and is made from metal rings riveted connected together to create a mesh. Its name comes from the word maille, which means “mesh” in old French. Chain mail was very common during the medieval era, and many are aware of that. But what most people don’t know is who invented the chain mail and where it was invented. Let this history timeline give you an idea of how chain mail became known from one country to another and who used them first.
Who invented chain mail?
The Celts invented chain mail. The Greco-Roman authors Strabo, Diodorus, Appianus (Syriaca), Varro (De Ling), and Livy mentioned this. The Celts were expert metalworkers who excelled at intricate, finely detailed work.
Chain mail key contributors
- Celtic WarriorsPeople who invented the chain mail
The Celts are primarily credited for the invention of chain mail, although their more “civilized” foes frequently painted them as being naked. In truth, many Celtic warriors were well protected by their exquisite mail armors.The Greco-Roman authors Strabo,, Diodorus, Appianus (Syriaca), Varro (De Ling), and Livy also mentioned this. The Celts were expert metalworkers who excelled at intricate, finely detailed work.
- Hellenistic SoldiersFirst to adopt the use of chain mail
Hellenistic soldiers adopted chain mail, particularly mail hauberks, after the Celtic Boii, Volcae, and others invaded the Carpathian region and Danube basin. It allowed the Celtic mercenaries to be in demand in Hellenistic kingdoms.
- RomansThey used chain mail during the Roman times
Romans used a version of chain mail called lorica segmentata. What they liked about chain mail was its great coverage and low maintenance. Afterward, lorica hamata became prominent and was used by Roman soldiers until the end of the Roman empire.
- Sassanid PersiansThey used chain mail as a supplement to existing armors
Roman soldiers influenced the Persians with the use of chain mail. The Sassanid Persians accepted chain mail sometime in the 3rd century CE after taking down and overthrowing the Parthians. Chain mail enhanced rather than replaced existing types of armor, as scale and lamellar armor were all popularly used at the time.
When was chain mail invented?
Earlier than the 3rd century BC. This theory is based on how archaeologists found the earliest example of chain armor that dates back to the 3rd century BC.
A brief history of chain mail
Chain mail is believed to have existed even before the 3rd century BC. This theory is based on the examples of chain mail found at the tomb of a chieftain buried in Horny Jatov in the Slovakian area of the Carpathian basin. The chain mail found is the oldest known example of its kind so far.
Although it is generally accepted that the Celts were responsible for its invention, the history of chain mail is somewhat unclear. Their more “civilized” foes frequently painted Celtic warriors as being naked. But, many of them were well protected by their exquisite chain mail armors.
The Celts primarily utilized mail to make hauberks, mainly mail-made shirts. Celtic hauberks had short sleeves or, sometimes, no sleeves at all. Straps were added to strengthen them around the shoulders, which would have been vulnerable to attacks that could have rendered the warrior vulnerable. The strap also made it easier to wear and take off the armor.
Whatever its origins, mail appears to have been influenced by or developed from scale armor. But instead of scales, chain mail utilizes rings, making the production of chain mail easier.
The use of chain mail spread when the Celtic Boii, Volcae, and others invaded the Danube basin and Carpathian region in the 4th century BC. After destroying much of Greece and establishing the kingdom of Galatia in central Anatolia, the Celts provided a ready supply of mercenaries to the numerous Hellenistic kingdoms. Afterward, the chain mail, particularly mail hauberks, was adopted by Hellenistic soldiers.
In the 1st century CE, Romans used a version of chain mail called lorica segmentata. What they liked about mail were its great coverage and low maintenance. In the 2nd century CE, lorica hamata became prominent and was used by Roman soldiers until the end of the Roman empire.
By the 3rd century CE, chain mail became known to Persians, and the Romans are primarily credited for that. The Sassanid Persians accepted chain mail sometime in the 3rd century CE after taking down and overthrowing the Parthians. Mail enhanced rather than replaced existing types of armor, as scale and lamellar armor were all popularly used at the time.
In the 14th century CE, chain mail included plates for additional back and breast protection before it became a complete plate armor. But chain mail was still used during this period to protect areas of the body that weren’t covered by plate armor.
Chain mail timeline
- 3rd century BCThe earliest chain mail was found
The earliest example of chain mail was found at a chieftain’s burial in Horny Jatov, a Slovakian area of the Carpathian basin. The chain mail dates back to the 3rd century BC.
- 4th century BCHellenistic soldiers adopted chain mail
It was during this time when Hellenistic soldiers adopted the use of chain mail. The Danube basin and Carpathian region were invaded by the Celtic Volcae and Boii, and others which started their influence on Hellenistic kingdoms.
- 1st century CERomans started using chain mail
Romans called their chain mail lorica segmentata. It became popular during the Roman empire because of its excellent coverage and because they are easy to maintain. During the 2nd century CE, another Roman version of mail, lorica hamata, became popular and was used by Roman soldiers until the end of the empire.
- 3rd century CEPersians adopted the use of chain mail
During this time, the use of chain mail became known to Persians, and the Romans are primarily credited for that. The Sassanid Persians accepted chain mail sometime in the 3rd century CE after taking down and overthrowing the Parthians. Mail enhanced rather than replaced existing types of armor, as scale and lamellar armor were all popularly used at the time.
- 14th century CEMail was replaced by plate armor
Chain mail included plates for additional back and breast protection before it became a complete plate armor. But chain mail was still used during this period to protect areas of the body that weren’t covered by plate armor.
Where was chain mail invented?
Europe is the origin of chain mail. The Celtic warriors were primarily credited as the inventors of chain mail, warriors who lived in Western and Central Europe.
The importance of chain mail
- Protection against cuts
The most obvious advantage of using chain mail was the protection against enemy blade cuts. This armor is effective against weapon slashes and can block thrusts from fat blades.
- Cheaper to make
Chain mail required less material to produce than actual armor or iron. The fact that medieval chain mail was reasonably priced and thus accessible to everyone besides knights was another significant benefit.
- Durable and flexible
Chain mail is made up of intertwining metal rings that are connected. As a result, the armor looks like a flexible and durable mesh, settles neatly on the user, and does not obstruct the wearer’s mobility or maneuvers in any way.
Chain mail by the numbers
- 5Mail appears to be mentioned in the Avesta, Zoroastrianism’s holy scripture from the 5th century BCE.
- 4-to-1Chain mail was created using a variety of patterns, the most common of which was the 4-to-1 pattern, which meant that every ring was connected to four others.
- 19 & 20To test whether mail could be used to make bulletproof vests, trials were performed with it in the late 19th and early years of the 20th centuries.
- 35,000 to 40,000Chain mail consisted of alternate rows of riveted and solid rings, usually between 35,000 and 40,000.
- 1979This year, chain mail was used to create a shark-proof suit that would serve as a shield against shark bites when scuba divers worked very closely with these living creatures.
Five facts about chain mail
- Chain mail is not the proper way to call it
Calling this type of armor chain mail or chainmail is incorrect. Instead, it is called mail or maille.
- There are two methods to make the wire for the chain mail rings
Mail rings are made in two ways. The wrought iron was first hammered into plates, then divided into thin strips. The desired diameter was then achieved by repeatedly pulling these through a draw plate, a die form with holes of varying diameters.The second type involves turning an iron billet into a rod through forging. Then it will be drawn into a wire. The wire was then formed into rings and connected.
- The quality of the mail depends on the number of riveted rings over its number of solid, unriveted rings.
It was essential to ensure that the rings did not break apart when connected to prevent attacks like slashing or thrusting. The rings were riveted shut to accomplish this. To assess the quality of the mail, one method was to compare the proportion of solid, unriveted rings to riveted rings.
- Islamic mail armor has prayer symbols for protection
In some cases, prayer symbols were inscribed on the rings of Islamic mail armor to mark their quality artistry and for divine protection.
- Medieval chain mail has different names
Other names for medieval chain mail include chain armor, maille, and ring armor. All of these names indicates the same material.
Chain mail invention FAQ
- Is there anything worn under chainmail?
Yes, armors were worn with pads, also called doublets or gambeson, to improve the user’s comfort.
- Can you cut through chain mail?
Yes, many swords can cut chain mail on a good hit. Chain mail was hardly impenetrable, but it would have prevented the limb from completely amputating and worked out perfectly on a single blow (that might otherwise have you bleeding everywhere).
- How much does a chainmail shirt weigh?
45 to 55 lbs. is the average weight of a mail shirt armor. Maile was roughly the same weight as a full-body plate style.