Warriors have desired to protect themselves in battle since the advent of weapon in the stone age. The nature of this protection has evolved both with weapons technology and metalurgy. In the ancient world the cost of metal limited the ability to armor soldiers. Bronze was very expendive to produce. Iron was much less expensive, but required more advanced technology to use for weapons and armor. This development permitted the creation of larger armies as iron weapons could be produced much more cheaply. The fall of Rome (5th century AD) took place along wih a general decline of technology in the West. As a result, the use of armor was limited in the early medieval era. Not only had technology declined, but the cost of armor limited the size of armies that medieval monarchs and nobels could amass. The armor used in the early medieval era was chainmail. This consisting of thousands of interlocking metal worked painstakingly by hand to form a shirt, coif, or ro a lesser extent leggings. The "mild" or soft steel produced with medieval technology meant that each ring had to be riveted. This was necessary to keep the rings from spreading and opening under the weight of the piece. This mail was worn with a padded garment called an "aketon," or "gambeson." The knight would also be equipped with a shield. This was normally leather-covered wood. Metal shields would be both expensive and heavy. Knights were also equipped with iron and then steel helmets. As medievel weapons technologu developed, chainmail became less effective. Here the principal development was the English longbow and the crossbow. Such matters are not just of interest to ,ilitarian historians. English kings using yeomen cheaply armed with long bows to defeatv heavily armored French knigts. The important of the yeoman class played a ole in the rise of democracy in England. The answer to the long bow and crossbow was plate armor. This bedcazme posdible with the afvance of technlogy. This was not only hugely expendsive, but significantly restricted mobility. Plate armour has become a symbol of medieval Europe, but in favt only appeared in the late-mefieval period (late 13th/early 14th century). At first plate armor was only used in limited srea to protect vital areas such as the chest and shoulders. Only at the very rend of the medieval era did full body plate armor appear (early 15th century). This was the proverbial "knight in shining armor". It was hugely expensive. It was aoften combined with chainmail to protecting vital areas that could not be easily covered with plate armor (the groin and underarms). With such armor the shield became redundant. The era of plate armor was a short one. Shortly after full plate armor appeared so fdid gunpowder weapons. And once an effective gunpowder weapon was developed which could pnetrate plate armor (16th century), the heavily armored knight rapidly disappeared. It was very expensive to field armored knight and their mobility was limited. A lightly armored soldier with a gunpoder weapon was realatively inexpensive to field and could be quickly trained. Thewshole nature of comat and warfare rapidly changed. And it meant the end of the medieval era because armies were no longer formed primsrily from a small aristocratic class. Plate armor did not immediately disappear, but continued to be worn for cerempmial purposes. Such "ceremonial" could be very ornate and decorative.
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