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Balteus (military belt)

balteus2 The balteus is the traditional Roman soldier's military belt. The term "balteus" can also refer to the baldric-style belt used to carry a gladius, pugio, loculus, etc.

The Mark of a Soldier

The balteus is the mark of the soldier — not only that, it's really a status symbol of being a soldier. Worn at all times, even off duty, only soldiers were allowed, by law, to wear this unique belt. The archaeological evidence suggests that most of these belts were plain and sparsely adorned, some however, were intricately elaborate. One theory is that since Roman soldiers did not have a lot to spend their pay on, they spent it on making their gear fancier. Is this the way it was? We don't know, but modern soldiers sure do this kind of thing — think about it…

Simple balteus

1uidbuckle2For our purposes as common soldiers, a simple balteus is acceptable. A tradition in Legio IX Hispana, is for the new miles to first make a simple balteus. It's quick, inexpensive and really, it's better to have a simple balteus when you first join, than none at all. A simple balteus has a basic "D" buckle and no ornamental plates or if it has plates, they are simple flat bronze or brass sheet, with 4-6 baltea.

As you acquire other gear and kit, you are encouraged to acquire a more ornamented balteus… when that is complete, if you wish, you can then donate your simple balteus into your chapter's loaner kit or pass it along to a new recruit you are sponsoring.

Balteus Nomenclature

Roman Soldier's Belt Nomenclature

The Latin word for the hanging straps is baltea. A strap, including an apron strap, in Latin is: balteum (pl. baltea). This is the diminutive form of balteus, thus, a "little belt".

The pendant at the very end of the "apron" strap: pensilium (pl. pensilia). Pensilium is a substantiative neuter adjective, meaning "a pendent thing." It is attested as piece of military gear in Granius Licianus 26.1.1, describing a type of cavalry harness pendant used by equestrian nobles.

p>Below are 3 pages of belt plates from the Vindonissa catalog for reference for making your own authentic belt. The drawings have a cross-section, so that you can see how they are made, i.e. stamped vs. cast.


Things to Avoid

  • Thick cast belt plates. A majority of the Roman belt plates discovered so far that date from the mid-1st century were made of sheet brass or silver. Some Roman belt plates were cast, but were generally much thinner than the older style reproductions still on the market.
  • Apron studs were more commonly stamped or made from sheet metal, but some were cast (again, generally thinner than the)
  • Wrong buckles. Again, get with Marcvs and he can point you in the right direction. I believe he has an article underway about this. Look for it soon.
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