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Now Thrive the Armorers
Our Legions are Brim Full

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Our Legions are Brim Full

Julius Caesar

Our legions are brim full, our cause is ripe.

The enemy increaseth every day;

We, at the height, are ready to decline.

There is a tide in the affairs of men

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat;

And we must take the current when it serves,

Or lose our ventures.

—Julius Caesar (Act IV, scene 3)


Jean Valdor. Les triomphes de Louis le Iuste XIII. du nom, roy de France et de Nauarre. Paris, 1649

To Renaissance Europeans, the story of ancient Rome was a matter of immediate modern relevance. Political leaders saw the rise and fall of figures like Caesar as timeless lessons about how power can be gained or lost. Military commanders studied Caesar’s armies and campaigns as models to guide modern military practice. Artists, poets and playwrights found in the Roman heritage a rich vocabulary to enrich their own contemporary creations. Rome’s enduring importance is reflected in the arms and armor of Shakespeare’s day. Classical themes feature prominently in the decoration and design of armor. The decorative motif on the Medici backplate derives from the ancient Roman “trophy”: armor and weapons displayed as spoils stripped from defeated enemies after a victory in battle. The morion-burgonet imitates a style associated with the ancient Romans: its wearer, like Louis XIII as represented in Valdor’s image, was appropriating the power and sophistication that Renaissance Europeans associated with Rome’s classical age.


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