How to make a Roman cardboard shield

Written by patti wigington
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How to make a Roman cardboard shield
The shield is an essential component to any Roman soldier costume. (Getty Images)

If you're planning to make a Roman soldier's costume for yourself or your child, one of the most important aspects of the ensemble is the shield. In ancient Rome, a soldier's shield was crucial for survival. Later on, shields became smaller and rounder, but a typical Roman shield was made of a long piece of rectangular bronze. It was used not only in hand-to-hand combat but also in formation with other soldiers. By standing together in a group and positioning their shields, Roman soldiers could create the "testudo" formation, which means "tortoise." This formation allowed them to advance as a group, protected from the arrows of their enemies. You can make your own Roman shield with just a few items that you probably have around the house.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Large piece of cardboard
  • Paint (red, yellow and white)
  • Paintbrush
  • Brass brads
  • Length of leather strapping or heavy fabric
  • Glue
  • Safety pin

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  1. 1

    Cut the cardboard into a rectangle that's as long as the distance between your knees and your shoulders. Make it as wide as you like; a good rule of thumb is to make the width equal to the width of your body at the shoulders.

  2. 2

    Paint one side of the shield red, and let the paint dry.

  3. 3

    Add decorative features in white or yellow. If you have metallic paint, add embellishments. Allow accent paints to dry overnight.

  4. 4

    Poke holes around the edge of the shield with a safety pin. Insert the brass brads into the holes. Add a dab of glue on the reverse side to keep the brads from slipping out later.

  5. 5

    Cut a piece of leather about 30 cm (1 foot) long by 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide.

  6. 6

    Flip the shield over, and glue each end of the strapping in place to create a handle, leaving the centre loose so you can carry the shield.

Tips and warnings

  • If the cardboard is flexible enough, bend it a little along the vertical axis to give it some curve. A typical Roman shield was contoured.
  • If you're making this shield for a child, make sure it's not so big that he can't see over it or might trip on it when walking.

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