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How to make a Roman cardboard shield

Updated April 17, 2017

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.

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

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

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

  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.

  7. Tip

    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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Things You'll Need

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

About the Author

Patti Wigington

Patti Wigington has been writing for nearly twenty years. Her work has appeared on a variety of websites and in a number of print publications, and she spent five years as a staff writer for a Columbus, Ohio, newspaper. She is the author of a children's book, a novel for middle grade readers, and two adult novels.

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