Ancient Roman Kites

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Children in ancient Rome played with many of the same toys as children today, including hobbyhorses, stilts, board games, balls and kites. The Romans also used a form of kite shaped like a dragon or serpent for military purposes, which they borrowed from the Dacians of what is now Romania.

The Draco

The draco was a kind of military banner kite used by the Roman legionaries from 105AD onwards. It didn't work exactly the same as a modern diamond kite, but the draco was inflated by the wind, and it would appear to move as it was carried from place to place by Roman soldiers.

Design of the Draco

The draco was designed to look like a serpent or a dragon. It was a type of windsock attached to a pole. In some cases, it may have had some kind of fuel burning in the dragon's mouth to evoke a fire-breathing dragon.

Uses of the Draco

The draco may have had some limited psychological effect on enemy soldiers, but it also served as a banner or a standard for the Roman legions, carried along with the more famous Roman eagle standard. It may also have helped archers and commanders of the Roman army determine the direction of the prevailing wind.

Influence on Later Kites

Ancient Roman military banners had an influence on later European kite making. After Marco Polo brought back word of Chinese kites to Europe in the later part of the 13th century, Europeans began designing kites shaped like pennants or dragons. These medieval kites were based on the banners of the Roman legions.