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Where Maille Really Came From
Article © MAIL User: TheJason

A lot of people like to point their fingers at the Celts(Gauls) or the Romans as being the inventors of Maille, this is simply not the case. It may be the case in that they may have designed the basic European patterns we know and love today. However, to look at the history of maille, you have to ask the question, "How did they come up with the idea of creating maille"?

The true inventors/originators of Maille are a group of nomadic tribesmen that lived from the 7th century B.C. to the second half of the 3rd century B.C. called the Scythians. The Scythians were first written about by Herodotus, who is regarded as "The Father of History" in his book "The Histories" in the 5th century B.C. but it is thought they existed as far back as the 9th century B.C..

Scythians lived along the southern steppes of Russia and their kingdom reached as far west as the Black Sea, all around the Caspian Sea, all over the territories known today as the middle east region and their borders reached as far east as the center of today's China.

The Scythians were a group that could have been called horse masters. Not one of their warriors would fight on foot. They were all mounted archers. In his writings Herodotus recognized them as possibly inventing the stirrup, which would have given them better stability firing a bow while riding. Herodotus also credit them with inventing how to work with bronze and iron as well as inventing bellows, which allowed them in smelting metals.

You would think that since their armies were totally mounted and not one of their warriors went into battle on foot, how could these people be the inventors of Maille? The Scythians were broken into many different social classes. The nomads were the common warrior and they wore nothing but brightly colored clothes with maybe a bronze helmet. The Royal Scythians were the military commanders of the troops and Herodotus wrote, "The Royal Scythians wore a bronze helmet and a jerkin of metal rings with red felt under it." This is a reference to ring maille, where the links were sewn onto a jacket or material. I would offer that the "jerkin of metal rings" would be the originating idea for maille.

Now by the 2nd half of the 3rd century, the Scythians borders stretched far, which opened them to attack by many groups, such as the Celts from the west, the Sarmatians to the south, and the Mongols to the east. This is where the Scythians were absorbed by these cultures and disappeared in history.

Each of the different cultures adapted the Scythian's technology to suit their own needs, which included their armor. Again, the "jerkin of metal rings" worn by the Royal Scythians was changed to the needs of the Celts, which we have proof they knew of this technology from the mass burial sites. The Romans then picked it up from the Celts. The Sarmatians were smack dab in the middle of the Persian area. They took this newly found armor and changed it into the Persian styles we see today. And of course the Mongols were known to wear Maille towards the later part of their rule. Through their influence, the Scythians' "ring maille" could have reached the lands of Japan, which was changed to meet the needs of the Asian warriors.

All these adaptations give us the different patterns of Maille we see today with the European, Persian, and Oriental or Japanese patterns.

Through this timeline, I would offer the possibility that the Scythians had a huge impact on what we as Maille-Smiths love to do everyday.
Original URL: http://www.mailleartisans.org/articles/articledisplay.php?key=342