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Helmet of the Prussian Garde-Du-Corps , drawing by Anton von Werner , 1871
High medieval pot helmet

A helmet is a stable, protective headgear against mechanical influences and therefore part of the protective clothing , in the military sector also part of the uniform . Helmets are compulsory for various activities .

Originally only used in the military sector, today the helmet also makes a contribution to protecting against (head) injuries in the civilian sector. Helmets were originally made of leather , copper , bronze , iron or steel , but also of reinforced textiles and even gold . Today helmets are usually made of synthetic resin reinforced with resistant fibers, for example aramid ("Kevlar"). Special helmets (parade helmets) also serve for representation and not only for protection.

For soldiers , the helmet is not primarily used to protect against direct projectiles , as the penetration power of conventional rifle calibers is too great, but against fragments, objects and ricochets and pistol ammunition flying around .

History of the helmet

Early helmets

Spitzhelm, 8th century BC BC, bronze

It is likely that the people have been pre- and early history have sought time to protect the sensitive head part with weapons effect. Headgear made of reinforced textiles, fur, leather and the like were probably used. In the Iliad , Homer describes felt caps that were covered with strips of leather on which rows of wild boar tusks were attached to prominent heroes.

The oldest surviving helmets come from the Sumerian cultural area. Since the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC the Sumerians used Plain bronze helmets with ear protection, but left the forehead and face unprotected. Helmets were apparently made of gold for members of the Sumerian upper class . In the same era, the Egyptians are likely to have used bronze helmets, and headgear made of reinforced linen was also used. The first iron helmets were probably made in the 14th century BC. Used by the Hittites . Some of the simple, conical helmets of the Hittites were apparently provided with horns. Also the Dorians , who since the 12th century BC BC penetrated into today's Greece , used iron helmets. The prevailing Mycenaean culture there still used bronze helmets, leather helmets were also used, on the outside of which the teeth of around 30 to 40 boars were attached and which are therefore called boar-tooth helmets . One of the oldest helmets from the area north of the Alps comes from Thonberg in Upper Franconia . This bronze helmet from the Urnfield period dates from the 12th century BC. It is round and relatively unadorned.

Ancient Greek helmets

Corinthian helmet

The immigration of the Dorians triggered the Iron Age in the Greek cultural area , but the Greeks made bronze helmets for centuries. Different types of helmets were created, named after the Greek region in which they were first used. The Corinthian helmet is probably the best-known Greek helmet type. It originated at the beginning of the 7th century BC. BC and was forged from a single bronze plate. The Corinthian helmet was based strongly on the shape of the human skull and protected a large part of the head with its cheek pieces and the nose part. Like most Greek helmets, it was often decorated with a horse's mane (lophos). From the Corinthian helmet, the Chalcidian and Attic helmet developed , which gave the wearer a wider field of vision. All of these types of helmets could easily be pulled back to the forehead to allow an unrestricted field of vision and unhindered breathing during a break in combat. In the 4th century BC They largely replaced the Corinthian type, together with the Thracian helmet , which is also known as the Phrygian helmet. The latter was invented by the Greeks themselves, partly reminiscent of the traditional felt hat of the Thracians (a form of the Phrygian hat ), with its long cheek pieces and the high, often forward-curved helmet bell. In addition, there were (as almost always) numerous mixed forms, which had characteristics of different genera.

In the middle of the 4th century BC The Boeotian helmet appeared in the Greek culture , which only protected the forehead of the face and did not restrict the field of vision. Since an unobstructed view was more important for the cavalry than for the hoplites fighting in a dense phalanx , the Boeotic helmet type quickly became popular with them. Nevertheless, riders of that time also used the above-mentioned types of helmets.

Roman helmets (cassis)

Helmet of a centurion ( replica ) from the imperial era, with a transverse crest ( crista transversa (ria) )

The helmets of the Romans were heavily influenced by other cultures in early Roman history, particularly the Etruscan , Celtic and Greek. Variants of the Chaldean and Attic helmets were common among the Romans as cassis , as well as the Etrusco-Corinthian helmet and simple conical helmets. Under Celtic influence, foot soldiers began to work in the 4th century BC. The Montefortino type helmet , a very simple helmet with cheek flaps, was preferred, while officers and cavalry continued to wear helmets like the Attic . All of these helmets could be decorated with feathers or horsehair ( crista ) and mostly had foldable cheek pieces.

After the conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC. The Romans had uniform types of helmets produced there. At first it was the Coolus type, a bronze helmet with a round bell and cheek flaps, Celtic style, which could be tied with leather straps. He also had an almost horizontal neck protector, a vague visor and a tip at the top to which a drooping tail of horse hair could be attached. Soon people switched to wearing this crest only at parades. From the 1st century iron helmets were used, known as Imperial-Gallic helmets ( Weisenau ). These were similar to the Coolus helmet, but initially had a flatter bell. But soon the bell rose again, and the neck umbrella pointed more downwards. In addition, the helmet could have a hinted helmet as well as bronze fittings (as decoration and reinforcement) and ear protection. A popular decoration was the "eyebrows" engraved on the front. The helmets were soon copied by Italian blacksmiths. These were fitted with traditional Italian cheek pieces and were often of lower quality than the originals.

Late antique comb helmets were worn towards the end of the Western Roman Empire . In these, the very tall helmet bell was made up of two halves, the cheek pieces were quite large and immobile, the neck protector, on the other hand, was short and almost vertical throughout. On the front, implied eyes could be engraved as an ornament.

The Romans seem to be the first people to have made specialized types of helmets, especially for gladiator fights . The most famous gladiator helmet is that of the Murmillo . This helmet has a large forehead and neck protection and a grid-like face protection. It is also equipped with a large comb that could be decorated with a helmet.

Migration and Early Middle Ages

The dominant type of helmet at this time was the Spangenhelm introduced by the Sarmatians , which was widely used by the Romans and Byzantines as well as the Germanic peoples . This helmet consisted of 3–6 metal brackets fixed by a headband. The gaps between the browband and metal brackets were closed with metal plates. Spangenhelme often had flexible cheek pieces and a neck protection made of chain mesh. Since the 6th century, lamellar helmets have been used in Western Europe in addition to spangle helmets and related types such as band helmets . In Scandinavia and in the Anglo-Saxon area, so-called Nordic comb helmets were used during the Vendel Period and Viking Age , some of which were provided with special eye protection (glasses helmet), a face protection made of chain mesh or an anthropomorphic face mask ( mask helmet ). A Carolingian helmet type of the Franks is handed down in the Golden Psalter of St. Gallen and in the Vivian Bible , i.e. on illustrations from the 9th century. There are no finds of this type of helmet. In the Leiden Maccabees Codex from the early 10th century, numerous warriors with band helmets are depicted. In the Slavic area, pointed-cone helmets are known from the early Middle Ages (around 10th to 11th centuries), which consist of several segments. Such helmets have been found in the Polish towns of Olszówka and Gorzuchy .

High medieval helmets

11th century
nasal helmet

In the late Middle Ages , the forging art has been improved so as from the 10th century n. Chr. Helmets with conical nose guard appeared, which were made of a single iron plate. In addition, it has become customary to provide clasp helmets and helmets from a plate with a nose piece that becomes wider and wider towards the lower end. This high medieval nasal helmet is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Norman helmet , although it was widely used in Europe during the high Middle Ages. In the 12th century , cylindrically shaped helmets appeared next to the conical nasal helmet. These helmets initially also had a nose piece that was quickly replaced by a fixed visor with viewing and air slots. From this the pot helmet developed , which was slightly adapted to the shape of the skull over time and was therefore no longer cylindrical. At around the same time, types of helmets such as the simple iron hat with a wide brim and the conical pelvic hood adapted to the skull , which protected the entire head up to the face and were often worn under the pot helmet. The pot helmet remained the most effective head protection of the European knight well into the 14th century.

Helmets of the late Middle Ages and early modern times

Knight with Schaller , Late Middle Ages, Albrecht Dürer

In the middle of the 14th century, the so-called Hundsgugel with a pointed bell and a long, dog-snout-like visor developed from the simple basin hood . The Hundsgugel was usually supplemented by a chain mesh to protect the neck and neck and offered a better view and better protection than the helmet. In addition, special tournament helmets were forged, such as the frog-mouth helmet , which could weigh over ten kilograms.

In the first half of the 15th century helmets such as the Armet and the Schaller appeared, which replaced the Hundsgugel. The Armet encircled the entire head and had a flip-up visor. The closed helmet was later to emerge from the groundbreaking Armet . The streamlined sallet emerged from the monkshood and was completed by a chin and neck guard attached to the breastplate . In the middle of the 15th century, the barbuta appeared in Italy, reminiscent of the ancient Corinthian helmet in the style of the Renaissance . At the beginning of the 16th century the closed helmet was created, in which the visor and the chin guard were fixed in the same place on the side of the helmet. The closed helmet quickly became the most important head protection of the heavy cavalry and existed in several variants.

In the further course of the 16th century, simpler helmets appeared, which were mostly used by the infantry. These included the pear helmet with a high, tapering bell and narrow brim and the Morion with a brim tapering to a point on the front and back and with a high crest in its most famous variant. Since the battles in the course of the 16th century were increasingly characterized by formation battles and visibility restrictions due to powder steam, many riders chose the open balaclava as head protection from the middle of the century . The balaclava had neck and cheek protection and an eye shield. This helmet was available as a variant with a visor that could be folded down. The closed helmet was used well into the 17th century because it offered the best protection, but helmets that guaranteed unrestricted vision became more and more common. In the first half of the 17th century only variants of the balaclava and almost were Hungary originating lobster-tailed pot helmet used, which also had neck and cheek protection and an eyeshade.

In the second half of the 17th century, armor and thus helmets were almost completely out of use. The heavy helmets worn by some sappers during sieges are an exception . Occasionally the cavalry also insisted on wearing a helmet, but this was more for representative reasons. In the 18th century, people occasionally switched to wearing helmets when fighting fires. The Austrians wore heavy helmets , especially when fighting the Turks until the end of the 18th century. However, there was also a metal version for the cuirassiers .

Overview of specific historical helmet types


middle Ages

Dürer's piercing helmet drawing
Modern helmet : " Governor Boki of Oahu ( Hawaiian Island) and his wife Liliha ", 1824, drawn by John Hayter. Liliha wearing a lei niho PALAOA , a Wal-tooth ivory - necklaces , hung braided human hair and a crown of feathers , Boki wearing a cape and a helmet with plumes of feathers

Early modern age

Modern times

Modern helmets

M35 steel helmet , view of the right side with heraldic shield in the imperial colors black-white-red
Steel helmet M40 of the Luftwaffe of the German Reich


The British colonial troops started using pith helmets in the 19th century . The United States , among others, followed this example by equipping its soldiers stationed in the Philippines with such helmets since the end of the 19th century.

The tremendous advances in weapons technology in the age of industrialization emerged in the great battles of the First World War . Numerous soldiers suffered severe, disfiguring head injuries from shrapnel in this war, so that more effective head protection was necessary. France was the first nation to equip its army with steel helmets in 1915, Great Britain a short time later , and Germany not until 1916.

The helmets used in World War II differed only slightly from those used in World War I, but from the 1980s onwards, a helmet shape that is clearly reminiscent of the German M1935 / 42 helmet prevailed worldwide .

Combat helmet of the Federal Border Police inside

Modern combat helmets

From the 1970s onwards, a wide variety of synthetic fibers were used to make helmets. The best known of these fibers is aramid , which u. a. is used in the combat helmet of the Bundeswehr. This is also used for special face masks on some helmets. A weak point in modern helmets, face protection, is increasingly being countered with bulletproof glass , here primarily by special police units and mine clearers.

Today, multifunctional helmets often also offer integrated radios, infrared vision devices, multicams, hearing protection and protection against biological and chemical weapons.

The US Army's PASGT helmet is also a modern combat helmet. There are similar concepts with the ACH (Advanced Combat Helmet), MICH, TC2001, FAST, or the GALEA helmet for the Dutch army from 2011.


For millennia, helmets were primarily worn to protect against the effects of weapons, but the number of specialized protective helmets has increased significantly since the age of industrialization .

In the course of technological progress and the increasing number of special requirements emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries

Helmets are also used by technical aid organizations such as the fire brigade and disaster control. The fire brigades traditionally use a modified form of the first helmet of the Wehrmacht, which was also used by fire police and air protection during World War II. Because protection against projectile penetration is not important here, a helmet made from an aluminum alloy was developed for the fire brigades that is more comfortable to wear. However, these aluminum helmets no longer meet modern requirements; Meanwhile there are helmets made of fiberglass composite materials with significantly lower thermal conductivity than the aluminum helmet, the helmet shell of which can naturally become very hot. The technical relief organization , which previously used a yellow helmet in the form of a construction worker helmet, has now switched to a new protective helmet in the style of a combat helmet of the Bundeswehr. This can accommodate additional equipment. In principle, fire brigades are also free to choose any version, but the traditional German helmet in the form of the Schaller is often used. The helmet should also indicate belonging to a special group.


  • Stephen Bull: An Historical Guide to Arms & Armor. Studio Editions, London 1991, ISBN 0-8160-2620-3 .
  • Harry Kühnel (Ed.): Picture dictionary of clothing and armor. From the ancient Orient to the end of the Middle Ages (= Kröner's pocket edition. Vol. 453). Kröner, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-520-45301-0 .
  • Christian Miks: From showpiece to scrap metal. A depot of late Roman helmet parts from Koblenz (= mosaic stones. Vol. 4). Publishing house of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum, Mainz 2008, ISBN 978-3-7954-2143-4 .

Web links

Wiktionary: helmet  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Helm  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. TL 8470-0004  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Technical delivery conditions of the Bundeswehr for the standard combat helmet on bwb.org.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / daten.bwb.org  
  2. Mahand Vogt: Spangenhelme. Baldenheim and related types (= catalogs of prehistoric antiquities. Vol. 39). Roman-Germanic Central Museum among others, Mainz a. a. 2007, ISBN 978-3-7954-2006-2 (also: Munich, Univ., Diss., 2000).
  3. David Nicolle: Carolingian Cavalryman AD 768-987. Osprey, Paperback; March 2005; 64 pages; ISBN 9781841766454
  4. ^ Galea - Future Dutch Helmet , on soldiersystems.net
  5. AMSTERDAM - Nederlandse militairen gaan vanaf 2011 een nieuwe helm dragen die less weegt, beter zit en Meer bescherming biedt. , on nu.nl