An ancient Corinthian helmet was found recently in a fifth century BC grave in the Taman Peninsula, southwest Russia. Made of bronze, ancient Corinthian helmets covered the entire head and neck, with slits for the eyes and mouth, protruding cheek covers (paragnathides) and a curved protrusion in the back to protect the nape of the neck.

The helmet has a padded interior made of fabric or leather to protect the warrior’s skull. These helmets were essential for the Hellenic hoplites, the famous foot soldiers of the phalanxes. While the Corinthian helmet is named after the ancient Greek city state of Corinth, where it originated, it was used across Hellas in ancient times, from the sixth century to the first, when it fell out of fashion.

The helmet found in Russia is corroded and highly fragmented, but its discovery is extremely important for historical purposes. The Corinthian helmet found in southwest Russia is the only one of its kind discovered north of the Black Sea. 

Corinthian helmets appeared in Hellas around the 6th century BC and is one of the symbols of ancient Hellas. Athena and the famed Athenian statesman Pericles are both frequently depicted wearing them in ancient Hellenic art.

In antiquity, when a warrior died his helmets would be buried next to him. According to Roman Mimohod, director of the expedition of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IA RAS), “the helmet of the Taman peninsula belongs to the Corinthian Hermione-type and would date back to the first quarter of the fifth century BC,” as stated to the Archaeology News Network.

For two years now, Russian archaeologists have excavated a necropolis of 600 burial mounds where many Hellenic warriors of the Bosporus kingdom are buried. The kingdom, with Panticapaion as its capital, lasted almost a millennium, with the last written traces going back to the 5th century AD.

It was a place where the Hellenic culture merged with the successive nomadic cultures of the steppe, be it the Scythians or the Sarmatians. Between the 6th and 3rd centuries BC, Hellenes and Scythians maintained extremely close cultural as well as commercial ties.

Several Hellenic colonies were established in the region. Their settlement extends from the end of the 7th century BC until the second quarter of the 4th century BC.

The Hellenics founded large cities on the northern coast of the Black Sea. The main ones were Olbia, at the mouth of the Dnieper, Panticapaion, today’s Kerch in the extreme west of the Crimea, and Chersonese (Sevastopol) on the Russian bank.

One of the ancient Hellenic settlements in the area, Phanagoria (Taman), also gave name to to the peninsula on which the Corinthian helmet was discovered.