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As far as I can recall, no one ever wears plate armor in The Lord of the Rings - only leather and chain mail. But most depictions of Sauron and Morgoth show them wearing heavy black plate armor - even imagery produced by the illustrators most commonly associated with Tolkien, like John Howe.

Is there any evidence that anyone in Tolkien's world, including Morgoth and Sauron, wore plate?

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    Strikes me as unlikely, dwarven chain mail is at least once or twice as the most advanced available. Sauron's armor is never described, as we never see him in battle. Morgoth we see once, "clad in black armor", and that's about it. May 30, 2015 at 19:39
  • @MattGutting We do see him in battle during the flashbacks to the final battle of the Last Alliance, when Isildur cut off the ring from Sauron's hand. It's very clearly (fantasy) plate mail armor.
    – TylerH
    May 30, 2015 at 19:49
  • @WadCheber are you looking only for literary evidence, or will you accept movie answers as well?
    – TylerH
    May 30, 2015 at 19:49
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    Books only, there's mention of armour consisting over overlapping plates of iron, rather than plate armour as we'd understand it. There's also a brief mention in one of the Unfinished Tales books about a suit of armour but no real description of it. It sounds a lot more like he's describing a Lorica segmentata than single plates held in place by straps
    – Valorum
    May 30, 2015 at 20:37
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    @WadCheber - Very possibly. See answer below.
    – Valorum
    May 30, 2015 at 23:48

3 Answers 3

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It's not clear. There are certainly numerous descriptions of characters wearing armour, but there's far less info about what that actually consists of. For the record, I've been unable to find any use of "plate armour" in any of the novels or supporting materials.

The best I've been able to find is a description of a Haradrim soldier wearing overlapping plates of metal:

Arrows were thick in the air. Then suddenly straight over the rim of their sheltering bank, a man fell, crashing through the slender trees, nearly on top of them. He came to rest in the fern a few feet away, face downward, green arrow-feathers sticking from his neck below a golden collar. His scarlet robes were tattered, his corslet of overlapping brazen plates was rent and hewn, his black plaits of hair braided with gold were drenched with blood. - LOTR: The Two Towers

Based on the description, there seems to be no plate armour in Middle Earth but plenty of lorica segmentata; pieces of metal hung on straps.

There's also some very minor evidence that the dwarves may have had the ability to make and repair scale armour:

Indeed they [dragons] hardly know a good bit of work from a bad, though they usually have a good notion of the current market value; and they can't make a thing for themselves, not even mend a little loose scale of their armour. - The Hobbit

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  • +1, as always. Searching the interwebs, I found out that this is a subject of heated debate among scholars.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 30, 2015 at 21:57
  • Slight correction @Richard: the soldier you describe was probably one of the Haradrim based on his dress. May 30, 2015 at 22:34
  • The second quote is incorrect I'm afraid, as it is in reference to dragons, not dwarves. Dwarves could make a great many things for themselves :-) May 31, 2015 at 5:26
  • @maguirenumber - I fail to see the difference. If they (the dwarves) can see the principle, surely they can make it?
    – Valorum
    May 31, 2015 at 7:51
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    There is no evidence that the Dwarves made scale armour. The line about scale armour refers to the dragon's scales, which they cannot repair since they cannot make anything for themselves. May 31, 2015 at 9:01
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Is there any evidence that anyone in Tolkien's world, including Morgoth and Sauron, wore plate?

Morgoth and Sauron weren't just "anyone" in Middle-Earth; they were divine beings in physical rainment. As such, they could well wear plate armour even if the Elves/Men/Dwarves never got around to developing it. It could have simply been a chestplate rather than the full plate armour that covered every inch of the body. Tolkien's writings mention vambraces and greaves too. So, rather than the full plate armour, the elite warriors or knights among Elves and Men could have used plate mail with greaves, vambraces, and helmet. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Arms and Armor

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    I don't think this answers the question. Airily waving your hand at Sauron and saying "well, he's pretty much a god, he could have had a playstation if he'd wanted" doesn't solve the problem at hand,
    – Valorum
    May 31, 2015 at 21:18
  • @Richard - your comment actually made me laugh out loud (I refuse to abbreviate that phrase).
    – Wad Cheber
    May 31, 2015 at 21:24
  • As Richard says, this doesn't answer my question, but +1 regardless.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 31, 2015 at 21:25
  • Sorry, I do realise now that I haven't actually pointed out that Tolkien never mentions plate armour. I assumed it was already established here. Tolkien based Middle-Earth on ancient / early Medieval epoch, including the usage of mail armour and spears. I just wanted to remark on the fact that you're basing your judgement on beings like Morgoth and Sauron.
    – Maksim
    May 31, 2015 at 22:09
  • @Richard - it does solve the problem at hand. Even though plate armour wasn't used by the regular denizens of Middle-Earth (if it was, it's not mentioned anywhere), beings like Sauron or Morgoth could have worn it on their physical bodies, being possesed of much greater knowledge in crafting and the substances of the earth. So nerrr! :-p
    – Maksim
    Jun 2, 2015 at 14:09
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The Homeric catalogue when the allies are coming in the gates whilst Pipin and Bergil watch implies to that the Knights of Dol Amroth led by Imrahil where fully armoured knights.

Though given the similarities of Gondor to Byzantium they could have been Cathaphracts

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    Gandalf refers to them (shortly afterwards) as "And there are names among us that are worth more than a thousand mail-clad knights apiece"
    – Valorum
    May 31, 2015 at 21:00
  • Fully armored knights would be fully armored according to the standards of their time. Before plate armor existed, being fully armored in chain mail and leather would have been considered "fully armored". +1 though.
    – Wad Cheber
    May 31, 2015 at 21:00
  • Plate Armour existed back in Homeric times check out he delian panoply May 31, 2015 at 21:04

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