The Anatomy of a Conquistador

A SOLDIER IN THE CONQUEST OF THE NEW WORLD, SPAIN, PORTUGAL 16TH CENTURY

HELMET

PROTECTING THE CONQUISTADORS’ HEADS IN STYLE

The iconic steel helmet of a conquistador had a notable crest on the top and curved sides. Most conquistadors favoured a simple helmet that covered only the top of the head, but others encased the majority of the head, leaving just a small gap for the wearer’s eyes, nose and mouth.

TOLEDO SWORD

SWORDS DIDN’T GET MUCH BETTER IN THE1500S

Wealthier conquistadors made use of the finest swords of the 16th century. Made in the Spanish city of Toledo, the steel sword of the same name gave these soldiers a huge advantage over the natives of the New World thanks to its strength and resilience. Some cavalry would also carry lances.

CAMISA

AS FIGHTING PETERED OUT, CONQUISTADORS GOT MORE CASUAL

Most conquistadors wore a basic longsleeved shirt under their armour known as a camisa. Over time, when some conquistadors started to be revered as gods and hostilities lessened, they opted to wear the lighter camisa on most occasions as metal armour was no longer essential.

CUERRA

POORER SOLDIERS HAD TO MAKE DO WITH LEATHER OR COTTON

For their arms and legs, richer conquistadors had overlapping steel plates that allowed movement while also providing protection, but lower-ranking conquistadors just wore a cotton or leather jacket known as a cuerra.

BREASTPLATE

STEEL SO STRONG IT MADE CONQUISTADORS ALMOST INVINCIBLE

Like their swords, the steel armour of conquistadors was made in Toledo. It left the soldier with very few vulnerabilities, and thus the primitive wooden weapons of the Aztecs and Incas were very ineffective. In fact, one conquistador could kill dozens of natives before losing his own life.

JACQUETA DE MALA

WEALTH DETERMINED HOW ELABORATE YOUR ARMOUR WAS

Conquistadors were not a uniform army. Rather, they were adventurers who sought a fortune in the New World of America. Thus, many had contrasting armour; while the wealthiest could afford steel plating, the rest relied on any metal available — often a sleeveless chainmail vest called a jacqueta de mala.

SHIELD

IF YOUR ENEMIES FIGHT WITH CLUBS, WOOD IS AS GOOD AS STEEL

Conquistador shields were mostly circular with a convex design in order to deflect blows. The strongest shields were made of metal, although — due to the nature of Aztec weapons — wooden shields were just as effective.

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