The term Spangenhelm comes from two German words. Spangen refers to metal strips or braces that make up the framework of the helmet, and helm refers to the helmet itself.

Although the name has a clear German origin, the helmet arrived in western Europe by way of what is now southern Russia and Ukraine by nomadic Iranian tribes such as the Scythians and Sarmatians who lived among the Eurasian steppes.

By the 6th century the Spangenhelm became the most common helmet in Europe and saw widespread use throughout the Middle East.

The widespread use of the helmet was likely due to its simple design and effectiveness.


Strips connect three to six steel or bronze plates. The frame takes a conical design that curves with the shape of the head and culminates in a point. The front of the helmet may include a nose protector (a nasal). Older spangenhelms often include cheek flaps made from metal or leather. Spangenhelms may incorporate mail as neck protection, thus forming a partial aventail. Some spangenhelms include eye protection in a shape that resembles modern eyeglass frames, and are thus sometimes called “spectacle helmets”. Other spangenhelms include a full face mask.

The spangenhelm was an effective protection that was relatively easy to produce. Weakness of the design were its partial head protection and its jointed construction. It was replaced by similarly shaped helmets made with one-piece skulls (nasal helms), kettle hats and eventually the great helm or casque.