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Testudo

(462 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The term testudo ('tortoise') was used by the Roman military in two senses; it described on the one hand various tactical formations in battle, and on the other hand various engines deployed in besieging cities. In the first case it consisted of soldiers, who, standing in a line, held their rectangular shields side to side without gaps in front of themselves, in such a way as to confront the enemy with a wall, as it were,  of wood and iron (Liv. 32,17,13). When the soldiers formed u…

Desertor

(279 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The Roman army regarded as a desertor anyone who did not appear at roll-call (Liv. 3,69,7) or who during a battle was beyond the range of the trumpet or who left his unit in time of peace without permission, without commeatus (Suet. Oth. 11,1; SHA Sept. Sev. 51,5; Dig. 49,16,14) (‘distanced himself from the signa’). The punishments were merciless: depending on the case a person was at risk of slavery (Frontin. 4,1,20), mutilation (SHA Avid. Cass. 4, 5) or death (the condemned person was beaten with canes and then thrown down from the Tarpeium saxum or crucified). The decimatio…

Cornicines

(109 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The cornicines were military musicians ( aeneatores). They played the cornu, a wind instrument curved into a circle and made of bronze; the distinction from the bucina is difficult. These soldiers were taken from among the poorest citizens and were already represented in the Servian centuriate (Liv. 1.43). On their own the cornicines gave the standards the command to change position, and jointly with the   tubicines the signals in battle (Veg. Mil. 2.22;3.5). Under the Principate the cornicines were held in higher regard than in the Republic, as their menti…

Ensigns

(851 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The ensigns of the Roman army fulfilled an important tactical function: the transfer of commands from the commander; in this case they were accompanied by the sound of the cornu (Veg. Mil. 2,22). Due to their importance, they achieved an almost religious validity (cf. for instance Tac. Ann. 1,39,4). According to tradition, Romulus provided the first legion with animal symbols such as the eagle, the wolf, the horse, the wild boar and the minotaur (Plin. HN 10,16). At that time, each of the thirty maniples supposedly received a signum (Ov. Fast. 3,115; Plut. Romulus 8)…

Tabulae honestae missionis

(103 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Tabulae honestae missionis is the name given to Roman documents certifying the good conduct of soldiers during their period of service; they were issued upon request to veterans at their retirement from military service, enabling them, if they were entitled, to receive the military diploma and thus citizenship. Only a few copies have been found, but these were distributed across the entire Roman Empire. Their structure corresponded to that of military diplomas: 1. confirmation of honesta missio [1], 2. the certifying officer, 3. authentication, 4. date, 5…

Vigiliae

(265 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] One of the chief concerns of Roman generals was the safety of their troops; both in a fixed legionary camp and in the field, legions were protected by the posting of guards, positioned in front of the vallum, outside the camp, and on the gates or on the vallum; individual guards also had the task of protecting higher officers (Pol. 6,35f; Sall. Iug. 100,4). Polybius gives a precise description of the organization of guard duty (νυκτερινὴ φυλακή/ nykterinḕ phylakḗ: Pol. 6,33-37; cf. Onasander 10,10 f.; Veg. Mil. 3,8,17 ff.). To prevent the sentries becoming …

Bucinatores

(114 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Along with tubicines and cornicines, bucinatores were musicians in the Roman army; the bucina was a bronze wind instrument (Veg. Mil. 2,11; 3,5), whose exact shape is contentious. In Republican times, the duties of the night-watchmen were regulated by bucina signals (Pol. 6,35; Liv. 7,36; Frontin. Str. 1,5,17). During the Principate, a bucina call signalled the end of the convivium in camp (Tac. Ann. 15,30,1); in late antiquity the bucinatores gave the signal for the execution of soldiers.  Aeneatores Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon) Bibliography 1 R. Meucci, Riflessioni di…

Soldiers' pay

(831 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
Sources give only little information about the introduction and development of SP in Greece and in Rome, and they contain only few precise figures for the amounts. Hence modern works on SP are largely based on assumptions and estimates resulting from them. [German version] I. Greece In Greece, soldiers of the citizen contingent of a polis probably did not receive regular money until the 5th cent. BC, and this was initially used to pay for provisions (σιτηρέσιον/ sitērésion ); at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War the Athenian hoplítai besieging Potidaea were given pay (μισθός/ misthós…

Aeneatores

(102 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] were the musicians of the Roman legions and were already documented in the Servian centuria regulation. They included the tubicines, cornicines and bucinatores, who transmitted the officers' orders in the camp, while marching and during battle. The word aeneatores appeared only once in the imperial period (CIL XIII 6503): in the 4th cent. AD they were mentioned in Amm. Marc. 16,12,36 and 24,4,22.  Bucinatores;  Cornicines;  Tubicines Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon) Bibliography 1 A. Baudot, Musiciens romains de l'Antiquité, 1973 2 R. Meucci, Riflessioni di archeolog…

Exauctorare

(226 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The verb exauctorare refers to the judicial act, by which a Roman military commander could release a soldier or an entire unit from their oath of allegiance. Such an act could be carried out at certain times defined in law, in the Republican era for example following a victory, at the time of the Principate at the end of a soldier's compulsory military service (Suet. Aug. 24,2; Suet. Tib. 30; Tac. Ann. 1,36,4; Tac. Hist. 1,20,6). In exceptional circumstances, this might be linked wi…

Labarum

(209 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge ( Pons Milvius) against Maxentius in AD 312, in a dream described as a vision, Constantine I was advised to have the first two letters of the name of Christ, in Greek chi and rho (Χ and Ρ), inscribed on the shields of his soldiers, if he wished victory: τούτῳ νίκα (‘By this sign be victorious’; cf. Lactant. De mort. pers. 44; Euseb. Vita Const. 1,26-31). This Christogram was later fixed to the tip of a standard consisting of a long lance with a flag bearing the Imperial medallion hung on a crosspiece. It is unclear whether the name labarum given…

Armour

(709 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Even the heroes of the Homeric epics protected themselves with armour made of bronze or linen (Hom. Il. 3,830; 11,15-28). In the archaic period, body armour (θώραξ/  Thorax ) was included as part of the equipment of the Greek   hoplítai ; during the classic period however, metal armour was increasingly replaced by armour made of lighter materials. In the Roman army, armour ( lorica) was worn by the prima classis (according to Liv. 1,43,2, this in the early days of Rome denoted the wealthiest class of citizens with assets of 100,000 As or more). Diff…

Imaginiferi, Imaginifarii

(215 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The imaginifer was a soldier who, at least at festivals, carried an image ( imago) of the princeps (Veg. Mil. 2,6; 2,7; Jos. Ant. Iud. 18,55); the imaginiferi certainly did not have any specifically military duties. There was an imaginifer in each legion, though he did not necessarily belong to the first cohort (  cohors ) (CIL III 2553: 3rd cohort). According to Vegetius (Mil. 2,7), imaginiferi also occurred in other units. Imaginiferi are attested in inscriptions for the cohortes urbanae and the   vigiles in Rome and for the legions and the units of the   auxilia ( alae, cohor…

Accensi

(147 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Originally, the accensi (also accensi velati, ‘clothed (only) with a cloth cloak’) were members of the army who were too poor to equip themselves. They accompanied the legions and, positioned behind the other soldiers, had to replace the dead using their weapons (Fest. 369 M; Liv. 8,8,8; Cic. Rep. 2,40). They were recruited according to their census income. After the introduction of pay for soldiers (in our record in 406 BC) they no longer appeared in this form. From then on the term accensi described a small, little respected part of the troops that was recruit…

Disciplina militaris

(943 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The Latin term disciplina designates a) a field of knowledge or an academic discipline and b) obedience. According to Livy (Liv. 9,17,10), in Rome disciplina militaris had evolved into an ars. In conjunction with the Roman military, disciplina generally appears in its second meaning; Frontinus calls the knowledge of military matters rei militaris scientia (Frontin. Str. 1 praef. 1). The phrase is used by Valerius Maximus as well as Pliny and is furthermore epigraphically documented (Val.Max. 2,7; Plin. Ep. 10,29; S.c. de Cn. Pisone patre, 52; ILS 3809; cf. disciplina…

Decorations, military

(877 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Decorations were used to reward soldiers' bravery and acts of courage in the Roman army as in all other armies, their advantage being that their cost to the common purse was slight, while at the same time they reinforced general awareness of military honour (Pol. 6,39). A pronounced feeling for hierarchical structures also had its influence on such decorations, as they were awarded according to the rank of the receiver (  dona militaria ). As A. Büttner has shown, the origins of Roman decorations may be found not only in Italy, but a…

Corvus

(137 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] [1] Military The invention of the corvus (‘raven’) is attributed to C. Duilius, cos. in 260 BC and victor over the Carthaginians in the battle of Mylae. It was a boarding-plank attached to the bow of the ship, steered with the aid of a pulley and a rope. When it was thrown on to the enemy ship, a metal hook remained fixed to the deck; this was a way of damaging the enemy's rigging, which allowed the Roman soldiers to enter the ship (Pol. 1,22,23). With the invention of the corvus the tactic of boarding was given precedence over ramming. Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon) Bibliography 1 L. Poznans…

Military writers

(522 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The intellectual education of the future officers of the Roman army was based on the reading and interpretation of the works of historians such as Polybius and Livy, as well as the military regulations put into force under Augustus and Hadrian, which were still valid under Severus Alexander (Veg. Mil. 1,27: Augusti atque Hadriani constitutiones; Suet. Aug. 24f.; cf. Cass. Dio 69,9,4). Alongside these, works by Cato, Marius [I 1], Rutilius Rufus (Val. Max. 2,3,2), and Arrius [II 5] Menander were also read. Under Constantinus [1], thes…

Manoeuvres

(525 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Military exercises ( exercitium, exercitatio militaris, decursio), for a long time little studied by historians, contributed considerably to the military success of the Roman army and appear to have been conducted on the Field of Mars ( Campus Martius ) in early times. From the late 3rd cent. BC, military exercises were developed further in both practice and theory. Cornelius [I 71] Scipio Africanus organized manoeuvres systematically in Spain in 210 BC (Pol. 10,20; Liv. 26,51,3-7) and then in Sicily…

Vallum

(146 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] (related to Latin vallus, 'stake, palisade'), occasionally used with the general meaning 'protective wall' (Liv. 9,14,7; 36,18,2; Frontin. Str. 3,17,9), usually in a military context. The typical Roman defensive installation, which was built during a campaign or a siege, consisted of a fossa ('ditch'), agger ('earthen wall') and v. ('palisade'); soldiers dug out the ditch, throwing the earth inwards and building the v. on this earth wall (Veg. Mil. 3,8,7-9; 4,28,3; Liv. 10,25,6 f.; cf. also the precise description of a Roman v. in Liv. 33,5,5-12). Finally, var…
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