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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.…

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], the…

Dona militaria

(887 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Particularly deserving soldiers and officers of the Roman army were granted marks of honour ( Decorations, military), with the rank of the recipient playing an important role. The practice of presenting such marks of honour changed in the course of the Republican period and the Principate. The older tradition reported the granting of decorations in the early Republic (Plin. HN 22,6-13) but the first credible information is found in Polybius (6,39). Honorary distinctions are documented in the lit…

Tribuli

(192 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The term tribuli described metal spikes with four points so arranged that one of them always pointed upwards (Veg. Mil. 3,24,4); they represented a very dangerous obstacle for infantry and cavalry. They can be traced to the τριβόλοι/ tribóloi of the Greeks, who may have adopted them from the Persians (Polyaen. 4,17: Darius [3]); even the Celts were familiar with them. The Romans, who are supposed to have used  tribuli as early as  295 BC at Sentinum  (Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 20,1), systematically deployed them in the wars with Antiochus [5] III and Mi…

Decimatio

(218 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)

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 S…

Commeatus

(340 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Commeatus has two different meanings: it denotes either a limited leave of absence or suspension (as opposed to final dismissal, the missio), or specific logistical arrangements. The term stellatura denotes the misuse of either arrangement. 1. For soldiers, leave of absence meant being permitted to leave the vicinity of the standard (Tac. Hist. 1,46,4). Commeatus was wrongly confused with   immunitas or vacatio munerum, which signified exemption from the usual duties to be carried out by soldiers. The granting of such exemption was the prerog…

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

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…

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

Strategemata

(273 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] (στρατηγήματα/ stratēgḗmata, 'war ruses') were systematically studied and used from the Hellenistic period onwards. Three types of strategemata were distinguished: at first, strategemata permitted strategic advantage to be gained even before direct military confrontation by deceiving the opponent as to the actual strength of one's own forces, choosing a suitable time for the battle or making use of particular climatic or geographical conditions (cf. e.g. Frontin. Str. 3,4,5 f.; time: 2,1,15; place: 2,2,7). In battle, one important tactic was the pretence of flight, by which the enemy was to be lured into an ambush or encouraged to reckless pursuit (battle of Lake Trasimene, 217 BC: Liv. 22,3-6; cf. also: Frontin. Str. 4,5). In the siege of a city, the time of conquest was significant (Syracuse: Pol. 8,37; Jerusalem: Frontin. Str. 2,1,17). The deception of the besieged - including the disguising of soldiers as …

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…

Bow and arrow

(666 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The use of bow and arrow for war and hunting goes back a very long time, and was widespread even in prehistoric times. In the Near East, bows and arrows were important weapons of war. As demonstrated on reliefs from Mesopotamia, the Assyrian archers often stood in a war chariot (palace of Assurnaṣirpal II in Nimrūd ( Kalḫu), 9th cent. BC; London, BM); in the siege of cities, archers on foot were frequently deployed (relief of  Tiglatpileser III in Nimrūd, 8th cent. BC; London, BM)…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Statio

(149 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] In the military context a police post in a Roman camp (Tac. Ann. 13,24,1; Tac. Hist. 1,28,1) or the soldiers who guarded the gates (Caes. B Gall. 6,37,3; Liv. 3,5,4; 8,8,1). The palace of the principes in Rome was also guarded by a statio (Suet. Tib. 24,1). A small garrison watching over a road junction was also called a statio. These military strong points increased greatly in number during the Principate, assuring security; they were commanded by a beneficiarius or a centurio . The stationarii of Late Antiquity were to be found in border regions in the countrys…
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