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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…

Armamentaria

(178 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] In early times the armamentaria or arsenals were situated in Rome itself; with the expansion of the Roman Imperium they were also installed in cities close to the theatres of war. In the legionary camps of the Principate the armamentaria were in the principia, those for the navy in the ports (CIL VI 999, 2725; VIII 2563); in Rome there was an armamentarium in the castra praetoria. The weapons were stored according to type, not army unit, and were guarded by the armorum custodes; the armamentarium was under the authority of a curator operis armamentarii and a magister, who was…

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)…

Decimatio

(218 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] In the Roman army, the decimatio was a rarely applied form of punishment for a whole unit (Pol. 6,38; Frontin. Str. 4,1,34; 4,1,37; Quint. Decl. 348). The tribunes selected every tenth man by drawing lots; the punishment could also be reduced by selecting just one man in a hundred (SHA Opil. 12,2). The victims decided on in this manner were not executed with an axe but clubbed to death (Tac. Ann. 3,21,1). This punishment, considered to be very severe, was applied in case of serious mis…

Impedimenta

(404 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] Two Latin words, impedimenta and sarcina, were used to describe the baggage train that accompanied the Roman legions. Impedimenta referred to the heavy packs containing the supplies and equipment of the entire legion. They were transported by pack animals (Pol. 6,27; 6,40; Liv. 28,45; Caes. B Gall. 5,31,6). These packs held tents, the officers' belongings, hand mills for the grain, food supplies, weapons, and after a victory,  war booty and money. Originally, the word impedimenta was used only in reference to things. However, as language evolved, it als…

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…

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 …

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…

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 docume…

Tabernaculum

(216 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] (derived from trabs, 'tree trunk', 'beam'; diminutive of taberna, 'hut', 'shop'). In the Roman military context, tabernaculum describes all forms of housing for soldiers (Cic. Brut. 37). Provisional shelters could be built from a variety of materials, such as reeds and wood (Liv. 27,3,2-3; Frontin. Str. 4,1,14). Tents were made of leather (Liv. 23,18,5; Tac. Ann. 13,35,3; 14,38,1); in the winter, they were insulated against the cold with straw (Caes. B Gall. 8,5,2). The arrangement of the tents i…

Burgus

(90 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] The origin of the word burgus is disputed by researchers: either a Germanic (CIL XIII 6509) or else a Greek origin (πύργος; pýrgos; Jos. BI 1,99-100) are assumed. The word, which appears before the middle of the 2nd cent. AD and is still attested under Valentinian I, denotes a small fortified watchtower (ILS 396) or is used as a diminutive for   castellum (Veg. Mil. 4.10).; the burgus was generally used for surveillance (CIL VIII 2494-2495: burgus speculatorius). Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon) Bibliography 1 D. Baatz, Bauten, MAVORS XI, 1994, 83-85.

Contubernium

(159 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] in the basic meaning of the word meant a communal lodging of soldiers; it applied either to a tent camp during an expeditio or to barracks in a fixed encampment (Tac. Ann. 1,41,1). Two extensions of meaning developed from that: the term was used for a group of soldiers sharing a lodging, and from that it was used to describe a shared sense of trust and solidarity among those soldiers (Suet. Tib. 14,4; Caes. B Civ. 2,29). This included the officers. The contubernium seems not to have been a tactical unit, although in Vegetius (Veg. Mil. 2,13) the contubernium is used as a synon…

Pilum

(592 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[German version] In a brief reference in Servius (Serv. Aen. 7,664: “pilum proprie est hasta Romana”), the pilum, a throwing-spear, is taken for the typical Roman spear. Among the earliest evidence for the use of the pilum in the Roman army is the depiction of the Battle of Panormus in 250 BC (Pol. 1,40). In Livy (8,8), the first two battle rows of the legions in the time around 340 BC are called the antepilani ('soldiers in front of the pilum bearers'). In his description of the Roman army, Polybius speaks of the γρόσφοι/ grósphoi as the javelins of the youngest soldiers, and the ὑσσοί/ hyssoí as …

Corvus

(136 words)

Author(s): Le Bohec, Yann (Lyon)
[English version] [1] militärisch Die Erfindung des c. (“Rabe”) wird C. Duilius, cos. 260 v.Chr. und Sieger über die Karthager in der Schlacht bei Mylae, zugeschrieben. Es handelte sich um eine Enterbrücke, die am Bug des Schiffes angebracht war und mit Hilfe einer Rolle und eines Seils dirigiert wurde. Wenn man sie auf das feindliche Schiff niederfallen ließ, blieb ein Metallhaken fest im Verdeck stecken; so konnte die Takelage des Gegners beschädigt werden, die röm. Soldaten konnten das Schiff entern (Pol. 1,22,23). Mit der Erfindung des c. wurde der Taktik des Enterns der Vorz…
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