ANCIENT ROMAN MILITARY: ORGANIZATION, INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRIUMPHS

ANCIENT ROMAN MILITARY


Romans believed, "If you wish for peace prepare for war." Success in war was so important that the Roman notion of virtue "incorporated prowess in the battlefield." Roman Emperor Augustus (ruled 27 B.C.– A.D. 14) is credited with creating the world's first peacetime military. Before him armies and navies were raised to lead an attack or prepare a defense. He raised to a professional military force to maintain order and defend borders in peacetime.

Roman foot soldiers that served in military units called legions were called legionaries. Elite soldiers were called Centurians. "The golden eagle which glittered in the front of the legion was the object of the fondest devotion," wrote Edward Gibbon in the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Each legion had its own symbol. The emblem of the 20th legion, for example, was the wild boar.

The conquest of Italy was due, in great measure, to the efficiency of the Roman army. The strength of the Roman government, too, depended upon the army, which was the real support of the civil power. By their conquests the Romans became a nation of warriors. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Books: “The Roman War Machines” by John Peddir; “The Complete Roman Legions “ by Nigel Pollard and Joanne Berry

Military Institutions in the Roman Republic

On the Roman Republic military after the Punic Wars (264-146 B.C.), Polybius (c.200-after 118 B.C.) wrote in “History” Book 6: “ As soon as the consuls are declared, the military tribunes are next appointed. Of these, fourteen are taken from the citizens who have carried arms in five campaigns; and ten more from those who completed ten. For every citizen, before he arrives at the age of forty-six, is obliged to serve either ten years in the cavalry, or sixteen in the infantry: those alone excepted who are placed by the censors below the rate of four hundred drachmae; and who are all reserved for the service of the sea. In the case of any pressing danger the time of continuing in the infantry is extended to twenty years. No citizen is permitted by the laws to sue for any magistracy before he has completed the serving of ten campaigns. [Source: Polybius (c.200-after 118 B.C.), Rome at the End of the Punic Wars, “History” Book 6. From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 166-193]

“When the enrollments are to be made the consuls give notice before to the people of a certain day, upon which all the Romans that are of sufficient age are required to attend. This is done every year. And when the day arrives, and the men all appear at Rome, and are assembled afterwards in the Capitol, the tribunes of the youngest order divide themselves, as they are appointed either by the consuls or the people, into four separate bodies. For this division corresponds with the first and general distribution of all the forces into four separate legions. Of these tribunes, therefore, the four first named are assigned to the first legion; the three next to the second; the following four to the third; and the last three appointed to the fourth. Of the tribunes of the oldest order the two that are first named are placed in the first legion; the three second in the second; the two that follow in the third; and the remaining three in the fourth. By this distribution and division an equal number of commanders is allotted to each legion.

“When this is done, the tribunes of each legion, having taken their seats apart, draw out the tribes one by one by lot; and calling to them that upon which the lot first falls, they select from it four young men, as nearly equal as is possible in age and stature. And when these are brought forward from the rest, the tribunes of the first legion first choose one; then those of the second a second; those of the third take the third; and those of the fourth the last. After these four more are made to approach. And now the tribunes of the second legion first make their choice; then those of the rest in order; and last of all the tribunes of the first. In the same manner again, from the next four that follow, the tribunes of the third legion choose the first; and those of the second the last. And thus, by observing the same method of rotation to the end, it happens that the legions, with respect to the men of which they are composed are all alike and equal. The number allotted to each legion is four thousand and two hundred; and sometimes five thousand, when any great and unusual danger is foreseen. After these had been thus selected it was anciently the custom to choose the cavalry; and to add two hundred horsemen to each four thousand of the infantry But in the present times, the citizens, of whom the cavalry is composed, are first enrolled; having been before appointed by the censors, according to the rate of their revenue; and three hundred are assigned to every legion.


Roman standards

“When the enrollments are in this manner finished, the tribunes having assembled together in separate bodies the soldiers of their respective legions, choose out a man that seems most proper for the purpose, and make him swear in the following words: "that he will be obedient to his commanders, and execute all the orders that he shall receive from them to the utmost of his power." The rest of the soldiers of the legion, advancing one by one, swear also that they will perform what the first has sworn. About the same time, likewise, the consuls send notice to the magistrates of the allied cities of Italy, from which they design to draw any forces, what number of troops are wanted, and at what time and place they are required to join the Roman army. The cities, having raised their levies in the same manner that has now been mentioned, and administered to them the same oath, send them away attended by a paymaster and a general.

“At Rome the tribunes, after the ceremony of the oath is finished, command all the legions to return without arms upon a certain day, and then dismiss them. And when they are met together again at the appointed time, those that are youngest, and of the lowest condition, are set apart for the light-armed troops. From the next above these in age are selected the hastati; from those that are in full strength and vigor, the principes; and the oldest of all that are enrolled are the triarii. For every legion is composed of all these different bodies; different in name, in age, and in the manner in which they are armed. This division is so adjusted that the triarii amount to six hundred men; the principes are twelve hundred; the hastati an equal number; and all the rest light-armed. If a legion consist of more than four thousand men, the several bodies are increased in due proportion; except only that the number of the triarii always remains the same.”

The historian Oliver J. Thatcher wrote: “Rome, with the end of the third Punic war, 146 B. C., had completely conquered the last of the civilized world. The best authority for this period of her history is Polybius. He was born in Arcadia, in 204 B. C., and died in 122 B.C. Polybius was an officer of the Achaean League, which sought by federating the Peloponnesus to make it strong enough to keep its independence against the Romans, but Rome was already too strong to be resisted, and arresting a thousand of the most influential members, sent them to Italy to await trial for conspiracy. Polybius had the good fortune, during seventeen years exile, to be allowed to live with the Scipios. He was present at the destructions of Carthage and Corinth, in 146 B. C., and did more than anyone else to get the Greeks to accept the inevitable Roman rule. Polybius is the most reliable, but not the most brilliant, of ancient historians.”

Roman Discipline the Root of Their Greatness

Flavius Vegetius Renatus (died A.D. 450) wrote in “De Re Militari” (“Military Institutions of the Romans”): “Victory in war does not depend entirely upon numbers or mere courage; only skill and discipline will insure it. We find that the Romans owed the conquest of the world to no other cause than continual military training, exact observance of discipline in their camps and unwearied cultivation of the other arts of war. [Source: De Re Militari (Military Institutions of the Romans) by Flavius Vegetius Renatus (died A.D. 450), written around A.D. 390. translated from the Latin by Lieutenant John Clarke Text British translation published in 1767. Etext version by Mads Brevik (2001) digitalattic.org]

“Without these, what chance would the inconsiderable numbers of the Roman armies have had against the multitudes of the Gauls? Or with what success would their small size have been opposed to the prodigious stature of the Germans? The Spaniards surpassed us not only in numbers, but in physical strength. We were always inferior to the Africans in wealth and unequal to them in deception and stratagem. And the Greeks, indisputably, were far superior to us in skill in arts and all kinds of knowledge.

“But to all these advantages the Romans opposed unusual care in the choice of their levies and in their military training. They thoroughly understood the importance of hardening them by continual practice, and of training them to every maneuver that might happen in the line and in action. Nor were they less strict in punishing idleness and sloth. The courage of a soldier is heightened by his knowledge of his profession, and he only wants an opportunity to execute what he is convinced he has been perfectly taught. A handful of men, inured to war, proceed to certain victory, while on the contrary numerous armies of raw and undisciplined troops are but multitudes of men dragged to slaughter.”

Organization of the Roman Military

Polybius wrote in “History” Book 6: “From each of these several sorts of soldiers, the youngest alone excepted, ten men of distinguished merit are first selected; and after these, ten more. These are all called commanders of companies; and he that is first chosen has a seat in the military council. After these, twenty more are appointed to conduct the rear; and are chosen by the former twenty. The soldiers of each different order, the light troops excepted, are then divided into ten separate parts; to each of which are assigned four officers, of those who have been thus selected: two to lead the van, and two to take the care of the rear. The light-armed troops are distributed in just proportion among them all. Each separate part is called a company, a band, or an ensign; and the leaders, captains of companies or centurions. Last of all, two of the bravest and most vigorous among the soldiers are appointed by the captains to carry the standards of the company. [Source: Polybius (c.200-after 118 B.C.), Rome at the End of the Punic Wars, “History” Book 6. From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 166-193]


Roman military command structure in the late Roman Empire


“It is not without good reason that two captains are assigned to every company. For as it always is uncertain, what will be the conduct of an officer, or to what accidents he may be exposed; and, as in the affairs of war, there is no room for pretext or excuse; this method is contrived, that the company may not upon any occasion be destitute of a leader. When the captains therefore both are present, he that was first chosen leads the right, and the other the left of the company. And when either of them is absent, he that remains takes the conduct of the whole. In the choice of these captains not those that are the boldest and most enterprising are esteemed the best; but those rather, who are steady and sedate; prudent in conduct, and skillful in command. Nor is it so much required, that they should be at all times eager to begin the combat, and throw themselves precipitately into action; as that, when they are pressed, or even conquered by a superior force, they should still maintain their ground, and rather die than desert their station.”

Military and Army Reorganization Under Augustus

While Augustus (ruled 31 B.C. - A.D. 14) knew that his power must have some military support, he was careful not to make the army a burden to the people. He therefore reduced the number of legions from fifty to twenty-five. As each legion contained not more than six thousand men, the whole army did not exceed one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers. These legions were distributed through the frontier provinces; the inner provinces and Italy were thus not burdened by the quartering of troops.To support the imperial authority at home, and to maintain public order, Augustus organized a body of nine thousand men called the “praetorian guard,” which force was stationed at different points outside of Rome. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

Dr Jon Coulston of the University of St. Andrews wrote for the BBC: “Augustus was able to establish the Roman army on a permanent, financially manageable footing. The number of legions was reduced from 60 to 28 (then down to 25 in 9 AD), and numerous colonies were established in Italy, in the more Romanised provinces and in areas which required tight control. Colonies became an important source of future citizen recruitment. [Source: Dr Jon Coulston, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“Legions were grouped initially in regions which were not fully subdued, such as Spain and the Balkans. But in the longer term they were poised for future expansion, as in Germany and Syria. Alongside the legions there were non-citizen regiments, permanently established on the model of legionary cohorts for infantry, and similar sized units (alae) for cavalry. Collectively known as auxilia, these units exploited the regional military traditions of the empire and its fringes to supply cavalry, archers, and light troops. They were commanded by equestrian officers - more politically reliable than the senators whose social standing was necessary for commanding citizen troops. Senators governed provinces and commanded legions, but Augustus was careful to limit their terms in office and to fill sensitive posts with equestrians, such as command of the newly formalised Praetorian Guard. |::|

Suetonius wrote: “Of his military forces he assigned the legions and auxiliaries to the various provinces, stationed a fleet at Misenum and another at Ravenna, to defend the Upper and Lower seas, and employed the remainder partly in the defence of the city and partly in that of his own person, disbanding a troop of Calagurritani which had formed a part of his body-guard until the overthrow of Antonius, and also one of Germans, which he had retained until the defeat of Varus. However, he never allowed more than three cohorts to remain in thc city and even those were without a permanent camp; the rest he regularly sent to winter or summer quarters in the towns near Rome.. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum--Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars--The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]


Navies under Octavian's (Augustus's) command at the Battle of Actium


“After the civil wars he never called any of the troops "comrades," either in the assembly or in an edict, but always "soldiers"; and he would not allow them to be addressed otherwise, even by those of his sons or stepsons who held military commands, thinking the former term too flattering for the requirements of discipline, the peaceful state of the times, and his own dignity and that of his household. Except as a fire-brigade at Rome, and when there was fear of riots in times of scarcity, he employed freedmen as soldiers only twice: once as a guard for the colonies in the vicinity of Illyricum, and again to defend the bank of the river Rhine; even these he levied, when they were slaves, from men and women of means and at once gave them freedom; and he kept them under their original standard [i.e., he kept them apart from the rest in the companies in which they were first enrolled], not mingling them with the soldiers of free birth or arming them in the same fashion

As military prizes he was somewhat more ready to give trappings [the phalerae wre discs or plates of metal attached to a belt or to the harness of horses] or collars, valuable for their gold and silver, than crowns for scaling ramparts or walls, which conferred high honour; the latter he gave as sparingly as possible and without favouritism, often even to the common soldiers. He presented Marcus Agrippa with a blue banner in Sicily after his naval victory. Those vho had celebrated triumphs were the only ones whom he thought ineligible for prizes, even though they had been the companions of his campaigns and shared in his victories, on the ground that they themselves had the privilege of bestowing such honours wherever they wished. He thought nothing less becoming in a well-trained leader than haste and rashness, and, accordingly, favourite sayings of his were: "More haste, less speed"; "Better a safe commander than a bold"; and "That is done quickly enough which is done well enough." He used to say that a war or a battle should not be begun under any circumstances, unless the hope of gain was clearly greater than the fear of loss; for he likened such as grasped at slight gains with no slight risk to those who fished with a golden hook, the loss of which, if it were carried off, could not be made good by any catch.

“In passports, dispatches, and private letters he used as his seal at first a sphinx, later an image of Alexander the Great, and finally his own, carved by the hand of Dioscurides; and this his successors continued to use as their seal. He always attached to all letters the exact hour, not only of the day, but even of the night, to indicate precisely when they were written.

Mobilization of the Roman Military in Wartime

Polybius wrote in “History” Book 6: “As soon as this partition of the troops is finished, and the necessary orders given by the tribunes concerning their arms, they are then commanded to return to their respective habitations, till the day arrives, upon which they are bound by oath to assemble together in a certain place appointed by the consuls. Each of the consuls usually appoints a different place for the assembling of his whole army: for to each of them are allotted separately two Roman legions, together with an equal part of the allies. No pretense of accident is at any time allowed to those that are enrolled; nor any excuse admitted, in opposition to their oath, to discharge them from appearing on the day prescribed; unless some auspices should intervene, or some disaster happen, which renders their attendance absolutely impracticable. [Source: Polybius (c.200-after 118 B.C.), Rome at the End of the Punic Wars, “History” Book 6. From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., “The Library of Original Sources” (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. III: The Roman World, pp. 166-193]


Romans defeating Carthage at the Battle of Zama


“When they are all met together, the distribution of the allies, who are assembled also with the Romans, is regulated by twelve officers, called prefects, and appointed by the consuls, in the following manner. They first choose out from all the allies a body of the bravest and most skillful soldiers, both cavalry and infantry, to serve near the person, and under the immediate orders, of the consuls. These are called the extraordinary, or selected troops. The whole infantry of the allies is usually the same in number with that of the Romans; but the cavalry three times as many. Among these, about a third part of the cavalry, and a fifth part of the infantry, are set apart as extra-ordinaries. The rest are then divided by the prefects into two equal bodies; one of which is called the right, and the other the left wing. When all things are thus prepared, the tribunes direct both the Romans and the allies to encamp.

“As soon as the encampment is completed, the tribunes, having assembled together all the persons, both free men and slaves, that are in the army, administer to every one of them apart the following oath: "That they will not steal any thing from the camp; and even if they find any thing that they will bring it to the tribunes." Two companies are then selected from the principes and the hastati of each legion; to whose care is assigned the ground that lies before the tents of the tribunes. For as the Romans usually pass the whole time of day in this open space, they employ great care to keep it continually cleansed and sprinkled. Of the remaining eighteen companies three are allotted to every tribune. For in every legion there are twenty companies of principes and hastati, as we have already mentioned, and six tribunes. The service which these three companies are obliged to perform in turn for the tribune to whom they are respectively assigned is to fix his tent, to make the ground around it plain and level, and to cover his baggage, if it be necessary, with a fence. It is their duty likewise to place a double guard near him for his security. This guard consists of four soldiers, two of whom are stationed before the tent, and two behind it, near to the horses. As three companies are thus allotted to every tribune, and as each company, without including the triarii and the light-armed troops, who are both exempted from this duty, contains more than a hundred men, this service falling to each company in turn upon every fourth day only, becomes very light and easy; and, while it ministers in all things that are necessary to the convenience of the tribunes, renders their office likewise more illustrious, and brings respect to their authority.

“The triarii are discharged from bearing any part in this attendance. But each of their companies is obliged to furnish every day a guard to the troop of cavalry that lies close behind it. The duty of this guard, among other functions, is principally to observe the horses; that they may not at any time be rendered unfit for service by being entangled in the bands that hold them; or by breaking away, and falling in among other horses, create tumult and disorder in the camp. One company alone, which is selected in turn from the whole body of these troops, is stationed round the tent of the consul; as well to secure his person against all surprise, as for the sake of adding splendor also to his dignity.

“The entrenchment is made by the allies, on those two sides, near to which their wings are encamped. The two other sides are left to the Romans; to each legion, one. Each side is divided into certain portions, according to the number of the companies: and a centurion assigned, to overlook the work in every portion. The whole side is afterwards examined and approved by two of the tribunes; whose office it is to attend to every thing that is done in the camp. For the tribunes, dividing among themselves the time of their campaign, and presiding, two in turn, during two months of the six, have the supreme direction of every kind of necessary work and service, that falls within the time of their command. The same duty is performed, in the same manner likewise, among the allies, by the officers who are called prefects. As soon as daylight appears, the leaders of the cavalry, and the centurions, attend all together at the tents of the tribunes; and the tribunes at that of the consul. The necessary orders are then delivered by the consul to the tribunes; by the tribunes to the centurions and the leaders of the cavalry; and by these, as the proper time for each arrives, to the rest of the army.”


No doubt some or many of these roads were improved or constructed for military reasons


Roman Military Infrastructure and Roads

The Roman armies built pontoon bridges and used horses to scout out the enemy on reconnaissance missions. During military campaigns officers stayed in tents outfit with floor and even couches and soldiers slept in tents called papiliones that opened from a cocoon-like roll into a tent with flaps that resembled a butterfly. [Source: Timothy Foote, Smithsonian, April 1985]

Flavius Vegetius Renatus (died A.D. 450) wrote in “De Re Militari”: “The legion carries with it a number of small boats, each hollowed out of a single piece of timber, with long cables and sometimes iron chains to fasten them together. These boats, joined and covered with planks, serve as bridges over unfordable rivers, on which both cavalry and infantry pass without danger. The legion is provided with iron hooks, called wolves, and iron scythes fixed to the ends of long poles; and with forks, spades, shovels, pickaxes, wheelbarrows and baskets for digging and transporting earth; together with hatchets, axes and saws for cutting wood. Besides which, a train of workmen attend on it furnished with all instruments necessary for the construction of tortoises, musculi, rams, vines, moving towers and other machines for the attack of places. As the enumeration of all the particulars of this sort would be too tedious, I shall only observe that the legion should carry with it wherever it moves, whatever is necessary for every kind of service so that the encampments may have all the strength and conveniences of a fortified city. [Source: De Re Militari (Military Institutions of the Romans) by Flavius Vegetius Renatus (died A.D. 450), written around A.D. 390. translated from the Latin by Lieutenant John Clarke Text British translation published in 1767. Etext version by Mads Brevik (2001) digitalattic.org]

Arms factories positioned along the roads kept the Roman armies supplied with iron armor, helmets, swords and javelins. The production of weapons was considered so important that arms factory workers were branded "as a deterrent against desertion. " [Keegan, Op. cit."

Roads were crucial to the movement of troops and supplies. The legionnaires would not have been nearly as effective in their conquest if getting them supplies was difficult. The system was so well set up that commanders could accurately calculate how long it would take to get their armies from one place to another: from Cologne to Rome was 67 days, Rome to Brindisis, 57 days, and Rome to Syria (including two days at sea), 124 days. [Keegan]

Using its network of military roads, armies and munitions of war could be sent into almost very part of the Roman Empire. The first military road was the Appian Way (via Appia), built by Appius Claudius during the Samnite wars. It connected Rome with Capua, and was afterward extended to Beneventum and Venusia, and finally as far as Brundisium. This furnished a model for the roads which were subsequently laid out to other points in Italy. The Latin Way (via Latina) ran south into the Samnite country and connected with the Appian Way near Capua and at Beneventum. The Flaminian Way (via Flaminia) ran north through eastern Etruria and Umbria to Ariminum. From this last-mentioned place, the Aemilian Way (via Aemilia) extended into Cisalpine Gaul as far as Placentia on the river Po. Another important road, the Cassian Way (via Cassia) ran through central Etruria to Arretium, and connected with the Aemilian Way in Cisalpine Gaul. Along the western coast of Etruria ran the Aurelian Way (via Aurelia). These were the chief military roads constructed during the time of the republic. So durable were these highways that their remains exist to the present day. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org]

Passages of Rivers by the Roman Military


replica a Roman troop-carrying boat

Flavius Vegetius Renatus (died A.D. 450) wrote in “De Re Militari”: “The passages of rivers are very dangerous without great precaution. In crossing broad or rapid streams, the baggage, servants, and sometimes the most indolent soldiers are in danger of being lost. Having first sounded the ford, two lines of the best mounted cavalry are ranged at a convenient distance entirely across the river, so that the infantry and baggage may pass between them. The line above the ford breaks the violence of the stream, and the line below recovers and transports the men carried away by the current. When the river is too deep to be forded either by the cavalry or infantry, the water is drawn off, if it runs in a plain, by cutting a great number of trenches, and thus it is passed with ease. [Source: De Re Militari (Military Institutions of the Romans) by Flavius Vegetius Renatus (died A.D. 450), written around A.D. 390. translated from the Latin by Lieutenant John Clarke Text British translation published in 1767. Etext version by Mads Brevik (2001) digitalattic.org]

“Navigable rivers are passed by means of piles driven into the bottom and floored with planks; or in a sudden emergency by fastening together a number of empty casks and covering them with boards. The cavalry, throwing off their accoutrements, make small floats of dry reeds or rushes on which they lay their rams and cuirasses to preserve them from being wet. They themselves swim their horses across the river and draw the floats after them by a leather thong.

“But the most commodious invention is that of the small boats hollowed out of one piece of timber and very light both by their make and the quality of the wood. The army always has a number of these boats upon carriages, together with a sufficient quantity of planks and iron nails. Thus with the help of cables to lash the boats together, a bridge is instantly constructed, which for the time has the solidity of a bridge of stone.

“As the enemy generally endeavor to fall upon an army at the passage of a river either by surprise or ambuscade, it is necessary to secure both sides thereof by strong detachments so that the troops may not be attacked and defeated while separated by the channel of the river. But it is still safer to palisade both the posts, since this will enable you to sustain any attempt without much loss. If the bridge is wanted, not only for the present transportation of the troops but also for their return and for convoys, it will be proper to throw up works with large ditches to cover each head of the bridge, with a sufficient number of men to defend them as long as the circumstances of affairs require.

Spoils of Wars of Getting Rich form the Roman Army


Sacking of Jerusalem

Harold Whetstone Johnston wrote in “The Private Life of the Romans”: “The spoils of war went nominally into the treasury of the State. Practically they passed first through the hands of the commanding general, who kept what he pleased for himself, his staff, and his soldiers, and sent the rest to Rome. The opportunities were magnificent, and the Roman general understood how to use them all. Some of them were legitimate enough according to the usages of the time: the plunder of the towns and cities that were taken, the ransom exacted from those that were spared, the sale of captives as slaves. Entirely illegitimate, of course, were the fortunes made by furnishing supplies to the army at extravagant prices or diverting these supplies to private uses. [Source: “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|]

“The reconstruction of the conquered territory brought in returns equally rich; it is safe to say that the Aedui paid Caesar well for the supremacy in central Gaul that he assured them after his defeat of the Helvetii. The civil wars that cost the best blood of Italy made the victors immensely rich. Besides the looting of the public treasury, the estates of men in the opposing party were confiscated and sold to the highest bidder. The proceeds went nominally to the treasury of the new government, but the proceeds were infinitesimal in comparison with the profits. After Sulla had established himself in Rome, the names of friends and foes alike were put on the proscription lists, and if powerful influence was not exerted in their behalf they lost lives and fortunes. For such influence they had to pay dearly. |+|

“One example may be cited. The estate of one Roscius of Ameria, valued at $300,000, was bid in for one hundred dollars by Lucius Chrysogonus, a freedman of Sulla, because no one dared bid against the creature of the dictator. The settling of the soldiers on grants of land made good business for the three commissioners who superintended the distribution of the land. The grants were always of farms owned and occupied by adherents of the beaten party, and the bribe came from both sides.” |+|

Triumphs in Ancient Rome

Michael Van Duisen wrote for Listverse: “In ancient Rome, a triumph was an extraordinarily special ritual, a parade saved for a victorious general, and the highest honor that could be bestowed on a military man. (Although, the rite was abused in the later years of the Republic, with the aristocracy vying to outdo each other.) Various requirements, including a kill count, were set and the entire thing had to be approved, as well as paid for, by the Senate. When the Republic fell, all triumphs went to the Emperor, as he was seen as the commander-in-chief and all military honors went to him. [Source: Michael Van Duisen, Listverse, February 13, 2014]

“Basically, a long parade took place in Rome. Members of the Senate, musicians, sacrificial animals, and prisoners walked in front of the general, who had a gold crown held over his head by a slave. Bringing up the rear were his fellow soldiers, who traditionally sang songs poking fun at their commander; this was believed to ward off the evil eye. It culminated in the sacrifice of animals at the Temple of Jupiter, as well as the killing of the prisoners of war.

In a review of The Roman Triumph by Mary Beard, Greg Wolff wrote in The Guardian, “A great procession sets off from the Field of Mars, the grassy meadow around which the Tiber makes a great arc. Rome's citizen army, returned from yet another victorious campaign, parades through the streets of the city. The soldiers follow an ancient route flanked by temples dedicated after previous victories, through the great circus, on into the forum until, to catcalls and fanfares, and leading barbarian kings and great piles of booty, they escort their general up to the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol. Impassively he stands in his chariot, a wreath held over his head, and behind him a slave whispers, again and again, "Remember you are mortal." Easy to forget, since he wears the clothes of a god. [Source: Greg Woolf, The Guardian, December 22, 2007,  Greg Woolf is professor of ancient history at the University of St Andrews]


Roman Triumph by Rubens


“Or not ... for almost every detail of this picture -familiar as it is from sword-and-sandal epics and Asterix books - is, according to Mary Beard, up for grabs. Yes, the triumph was a vivid and central part of Roman culture. In fact, she argues, it was in some ways more central than we have ever realised. Triumphal imagery and triumphal language bled into the Roman games and seeped into the ceremonies that marked the election of a consul or the arrival (or through deification, the departure) of a new emperor. Triumph was inscribed into the architecture of arches, theatres and temples, and also sarcophaguses and tombs. It penetrated epic and erotic poetry and comic drama too. But almost every detail of this great ceremony is maddeningly difficult to seize upon. Everything on which we were agreed turns out to be just that little bit more difficult to demonstrate than anyone ever imagined.

“Beard has in her sights three processions. The first is that long historical sequence of actual celebrations. The second is a series of rich and extravagant accounts of triumphs, what she calls "rituals in ink" although they include a mass of images too, such as the Arch of Titus. Third, there is a long procession of classical scholars, who follow Beard's chariot with placards hung around their necks detailing their wild conjectures, hypotheses and claims about what the triumph "really meant".

It would be convenient if each could be examined separately, but the processions keep colliding in the winding, narrow streets of Roman cultural history. The actual triumphs are known to us only through the representations, and these are difficult to disentangle from the dense foliage of scholarly exegesis. Beard prunes ferociously. The evidence for the triumphal route is alarmingly inconsistent. The slave in the chariot whispering to the general is a modern composite, compiled of late testimony, no one piece of which tells exactly this story. The clothes borrowed from the god, the chariot itself are insecure. So is much more.

“Once the factoids are swept away we are left with modern attempts to create some sort of general rule-book for triumphs. How many enemies did you need to kill? What sort of general could celebrate? Who decided? Ancient writers made many claims, but their generalisations stand up no better than those of the moderns. It does not help that when a Polybius or a Livy or a Josephus sets out to describe a particular triumph, he focused on what was remarkable, extraordinary, controversial and bizarre. And who was to say what was "normal" and what excessive?

“Our witnesses concentrated on the most spectacular stagings of the triumph. Some of the most entertaining parts of Beard's boisterous demolition invite us to imagine the second and third-rate triumphs, the lines of not many captives, the displays of hardly any booty, the rather petty squabbles over spoils between generals and the soldiers on whom they depended for their cast of thousands on the big day. Grander theories fall even flatter. Was the triumph some collective rite of passage from war to peace? Was the general a sort of temporary god? Was this an ancient trace of Etruscan kingship? No, not really, probably not. Too much has been built on too little.”

Book: “The Roman Triumph” by Mary Beard (Harvard, 2007)

Triumph for Vespasian and Titus after the Jewish War

In “The Jewish War”, Book VII Josephus describe the triumph for Vespasian and Titus after their victory in the Jewish war: “So Titus took the journey he intended into Egypt, and passed over the desert very suddenly, and came to Alexandria, and took up a resolution to go to Rome by sea. And as he was accompanied by two legions, he sent each of them again to the places whence they had before come; the fifth he sent to Mysia, and the fifteenth to Pannonia: as for the leaders of the captives, Simon and John, with the other seven hundred men, whom he had selected out of the rest as being eminently tall and handsome of body, he gave order that they should be soon carried to Italy, as resolving to produce them in his triumph. So when he had had a prosperous voyage to his mind, the city of Rome behaved itself in his reception, and their meeting him at a distance, as it did in the case of his father. But what made the most splendid appearance in Titus's opinion was, when his father met him, and received him; but still the multitude of the citizens conceived the greatest joy when they saw them all three together, (i.e. Vespasian, and his sons Titus and Domitian) as they did at this time; nor were many days overpast when they determined to have but one triumph, that should be common to both of them, on account of the glorious exploits they had performed, although the senate had decreed each of them a separate triumph by himself. So when notice had been given beforehand of the day appointed for this pompous solemnity to be made, on account of their victories, not one of the immense multitude was left in the city, but every body went out so far as to gain only a station where they might stand, and left only such a passage as was necessary for those that were to be seen to go along it. [Source: Flavius Josephus: (A.D. 37- after 93), “An Imperial Triumph”, “The Jewish War”, Book VII. 3-7 A.D. 71), translated by William Whiston]

20120224-Titus and Vespasian Triumph of.jpg
Triumph of Titus and Vespasian

“Now all the soldiery marched out beforehand by companies, and in their several ranks, under their several commanders, in the night time, and were about the gates, not of the upper palaces, but those near the temple of Isis; for there it was that the emperors had rested the foregoing night. And as soon as ever it was day, Vespasian and Titus came out crowned with laurel, and clothed in those ancient purple habits which were proper to their family, and then went as far as Octavian's Walks; for there it was that the senate, and the principal rulers, and those that had been recorded as of the equestrian order, waited for them. Now a tribunal had been erected before the cloisters, and ivory chairs had been set upon it, when they came and sat down upon them. Whereupon the soldiery made an acclamation of joy to them immediately, and all gave them attestations of their valor; while they were themselves without their arms, and only in their silken garments, and crowned with laurel: then Vespasian accepted of these shouts of theirs; but while they were still disposed to go on in such acclamations, he gave them a signal of silence. And when every body entirely held their peace, he stood up, and covering the greatest part of his head with his cloak, he put up the accustomed solemn prayers; the like prayers did Titus put up also; after which prayers Vespasian made a short speech to all the people, and then sent away the soldiers to a dinner prepared for them by the emperors. Then did he retire to that gate which was called the Gate of the Pomp, because pompous shows do always go through that gate; there it was that they tasted some food, and when they had put on their triumphal garments, and had offered sacrifices to the gods that were placed at the gate, they sent the triumph forward, and marched through the theatres, that they might be the more easily seen by the multitudes.

“Now it is impossible to describe the multitude of the shows as they deserve, and the magnificence of them all; such indeed as a man could not easily think of as performed, either by the labor of workmen, or the variety of riches, or the rarities of nature; for almost all such curiosities as the most happy men ever get by piece-meal were here one heaped on another, and those both admirable and costly in their nature; and all brought together on that day demonstrated the vastness of the dominions of the Romans; for there was here to be seen a mighty quantity of silver, and gold, and ivory, contrived into all sorts of things, and did not appear as carried along in pompous show only, but, as a man may say, running along like a river. Some parts were composed of the rarest purple hangings, and so carried along; and others accurately represented to the life what was embroidered by the arts of the Babylonians. There were also precious stones that were transparent, some set in crowns of gold, and some in other ouches, as the workmen pleased; and of these such a vast number were brought, that we could not but thence learn how vainly we imagined any of them to be rarities. The images of the gods were also carried, being as well wonderful for their largeness, as made very artificially, and with great skill of the workmen; nor were any of these images of any other than very costly materials; and many species of animals were brought, every one in their own natural ornaments.

“The men also who brought every one of these shows were great multitudes, and adorned with purple garments, all over interwoven with gold; those that were chosen for carrying these pompous shows having also about them such magnificent ornaments as were both extraordinary and surprising. Besides these, one might see that even the great number of the captives was not unadorned, while the variety that was in their garments, and their fine texture, concealed from the sight the deformity of their bodies. But what afforded the greatest surprise of all was the structure of the pageants that were borne along; for indeed he that met them could not but be afraid that the bearers would not be able firmly enough to support them, such was their magnitude; for many of them were so made, that they were on three or even four stories, one above another. The magnificence also of their structure afforded one both pleasure and surprise; for upon many of them were laid carpets of gold. There was also wrought gold and ivory fastened about them all; and many resemblances of the war, and those in several ways, and variety of contrivances, affording a most lively portraiture of itself. For there was to be seen a happy country laid waste, and entire squadrons of enemies slain; while some of them ran away, and some were carried into captivity; with walls of great altitude and magnitude overthrown and ruined by machines; with the strongest fortifications taken, and the walls of most populous cities upon the tops of hills seized on, and an army pouring itself within the walls; as also every place full of slaughter, and supplications of the enemies, when they were no longer able to lift up their hands in way of opposition. Fire also sent upon temples was here represented, and houses overthrown, and falling upon their owners: rivers also, after they came out of a large and melancholy desert, ran down, not into a land cultivated, nor as drink for men, or for cattle, but through a land still on fire upon every side; for the Jews related that such a thing they had undergone during this war. Now the workmanship of these representations was so magnificent and lively in the construction of the things, that it exhibited what had been done to such as did not see it, as if they had been there really present. On the top of every one of these pageants was placed the commander of the city that was taken, and the manner wherein he was taken. Moreover, there followed those pageants a great number of ships; and for the other spoils, they were carried in great plenty. But for those that were taken in the temple of Jerusalem, they made the greatest figure of them all; that is, the golden table, of the weight of many talents; the candlestick also, that was made of gold, though its construction were now changed from that which we made use of; for its middle shaft was fixed upon a basis, and the small branches were produced out of it to a great length, having the likeness of a trident in their position, and had every one a socket made of brass for a lamp at the tops of them. These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews; and the last of all the spoils, was carried the Law of the Jews. After these spoils passed by a great many men, carrying the images of Victory, whose structure was entirely either of ivory or of gold. After which Vespasian marched in the first place, and Titus followed him; Domitian also rode along with them, and made a glorious appearance, and rode on a horse that was worthy of admiration.

“Now the last part of this pompous show was at the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, whither when they were come, they stood still; for it was the Romans' ancient custom to stay till somebody brought the news that the general of the enemy was slain. This general was Simon, the son of Gioras, who had then been led in this triumph among the captives; a rope had also been put upon his head, and he had been drawn into a proper place in the forum, and had withal been tormented by those that drew him along; and the law of the Romans required that malefactors condemned to die should be slain there. Accordingly, when it was related that there was an end of him, and all the people had set up a shout for joy, they then began to offer those sacrifices which they had consecrated, in the prayers used in such solemnities; which when they had finished, they went away to the palace. And as for some of the spectators, the emperors entertained them at their own feast; and for all the rest there were noble preparations made for feasting at home; for this was a festival day to the city of Rome, as celebrated for the victory obtained by their army over their enemies, for the end that was now put to their civil miseries, and for the commencement of their hopes of future prosperity and happiness.”


Triumph of Pompey


Pompey’s Triumph After the Conquest of the East

On Pompey’s triumph in Rome (September 30th, 61 B.C.), Appian wrote: “At the end of the winter [63-62 B.C.] Pompey distributed rewards to the army, 1500 Attic drachmas [Arkenberg: about $3857 in 1998 dollars] to each soldier, and in like proportion to the officers, the whole, it was said, amounting to 16,000 talents [Arkenberg: about $229 million in 1998 dollars]. Then he marched to Ephesus, embarked for Italy, and hastened to Rome, having dismissed his soldiers at Brundisium to their homes, by which act his popularity was greatly increased among the Romans. [Source: William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 118-120, 123-127]

“As he approached the city he was met by successive processions, first of youths, farthest from the city; then bands of men of different ages came out as far as they severally could walk; last of all came the Senate, which was lost in wonder at his exploits, for no one had ever before vanquished so powerful an enemy and at the same time brought so many great nations under subjection and extended the Roman rule to the Euphrates.

“He was awarded a triumph exceeding in brilliancy any that had gone before. It occupied two successive days; and many nations were represented in the procession from Pontus, Armenia, Cappadocia, Cilicia, all the peoples of Syria, besides Albanians, Heniochi, Achaeans, Scythians, and Eastern Iberians; 700 complete ships were brought into the harbor; in the triumphal procession were two-horse carriages and litters laden with gold or with other ornaments of various kinds, also the couch of Darius [the Great], the son of Hystaspes, the throne and scepter of Mithridates Eupator himself, and his image, eight cubits high, made of solid gold, and 75,000,000 drachmae of silver coin [Arkenberg: about $193 million in 1998 dollars]. The number of wagons carrying arms was infinite and the number of prows of ships. After these came the multitude of captives and pirates, none of them bound, but all arrayed in their native costume.

“Before Pompey himself were led the satraps, sons and generals of the kings against whom he had fought, who were present---some having been captured, some given as hostages---to the number of three hundred and twenty-four. Among them were five sons of Mithridates, and two daughters; also Aristobulus, king of the Jews; the tyrants of the Cilicians, and other potentates. There were carried in the procession images of those who were not present, of Tigranes king of Armenia, and of Mithridates, representing them as fighting, as vanquished, and as fleeing. Even the besieging of Mithridates and his silent flight by night were represented. Finally, it was shown how he died, and the daughters who perished with him were pictured also, and there were figures of the sons and daughters who died before him, and images of the barbarian gods decked out in the fashion of their countries.

A tablet was borne, also, inscribed thus:
Ships with brazen beaks captured dccc:
Cities founded
In Cappadocia viii:
In Cilicia and coele-syria xx:
In Palestine the one now called seleucis.
Kings conquered:
Tigranes the Armenian:
Artoces the Iberian:
Oroezes the Albanian:
Aretas the Nabataean:
Darius the Mede:
Antiochus of Commagene.

“Pompey himself was borne in a chariot studded with gems, wearing, it is said, the cloak of Alexander the Great, if any one can believe that. This was supposed to have been found among the possessions of Mithridates. . . . His chariot was followed by the officers who had shared the campaigns with him, some on horseback, and others on foot. When he reached the Capitol, he did not put any prisoners to death, as had been customary at other triumphs, but sent them all home at the public expense, except the kings. Of these Aristobulus alone was shortly put to death, and Tigranes son of Tigranes the king of Armenia some time later.”


Triumph of Caesar


Triumphs of Caesar, Augustus and Nero

When Caesar returned to Rome after the battle of Thapsus in Spain, he came not as the servant of the senate, but as master of the world. He crowned his victories by four splendid triumphs, one for Gaul, one for Egypt, one for Pontus, and one for Numidia.Suetonius wrote: “Having ended the wars, he celebrated five triumphs, four in a single month, but at intervals of a few days, after vanquishing Scipio; and another on defeating Pompeius' sons. The first and most splendid was the Gallic triumph, the next the Alexandrian, then the Pontic, after that the African, and finally the Hispanic, each differing from the rest in its equipment and display of spoils. As he rode through the Velabrum on the day of his Gallic triumph, the ae of his chariot broke, and he was all but thrown out; and he mounted the Capitol by torchlight, with forty elephants bearing lamps on his right and his left. In his Pontic triumph he displayed among the show-pieces of the procession an inscription of but three words, "I came, I saw, I conquered," [ 'Veni, vidi, vici'] not indicating the events of the war, as the others did, but the speed with which it was finished. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum, Divus Iulius” (“The Lives of the Caesars, The Deified Julius”), written A.D. c. 110, Suetonius, 2 vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 3-119]

The Res Gestae is a list of deeds performed by Augustus. Part of it reads: “Twice have I had the lesser triumph [i.e., the ovation]; thrice the [full] curule triumph; twenty-one times have I been saluted as "Imperator." After that, when the Senate voted me many triumphs, I declined them. Also I often deposited the laurels in the Capitol, fulfilling the vows which I had made in battle. On account of the enterprises brought to a happy issue on land and sea by me, or by my legates, under my auspices, fifty-five times has the Senate decreed a thanksgiving unto the Immortal Gods. The number of days, too, on which thanksgiving was professed, fulfilling the Senate's decrees, was 890. Nine kings, or children of kings, have been led before my car in my triumphs. And when I wrote these words, thirteen times had I been consul, and for the thirty-seventh year was holding the tribunician power.

On the parade Nero ordered up himself after his fixed victories at the Olympics, Suetonius wrote: “Returning from Greece, since it was at Neapolis that he had made his first appearance, he entered that city with white horses through a part of the wall which had been thrown down, as is customary with victors in the sacred games. In like manner he entered Antium, then Albanum, and finally Rome; but at Rome he rode in the chariot which Augustus had used in his triumphs in days gone by, and wore a purple robe and a Greek cloak adorned with stars of gold, bearing on his head the Olympic crown and in his right hand the Pythian, while the rest were carried before him with inscriptions telling where he had won them and against what competitors, and giving the titles of the songs or the subject of the plays. His car was followed by his clique as by the escort of a triumphal procession, who shouted that they were the attendants of Augustus and the soldiers of his triumph. Then through the arch of the Circus Maximus, which was thrown down, he made his way across the Velabrum and the Forum to the Palatine and the temple of Apollo. All along the route victims were slain, the streets were sprinkled from time to time with perfume, while birds, ribbons, and sweetmeats were showered upon him. He placed the sacred crowns in his bed chamber around his couches, as well as statues representing him in the guise of a lyre-player; and he had a coin, too, struck with the same device. So far from neglecting or relaxing his practice of the art after this, he never addressed the soldiers except by letter or in a speech delivered by another, to save his voice; and he never did anything for amusement or in earnest without an elocutionist by his side, to warn him to spare his vocal organs and hold a handkerchief to his mouth. To many men he offered his friendship or announced his hostility, according as they had applauded him lavishly or grudgingly.”


Nero's Triumphal Entry to Rome


Roman Spies

Ben Macintyre of the Times of London wrote: “The Greek word for spook is the pleasingly anagrammatical skopos, and spies appear throughout Greek literature. In 405BC, for example, a Spartan spy at Aegospotami reported that the Athenians had failed to post a guard on the fleet, which was consequently attacked and destroyed. Like us, the Romans imagined they were too noble for the murky business of spying; but they came to accept that without a centralised intelligence system the future of the empire was in jeopardy. [Source: Ben Macintyre, Times of London, October 9, 2010]

Julius Caesar came, saw and conquered; and before that, he spied -- rather inadequately. In 55BC, the Romans were suffering from what would now be called a critical intelligence deficit. Caesar wanted to invade Britain but knew very little about the inhospitable island off the coast of Gaul. So Caesar launched a covert operation to gather information on British customs, harbours and military tactics. Caesar's first invasion was a failure, in large part because of inadequate and faulty intelligence. His internal spies used advanced techniques, including codes and ciphers, but he never did quite get the hang of intelligence.Moments before he was assassinated, a list of the conspirators was thrust into his hand, but he failed to act swiftly enough, and did not live to regret it.

Instead of sending out covert agents to report on neighbouring tribes, until about AD100 the Romans preferred to rely on huge defences, ad hoc military scouting in enemy territory and fides Romana, mutual trust between Rome and its allies, which sent word if barbarians approached. There was no lack of domestic espionage inside Rome: every aristocrat had a private network of agents and informers. Not until the 2nd century AD did Rome organise an agency that might be called a secret service. These were the frumentarii, ancestors of the CIA, KGB and MI6.

A cadre of supply sergeants whose original function was to collect and distribute grain, they combined the roles of tax collector, courier, secret policeman, political assassin and spy, and were generally loathed. Emperor Diocletian eventually disbanded the frumentarii, but they were immediately replaced by the agentes in rebus (general agents, a deliberately vague title), responsible for internal security and external intelligence. Their task, as defined by Procopius, was to "gain the most speedy information concerning the movements of the enemy, seditions . . . and the actions of governors and other officials".

The Romans were as suspicious of the spy trade as we are, yet as the Roman world became increasingly unpredictable the future of that civilisation came to rest, in part, on the provision of good intelligence. Then, as now, spies occupied a contradictory position in society, feared but oddly glamorous, liable to corruption, regarded with mistrust by their political overlords but necessary for the security of the state. The 4th-century philosopher Libanius described the agentes as "sheepdogs who have joined the wolf pack".

The toga-and-dagger skulduggery of I, Claudius may seem distant and encrusted by myth, but in many ways the challenges of espionage and intelligence-gathering in the ancient world are similar to those facing the West today: distributing resources between conventional warfare and covert operations, policing internal sedition and reconciling the conflicting demands of secrecy and liberty. An intelligence agent could have no better training than a solid grounding in classics, Jonathan Evans, director-general of the British overseas spy agency MI5 told Iris, a magazine promoting Latin teaching in state schools: "I think that Sulla would have found a soul mate in some of the security chiefs I have met from despotic regimes elsewhere in the world." Evans is a classics graduate who utilized the insights of the Roman poet Juvenal, historian Suetonius, and Sulla, the Roman general with "the cunning of a fox" in his fight against al-Qaida.


Triumphal Entry of Vespasian in Rome


Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), A.D. 400

The Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries, c. A.D. 400) is an official listing of all civil and military posts in the Roman Empire, East and West. It survives as a 1551 copy of the now-missing original and is the major source of information on the administrative organization of the late Roman Empire. William Fairley wrote: “The Notitia Dignitatum is an official register of all the offices, other than municipal, which existed in the Roman Empire.... Gibbon gave to this document a date between 395 and 407 when the Vandals disturbed the Roman regime in Gaul. [Source: William Fairley, Notitia Dignitatum or Register of Dignitaries, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

“The Notitia Dignitatum has preserved for us, as no other document has done, a complete outline view of the Roman administrative system in early fifth century. The hierarchic arrangement is displayed perfectly. The division of prefectures, dioceses and provinces, and the rank of their respective governors is set forth at length. The military origin of the whole system appears in the titles of the staff officers, even in those departments whose heads had, since the time of Constantine, been deprived of all military command.” The parts related to the Roman military are excerpted here:

Prefect Op the City of Constantinople

Master of the Soldiery in the Presence.
Under the control of the illustrious master of the soldiery in the, presence:
Five squadrons of palatine horse:
The senior promoted horse,
The companion cuirassiers,
The junior companion archers,
The companion Taifalians,
The Arcadian horse.
Seven squadrons of horse of the line:
The Biturigensian cuirassiers,
The senior Gallican heavy-armed horse,
The fifth Dalmatian horse,
The ninth Dalmatian horse,
The first shield-bearers,
The junior promoted horse,
The first Parthian cuirassiers.
[Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

Six palatine legions:
The senior lancers,
The junior Jovians,
The junior Herculians, The Fortenses,
The Nervii,
The junior Matiarii.
Eighteen palatine auxilia
The senior Batavians,
The junior Brachiati,
The Salians,
The Constantians,
The senior Mattiaci,
The senior Gallican archers,
The junior Gallican archers,
The third Valens' archers,
The Defenders,
The Ractobarii,
The Anglevarii,
The Hiberi,
The Visi,
The fortunate junior Honorians,
The Victors,
The first Theodosians,
The third Theodosians,
The fortunate Isaurian Theodosians.

The staff of the aforesaid office of the master in the presence is [made up from officers] enrolled with the forces and assigned to staff duty. It includes the officers below mentioned:
A chief of staff,
Two accountants (numerarii),
A custodian,
Chief clerks (primiscrinios), who become accountants,
Clerks,
Secretaries and other attendants (apparitores).
The master of the soldiery in the presence is entitled to fifteen post-warrants in the year.

Organization.
The borderers (limitanei, ripenses) were stationed on the frontiers and served as cultivators of lands allotted to them as well as soldiers.
Borderers:
Infantry
legions old, 6,ooo men, new 1000.
auxilia 500 men
Cohorts 500 men
Cavalry
Cavalry: squadrons (cunei equitum, equiles, alae); 50 men.

Imperial troops. a. Troops of the line (comitatenses)
Infantry, legions; 1,000 men.
Cavalry, squadrons (vexillationes) 1500 men.
b. Troops of the second line (pseudo-comitatenses).
c. Palatine troops, of higher rank and pay than the line.
d. The 12 schools, of 500 men each, palace guards.
B. Strength.
Total
Borderers
Infantry 249,500
360,000
Cavalry 110,500
Imperial
Infantry 145,000
194,500
Cavalry 46,500



Master of the Soldiery in the East

Under the control of the illustrious master of the soldiery in the East:
Ten squadrons of horse of the line.
Two palatine auxilia.
Nine legions of the line.
Eleven legions of the secondary line.
[Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

The staff of the master's office in the East is considered permanent.
It includes the officers below mentioned:
A chief of staff,
Two accountants,
A custodian,
A chief assistant,
Clerks,
Quartermasters (mensores),
Secretaries and other attendants.
The master of the soldiery in the East is entitled to twenty-five post-warrants in the year.

Provost of the Sacred Bedchamber.
Under the control of the illustrious provost of the sacred bedchamber:
The imperial estate (domus divina) in Cappadocia.

Master of the Offices.

Under the control of the illustrious master of the offices:
The first school *1 of shield-bearers,
(*1 So called from their attending in the schola, or hall of the palace.)
The second school of shield-bearers,
The school of senior gentiles,*2
(*2A word of no religious import, but pointing only to the origin of this school from one social class of certain Scythian peoples who were living in a federate relation to the empire.)
The school of shield- and bow-bearers,
The school of mailed shield-bearers,
The junior light-armed school,
The school of junior gentiles,
The school of confidential agents (agentes in rebus *3 and those assigned from the same school,
(*3 Agentes in rebus, a class of highly paid civil agents, who were designed to keep the central government in touch with its various branches. From them were chosen, as will frequently appear, the higher staff officials, who not only served their superiors, but watched them in the interests of the court. There were 1,174 of them in the time of Theodosius II.

The surveyors and lamp-makers,
The bureau of memorials,
The bureau of correspondence,
The bureau of requests,
The bureau of assignments (dispositiones),
The staff of ushers,
The arsenals below mentioned:
of [the diocese of] the East five:
of shields and weapons, at Damascus,
of shields and weapons, at Antioch,
of mail, at Antioch,
of shields and equipment, at Edesa,
of spears, at Irenopolis in Cilicia.
of [the diocese of] Pontus three:
of cuirasses, at Caesaraea in Cappadocia,
of shields and weapons, at Nicomedia,
of cuirasses, at Nicomedia.
of [the diocese of] Asia one:
of shields and weapons, at Sardis in Lydia.
of [the diocese of] the two Thraces (one of the diocese of Asia):
of shields and weapons, at Hadrianopolis of Haemimontus
of shields and weapons, at Marcianopolis (in the two Thraces).
of [the diocese of] Illyricum four:
at Thessalonica,
at Naissus,
at Ratiaria,
of shields at Horreomargi.

The staff of the aforesaid illustrious master of the offices is made up from the school of confidential agents as follows:
A chief assistant,
Assistants:
two aids,
three for the arsenals,
four for the embroiderers in gold:
for the diocese of the East one, for the diocese of Asia one, for the diocese of Pontus one, for the diocese of the Thraces and Illyricum one.
An inspector of the public post in the presence,
Inspectors for all the provinces,
Interpreters for various peoples.
The master of the offices himself issues post-warrants.

Quaestor.
Under the control of the illustrious quaestor:
The formulation of laws,
The formulation of petitions.
The quaestor does not have a staff, but such assistants from the bureaus as he may wish.



Masters of the Foot and Horse in the Presence

Master of Foot in the Presence
Under the control of the illustrious master of foot in the presence:
The counts of the frontiers mentioned below: Italy; Africa; Tingitania; Tractus Argentoratensis; the Britains; the Saxon shore toward the Britains.
The ten dukes of the frontiers mentioned below: Mauretania Caesariensis; Tripolitanus; Pannonia secunda; ripuarian Valeria; Pannonia prima and ripuarian Noricum; Raetia prima and secunda; Belgica, secunda; Germania prima; the Britains; Mogontiacensis.
[Twelve Palatine legions *enumeration omitted
Sixty-five Palatine auxilia,
Thirty-two legions of the line,
Eighteen legions of the secondary line.]
[Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

The staff of the aforesaid master of foot in the presence:
A chief of staff,
An accountant,
A custodian,
A chief assistant,
A registrar,
Secretaries and other attendants. `

Master of Horse in the Presence
Under the control of the illustrious count and master of horse in the presence:
(Ten Palatine Squadrons, Thirty-two squadrons of the line)
The staff of the aforesaid master's office.
A chief of staff,
An accountant,
A chief clerk,
A custodian,
A chief assistant,
A registrar,
Secretaries and other attendants.

Distribution of the Forces among the Various Provinces

In Italy.
[Seven palatine legions,
Twenty palatine auxilia,
Five legions of the line,
Two legions of the secondary line,
Two unclassified bodies.]
In Illyricum with the worshipful count of Illyricum:
[Thirteen palatine auxilia,
Five legions of the line,
Three legions of the secondary line,
One unclassified body.]
In the Gauls with the illustrious master of horse in Gauls:
[Fifteen palatine auxilia,
One palatine legion,
Ten legions of the line,
Ten legions of the secondary line,
Twelve unclassified bodies.]
[Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

The staff of the illustrious master of horse in the Gauls:
A chief from the staffs of the masters of soldiery in the presence, in one year from that of the master of foot, in the next from that of the master of horse.
A custodian,
Accountants from the two staffs in alternate years,
A chief assistant,
A registrar,

Secretaries and other attendants.
In the Spains with the worshipful count: [Eleven palatine auxilia, Five legions of the line.]
In Tingitania with the worshipful count: [Two palatine auxilia, Two legions of the line.]
In Africa with the worshipful count of Africa: [Three palatine legions, One palatine auxilium, Seven legions of the line.]
In the Britains with the worshipful count of the Britains: [One palatine auxilium One legion of the line, One unclassified body.]

Also squadrons of cavalry:
In Italy: [Six palatine, One of the line.]
In the Gauls with the illustrious count and master of horse in the Gauls:[Four palatine, Eight of the line.]
In Africa with the worshipful count of Africa: [Nineteen of the line.]
In Britain with the worshipful count of the Britains. [Three of the line. Two unclassified.]
In Tingitania with the worshipful count of Tingitania: [Three of the line.]

Provost of the Sacred Bedchamber
[The text relating to the provost of the sacred bedchamber is wanting.]

Insignia of the Illustrious Master of the Offices
Under the control of the illustrious master of the offices:
The first school of shield-bearers,
The second school of shield-bearers,
The senior light-armed school,
The school of senior gentiles,
The third school of shield-bearers,
The school of confidential agents and those assigned that school,
The bureau of memorials,
The bureau of assignments,
The bureau of correspondence,
The bureau of requests,
The doorkeepers,
The court ushers (cancellari).

The arsenals mentioned below:
In Illyricum;
of shields, saddle-cloths and weapons, at Sirmium,
of shields, at Acincuin,
of shields, at Carnuntum,
of shields, at Lauriacum,
of weapons, at Salona.
In Italy:
of arrows, at Concordia,
of shields and weapons, at Verona,
of leather corselets, at Mantua,
of shields, at Cremona,
of bows, at Ticinum,
of broadswords, at Luca.
In the Gauls:
of all weapons, at Argenton,
of arrows, at Macon,
of leather corselets, ballistae, and mail, at Autun,
of shields, at Autun,
of ___, at Soissons,
of broadswords, at Rheims.
of shields, at Trier,
of ballistae, at Trier,
of broadswords and shields, at Amiens.

The staff of the aforesaid illustrious master of the offices is constituted from the school of confidential agents in this manner:
A chief assistant,
A deputy of the chief assistant,
Assistants for the various arsenals,
An inspector of the public post in the presence,
Inspectors for all the provinces,
Interpreters for all peoples.

Quaestor
Under the control of the illustrious quaestor:
The formulation of laws,
The formulation of petitions.
He has subordinate clerical assistants from the various bureaus.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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