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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Thu 15 Jan, 2009 7:32 pm    Post subject: A quote from De Re Militari         Reply with quote

I found this quote talking about the equipment of a Roman legionary man, written in De Re Militari, a book I should probably read.

Quote:
The infantry (armatura) was heavy, because they had helmets (cassis), coats of mail (catafracta), greaves (ocrea), shields (scutum), larger swords (gladius maior), which they call broadswords (spatha), and some smaller, which they name half-broadswords (semispathium), five weighted darts (plumbata) placed in the shields, which they hurl at the beginning of the assault, then double throwables, a larger one with an iron point of nine ounces and a stock of five and one-half feet, which was called a pilum, but now is called a speculum, in the use of which the soldiers were especially practiced, and with skill and courage could penetrate the shields of the infantry and the mail of the cavalry. The other smaller had five ounces of iron and a stock of three and one-half feet, and was called a vericulum but now is a verutum. The first line, of hastati, and the second, of principes, were composed of such arms. Behind them were the bearers (ferentarius) and the light infantry, whom now we say are the supporters and the infantry, shield-bearers (scutum) with darts (plumbata), swords (gladius) and missiles, armed just as are nearly all soldiers today. There were likewise bowmen (sagittarius) with helmet (cassis), coat of mail (catafracta), sword (gladius), arrows (sagitta) and bow (arcus). There were slingers (funditor) who slung stones (lapis) in slings (funda) or cudgel-throwers (fustibalus). There were artillery-men (tragularius), who shot arrows from the manuballista and the arcuballista.


I think it's a nice quote but I have a few questions (as always).

1) Was he writing this about his contemporary legionaries? It was written in the 4th Century, so it's post division, and he uses Byzantine descriptions (Greek words?), so he's most likely describing an Eastern Roman soldier.

2) How does a semispathium relate to the gladius and the spatha? Is it just between the two, or is there more to it than that?

3) The soldier here is listed as carrying seven missiles; 5 darts, and two other throwables: pilum and verutum. When did the change from being issued two pila come about? I assume the difference in size comes from a change in time when they should be thrown (one for long range, the other for medium)?

4) He says the first two lines wield spatha, shield, helm, and mail along with their missiles. As far as I was aware, the Spatha was a cavalrymans weapon; when did it become an infantrymans weapon, replacing the short gladius that we are familiar with? IIRC, these first two lines are newer troops than the third, who are veterans.

5) Who are ferentarius? I looked it up, but all I could find was that they are a "class" of light troops, but here they are apparently different from "light infantry".

6) Behind these two lines are what sound more like the traditional shield and gladius using legionaries; are these the triarii veterans?

7) The slingers and fustibalus (so called cudgel throwers but apparently they're actually staff slingers?) support them with archers. What was the Roman application of these troops, and just how big are they stones they sling, especially the ones of the staff sling (or lead shot, if that's the case).

M.

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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 7:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ave!

Vegetius, right? (Can't seem to find my copy...) He is a valuable source, and we tend not to give him enough credit, but the problem is basically that he doesn't cite his sources. Anything he writes could be a mixture of very accurate--or maybe less accurate--reporting of a much earlier source, or details from his own era, or even wishful thinking! ("This is how it SHOULD be done...") So it's hard to trust his details.

As for the specifics of Late Roman equipment, you'd probably get great information over on the Roman Army Talk board,

http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/

Which IS back up at the moment!

The third century is when a lot of the significant changes to legionary equipment come about, for instance longer swords superseding the short gladius. But even the gladius didn't always look the same by that point, for instance the ring pommel style was popular, and blade forms were always shifting. The answers you get will probably not be definite--it's very hard to nail down solid dates, of course!

Good luck and Vale,

Matthew
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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 11:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd been meaning to enhance my Roman army knowledge (seems almost conduct unbecoming of a person so interested in weaponry as myself that I know so little), so I might just join up at RAT. Downside is, I know so little now that I doubt I can contribute much Razz

I'm sure the "Search" function will turn up plenty of my wanted answers though. Does RAT have a naming policy? I've noticed you go by your real name, but others have Latinized versions of something.

M.

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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 5:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, DEFINITELY sign up on RAT! Though I just found out that it's only open to read at the moment, no one can post any new topics or replies for a few days. Don't worry at all about not knowing enough, heck on some of those topics I'm blissfully ignorant myself! DO try to start with the search function, though, or just browse back through old topics and see what you pick up. People go to these boards to learn, so get in there.

RAT does require you to put at least your first real name in your signature block, but you can use anything for a user name. I've always used my real name, just never saw any reason not to.

Huh, I just searched "Vegetius" on RAT, limiting it to the Roman Military History and Archaeology section, and got 242 hits. Well, it's not the best search engine, but it does seem to be thorough...

Edit: Try these for starters!

http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=11146

http://www.romanarmy.com/rat/viewtopic.php?t=16969

We'll be looking for you there! Vale,

Matthew
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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Jan, 2009 8:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alright, I will give the forum a look around. Funny how calling it a forum is even more appropriate as well.

I also just realized you are a short 1 hour 30 min drive from my place. Good to see other Marylanders.

M.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Jan, 2009 9:17 am    Post subject: Re: A quote from De Re Militari         Reply with quote

Well, just some quick stuff to tide you over until you've settled in RAT:

M. Eversberg II wrote:
1) Was he writing this about his contemporary legionaries? It was written in the 4th Century, so it's post division, and he uses Byzantine descriptions (Greek words?), so he's most likely describing an Eastern Roman soldier.


It's Vegetius's concept of an ideal legion. The debate about whether this description is representative of the legions of his age (or, for that matter, of any age) is still raging the last time I checked.


Quote:
2) How does a semispathium relate to the gladius and the spatha? Is it just between the two, or is there more to it than that?


Didn't a modern scholar (Goldsworthy?) essentially equate the semispatha with the gladius? Not saying it's a universally accepted opinion, of course.


Quote:
3) The soldier here is listed as carrying seven missiles; 5 darts, and two other throwables: pilum and verutum. When did the change from being issued two pila come about? I assume the difference in size comes from a change in time when they should be thrown (one for long range, the other for medium)


The spiculum and verutum, similarly, has been equated with the heavy and light pila of earlier times. Assuming that you believe the two pila carried by each late Republican/early Imperial legionary were of different sizes, that is.


Quote:
4) He says the first two lines wield spatha, shield, helm, and mail along with their missiles. As far as I was aware, the Spatha was a cavalrymans weapon; when did it become an infantrymans weapon, replacing the short gladius that we are familiar with? IIRC, these first two lines are newer troops than the third, who are veterans.


The identification of the "spatha" as a cavalryman's weapon is a bit dubious, actually. It was widely used by auxiliary cavalry but that doesn't mean the sword itself was an inherently cavalry weapon. The adoption of the spatha by the Roman infantry seems to have had more to do with the general tendency towards the "barbarization" of the Roman army, with the adoption of auxiliary gear by the legions.

And BTW, if you read a bit further, you'll find that Vegetius describes the "triarii" armor in very similar terms. The heavy infantry formations of his ideal army seem to be pretty much uniformly armed, differing only in their relative positions on the battle-line.


Quote:
5) Who are ferentarius? I looked it up, but all I could find was that they are a "class" of light troops, but here they are apparently different from "light infantry".


Ferentarii seems to have been a pretty general term for light troops. We don't really have much information about them; Smith's 1875 dictionary of Greek and Roman antiquity lists some sources about them here: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/T...citus.html


Quote:
6) Behind these two lines are what sound more like the traditional shield and gladius using legionaries; are these the triarii veterans?


No; the triarii veterans are described in the next section/paragraph. If you look closely, the troops described here lack one item that is universally found in Vegetius's description of his ideal hastati, principes, and triarii: armor. Who they are exactly is still a mystery; Vegetius isn't famous for the clarity of his writing!

(I'm in favor of the idea that Vegetius says he wants the light-armed troops to be armed like the heavy infantry with the exception that they didn't have to wear body armor. Don't listen to me, though--I'm just an amateur and I know sh** about Latin.)
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Peter Smallridge





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PostPosted: Tue 20 Jan, 2009 4:07 am    Post subject: Re: A quote from De Re Militari         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
7) The slingers and fustibalus (so called cudgel throwers but apparently they're actually staff slingers?) support them with archers. What was the Roman application of these troops, and just how big are they stones they sling, especially the ones of the staff sling (or lead shot, if that's the case).


Roman slingers? Likely to be cast lead , ceramic or shaped stone projectile, in an almond or rugby-ball shape (which helps it spin for range, penetration and accuracy). "Cudgel-thrower" sounds like an excellent synonym for "staff-sling" to me. Regarding the size of the projectile- from 1 inch long for a small sling stone to a fist sized rock for a staff sling might be a rough estimate. http://www.slinging.org will likely be your first stop for information.
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James R.Fox




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Jan, 2009 11:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs-I have an english translation of Vegetius here somewhere, and the translator agree wth the statement that no one knows exactly what Vegetius was talking about in places. My translator seemed to think he is best when he quots the military lawyers, since Romans incorporated alot of their military administration into their legal handbooks.
Ja68ms
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