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William P




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2011 4:05 am    Post subject: roman legions made of non italians, did they exist?         Reply with quote

just wondering, i remember reading somewhere, cant remember WHERE that occasionally the romans would recruit legionaires from people living, say in spain or britain, or egypt. or north africa, and, to keep them under control, post them in faraway provinces from their home regions.

is there much evidence of this happening?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2011 4:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Never whole legions - can't have them revolting. There'd be a few in each legion and they would be spread out all over the empire.
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William P




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2011 5:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Never whole legions - can't have them revolting. There'd be a few in each legion and they would be spread out all over the empire.
so they made units out of non italians, but just not whole legions, merely cohorts and centry sized units.
so in otherwords there were occasionally dark skinned, nearly african looking men in legionaire kit patrolling places like britain, and germania as part of the roman army?
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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2011 6:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since there were no Italy before 19th century all legions were made of non Italians.

Razz


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William P




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2011 6:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Blaz Berlec wrote:
Since there were no Italy before 19th century all legions were made of non Italians.

Razz

*rolls eyes* yeah alright.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2011 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Avete!

The Romans referred to the peninsula they lived on as "Italia", and the Latins and other tribal peoples around them were Italians. At first, Roman citizenship was required to serve in Rome's legions. However, even fairly early in the Republic, these legions were generally supplemented with legions or "alae" (wings) of allied people known as socii. By the late Republic, it was common to hire or enlist non-Roman troops to assist the legions, especially cavalry and missile troops. These could be provincials, or from entirely outside the Empire, and would include Gauls, Spaniards, Numidians, Libyans, Syrians, Armenians, Greeks, Balearic Islanders, etc.

Caesar was apparently the first to enlist an entire legion of non-Romans, his Gallic legion (probably later known as Legio V Alaudae). During the Civil Wars which followed his death, several of the main contenders raised legions of non-citizens, especially in the Eastern provinces. Once Octavian took control, he weeded out most of those non-citizens (as well as potentially disloyal troops). From that point, non-citizens were relegated to the auxiliaries, regular professional trained troops organized in cohorts (c. 480 men) or alae (c. 500 cavalry). These men were not citizens, but considered themselves to be Roman soldiers, and had the opportunity to win citizenship upon retirement, or even before through some particular act of valor.

Note that by this time, citizenship was spreading through the provinces, awarded by emperors for various services as well as with military duty. St. Paul was a Roman citizen because his father made tents for the army, for instance. So there was a growing pool of Roman citizens who were not of Italian descent, and had mostly never even been to Rome or Italy. They were Gauls or Asians or Africans by birth and custom, but held the status of citizenship. This meant that they were eligible to join the legions if they wanted to, and many did. By the mid-first century AD, nearly half of all legionaries were non-Italians. The ratio seems to have been a little lower in the west, but higher in the East, where it was common to grant citizenship to a man upon his joining a legion. By Hadrian's reign, Italians made up only about 5 percent of all legionaries.

So yes, you'd see men of all ethnicities in the ranks! Obviously this was more pronounced even from the start in the auxiliaries, recruited from all over the world. At first they were typically based in or near their homelands, but after the Batavian revolt around 70 AD, in which the core of the rebel forces were composed of trained auxiliaries, the Romans took to basing troops away from their homes. So along Hadrian's wall we find archers from Syria, and bargemen from the Euphrates River. Since auxiliaries formed half the army, the vast majority of men fighting for the Roman army were not actually "Romans" in an ethnic sense, but that clearly did not matter to them. The majority were fully loyal to Rome, as well, serving with competence and enthusiasm, eager for the rewards of full citizenship.

Just what the ethnic mix might have been in any particular unit is often difficult to say. It does seem that you could find African legionaries serving right alongside Italians and Gauls in Britain (though mostly those were non-Negro north Africans, as far as I know). Obviously there would have been ethnic bigotry in varying degrees, but I'm sure that common inter-tribal hatred would have made that seem unremarkable.

Does that answer some of the questions, at least? Valete,

Matthew
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Martin Whalen





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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2011 1:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We're talking Northern Africa back then, not now.

I highly, highly doubt there were many sub-saharan Africans there at this time. The people living there would have been similar to today's Lebanese.

I'm sure there were plenty of non-Romans in the army toward the end; that's one of side effects of a dying civilization, let outsiders do your fighting. I'm looking at you Byzantines.

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David Wilson




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2011 1:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Especially after Caracalla's extension of universal citizenship. Very much an increasing amount of non-Italians (non-Latins, perhaps?) in the legions thereafter.
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William P




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2011 10:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Avete!

The Romans referred to the peninsula they lived on as "Italia", and the Latins and other tribal peoples around them were Italians. At first, Roman citizenship was required to serve in Rome's legions. However, even fairly early in the Republic, these legions were generally supplemented with legions or "alae" (wings) of allied people known as socii. By the late Republic, it was common to hire or enlist non-Roman troops to assist the legions, especially cavalry and missile troops. These could be provincials, or from entirely outside the Empire, and would include Gauls, Spaniards, Numidians, Libyans, Syrians, Armenians, Greeks, Balearic Islanders, etc.

Caesar was apparently the first to enlist an entire legion of non-Romans, his Gallic legion (probably later known as Legio V Alaudae). During the Civil Wars which followed his death, several of the main contenders raised legions of non-citizens, especially in the Eastern provinces. Once Octavian took control, he weeded out most of those non-citizens (as well as potentially disloyal troops). From that point, non-citizens were relegated to the auxiliaries, regular professional trained troops organized in cohorts (c. 480 men) or alae (c. 500 cavalry). These men were not citizens, but considered themselves to be Roman soldiers, and had the opportunity to win citizenship upon retirement, or even before through some particular act of valor.

Note that by this time, citizenship was spreading through the provinces, awarded by emperors for various services as well as with military duty. St. Paul was a Roman citizen because his father made tents for the army, for instance. So there was a growing pool of Roman citizens who were not of Italian descent, and had mostly never even been to Rome or Italy. They were Gauls or Asians or Africans by birth and custom, but held the status of citizenship. This meant that they were eligible to join the legions if they wanted to, and many did. By the mid-first century AD, nearly half of all legionaries were non-Italians. The ratio seems to have been a little lower in the west, but higher in the East, where it was common to grant citizenship to a man upon his joining a legion. By Hadrian's reign, Italians made up only about 5 percent of all legionaries.

So yes, you'd see men of all ethnicities in the ranks! Obviously this was more pronounced even from the start in the auxiliaries, recruited from all over the world. At first they were typically based in or near their homelands, but after the Batavian revolt around 70 AD, in which the core of the rebel forces were composed of trained auxiliaries, the Romans took to basing troops away from their homes. So along Hadrian's wall we find archers from Syria, and bargemen from the Euphrates River. Since auxiliaries formed half the army, the vast majority of men fighting for the Roman army were not actually "Romans" in an ethnic sense, but that clearly did not matter to them. The majority were fully loyal to Rome, as well, serving with competence and enthusiasm, eager for the rewards of full citizenship.

Just what the ethnic mix might have been in any particular unit is often difficult to say. It does seem that you could find African legionaries serving right alongside Italians and Gauls in Britain (though mostly those were non-Negro north Africans, as far as I know). Obviously there would have been ethnic bigotry in varying degrees, but I'm sure that common inter-tribal hatred would have made that seem unremarkable.

Does that answer some of the questions, at least? Valete,

Matthew

yeah it did, i was focusing solely on the recruitment practices of the legionaries,
i remember from some old roman history book there was a drawing (modern) of a legionary with dark skin with Gallic helm, curved scutum, lorica segmentata etc, the caption explained, as far as i remember that his unit was African and that men like him were sent to fight away from their home regions, to keep them from rebelling
i wanted to confirm that this indeed occurred, because as was pointed out, only citizens could join.

and if im not mistaken once a auxiliary survives and completes his service not only is he made a citizen,. but said citizenship extends to the rest of his family and his descendants.
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Sun 25 Sep, 2011 11:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Blaz Berlec wrote:
Since there were no Italy before 19th century all legions were made of non Italians.

Razz


The world Italy then had only a geographical meaning, being the paeninsula inhabited y many dfferent ethnicities, with specific customs and languages. Simplifyng it a little bit, there were mainly Gauls, Etruscans and Greeks intrmingled with a plethora of autochtonous people. The name Italia seems to derive from Vitulia (land of calves), and its original meaning was restricted approximately to today's Calabria. In the last period of the Empire, in order to prevent revolts and coups, italians (i.e. people living in the paeninsula) were forbidden from taking military service, a move that conributed to the later invasions of geographical Italy by the barbarians.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 5:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And then there were not-quite-Roman legions raised by allied potentates, like the XXII Deiotariana....
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
yeah it did, i was focusing solely on the recruitment practices of the legionaries,
i remember from some old roman history book there was a drawing (modern) of a legionary with dark skin with Gallic helm, curved scutum, lorica segmentata etc, the caption explained, as far as i remember that his unit was African and that men like him were sent to fight away from their home regions, to keep them from rebelling
i wanted to confirm that this indeed occurred, because as was pointed out, only citizens could join.


Ah, I see--I don't think there was any official rule of sending *legionary* recruits to distant places to serve. Plenty of men seemed to have ended up pretty close to home. In fact, when well-established legions in Germany were told to pack up and march off for the invasion of Britain, THAT's when they mutinied! Other mutinies are known, but usually about pay and such. And certainly there was fighting between legions during any civil war. But not really much in the way outright rebellion beyond that. Now, there were certainly transfers of individuals or larger groups of troops from one unit to another, and units were transfered from place to place as needed. But that's just regular army procedure, not necessarily to prevent rebellion.

Quote:
and if im not mistaken once a auxiliary survives and completes his service not only is he made a citizen,. but said citizenship extends to the rest of his family and his descendants.


Right, citizenship was inherited, and could even extend to children the man already had.

Matthew
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 9:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a thought: Would sending recruited Legionnaires to other regions than their own not only be out of fear of revolt but also so that they wouldn't be put into the position of having to fight against their own relatives in case of war or even just keeping the peace on the borders ?
( Police actions against minor raids or brigands ? )

Advantages versus disadvantages of using troops in their own area:

A) Advantage: In defence from other threats than their own people they would be motivated to protect their own.
B) Disadvantage: If needed to repress or punish in their own region they might revolt or at the least be less motivated.

C) Advantage: They know the local culture and are at less a risk of causing problems by breaking some local customs.
D) Disadvantage: If they do kill some locals due to their duties it might motivate revenge and vendettas among different families or tribes and complicate the local politics.

One other factor is the " Join the Roman Army " and see the World where local recruits would rather go elsewhere for adventure or build a new life elsewhere for a variety of reasons. ( Might be part of the Roman Army's recruitment pitch. Wink ).

From Matthew above, I agree that it wouldn't be an all or nothing thing:
Quote:
Now, there were certainly transfers of individuals or larger groups of troops from one unit to another, and units were transfered from place to place as needed. But that's just regular army procedure, not necessarily to prevent rebellion.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 11:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One slightly related question: many of the names we know from Roman units have names from various ethnic groups. for instance in the Notitia Dignitatum: http://www.hs-augsburg.de/~harsch/Chronologia..._doc1.html

But were these units actually made up (for a significant portion) from these ethnic groups?
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 12:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Just a thought: Would sending recruited Legionnaires to other regions than their own not only be out of fear of revolt but also so that they wouldn't be put into the position of having to fight against their own relatives in case of war or even just keeping the peace on the borders ?
( Police actions against minor raids or brigands ? )


I'm not sure that would be an issue very often. There probably were not very many local tribes whose territory was cut by the border, since the Roman frontier would tend to follow terrain features such as rivers which already formed borders between local groups. So if your tribe is inside the border, folks you will be fighting most often would be from a different tribe. Sure, they could be in-laws, but that's still not a down-side! Tribal people like that were all about being a warrior, and I suspect that being a warrior for the Romans would simply be one of the options available and your kin would understand the consequences of fighting your new "tribe". We also know that desertion was at least a small problem, so it could be that men who found themselves in a quandry would try to quit and go home.

Quote:
A) Advantage: In defence from other threats than their own people they would be motivated to protect their own.


Sure, that even works for the troops who come in from distant areas and hook up with local girls.

Quote:
B) Disadvantage: If needed to repress or punish in their own region they might revolt or at the least be less motivated.


"Less motivated" is possible, but I don't think there are any accounts of Roman troops revolting rather than putting down an uprising with anything less than utter ferocity!

Quote:
C) Advantage: They know the local culture and are at less a risk of causing problems by breaking some local customs.


Like the auxiliary who mooned all the Jews gathered for Passover from the Temple portico roof? As I recall, a good 2000 people died in the ensuing riots. Local sensitivities don't seem to have been the troops' top priority...

Quote:
D) Disadvantage: If they do kill some locals due to their duties it might motivate revenge and vendettas among different families or tribes and complicate the local politics.


NO ONE does revenge and vendettas like the Roman army. Kill everyone on one side, or kill everyone on BOTH sides--as Mr. Miagi says, "Either way, problem solved."

Quote:
One other factor is the " Join the Roman Army " and see the World where local recruits would rather go elsewhere for adventure or build a new life elsewhere for a variety of reasons. ( Might be part of the Roman Army's recruitment pitch. Wink ).


"Travel to far-off exotic lands, meet exciting new people, and kill them! And take their stuff!" Sign me up.


Paul Hansen wrote:
But were these units actually made up (for a significant portion) from these ethnic groups?


Good question! It does seem that a new unit with an ethnic name like that was indeed recruited from that group. But the general feeling is that many replacements over the years would come from wherever the unit was based, or elsewhere, so that the ethnicity eventually went away. There has been discussion about this, though I honestly don't recall what evidence there is either way.

Valete,

Matthew
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 4:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew enjoying the exchange of ideas and information immensely. Big Grin Cool ( And the humour. Wink Laughing Out Loud ).

Quote:
"Travel to far-off exotic lands, meet exciting new people, and kill them! And take their stuff!" Sign me up.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Sep, 2011 7:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Just a thought: Would sending recruited Legionnaires to other regions than their own not only be out of fear of revolt but also so that they wouldn't be put into the position of having to fight against their own relatives in case of war or even just keeping the peace on the borders ?
( Police actions against minor raids or brigands ? )


I'm not sure that would be an issue very often. There probably were not very many local tribes whose territory was cut by the border, since the Roman frontier would tend to follow terrain features such as rivers which already formed borders between local groups. So if your tribe is inside the border, folks you will be fighting most often would be from a different tribe. Sure, they could be in-laws, but that's still not a down-side! Tribal people like that were all about being a warrior, and I suspect that being a warrior for the Romans would simply be one of the options available and your kin would understand the consequences of fighting your new "tribe". We also know that desertion was at least a small problem, so it could be that men who found themselves in a quandry would try to quit and go home.

Quote:
A) Advantage: In defence from other threats than their own people they would be motivated to protect their own.


Sure, that even works for the troops who come in from distant areas and hook up with local girls.

Quote:
B) Disadvantage: If needed to repress or punish in their own region they might revolt or at the least be less motivated.


"Less motivated" is possible, but I don't think there are any accounts of Roman troops revolting rather than putting down an uprising with anything less than utter ferocity!

Quote:
C) Advantage: They know the local culture and are at less a risk of causing problems by breaking some local customs.


Like the auxiliary who mooned all the Jews gathered for Passover from the Temple portico roof? As I recall, a good 2000 people died in the ensuing riots. Local sensitivities don't seem to have been the troops' top priority...
Quote:
D)[b] Disadvantage: If they do kill some locals due to their duties it might motivate revenge and vendettas among different families or tribes and complicate the local politics.


NO ONE does revenge and vendettas like the Roman army. Kill everyone on one side, or kill everyone on BOTH sides--as Mr. Miagi says, "Either way, problem solved."

Quote:
One other factor is the " Join the Roman Army " and see the World where local recruits would rather go elsewhere for adventure or build a new life elsewhere for a variety of reasons. ( Might be part of the Roman Army's recruitment pitch. Wink ).


"Travel to far-off exotic lands, meet exciting new people, and kill them! And take their stuff!" Sign me up.


Paul Hansen wrote:
But were these units actually made up (for a significant portion) from these ethnic groups?


Good question! It does seem that a new unit with an ethnic name like that was indeed recruited from that group. But the general feeling is that many replacements over the years would come from wherever the unit was based, or elsewhere, so that the ethnicity eventually went away. There has been discussion about this, though I honestly don't recall what evidence there is either way.

Valete,

Matthew
[/b]
the part about the auxillery reminds me of all the news stories nowdays of troops in iraq and afganistan pissing off the locals

(like the quite humerous one where some troops crushed a suspected black marketers car by driving their TANK over it. )

(i swear what IS IT with that region.. im putting it down to the desert sun leaving the poplation in a state of permanent heatstoke . ) Razz and to think asterix said 'these ROMANS are crazy' i dont think he ever made it to arabia.

my knowledge of army discipline snt the best but the policies put in place by wellington for troops n the peninsular war seem to definately be one of his better ideas

but ive heard that about the romans as well. kill a roman soldier, i suggest you learn chinese because thats about the only place far away enough to stop you getting hunted down

as for getting hitched, wernt the romans prevented from getting married (and they served for 25 years.. WHEW)

speaking of romans settling down. what info exists on the equiptment of tthe troops of the tetrarchy i.e limitanei, comitansenses, foederati and the palantina.


specifically the limitanei, my understanding is that they became something a bit like a militia.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Sep, 2011 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
as for getting hitched, wernt the romans prevented from getting married (and they served for 25 years.. WHEW)


Yes, they were forbidden to contract a *legal Roman* marriage while in the ranks. Plenty of them had wives under local custom and law, or just "common law" wives. But those marriages were not recognized as legal by Rome, so officially there were no dependents or local ties, etc.

Quote:
speaking of romans settling down. what info exists on the equiptment of tthe troops of the tetrarchy i.e limitanei, comitansenses, foederati and the palantina.


specifically the limitanei, my understanding is that they became something a bit like a militia.


Start a new thread, I'd say! That's not my area of expertise, though.

Matthew
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Andrew W




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Sep, 2011 7:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
One slightly related question: many of the names we know from Roman units have names from various ethnic groups. for instance in the Notitia Dignitatum: http://www.hs-augsburg.de/~harsch/Chronologia..._doc1.html

But were these units actually made up (for a significant portion) from these ethnic groups?


This is a really sticky question, and part of a larger debate that's become very heated. The short version is that we don't really know what ethnic groups actually were as we only have the Roman perspective on how barbarian society was organized, and it's clear from Roman texts that they loved making racial stereotypes (I use that term deliberately) that often seem to be disconnected from how people really acted. To simplify with an analogy, when Roman sources say things like 'all Goths fight with spears on horses,' we don't have enough evidence to tell if this is true, or if this statement is the Roman equivalent of saying 'All Asian people eat sushi' (to a man from India).

In my opinion, the ethnic units in Roman legions were themed around stereotypes of the weapons that a tribe 'ought' to use (in the same way that a 'Thracian' gladiator referred to a style of fighting more than the actual birthplace of the gladiator). In practice, we don't even know if these ethnic groups actually existed (or if they were just generalizations that the Romans invented and applied to multiple tribes without regard to their real social structures; compare this to the ways Europeans misunderstood African society and grouped tribes together in the same states who hated each other), let alone if they actually lived up to the Roman stereotypes for how they should act (the little evidence we have available to check if this were true does not match the stereotypes, as shown in an excellent article by Walter Pohl).

I would understand these ethnic military units the way we do college football teams: Notre Dame's Fightin' Irish are making a statement about who they are that draws on our culture's understanding of what it means to be from Ireland. That doesn't mean that anyone on the team is, or ever was, of Irish heritage.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Sep, 2011 8:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the other hand, we have lengthy descriptions of Batavian auxiliaries, discussing the homeland of their people, the Batavii, in what is now the Netherlands. It is very clear that these units were recruited from Batavians originally, and may very well have gotten replacements from that tribe for quite a while. (The tribe was exempt from monetary tribute as long as they kept supplying troops to the army!) Not all auxiliary unit names are tribal, but enough are that we can safely assume those units were founded in the areas they are named for. There are also cohorts of Italians, Roman citizens, notably one stationed in Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate.

But yeah, after 20 or 30 years based in Syria or Britain, how many men in Cohors VI Tracum would actually be Thracians? Don't know!

Matthew
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