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Project: glossary

PostPosted: Sat Oct 12, 2002 12:10 am
by Publius Dionysius Mus

An idea for a project in Collegium Militarium: a glossary of military terms. The idea is to create a list of Roman military terms, with the Latin and English word and a short explanation.

Some easy examples:

1. Centurio - centurion: originally commander of a unit of 100 men, later the name for a commander of a small basic unit in the Roman army.

2. Praefectus - prefect: commander of an equestrian auxiliary unit ('ala')

3. Scutum - shield: term for the typical Roman army shield; made of wood, semi-cylindrical, with a single handgrip behind a central boss.

4. Turma - (band): basic unit in Roman cavalry (about 30 men)

And so on, we can build a big and helpful glossary, something useful to add on our Collegium website.

Everyone can participate, just send your own glossary (even if it's only one word) to me - (please also include your sources if possible!)

I will then post every now and then a list of all words gathered, including who sent the word to me; for honour and glory :wink:

Send them on and make the SVR proud! :wink:

Valete bene

PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2002 12:01 pm
by Horatius Piscinus
Salve Mus

Sounds interesting enough. From Marius' site I came upon a list of commands used by a certain legion reenactor group. I wondered about those. some seem to come from Livy. "Infer, miles, signum" 6.7.2 "Signifer, statue signum" 5.55.1. Others I am not sure about and would like to find out.

Moravius Piscinus

PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2002 12:27 pm
by Gnaeus Dionysius Draco
I might contribute for this project as well, but it'll be for next weekend as I don't have regular computer access in the week.

Just letting you know ;)


Drill-command sources

PostPosted: Thu Oct 17, 2002 3:43 am
by Aldus Marius
Salvete commilitones...

Piscinus noster did me the honor of visiting my poor, tattered little Page, and even came away with something useful, about which he asked:
M Moravi Horati Piscine wrote:

Sounds interesting enough. From Marius' site I came upon a list of commands used by a certain legion reenactor group. I wondered about those. some seem to come from Livy. "Infer, miles, signum" 6.7.2 "Signifer, statue signum" 5.55.1. Others I am not sure about and would like to find out.

Some of the commands and other terminology do come from Caesar, Livy, Tacitus or whoever else may have blessed us with a bit of jargon and enough context to figure out its meaning. Quite a few, however, come from a 6th(?)-century drill manual from Byzantium, written in Greek by one Maurice. The 6th Century (500's AD) is close enough to the Roman Late Imperial era, and the Romano-Byzantine army a conservative-enough organization as far as traditions, customs and courtesies go, that Maurice's manual just might--might--reflect what the Legions were doing a couple of centuries prior. If I had to choose, between the Ninth's version of this drill and the Twentieth's (also available on my Page), I'd pick the Twentieth's; I trust Quintus' research far more than I do Hibernicus'.

I believe I may have something to contribute to this in another day or two...certainly by the weekend. I'll try to scare up some citations, too. In the meantime, help yourselves to my site; we could post the whole set of commands, or even both of them (proper credit to Quintus and Hibernicus), for a decent start on this project.

Yours under the Eagles,

Roman Tactical Manuals

PostPosted: Mon Nov 04, 2002 12:58 am
by Aldus Marius
Salvete amici...

"The next day or two" has turned into a good few weeks, mainly because the book I was looking for had to be excavated from much older strata than contemporary sources had indicated. >({|;-)

But now I have found it; it's a book written for wargamers called Armies and Enemies of Imperial Rome, it's by an archaeologist named Phil Barker, and at the very beginning he summarizes his sources for Roman military drill and tactics:

There are six surviving tactical manuals of the historical period we are concerned with [150BC-600AD-Ed.], only three of which are available in English translations.

Onasander wrote in the early 1st century AD and is available in a Loeb translation. Frontinus wrote a manual later in that century which is now lost, but supplemented it with another work Stratagems which is available in a Loeb translation. [...] The next in time are two works by Arrian, Governor of Cappadocia under Hadrian, neither generally available in English. The Tactics is a paraphrase of the work by Asclepiodotus which is published by Loeb bound with Onasander, supplemented by an invaluable section on Roman cavalry training and tactics. The Order of Battle Against the Alans describes columns of march in enemy territory and battle formations against shock cavalry.

Vegetius has been translated and after being out of print for years is now available in an American edition. [...] His book is a confused mixture of current practice and previous methods, so must be read with extreme caution, but is still extremely valuable.

Mauricius' Strategicon is an early-Byzantine work, but offers many insights into previous organization and tactical methods, including descriptions of drill movements to Latin commands. It is not available in English...

In fides,

More on Tactical Manuals

PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2002 2:36 am
by Aldus Marius
Avete, Commilitones...

I have some follow-up notes on those Roman military manuals I posted here last time, if anybody's still following this...

I have a copy of Frontinus' Strategems (Loeb edition); if anyone needs me to look anything up in there for them I'll be happy to help.

The Cavalry portion of Arrian's Tactica has been translated and annotated in Ann Hyland's Training the Roman Cavalry (London: Grange, 1993). Ann is a rare thing: a Roman reenactor who also trains horses. She can vouch for much of the Roman method from firsthand experience.

Mauricius' Strategicon, the one with the Latin drill commands, is still not available on its own as far as I know, but according to Phil Barker large chunks of it are quoted in Oman's The Art of War in the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, sifting the Roman out from the medieval is no easy task.

Vegetius is an interesting brew; I like to think of him as the first Roman reenactor. He wrote in the late Imperial era, on the theory that the Legions of the time had lost their spunk and that the best way to restore it would be to go back to the way the army was trained during its glory days. Of course, at three or four hundred years' remove, he probably had to do a little research to find out how that was accomplished. I doubt he got anything like a complete picture, which is why he filled in the gaps with what the Legions were doing in his own time. The end result is as good--or as bad--as any modern attempt at reconstruction; we learn a lot of useful stuff, but have to be careful where we file it.


PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2002 12:55 am
by Marcus Pomponius Lupus
Salve Mus,

Not really a military term, but I wanted to share it anyway

Under Caesar (and who knows for how long before and/or after him ?) these were the standard words for the infantry to launch the attack :

Infer, signum, milites !

Bring forth, the (military) sign, soldiers !

After which the signifer (the soldier who was honoured with carrying the standards of his manipel) ran forward towards the enemy, closely followed or surrounded by the men loyal to this standard. Must be quite a moment, imagine standing among the soldiers of your specific centurio, in perfect order, not so far from the enemy on the other side, when you suddenly hear that order being given...

Charging down the warpath is
Lupus ;-)

PostPosted: Mon Dec 23, 2002 12:14 pm
by Gnaeus Dionysius Draco
I wonder about the role of that sign-bearer. Wasn't he more like a sitting duck than anything else? Imagina an unarmed man carrying a huge standard charging into the enemy lines. Kamikaze avant la lettre? ;)


PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2003 1:19 am
by Marcus Pomponius Lupus
Salve Scorpio,

A commentary on De Bello Gallico mentions nothing else but that the signifer was the bravest soldier in the legion and that this position was a great honor. A signifer who lost his signum, was executed.

Every centurion had his signifer, but the signum of the entire legion, the Aquila, was carried by the aquilifer. So much like every centurion had a centurio leading it, they all had a sign-bearer as well, the signifer, and like every legion had its general, it also had an official sign-bearer, the aquilifer.

"You must have suffered a hard blow to the head in a previous battle when you are willing to make yourself the number one target" is a thought that must have crossed everyone's mind and I can't explain it either. It's somethin that we can see in different cultures all over the world and all across history, from the aquilifer, to the medieval knight carrying the flag, to the Scottish bagpipe player during D-day...

And I don't think someone who hasn't been in an army and hasn't experienced battles can fully understand what drives these people, but there has to be something to make it worth...

Vale bene

PostPosted: Tue Jan 07, 2003 1:35 am
by Marcus Pomponius Lupus
Salve iterum Scorpio ;-)

I wonder about the role of that sign-bearer

In the first place his role was to inform the soldiers serving under his centurio about what they had to do. Every soldier knew what signifer to look for in battle and knew where to gather, knew when to retreat, knew when to attack by looking at what the signifer did.

As I said above, the order to attack wasn't something like "CHAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaargeeee", or "If I could have a moment of your time, could you please go and attack those naughty men over there ?", it was "Infer, signum, milites" - " Bring forth, the sign, soldiers", after which the signiferi ran forward, thus making it clear to the soldiers loyal to their signum that they had to attack.

But it was more than that, it was the symbol of the legion, it represented the entire legion, a lost aquila in battle was a disaster almost greater than a lost general. Caesar describes numerous times how he ordered the signiferi to storm forward when it appeared that the Romans were going to lose the battle. Seeing their signa, the aquila in danger, he writes, was the biggest motivation a soldier could have and time after time they managed to drive the enemy back simply to get their signa in safety.

This was long ago, but I remember we once read a story (could be Caesar, but I'm not sure) in class about a Roman army, that was close to defeat. The general of the army ran to the prima acies - the frontline, grabbed the Aquila and threw it in the middle of the enemy army. The soldiers were shocked, immediately rose to their feet again and stormed forward, scattering all enemy forces to retrieve this symbol of their legion. When they finally managed to get their hands on it again, the battle was won.

So if someone can help me on who, where or when this was, I would be glad ;-)

Vale bene