READ: Chapter 4. – FIRST SPEAR Rudimenta – By Brent Nielsen.

Chapter Four

“Exercise invigorates, and enlivens all the faculties of body and mind…

It spreads gladness and satisfaction over our minds and qualifies us for

Every sort of business and every sort of pleasure.”

John Adams


The first aspect of Legion life introduced to the new tiros was the march; and march they did. Ten Roman miles that first day, fifteen on the second, followed by twenty, then twenty-five on subsequent days, each with one water break prior to the final halt at the site of the new camp. Inexperienced cornicere blew ragged notes from brand new trumpets, first attempts at signaling a halt.

Many tiros, thinking a rest was due, flopped onto the ground. Centurios’ vita, and optio hastile staffs soon disabused everyone of such notions. Blows to the head and shoulders, combined with the flat side of veteran’s swords, warned everyone against a second such error. Soon all were on their feet, in ranks, arms extended, entrenching tools in hands.

“Lads, allow me to introduce you to your new best friends, friends you will get to know better than your own sword-mates.” exclaimed Pilus Prior Carfulenus stood in front of his cohort with a pick-axe in the right hand and a shovel in the left. “In my left hand I hold your mama, the rutrum and in this, your tata, the dolabra! This afternoon we dig in the castrum!”

There was a raised hand.

“Tiro Bacculus! You have a question?”

Caught off guard by the sound of his Romanized name, Baccolo now Bacculus, looked down at the rutrum in his hands, barely remembering to include Carfulenus’ proper title at the last instant.

Prior! Where we come from, I mean here in Baetica, we call this tool a shovel and that other thing a pick.”

Legion, this a rutrum, and a this, a dolabra!

Dropped both implements to the ground, Carfulenus strode along the front of the cohort, hands clasped behind his back.

“During the remainder of the afternoon you will learn basic engineering, the art of castrum fabricare!  Every day we will march. Every night we will camp! Every time we camp, we will build a castrum, which will be fortified. Are you with me so far? Brilliant! I know you will not achieve the standard expected, but in the next few days you will meet and then exceed my expectations!  Do you understand?”

Pilus Prior! Understand,” replied four hundred-eighty ragged voices of 2nd Cohort.

“You sound like a mob of fellatores,” Carfulenus barked out.  “Do you understand?”

Pilus Prior,” they shouted. “Understand!”

“Much better!  Half of you have a rutrum and half a dolabra! To your front you will find wicker baskets lined up along a proposed wall, what, from this moment, you will refer to as the agger! You will dig a ditch, which you shall refer to as a fossa, piling the dirt for the agger marked by this taught string. The fossa will be fifteen feet deep and just forward of the agger, which shall be fifteen feet high! I say again, you will move the dirt from the fossa in front to construct the agger in the rear! Once the agger is packed down, you will take three of these stakes and, lashing them together in the center, make a large caltrop called a tribuli, which will rest atop the agger thusly, clear?” Carfulenus smiled sweetly.

Pullo raised his hand.


“Will we be getting a mid-day meal soon, Centurio?” Pullo asked, half in Baetica, half in Latin.

Carfulenus made a slight head gesture to Optio Balaenus who, walking up behind Pullo with his five-foot-long hastile staff, effortlessly broke the former across the tiro’s skull, stepping aside as the latter dropped like a rock.

“I will remind you one more time. We will speak to you in Legion Latin. You will answer in Legion Latin, and when you are speaking in Legion Latin, you will state rank first! Now back to business! Will there be any questions pertinent to engineering? None? Good! Remember, the rutrum by day keeps the hostiles away!

No one requested a water break.


By the third night most of the men were too tired to eat. Crastinus thanked his own native Luna Estrella as well as the Roman gods, even the Legio god Mithras, that the calone Tafoya had the papillon set up with a fire going when the 2nd Cohort retired for the evening, their section of the castrum completed to Carfulenus’ satisfaction.  The centurio’s threats and curses, combined with a liberal application of vitis staffs, had failed to get the job done any faster but it was mostly right.

It was all Crastinus could do to get his personal sword mate, Pelitus, or any of the others in the octet to eat their loaves, beans, and porridge, washed down with a vile mixture of water and vinegar which Tafoya called posca acetum. A potera of cold water failed to rouse Pullo. By the third dousing he was up and about, but not much use. Only Lucco Voreno, now Lucius Vorenus, still had the strength to assist Crastinus preparing a meal of porridge mixed with slices of salted beef before serving it out to their messmates.

“It could use salt,” said Vorenus to Pullo.

When Pullo failed to answer, Vorenus repeated himself, louder this time.

Remaining silent, Pullo stared at the hobnailed soles of his leather boots.

“I thought we put you in charge of the fucking salt?”

Pullo’s uncharacteristic silence was deafening.

“Where is the salt, Pullo? Crastinus asked, his voice remaining patient, but firm.

With a furtive glance up at Crastinus, Pullo quickly cut his eyes back down to his boots.

“Lost it,” he muttered.

Even chewing halted in the octet.

“Lost it, how?” Crastinus asked, his voice remaining even.

Pullo swallowed hard, then looked up at Crastinus’, his eyes continuing their furtive movements from one member of the octet to the next, his bottom lip quivering. “I was, I played alae,” he finally blurted out, eyes returning to the area around his feet.

Bacculus threw his bowl to the ground, scattering his rations over Pullo’s legs and feet.

“Dicing! You fellator!  You dripping pile of pus! Run at the mouth all the time! We take beatings because you can’t shut up, and you go dicing with our salt ration?”

Crastinus put a hand on Bacculus’ shoulder.

“Where were you dicing, Titus? Galbus and Sextus’ octet?”

“Sextus won it from me!”

Curses and grumbling broke out; the salt ration, issued weekly, was expected to last and no excuse. There would be no more for several days.

Crastinus pulled the last of his mother’s silver coins from a pouch inside his lorica, handing them to Pelitus.

“Bacculus,” he commanded. “Vorenus! Take little Pelitus here and Clustinus! Gaditicus, you and Petro go along too. Screw it; all of you go. Vorenus, you do the talking.  Buy it back!  Tell Sextus it’s a good deal and they’ll not get more money from us.  If this is not satisfactory, tell him I cannot compare our date of rank, but am more than willing to compare height and weight.”

Six members of the octet got to their feet, clapping cassii to their heads and tying the cheek pieces.

“Pullo, not you. Take the mess kits and start washing them; then return to me here. I would have a word with you alone.”

“Alone, Crastinus,” Pullo replied.

The rest of the octet departed as Crastinus, his mother’s spoon chopping bread into a bowl of peas-porridge mixed with bacon, reflected on the training day they had endured.

“The walking didn’t bother me as much as the rest them, probably because I am used to herding mother’s cattle on foot; done it shoeless since I was a child,” he said to a sympathetic Tafoya.  “It was the digging that kicked my ass! I feel it in my shoulders, neck, and lower back! Shit, my hands are blistered and bloody.”

Pullo, whose hands and feet were bloody, had sense enough to remain silent.

Like all of them, Crastinus was unaccustomed to this type of work, but it had not taken him long to figure out when digging, it was best to fill the shovel only level, like one of his mother’s kitchen spoons.

“Never fill the implement with too much dirt and a man can shovel all day long,” Tafoya asserted. “Just lift out a level shovel. It takes more returns to fill a basket, but the strain on your shoulders and lower back is considerably less, and a rhythm we can maintain all day is achieved. Our hands are another matter!” The old calo shoveled more food into his mouth.

“Tomorrow when we load the century equipment onto the wagon,” added Crastinus, “we will each finger off some grease from one of the wagon axles, smear the stuff on our feet to make these boots less abrasive.”

“Maybe later we can try rubbing the stuff on our hands,” replied Pullo, regarding the blisters burgeoning out on his feet. His own rations finished, Crastinus used the reddish camp dirt to clean his bowl and spoon, rinsing both in the patera of hot water Tafoya had placed on the fire earlier.

“Titus! That is a good idea,” Crastinus exclaimed. “I think we should do that tomorrow! Now! Let’s talk about how you are going to repay me for the salt!”


Emerging from the papillion regularly at dawn; cornicen trumpets blowing first call, the signal to rise and dress, they consumed leavings of the previous meal, broke down tents, at the end of “third watch.” On the second clarion, unit mules were loaded with octet equipment; on the third, pack staffs were slung over shoulder, ready to march.

By the midday they had trudged twenty-five Roman miles in cadences drummed by tympanistas.  On the final halt, the remainder of the previous day’s bread, some dried meat with a little cheese and wild onion, when available, was consumed standing up. Castrum construction was performed by half the legion, the other half conducting training, swapping on alternating days. Physical training, running, wrestling and, when a suitable spot was available, swimming preceded weapon and maneuver drills before being dismissed to prepare and eat the final meal of the day, seated, if permission was granted.  By the end of “first watch,” weapons and armor were cleaned, caligae repaired, and personal hygiene completed.

By the fourth day of training the cohorts were almost fully equipped. To the chagrin of many a tiro, especially Pullo, the wooden training rudis and wicker shield rather than a SPQR issue gladius and the metal bossed wooden scutum.

“Real side arms and shields will not be given to you,” explained Carfulenus, “until the First Spear and I are satisfied you are sufficiently competent in the use of wooden ones and can be trusted to not seriously injure each other. Once you earn our trust in these skills, the wooden rudis will remain as much a part of your personal equipment as your entrenching tools for the remainder of your service.”


Vorenus threw a rutrum-sized load of dirt directly on Titus Pullo’s back.

“Are you happy now, gambling man?  Do you like your “weapons?”

Pullo threw a load back.

“Of course I do!  I just want to know when do we get to learn how to use them? I signed on to fight, not to rut around in the mud and dirt like a dog!”

“Were you always a fool, or has Carfulenus hit you in the head too many times?”

File-leader Crastinus put a firm hand on Vorenus’ shoulder, but spoke to the entire octet.

“Have you failed to notice that the wooden weapons are twice the weight of the real ones? The wicker shield is three times heavier than the scutum?”

Pilus Prior Carfulenus, accompanied by Hastatus Primus Fabius, appeared out of thin air.

“Which knob shall it be, boys? Because if any of you open your mouth again, I am going to stuff one of mine in your flapping maw!”  Fabius used his vitis to not so subtly indicate a more sinister use of a wooden staff carved from a wine stalk.

Primus! Mouth closed,” shouted Pullo, snapping to attention. In a flash of an eye, and before Fabius could do it himself, the knobby end of Carfulenus’ vitis smashed into Pullo’s jaw; down he went, yet again, in a spray of blood.

Standing over the unconscious tiro, Carfulenus words were for the entire 2nd Cohort.

“No response was necessary, tiro,” he shouted. “The rest of you may dine this evening from the vertical rest!” Crastinus chest-fisted the legion salute, his lips pressed tightly together.

“At least someone in this octet can follow a simple instruction,” remarked Fabius.  “Carry on!”

Once both centurios were out of hearing Carfulenus gave a gentle, but firm, nudge at the senior man’s elbow, speaking in a low but deadly voice,

“I hit them! Me only!  Find someone else’s boys to seduce and defile!” Carfulenus strode away, continuing his tour of the castrum fabricare without Hastatus Primus Fabius.


Primus Pilus Petronius planned to observe the afternoon training with a mixture of anticipation and annoyance. Inwardly pleased the centurios had instilled a sense of discipline in the ranks in so short a time, he was irritated that requests for the eight-foot long training posts had not been filled. The posts were essential for effective gladius training; even when performed with wooden rudimenta.

“No matter, we will adapt and improvise,” he said to Aponius. “The men will drill without posts. If it goes as I expect, I will have the satisfaction of shutting the mouths of some assholes like Pullo!”

“There is always bitching about the spadework,” agreed the standard bearer. “But castrum fabricare will be a welcome relief after today’s march!”

“The training for the exercere cohorts is gladius and scutum attack positions one through four. They will do it until I am satisfied that they have it right! I want a good, solid, four hours of training! Go down and tell Carfulenus to give them a short water break in place after two hours, then at it again!  The second two hours, pick up the pace with emphasis on draw cuts!  Clear?”

“‘Number One,” answered Aponius. “Clear!”

“Tell him to beat anyone dropping out, getting sick, has a bellyache, a drippy ass, or sand in his clitoris!  Flog anyone who refuses to get to his feet.”

Aponius nodded without comment.

“Punishment to be carried out immediately while drill continues. No water breaks in the last two hours!  I will have the cornicere signal when I say the four hours are up and they have been abused enough!  Questions?”

“‘Number One!’ No questions!” Aponius saluted and left before Petronius got any more sadistic ideas.


After several afternoons of physical training, simple march drills, in armor, equipped with wooden rudis and wicker scutum, the tiros were drawn up in close order files of eight with Pilus Prior Carfulenus standing before them.

“Many of you enlisted in VIII Legion for the citizenship,” he began. “Some of you signed up for the regular pay and the prestige that comes with wearing a baeltus. I’ll even go far enough to say some of you signed up for the regular meals! Well, allow me to disabuse you fools of such notions! You idiots are here for one of two reasons! To kill or be killed!”

He looked around at his men.

“If you pay close attention, you will get the preferred choice! Extend to the left!”

The tiros obeyed, raising their arms parallel to the ground with wicker scuta in one hand, rudis in the other.  The entire formation silently shifted left, with the baseman holding 2nd Cohort’s signum and every file behind him remaining in their original position.

“Arms downward, move!” Four hundred and eighty arms weighted down with wicker and wood dropped instantly.

Ad contum, Moveo!”

2nd Cohort pivoted on their left heel to face the left, heels slapping together to complete the movement.

“Extend ad contum, moveo!”

Again four hundred eighty pair of arms rose, and the formation repeated the process with the front rank, now the far right rank remaining in place.

“Arms downward moveo!”

“Right face!”

“From front to rear count off!”

The men counted off as directed; all octet file-leaders, like Crastinus, were “eights” to facilitate keeping an eye on their men.

“Even numbers! Step ad contum!”

The even numbers obeyed; the maneuver putting the entire cohort into a checkerboard quincunx formation, each man at double arms distance from any neighbor.

Pugnacitores! Post!” Carfulenus barked.

Several pair of evocatii trotted out, two in front of each century, Carfulenus walking through the ranks of the extended cohort. Two particularly ferocious looking specimens posted in front of First and Second Century.

Decurre Cessare,” shouted the larger of the pair. “My name is Balaenus, Evocate of First Century 1st Cohort. I will be your instructor for the afternoon. My demonstrator is Sword Brother Prorsus, also Evocate to 1st Cohort.”

Balaenus gave his students a moment to notice Prorsus was armed as they were, square wicker scutum and wooden rudis, standing at parade rest, or laxare.

“There are several basic principles to fighting, which must be consistently applied, in order to defeat an opponent,” exclaimed Balaenus. “The operative word is basic! These are the minimum skills essential to survival in a fight. There are many others, which through years of practice, will become intuitive to the skilled legio! In order to produce a mirror effect, when Prorsus moves to his right you will move to your left. When Prorsus moves to the left you will move to the right. Alright you scabrous fornicators, vos servate!”

Prorsus snapped into a low crouch, feet shoulder width apart with the left foot forward, the right slightly behind; his scutum up and forward covering his body from shoulder to the knee. Both First and Second Century snapped into an identical position, with Carfulenus’ vitis “adjusting” those not in correct form, as Balaenus began his class.

“The first principle of fighting is physical balance,” he exclaimed. “The ability to maintain equilibrium and remain in a stable upright position. You must maintain your balance both to defend and to launch an effective attack.”

Balaenus made a series of pushing motions against Prorsus, the latter springing back to his original posture every time.

“Without balance you have neither stability to defend yourself nor a base of power for an attacking thrust. Prorsus! What is the first aspect of balance?”

“Balaenus,” replied the latter. “The first aspect of balance is knowing how to move to keep or regain balance.”

Prorsus amplified his voice to make sure the rear ranks heard him; remaining in the “vos servate” position. Balaenus used his rudis as a pointer.

“Feet shoulder width apart, knees flexed. Low center of gravity increases stability,” he exclaimed, pointing to the appropriate points of Prorsus’ body.

“Prorsus! What is the second aspect of balance?”

“Balaenus! Exploit weakness of your opponent’s balance,” answered. Prorsus

“The trained fighter moves his body, maintaining balance, to expose, then exploit enemy weak points,” continued Balaenus. On cue, Prorsus sidestepped to the left a few steps before changing to the right; feinting with scutum and rudis for an opening as the tiros mirrored his movements. Crastinus winked at Vorenus, and Petro, who also noticed Prorsus allowed neither foot to cross beyond the other.

“A successful fighter also maintains a mental balance to overcome fear or anger,” Balaenus continued. “He does this in order to concentrate on an attack, or to react instinctively, in defense.”

“Do not allow fear or anger to cloud your judgment,” exclaimed Carfulenus. “Killing is our business, and when you remain detached, business will be very good!”

Selecting Clustinus, Pullo and Petro from the ranks, the grizzled centurio stood them in a row against Prorsus with a whispered instruction before turning to face the remainder of the formation.

“Position is your location in relation to an opponent,” he exclaimed. “When attacked it is vital to move to a safe position where the attack cannot continue unless the opponent moves his whole body.”

On Balaenus’ signal, Clustinus made a clumsy overhand slashing attack that Prorsus dodged easily. Overcompensating his momentum, Clustinus’ torso went into an awkward twist leaving his right side exposed; an opening Prorsus exploited by smashing him in the head with his wicker scutum.  As Clustinus fell senseless to the ground, Prorsus thrusted with his rudis and scored to the neck.

“As you have just witnessed, the best position for counterattack is off the opponent’s line of attack,” exclaimed Balaenus, proceeding with the lecture.

Pullo attacked next with a backhanded rudis slash to the head. Using the tiro’s momentum against him while sidestepping to the right, Prorsus’ wicker shield backhanded the rudis out of Pullo’s hand, feinting to the tiro’s face, forcing him to block with his wicker scutum.

“It is usually safe to move off your opponent’s line of attack at a forty-five-degree angle either toward or away from him, whichever is appropriate,” Balaenus barked.

Prorsus’ next shield bash knocked Pullo’s defense aside creating the opening for a second scutum strike inward to the lower abdomen just above the genitals. Prorsus made a rudis thrust to the neck; with a groan of pain, Pullo dropped to his knees, falling on his face.

“This position affords the fighter greater safety and allows him to exploit weaknesses in the enemy’s counterattack position,” Balaenus continued.

Petro followed Prorsus’ example of using the scutum, swinging his shield edge first to the head, but the veteran sidestepped again, angling his scutum to send Petro’s over his head. Inward and upward the blunted point of Prorsus rudis thrust painfully into Petro’s armpit.

Prorsus turned to face the tiros, snapping instantly to vos servate position.

“Movement to an advantageous position requires accurate timing and distance perception,” Balaenus concluded without the slightest glance at the three tiros struggling to their feet. “That is why you possess the space between each other that you are standing in now! That concludes the presentation. Are there any questions?”

“Odd numbers! Volvere,” Carfulenus barked again in camp latin. “About face!”


By the end of the first two hours of training and the water break, Bacculus wondered, deliriously, just how much of his rudis was really wood and how much scutum was genuinely wicker. His neck cloth was as sweat-soaked as his tunica.  His only relief was a pair of blistered and bloody feet were so sweat-soaked that, although Crastinus’ grease salve was gone, the leather of the hob-nailed caligae was no longer stiff.

Pelitus and Petro, the two smallest men in the octet, were miserable.

“This is definitely worse than the digging and marching,” moaned the former. “My arms and calves are screaming,”

“My eyes sting!” Petro answered.

The rest of the contubernium was not much better off.

“My lips and mouth, dry as leather,” croaked Gaditicus.

“The felt pad inside my cassis is so soaked I doubt it could protect me from another bout with Prorsus!” Clustinus complained.

Only three remained on their feet, Pullo and Vorenus with a mutual hatred feeding both strength and stamina, and Gaius Crastinus who endured for different reasons.

Somehow, I will find a way to bind a strip of cloth about our heads, I must get with Vorenus! We have to find a way to soak up some of the moisture off everyone and hopefully clear our eyes. The rest of it we will just endure!

“You sound like the cunnii you are,” growled Carfulenus. “You thrust like an old man buggering a little boy for the first time! At ease, state!”

The cohort stood down from vos servate, a breathless laxare parade rest.

Walking down the sweating, dry-heaving ranks and files, Carfulenus’ visage was grim.

Where is that bastard Petronius!  Real training is one thing, but this is insane! Flog the tiros who fall out? Nearly a third of the cohort is down, face first or worse! Some have shit or pissed on themselves while unconscious!  Fuck him! That one legged fellator is nowhere in sight!  Forgiveness is easier than permission!  A few moments more of this cac and all my men will be down! Not on my watch!  Carfulenus looked around at his men then barked out a command.

“Drink in place!  Look to your mates!”

From a nearby hill, where no one could see him, Petronius chuckled, satisfied with what he saw and particularly pleased with Carfulenus.

“I didn’t think he had those kinds of balls,” he muttered to Aponius. “Some of the centurios cheated, but even they weren’t able to do that without giving what I really wanted from them. They all met the standards I looked for in the drill! Remember that bastard who trained us so many years ago? The one who would say we were going to march this far, run that far, swim this distance, knowing full well that we would try to cheat when we did, just to make it look good?”

“Carfulenus can be a whore-mongering dog and a drunken lout,” Aponius agreed. “But on duty he does put them through their paces!”

Primus Pilus Petronius signaled the cornicen to blow the notes signaling “stand down” and “mess call.”


Chapter Three

Jupiter, Victor, Hear us!

For the Standard!

We pledge our strength!

We pledge our blood!

We pledge our lives!

We will not turn!

We will not break!

We will not give in to suffering,

Nor Pain!

Death to any, who succumb,

By our own hands,

Is our sacred oath!

While there is light,

From here to the end of the world!

For the Senate!

For the People!

For Rome!

We stand!

Legion Oath, the Sacramentum

Tribune Laticlavius Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta saluted the Provincial Governor of Further Hispania, Gaius Antistius Vetus and excused himself from the entourage gathering for the Sacramentum ceremony. Colonel of the broad stripe Cotta stepped briskly up the rostrum prepared for him and assumed the position of stacio. There were no Angusticlavius lieutenant colonels of the thin-stripe assigned to him, but thanks to the influence of his kinsman, senior Consul in Rome L. Aurelius Cotta, Fortuna smiled upon him indeed!  Praetor Vetus had selected him to be acting Commander of the newly constituted VIII Legion. When he looked out from the rostrum and saw the unit assembled before him Cotta smiled as well!

The most senior battalion of the Legion was hidden out of sight. 1st Cohort was a miniature legion of its own with five centuries of evocatii instead of six.  First Century held a double compliment of three hundred and twenty fighting men instead of the normal one hundred and sixty in the other four. The entire cohort did indeed consist of veterans enlisted for a second term of sixteen years for a total of eight hundred legios and two hundred calones serving as strikers and packers.

Cotta’s new command also possessed two hundred skilled fabricare serving as carpenters, metallurgists, leather workers, fullers and skin tailors. A small detachment of these would be distributed amongst all the cohorts, but everyone was expected to stand and fight in the legion. Those most talented in their respective trades would be assigned to the 8th, 9th and 10th Cohorts where their invaluable skills were better protected in a fight.

The legion was assembled on a slight incline, allowing the rear ranks a clear view of the rostrum and the area of ground immediately to Cotta’s front. Surveying the square-shaped cohort formations lined in files to his front, he mentally reviewed the status report still in hand.

According to the unit status sheets, Cotta remained desperately short in key leadership positions. There were no thin stripe Lieutenant Colonels, no Praefectus Castrorium stood as third in command to conduct the daily logistical business of the legion, and there was a slight shortage of calones in the posterior cohorts to strike camp, load, and drive the pack animals.

Dominus,” reported Petronius prior to the formation. “Twenty veterans have applied for centurio rank in all the lower grades!”

“Pray Mithras enough of them will qualify!” Cotta has answered while scanning the numerous pages. He had not forgotten Roman Iupiter Optimus Maximus, but the Tribune also worshipped the eastern god of soldiers and slaves.

Cotta had a full legion, over four thousand tirocinnii, one turmae of cavalry numbering one hundred and twenty and eight hundred veterans assigned to his command. Even with a shortage of calones there were still over five thousand men assigned to VIII Legion.

The most important position remained vacant; the legion had no legate in command, but again thanks to his kinsman in Rome, Lucius Cotta bore the double responsibility of a Legate, as well as senior Tribune, and was perfectly happy in both roles.

Cotta noted the tiros had been issued their regulation tunics and new, still unbroken hob-nailed caligae. This footwear would soften up in direct proportion to the toughening of their feet and the number of miles they marched, a condition Cotta planned to address as soon as the Sacramentum was complete.

He watched the “shavelings” scratching and rubbing the all too familiar pain of the new marks on their shield arm and collarbone while optios dressed them into line with long knobbed hastile staves and centurios introduced the more obtuse to the vitis the hard way.

Although not required to do so, Cotta endured the same SPQR marks applied to his arm and chest to demonstrate he was prepared to live and train as his men.

“The conquistores and medicos appeared to have done an excellent job of screening out the lame, obese, and mentally deficient,” he had commented to the First Spear.

“Except for the one who came in trussed to the back of a Provo’s horse, the new men seemed to be of an adequate level of intelligence and physical ability,” Petronius had replied.

If not, Cotta was certain the centurios’ liberal use of the vitis would make them more obedient if not smarter.

“How many have been identified with musical talent?” Cotta now whispered under his breath, hiding the fact that he and the First Spear were talking to one another at stacio.

Petronius stood at attention forward of the Rostrum facing the tiros with his back to his commander. Both waited and watched the centurios curry the line and files one last time. Both would have preferred to talk facing one another, but it was impossible when facing the troops at stacio waiting for them to come to order.

“The best will serve as cornicens, sounding the trumpets. The rest will serve the tympanum, beating the cadence on the march,” Petronius answered patiently, knowing the answer to the question had been provided to Cotta in reports.

The centurios continued to adjust their nearly impeccable formations aligned at “dress right dress” to guide on the signum. The signum was marked with a hand at the top for the even numbered centuries, a spear for odd-numbered. Numbered vexillum standards did the same for the cohorts.

Cotta always wondered how these men could live as they did it, constantly together, eight men to a contubernium?  He had served his required six campaigns, first as a Contubernalis cadet, later as a thin stripe Tribune. He had resided with eight other young Romans of his own class, but unlike legios, they had not been forced together so for years on end. When the campaign season concluded, most of the young military tribunes returned to Rome, often for good. To Cotta’s way of thinking this was often for the best, since most of his fellow patricians were simply marking time to be eligible for something better in the Senate. With no such aspirations of his own, Cotta had little competition from his peers in the pursuit of a career as a vir militaris.

Most of the arrogant young aristocrat officers I met over the years were not worth the cacca they produced with the rations they consumed!  reflected Cotta, turning his attention back to the tiros assembled before him.

For them it will be far different, he said to himself, barring promotion or premature death, all will spend their entire service eating, sleeping, cooking, sharing a tent, urinating and defecating together! They will train, march, fight, and bleed through victory or defeat, and if it comes to the latter, take each other’s lives and die together. Death will be the common way they will part company whether they get along or not.

Cotta cringed suddenly at the sacrilegious things he had almost uttered aloud. Even thinking the “d” world was terribly unlucky. I will have to clean my mouth later! he reminded himself, quickly regaining his military composure.

Dominus,” First Spear Petronius had been listening, “for better, or for worse, they will bind together like husband and wife, like brothers or twins, could never understand! Some will become leaders; most will remain followers. There will be heroes and cowards in the ranks, some malcontents. There will be liars, gamblers, innocent country boys and some not so innocent city boys, but no thieves and ‘few’ liars will survive long amongst sword mates and brothers of the sword in the legion.”

“I pray fervently to Mithras for this,” Cotta added.

Dominus,” Petronius answered. “No room for it in the Legion. Almost always leads to some kind of problem! Whatever they were, wherever they come from, the iron discipline of the legion will shape and mold them into something else altogether! Eventually they will all mold into a single, flexible machine that delivers death to our enemies!”

Their whispered conversation was interrupted by a discrete cough from Hastatus Prior Septimus filling in as Praefectus Castrorium for the day.

“Number One,” he whispered. “The command is present and accounted for!”

Finally satisfied with the dress of the cohorts Petronius turned about, rendering the legion fist to chest salute to Cotta.

Tribune Laticlavius! Salutatus!”

Cotta returned the salute, holding it while Petronius reported.

“The Legion is formed Tribune, five thousand five hundred and forty effectives, sixty centurios, one thousand eighty evocatii, three hundred fifty first term veterans, 200 calones, present and accounted for Dominus.”

Tribune Cotta looked down from the rostrum, smiled at “Number One” standing below him.

1st Cohort wasn’t present in the ranks, but Cotta was aware of their status. Petronius had proposed and been granted permission to conduct a demonstration which would not only shock and awe the tiros in the formation, but also local citizens on hand to bear witness in the Provincial Governor’s entourage.

Primus Pilus!” Cotta shouted, extending his fist out in front, then dropping it back to his side. “Post!”

Petronius saluted, about faced, and marched to a marked position forward of and between 2nd and 3rd Cohorts.

Cotta removed his three quarter fore and aft horse hair crested galea helmet so that every man before him could see and recognize his face in the future. Filling his diaphragm, he raised his arms, invoking the Legion Prayer:

“Jupiter, greatest and best! Protect this legion, soldiers all!” The invocation was repeated by the entire legion.

Tiros of VIII Legion,” he exclaimed. “You are about to take an oath which will bind you in life and in death to the Standard for the remainder of your term in this or any other legion to which you may serve! Before swearing, know you this; the path you have chosen is arduous! Embrace the life! Obey your orders! Submit to the discipline! Victory will be your sure reward!”

Petronius gestured to three cornicens who blew a series of notes on their instruments.

Aligned far to the right and hidden behind a copse of trees, the 1st Cohort stepped off entering the Campus Martius with Aquilifer Aponius carrying the Legion’s Eagle Standard at the front. Eight hundred right feet swung out, lock stepping in rigid precision across the front of the legion until perfectly centered on Primus Pilus Petronius. Spell bound by the majesty of the formation centered directly to their front, the tiros did not realize the veterans before them were standing a precise measured distance away.

Each veteran was completely equipped for battle, armor and weapons polished and shining brilliantly in the sunlight. Princeps Primus Fabius gestured to a cornicen player, and on the echoed orders of their individual centurions an cornicerii, each century executed a perfect left face less than a spear’s throw from nine cohorts of recruits.

On Fabius’ gesture, cornicens sounded a second time. In unison the 1st Cohort centuries began beating the metal shaft of their pila on their scuta in a slow rhythm. There was no shouting, no orders; but force and tempo increased, rising to a deafening crescendo while laughing and commentating spectators covered their ears. Except for their eyes, no tiro moved a muscle.

Petronius made another gesture, the cornicens sounded again, this time with different notes.

Fabius gestured, and the scuta-beating stopped.  He and the cohort centurios gestured again; the veterans dropping their right foot back, snapping shields forward, raising pila overhead, pointing out over the top edge in vos servate or “on guard.”

The cornicens sounded tela. In precise rearward motion, eight hundred right arms drew back.  Yet again, the trumpets were heard, Fabius shouted an order none of the tiros understood!

“Iactare!” Eight hundred missile weapons launched over scuta, directly at the new cohorts where Carfulenus and fifty-three other centurios growled out a similar order.

“First one of you snot-nosed, bed-wetting, shit-eating, toss-offs moves a fucking muscle,” Carfulenus growled to his2nd Cohort tiros. “I will flog!’

Screams and cries of alarm erupted from the assembled spectators. Even Governor Vetus was on his feet as missiles arched toward the motionless recruits.

“Steady in the ranks!” Carfulenus barked again.

The thrown missiles angled upward and downward, stabbing into the ground all around Petronius and only a few feet away from the trembling, but still rooted tiros. Before the weapons could land every veteran had drawn his gladius from his right hip scabbard and snapped into vos servate, every sidearm pointing over the edge of the shield.

Fabius’ trumpeters sounded once more, and the veterans instantly reverted to the position of stacio. Only silence emitted from the slack-opened mouths; the shocked crowd incapable of sound. Several recruits wet themselves; but no one moved.

With a look of inexpressible relief, and his own dignitas slowly recovering, Governor Vetus was soon snapping his fingers in thorough and enthusiastic approval. Relieved at not being witness to a messing training accident, the crowd joined in with the Governor’s guests, adding Hispania whistling and cheering to customary Roman finger-snapping.  Satisfied the desired effect had been achieved, Petronius faced an equally pleased Cotta, chest-fisting a salute.

“Primus Pilus Petronius,” the legate exclaimed. “My compliments! Aquilifer Aponius may administer the Sacramentum!”

Returning Petronius’ salute, Cotta left the platform.

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The Roman Dynasties – The Julio Claudian Dynasty – By Joe Medhurst

The Roman Dynasties

The Julio-Claudian Dynasty


The Julio-Claudian dynasty was the first Roman imperial dynasty, and arose when Augustus, the great nephew and heir of Julius Caesar, successfully concluded the civil wars at the battle of Actium in 31 BC and assumed sole power. The Julio-Claudians were Roman nobles with an impressive ancestry, but their fondness for the ideals and lifestyle of the old aristocracy created conflicts of interest and duty.



Augustus was one of the longest ruling and most successful emperors, expanding the Roman border, and conducting massive changes to the structure and organisation of the Roman empire. While not a great military leader himself he had many brilliant generals supporting him, such as Agrippa at the start of his rise, and later men such as Drusus and the future emperor Tiberius, the two sons of his wife Livia.

Due to the years of civil war that preceded his rule Augustus chose not to call himself king or emperor but rather first among equals, thus implying an accountability and democracy, that in truth no longer existed.

His political reforms weakened the power of the senate and placed more power in the hands of himself and his imperial freedmen, crating the civil service which would be a key feature of Roman governance. It also changed the system of provincial governors to improve the organisation of the empire and allow more power to the knights. Gradually a completely reformed administrative structure of Rome, Italy, and the whole empire was evolved. The financial system that made this possible was evidently far more effective than anything the empire had ever seen until then. The system was based on the central treasury (aerarium). To pay for this he implemented a poll tax, land tax, and several indirect taxes, as well as reforming the system for customs revenues. He also improved and standardised the monetary system.

More important were his social and moral reforms. He restored power to the priesthoods and made himself pontifex maximus, the head of the state religion, and created the imperial cult. He also made changes to divorce laws making them stricter and thus reducing divorce rates and encouraging people to have more children. One unforeseen effect of this was that his daughter Julia was discovered to be unfaithful, and thus he was forced to send her into exile. His social reforms were also intended to encourage marriage and reduce extravagance.

Militarily he was very successful, putting down revolts in Gaul and Dalmatia, expanding the northern and eastern frontiers, taking Raetia, Galatia and northern Spain, annexing Egypt, and retrieving the standards taken from Crassus by the Parthians. He even sent envoys from Egypt to Nubia and Arabia. He had two great military setbacks. One was the failed invasion of Arabia Felix (Yemen) by Aelius Gallus, and the other the slaughter of Varrus three legions in the Teutenberg forest in Germany. The latter was more damaging as it forced him to give up the provinces across the Rhine and creating a new frontier that would never be crossed again.

In his later years he annexed Judea, and made more reforms at Rome, including the creation of the fire brigade, making city prefect a permanent office and creating a military treasury.

Apart from this he conducted a great building campaign in Rome and across the empire, and was famously said to have found Rome made of brick and left it made of marble.



Due to the various suspicious deaths of Augustus’ heirs, Agrippa, his grandsons Gaius and Lucius and his stepson Drusus, the empire was left to the second of Livia’s sons, Tiberius, called ‘the Wart’ in 14AD. His was an easy succession, as he had already proven himself popular due to his success as a general, and had been co-tribune with Augustus for several years.

Tiberius followed the instructions left by Augustus upon his death not to undertake any expansive foreign wars. Relying more on diplomacy than military force, he did not move around armies or change governors or provinces without reason but did strengthen the navy, allowing the empire to reach an unprecedented peak of peace and prosperity. There were several rebellions, which he put down savagely, however, and he expelled the Jews from Rome. His tight control of the economy and limited spending on grandiose building projects or gladiatorial games enabled him to bequeath a great surplus to his successor.

Tiberius maintained Germanicus as his heir as Augustus had requested, until his death in 19AD. He had little love for the empire and retired to Capri in 26 and left the rule of the Roman Empire to his Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus. By 31, the Emperor grew suspicious of Sejanus’ ambitions and ordered his execution.

The last years of his rule were marked by a number of treason trials, torture and executions which made him increasingly unpopular. He is believed to have been murdered by the prefect of the Praetorian Guard, Naevius Sutorius Macro in 37.



After Tiberius’ death in 37AD he was succeeded by his brothers’ grandson, Gaius Caesar, better known as Caligula. He was a darling of the armies due to the popularity of his father Germanicus, and as he had often been taken on campaigns with them and dressed up as a soldier, hence the name ‘little boot’. His rule started well, but soon his madness took hold. He declared himself a god, and had statues placed of himself everywhere, including in the temple at Jerusalem, causing a massive revolt there. He exhausted the treasury with his enormously extravagant games and spectacles and carried out countless treason trials and executions. There are many stories of his excess, such as whoring out the senate, and making his favourite horse a senator, however, we will never know how true these were. Several conspiracies were organized against him until he was finally assassinated in 41 by his Praetorian Guards who proclaimed Caligula’s uncle Claudius the new Roman Emperor. Caligula’s fourth wife Caesonia and his only daughter, Julia Drusilla, were assassinated as well.



While considered by many to be a fool, Claudius’ rule was successful and prosperous for Rome. He achieved administrative efficiency by centralizing the government, taking control of the treasury, and expanding the civil service. He engaged in a vast program of public works, including new aqueducts, canals, and the development of Ostia as the port of Rome. Possibly to gain popularity he conducted an expansionist policy adding the provinces of  Pamphylia, Mauritania, Thrace, Lycia, and most notably Britain (43 A.D.). He was careful not to involve the empire in major wars with the Germans and the Parthians. Claudius supported Roman control of Armenia, but in 52 he preferred the collapse of the pro-Roman government to a war with Parthia, leaving a difficult situation for his successor. Imperial expansion brought about colonization, urbanization, and the extension of Roman citizenship in the provinces, a process begun by Julius Caesar, continued by Augustus, slowed by Tiberius, and resumed on a large scale by Claudius.

His personal life was a disaster however. His third wife, Messalina was allegedly unfaithful and conspired against him so he was forced to have her executed. He then married his niece Julia Agrippina, the sister of Emperor Caligula. She apparently had a lot of influence on the Emperor and persuaded him to adopt her son Nero to the disadvantage of his biological son Britannicus. In 54 Claudius died, according to the Roman sources being poisoned by Agrippina, and was succeeded by his adopted son Nero.




One of the most notorious Roman Emperors, he is attributed the murder of his stepbrother Britannicus, his mother Agrippina and his first wife Octavia.

Under Nero the frontiers of the empire were successfully defended and even extended. Experienced generals, such as Corbulo and Vespasian, led triumphant campaigns in Armenia, Germany, and Britain. There was much discontent in the provinces due to his increased taxation, leading to revolts, such as the one by Boudica in Britain. Nero himself was more of a dilettante, and a connoisseur and patron of the arts; his coins and imperial inscriptions are among the finest ever produced in Rome. After a great fire destroyed half of Rome in 64 AD, he spent huge sums on rebuilding the city and a vast new imperial palace, the so-called Domus Aurea, or Golden House, whose architectural forms were as innovative as they were extravagant. This led to many blaming him for the fire. Nero antagonized the upper class, confiscating large private estates in Italy and putting many leading figures to death. His tendency toward Oriental despotism, as well as his failure to keep the loyalty of the Roman legions, led to civil strife and opposition to his reign.


The discontent with Nero grew, with the revolt of the provincial governor Servius Sulpicius Galba in Spain, the rebellion of the provincial governor Julius Vindex at Lyon in Gaul (France), and others on the eastern frontier, which Nero simply ignored. In 68, the Roman legions proclaimed Galba the Roman Emperor, leading him to march on Rome. After he had been abandoned by his Praetorian Guard and sentenced to death by the Senate, Nero committed suicide.


He went into history as an Antichrist and a tyrant but many modern historians are sceptical about the reliability of the ancient accounts about Nero including his role in the Great Fire of Rome.

Why I Love ancient Rome – By Carmine Aquilino

My love for Rome started about 15 years ago after the film Gladiator came out. It was like my calling, I was hooked from that moment on. I would watch that movie time and time again. I also began watching other movies set in Ancient Rome and documentaries as well. I also began reading books and “researching” on Ancient Rome too. The Honor and Pride of the republic I always had respect for but, it was the Power and Glory of the imperial era that just blew me away. From the over might emperors to the military conquest to the majestic huge structures spread across the empire just fascinated me. To read about these great men’s achievements and failures was just amazing. Made me want to live in those ages. I also began to collect minature figurines and statues of Roman soliders (my personal army), and i started an Ancient Roman coin collection which mainly focuses on the Emperor Maxentius (my favorite) and the period of rulers from Nerva to Maximinus Thrax. Like in the movie Gladiator I also have the SPQR or “mark of the legion” tattoo on my upper arm, I also have the roman legionary eagal or Aquila on me as well. In October of 2013 after marrying my beautiful we went to Rome for our Honeymoon. What a trip that was. I walked the forum of Rome, entered the colosseum, visited Hadrians villa, went to pompeii for the day. We even had the honor of meeting the pope (whos succession lineage goes all the way back to the beginning of the Roman empire and his title Pontifex Maximus was orginally a Roman Title for chief priest) and having married blessed by him personally. We went back this past October this time with our daughter Roma who we named after the eternal city we love so much. Rome also hold’s special place in my heart because as an Italian its part of our history and culture and I take great pride in my Roman ancestral past. I always tell people my three Loves in my life are My wife, daughter and Rome.

WHY I LOVE ANCIENT ROME – by Deborah Gladu

I had fallen deeply asleep and was now quietly being awakened by the stewardess with my

Alitalia breakfast.  We will be landing in Rome shortly she said.  I am groggy, confused even,

leaving Boston, waking in Rome…how long was I sleeping ?  As we prepare to land I am excited

and even though the haze of sleep is leaving my body I know I am in  a dream…a dream of lifetime!


Our driver is waiting, his name is Amore!  He is Sicilian and Moroccan, he makes this funny little noise

with his lips when he speaks, a kind of whistle you might say.  Right away we are off, traffic is chaotic

but exciting.  I am hanging onto Amore’s every whistling word as he hints as to where we are going!


In the midst of traffic and the city, it looms…it is quite suddenly there, the Colosseum.  You know it as soon as as you see it, standing silent, imposing with enduring strength!  All around us are ruins,

the Arch of Constantine and the remains of the Temple of Venus and Rome.  They are grand in scale and  you can feel the story they want to tell!


It is still early, even though traffic is buzzing there are no tourists about yet, we are virtually alone here.

The air is cool and the sun is just starting to shine and warm…it is surreal that I am here, right here!  I

think the first moment is unforgettable!


We are moving again climbing gradually up the winding street.  When we stop Amore says “Are you

ready to see the center of the world?” and there below us is the Roman Forum in it’s completeness.

It is breathtaking, a moment of fullness for me, a much imagined moment!  The haze of the sun, the test of time, the stillness of this once vital place,  I want to blink myself back and see how it all fit together.


I have seen  so much this first day!  As we crisscross thru the city and visit many well known sites, I am thinking…the ancient Rome is all mixed up with the modern Rome of today.  An unearthed decaying column or temple sits next to the pharmacy or bus stop.  Around every corner the ancient city is peeking out, hinting and teasing or standing tall and bold,  saying…I AM HERE, I WILL ALWAYS BE HERE…LOOK AT ME IN WONDER!!!


Why I love Ancient Rome. By Dr Quentin J. Broughall, Maynooth University.

The world out of a city and a city out of the world:

As I crest a gentle slope among the verdant, rolling hills of Northumberland, a broken edge of ancient masonry emerges from the ground in front of me, like a shipwreck exposed at high tide. Smoothed by centuries of northern-English weather, each stone is weather-beaten and patterned with centuries of lichen. Above me, thick clouds stray across a slate-grey sky at a stately, bovine pace, while a few hardy souls in backpacks and raincoats dot the trail behind me. Reaching the hilltop ruins after another few minutes of walking, I find myself standing in front of the largest physical remains of Roman power in Britain: Hadrian’s Wall – Vallum Aelium to the Romans. Having been enthralled by the Roman world since childhood, I have made a pilgrimage here to reflect on what makes me so passionate about ancient Rome.


Remaining set in stone two millennia after its construction, here one can still touch the achievement of Roman antiquity; in this incarnation, winding over the countryside like a great serpent. In exploring this structure, I find myself at what was once the outer limits of the known world, the most north-westerly limit of the Roman Empire. One could travel to the Forum or the Coliseum to get a sense of Rome’s scale and substance, but I have come here instead; believing that this lonely frontier possesses a greater aura of its original power and purpose than any of its surviving grand, metropolitan monuments. For, at its height, the Roman imperial remit extended from these exposed hills down to the Sahara and across to Arabia, covering over five million kilometres and including a fifth of the world’s population. Where I stand was both the beginning and the end of Roman imperium.


One of the chief origins of my fascination with Rome is the extraordinary power that it gained and wielded. For a dozen centuries, Rome controlled the Mediterranean world through its extensive military and political capacity, which dispatched all rivals and created one of the greatest superpowers of all time. In that period, it evolved from a kingdom to a republic and, finally, to an empire, while achieving unmatched hegemony over the region and creating a so-called Pax Romana, or ‘Roman peace’. Ruled for most of its existence by an autocratic political elite, Rome’s military reigned supreme on the battlefield, which was the ultimate source of its power. Significantly, though, Roman society also gained command not only over humanity, but also over nature through its extensive engineering prowess, which transected its empire with aqueducts and roads. In short, Rome has become a byword for political, military and technological mastery.


Yet, in Roman society, with that power sometimes went cruelty, exploitation and violence: whether in the battles that secured it, the slavery that served it or the fatal games that entertained it. More than anything else, it is probably this feature of the Roman world that has intrigued and revolted people in equal measure ever since. From public executions in the arena to the alleged immorality of certain Roman emperors, the fact and fiction of Roman excesses have often been conflated. One thing is clear, however: that Roman culture certainly possessed a darker side that has coloured interpretations of its history since its collapse in the fifth century. One finds it hard to countenance how a civilisation that marched with such ordered regularity, from its language to its legions, could possess such a seemingly appalling component, yet it has defined its reception – and I share in trying to comprehend this troublesome aspect of the Roman experience.


While the story of how a small farming settlement in central Italy developed into one of the greatest empires in history has become the stuff of legend, it is this contested, sometimes divisive, reputation that has been one of the keys to Rome’s lengthy profile in Western culture. From our languages to our laws, ancient Rome has provided such a foundational legacy to the West that, in a plethora of greater and lesser ways, we are the Romans. So, pausing here on the windswept ruins of Hadrian’s Wall at the furthest extent of what was once Rome’s borders, I am standing beside an important remnant of my heritage as both a European and a human being. For, while the Roman state’s extent has been measured traditionally in geographical terms, truly, Rome’s influence has exceeded its chronological limits and stretched forward into our own time – far beyond these original frontiers of stone. As its power was ebbing away, the fifth-century poet Rutilius Namantianus claimed that Rome had made a city out of the world. Centuries later, we in the West are, in many regards, still citizens of that imperial metropolis, so it seems natural for me and so many others to remain enthralled by Roman antiquity.




The Roman Army – By Joe Medhurst


The Roman army evolved greatly over the centuries from a Greek style hoplite army in the early republic to the classic legion at the start of the empire. One of the strengths of the Roman people was their ability to adapt and take on new ideas and technologies from the peoples they encountered, Etruscans, Greeks, Carthaginians, Parthians, Sarmatians. When Marius took command of the legions to fight the Teutons and Cimbri at the start of the last century BC he made steps to improve the army, creating highly trained professional soldiers and modifying the manipular organisation into a system of cohorts.


The Roman’s did not have a single organised army as such, but rather groupings of legions, each of which acted as an independent army. The legions were divided into ten cohorts, nine of equal strength, and the first usually doubled. Each cohort was made up of six centuries of 80 men lead by a centurion. Each of these was in turn made up of ten contubernia, each headed by a decanus. This was supported by 300 cavalry, divided into ten turmae, each lead by a decurion. In the early empire the cavalry was still a basic support unit, with the core of the army being the heavy infantry legionaries. The cavalry’s job was mainly to chase down fleeing enemies, but they also had an important role as scouts and spies (exploratores or speculatores).



The Roman cavalry horse, with its trappings and curved saddle, which in the days before stirrups gave the rider far greater stability.


The legionaries were armed with a short stabbing sword, the gladius, and a long rectangular shield (scudo). They also carried two short throwing spears (pilae), and a dagger (pugio). The gladius hispaniensis, originated in Spain and was first used in the Punic wars. It had a wooden handle and was perfectly weighted. It was the perfect weapon for close quarters formation fighting, hence why it was drawn from the right. Most of Rome’s enemies used longer slashing swords, which favoured individual combat. The shorter weapon of the legions, however, were primarily stabbing weapons, which could shoot out from behind their large shields and more easily pierce armour and inflict greater damage, while allowing them greater protection. Being smaller, it was also more compact and thus denser and less liable to breaking.


The gladius hispaniensis of the early empire.


Another remarkable weapon was the Roman pilum or javelin. Primarily a throwing weapon, with a range of 10 metres. It was about 2 metres long, with a wooden shaft and a long iron head, that fit into a socket. It had the weight and penetrating power to rip through shields and armour, and was engineered so the head would bend on impact, making it difficult to remove and impossible to throw back. However, after a battle it could be retrieved and a new head fitted for reuse.


A Roman pilum.

The last resort for a legionary was his pugio. It was a short stabbing weapon, 18-28 cm long that was often highly decorated when carried by officials and aristocrats.



The legionaries were heavily armoured with the famous lorica segmentata, made up of thick strips of metal, and probably the strongest known armour before the plate armour of medieval knights. However, the armour used was not standard and changed over time. Other types of armour were scale (lorica squamata) and chain mail (lorica harmata), both of which provided excellent protection and mobility; with some of the officers using the more expensive lorica anatomica, a single shaped steel breastplate, all topped off with a ridged helmet and short leather skirt. Over time chain mail increased in popularity and became standard in the late period. This armour was extremely strong, but very heavy, hence the Roman tactic of fighting for short periods, with rapid rotation of troops in and out of the front lines.


The lorica segmentata.



While undoubtedly the greatest heavy infantry force of the ancient world, the Romans were weak in other areas, like cavalry and archers. This gap was filled by the auxilia. These were elite units attahced to the legions made up with specialists from the Romans allies and dependants, such as the Numidian light cavalry, Sarmatian heavy cavalry, Palmyran horse archers, Balearic slingers, Cretan archers, and various skirmishers. While paid less than the regular legionaries they were given land and full citizenship on completion of their service.


A Roman helmet.



The Romans had developed and copied a complex array of siege weaponry over the centuries, many of which were based on earlier Greek examples. These included battering rams and siege towers, but also much artillery. The largest form was the catapult, or onager, which literally means donkey due to its powerful kick. This was based on torsion power rather than a counterweight (these weapons, such as trebuchets were developed in the sixth century in Byzantium), and consisted of a fixed base, and an arm that was wound in twined hair or sinew. A sling was positioned at the end of the arm in which was usually placed a large stone ball for breaking down enemy walls and gates.



The Romans also used several dart firing weapons such as ‘scorpions’ for picking men off enemy walls, and the larger ballista, which was similar to a giant crossbow, up to 6 metres tall that could fire massive darts which could pierce two or three men at once. There were also repeating ballistas, that could fire several shots by having the handles constantly turned.





The legion was also accompanied by an array of support staff including surveyors, engineers, cooks, smiths, fullers, musicians and surgeons.


The discipline in the army was extremely harsh, with beatings, executions for desertion, and even decimation (execution of one in every 10 men) in extreme cases of cowardice.However, this helped to maintain order and morale. After all the military way of life could be extremely difficult, the pay was low and conditions difficult. When on the road a legionary was expected to carry all his weaponry, equipment and rations, which would have weighed almost 50kg, march 25 miles a day and at the end of each days march, stop and build a camp. Their discipline in the field however was exemplary, with a complex system of officers and signallers with horns, drums and trumpets, allowing them to make rapid changes in formation and combat.

The legionaries’ pay was quite low, about 900 sesterces a month, equivalent to that of a labourer, but was also subject to deductions for food and clothing. There was much opportunity for booty, and the capture of slaves in times of war, and good promotion prospects. The common soldier, or miles, could first be promoted to a decanus, then an optio (assistant to the centurion) or signifier (standard bearer), which were paid one and a half times the standard pay. The next step was the centurion. These had a high casualty rate as they lead from the front, but were an extremely important position, so would usually be filled by someone with many years experience. The centurions then made senior centurion of a cohort, i.e. Cohort Commander, then progressed through the cohorts, until they reached primus pilus, head of the first cohort, an exceedingly prestigious and well paid position. There would also be a camp prefect, who would be the next step up, and only second to the legate, or general, who would have come from the aristocracy, along with his lieutenants, the tribunes. Promotion was also possible to the praetorian guard, the emperors personal bodyguard, who were usually stationed in Rome and received three time the pay of a normal legionary.


Reforms of Diocletian and Constantine


The first two imperial dynasties were the Julio-Claudian (Augustus to Nero 31BC-69 AD) and the Flavian (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian 70AD- 96AD), which saw the birth and realisation of empire, followed by the golden age of the ‘five good emperors’ Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Pius Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius. After this the empire fell into decline with disease, usurpers and constant invasions, the so called crisis of the third century. After this Aurelian and Diocletian managed to pull the empire back together with a complete overhaul of the government and military, including the conversion to Christianity and division of the empire under Constantine. The Roman army underwent major reforms to deal with the new threats it faced, in particular from the Germans, Goths and Persians. These focused mainly on a new strategy of defence in deep.


The Antonine edict granting citizenship to everyone in the empire at the start of the third century had effectively ended the system of auxilia, as no-one needed to seek citizenship any longer, and this was replaced by the foederati allies and mercenaries.


Additionally the army was now divided into two types of forces. The borders were to be manned by lighter armed limitanae who could deal with the smaller threats, and these were backed up by mobile forces of comitansis, which were heavily armed groups with large cavalry contingents. This increase in cavalry was key to dealing with the threats posed by enemies who were themselves built around large cavalry forces, as the ancient world started to develop into the medieval style armies of knights. In addition to this the Roman soldiers were now equipped with longer Spanish pattern welded spatha type swords and wore chain mail and long trousers, additionally they now carried slightly smaller oval, rather than rectangular, shields. The pilae were also partially phased out, being replaced by the lighter and smaller plumbata, lead weighted darts which were easier to use and had a greater range, and, due to their size, could be carried in greater numbers, usually 3-5.


Two plumbatae.


The legions were now halved in size and often replaced by smaller detachments, leading to a much more complicated system, and making judgements as to the actual size of the later army almost impossible to make.


Why I Love Ancient Rome – By Anirudh Krishnamurthy


By Anirudh Krishnamurthy

I’ve always been an avid fan of history to a point where I can confidently say it is a passion.
Years were spent reading about the Egyptians, mesopotamia, catal hayuk and other great cities and civilisations but they all had that obvious flaw we all notice almost immediately – they lacked a concrete civilisation, by the real meaning of the word.
I remember at this time, for the first time ever, I had written ‘Ancient Rome’ on my whiteboard under ‘things to read’ and next to it – Everything. I had never done this before with anything else and somehow before I even started, it seemed as though I knew all along.
I first read about julius caesar, as any amateur would, and the battle of Alesia. It was astounding  – not just the sheer scale of the armies but the very original and brilliant tactic of the siege. It was then I realised that these weren’t any ordinary people – they were destined for greatness and if they had come so far from what I read about the persians and Egyptians , there must have been a history to this. And so I read more. I was lead to the empire and started reading about every single emperor, his family and his achievements. Our school curriculum was heavily focused on Indian history alone and so I had no opportunity to study them and so it was all done on my own. But it was done with an unforeseen vigour. I started watching documentaries every morning – my days in college would begin with me waking up, and starting a documentary before doing anything else. I was possessed. My roomate would question my sanity pretty often. But he couldn’t feel what I did. No one could. As a man from India it was hard to relate how significant each and every single thing I saw was to our world today. Even with English being the lingua franca and a west germanic language , so many latin origins were evident. So I started to dig further. And that’s when my world changed.
People often talk about the roman empire and pay no heed to what preceeded it. I took that step – I started to read about the republic – Senatus populusque romansque, S.P.Q.R.
The wars of the samnites, the wars with Veii, the concept of aqueducts, roads, bridges, the corvus used to hook ships and turn them into land battles which the Romans exceled in – it was all very sublime. For the next 5 to 6 months, I lived in my own world of centurions and triple acies, consuls and the Senate.
All this showed me certain things in life that could not be learnt elsewhere.
Yes it was true that the Greeks had thier plays and thier dramas and thier wars. It was true that Alexander conquered the known world.  But never had I seen such ideals – loyalty to the state, strict discipline in time of both peace and war. Importance of principles over self elevation. Stories like those of Titus Manilus torquatus who’s son defied strict orders on staying at his post paid for it with his head, despite him being perpetrated by his own son, giving rise to the phrase ‘Manilian discipline’.
These are ideals we don’t even see today. To see how civilised the Romans were in 300 B.C.E. and how we are almost 2000 years later shocked me. It was true they had thier superstitions. Publius decius Mus, for example, sacrificed himself in devotio during the battle of vesuvius so his army could win. They won.
Every triumphant general ended his parade at the temple of jupiter optimus maximus and sacrificed many animals to appease the gods. These were barbaric actions, sure. But what was it compared to scapism?
The S.P.Q.R logo today fills me with an unknown pride and rapt. The aquila inspires me with feelings that uplift me even in my darkest days. The sound of a sentence describing the legion or the victories or Rome fill me with indescribable enthusiasm.
I have never been to Rome. my pilgrimage; I describe it as to my friends – not a vacation but a trip associated with sanctity. The thought of walking through the same streets as marcus furius camillius, Manius curius dentatus, publius cornelius scipio, marcus porcius Cato fill me with feelings I cannot explain.
And even to this day, even though I don’t get as much time to read about Rome as I used to – I still utter a ‘jupiter give me strength’ now and then and it transports me back to a time when I could not read,write, see or hear anything other than Ancient Rome. This is why Rome means so much to me. I may not be from Italy. I may have never lived, seen or been to Rome. But it’s history is enough for me to know what a great civilisation  it was. Pray do not mistake it for infatuation,  for that is but a surface feeling. This is much more deeply ingrained. It maybe just a period in history- they just might be another link on a chain extending to us today – but my life would not be the same without it.
Roma Invicta!


Anirudh krishnamurthy


Why I love Ancient Rome – AARON PATEL

Sex, glory, violence and power. This is not a plot to the latest Hollywood film, but the adjectives to describe most fascinating era of antiquity – Ancient Rome.

All civilisations are fascinating in their own right, but it is Ancient Rome’s unrivalled mystery, advancement in technology, architecture, weaponry and expansion that for me make it the greatest civilisation to have ever existed.

Of course whilst controversial, I am drawn to the military dominance, the plunder of innocent peoples and the willingness to do whatever it takes for victory. All factors that contributed to the success of Rome.

Romulus killing his brother in founding the city on the Aventine Hill in 753 B.C and the Rape of the Sabine Women in 750 B.C demonstrated early on in Rome’s history how brutal she could be. It is this macabre allure that intrigues one initially. Whilst I appreciate it is immoral, the draw of violence is one that excites us today in popular culture.

The violence only increases in scale as Rome evolves and grows into a Republic and then the Roman Empire. It was a civilisation where the killing of men was a pastime, where kings, consuls and the emperors would embark on brutal campaigns of violence against their own people, and in the cases of Nero and Caracalla, their own family. Somewhat ashamedly this is the sadistic allure which attracts us to Ancient Rome and postulates the question about victory over morality, which we debate to this day.

Beyond the violence, there is the astonishment that surrounds Rome’s collective achievements. How did they manage to maintain such a large empire for so long? How did they discover concrete 2000 years before anyone else? It is for these advancements and countless that I regard Rome as the pinnacle.

There is though one outstanding draw from this period that stands out for me. I have always admired figures of power such as military generals and dictators. No doubt many of these individuals are tyrants, whose atrocities against human kind must not be forgotten, but for an individual to make their mark on history is something I am in awe of. In Ancient Rome, there are many who could be attributed to this, however one man stands out.  This man extended the Roman influence like none before him, he broke the rules, he has shaped the world we live in today before the religious figures, he was an unrivalled general, he crossed the Rubicon, he is Julius Caesar. He is the embodiment of the sex, glory, violence and power associated with Ancient Rome.