|oman Coin (Denarius of Antonius). Depicted is a legionary eagle between two standards. Inscription LEG(io) IV. ANU Classic Department Museum
(Green & Rawson 1981: 146).
he evolution of Roman loricae was driven by the needs and circumstances of the Roman Army. Armies of the 1st and 2nd centries A.D. were firmly established within the Empire and control fell solely under the auspices of the Emperor. Increasingly the main strength of the Roman army, up to thirty legions, was garrisoned on the frontiers. Only a token military force, the Praetorian Guard, remained in Rome (Bishop & Coulston 1989: 25). The military situation in this period was seldom dormant. In the 1st century, for example, the invasion of Britain (A.D.43) necessitated the reorganization of legions and auxiliaries over much of north-west Europe (Bishop & Coulston 1989: 25). Further reorganization occurred after the civil war of A.D.69, when the victorious Flavian dynasty dispersed disloyal units (Bishop & Coulston 1989: 25). As the Empire's expansion slowed, permanent borders were established. Auxiliaries patrolled the borders and legionaries were stationed within the frontiers to act as a strategic reserve and intimidate potentially rebellious provinces (Warry 1980: 193). The positions of the legions c.114 A.D. can be seen on the map below.
|This image was found at |
he army can be divided into two distinct parts: the legion and the auxilia, with a marked social divison existing between the two (Simkins 1994a: 6). Only Roman citizens could become legionaries, while auxilia were composed of non-citizens recruited from Rome's client states and federated tribes. A legion consisted of around 5,000 men (cohortal legion, after Marian reforms), mostly heavy foot soldiers:
...organized into ten cohorts of three maniples or six centuries each, except for the first cohort which had five centuries but twice the manpower of the others. [Each legion also had 120 cavalry] (Le Bohec 1994: 24).
The cohort emerged as the standard tactical unit (Bunson 1994: 228). However, it is only possible to attempt a rough estimate of the men who constitued a legion (see Table: Organization of Frontier Provincial Armies A.D.23). Each legion was distinguished numerically and by title. For instance First Minervian, Second Augustan. These legions were supported by the non-citizen auxilia consisting of infantry cohorts and cavalry (alae). It has been a long standing assumption that the legionary and auxiliary troops were equipped differently (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 206). This notion is based on evidence from a single source, Trajan's column, which shows clear distinctions between legionary and auxiliary equipment. Yet given the questionable nature of this representational evidence, Bishop and Coulston (1993: 206) argue that this impression can be considered contentious.
|DATE||NUMBER OF LEGIONS||TOTAL NUMBER OF MEN||REFERENCES|
probably too high)
Res Gestae Divi Augusti ,
ed. J.Gage, 1977
Tacitus, Annals IV, 5
CIL, VI, 3492
Historia Augusta, Sept. Sev, XXIII, J.Carcopino in Mel. R. Dussaud, 1939
|UNITS||OFFICERS||TYPES OF UNITS||NUMBERS OF UNITS||APPROXIMATE NUMBER OF MEN|
|1 army legate (senator)
1 tribune (senator)
1 camp prefect
5 tribunes (equestrian)
1 (?) six-month tribune
59 centurions of whom 1 primuspilus
1 prefect (equestrian)
1 prefect (equestrain)
1 prefect (equestrians)
TOTAL FRONTIER ARMY= 250,000
he question of the way in which the Roman army produced material to equip her armies is central to an understanding of cuirasses at the artefactual level (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 183). It is widely believed by antiquarians that armour was produced in workshops called fabricae, and that each legion had a fabrica to supply its weapons and building materials such as bricks (Le Bohec 1994: 219). However, industrial sites found at places such as Hofheim, Inchtuthil and Exeter can be only tentatively identified as fabrica for armour (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 184). This may mean that Principate forces operating beyond the Mediterranean urbanization, had to be self-sufficient, relying upon their own fabricae (Bishop & Coulston 1993: 186). Frontier workshops would have been isolated from central command. This may have lead to the greater diversity observed in Roman military equipment of the early imperial period. Craftsman may have been able to pursue their own particular tastes, and those of the market they served.
The early view put forward by historians such as Webster (1969: 122) was that the equipment issued to legionaries was remarkably uniform throughout the empire. However, the archaeological evidence does not support this theory, showing that a wide range of types and ages of equipment was in use at any one time. Peterson (1992: 36-37) argues that uniformity in the Roman army may have only extended to soldiers having their own servicable body armour, helmet, weapons and shield displaying a common unit emblem. Bishop and Coulston (1989: 25) suggest that in this period soldiers had to purchase their own equipment. The system encouraged the individual to be more respectful of their equipment by introducing a sense of personal responsibility. Most of this equipment may have been purchased from army stock, but soldiers may have been free to buy more elaborate or expensive items from private craftsmen (Bishop & Coulston 1989: 25). As this was probably beyond the economic means of most soldiers, individual cuirasses have been attributed only to soldiers of centurion rank or higher. Bishop (1985: 9) further proposes that military equipment could be sold back to the legions upon retirement or death of the owner, and therefore could be passed down to a number of different owners. He cites evidence of equipment which has been found with several owner inscriptions (see image CO1 & CO2). The cost of equipment would probably have forced recycling. In conjuction with the repair of damaged equipment may have meant that the life of an object could be expected to last for many years. These factors also suggest that the actual production of new equipment at any one time may have been fairly low (Bishop 1985: 9).
|CO1 - BRONZE|
|CO2 - HELMET|