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caldrail

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Posts posted by caldrail


  1. Part of this issue is the current trend in the media which has lasted for a couple of decades now to highlight similarities between our time and the Roman era. That's all well and good, but it ignores the more important differences.

    As much as Trump likes to praise his country and citizens for strength, success, and world respect (one has to recognise a certain degree of political spin in that), America is a - from our perspective at least - a deeply divided nation that is trying to on the one hand to promote devisive issues yet limit their division on society. One could say something similar about Britain I guess, but the issues are somewhat more polarised in America. Ethnic and cultural presence, historical identities, isolationism, and all the modern 'rights'. it is very notable that the American press still defines their civil war of the 19th century in terms of slavery which study reveals to be an issue that was not at the heart of many combatants, nor was Abraham Lincoln the freedom activist he's commonly portrayed as (which proves how successful political spin can be).

    The issue of parallels however is more interesting because what we recognise is not necessarily situational but actually behavioural. Instinctively we tend to empathise, rightly or wrongly, with the mtives and actions of Romans, seeing these parallels not because of what they actually did or the circumstances that drove them to act, but instead the emotions and reactions familiar to us in our daily lives. Their emphasis was different. Their cultural boundaries also. But they were human beings, thus we recognise them.


  2. it doesn't seem likely to me. Money was a major factor in Roman society from the beginning of the Republican period - it was how status was graded. Although patricians weren't supposed to muddy their hands in tawdry business deals they naturally used proxies, allies, freedmen, or slaves, to do that for them. The economy of Rome was faltering toward the end and corruption was, as ever, the bugbear of this money-mad system. However, the 'fall' of Rome was more complex. It had elements of weakening military power, diluted public patriotism/identity, and a considerable lack of determination. Sermons from the late empire describe Romans (in exaggeration of course) as lazy, hedonistic, corrupt, even cowardly. I prefer the argument made below....

     

    In the end, though, all the countless pages of speculation about why the border collapsed, paticularly in the west, amount to one simple fact: the empire grew old. Adapt though it might, its mechanisms for dealing with with change gradually became set and atrophied, its military 'immune system' needed more and more help from outside, and finally - faced with new generations of vigorous neighbours, who had borrowed from the empire what they needed to give their political system and their cultures strength and coherence - it died of old age.

    The Empire Stops Here (Philipp Parker)

     


  3. Before we get carried away with the colour purple, there was no official ruling that 'Emperors' should have a purple toga, though purple was a privilege of the elite classes - an expensive one mind you. Senators had a broad purple stripe on their toga, and red dye was often used to simulate purple by excessive use.

    There was of course no actual job called 'Emperor'. When an individual asserted himself via politics, subterfuge, or simply marched in with an army, he was made the highest in social status - I cannot stress enough how important that was, because the Romans were intensely sensitive to their privileges and status. They would receive magisterial powers, possibly even posts in actuality, and normally recieve a military honour of Imperator, or 'Victorious General'. In fact, they liked the latter title so much they tended to use it to describe the collective authority they wielded, so much so that the word became synonymous with power and from it we derive the word Emperor in modern times - but Emperor and Imperator are actually two different things.

    Caligula for instance attended the games on one occaision and in the visitor VIP stand opposite, he saw a foreign king wearing a very impressive purple cloak. Deeply envious and offended, he had the hapless monarch executed for his indiscretion.


  4. One should not paint Roman legions with modern expectations. Whilst some of their behaviour was utterly predictable and quite similar to modern militaries, there were aspects that are quite different. Enslavement was a loss of humanity in one sense and marked one for life. The legions would not recruit former or runaway slaves and dire punishments awaited those found to have lied about their social status. When Augustus raised emergency forces from manumitted slaves in ad9, regular legionaries would not serve alongside these third class troops, and they were not armed with regular Roman equipment deliberately.

    The question of contract gladiators - this became a common practice for those seeking fame, fortune, or to avoid debt by desperate means. Nonetheless, gladiators were slaves, even the temporary ones. It is entirely possible that an ex-gladiator joined up here and there - I doubt he would have broadcast his past. You do raise an interesting point on this as there is bound to be something of a grey area. Roman slave law wasn't exactly simple either as the questions of status and rights got hugely complex from the Principate onward.

    Of course there would have been contests between soldiers being the aggressive competitive types that successful colonisers produce. But keep it in context. An arm wrestle between two soldiers out on the booze isn't going to offend anyone. Gymnastics? Isn't that getting a little Greek? Trust me, Roman military practice was sufficient to keep them fit. A weekly route march, twice daily at the palus with heavier practice swords and shields, and if we believe Josephus, staged brawls in formation to build character as much as physical condition. Add to that the possibility of hard physical labour all day if a local civil engineering project required lots of manual labourers the contractors could not afford. having said that, the typical Roman soldier was keen to avoid physical stuff as much as he could, usually by bribing his centurion (this was later frowned upon but never stopped. In fact, the practice of bribing a centurion for extra leave was later countered by a bonus paid to the centurion for any of his soldiers sent on leave officially)

    Don't be misled by Vegetius. His De Re Militaris is often described as a manual - it wasn't anything of the sort. he wrote a treatise about what the legions should be doing, after finding lots of good but unique examples of activity in the histories he had available (better than ours, for completeness if not accuracy). He says as much in the preface.


  5. Roman legionaries fought in specific styles. If we consider legionaries of the Gallic Wars, then they are using a weapon in the right hand - either a pilum or a gladius, as required - and a tall rectangular shield in the other. The shield is not exactly light, and Roman soldiers were punished if they dropped it. Of course the shield might well be used to impact an opponent, or if the soldier is quick witted enough, possibly even the edge might have seen some creative use unless the ranks were still well ordered.

    In that era, soldiers were quite rigid in formation, always standing shoulder to shoulder with training to stab with the gladius at the face, legs, or lower torso of their opponent using the gap between shields (a more open style of fighting was a later development). I suppose in desperation or aggression soldiers might well try anything especially  if seperated from their companions, but Arrian records a fight between legions in which pushing and stabbing went on for a while before both units withdrew a short distance to regain their breath (where's the balletic changeover depicted in Rome?), before rushing back into the fray, neither side relenting, repeating this until one or the other side broke due to exhaustion or casualties.

    Some fighting tricks were taught by gladiators, and some moves were added to the standard canon such as a kneeling upward thrust, but remember the context of the legionaries equipment and fighting styles. 


  6. Is that situation so unusual? When the Romans came to write the histories of their earliest times, they filled in the details themselves. Since their earliest history was unknown to them except the remembrance of major events, they constructed the past in the image of the world they knew. And if you care to notice, Roman writings are full of speeches credited to one historical individual or another but written by the book's author. Roman writers were keen to record the rise of their civilisation and lives of the famous, much as we would today, but they also wanted to write entertaining works that people wanted to read and praise the writer for. How much of Roman history can we be sure of? Truth is, we don't have much to corroborate it. We really are forced to take their word for things by and large.


  7. My advice is to wary of those preaching organisation and modernesque paradigms. The Romans managed to supply their troops quite well, but note their are plenty of examples of where their organsiation failed. I'm thinking of Caesar in Africa. He had arranged for a re-supply by ship, but despite waiting at the destination for a while, the ships never came. He was forced to move on to allow his troops something to forage. The idea that Romans used supply lines in modern fashion is quite wrong. Nonetheless, the subject is fascinating.


  8. What do we mean by brutality? At what point does the infliction of harm become gratuitous? Do we judge brutality by modern morality or the expectations of ancient Roman society? It's important to begin this short overview from a known perspective because our judgements on the conduct of Rome are not entirely objective.

     Rome is sometimes seen as the template for tyrannical imperialism. This is difficult to reconcile with the opinions and sentiments expressed by the Roman writers themselves, and indeed, seems to be based on little more than familiarity with the ideological tyrannies of more recent times. David Potter, author of Origins of Empire, describes Rome as "the most successful multi-ethnic, multi-cultural state in the history of Europe and the Mediterranean". Rome was a society that espoused moral values and austere lifestyles. A society that considered itself the epitome of civilisation. In much the same way we do today, as an expression of patriotic self-esteem. It was also an ambivalent society, for when wealth allowed, Romans enjoyed flouting their norms.

     Let's be quite clear about this - brutality is part of human behaviour, as undesirable as many of us would ordinarily see it as. Our modern societies try to protect citizens by legislation and law enforcement, but the infliction of arbitrary and excessive harm is nonetheless something that lurks among us.

     It lurked among the Romans too. Some might claim that it was much more overt than that, and to be fair, one would have to admit the extent of their brutality is notorious. I'm not going to dwell on the reports of individuals. As colourful and horrifying some of the antics that Roman caesars got up to might be, they represent a very tiny example of behaviour, one that distorts the overall picture. So therefore I put the Roman Empire on trial for brutality, judged by the common morality we share.

      

    The Roman Legions

    By far the biggest culprit were the common soldiers of Rome. In writings of the late republic and principate, one readily picks up the idea that Rome desired tough disciplined soldiers, able to follow orders without argument, able to withstand the rigours of campaigning, and to be frank - able to ram a sword into man, woman, or child without hesitation. It follows that a man prepared to be so violent isn't likely to be particularly well behaved. The Romans understood that.

     As it happens, Roman legions were often a disagreeable lot. They did argue with orders and were far closer to mutiny than modern armies would tolerate. Even the charismatic Julius Caesar had to ask his soldiers for consent to continue a war during the campaign against his rivals. At the death of Augustus, legions in Pannonia and Germania mutinied after being allowed time off to mourn or celebrate, seeking resolution of the harsh treatment and injustice they received daily.

     

     Heaven knows, lashes and wounds are always with us! So are hard winters and hard working summers, grim war, and unprofitable peace.

    Speech of Precennius - Annals (Tacitus)

     

    Nothing new there, Tacitus tells us. Harsh lives make harsh men. Roman legionaries would expect booty to reward their efforts at war, and their commanders were only too willing to please them by providing such opportunities.

     

    If there is a requisition and a soldier siezes your donkey, let it go. Don't resist and don't grumble. If you do, you will be beaten and you will still lose your donkey.

    Letters collected by Arrian (Epictetus)

     

    By tradition, a Roman soldier swore an oath not to steal from his comrades on campaign. Oaths may have been a serious business but they didn't always deter. Frontinus records in Stratagems that one commander, either especially stern or exasperated, ordered that any soldier caught stealing would have his right hand cut off. By tradition, a dishonoured legion undergoes a decimation - one man in ten is randomly selected and beaten to death by his colleagues. Brutality serves as a deterrent.

     

    Tough On The Streets

    Where human beings congregate in large urban enviroments, the levels of violence begin to rise. Rome was no exception. A certain level of thuggery was accepted, as young men of good families would roam the streets at night looking for people to beat up. But this sort of behaviour would be more or less restricted to the virile and testosterone driven male gangs. It seems unlikely that all young men behaved in this way.

     

    Your drunken bully who has by chance not slain his man passes a night of torture like that of Achilles when he bemoaned his friend, lying now upon his face, and now upon his back; he will get no rest in any other way, since some men can only sleep after a brawl. Yet however reckless the fellow may be, however hot with wine and young blood, he gives a wide berth to one whose scarlet cloak and long-retinue of attendants, with torches and brass lamps in their hands, bid him keep his distance. But to me, who am wont to be escorted home by the moon, or by the scant light of a candle whose wick I husband with due care, he pays no respect. Whether you venture to say anything, or make off silently, it's all one: he will thrash you just the same, and then, in a rage, take bail from you. Such is the liberty of the poor man: having been pounded and cuffed into a jelly, he begs and. prays to be allowed to return home with a few teeth in his head! Nor are these your only terrors. When your house is shut, when bar and chain have made fast your shop, and all is silent, you will be robbed by a burglar; or perhaps a cut-throat will do for you quickly with cold steel.

    Satires (Juvenal)

     

    But despite this potentially violent enviroment, there was also a curiosity among bystanders. Plutarch records how people rushed to the senate house to see the fallen body of Julius Caesar (and rushed away equally quickly just in case). There were of course occaisions when strong feelings arouse the citizens to anger. Riots were always a threat to the powerful in Rome because those caught by them might well be beaten to death, such as the fate of Cleander in the reign of Commodus. Little wonder then that the rulers of Rome were keen to divert the Roman mob with public entertainment.

     

    Sports And Games

    Without a doubt a major unifying element of the Roman Empire was the spread of games. Swordfights were performed for public entertainment with a very real risk of death or injury. Although fights to the death existed, the professional bout consisted of two men fighting with referees and rest periods until one or the other could not continue, his fate a decision of the games editor based more often than not on the mood of the crowd.

     

    In the morning men are thrown to the lions and the bears; but it is the spectators they are thrown to in the lunch hour.

    Letters (Seneca)

     

    It does the people good to see that even slaves can fight bravely. If a mere slave can show such courage, what then can a Roman do? Besides, the games harden a warrior people to sights of carnage and prepares them for battle.

    Letters (Cicero)

     

    The traditional swordfight with an honourable decision over the fate of those who could not continue was one thing; by the late empire, this had transmuted to displays of fighting designed to wound as a means of heightening drama. Little wonder that some experts feel that the gladiatorial games had lost their purpose in Roman society, or that Augustine records the addiction of a newbie spectator to watching violence .

    The Romans enjoyed other sports that carried a brutal edge. Boxing, where the bandages that protected the hand evolved into metal gloves designed to punish the opponent. The Pankration, or Greek wrestling, where there are only two rules to obey - no biting and no gouging of eyes - which got ignored in the heat of combat.

    Animals were slaughtered by the wagonload to thrill the public for as long as the supply of animals was practicable and affordable. At first for novelty, later for spectacle, and finally to demonstrate the power of Rome over nature. The extraordinary numbers of animals slaughtered in the arena is mind numbing, driving some species to regional extinction - something the Romans themselves were well aware.

     

    Slavery

    Another evil of human behaviour is the ownership of others. The problem has never entirely gone away despite the various moral advances in history. In ancient times, it was simply how life was. The Romans had mixed feelings about their possessions which were legally en par with animals. Some saw them as merely 'talking tools', others more willing to permit something approaching humane treatment. It was true that wealthy owners liked to free as many slaves as they could, in order to show how generous and humane they were, but one suspects a more expedient attitude was the motive.

    On the one hand, rural and industrial slaves might expect a short hard life, pushed to physical extremes and exposed to unhealthy enviroments. Others might be valued companions, loyal employees, teachers for their children, or entertainers to please the family and guests.

     

    The slaves engaged in the operation of the mines secure for their masters profit in amounts which are almost beyond belief. They themselves are however physically destroyed, their bodies worn down by working in the mine shafts both day and night. many die because of the excessive maltreatment they suffer. they are given no rest or break from their toil, but rather are forced by the whiplashes of the overseers to endure the most dreadful of hardships; thus do they wear out their lives in misery.

    The History of the World  (Diodorus Siculus)

     

    Poor Psecas, whose own hair has been torn out by her mistress, and whose clothes has been ripped from her shoulders and breasts by her mistress, combs and styles her mistress' hair. "Why is this curl so high?" the mistress screams, and at once a whipping punishes Psecas for this crime of the curling iron and sin of a hairstyle.

    Satires (Juvenal)

     

    In one case, a slave had killed his master. Law demanded that all the household slaves should be executed as well.

     

    However, a crowd of protestors , trying to protect so many innocent lives, gathered and began to riot. They besieged the senate house. Within the senate house, some senators were anxious to eliminate excessive cruelty, but the majority were of the opinion that nothing should be changed.

    Annals (Tacitus)

     

    Sadly the outburst of popular support for the plight of the slaves achieved nothing - Nero enforced the rules.

     

    Conclusion

    We have to accept that brutality exists in human societies. In any such society, there is a general level of behaviour that is either tolerated or unsuppressed. Clearly this operates in both ancient and modern eras. Roman law was a reactive process, because free men had the right to free will and self determination. If you chose to exceed acceptable behaviour, then you were liable for punishment, if you were caught or brought to justice.

    However this means that men in authority were able to exercise whatever brutality they believed they could get away with. No doubt most maintained some semblance of moral behaviour, others were willing to test the boundaries, especially if far from close inspection. Yet much of this impression is based on reports of individuals such as badly behaved patricians and emperors. The Roman writers use the stories of brutality to describe the vices of an individual, to show what a villain he was, and one suspects that a great deal of this is exaggerated for dramatic effect.

    Seneca records his dismay at arena violence. Cicero records that a man was better off doing something useful than sat idly watching fights. And as much as we abhor the idea of gladiators fighting to potential death or injury for public entertainment, it was also recorded that these men were only too keen to please their masters, illustrating that violence is a part of the human psyche and sometimes socially acceptable.

    So - was Rome a brutal society? By design the Roman Empire was a benign state that allowed its diverse population to prosper in a spirit of competition and opportunity, a society with avenues for social advancement in spite of strict class divisions, a society that respected local customs as equally valid as Roman law, but it also had a greater capacity for greed and cruelty than we would allow. Brutality served a purpose in the Roman world, a tool that the ruthless found expedient. In other words....

     

    What do you think I mean? I mean that I come home more greedy, more ambitious, more voluptuous, and even more cruel and inhuman - because I have been among humans.

    Letters (Seneca)

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  9. Whilst I was on holiday I saw a television broadcast of a dramatised documentary about Boudicca's rebellion against Rome in AD60. Entertaining stuff, however biased toward the Roman account, which is admittedly our only source and written back in the day to conform to their readers expectations of an interesting and dramatic anecdote. But as I watched, I realised the presenter was making fundamental errors about Rome's provincial policies.

     

    In short, I hereby examine three statements made during the program.

     

    1 - That Rome ruled by violence and oppression

    2 - That Rome relied on the invincibility of her army

    3 - That the rebellion illustrates the truth of what life was like under Roman rule.

     

    1 - Rome ruled by violence and oppression

    This is a common conception. Rome is seen as a monolithic nation state that assimilates populations to produce indentikit citizens with a generation or two.

     

    This was simply not so. Rome was at heart a city state with influence over a network of territories of varying status and native populations owing them loyalty and taxes. it is true that many regions were brought into the empire via conquest of one sort or another, but let's not forget that the realm of Iceni was a client state that Rome expected to inherit.

     

    Tacitus tells us that...

     

    The imperial agent Caisu Decianus, horrified by the catastrophe and his unpopularity, withdrew to Gaul. It was his rapacity which had driven the province to war

    Annals (Tacitus)

     

    Imperial agent? So Decianus was there at the orders of Nero to make sure the man the Senate had sent to make sure the province was doing fine, was doing fine. Whilst the habit of being rapacious, greedy, clumsy, and brutal was an unfortunate tendency of senior Romans in Provincial assignment, clearly not all of them were. Therefore violence and oppression was a policy pursued by individual Romans at their discretion rather than any tyrannical regime the Romans had foisted upon the unfortunate Britons. But then, the Romans didn't like tyrants all that much, never mind the Britons.

     

     

    2 - Rome relied on the invincibility of her army

    Rome's legions were not invincible and they knew it. The sources contain many references to utter defeats and indeed, some describe one legion or another as barely resembling a military unit at all. But let's read what Tacitus says about a military mission to relieve the sack of Camulodunum.

     

    The Ninth Roman legion, commanded by Quintus Perilius Cerialus Caesius Rufus, attempted to relieve the town, but was stopped by the victorious Britons and routed. its entire infantry force were massacred, while the commander escaped to his camp with his cavalry and sheltered behind its defenses.

    Annals (Tacitus)

     

    Oh dear. The commander ran away with his horsemen, perhaps two or three percent of a full strength legion. How invincible was that?

     

     

    3 - That the rebellion illustrates the truth of what life was like under Roman rule.

    The 'savage' Britons ran riot, attacking Londinium, Veralumium, and eventually meeting another legionary force under the senatorial governor Suetonius, at the Battle of Watling Street. Tacitus kindly gives us the speech made by Boudicca - which is clearly invented since no-one would have recorded it for the benefit of a Roman historian. The Britons lose, and Boudicca is said to have poisoned herself - a standard Roman style fate. Nero sends replacements for the casualties suffered by the Ninth Legion. And hot off the boat is Decianus' replacement.

     

    Still the savage British tribesmen were disinclined for peace, especially as the newly arrived Imperial Agent Gaius Julius Alpinus Classicianus, successor to Caius Decianus, was on bad terms with Suetonius, and allowed his personal animosities to damage the national interests.

    Annals (Tacitus)

     

    Should have all been sorted. Calmly, confidently, and decisively. But as happens in these anecdotes of Roman disorder, personality is the flaw rather than politics. Nero senses things aren't working out, and sends his freedman Polyclitus to investigate, who travelled with a seriously large entourage that stretched the patience of Italy and Gaul. it even intimidated the Roman legions. The Britons were, by all accounts, quite amused.

     

    But all this was toned down in Polyclitus' reports to the emperor. Retained as governor, Suetonius lost a few ships and their crews on the shore, and was then superseded for not terminating the war. His successor, the recent consul Publius Petronius Turpilianus, neither provoking the enemy nor provoked, called this ignoble inactivity peace with honour.

    Annals (Tacitus)

     

    One imperial agent ran away, his replacement pursued intrigue rather than the rebels.. The senatorial governor got the sack, his replacement did nothing until the leaderless rebels gave up.

     

     

    Conclusion

    The television presenter stopped at the defeat of Boudicca, describing Rome as a tyranny that trampled rebellions with violence and oppression. What Tacitus describes is a catalogue of folly. Greed, cowardice, intrigue, indecisiveness, and clumsiness. The war is not won, merely left to fizzle out.

     

    Violence and oppression? Truth was the Romans were too busy making mistakes.


  10. I suppose a lot would depend on how the stunt was being presented. Is it a prisoner sent to his doom? Or a genuine stunt to thrill and wow the crowd by a daring athlete? The former requires failure in the most horrible terms possible, the latter requires absolute success. Either would please the crowd in context. And just to add spice, some hungry wolves or big cats roaming below (a venator could polish them off in the following event). But it strikes me that horses are being risked here. Expensive and valuable animals. Also the charioteer is riding a ceremonial chariot which is too heavy for the stunt (actually, a racing chariot, despite being light enough, would not be strong enough). I wonder if the horse would refuse the jump? Of course, it could be morning entertainment and therefore a comedy item :D

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  11. The Romans were very concious of social status, far more than we are today, and this permeated their military system too, so your idea of grading authority into categories does indeed equate to their system. The only caveat is that you observe the anomalies, such as Optio. It means "Chosen Man", and for a reason. Romans were usually literal about titles. Originally a centurion could choose his right hand man. Not an ordinary promotion, as technically any soldier deemed suitable was eligible. Later the post-Augustan tribunes chose men and foisted them on centurions. Note however the style of command. The centurion is boss, top dog, and runs his command as his. The Optio is there to back him up and watch his back as well. It's very direct, a hangover of the distant past where Praetores "Leaders"  led gangs of men on raids and ambuscades. There's little breakdown of command at all and indeed, small unit tactics are a modern thing and certainly something Roman soldiers would be shy of - safety in numbers. Some responsibilities however could be placed on others, so we have for instance one title Tesserarius which has a limited authority. One might well see this policy as common sense, because whilst the Romans preferred to keep command as simple as possible, a centurion could not be everywhere at once, yet at the same time giving power to lower orders was for them inherently dangerous - note the propensity for rebellion and mutiny that bribes, leave, and stern discipline held off.


  12. A settlement that reached a certain status (I'm not sure which, but I'm assuming it was civitas) was allowed a local senate to conduct admin/government - remember that the empire was not centrally governed nor was it territorial in nature, but focused on settlements.. Although Rome had the final word as it were, provinces were governed internally on local/regional matters. Governors were not ruling the province per se, but represented the final word in both Roman and native law, and generally did little governing other than to exploit the region for personal profit - note the Roman policy of assimilating local rulers to plug into the Roman network to exploit the existing chains of loyalty.


  13. I would urge some caution because the idea the Romans employed 'ranks' in the same manner as we do today is merely a convenient assumption. Most of the titles you will find are not referring to levels of authority but instead refer to specific roles. I have written a good deal about this on the internet but people generally prefer a modernesque view - it's more familiar and comfortable for them intellectually.

    However, I would point out that the modern pyramidical system evolved from the use of gunpowder on the battlefield. The Roman system was not based on levels of authority but status and role. For instance, NCO's (my favourite gripe). Such ranks are often classed along with the principales but the latter denote soldiers with 'principal' jobs on double pay, and as yet, I don't know of anyone who has posted or published a convincing table of ranks for the legions. 

    Roman society is not strictly differentiated from military guise, thus the most senior plebian class equite are traditionally those able to purchase horses and form cavalry. The senior officer classes in fact were not career roles at all, with politicians servuing in the military for experience and qualification for future political careers (which might involve having to take temporary command of military forces). It is of course also true that a proportion of patricians saw military service as a safer alternative to a political career in Rome and were quite happy to serve for long periods on the frontier.

    Important that you should note that promotion was not so straightforward as merit in the modern system. A soldier might take ten or fifteen years to be considered for the centurionate, a class apart from the men they led. Their internal ranks denote status - a soldier did not address a centurion as 'Primus Pilus', but simply as 'Centurion'. Did soldiers salute? Not like today. In fact the sources suggest that salutations were ad hoc rather than required by military discipline. 

    One did not get promoted to senior officer status ordinarily - too much societal and political influence over that sector, though I have to confess there are recorded instances of a very small minority who achieved such advancement, but they did so in spite of the system, not because of it.

    In general, it should be noted that in the modern world role and authority are seperate. In the Roman era, they are not seperated. A modern soldier can be any rank, Private, Sergeant, Captain, or General, and maintain that rank whatever task the army gives him. In the Roman legion, your title is your task with appropriate status and authority attached.

    Fod for thought then. You will no doubt interpret things as you find them, but always beware of putting togas on the modern world. We are not Roman.


  14. Settlements in the Roman Empire were rewarded for emulation of Rome, by tax breaks, concessions, or whatever. Sometimes a settlement would be awarded a higher status. At a certain level, a settlement could create its own Senate, but this was rarely achieved outside of Italy (whose partially independent tribal regions all had traditional rights to self rule, despite subsequent incorporation by the Empire)


  15. The Pomerium was a religious area traditionally said to be contained within the original boundaries made by Romulus at the founding of the city. There was no wall, just markers to show where it extended. I'm not aware of any Pomerium attached to other cities because although the Romans rewarded emulation of Roman society, there was only one Romulus. There were laws governing the Pomerium but I don't know of anyone who directly controlled it (Surely this would be against tradition in Republican Rome?), For instance, holders of imperium (basically a license to control and lead armies) did not have full power within the Pomerium, nor were weapons allowed within it. Soldiers would not appear in military guise within the boundaries for fear of losing their status as legionaries because they transgressed the law.


  16. Interesting. That more or less confirms the suspicions I have of people trying to make diagnoses on the basis of classical sources. It seems any behaviour not considered calm and logical is in some way a disorder. One might suggest why the diagnosis is being attempted on the basis of that alone.

    We are social animals. Like other species so blessed with complex relationships, our motives vary both in scope and intensity. Some individuals are more benevolent, others malignant. Some lash out, others are more calculating. I'm reminded of a documentary following a pack of chimpanzees. It involved the activities of one female who murdered other chimp's babies whilst she had none of her own, and at one point, even consoled a bereft mother. My contention is that there is no fixed standard of behaviour. We are subject to deviation according to many factors and it's another case of the bell curve. A happy average, with extremes in a very minor presence at each end.

    Truth is, everyone thinks they're sane or normal - of course they do, because otherwise their self-esteem is challenged and what other detailed frame of reference do we have but our own internal conceptualisations?

    But regarding this thread, what made Caligula crazy? Idle gossip and barbed writing. Not that I think he was a happy average man - far from it.


  17. I really dislike this 'disease' paradigm. I've sen all sorts of preposterous ailments put forward for just about every notable historical character that attempts to justify why he was so colourful. It seems to be a facet of human psychology that some seek diverse answers that sound clever and satisfy a need for diversity in thinking. I'm not convinced at all. The Roman sources are very keen to point out character flaws and love anecdotes of odd behaviour. The truth is that humanity is not quite sane and sensible. In any modern society you will find plenty of oddballs and powerful maniacs. It's that oddness that helps propel someone to positions of note - those of us less able to tolerate or exhibit unconventional behaviour do seem to find something beyond their conformity hard to understand. it's why they remain among the faceless crowd whilst those prepared to be different take centre stage. It happens in all walks of life. But necrotic viruses eating people? Strange mental conditions causing aggression and domination? It's all hokum.

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