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About Jimbow

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  1. Jimbow


    The Germans made great use of the spear in close quarters combat, which maybe influenced late Roman use of it as far more of the army was made up of non-Italians by then.
  2. Jimbow


    His theory on the large neckguard and reinforced shoulders has more to do with protection of the shoulders and upper back, the neckguard growing ever larger to do so. That is where his theory of the crouching stance came from, in that it gave a good practical reason for the enlargement of the neckguard over time. At least, that's what he said in his interview that I read. Another idea comes from Lendon in Soldiers and Ghosts. He uses sources to suggest that the legionary's role evolved into that more of a combat engineer, leaving the actual fighting to the auxilia, who were recruited more and more for their aggression in battle, while the citizen soldiers, the legionaries, were used more for siegework and engineering. He suggests that is why the downward profile of the helmet grew larger, to protect against missiles being thrown down. Trajan's Column does support the theory, as an example, as well as written accounts of battle towards the end of the 1st C AD. The Batavian auxilia are a good example of this, who held the legionaries in low regard, seeing them as whimps.
  3. I see your point, but he does back up his statements with examples from the sources. Combine that with the type of education the aristocracy went through (alluding to the Republican tribune), and the martial nature of Roman society, I feel his arguments stand up. Ross Cowan also uses similar sources to support his similar view, and C. Gilliver pointed out the value of virtus in the Roman soldier's psyche elsewhere. What I really like, and agree with, is the emphasis on how a Roman soldier behaved in battle, which goes against the "quiet disciplined ranks" traditionally thought of. His pointing out of how the more reckless elements in battle changed from tribunes to centurions and auxilia is also of great interest. Also, how competitive spirit was a great motivator, more akin to athletes than "close friends". His point about how grave stele are usually erected by actual family members, or similar ranks or specialists who knew the soldier, is a good one and quite surprising. Interestingly, usually not his contuburnia mates. Anyways, even if you don't agree with his views, as you say, it is a thoroughly well written book, and I feel a 'must read'.
  4. There are two important choices missing: 1 - Virtus and Disciplina 2 - Competition amongst the ranks I could suggest they were in fact the real reasons for the Roman Army's success, now I'm almost finished reading Soldiers and Ghosts, by J. E. Lendon.
  5. Jimbow

    What's Up With That?!

    So what? That doesn't mean education and training isn't necessary. I'd rather have a well-educated and well-trained aristocrat of moderate experience than an illiterate legionary with tons of battle experience leading my army. Again, there's more to winning a war than just sword-play. If you can't feed your army, you're done for. Centurions came from the ranks (as a general rule), but in order to reach that status they had had to be organisers and have a grasp of logistics; be leaders. There are examples of tribunes dithering or holding back when action was necessary, only to be superceded by the centurion who makes the decision for them (the most notable being the centurion guts the tribune and leads the men to victory, for which he is praised). More to the point, the Praefectus Castrorum had also come from the centurion ranks and was third in command of a legion, outranking the tribunes except the Tribunus Laticlavius. However, many Tribuni Angusticlavii could be career soldiers and command very effectively, and did engage in tactical command. They could also be quite fierce and were not shy of showing virtus and taking on the enemy in single combat, or committing acts of great bravery and daring. However, the second in command, the Tribunus Laticlavius was someone I would prefer not to be led by, due to his inexperience and the nature of his appointment. I dare say the Legate would prefer to take the advice of the other officers, and I also dare say the fathers of many newly appointed Tribuni Laticlavii, themselves probably having had such an experience, quietly told their sons to take great heed of the words of the other ranks mentioned before embarking on taking up his post
  6. Josephus, The Jewish War. Another: "Each soldier daily throws all his energy into his drill, as though he were in action. ..."
  7. Jimbow

    Late Roman Army

    One of the more cited reasons for doubting Vegetius is his account of the distance a Roman legion could march in a day, which many have deemed highly unlikely. However, a bunch of re-enactors had a lively discussion on that very subject and one had a "Eureka!" moment when he realised the Roman day was split between sunrise and sundown, unlike in modern times. Assuming Vegetius was thinking of campaign season (summer having the longest days) he was bang on with his estimate, after a whole bunch, including me, had been pacing up and down measuring how far we had marched in a given time and had done a lot of maths. Vegetius may not be as unreliable as many think, imho. Cheers, Jim.
  8. Actually, I thought the evidence was more rare in Britain than the rest of the Empire. Doubtful that the family would travel with the soldier in Republican times, as the soldier was often sent home after the campaign season to tend to his domestic affairs. Centurions were always allowed to marry and take their wives and children with them to their postings, and were even expected to take them it seems. Letters from Roman Egypt suggest when a centurion was assigned to a new posting his wife was responsible for the packing and following with the goods and chattels. Also, not just wives but family members. If a soldier's father died leaving him responsible for his mother, unmarried sisters, and even other relatives, it seems (according to the paper below) he would send for them and they would live in the vicus, should he have decided that just sending money was not enough. Even though the state at various times tried to dissuade this the evidence from tombstones shows the soldier often did it anyway as he was not willing to give up his duty. One tombstone at Ribchester suggests a soldier even felt responsible for his mother-in-law (Julius Maximus to Campania Dubitata). Women and the Roman Army in Britain, by L. Allason-Jones, which has an interesting re-examination of the evidence, questioning many previous interpretations of the evidence. Jim.
  9. It looks ever more likely that not only did a centurion's wife and children live in his barrack room (more a house really), but that in some cases the men were allowed to live with their unofficial spouses within the fort. A centurion's quarters have always been cited as being too small for a family, but they were in fact often larger than a middle class family home in the south of England at the time. Curiously, one of the reasons for a marriage being unable to be "official" could well have been a way for the state to not have to pay out a pension to the bereaved wife should the husband be killed in action. They were literally evicted should he die. Officers, as was mentioned, were the exception. "The Roman army as a community", ed. Goldsworthy and Haynes. Also, there were great benefits to the state from longterm service of the soldier, as he was a very handy source of labour for roadbuilding, construction, etc, which would enable growth and maintenance of the Roman infrastructure. They probably spent more time building than destroying. Jim.
  10. Petronius tells a story of a soldier and a friend (not a soldier) travelling to a distant village. The soldier turns into a werewolf, but that is not the point. Although he was travelling with someone else, he was the only soldier and was not with another group of soldiers. I don't think, as a rule, soldiers had to move in groups when going on leave or transferring. The exception was when in territory deemed hostile, as told by Seneca (e.g. Syria), and even then it was only in pairs. If two was the exception, then one must have been the norm. Note that after enrollment into the army the troops were sent home to see their families and take care of family business before regrouping to join their legions, which must have meant they travelled alone in at least some cases if not most. They had to take an oath to return, which I think was a much more serious matter then than now, and even then they could be late provided the reasons were serious enough. Cheers, Jim.
  11. Jimbow

    Roman Navigation

    Pretty much, I believe?
  12. The helmets in the Dacian Wars were the usual Gallic and Italic types of the late 1st C. The crossbracing were simple iron rods riveted across the top, usually in the field I believe, and probably the crests discarded. They were not the later "cavalry types" (although just as feasibly they were legionary types). It seems the manica was felt unnecessary until they went to war with Dacia, and the Romans had done pretty well up until then. Greaves had fallen out of use for the common trooper as well a long time before, so their re-introduction is a definite indication leg injuries were a factor. I think the main problem was the reach around of the falx due to its shape, which enabled the Dacians to get one in around the scutum and over the back (with the top of the helmet in the way), combined with the height of the Dacians themselves. Just as well they were fighting the Dacians then, and not each other.
  13. The almost overnight adoption (in historical terms) of greaves, a manica, and cross-bracing to the top of the helmet are the likeliest clues. Cheers, Jim.
  14. At one point legionary applicants had to pass (generally) a medical examination by (usually) 3 physicians. After a tough and rigorous basic training the training continued every day for the rest of their careers (give or take). On top of this, they were made to march emulating a campaign march every few weeks. The combat and physical training never let up, and I doubt general regional physiques had too much to do with it even if applicable. The men themselves gathered courage from their training and experience when faced with a new and frightening enemy (guess who usually won). The Dacians were generally taller and fierce inflicting dreadful wounds with the falx, but they adapted their armour and carried on (we know who won there). Read Josephus for his comments on their stamina and relentless training, which he believed guaranteed them victory almost every time, rightly or wrongly. Pertinax's comment on stabbing versus slashing is bolstered by the volley of pila which would incapacitate much of the enemy's shield defence, bearing in mind it is estimated by some that there were only four seconds between the pila volley and the Romans crashing into the stalled enemy. I doubt it matters how big they are, so long as you've softened them up first and given them no time to recover. New tactics and methods were also adopted on the go, as seen with the formation of the cohortes equitates, thought up by a centurion who saw a need for foot troops to go in with the cavalry and soften up enemy cavalry that the Roman cavalry were having problems with up until then. Young and flighty troops were chosen and trained in dismounting from the back of a horse in no time at all (I think it was a siege scenario under Arrian). It worked and the centurion was commended. So even when they were bested they had the flexibility to come up with, and act on, a solution whilst in the thick of it. Sorry, I don't have the actual source references to hand. Cheers, Jim.
  15. Jimbow


    Very highly I see your point on this, and I much agree. Connolly actually reconstructs a lot of the kit himself I believe, and puts it through trials to try to see how it could have been used. He is also fairly outspoken and independent imho, which I think gives him more credence. I have to say I'm not really in a position to fault him, but I can give you a nice example of one of his theories which makes absolute sense once heard: The large helmet neckguard. When seen initially I thought "Aha, to protect from the rear!" Wrong, if you accept Connolly's theory, and here's why I like him so much (as well as being an illustrator); The neckguard is to protect from frontal attack. In a nutshell, your average Roman soldier is in a formation based on frontal assault, and by far the best fighting stance for him to take is to cover behind the large scutum, crouch low and stab with the gladius. However, this leaves a vulnerability from often taller adversaries with longer swords that are usually used to slash and cut (the extreme examples are the Dacians). This means the upper back is vulnerable, and that's why Connolly believes the neckguard was adapted and enlarged from the shorter Gallic type, which is where their helmets were plageurised from, It's essentially an extra layer of armour for there. Once the segmentata was introduced in Augustus' reign (9 BC so far) I think the weakspot was identified and the adaptation was made to the Gallics (and Coolus'), bearing in mind the hamata had a double layer over the shoulders and, importantly, across the whole upper back. In a nutshell the guy's inspiring Thanks very much, no problem. I can talk about Peter Connolly 'til the cows come home I have most of his books, and I love the straightforward approach, and the superb illustrations which, don't forget, he also painstakingly researches, sometimes building models to get it right, over a long period of time.