Two rare and invaluable references on the Roman Army in a single volume—Illustrated With 109 Pictures, Photographs & Diagrams
This useful and concise book concerning the Roman military machine contains two invaluable works on the subject. The first work principally features monotone illustrations of the development of the Roman soldier and his equipment throughout the centuries of the Roman Empire by the Anglo-French artist Sir Amédée Forestier (1854-1930), who specialised in the portrayal of historical figures and scenes. Forestier’s drawings are particularly useful to the modern student of the subject since his research references were taken directly from source material and were executed before the influence of modern illustrator’s interpretations of the ancient world. Forestier’s contribution is supported in this volume with an academic view of every aspect of the Roman way of waging war by Sir Henry Stuart Jones (1867-1939), Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford and Camden Professor of Ancient History. This is a thorough appraisal and is particularly useful in its descriptions and diagrams of variations of Roman military encampments. This second work is supported by line drawings and photographs of monuments which also offer useful source material to students of the period.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
Even in their remote garrison posts the Roman soldiers did not forego the amenities of civilized life. There was probably not a fort without its suite of baths. These balnea are occasionally found inside the castellum, but much more commonly in an ‘annexe’, itself as a rule defended by rampart and ditch. In these ‘annexes’—of which there are as many as three attached to the fort at Newstead—dwelt the civil population which followed in the wake of the troops, forming a settlement similar (though smaller) to the canabae adjoining the legionary camps; and the baths were a kind of club frequented by the soldiers and their friends. Even the earth fort of Inchtuthil, which was probably occupied by the army of Agricola in its northerly advance, had an elaborate balneum more solid in its construction than the camp to which it belonged.
The wall in Northern Britain, if the most massive, was not the longest built by Roman engineers. In the eastern section of the Rhine-Danube limes—the limes Raeticus—we find a massive wall 175 km. in length, which must have been at least 2½ metres in height and is more than 1 metre wide; to make room for this Hadrian’s palisade was destroyed. We cannot tell why the same plan was not adopted in the German section, where we find an earthen dyke and fosse, which did not take the place of the palisade, but were erected behind it.
In the Dobrudja the stone wall above mentioned, which is about 61 km. in length, is embedded in an earthen rampart with a ditch ten metres wide and three deep. The date of its construction is a matter of dispute, and many authorities hold it to be a work of the fourth century A. D.; we find fragments of architectural ornament from Tomi used in its construction, and this fact is certainly in favour of a late date. But the analogies of Britain and Germany would lead us rather to assign it to the time of the Severi.
The system of mechanical barriers was tried and found wanting in the wars of the third century A. D. Under Severus Alexander the German invaders broke through the limes, and actually crossed the Rhine; and although they were for a time driven back by Maximinus Thrax, the foothold of the Romans on the right bank of the river was henceforth precarious, and the Transrhenane possessions of Rome were irrecoverably lost under Gallienus. The ‘Empire of the Gauls’ was called into being by the stress of barbarian pressure: but all that it could do was to maintain the Rhine frontier.
In other parts of the Empire the term limes had now acquired a fresh signification—that of an open frontier protected by a chain of small blockhouses (burgi). The word is of Teutonic origin, and its derivative burgarius is found in an inscription dating from the close of Hadrian which mentions a numerus burgariorum et veredariorum Pannoniae Inferioris stationed in Lower Dacia. But the blockhouse system seems to owe its inception to Commodus, who, as an inscription records, fortified the right bank of the Danube in this way ad clandestinos latrunculorum transitus; while there is evidence to show that the same system was adopted in Africa. This became the normal mode of defence on the southern and eastern frontiers.
The limites were organised as independent military commands, and in the perfected scheme of Diocletian each was placed under a dux, while the garrison troops of the Empire bore the title of limitanei. Diocletian did much to provide the frontiers with fortified posts. On the upper Rhine, in Arabia and in Africa, we find the type of castellum which is characteristic of this period—square in outline with small posterns as well as the principal gateways. But a chain of castella and burgi is of little value against serious attack unless the defenders can be readily reinforced from a base in the rear: and this fact was not sufficiently recognised. Legionary camps were built on the limites, e.g. at El-leggum on the limes Arabiae, where the Legio IV Martia Victrix was quartered: and it must be supposed that the field-army (comitatenses) was regarded as an adequate support for the frontier garrisons. The history of the two centuries following Diocletian’s reorganisation was to prove that this confidence was baseless.