The Military Affairs of Ancient Rome &
Roman Art of War in Caesar's Time
By Lt. Col. S.G. Brady

©1947 The Military Service Publishing Company. Copyright Expired

Etext version by Mads Brevik (2001)

These appendixes were written by Lt. Col. S.G. Brady for the Military Service Publishing Company's 1947 print of "Caesar's Gallic Campaigns" (page 182-230).

I believe the appendixes are one of the most comprehensive and condensely written texts I've read on the Roman art and science of war (a sort of brief, '101' introductory text). The author covers almost every aspect of the Roman war-machine, and draws a few interesting parallels between the Roman military and armies of more modern times (that is, up to the mid 20th century). I also appreciated his references to the original latin terms used by the Romans.

Webmaster, 2001

The Military Affairs of Ancient Rome: Appendix A

General Organization in Gaul; Divisions; Infantry of the Legions


Caesar's legion was a body of infantrymen with a full strength of some 6,000-6,500 men. Actually, as in modern armies, the effective strength was at times much less, because of detachments, desertions, disease and death. The strength of some legions fell as low as 2,500.


Whatever its strength, the legion was the main tactical and administrative unit of the Roman army and bore the brunt of most of the fighting. Although the legal military age was from seventeen to forty-six, most recruits were between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five.


Composed exclusively of some drafted, but more Roman citizen volunteers, recruited from Italy and mainly from the valley of the Po, members of the legions became professional soldiers who, enlisted for a definite term of years, looked forward to a share in all booty taken and retirement allowances of land and money.


The legion, a body somewhat like our division, was divided into ten tactical units called cohorts, resembling our modern battalions. The cohorts were divided into three maniples or companies and the maniples into two centuries or platoons. Thus there were sixty centuries in a legion, each at full strength with a complement of one hundred men. Cohorts, maniples and centuries were commanded by centurions. The first cohort of a legion was occasionally doubled in strength and was always composed of the most experienced and best-trained soldiers, if possible, men of over eight years' service (cohors veterana) . All legionaries, like good soldiers anywhere, could at any time in addition to fighting, build, construct, design, erect and fortify.


In 58 B. C., Caesar had six legions, eight in 58-57 B. C., and ten in 53 B. C. All legions, like our divisions, were numbered according to date of enlistment and, in the time of the Empire, received in addition distinguishing names such as "Victrix", in much the same manner that we speak of the "Black Watch," "The Foreign Legion," "The Rough Riders," and "The Red One" etc.



These auxilia - and their very name indicates that they were not called upon to bear the brunt of the fighting - were not Roman citizens. In Caesar's army they were mostly Gauls, and were furnished by friendly or allied states or requisitioned from dependent and subject states. Good archers (sagittarii) came from Numidia and Crete and good slingers from the Balearic Isles. Caesar also had detachments from Illyricum and in 52 B. C. had a special task force of 10,000 Aeduan infantrymen.


Some units retained their native officers, dress, weapons and methods of fighting. Others were formed into cohorts, armed, trained and disciplined in Roman fashion and commanded by Roman praefects.


They were armed with little protective armor and that quite light (milites levis armaturae); carried light round shields (parmae), and bore spears (hastae) much lighter than the heavy Pila issued to the legionaries. Slingers and archers had very light or no armor and no helmets, and the latter, from the nature of their weapon, could not use shields. Their standards were vexilla, red or flame-colored banners.


While, like the auxiliary cavalry, of doubtful use in emergencies, they could because of their light armament be used for speed and not for shock against small enemy groups. They were also used to make a show of force to alarm the enemy, to forage, to assist in fortifying, to fight delaying actions, to screen and to assist the cavalry in pursuit. Other uses were as skirmishers, as flank guards in battle and as raiders.



Under Caesar, legions did not have cavalry integrally assigned, as had been the case previously. Roman citizens able to possess, equip and feed horses were now members of the officer class. So that Caesar's cavalry was ordinarily furnished by friendly, allied or conquered states, Spanish, Gallic and German. The Aedui and others furnished 4,000 horse for the first campaign against the Helvetii. The next year the Treveri furnished an additional supply. Probably Caesars total cavalry strength rarely exceeded 5,000 and sometimes went as low as 1,000, for example, in the Civil War. This cavalry was organized on a Roman basis into alae or regiments of about 480 men. Alae were subdivided into sixteen turmae or troops, each of thirty men. The lowest tactical unit was the decuria of ten men.


Being foreign mercenaries and serving for pay, the troopers were dismissed, furloughed to the reserve and allowed to go to their homes in the fall after the completion of the campaign and were reassembled in the spring. They were generally commanded by Roman officers, Praefecti Equitum. Troop commanders were known as Decuriones, and all subordinate officers were ordinarily natives. Standards were vexilla and were perhaps sea-blue in color.


Metal helmets (cassides) were worn, light shields (parmae) carried and darts, or light lances or spears, were issued. With this equipment the cavalry was no match for good infantry and in fact did not have too fine a fighting record. It was at times not trusted, and occasionally in battle was unreliable and lacked discipline and courage. For example, at the battle of Neuf-Mesnil, the discouraged Treveran cavalry quit cold. In another campaign, 5,000 Gallic cavalrymen were put to flight by a mere 800 men.


Nevertheless the cavalry was put to a variety of uses Napoleon and Caesar were alike in their use of mounted troops similar to those prescribed for modem horse cavalry. The cavalry would sometimes open a campaign by close-in and distant reconnaissance, by scouting, screening and making preliminary tests of the enemy strength. It was used for skirmishing, to make surprise attacks, to engage the enemy cavalry, to hold the enemy ground troops in check until the legions could arrive and to attack the enemy's flank. Other uses were as raiders and foragers, as flank guards both on the march and in battle and sometimes to begin the actual battle itself. But above all its main use was that sought by and reveled in by all true cavalrymen, the pursuit, the onset of hard-ridden, sweating, lathered horses and cutting, slashing, hacking, yelling troopers.



At the request of the commander, certain courageous and experienced soldiers who had earned distinction because of exceptional ability and loyalty, voluntarily re-enlisted for further active duty after their twenty-year retirement. Such men were known as Evocati. They were of course treated with marked consideration and accorded many special privileges, including a mount while on the march and exemption from all fatigue duty. They were given extra pay and could be promoted directly to the grade of centurion. They helped sustain the morale of the troops and were in general held up as models for all enlisted men to follow.



In the early Roman army there had been a separate corps of engineers (Fabri), but this organization had been abandoned before Caesars time. Ordnance and engineer work was performed by specially trained legionaries under the direction of men detailed to these tasks because of their skill. Their work included the construction of camps, fortifications, siege works and materiel, bridges, ships and ship repair; the repair of equipment, armor, weapons and artillery, and the building of winter quarters. The chief of engineers or the senior engineer officer was the Praefectus Fabrum.



Individuals detailed for this service, known as speculatores; sometimes could speak the Gallic language and occasionally used disguise. Trained scouts, generally mounted and acting in reconnaissance patrols, were called exploratores.



From the earliest times, when the commanders were Praetors to the end of the Republic, it was customary for each general to have a small body of picked and higher-paid men as his immediate personal bodyguard and escort. Such a group was called the Cohors Praetoria. Caesar does not appear to have had this guard, as he once told his favorite 10th Legion that it would be his Praetorian cohort. But under the Empire, the Praetorian Cohorts were organized into a definite corps of Household troops, the famous Praetorian Guard.



Officers' servants and grooms were slaves known as calones and were under military discipline. In addition other slaves were pack-masters, wagoners and mule-skinners (muliones).


These (mercatores or lixae) were freemen or freedmen who sold extra food, provisions, clothing, and supplies not government issue, and purchased booty and prisoners from the men, paying cash on the spot. Their "canteens" had to be set up outside of the camp rear gate, except in times of danger. On one occasion raiding Germans caught them while outside the camp walls and massacred them to a man.



In early times, the commander of an army of two or more legions was the consul, succeeded later by the proconsul or the propraetor in charge of a province. Caesar was the commanding general by virtue of his authority as Proconsul. Like the consuls, the proconsul had the military imperium or supreme power when outside the city, possessing absolute military authority. Only after expiration of his term of office could he be called to account for his acts as governor. At the beginning of his term the chief officer was called "Dux Belli".


After his first important victory, his soldiers would usually hail him as Imperator or General-in-chief. The title was then officially confirmed by the Senate, if the victory added territories to the Republic. This occurred in Caesar's case after his victory over the Helvetii in 58 B. C. Thereafter he was addressed as "Imperator" and wore the paludamentum, or cloak of reddish purple, a long flowing garment of fine wool, decorated with gold embroidery, perhaps fringed and easily distinguished.



The office of quaestor, one of senatorial rank, was only quasi-military. The quaestors were elected by the people at Rome each year and were assigned to provinces by lot, each provincial governor and each army commander or imperator having one. In respect to the provinces they were in charge of its finance and revenues and acted as treasurers. In respect to the army they may be compared to our Quartermaster generals's and Chiefs of Finance. They purchased and were charge of supplies, provisions, clothing, arms, equipment, and shelter for the troops. In addition they guarded and supervised the sale of all booty and prisoners and paid the troops, having general administrative authority over all units. Ranking next to the commanding general, the Quaestor was one of his principal staff officers and in camp had special quarters (Quaestorium) near those of the commander (Praetorium or Principia). Sometimes put in command of troops, one commanded a legion in the first German campaign. Crassus and Antony were quaestors for Caesar.



The legati (lego, depute or commission) were men nominated by the proconsul and deputed or commissioned by the Senate as lieutenant or major generals under him. Caesar was allowed ten. This gave the commanding general a useful and efficient staff of general officers of experience who could be intrusted with the responsibility of command and military government or used as ambassadors. They were of senatorial rank, persons who had held at least a curule magistracy, i.e., been quaestors at Rome. The highest in rank, pro praetore, "for the commander", commanded the army in the absence of the General, could be put in charge of an independent force greater than one legion, and in general acted as chief of staff. Caesar, in the first German campaign introduced the custom of using his legati as legionary commanders, a duty previously exercised by the tribunes, but thereafter always performed by the lieutenant generals. Other duties might be in charge of recruiting, of all the cavalry, of constructing a fleet or commanding the winter camps of the troops. Among Caesar's outstanding lieutenant generals were the able and efficient Labienus, young Crassus, Aurunculeius Cotta, Quintus Cicero and Mark Antony. At different times during the years 58-52 B. C., Caesar had eighteen men who were his lieutenant generals.



There were six of these officers in a legion, and to Caesar's time they had been in command of this body, either alone or in pairs for two months. Caesar's tribunes were young men, well educated and of good social position, but in some cases inexperienced and owing their appointment by the general to political influence or personal friendship. They were of equestrian rank at least, having a property rating of 400,000 sesterces or about $20,000. Although some were experienced and capable officers, among whom was Caius Voiusenus, they usually were given less responsible duties, mainly of an administrative sort. They provided and looked after arms and equipment under the quaestor, tried military offenders, selected sites for the camps, superintended the building of same, sometimes commanded detached cohorts or groups of cohorts and were even placed in command of ships. They also discharged men, could be used as adjutants and staff officers for the general and the lieutenant generals, and were in charge of marches, interior guards and camp discipline.



In Caesar's time the term is ill-defined and consequently loosely applied. It usually means the commanding officer of auxiliaries, slingers, archers, cavalry or infantry organized in cohorts. Some were chiefs of countries fumish ing the contingents, and some were Romans. The Roman praefects were, like the tribunes, in some cases young men who had seen little military service. These two grades constituted the lowest "commissioned" officers, and like all officers were distinguished from the men by cuirasses made of gilded bronze metal and shaped to fit the contours of the body. There was a Praefectus castrorum in charge of locating, surveying, and policing the camp.



The real commanders of the men at drill, on the march or in battle were the men in charge of the centuries, the sixty centurions of each legion. They were, in the main, expert swordsmen and professional soldiers, promoted from the ranks by the Imperator as men of conspicuous sobriety, loyalty, courage, and capacity for leadership. They may be compared to our higher noncommissioned officers and warrant officers in station and education and to our captains in respect to command. There were different grades or classes in their own hierarchy to and from which they could be promoted. Being plebeians, they were generally ineligible for advancement to the higher commissioned grades, because of lack of social standing, i.e., either that of equestrian rank or senatorial rank.


Each cohort, as we know, was divided into three maniples. Of these the men of one were called triarii or pili, of another principes and of the third, hastati. Pili were the highest, hastati the lowest. These names were once applied to the position of the troops in battle formation, but long before Caesars day they had lost tactical significance and were only convenient designations of rank for the maniples of the cohort. In each cohort there was one maniple of pili, one of principes and one of hastati. Each maniple was further divided into two centuries, and it was these centuries that the centurions led. Of the two centurions in a maniple, one was known as the centurio prior and the other as the centurio posterior. The former commanded the whole maniple and ranked the centurio posterior. So we find thirty priores and thirty centuriones posteriores in a legion.


There were different methods of promotion. Then, as now, men of special bravery and ability were sometimes promoted over the heads of superiors. Caesar tells of advancing one man from the eighth to the first cohort. The cohort to which a centurion belonged usually was indicated by prefixing the proper numeral. Thus the lowest centurion of the whole legion was the decimus hastatus posterior and the lowest group of centurions was the group in the tenth cohort or the centuriones infimorum ordinum. A centurion who occupied a middle position in the legion was the quintus pilus posterior or the quintus princeps posterior. The junior centurion of the first cohort was the primus hastatus posterior.


The highest in rank was the centurion of the first century of the first maniple of the first cohort, the primus pilus prior, usually known as the primipilus, This grade ranked next to that of the tribunes and praefects, and was as high as could ordinarily be attained. It was a position of the greatest importance and responsibility. In battle the first cohort was habitually on the right or exposed flank and sometimes doubled in strength so that its commander, the primipilus, could be considered as leading the fighting of the whole legion. In addition the Eagle of the legion, that sacred emblem, was ordinarily under his care. Such very brave men as Publius Baculus and Titus Balventius are mentioned by Caesar as being of this rank.


It has now been generally accepted that the nine pili priores centurions or commanders of the other cohorts and all the six commanders of double centuries of the first cohort formed a special class, the centuriones primorum ordinum or primi ordines, and ranked all other centurions in the legion. Undoubtedly, too, any centurions who had attained this rank and after retirement had returned to active duty as evocati were still included in the primi ordines.


These fifteen men were privileged to participate in all the deliberations of all councils of war with the lieutenant generals, the quaestors, tribunes, and praefects. This body could merely advise, and the commanding general could if he liked go contrary to their judgment.


The centurions enforced strict discipline. Flogging seems to have been frequently used as a punishment for misconduct, and was administered by the centurions themselves. A vine, laurel or myrtle cane or stick, which they carried as an emblem of rank, was the usual instrument. Their armor, too, was somewhat different from that of the privates, as well as their helmets.


Just as we say now that an army is as good as its platoon commanders, so in battles the conduct of the centurions was vital. It virtually rested with them to win or lose the day. Hence, only men of character and forceful personality were chosen, individuals whose courage and hope never flagged and whose natural capacity for leadership inspired hope and courage in their men. The Commentaries abound in repeated commendatory illustrations of the faithful, important services and the magnificent heroism and gallantry of these men. Much of Caesar's success was due to them.



While decurions, as their name implies, may have been originally commanders of decuries, or squads of ten horsemen, they were in actual fact commanders of troops or turmae and, as we should say now, captains of cavalry. Their position in the cavalry was similar to that of the centurions in the infantry.



Each centurion and perhaps each decurion was assisted by a subordinate executive officer or adjutant called an optio because he was appointed (opto) by the centurion himself.


These were men who, exempted from certain duties and otherwise privileged for some meritorious service, were attached to the persons of "commissioned officers", lieutenant generals, tribunes and praefects for special staff duties. They acted as aides, adjutants or executives.



In the early history of Rome the army was a militia of citizens in arms, fighting in time of war, but in peace engaged in agriculture and commerce. Only men of definite property qualifications were eligible for military service, which was considered a privilege as well as a duty. They were expected to serve in ten campaigns between the ages of seventeen and forty-six. The poorest citizens were not permitted to serve. However, by the late second century B. C., there appeared a growing disinclination for, and avoidance of, military service in the ranks by members of the wealthier classes, who would enter the army only as officers. Yet foreign conquests and civil wars demanded large and permanent armies. So eventually by tacit consent young an vigorous citizens of the lower classes were admitted to the army. Especially had this been true since the time of Marius, who also introduced many changes and improvements into the service. Under Caesar these plentiful volunteers from the lower strata composed the bulk of the troops. The men had become thoroughly drilled professionals who had taken up arms as a career.


The term of enlistment was uncertain, but after Caesar it became definitely twenty years and probably was that in his time, too. Under the Empire, the term of service was extended to twenty-five years.



Privates were paid 225 denarii per year or about $48, in three installments. This was more than a workman at Rome could earn, and it must be remembered that the purchasing power of money was far greater then than now. Centurions received perhaps three times as much as a private, and the auxilia less than the legio.naries. From the privates' pay was deducted the cost of rations, clothing and equipment. And many a Roman soldier must have sung a chorus similar to that of our United States prewar privates, "All we do is sign the pay roll and we never draw a god-damned cent!".


Nevertheless, prices were low and the soldier could no doubt, if he desired, save a considerable part of his pay for deposit in military banks. Under the Empire such saving was compulsory. Booty and plunder (praeda), consisting largely of captives, increased his remuneration, and upon honorable retirement (honesta missio) he usually received as a provision for his old age a grant of land and a retirement allowance or pension which under the Empire amounted to 3,000 denarii. Occasionally Caesar gave his troops money realized from the sale of booty (Praemia). Thus after the conquest of the Bituriges in 51 B. C. the men received two hundred sesterces and the centurions a much larger sum. Men were also retired for physical disability (missio causaria), discharged at the convenience of the Government (missio gratiosa), and dishonorably discharged (missio ignominiosa). Sometimes colonies of retired soldiers were founded in conquered territory as outposts of empire. Some of these colonies were the bases of large modern cities.


Of aspirants for enlistment were required good eyes and sound and vigorous bodies; but no definite height, certain units excepted, seems to have been prescribed. Caesar's men were always considered undersized when compared with the tall Germans. After taking the oath (sacramentum), the recruits entered upon an intensive and apparently endless course of training. The success of Roman arms, like all others, came from drill, discipline and training. Man for man their barbarian enemies were doubtless more than a match for the Romans, but against the organized and disciplined legion - one of the most effective battle machines the world has ever seen - they were almost powerless. By this legion Rome conquered the world.



All legionaries, close cropped and, in garrison at any rate, clean shaven, were clothed alike. Next to the skin they wore a coarse, thick, woolen, belted, russet shirt-like tunic that reached nearly to the knees (tunica) . The short sleeves covered half of the upper arm. About the waist went a leather belt (cingulum) bound with metal and with strips of protective metal on leather, hanging in front.


The sagum or sagulum; distinct from civilian garments, was a short, but wide loose cloak or cape for rough weather, fastened on the right shoulder with a clasp (fibula), leaving, the right arm free. Like the tunic it was brownish red in color, but was used at night as a blanket and was never worn in action. Officers and ratings sometimes carried a larger and heavier hooded cloak, the paenula.


High and heavy shoes or sandals (caligae), with thongs and straps (fasciae) laced up to the ankle and capable of being loosened over swollen feet, completed the outer uniform. These shoes, with thick leather hobnailed soles that usually left the toes bare, were again quite distinct from civilian shoes. Higher officers wore shoes known as calcei.


Tight-fitting short breeches (braccae) extending to the calf of the leg were worn in the winter in cold countries, such as Holland, Belgium and Germany, certainly in the time of the Empire and perhaps in Caesar's time too.



A helmet of leather strengthened by iron, bronze or brass (galea) and decorated with a detachable crest (crista) of horsehair or feathers, generally colored red, was worn by all legionaries. While protecting the head and back of the neck, this helmet, held in place by cheek-pieces (bucculae), left the face exposed. The crest was fitted on for battle and for full-dress ceremonies only. On a march not in the presence of the enemy, helmets were sometimes carried in the supply trains. Otherwise. they were suspended by a cord running through a ring on the top and hung on the right breast.


A coat of mail (lorica) consisted of a leather doublet with small metallic breast and back plates and overlaid with strong, but flexible metal bands or strips across breast, back and shoulders, designed to protect the vital parts. Men with some kind of a rating sometimes wore the lighter chain mail (hamata) or armor made of overlapping steel, bone or bronze scales (squamata).


Perhaps a bronze greave (ocrea) was worn over the right shin, the left being sufficiently protected by the shield.


Known as the scutum, this was semicylindrical and oblong, with four square comers. It was built of two layers of wood covered with canvas and rawhide; its edges were protected by metal rims. In size about two and a half feet by four, it weighed from sixteen to twenty pounds. Handles on the inside enabled it to be carried on the left arm. There was a metal boss (umbo) in the center from which metal strips radiated to the comers, representing thunderbolts. On a march not in the presence of the enemy, shields were carried in leather cases (tegumenta} to protect the polish from the deather, and were slung on the back. Covers were taken off just before going into action. On the inside of the shield was painted the name of the man to whom it was issued. On the outside different colors probably distinguished the different cohorts. Each legion probably had a distinctive symbol, such as an eagle or laurel wreath. The cavalry had metal helmets (cassides). Cavalry and auxilia had small round shields (parmae) upwards of three feet in diameter or small oval shields (clipei) .



The pilum, a heavy javelin improved by Marius, was used for hurling and not thrusting. Strong enough to pierce shield and armor, it consisted of. a thin soft iron rod (ferrum) between two and three feet long, securely fastened in a round or square wood shaft, four to four and a half feet long and more than an inch in thickness. At the tip of this rod was a barbed steel point. The length of the weapon was just short of seven feet. Except for the steel tip, the soft iron rod was easily bent, which made the pilum unfit for further immediate use after striking with force the shield of an enemy. After a battle the pila were collected and straightened by the fabri. The shaft end was of pointed metal to enable the weapon to be stuck upright in the ground. The javelin weighed from three to twelve pounds, more often near the latter figure, and the cast varied with the weight, the skill and strength of the thrower and the slope of the ground, extreme ranges running from about seventeen to forty yards. Some javelins had thongs which enabled the thrower to give the weapon a rotary motion, so increasing their accuracy. Extra supplies of pila were carried in the supply trains. The light-armed troops carried lighter javelins (hastae) .


After throwing the pila, the legionaries had recourse to the sword (gladius) often called "Spanish" because it was made from Spanish patterns after the Second Punic War. It was a short, broad, heavy, straight, double-edged, sharppointed weapon that could be used for both thrusting and cutting, although preferably the former. By means of a swordbelt (balteus) over the left shoulder, it was carried in a metal­mounted scabbard on the right hip out of the way of the shield. Higher officers with no shields wore their swords on the left. The blade was short, not over two feet, and from two to four inches in width. Presentation swords had sheaths and hilts richly ornamented. The gladius must have been a very effective arm because after the javelins were hurled it was the legionaries' sole reliance. Indeed, in the hands of a trained man, this was a terrible weapon, murderous and deadly. In the time of the Empire and probaly in Caesar's day, too, a dagger (pugio) was attached to the waist belt and worn on the left side.



On the march, the soldier carried all his personal belongings which included rations (cibaria) for periods of three days to periods of fifteen or even twenty days. Also he carried tools, saw, pickax, spade, and sickle, a basket, extra clothing, and a mess kit, cooking spit or rack, pot, and cup (vasa). According to the amount of rations the whole weighed between thirty and seventy pounds, approximately the weights of modern packs. To facilitate the carrying of these sarcinae a compact arrangement of their contents was made and they were fastened to the end of a forked pole carried over the shoulder, called from the name of the inventor, Marius' mules (muli Mariani). Before battle, the packs were deposited together under guard and in case of sudden attack could, of course, be dropped at once. With his pack on, the soldier was said to be in heavy marching order or impeditus (burdened) and without it, expeditus. Under hard rains, the shields could be carried over the heads of the men.



The heavy baggage belonging to the army consisting of tents, mills (molae) for grinding grain, blankets, clothing, extra pila, artillery (tormenta), and, when the column was not in the presence of the enemy, shields and helmets, was hauled by pack animals (iumenta) and in carts (carri), the whole forming regular supply trains, quartermaster and ordnance.


If we assume one pack mule and one tent for each squad (contubernium) of eight soldiers sleeping in that tent at night (two men being on guard) (contubernales, "bunkies") a legion of 6,000 would have six hundred pack animals, beside private mounts and officers' pack animals. There were also four-wheeled wagons (raedae) to carry forage and for use as ambulances for the sick and wounded.



This was an eagle of bronze or silver reduced to the size of a dove and mounted on a staff. Under the Empire the eagle was of gold. The wings of the eagle were generally uplifted ready to lead the whole legion to victory and often gold or silver thunderbolts were held in the talons. The bird was dedicated to Jupiter, the legion's god of victory.


The eagle was carried by the aquilifer, and on the march and in battle was under the direction of the primipilus. Often there was a small vexillum underneath the eagle with the name and number of the legion. As the eagle was a sacred objeCt before which the oath was taken and as its loss was regarded as a calamity and disgrace, in camp it was kept in a shrine or sanctuary in a chapel (sacellum) near the commanding officer's quarters. To some extent the eagle is still used as a military emblem in the United States and France. Witness the discharge emblems on men from the armed services.


These were standards (signa) generally with the figure of an open hand enclosed in a wreath, the symbol of fidelity, at the top. Below were a transverse bar with small streamers attached to each end; then two metallic half moons, crowns, or wreaths, one just above the other and several small metal disks or medallions, increasing slightly in size down the pole (probably phalerae presented to the maniple for distinguished service or meritorious conduct). Then might come a metal plate indicating by letters and numbers the place of the maniple in formation and finally one or two circular colored tassels. The disks were thus like our "battle streamers". Such a signum is a more or less typical one. Each maniple had one of these standards, and the senior or ranking manipular standard which was perhaps larger than the others was regarded as the standard of the whole cohort.


Good men were chosen to be aquiliferi and signiferi (color-sergeants) as the tactical movements of the army were largely directed by the movements of the standards and by bugle calls. They wore as part of their uniforms bear or lion or other animals' skin over the head and shoulders.


On the march the standards were generally in front of their organizations; in battle, in the rear. Roman commands were possibly such phrases as "Standards, forward, march", "Standards to the rear, march", "On the standards extend intervals", "On the standards, fall in", "From the standards, as skirmishers", just as now on parade we say, "Guidons out", or "Guide right", in which case the guidon is on the right.



These were the standards carried by the auxiliaries and the cavalry and any detachments, the word for "detachment" being vexillatio. They were rectangular cloth banners hanging from a cross piece surmounting the staff. The commanding general had special large, crimson, flame-colored, or white vexilla, one of which when hoisted at his headquarters was the "call to arms" or the signal for immediate formation under arms prepared for battle. Those for the cavalry may have been sea-blue.



Instruments were the bugle (bucina), trumpet (tuba), horn (cornu), and the clarion (lituus), all of brass or oxhorn fitted with metal mouthpieces. They were used exclusively for signals and not as a band.


The only one actually mentioned by Caesar in the Commentaries is the tuba, but the others were very probably in use. The deep-toned tuba was about three feet long with a funnel or bell-shaped flaring opening.


This, a large, curved, almost circular instrument often placed about the neck, had a loud, shrill, and sharper note than the tuba. Both of these instruments were in general for tactical movements to be executed in battles or drills.


This instrument, also curved, had a hoarse tone, higher too than the tuba. It was used principally in camp for guard mOunt and to change reliefs of the guard.


This clarion was a cavalry instrument, straight, about four feet long, but with a curved joint or crook at the end. Its note was shrill.


As the changes of position, etc., in battle were regulated by these instruments and then by the standards, orders were given the field musicians (aeneatores) for all changes. There was probaly one tubicen, one cornicen, one buccinator per maniple. These men, like the standard-bearers, wore bear or lion skins over their helmets and shoulders, a practice which has descended to us in the huge bear-skin shakos worn by drum majors.


All field musicians assembled together each evening in front of headquarters, blew the "classicum" or general's call which officially marked the end of the evening mess period, the mounting of the night guards, and summoned various individuals to headquarters to receive orders, etc. It was a combination of our "call to arms", "assembly", "retreat", "officers' call", "flourishes", "guard mount", "tattoo", "call-to-quarters", and "taps".



Coarse flour (cibaria) or unground wheat (frumentum) was the ordinary food, about two pounds being the daily ration. It was usually issued for two weeks, rarely for three. The grinding and cooking was done by the men themselves or by men selected by them. A variety was obtained by trading with the sutlers or by foraging. Along with reserve rations, the baggage train carried a small hand mill for each man to grind his half-bushel of wheat, or thirty pounds, which had to last two weeks. The cooking was simple. Flour was mixed with water and boiled into a thick paste, or porridge, or baked into bread without yeast. There must occasionally have been fruit and vegetables from neighboring farms. If wheat was scarce and only then, barley (hordeum) was issued as a substitute, and sometimes a whole unit would be put on barley rations as a punishment. Sour wine (posca) was the common drink.


The cost of the ration, four modii or four pecks per month, at a rate of three fourths of a denarius per modius would thus be about thirty-six denarii per year (about $7.50). This cost was charged against the man's pay ($48.00) and deducted therefrom.


Caesars soldiers and the soldiers of the early Empire were not by choice eaters of meat, and so while it usually could be obtained without too much difficulty, it was rarely eaten.


Rewards (praemia) took the form of commendations, extra pay, promotion and the dona militaria or insignia, possibly brooches (fibulae), but more often disk-shaped decorations of metal for the breast (phalerae); neck chains (torques, catellae), armlets (armillae), and much higher in distinction, the wreaths of honor (coronae). These latter were awarded to men who had distinguished themselves by energy and gallantry, such as the "triumphalis" for the general, or the "civica" given for saving the life of a citizen in battle, or perhaps the "muralis" - "castrensis" given to the first men scaling the walls of a besieged city or fortified camp.


These consisted of extra fatigue, forfeiture of pay, in making men spend the night outside the camp walls, reduction in rank, increase in length of service, corporal punishment (whipping, the pillory, etc.), dishonorable discharge and dismissal from the service; and for flagrant offenses, death. Many of these punishments were not rarely inflicted and were swiftly applied. Entire units were punished for mutiny and cowardice by decimation, the choosing by lot of one man out of every ten who was flogged to death.


In times of peace or in winter quarters, incessant drill was carried on, both in marching and in the use of weapons. Maneuvers were a regular part of this training, and three times a month a practice march of at least ten miles was held. A high standard of horsemastership was required of mounted troops. As with us, gymnastic exercises kept the men physically fit, and they were further hardened by proficiency in the use of spade, shovel, and the simpler building and engineering tools. Under the Empire, troops were put to work on the construction of public works, canals, roads, bridges, amphitheaters and the like.

This versatility of training controlled by rigid discipline had to be thorough, for, strange as it may seem, up to the era of the atomic bomb, it has to be admitted that, in proportion to the number of men engaged, ancient warfare was far more deadly than modern. One example is sufficient. At the battle of Dyrrachium not one of Caesar's soldiers came out of that battle unwounded. No casualty list such as that has resulted from any regular modern battle fought between so-called "civilized" nations, before the events at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

"The great contributions of Rome to military science were organization, discipline, attention to details, far-sighted preparation, the realization that battles cou]d be won before they were fought."



Because the Gauls wore long trousers (braccae) which the Romans considered barbaric, they were contemptuously referred to as "braccati". The Gallic military cloak, the sagulum, closely resembled the Roman cloak and received the same name. The Gallic infantry used large oblong or oval shields of wood or metal which probably received the name "scuta" because of their resemblance to the Roman scuta in size, if not otherwise. Helmets were of metal and very often adorned with animal horns. The Gallic weapons of offense were a long sword, inferior to the Roman, javelins, gaesa, spears, matarae, and darts, tragulae or veruta. The standard was in many cases the image of the Gallic wild boar, mounted on a pole. Commands in the Gallic army were sounded by a curved war trumpet, the carnyx, which terminated in the head of an animal or serpent. The clothing of the more barbaric Germans consisted largely in skins, but those somewhat advanced wore trousers like the Gauls and confined their long hair in a kind of a knot. Their principal weapons were shield, spear and sword, the latter a long single­edged weapon.

Appendix B


Great attention was paid to marches and march discipline, and they were made elements of prime importance in war. The many forced marches developed and demonstrated Roman soldiers' powers of endurance. Caesar was like Napoleon in his use of long, hard, speedy and unexpected marches.


When the bugle blew the first call (signum profectionis) to break camp (castra movere), tents were struck and baggage packed (vasa conligere). At the second signal the baggage was put on the pack animals and in the carts. At the third signal the army began its march which was regularly conducted in column, like that of most other armies, ancient and modem.


First came the scouts, the cavalry and the light-armed troops whose duty it was to reconnoiter, to take note of all enemy preparations, to guard against surprise, and if necessary to hold the enemy until the main body was deployed and ready for battle. Flank guards were also furnished, and distant reconnaissance carried out. Witness the reporting of the information of Ariovistus' movements when he was twenty-four miles away. Also with the advance guard there would be a party of centurions and surveyors (metaiores or mensores) , commanded by a tribune whose object was to reconnoiter, select, occupy (locum idoneum castris deligere) and mark (castra metari) a position for the camp site.

MAIN BODY (Agmen Legionum)

Then would come the legions, one behind the other, and each followed by its own baggage train. The last legion would detail two or three cohorts as a guard for its train and so would form the rear guard of the whole army. If the enemy were near, about three fourths of the legions would march ahead of the combined trains.

REAR GUARD (Novissimum Agmen)

The remaining fourth of the legions, ordinarily the most recently raised units (Proxime conscriptae), acted as rear guard, but would of course be strengthened in withdrawals or retirements.


Each cohort marched in column of centuries, and the ordinary peacetime width of Roman columns, officers, five files and file closers, was about twenty feet.


When the legions neared the enemy, an "approach formation" was taken up in which the packs and saga were laid aside, shield coverings removed, helmets and crests put on. Sometimes this approach formation was started seven or eight miles away and might take two or three hours. This arrangement was generally in a line of three parallel cohort columns, each cohort in column of maniples with the centuries abreast or in column. In the first case (centuries abreast), each legion was placed directly in rear of the previous one so that the whole army marched in a line of three parallel columns of maniples and could easily be faced to the right or left. Terrain permitting, the second case (centuries in column) was used, and all legions were placed abreast; thus an army of four legions marched in twelve parallel columns of centuries.


Sometimes, in the presence of overwhelming enemy forces, the march was conducted in the agmen quadratum (square corps), the ten cohorts of each legion forming a rectangle with the baggage train and drivers in the center.


A legion in this formation attacked by large numbers could form a circle (orbem facere) several ranks deep and facing outward. Naturally an enemy preferred to attack while the army was on the march (in agmine or in itinere), carrying full packs (sub sarcinus) and otherwise encumbered (impeditus).


The ordinary day's march (iustum iter) began at four or five o'clock (sunrise) and lasted about seven hours till midday. The afternoons were spent in fortifying, foraging, collecting wood, cooking, mounting guard, etc: The average day's march was about sixteen or seventeen miles. There were occasional forced marches (magna itera) of twenty-five or thirty miles. Caesar records one of forty-eight miles in twenty-four hours with only three hours' rest. According to the tactical situation some marches began as early as two or three o'clock or even at midnight (tertia vigilia). The order of precedence, then as now, was probaly changed daily so that the same legion might not always be in the lead.


Rivers were crossed on existing permanent bridges, on hastily constructed pontoon or wooden military bridges, or forded. Having no modem ammunition or motor vehicles, an ancient army could in general use deeper fords (four or five feet) than a modern army. Sometimes a line of cavalrymen was placed across the stream to break the force of the current and a second below to catch men swept away.

Tactical Arrangement and Disposition of Lines in Battle Array


The legions of the Kingdom and the early Republic appear to have been phalangeal. But this formation was soon found to be too rigid and unwieldy for the rough and uneven ground over which much of the Roman fighting had to take place. In the time of Camillus, about the fourth century B. C., the manipular system began to be adopted. The legions were arranged in maniples, with the centuries one behind the other. This arrangement made it easy to reinforce the first line; i.e., it satisfied the tactical needs of disposition in depth and provided for a reserve. In general the system continued down to Marius. But considerably before his time there had been recognized the need for a tactical unit larger than the maniple. At any Late, Marius seems to have divided the legion into ten larger tactical units, the cohorts.


This was the usual formation for battle. It consisted in drawing up the legion in three lines. The first was composed of four cohorts, ordinarily the first, second, third and fourth, from right to left, the best cohorts. The second line had three cohorts, the fifth, sixth, and seventh; and the third line also three cohorts, the eighth, ninth, and tenth. The latter cohorts generally and naturally were manned by recruits with the least experience. All cohorts in each line were separated by medium-sized intervals, and the second line cohorts blocked the intervals between those of the first line. The legions stood side by side, with intervals of perhaps one hundred and twenty feet, and formed the center (media acies) of the battle line.

The three maniples of the cohort also stood side by side at intervals of about twelve feet, and in each maniple the second century was some eight or nine feet behind the first. The depth of the cohort formations must have varied with circumstances, as the depth of attacking formations does now. There was perhaps a distance of three hundred feet between the first and second lines. The third line, possibly one hundred and fifty feet from the second line, was used as a reserve so that the commander could influence the action in the way he wanted, to the front, or the flank, or the rear as was the case in the battle with the Helvetii.

The cavalry and light-armed troops were usually stationed on the flanks (cornua), separated from the center by small intervals, and used as further reserves for such purposes as flank protection and pursuit. Occasionally the auxilia would be posted in front to make a show of force, to open the engagement by skirmishing, to fight a delaying action; or they might be used to draw the enemy's attack to themselves if the legions were to change position. The cavalry, sometimes placed by Caesar behind the first or the third line, might have to oppose the enemy cavalry or attack the enemy's flank. But participation by these troops in the actual battle was small. The chief reliance was put on the legions, and the tactical scheme was arranged with that idea in view.


On the assumption that a legion's full or near full strength was about 6,000 men, the front line would have 2,400 men in four cohorts or twelve maniples, ten ranks deep. The second and third lines would each have 1,800 men in nine maniples of the same depth. There would thus be 240 of the most experienced soldiers of the legion along the front rank. The ranks and files were separated by about six feet, thus giving sufficient space for the use of sword-play. This was the formation used against the Helvetii, Ariovistus, the Usipetes and Tencteri, and probably against the Belgae and Nervii.


As in any good army, formations varied and were flexible, so we occasionally find the duplex acies or two lines of five cohorts if a wider front was needed or if there appeared to be no need for a reserve. Or there might even be a single line (acies simplex) if the Romans were far outnumbered by the enemy, as at the battle of Ruspina near Hadrumetum. On at least one occasion there were four lines, at the battle of Pharsalus where the fourth line constituted the Army Reserve.



In a battle on uphill ground, in storming a walled town or fortified camp, or in any case where troops were exposed to a plunging fire, the "turtle shell" might be formed. The front-rank men, closed in, held their shields in front, the flank men holding theirs on the sides, and the others raising theirs overhead like overlapping shingles on a roof. This formation gave almost complete protection against all but the heaviest missiles.


Another formation was the wedge or cuneus, an attack in a mass of deep columns, used mainly for penetration.


Roman tactics were usually offensive. The ideal battle ground from the Roman viewpoint was on a gentle hill slope with the enemy at the bottom (ex superiore loco). This gave the Romans increased range for their missile weapons and added impetus and momentum to their attack, while the enemy, having started from the foot of the hill, would be breathless from their charge, Quite often there would be brief addresses by the general (adlocutio, cohortatio), passing from legion to legion, after the troops were drawn up in battle formation (acies instructa).


After the signal to advance had been given by the bugles (signa inferre), the first line of the three moved forward with even step (certo gradu) until five or six hundred feet from the enemy. Then the bugles blew the signal to attack. The men advanced at double time (concursu), the first two ranks with javelins poised in their right hands (pilis infestis). When within range, these two ranks delivered their deadly volley. The next three ranks hurled their javelins over the heads of those in front. Then as the enemy was met, there followed a series of hand-to-hand individual conflicts, sword duels, repeated again and again since whenever a front-rank man fell, he was pulled back and the man behind replaced him. Men exhausted or slightly wounded would retire and be relieved by fresh men. The five rear ranks then took the place of these fallen or exhausted men, or perhaps increased the number of the attacking troops.

When the first line as a whole had done its best and become weakened and exhausted by losses, it gave way to the relief of fresh men from the second line who, passing through it gradually, pressed forward one by one, or in single file, and worked their way into the fight in the same way. Meanwhile the tired men of the original first line, when sufficiently rested, reformed and re-entered the fight. This continued until all men of the first and second lines had been engaged. This does not presuppose an actual withdrawal of the first line, but rather a merging, a blending or a coalescing of both lines.

Thus the enemy was given no rest and was continually opposed by fresh troops until, exhausted and demoralized, he yielded to repeated attacks. Sometimes the onset of the first ranks was suf1icient to put the enemy to flight. For this reason the, best marksmen with the pila and the best swordsmen were put in the forward positions. The standard-bearers were not in the front ranks, but were kept behind the good men of at least the first two ranks who were perhaps called "antesignani".

There was at times a natural tendency to close in, probably from the right, the exposed flank (latus apertum) to the left, and this necessitated commands to open ranks and extend intervals (laxare manipulos). For this and other reasons the first cohort on the right of the line had the best men in the whole legion. But the readiness and steadiness of all troops, officers and men, in sudden emergencies showed the excellent tactical training they had received. Battles were won by these persistent attacks, and the Gauls, once defeated, suffered heavy casualties, being mostly cut down or captured and sold as slaves.



From the earliest times it was the peculiar practice of the Roman army - and this to a degree of importance unparalleled in modern warfare - regularly at the end of each day's march to build carefully a well-fortified camp (castra aestiva). The success of the Romans was largely due to this practice, by which the commander could be more independent, choose his own time and place for battle, reduce the chances of enemy night attacks, and have always a base to which he could return if forced to withdraw or retire. The camp, even if intended to be occupied but one day and no matter how little the likelihood of attack, was constructed with the same care as if it were to be occupied for an appreciable period in the midst of threatening enemy forces. So regular was the construction of the camp that such expressions as "tertiis castris" (in three days' march) are common. This rule of nightly resting in a fortified camp continued without interruption down to the era of the Emperor Gratian.


This process was really a part of the Roman religious ritual, a branch of augural science, like laying out on a fixed plan new cities in blocks or planting new colonies. The camp, being a place where the auspices were taken, was in itself a sort of templum, a definite space of consecrated ground. The cardo and decumanus, cross lines of a temple, were the two main streets of the camp, meeting at its heart where were the auguraculum and the commanding officer's headquarters (praetorium). There, too, was the altar, where the general worshiped and sacrificed for the welfare and victory of the army, and the forum in which his soldiers assembled when he wished to address them. So both the religious and political sides of life in a Roman community were represented in the camp, which grew to be the miniature symbol of the "home town", a place of rest and security after the labors and dangers of the day and a temporary bit of homeland for its citizens on foreign service.


Military considerations, of course, governed the choosing of the camp site. In general what was desired was a gently sloping hillsiGe at the top of which the rear of the camp could be placed. Near by must be abundant supplies of wood for fuel and fortifications, facilities for getting water (aquatio) and for foraging (pabulatio). The hillside would reduce somewhat the labor of fortification and would give a commanding position against the enemy, provided there were no dense forests or dominant hills in the the immediate vicinity. There should be sufficient ground in front of the camp for the legions to deploy, and another desirable feature was to have the rear or one side of the camp parallel a river. The shape of the camp was square or rectangular with rounded comers, or as near this shape as the configuration of the ground would. permit.


Using earth and stones dug up by making a ditch or moat and carried in baskets, the legionaries constructed a rampart or wall (vallum) from five to twelve feet high and from six to ten feet broad at the top so as to give room for maneuver. This was surmounted on its Outer edge by a palisade or stockade (lorica) of stout wooden stakes (valli or sudes) four feet high, wattled and battlemented, thus giving protection to men firing missiles or to the sentries. If time permitted, the sides of the embankment were covered partly with sods to hold the earth and partly with bundles of brush and sticks.

The wall was quite steep on the outside so as not to be washed down by rains and was made easr of access and strengthened on the inner side by being sloped gradually so that steps of brush or logs could be constructed. Further protection was afforded by the ditch (fossa) around the camp. One built by Caesar was twenty feet wide and twelve feet deep, although usually they were much smaller, perhaps twelve feet wide at the top, ten feet deep and three feet wide at the bottom and not ordinarily filled with water. If the danger were great, there would be additional redoubts and along the wall towers at regular intervals.


When the main body came up, men were at once detailed to complete the work started by the billeting-party with the advance guard (castra munire) . Helmets, shields, spears and swords were laid aside and the men commenced to "dig in" under the protection of fully armed men. Though the task was not easy, constant practice had made the legionaries capable of near perfection. The soldiers, hardened and trained to use pick and spade, worked quickly and as easily as possible. The ordinary camp could be finished in from two to five hours of intensive labor, depending on the ground, etc.

All legionary troops, all the light-armed troops, all the cavalry, all the slingers and archers, had regularly appointed positions for their tents. Every cohort, every maniple, every decury, every officer and every man knew its or his assigned place and went there without confusion.


Each of the four main gates of the camp (on two sides in the center and on the other two off center) and the principia were securely guarded in daytime by a cohort apiece in two reliefs and at night special sentinels (vigiles), regularly inspected by the tribunes, patrolled at short intervals the outer rampart, around the prindpia and the tents for each cohort. In times of great danger two cohorts might guard each gate. There were four reliefs. Hence the term vigiliae was applied to the four equal periods into which the time from sunset to sunrise was divided. The length of each period was three hours more or less, of course, varying with the time of year. Midnight always marked the end of the second relief (secunda vigilia) and the beginning of the third relief (tertia vigilia). The three reliefs off duty slept upon their arms, ready for instant action.

Individual gate guards were known as custodes or custodiae, other sentries as excubiae or excubitores. A password (signum) was changed each night. It was written on wooden tablets (tesserae) and given by the commander to the tribunes who passed it on to the men on guard duty. The camp itself was at all times well patrolled, and in addition strong outposts of infantry and cavalry called "stationes" gave local security. Occasionally if the tactical situation demanded, small redoubts (castella) were built at a distance from the main camp, and sometimes outguards as strong as two legions were used, as at Avaricum. Also if the legions left the camp for a battle; a strong guard was left behind, varying from four or five cohorts to one or two complete legions.


These, the castra hiberna or stativa were built on the same plan as the ordinary camps, but utilized more space and were larger, had stronger fortifications, and the men were made more comfortable and protected from the weather by cantonments of thatched (scramentum) wood and earth huts or barracks (casae) sometimes covered with hides. Horses and pack animals were provided with permanent or semipermanent stables. Towers were erected along the walls at frequent intervals and connected by covered galleries or gangways (pontes). Unless compelled to remain in the field during the winter, the Romans habitually made use of these winter camps, often placed near friendly towns or villages.


Many of these permanent camps became the nuclei of settlements which survive in cities of today. The most conspicuous example of a town preserving the outlines of a Roman camp is Chester (castra) in England. The walls are nearly complete, the town is divided into quarters by two main streets at right angles with the gates at the ends.



All gates which were usually about forty feet wide were protected by elbow-shaped, curved, and transverse earthen ramparts (claviculae) which compelled all strangers, friend or foe alike, to approach with the unprotected (right side) facing the Roman sentries standing with javelins ready. Ordinarily this was enough protection, and the gates were left open so that sallies and sorties could be made, but in emergencies the gates could be walled up solidly.

A space two hundred feet in width (intervallum) was left clear and unoccupied behind the rampart on all sides for security and rapid communication. The tents or huts were thus beyond the ordinary range of stones, spears, and darts, because of this space and the outer fortifications. The auxilia were quartered nearest this intervallum on both sides.

The front gate facing the enemy, the porta praetoria or general's gate, was joined with the rear gate (decumana) by a road fifty feet wide (via Praetoria - Decumana) broken beyond the center of the camp by a large space, one hundred yards in width in which were the Principia (praetorium and quaestorium). About two thirds of the distance from front to rear, the via Praetoria (Avenue of the Generals) was intersected by another road, one hundred feet in width, the via Principalis ("Main" or "High Street"). This road joined the two side gates, right and left (porta principalis dextra and porta principalis sinistra). Army headquarters fronted on this street, and at the intersection there was an altar (ara) and at left a tribunal, a sodded mound of earth (rostra, suggestus), from which the general spoke to the men in the forum. While not the mathematical center here was the very heart and religious center of the camp.

Immediately behind these was placed the general's tent (tabernaculum ducis), to the right and left of which the cohors praetoria, if any, camped. Just behind the general's tent was the quaestor's tent (quaestorium), and near by were the tents of the lieutenant generals, hospital, and workshops. Thus the general and the officers were placed toward the rear of the camp, ordinarily on higher ground, whence a view could be had over that part of the camp which was nearest the enemy and which contained most of the enlisted men.

That part of the camp between the via Principalis and the porta praetoria was perhaps known as the praetentura; that on either side of the praetorium, quaestorium and forum as the latera Praetorii, and the space in rear the retentura. About one-third of the distance from front to rear the via Quintana crossed the camp at right angles to the via Decumana and parallel to the via Principalis. Here were most of the centurial tents, separated by narrower roads twelve feet wide, and so arranged thgt they stood back to back between streets.


These (pelles, tentoria, tabernacula) were made of leather or hide and sheltered from five to eight or ten men each. Centurions were probably allowed more space. An army in camp was spoken of as "sub pellibus" exactly as we say, "under canvas".



The fortification of most Gallic towns, while primitive, was undoubtedly effective. Walls with deep moats presented regular rows of log ends separated by massive stones. No one log could be pulled out because all the logs were securely fastened together far inside the wall. Nor would they bum easily, being imbedded in solid earth and stone. The battering ram, fearful weapon that it was, could demolish solid stone walls, but the framework of timbers, earth, and stone seemed to defy it. Caesar therefore relied comparatively little on breaching walls.

His engineers, however, became very skillful both in the art of taking walled cities and in the construction of defensive works. The systematic investment and siege of fortified places was an important and well-studied feature of the Roman military art and gave them an immense advantage over semibarbarous and ignorant people.

Occasionally towns could be captured out of hand, or again a persistent blockade, maintained by lines of contravallation, was enough. Sometimes a vigorous assault using all available appliances was necessary. But the Roman engineers planned their siege work so carefully, used engines of such great power, and attacked with so much force and violence that very rarely indeed did Caesar fail to take a city that he wanted. And vice-versa, there is no instance on record where the Gauls were able to defeat even small numbers of Roman soldiers when fighting behind their well-planned entrenchments.



This, the oppugnatio repentina, was used where a town, although well provisioned, had inferior walls and few defenders and where there was a chance of success without great loss. There were no siege preparations, and the light-armed troops, slingers, archers, and artillery kept the walls at any rate partly clear of defenders. A testudo of shields might then be made, and the moat, if any, filled in with earth and bundles of brushwood and wicker­work (crates). Scaling ladders (scalae) and wall hooks were issued and rams to batter down the town gates or torches to set them on fire. Heavily armed shock troops would then make a violent attack. Such towns usually surrendered and their capture (expugnatio) was immediate, so this method was not often used. If the attempt was made right from the march and before camping, it was called ex itinere oppugnare.


Called "obsidio" or "obsessio", this consisted in a ring of entrenched fortifications, breastworks, palisades, towers, redoubts (munitiones), and their garrisons (praesidia) placed around a town to cut off supplies and succor, to keep the defenders in, and so to starve them into surrender. It was used against towns impregnable by assault or siege and not well provisioned. In general it was too slow a process and was used by Caesar only twice in the Gallic war, partially at Gergovia and again at Alesia. There a counter-ring of fortifications of greater circumference and facing in the opposite direction, called circumvallation, had to be constructed. Between the two rings the besieging forces were divided up among several camps to protect all sectors. All this was made necessary by the 80,000 Gauls in Alesia itself and the relieving , army of 250,000 men.


Oppugnatio longinqua or oppugnatio operibus were the names applied where use was made of the agger and towers against strong towns and forts well defended, well provisioned and difficult, but not impossible, of access. As before, the moat was filled and levelea. The gates were set on fire, and the wall was tom down by wall hooks or breached by the ram, or sometimes undermined by advancing galleries (cuniculi) supported by timbers which when completed were set on fire and caved in, wrecking the fortifications above; Such a siege was commonly a work of weeks or months.


In theory, this was a siege terrace with a broad rampart or "mole". More specifically it was a huge, vast embankment or causeway with a core of earth, stones, timber, and brush, and revetted with logs. It was, too, an inclined plane or ramp built out at right angles to the enemy wall and which from the rear gradually sloped up to equal, or nearly equal, in height that part of the town fortifications against which it was raised. It was commenced out of range of enemy fire, some four to five hundred feet away, and as the construction was continued, it gradually neared the very strong town walls that required its building. Some idea of what it looked like may be gained for modern readers by imagining a double-tracked railway fill across a relatively narrow valley.

Fifty to eighty feet high, the latter figure the height of the Avaricum agger, it varied in width from forty feet to as much as three hundred feet and was naturally four to five hundred feet long. An agger of a height of eighty feet usually had eight or ten levels. On each level it is possible, though not at all probable, that there was a gallery ten or twelve leet wide and eight or ten feet high extending the whole length.

As a lot of wood was used, the agger could be set on fire with relative ease, and so the exposed portions were faced with stone or earth and covered with skins or wet cloths. Through the galleries mentioned above, if they did exist, building materials could be conveyed without danger, although part of the agger was now in range of enemy weapons. As the head of the agger neared the wall, the workmen being in easier range became more and more exposed to enemy fire and required various protective apparatus which will be described below.

When only a few yards from the wall itselt, archers, slingers, and artillery from towers and screens kept that part of it near the agger clear or partially clear of defenders. Enough material, brushwood, logs, stones, sods, etc., to fill the gap was collected. Then the gap itself was filled in, and a space of fifty feet, or one easily wide enough for a maniple of men, was leveled off. Then the massed, heavily armed legionaries awaiting orders in the assigned reserve would swarm over the steps at the rear of the agger, over its top, now a roadway of approach, and so into the town, using scaling ladders if necessary and probably entering at the weakest point of the walls, at which the agger was invariably aimed.

It was constructed in detail as follows: First, logs twenty to forty feet long and one to two feet in thickness were placed firmly on the ground, parallel .to each other and at suitable intervals. Then upon these a second layer of logs was placed at right angles. The open spaces between the logs were filled with earth, stones, sods, and brush. As has been stated above, it is possible, though highly improbable, that through the middle was left an open gallery ten to twelve feet wide. The work was continued this way until the sides reached a height of eight or ten feet when the open passage, if there was one, would be covered overhead with a layer of timber placed across it. This first section of the first level of the agger was now finished. Screens were next moved forward forty to fifty feet, and the second section of the first level was constructed in the same manner. Thus the work went on until the first level was finished. Materials for the second and every other level were carried through the sheds up the stairs in rear of the gradually mounting agger to landings extending over its whole width and protected by screens. Other levels were constructed in like manner and so after long and tedious labor the work was finished.


These imposing and important objects were solidly built towers on rollers, moved by means of levers and constructed out of the enemy's range. Some were twenty-five, thirty, or even forty feet square at the base and twenty, twenty-five, or thirty feet square at the top. The highest one mentioned by Caesar had ten stories (tabulata) all connected by stairs and was one hundred and eighty feet in height. In case the agger was not as high as the wall, towers could be added to it, generally one on each side. The lowest story often contained a battering ram to breach the epemy's wall when the wall was low and on level ground so that the tower could be pushed up. Near the wall drawbridges were let down from upper stories of about the same height as the wall. Also in those upper stories higher than the wall were archers, slingers, and artillery to lay down protective fire for the Roman besiegers charging over the drawbridge or for the men working the ram below. The enemy often attempted to set fire to these towers, but this was checked by covering them with moistened hides.


The battering ram, a long, ponderous, huge beam with heavy iron or bronze head resembling a ram, was from sixty to one hundred feet long and was suspended horizontally by ropes or chains. When swung back and forth endwise by a number of men, the impact was terrific. One used by the Romans against Carthage in 148 B. C. was said to be so huge that it took 6,000 men all pulling at once to work it.


This was a single or double heavy iron wall hook on the end of a long beam to tear down the enemy walls. It was suspended from upright supports.



These "grape arbors" were sappers' huts or sheds open at both ends to protect workmen on the agger as they neared the enemy wall, and were in consequence comparatively easily moved on their rollers. They were of heavy timber and wickerwork with a sloping roof which, with the sides, was protected against fire by green hides. They were about sixteen feet long, seven feet wide, and eight feet high. Placed end to end, several would afford safe passage to the wall for men and material.


These were shields or screens in heavy standing frames, eight feet high and covered with thick wickerwork and skins to turn missiles. They were mounted on three rollers and had loopholes through which arrows could be fired. They could not protect the small parties behind them against the heavier missiles.


These "little mice" were similar to the vineae but larger, twenty-five feet square, and more heavily built. They were huts with one end open and the other partially dosed. The sloping roof was able to withstand great stones. After being pushed up dose on their rollers, they were used to undermine the enemy's walls.


This was a strongly built shed on rollers to house the tremendous battering ram.


Fenders made of bags of straw or wool, or masses of wood or wickerwork, were lowered by the attacked to deaden the blows of the ram. In case a breach was being made, a retrenchment behind the breach was prepared at once. Rocks were rolled down on men and material. Nooses or huge tongs were let down to catch the ram and wall hooks, draw them up and break them or at least turn them aside. Fire balls of pitch and suet and blazing arrows were fired at agger and towers. And above all there was a continual shower of missiles. Mines were met by countermines. By frequent sallies (eruptiones) attempts were made to drive out the workmen, destroy the works, or set them on fire. Efforts were exerted to undermine and undercut the agger. Occasionally the height of the town walls could be increased by employing towers equal in height to the besieging towers.



This word, used by the Romans to denote artillery, comes from the word torqueo, "twist", since all the propelling power used was derived from ingenious arrangements of firmly twisted and highly elastic ropes or cables made of specially treated and tightly stretched strands of hemp, strong horsehair, or sinews from the necks of bulls and from the legs of goats. The Roman artillery, like modern, was divided into three classes: garrison or siege artillery, field artillery and heavy machine guns.



This was a heavy howitzer that shot stones, balls, beams, and blocks of wood or metal, weighing from 100 to 130 pounds. The "barrel", a grooved track, was sharply inclined and fired the missiles into the air on a high, forty-five-degree angled curve. In Book II of the Civil War Caesar says that one ballista fired iron-pointed beams or poles twelve feet long which had enough force to pass through four rows of plutei and stick in the earth beyond. A crew of from six to ten men operated this engine. Maximum range with some projectiles might have reached upwards of one thousand yards.

ONAGER (Medium)

This, "the wild ass", was a medium mortar that fired stones weighing 160 pounds to a distance of 2,400 feet. In some ways It resemble a smaller ballista, but differed in having one arm and that a lever which, pulled to a horizontal position by a windlass, was then released and flew back to the vertical position with great violence. It is not mentioned by Caesar, but if it was not used in his time, it became standard equipment shortly thereafter.


This, a flat-trajectory field piece, fired heavy arrows, darts, javelins, or bolts horizontally or nearly so. It might be compared to our highpowered rifles. The arms of the catapult were straight sticks of timber, and its elasticity or power of recoil was produced by the torsion of a large rope or cable twisted to the greatest possible tension. The two sticks of timber were inserted in the two large ropes or cables, and the ends, like a bow, were connected together by a strong cord. The carriage was then pushed forward until the claws of the trigger were over the bowspring. The middle of the cord was then drawn back in the carriage by a windlass and held in place by a hook when it had reached the rear of the nearly horizontal track, which could be raised or lowered to regulate the range.

This track was grooved to hold the long sliding carriage on the rear of which was a trigger. A block was shoved under the heavy rear end of the trigger and the claws thus held down on the cord. The javelin was laid on the grooved upper surface of the carriage with its end resting on the cord between the claws of the trigger. The block was withdrawn, the trigger fell of its own weight, and the missile was suddenly released. It was thus in reality a bow of immense power. Served by a crew of four to five men, it also was apparently capable of attaining an approximate range of 1000 yards when using certain ammunition.



The Roman artillery was not often used on the battlefield but mainly in defense or assault of fortifications or cities, and to a limited extent in the navy. It certainly lacked mobility, as mobility was known in the recent modem horse era. But Caesar used some of his artillery in the field, as did Alexander, and we know that the carroballistae had carriages similar to gun carriages and were ordinarily transported by animals. These carroballistae were regular equipment under the Empire.



This was similar to the catapult, but smaller and lighter. It fired single steel arrows of medium weight, eighteen inches in length, and small iron bolts. It could reach ranges close to 1,200 feet and was operated by one or two men. A large steel crossbow on a portable frame or standard, it may be compared to our heavy machine guns. Some are said to have been equipped with an arrow magazine, and thus were the ancient approximation of our modern rapid or quick-firing weapons. It was another flat-trajectory weapon, fast, accurate and deadly. Caesar tells of one at Avaricum that killed man after man in the same spot. These together with the sling bullets, glandes, must have been very effective weapons for covering or interdiction fire.



Except for the invasions of Britain and the Venetan war in 56 B. C. and for transportation, ships played a comparatively unimportant role in Caesar's campaigns. No regular Roman fleet was stationed in Gallic waters until the time of the Empire, but what ships there were were considered as part of the army and. not as belonging to a separate navy. When ships were necessary, they were built according to the Roman method, or were got from allied and friendly tribes. They were manned by officers and men from the legions serving as marines, the lieutenant generals sometimes acting as the admirals.


These were long tow, narrow galleys, not too strong, but fast. They were called "naves longae" because of their relatively great length, ordinarily seven to ten times the breadth of the beam. Thus a ship of 20 feet beam might be over 150 feet long and of about 235 tons burden. Some of the larger ships were completely decked over, but many only at prow and stern. The draft was ordinarily about three feet. For the Venetan war, ships of even lighter draft were built for use in shoal waters. All galleys were propelled partly by sails, but mainly by a large number of oarsmen. There was usually a single mast with one square sail, rarely two masts, and in battle even this was hauled down, the sail rolled up, the tackle stored, and the ship cleared for action (expedire navem). Collapsible towers were sometimes erected for men and artillery. According to the way the oars were grouped, arranged, and manned, ships were designated as "biremes" or the more common "triremes", and not according to the number of banks or tiers of oars. Such a vessel as a quinquereme, which certainly existed, would have been an impossible absurdity.

They were steered by rudders, huge paddles or long sweeps (gubernacula) proj ecting backward on either side of the stern and controlled by the steersman or pilot, gubernator. Under full sail and oarage, they could occasionally, at least for short periods, approach the speed of modem steamers. The rowers (remiges) were not, as commonly believed, slaves chained to benches, but freemen. They did four-hour shifts and kept time to the sound of a horn or the beat of a mallet. Other than the rowers, there were a few seamen (nautae) to manage the sails and to steer. The ships were commanded by tribunes and centurions, and the admiral's flagship was distinguished by a reddish-purple square or oblong vexillum. Anchors were like ours, but were used only for short periods. For long stays and for the winter, ships were beached.


Seamanship and tactics were simple. Sometimes ships were made fast to enemy vessels by use of grappling hooks (harpago, copulae, ferreae manus), gangplanks were lowered across the enemy's bulwarks, and the ships boarded by the superior legionaries who could fight on both land and sea.

The Roman idea was to make naval battle as much as possible like land combat. Sometimes skillful seamanship swept the oars of a hostile ship from its side. One or more pieces of timber tipped with iron or bronze beaks (rostra) were fitted to the bows of the galleys projecting forward near the waterline or sometimes below it. Great damage might be done by ramming enemy ships with these, head on or even by a glancing blow. In the Venetan war it was found that the enemy ships had no oars, and so the Roman attack was directed at cutting the rigging, thus causing the yards to drop and so rendering the vessels helpless.


Smaller fast cruisers were sometimes attached to the larger ships for reconnoitering and less important tasks. These were called "naves speculatoriae" or "navigia speculatoria" and had both sails and oars. Naves actuariae were very fast light transport or dispatch boats propelled by both oars and sails and used to inspect the enemy's strongholds and harbors and on similar missions. As transports for landing men, horses and supplies on hostile shores, the Romans used ships of heavier build, shorter, deeper, and broader in beam, naves onerariae or freighters, propelled mainly by sails and escorted and convoyed by battleships. They were only about four times as long as broad and were consequently slower, but steadier, and could weather heavy seas more successfully. Galleys continued to be used in the Mediterranean Sea until the beginning of the nineteenth century.