Full Version: Best Roman Army Anecdotes
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These are the things that bring historical texts to life and cast a ray of light into the past. Little human moments. What are your favourites?

Mine? 363 and the Roman army has crossed into Persia to attack Anatha, a secure fortress town on an island in the Euphrates. By diplomacy, the Persian garrison surrendered to the Romans. The moving spirit behind the surrender was an old bent man in his nineties, with several generations of children and grandchildren. He said he was a Roman, part of Maximian's Persian expedition 60 years earlier, when he was 'no'but a lad'. He'd since married several wives of the land.

Now, despite the fact that I can't find any reference to an Persian expedition mounted by Maximian or Maxentius, I really love that story. You can just imagine him showing off his tatoo on his wrinkled forearm to prove to the young soldiers that he really was a soldier of the legions... Tongue
I wonder if he could have been a veteran of Galerius' failed first venture against the Persians? His full name as Caesar/Augustus was G. Galerius Valerius Maximianus, and it can be hard to distinguish his coins from Maximianus' as a result. Galerius was defeated heavily in his first venture against the Sasanians, but came back strong in Armenia with a victory and the capture of the shahanshah's retinue.

My favorite story of this kind is from an account of a venture against the Sasanids taken from a late panegyric...the emperor is given as Carinus, but it seems that there must have been a confusion with Carus (the names are quite similar, obviously). The shahanshah sent emissaries to negotiate with Carus at his camp, and were amazed to be led to a man eating beans and salt pork with his men. He still had his helmet on, and the only clue that he was the emperor was a purple cloak (paludamentum, I would assume) lying on the ground near him. Carus asked the men if they would like to dig into the stew pot, but the emissaries declined. Then, Carus told them that his only message to Bahram was that the Sasanid lands would soon by as naked as Carus' head if he wasn't careful, and he took off his helmet to demonstrate just how hairless he was. Carus then told the men to scram, and Bahram was terrified to learn that he was opposed in war by a no-nonsense soldier emperor who was not ashamed of his position.
We can actually see from coins that Carus was, in fact, of the few emperors to readily admit it. Something of a throwback to Julius Caesar, who only wore a laurel instead of a wig to cover up his pate. The panegyricist was trying to make a point about the austerity of earlier emperors, but one might hope that there is a germ of truth to this story.
I can't find any referencet o Galerius in Persia either, I will dig deeper.

Carus sounds like a tough nut, reminds me of Caracalla, with whom I am a little more familiar.
Galerius was defeated near the Euphrates, but was sent back with another army after being publicly humiliated by Diocletian (forced to run behind his chariot) and won a major victory in Armenia. Neither battle was in Persia proper.
I'll add dates when I get back to my sources.
Shortly after the Gallic Wars, Caesar's legions were complaining that they hadn't been paid, hadn't gotten their retirement land, etc. He asked them what they wanted. They said they wanted to be discharged. He told them their wish was granted. Then he addressed them as "citizens" instead of soldiers (as they were used to be called). This so shamed them that they immediately reenlisted and followed on for quite some time until their pensions could be arranged.

Told as true in more than one source.
How about this anecdote from Livy(42.34)? ....the career of a tough hard-bitten Centurion of the Republic ( 2nd C B.C.), though it is possible that it is apochryphal.......

"Romans, my name is Spurius Ligustinus of the Crustumina voting tribe, and I am of Sabine origin. My father left me a iugerum of land and the small hut in which I was born and raised and where I still live today. When I first came of age my father married me to his brother’s daughter, who brought with her nothing but her liberty, beauty and a fertility to rival any wealthy house. We have six sons and two daughers, both of whom are married. Four of my sons wear the toga virilis, two the toga praetexta. I became a soldier in the consulship of Publius Sulpicius and Gaius Aurelius (200 BC). For two years I served as a common soldier in the army campaigning in Macedonia against Philip; in the third year (197 BC) Titus Quinctius Flamininus promoted me to centurion of the tenth maniple of hastati on account of my bravery. After the defeat of Philip and the Macedonians we were brought back to Italy and disbanded, but I continued my service as a volunteer and went to Spain with the consul Marcus Porcius Cato; (195 BC). No other general who lived was a keener observer and better judge of bravery, as those who served with him, and other generals, knew well. This general judged me worthy of promotion to centurion of the first century of hastati. I volunteered for the third time as a soldier in the army which was sent against Antiochus and the Aetolians (191 BC). Manius Acilius appointed me centurion of the first century of principes. When Antiochus had been expelled and the Aetolians defeated we were shipped back to Italy; then twice I served in legions which had been raised for a year’s campaign. After that I served in two campaigns in Spain, first under Fulvius Flaccus (181 BC), then under the Praetor Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus (180 BC). I was one of those whom Flaccus brought back to Rome to appear in his triumph on account of our bravery, and I returned to the province with Tiberius Gracchus at his request. Four times within a few years I held the rank of primus pilus; thirty-four times I have been decorated for my courage by my commander; I have been awarded six Civic Crowns. I have served in the army for 22 campaigns and am more than 50 years old. Even if I had not served my time and my age did not make me exempt from service, I would still be able to provide four soldiers instead of me, Publius Licinius, so it would be right for me to be discharged. But I want you to take what I have said in my cause: as far as anyone who is raising an army judges me fit for military duty I shall seek no excuses. It is for the tribunes to decide what rank I am worthy of: I shall ensure that nobody in the army surpasses me in valour, as I have always done (as my commanders and those who’ve served with me will testify)."
What a guy Confusedhock:

I guess that's what you call a veteran...