Full Version: Signifier and Optio 1st Century BC
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Hello! Smile
I have few question.
How Signifier and Optio looks like in Caesar's time.
Signifier had parma? Did not wear it until the 1st century AD?
Signifier and Optio wear loria hamata right?
In saesarian era the segmentata was't in use yet. For both scale and ringmail we have sources. You best go with Hamata, as you suggest, but a squamata would also do, I guess.
By parma I presume you are referring to a small round shield. This would have been carried by a signifier at this time.
Thank you guys Smile
Really like this forum
Sorry to muddy the waters here, but we actually know very little about what soldiers of differing ranks / roles really looked like at Caesar's time.
As for optiones, as their only known symbols of rank were the large optio's ring and knobbed staff, I doubt that they would be identifiable in contemporary sculpture, as I very much doubt that the optio would have taken his staff into battle with him (I think that it might have got in the way of him being able to draw his sword).

As far as I know, the only representational sources are the Alter of Domitius Ahenobarbus, the Column of Aemilius Paulus at Delphi, The Arch of Orange, the Monument of the Julii and some figures which might possibly be Roman soldiers on reliefs from Osuna in Spain. These should constitute a plentiful supply of visual information but unfortunately I doubt that any of them will be particularly helpful in answering your question.
The Column of Aemilius Paulus dates to the 130s BC and is contemporary with the army described by Polybius, eighty years before Caesar's campaigns in Gaul. You can see it here: ... temid,135/
As you can see, the figures are quite damaged, but Roman infantry are shown in mail, with belts and carrying long scuta. Cavalry are shown with large round shields. Given that at least one cavalryman is wearing a Thracian helmet, it is probable that some of the figures are intended to be Macedonian. There is not much indication of rank amongst the soldiers shown.

The Altar of Domitius Aheobarbus is of uncertain date and is variously dated between c100BC and c40BC (IIRC). It is the main source used as a visual reference for soldiers in Caesar's time, although it is by no means certain that it is contemporary with Caesar. A lot could have changed within this sixty year time frame. You can see it here: ... temid,135/
Six soldiers are shown. One of these is a senior officer of some sort, so is not relevant to your question and one is apparently a cavalryman, wearing mail and some sort of Boeotian helmet. The remaining four are apparently infantry and wear mail, belts, helmets and carry scuta. As you can see, each man is depicted as slightly different to the others in terms of his equipment but there is nothing to tell us whether these differences indicate any differences in rank.

The arch of Orange celebrates Caesar's victories in Gaul and so should give us a good indication of what Caesar' troops looked like, but as it may have been built fifty years or so after Caesar's actual again we may be looking at something rather different to what Caesar's actual soldiers looked like. Soldiers have curved scuta and wear a variety of helmets, some of which seem to have horsehair crests. As far as I know no standard bearers are shown and although at least one figure has been identified as a centurio I doubt that any optio would be identifiable as something as small as the optio's ring would be too small to see, even if it was to have been depicted. You can see it here: ... temid,135/

The figures on the Osuna reliefs are a bit worn and the figures identified as Romans show nothing to suggest that they are anything other than common soldiers. Another figure, playing what appears to be a cornu, may also be Roman. He wears greaves and a belt but wears no other armour of any sort. If he IS intended to be Roman, as a musician he may be the closest thing we see to what a standard bearer might be like, but the lack of body armour, shield and weapons should lead us to tread carefully in identifying his as a Roman. They can be seen here: ... _mus39.JPG
and here: ... .N._Madrid )_01.jpg

The Monument of the Julii at St Remy was built c30-20BC so should be our best datable contemporary source. It shows soldiers with curving oval scuta and a variety of helmets, some of which are crested. As far as I can see there is no indication of rank visible. It can be seen here:

To add to this we can also cite the stele of the centurio Minucius Lorianus from Padova. Minucius is unarmoured but carries a pugio, hung horizontally from the front of his belt. Of course, Minucius is a centurio and so that still leads us no closer to an optio or signifer. He can be seen here: ... fig022.png

To add to the sculptural evidence cited above, archaeological finds suggest that Montifortino helmets would be most likely for Caesar's soldiers, possibly along with the odd Attic type helmet and probably captured Gallic Coolus, Agan and Port type helmets as well. Swords would probably be somewhat longer than those of the first century AD and it seems likely that most belts were not decorated with belt plates as seen in later periods. Some soldiers would probably carry pugiones as well. Footwear is open to question as none of the sculptural evidence tells us anything useful about footwear, unless you want to believe that they went about barefoot. Some useful pictures can be found here: ... fig025.png
here: ... fig023.png
here: ... fig026.png
here: ... fig030.png
here: ... fig032.png

Well, I think that that just about sums up what we know of the appearance of the Roman soldier of the first century BC. As far as I know there is no evidence of parmae being carried by signifers before early second century AD. Unfortunately, as you will have realised by now, there just is not enough information to know how optiones and signiferi of the first century BC would have looked like in comparison of what we know of the appearance of soldiers of a century later. I think it is probably a safe enough bet to think that standard bearers would have worn animal skins of some sort over their armour but I think that is about all we can say unfortunately.

So Crispus, in your personal opinion, what would the Caesarian milites gregarius, optione and signifier have looked like respectively?

Any others with opinions out there as well?
To be honest, I would have thought that an optio would look just like any other Roman soldier apart from his ring. Off the field he may have had the knobbed staff (we do not even know what this was called, as far as I know), if this existed at this time. Polybios says that centuriones had their helmets tinned or silvered to make them stand out but says nothing about distinctive equipment for any other ranks. Polybios was writing in the 130s BC of course so he may be of only limited use for a study of what Caesar and co's soldiers would have looked like. It is worth remembering that even the eagle was not established as the normal symbol for a legion until after Polybios's time.

For signifers, as I said, I think that animal skins would have been worn, as it seems like a fairly primitive practice, although which animals would be anyone's guess. Wolves are always a popular guess, but I am not sure if there is any secure evidence for the wearing of wolf pelts by Roman standard bearers. It makes sense to think that whatever animal was used it would be a fierce or strong animal. It also makes sense to think that standard bearers might have carried different shields of other soldiers in order to better manage their standards, although what form those shields might have taken again is guesswork. Standard bearers of the fourteenth legion in the mid first century AD (as much as a century or more later than what we are discussing) are shown on their stelae with curved oval shields which MAY be intended to look smaller than those of other soldiers, although we must be very careful about drawing any conclusions about the size things are depicted in funerary sculpture - see my article here:

Mail and scale armour were both in common use as far as we can tell, and I would have thought that either type would be appropriate for almost any rank. Early in the first century BC some soldiers may still have been wearing the pectoral plate described by Polybios as the normal armour of Roman soldiers in his own time. Any opinion I might have of what the regular Roman soldier looked like would be based on the evidence I have cited already.

Thank you guys
So if you accept that the Signifier was dressed as you say.
And wore a shield (which can be parma) is not a error?

BTW: I found Roman Optio HELMET 2 circa 100BC -> take a look at this [url:323qwsx8][/url].
What do you think about this?
Optio also be able to wear that helmet?
First of all, avoid that helmet! It is a well known piece of junk known as a 'Trooper' helmet and is not accurate enough for use by any re-enactor. The most obvious give-away is the shape of the neck guard. This sort of pointed convex neck guard find no parallels among known examples of the real thing. There are other incorrect features as well but the neck guard is the most obvious wrong feature. This helmet was invented in a factory in India a few years ago and was happily copied by a number of other Indian companies. The original factory has stopped making them now but they are still being made by other Indian factories and so they keep on appearing. E-bay is a very bad place to look for equipment. It is full of charletans who will take your money and sell you junk. If you want a decent helmet I would suggest looking in the RAT marketplace section. As I said, if you want to do a 1st century BC figure, throughout that century you could probably use a Montifortino type 'C' Towards the end of the century, following Caesar's conquest of Gaul, you could expect to find a greater variety of helmets to add to this, including Montifortino 'D', Coolus 'B', Port and Agen type helmets

Secondly, despite the continual depiction of optiones with side plumes on their helmets, there is no evidence to support this. It is something the Ermine Street Guard started doing a few years ago and which everyone has copied ever since. There is no evidence however hat the helmet of an optio looked any different to the helmet of any other soldiers. It is possible that side plumes might actually have acted as unit identifiers, as there is considerable evidence for the use in the first century AD by the two Adiutrix legions, for example, using particular cresting arrangements. In their case, there is a tombstone showing a central crest and side feathers, as well as three brass helmets all of similar type which can be connected to the Adiutrix legions, all of which are fitted to take a central crest on an anther type crest mount and side feathers.

I would think that in the the case of an optio, all the men in his own unit would recognise him anyway, regardless of whether he had anything distinctive about his crest.

Are you serious about that helmet. Actually that is a 'pimped' version of the famous trooper helmet. One of the worst replicas ever made, I would say. Don't wast your money on that one. Too much is wrong with it.

And nevertheless that helmet is in some kind based on helmets of the imperial gallic type (Russel Robinson typo). That kind of helmets are from 1st century AD. You should better go with a montefortino.
Ty again.
But I still have a few questions.
About Caesar's centurion:
He also had a helmet like legionary?
Like this?:
[Image: RepRanks.jpg]
So what was the difference between them?
I know that is a little different armor ornaments and also greave.
But anyway, legionary in the battle could not see him.
I saw another illustration by Johnny Shumate
[Image: original.aspx]
So how can i understans? How he looks like?
As mentioned before we don't know that much about the looks in the period you're asking about. Same goes with centurio in general. What we think we know is
1) he got better pay, so could spend more
2) he probably wore medals (phalerae)
3) he had the sword on the left instead of on the right
4) he wore greaves
5) he use the crista transversie, which is from side to side (as we now understand)

You could mount a crista transversa on a coolus type helmet, but I don't have any source for that. So I would say the centurio is just one of the soldiers in the front row, with some nicer kit. And as you have your own place in formation, you don't need to see the centurio all the time.

Note, that this still is my opinion, so you can of course make up your own mind, which could be different. It's all science, you know.
Yes you are right. Sometimes we must have own opinions. If history tells us no more.
Polybios mentions that centuriones often had their helmets tinned or silvered to make them stand out. He says nothing about crests past saying that Roman soldiers wore black and purple feathers on their helmets. How much of Polybios' description would still be current by Caesar's time is a matter of conjecture. On the basis of the sculptures I mentioned above, most people reconstruct first century BC soldiers with horsehair crests. We do not know whether the crista traversa was being used this early by centuriones. It might be reasonable to think that they were, on the basis of the fact that some hoplites in previous ages had worn transverse crests but there is no evidence of the practice during the period under discussion. There are two first century AD stelae which show helmets with transverse crests and Vegetius mentions centuriones wearing transverse crests at some time before his time, but nothing to suggest conclusively that they were used earlier. If they were, then Polybios' silence on the matter is suspicious when he had gone to the trouble of mentioning tinned and silvered helmets. However, Caesar was campaigning 80 years after Polybios' description and a great deal had changed in the meantime. Therefore, for a Caesarian centurio I would be inclined to give him a tinned or silvered helmet, but I would accept the possibility that a transverse crest may have been in use by that time. One seems to be shown on the Arch of Orange but of course this was built during the reign of Augustus thirty to fifty years later again.

Just for reference, in case you are not as familiar with helmet types as me, the centurio in Johnny Shumate's picture is wearing a Port type helmet, possibly captured on the battlefield. The bare chested Gaul wears a Coolus 'A' and the chieftain behind him wears an Agen type helmet.

I have an interesting picture here. Unfortunately I don't know who the artist is. I do believe that these are Caesarian Legionaries and I'm quite sure that the general in the middle is Caesar himself. Also present are his Gallic legionaries. To his left I think is a Tribune, if I'm not mistaken and to his right a Centurion.

And in regards to the traverse crest, couldn't the horse hair be applied in such a way on the helmet that it becomes traverse?
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