RomanArmyTalk

Full Version: Women in the Roman Legions???
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I read on the Wikipedia that there is evidence for women serving in the Late Roman Army.

Do any of you know anything about this? What are the odds of women ever being in the Roman army?

Thank you! Big Grin
It's an ongoing discussion, but the consensus is that women didn't serve in the army. There were a few tribes of auxilia, cavalry mostly, that had women in their ranks, however. Celts and Germanic tribes frequently had female warriors.
If I understand right, there were sort of two kinds of auxiliaries. There were the regimented "cohorts" and "alae", which were almost as well-organized as the legions. Then there were "warbands" that were organized in native style; they were called "numeri" if I remember correctly.

Do you think women would have been accepted into the "cohorts" and "alae", or only allied warbands?

Sorry if that's a dumb question :oops:
This is probably based on a grave find from Britain a year or so back, I believe it was 2 female skeletons with a couple weapons, something like that. And since sensationalism means funding, they announced that these 2 ladies MUST have been Roman soldiers. Pretty much like the woman they'd found a couple years before, buried with a mass-produced lamp with a gladiator on it, and tourist statuette of Isis, so they concluded that she was an Egyptian priestess gladiatrix!

One of my co-workers has a Washington Redskins pencil jar, so she MUST be a pro football player, right? Sigh...

Matthew
I guess I've referred to the article of Antike Welt Issue 3/2006 "In guten wie in schlechten Zeiten - Frauen und das römische Militär - eine schwierige Beziehung?" in this other thread dealing with this topic.

For sure is that Roman women did not serve as legionaries, but they were part of the life in a camp e.g. as wives to legionaries (in later Imperial times), washwomen, alewives, cooks and seamstresses.
Quote: One of my co-workers has a Washington Redskins pencil jar, so she MUST be a pro football player, right? Sigh...
Matthew

LOL! But you make a good point - there could be so many stories behind the skeletons and artifacts that archaeologists discover, that we will never know...
Quote:For sure is that Roman women did not serve as legionaries, but they were part of the life in a camp e.g. as wives to legionaries (in later Imperial times), washwomen, alewives, cooks and seamstresses.

Is it possible that legionaries' female companions may have still had weapons? In the even of their needing to defend themselves? This would explain the weapons the ladies mentioned above were buried with.
In a violent world, I wonder how many men would complain if their partner showed the desire to be allowed to defend herself
in his absence.
Quote:In a violent world, I wonder how many men would complain if their partner showed the desire to be allowed to defend herself
in his absence.

This is what I'm thinking. I read that the female camp followers in Napoleon's army were armed, why couldn't it be the same in the legions?
Naturally, could does not equal did.
Quote:I read on the Wikipedia that there is evidence for women serving in the Late Roman Army.
Link?
Quote:Is it possible that legionaries' female companions may have still had weapons? In the even of their needing to defend themselves? This would explain the weapons the ladies mentioned above were buried with.

Needing weapons for self-defense does not lead logically to being buried with them. And I would think that the wives and girlfriends of soldiers would be *less* likely to need weapons, since their men were part of the best army in the ancient world!

We have to be careful about theorizing on the meaning of weapons in a grave. It may not have had a meaning which makes logical or practical sense to us today. For instance, remember that part of a Roman wedding ceremony was the bride's father parting her hair with a spear! Weapon customs can have odd twists, obviously, and so do burial customs. It IS possible that burying a weapon with a woman meant that she was the wife of a soldier or warrior, but again, that doesn't mean she carried or used that weapon during her life.

Valete,

Matthew
Quote:We have to be careful about theorizing on the meaning of weapons in a grave. It may not have had a meaning which makes logical or practical sense to us today.

Couldn't agree more Matthew.

Another thing we need to be really carefull of is the accuracy of sexing techniques. In many cases sexing is a best guess based on certain common features. I'm aware of a number of anglo-saxon female weapon burials that have recently been reclassified as male (or probably male) based on further investigation.

N.
Quote:Another thing we need to be really carefull of is the accuracy of sexing techniques. In many cases sexing is a best guess based on certain common features. I'm aware of a number of anglo-saxon female weapon burials that have recently been reclassified as male (or probably male) based on further investigation.

N.

Ture, but then I'm also aware of A-S burials which had been assumed to be male simply because of the presence of weapon sets but which, on re-examination of the skeletal evidence, would seem to be female.

Presumably the original poster has read reference to the Brougham finds?

The only thing we can really learn from burial or cremation customs is what was important or relevent to those doing the burying or cremating, not what was important or relevent to the person to whom it was done.
Quote:The only thing we can really learn from burial or cremation customs is
Yes, true, and also that all the people buried in ancient times are thoroughly dead. :roll:
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