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Salvete! - again.

Previously I posted a topic concerning auxiliary infantry and mentioned the cheerful topic of scalping and taking heads as trophies.

We can see that this practice was taken on by the auxiliaries that fought for Rome - as this would probably have been an aspect of their culture before their 'romanisation'. But, could it be said that legionaries, or at least, Roman citizens would have carried out such a practice? Would it really have been so barbaric?

(I have heard that there was a Roman tribune in the Punic wars that took the scalps of 'Celtic' warriors and used them as a plume to decorate his helmet.)

The 'taking of bodily parts' has been a practice evident throughout history e.g. the removal of ears, teeth, 'manhood' (which apparently took place even as recently as the Vietnam war), scalps, fingers, heads etc. - such things even occured during the Chechan and Yugoslavian wars - one of my relatives even came across a picture of several Croatian soldiers bearing heads on their belts.

Were there any specific rules that prevented a legionary from taking such trophies? Or was it simply a barbaric thing to do?

Grazie,


Lorenzo.
Pompey's head was shown to Caesar, and Cassius' was sent to Marcus Aurelius. I always thought these particular acts was more "proof of death" instead taking a trophy. However, I think the displaying of Cicero's head (and hands) in Rome was kind of a trophy display of sorts. If generals and leaders did this sort of thing, I could imagine individual soldiers would do the same.
Ciceros head and hands were nailed to the rostrum, just like the head of the Gracchi of which one was filled with lead if i remember correctly.

Caesar was furious when he saw the head opf pompeius and wept.\\

The taking of these kinds of memorabilia was probably widespread amongst the germanic and other tribes, not nessecarily Roman.

There is an account of Arab auxilia who during the siege of Jerusalem spotted refugees taking a dump in kidron valley sifting out jewels and money....
The arab contingent started ruthlessly disembowling every refugee they caught to find loot, but the practice was furiousely dealt with by Vespasianus, highly likely by punishment of decimatio.

Also the Eques who brought the head of the Dacian king Decabalus to Traianus was rewarded !

M.VIB.M.

Ross Cowan

On Trajan's Column, auxiliaries are depicted in the act of taking and displaying heads, but praetorians, i.e. citizen troops, are shown holding up severed heads on sections of the Great Traianic Frieze re-used in the Arch of Constantine. Most of the literary evidence for head-taking and scalping by Romans relates to the Republic (but see Stiebel for Imperial Palestine). Decapitation and the brandishing of an opponent's head was sometimes a feature of single combat, e.g. by Cornelius Cossus after he killed Lars Tolumnius, or by Manlius Torquatus when he slew a Gallic champion. Scalping is implied by Silius Italicus when he describes the crest of Flaminius' helmet at Lake Trasimene, and Orosius has legionaries scalping Cimbric women at Vercellae.

For more examples, discussion and refs, see my book For the Glory of Rome, espec. chp. 3.

J.-L. Voisin, ‘Les Romains, chasseurs de têtes’ in Du châtiment dans la cite: Supplices corporals et peine de mort dans le monde antique. Rome: 1984, 241-293.

G.D. Stiebel, 'Scalping in Roman Palestine – "minime Romanum sacrum"?' Scripta Classica Israelica 24 (2005), 151-162.

Cheers,

R!
Also remember that by mid first century, almost half the legionaries were not Italian-born, but provincials. And even the Italians were a long way from home...

Matthew
So might the use of real hair on auxilia cavalry masked helmets refer to taken scalps?

interesting!

M.VIB.M.
I have seen depictions of Celtic warriors who have hung heads from their belt - presumably because they have taken them during a battle lull. Would it have been an uncommon site to see both auxiliaries and legionaries take heads in battle and hang them from their belts? I could imagine an auxiliary doing such a thing but I'm not sure about legionaries - it would make a formidable sight, though.

I'm sure we could give it some sort of credit; not all of Rome's legionaries would have been entirely composed. A man could potentially do anything in a state of 'battle/blood lust'.

- Lorenzo.
Quote:So might the use of real hair on auxilia cavalry masked helmets refer to taken scalps?

interesting!

M.VIB.M.

Yes, I have thought about that myself too when I first saw a reconstruction of a cavalry helmet with hair. As it would most likely have been worn by a non-citizen soldier who would therefore come from a culture where beheading and scalping was commonplace. I think that is a plausible suggestion. But are you referring to the decoration that represents hair, or real hair?

It is suggested that the hair-cover would have been made of animal hair - but I'm sure you could even construct one of human hair :twisted: .

[attachment=0:vh8sonwe]<!-- ia0 2010-08-12-57129.jpg<!-- ia0 [/attachment:vh8sonwe]

Another suggestion: some Batavian cavalrymen may have even hung scalps from their horses' harnesses - but I don't think there is any solid evidence to support that.

I hope all this doesn't seem far-fetched, they're just ideas at the end of the day. But still plausible :mrgreen:

- Lorenzo.
Beheading is the easiest way to get the guy's torc.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/elissacorsini/3519157557/
I have found this very interesting.I've been told that scalps usually look nothing like the one on that vase but then... If the Greeks were doing it (far more "civilized" in war matters than Romans even in Hellenistic times) then i'm sure the Romans wouldn't have moral doubts!

"Wine Cup Fragment with a Warrior
Greek, made in Athens, 500-490 BC
Terracotta
Red-figured kylix fragment attributed to Onesimos as painter and signed by Euphronios as potter

Inventory # 86.AE.311

This is the only known example in Greek art of a warrior wearing the scalp of an enemy on top of his helmet. According to the historian Herodotus (about 484-424 BC), Greeks adopted the practice of scalping from the Scythians, a tribe of fierce warriors who lived north of the Black Sea.

Text from the Getty Villa museum label."

Khairete
Giannis
Quote:Beheading is the easiest way to get the guy's torc.
Yep, that would do it, all right.
Quote:I have seen depictions of Celtic warriors who have hung heads from their belt - presumably because they have taken them during a battle lull. Would it have been an uncommon site to see both auxiliaries and legionaries take heads in battle and hang them from their belts? I could imagine an auxiliary doing such a thing but I'm not sure about legionaries - it would make a formidable sight, though.

I'm sure we could give it some sort of credit; not all of Rome's legionaries would have been entirely composed. A man could potentially do anything in a state of 'battle/blood lust'.

- Lorenzo.

This is true. As has been pointed out, even "modern, civilized" armies have been known to do some of these things we see as nearly inhuman. In the pre-modern world full of soldiers who might have all been walking psychological cases, I don't think it would be surprising in the least to see the more "regular" soldiers partaking in such activity, and with the non-Roman auxilia I'd almost expect it.

Great point too about the hair on those Batavian helmets being perhaps based on scalps taken from defeated foes. In perspective, it doesn't seem too unlikely to me...
Quote:Great point too about the hair on those Batavian helmets being perhaps based on scalps taken from defeated foes. In perspective, it doesn't seem too unlikely to me...

I think that this theory may even be re-inforced by the find mentioned before, of the hoplite with a supposed scalp on his helmet. It must have caught on.

Bearing heads and scalps would have a psychological effect on the battle-field too. I certainly wouldn't be too keen on fighting a soldier that had the scalp of his previous victim decorating his helmet. It could be said to have the same effect as with the animal pelts of Roman standard-bearers - it gives a sort of in-human quality in battle, like the man you are fighting is more than a man, he is part beast - and this adds to the fear factor.
That raises and interesting question: what was the official reason the signifer wore a wolf, bear or lion pelt? The standard he carried should have been enough to distinguish him from the rest. Was it the fear factor?
Is not the fear factor instilled in the enemy, it is more of the power of the animal being transferred into the signifer/vexillarius/imaginifer and others, so as to convey the power on the troops.

However during re-enactments nothing is more hilarious than the reactions of domesticated animals like the dog on a wolves or lion's pelt which still has some original scent......... they freak out !!

M.VIB.M.
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